A Plan to Make The World A Better Place, Powered By LBRY

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What follows is a short presentation (a ~7 minute read) demonstrating the incredible potential of the LBRY blockchain through one use case: The beautification and free distribution of the world’s greatest books.

We will create the greatest version of the world’s greatest books — think Plato’s Republic, Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, etc — and make it available for free, forever, to the world.

Please take the time to read the whole thing. It’s a simple idea with profound implications.

Walled Gardens

QUESTION: Why is the digital content ecosystem dominated by Walled Gardens such as Apple’s app store and Facebook’s various platforms?

ANSWER: Walled Gardens are massively profitable. The example set by Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple (aka “The Big 4,”) shows beyond a doubt that massive scale and profit are achievable through the walled garden model.

ANSWER: Also, it has historically provided the best customer experience. Most people expect a great technology experience “out of the box,” which walled gardens can provide.

QUESTION: What is the downside of Walled Gardens?

Walled Gardens — Downsides & Developments

ANSWER: Walled gardens are efficient and useful but they concentrate power within a very small group of people. It seems that successful centralized systems tend to become more centralized over time.

FACT: Blockchain technology has completely changed the relationship between data and money.

IMPLICATION: New business models are possible.

FURTHER IMPLICATION: These business models allow for innovation and finding new areas of value which literally did not exist at the time of the Big 4’s formation.

CONCLUSION: The most successful projects which grab attention and value away from The Big 4 will rely on these new technological options that did not exist prior to blockchain.

Walled Gardens Are Not The Enemy

FACT: Centralized systems will not “go obsolete” in our lifetimes because at this time decentralized and centralized systems have different benefits and drawbacks.

FACT: The Big 4 have a huge entrenched advantage for the utilization of centralized systems.

IMPLICATION: Despite historical examples of brands losing market share (i.e. MySpace), at this point it appears unlikely that any of the Big 4 will be disrupted, except perhaps by each other. There is no comparison between Facebook and MySpace anymore.

CONCLUSION: To grow blockchain infrastructure, it’s better to “join them” than to try and “beat them.”

LBRY-SPECIFIC CONCLUSION: LBRY should not think about disrupting The Big 4, since they are not competing with decentralized systems and LBRY is not competing with centralized systems.

Why Joining Them is Feasible

FACT: Successful decentralized systems, by definition, are able to avoid sliding towards centralization.

COROLLARY: Every system has some level of centralization. Decentralized systems have less centralization of power/resources, but not none. Even the purest forms of decentralization involve some deference to others, and limitations on use + control of valuable resources.

FURTHERMORE, most organizations have to work hard to retain the right ratio of decentralization to centralization.

FACT:  By definition, decentralized systems are not as profitable for the individual as centralized systems are.

IMPLICATION: There is very little incentive for profit-driven centralized organizations to try and destroy decentralized organizations.

VALUE BEYOND FINANCE

QUESTION: If decentralized systems and centralized systems are not in competition with each other, how do they relate to each other?

ANSWER: Each provides value to the other. Decentralized organizations rely on centralized ones logistically by using centralized services such as Amazon Web Services or Google Docs. Meanwhile, centralized organizations rely on decentralization for their own needs — for example, sourcing educational content (tutorials, etc) from independent creators on YouTube.

IMPLICATION: The best projects on LBRY will create value exactly within the “blind spot” of what centralized organizations can do.

A NEW IMAGE OF BLOCKCHAIN IN 2018

There is no competition and no enemy.

We are like farmers walking up to the field just as the bountiful harvest is ripe. The Big 4 – Google, YouTube, Facebook, and Apple – are the clouds that have been raining on the field for months. We aren’t in competition with them – rather, we’re just collecting as much of the harvest as we can carry, grateful that the soil and the rain have made all of this possible.

AN OPPORTUNITY

Question: How can LBRY begin to collect the low hanging fruit?

Answer: One piece at a time.

THE PROJECT

Whereas Project Gutenberg is an archival project offering raw data in as complete a form as possible,

The Book Boutique (working title) is a highly curated and completely free collection of the greatest literary works of humankind. We take the most valuable books from the Project Gutenberg catalog and create the most beautiful and/or useful digital version of that book of all time. Then we immutably store it for free on the LBRY blockchain.

There is a long history of books being at the absolute cutting edge of technology. The invention of writing made larger-scale society possible, helping governments to form accounting and legal standards. Millennia later, the invention of the printing press enabled common people to fight back against the powers-that-be.

Books are how Amazon got its start. In Jeff Bezos’s legendary 1997 letter to shareholders, he said the following:

“From the beginning, our focus has been on offering our customers compelling value. We realized that the Web was, and still is, the World Wide Wait. Therefore, we set out to offer customers something they simply could not get any other way, and began serving them with books. We brought them much more selection than was possible in a physical store (our store would now occupy 6 football fields), and presented it in a useful, easy-to-search, and easy-to-browse format in a store open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. We maintained a dogged focus on improving the shopping experience, and in 1997 substantially enhanced our store.”

Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook have mastered the world of “walled gardens.” Because these walled gardens now exist, the next generation of major digital platforms will look nothing like the “Big 4.” They will execute on new areas of value, related to but not dominated by profit.

I will rewrite Jeff’s original paragraph to show how the present opportunity applies to LBRY:

“From the beginning, LBRY’s focus has been on offering our users compelling value. We realize that the blockchain was, and still is, a young and immature technology. Therefore, we should set out to offer users something that they simply cannot get any other way – to begin serving them with books. We can bring the world the greatest collection of free knowledge of all time, offering something that does not exist in any form today: Free and beautiful digital versions of the world’s greatest books, presented in a useful, easy-to-search, and easy-to-browse format on a blockchain open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. We maintain a dogged focus on improving the quality of society through the lens of individual freedom and empowerment.”

Creators will earn profit through this process, and the token value may even rise, but the main goal will be to improve the quality of life for humankind.

In Conclusion,

(1) LBRY makes possible a new form of for-profit organization or project, pursuing goals that previously were limited to “non-profit” endeavors.

(2) The incentive structure of LBRY is such that projects with non-financial value can more easily be aligned with profit, without perverse incentives that overvalue profit.

(3) The Book Boutique will be one of the first demonstrations of a sustainable blockchain project that provides fair value for creators (who are paid to create the books) while offering absolutely free and incredibly valuable content for humanity.

(4) The Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of The Book Boutique will be active monthly users — and we aim to reach thousands within the first few months.

(5) The timeframe between funding and the first release version of TBB is 6 weeks. It’ll launch with one book as a test-of-concept.

(6) Lastly, if it grows beyond the early stages, The Book Boutique will be rebuilt as a custom site (probably a modified spee.ch clone) to meet its needs. It will spend its first year as a WordPress site, only using LBRY to host content.

Thanks for reading! If you want to share your opinions or offer assistance, you can reach out to me on Twitter.

Scholarship vs. Project Development

I am now at the end of my one month experimental scholarship with LBRY. 

Overall I’d call it a big success – many great things have happened. However, I’d like to use this post to focus on the big flaw with the scholarship model – and why in my opinion, “project development” is a much better way to frame this kind of thing.

Why Scholarship Fails

The idea of being paid a stipend to study topics relevant to LBRY is cool in theory. After all, for the right kind of person (self-motivated, highly interested in learning), being “paid to learn” is a dream come true.

The recipient of the scholarship receives the financial resources to buy books, subscribe to courses, and even just pay some rent for a month. In the world of freelance, getting paid ahead of time to learn is a great deal.

The problem is that it’s a very vague deal. What should one learn? How much is a month of scholarship worth, exactly? Is it possible to chart out a specific and clear course of action for a month of study without a dedicated teacher or customized syllabus? Furthermore, what are the expectations beyond that first month?

LBRY’s trust and willingness to invest in my education is hugely appreciated. The only problem is that the framing of “scholarship” is ill-suited for a one-month timeframe of independent learning.

For example — I could read endless books, study programming languages 8 hours a day, and generally make myself busy, without actually contributing to LBRY.

On the other hand, I could say three words to the right person — “check out LBRY” — and possibly create more value than an entire month of study.

If LBRY’s goal is to be ruthlessly results-oriented and to avoid busywork and other forms of wasted time, I think that the scholarship model is not the way to go forward. Instead, I propose that future investments in this style should be framed as “Project Development.”

Why Project Development Succeeds

LBRY is the infrastructure for a new form of entrepreneurship. It takes power away from centralized forces and moves it into the hands of the creators and curators.

There’s no way to study entrepreneurship formally. Business school is dumb as hell and I challenge anybody to prove otherwise. (BTW – I studied music business at Berklee College of Music, one of the “best music schools in the world,” and I can confirm firsthand that it is a huge waste of time.)

What LBRY needs is its first generation of genuinely effective entrepreneurs who can accomplish specific and measurable goals. It’s the opposite of “study as much as you can” — it’s “study as little as you can while doing the most impact possible.” We can study forever, but it’s only the transition from studying to action that counts.

At this point, I know that I can drive thousands of people to engage with and use the LBRY blockchain. If I get a bit lucky with the first project, it could happen in less than 6 weeks. And if my current project proposal were rejected, there are a dozen more ideas waiting in the wings.

What I can’t do for even one more day is to “study” based on some expectation of scholarship. From this moment on, with the scholarship month over, I will only focus on project development and execution.

My Goal Going Forward

My goal, if the universe decides to allow it, is to become LBRY’s top driver of engagement and usage.

I aim to start by gathering several thousand emails for a LBRY-related project in the coming two months. It’ll require some new funding to enable me to focus my time and energy in this area — but a relatively modest amount by industry standards. And if that doesn’t turn out to be possible through the LBRY fund/team directly, I’ll keep my eyes open for other opportunities to find funding and get started.

Above all else, I would like to thank the LBRY team for all the support and trust you have put in me. I have no expectations for the future — what has happened so far already puts me in your debt forever. THANK YOU!

P.S. My first project proposal is already in the fund inbox — I’ll share it on the blog as well in the near future for anybody who is curious.

LBRY Dev Scholarship 2 Week Update

So far I have spent approximately 24 hours studying and working on projects relevant to LBRY.

GitHub (~2 hours)

I’ve done some pull requests on my first GitHub issue, for spee.ch: https://github.com/lbryio/spee.ch/issues/369#issuecomment-409265607

I will identify a new issue to focus on for the coming week.

Programming Languages (~7 hours)

Completed several courses on https://www.codecademy.com/ through the “pro” membership: SQL, CSS, as well as reviewing the Python course. I will do another course from codecademy in the coming week (Javascript).

I’ve taken down another 1.5 books of Euclid’s Elements in the last two weeks. I’m hoping to pick up more mathematical concepts in the second half of the month.

Internet Protocols (~4 hours)

I am rapidly becoming well-versed in how the internet works.

Studying this involves reading large wikipedia articles on relevant topics, such as Boolean Logic and the history of computers, as well as topics relating to LBRY like freedom of speech. This was a fascinating 4 hour study session.

Engagement and User Adoption (~8 hours)

I believe this is just as important as programming languages themselves.

On this topic, I’ve read and heavily annotated half of a copy of Blue Ocean Strategy, one of the most highly recommended marketing books for tech entrepreneurs, The strategies in that book are crucial for my current LBRY project proposal.

I read all the Jeff Bezos shareholder letters from Amazon, which are very interesting and have a lot of insights too.

Project Development (~3 hours)

I wrote a proposal for a new project which could drive thousands of email sign-ups for LBRY and create something valuable for the world.

More info on this coming soon.

Dvorak is fun

I’m typing this post using the Dvorak keyboard layout!

As developers, we spend unhealthy amounts of time on the keyboards. Yet few people take the time to learn proper typing technique.

It turns out that one can relearn typing, even to the extreme of using Dvorak, in mere weeks. It’s not as big a deal as it sounds! You can even switch back and forth between key layouts and it doesn’t feel weird.

There is an immediate and clear improvement in the “posture” of my wrists when I type this way.

Is studying typing important for developers?

I’d argue YES. Each hour spent studying typing results in many lifetime hours of increased productivity from faster + more accurate typing, reduced risk of injury, and non-trivial feelings of relaxation from the improved posture.

You could think of typing as one aspect of “computer technique”. How can it not matter?

The coolest part is that one can approach Dvorak fluency in only a few cumulative weeks of use. The key is to aim for accuracy, not speed.

Here’s a great e-zine about getting started with Dvorak: http://www.dvzine.org/

More LBRY project updates coming soon…

LBRY Gave Me 6000 tokens!

If you’re reading this blog, you are probably involved with LBRY. This is my way of sharing the journey from my one-month LBRY Dev Scholarship.


Is Technology The New Literacy?

I’ve long suspected that programming skills are the new literacy. Once upon a time, only a tiny percentage of elites could read anything. Now those of us in the developed world, and even in many developing nations, take literacy for granted. But programming – a skill that some teenagers pick up in mere months – is in extreme demand, considered an advanced skill.

Is programming really that hard to learn? I don’t think so. I think we’re just in a transition. In 200 years, I bet a majority of adults will be able to do basic programming.


Blog Goals

In the short term this blog creates accountability for me, and allows the LBRY crew to easily check in on me, on your own schedule.  No phone tag.

In the long term, the blog is like a breadcrumb trail. If I’m able to start making meaningful contributions to the LBRY codebase, maybe others can learn from my journey.

It’s important to know what problem you are solving, and how you are measuring it, long before you can claim victory. In the next post, I’ll share the clear metric I am using to measure success for this one-month scholarship experiment.