government

[BUSINESS] Bitcoin Demystified

Bitcoin logo

Mystified by Bitcoin? You’re not alone.

If you’ve been following the news at all, you’ve probably heard heard a lot about something called “bitcoin” lately. Typically it’s billed as a “virtual currency” or, less generously, as an “alternative payment system.” Stories about Bitcoin are usually accompanied by at least one of two other elements: 1)a breathless reference to how the “anonymous currency” is the new currency of drug dealers, arms traffickers, and other criminals; and/or 2)how a lucky few people who got in on the whole Bitcoin thing before it was cool are now discovering, thanks to the incredibly volatile Bitcoin market,  that they’re Bitcoin Millionaires. If a pseudoanonymous, open source, distributed, global, virtual currency could be considered hip, Bitcoin is the new “It” coin.

Unfortunately very little of the buzz around Bitcoin actually takes the time to explain what the heck it is. How is it created? How do you get it? Where can you spend it? Is it really “money?” How the heck does the whole thing work? All in all, Bitcoin is more than a little mysterious.

Luckily there are people like Alexandra Berke out there who are able to bridge the gap between the tech-know-it-alls and the rest of us by providing a remarkably clear explanation of the inner workings of Bitcoin. In the first part of her two-part series “Bitcoin Demystified: A Hacker’s Perspective,” Berke  lays out the basic vocabulary of Bitcoin, how Bitcoins are created, how you own them, how you spend them, and how the built-in features of the virtual currency virtually guarantee that it can’t be counterfeited. It’s a great primer for anyone who’s been confused about Bitcoin. Let’s just hope she writes part 2 soon!

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[GOVERNMENT] How Healthcare.gov Went Wrong

Department of Better Technology logo

Department of Better Technology

If you’ve been stymied trying to log on to Healthcare.gov since the big launch earlier in October and have been wondering how the heck a much-ballyhooed Federal government web site could be so @#$%%*ing buggy and slow, check out,  How Healthcare.gov Went Wrong by the folks at Department of Better Technology, a company that builds software for the government.

So why did things go wrong? Not too surprisingly it all comes down to some typical government contracting worst practices: no-bid contract with an existing vendor, rushed deadline, poor functional requirements (written by people who don’t know anything about functional requirements), cronyism, and a lack of pricing and accountability oversight. Unfortunately, as most people who’ve been in the web site building business will tell you, pretty much everything that makes for a bad project.

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[NEWS] Facebook’s Zuckerberg says U.S. spying hurt users’ trust, calls for greater transparency

Mark-Zuckerberg-1During a speaking appearance hosted by Atlantic magazine that took place  in Washington, DC on Wednesday (September 18th), Facebook CEO Marck Zuckerberg said that he felt recent revelations of government spying have made internet users more suspicious and decreased their level of trust in the government and online companies, according to Reuters:

“What I can tell from the data that I see at Facebook is that I think the more transparency and communication the government could do about how they’re requesting the data from us, the better everyone would feel about it,” he said.

“From reading in the media, you couldn’t get a sense whether the number of requests that the government makes is closer to a thousand or closer to a 100 million. … I think the more transparency the government has, the better folks would feel.”

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