Author: Jon Evans

In the winds of crypto winter

TECHCRUNCH Well, it was surreal while it lasted, by which I mean the 2017-18 cryptocurrency bubble. For a while there, Coinbase was #1 in the App Store, Bitcoin was above $10K, and there were more notional crypto zillionaires out there than you could shake a Merkle tree at. Those were the crazy days. Now, though, a rude awakening has come. Now Bitcoin is down to $3200 and counting, other cryptocurrencies are down well over 90%, and worst of all, none of the billions of dollars which poured into cryptocurrencies during the bubble have led to anything even remotely like...

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JIRA is an antipattern

TECHCRUNCH Atlassian’s JIRA began life as a bug-tracking tool. Today, though, it has become an agile planning suite, “to plan, track, and release great software.” In many organizations it has become the primary map of software projects, the hub of all development, the infamous “source of truth.” It is a truism that the map is not the territory. Alas, this seems especially true of JIRA. Its genesis as a bug tracker, and its resulting use of “tickets” as its fundamental, defining unit, have made its maps especially difficult to follow. JIRA1 is all too often used in a way...

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Welcome to the stochastic age

TECHCRUNCH In 1990, Kleiner Perkins rejected 99.4% of the proposals it received, while investing in 12 new companies a year. Those investees made Kleiner Perkins “the most successful financial institution in the history of the world,” boasting “returns of about 40 percent per year, compounded, for coming up on thirty years.” Nowadays, the Valley’s VC poster child is now Y Combinator, who invest in more like 250 companies annually. They’re famously selective, accepting something like 1.5% of applicants, but still noticeably less selective than Kleiner Perkins in its heyday. They invest less money (though not necessarily that much less;...

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Glimpses of China’s parallel tech universe

TECHCRUNCH What can we learn from DETECTIVE CHINATOWN 2? Quite a lot, actually. The 11th biggest box-office hit of the year, it vastly outgrossed the likes of SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY, A STAR IS BORN, and CRAZY RICH ASIANS. You may never have heard of it, though; like OPERATION RED SEA, the 10th biggest hit of the year, it made all of its money in China. What can a slapstick-meets-Sherlock-Holmes comedy tell us about technology? Quite a lot, if we read its subtext. One striking thing: it’s hard to think of any big recent American movie in which...

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The slow corrosion of techno-optimism

TECHCRUNCH Two weeks from now, the Swahilipot Hub, a hackerspace / makerspace / center for techies and artists in Mombasa, Kenya, is hosting a Pwani Innovation Week, “to stimulate the innovation ecosystem in the Pwani Region.” Some of its organizers showed me around Mombasa’s cable landing site some years ago; they’re impressive people. The idea of the Hub and its forthcoming event fills me with unleavened enthusiasm, and optimism … and a bleak realization that it’s been a while since I’ve felt this way about a tech initiative. What happened? How did we go from predictions that the tech...

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Mattereum, perhaps the world’s weirdest and most daring startup, intends to own literally everything

TECHCRUNCH How’s this for eyebrow-raising? In London, for the last year and a half, a team of lawyers, cryptographers, software engineers, and/or former military consultants have been brewing a bizarre and/or brilliant plan for a bridge between the blockchain and the real world — a system whose success is directly proportional to the extent to which it achieves legal title over every physical object in the world. Wait. Let me explain. Their name is Mattereum, and they are not Bond villains seeking to conquer the planet. Rather, they are trying to bridge the gap between programmable blockchain “smart contracts”...

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What if Google unionized?

TECHCRUNCH Last week more than 20,000 Google employees walked out of their workplace to protest, and demand major changes in, how the company handles harassment and discrimination. Mass employee organization, demands made of management — doesn’t that all vaguely remind you of some kind of old-fashioned twentieth-century concept? What was it called again? The name’s on the tip of my tongue, I swear… A participant said, “Just the threat of us walking out was enough for the company to remove DeVaul from the payroll,” referring to Richard DeVaul, the Google executive who resigned this week amid a swirling storm of accusations of sexual harassment and worse. Meanwhile, an organizer of the walkout said, plaintively, “I hope I still have a career in Silicon Valley after this” … while other organizers declined to go on the record. If only there were some formal, structured way in which tech employees could bring grievances to their management, and negotiate with them as a group, via, say, elected representatives, for whom protection from retaliation could be established. Surely the disruptors and out-of-the-box thinkers of Silicon Valley could come up with some revolutionary new system for that. Imagine — and I know this sounds like science fiction but bear with me — one day, such a structure might even achieve some kind of special legal recognition and protections. But what would they call it?...

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The tools, they are a-changing

TECHCRUNCH Building web services and smartphone apps, which is most of what I’ve been doing professionally at HappyFunCorp1 for the last decade or so used to be pretty straightforward. Not easy, but straightforward, especially when the client was a consumer startup, which so many of them were. The more we did the better we got at it. Design and write two native apps, usually iOS first and Android second. Don’t skimp on the design. Connect them to a JSON API, usually written in Ruby on Rails, which also powered the web site. There’s always a web site; consumers might...

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