Tip: Super easy content ideation

Ever get stuck coming up with ideas to write about?

Simply record or revisit your Google searches related to your niche and write about what you learned.

This is especially helpful when you search for something and cannot find what you’re looking for – prime content for future searchers.

For the perfect example of this in action, I recently searched for “how to show the ManageWP plugin”, but had to ultimately ping their support team to get the answer.

I then published the result: How to show the ManageWP plugin.

This capitalizes on the exact search term I used (SEO), leaves a record for future searches to resolve this same issue, and sets me up as a SME on this term.

Thoughts?

Tip: How to show the ManageWP Worker plugin

When you install the ManageWP plugin, you can configure it to be hidden from view so the client website won’t accidentally remove it.

This also hides the plugin from you and, in the case that you want to remove it, makes it slightly more painful than it needs to be.

Simply add the following query parameter on the plugins page to reveal it:

?showWorker=1

This will reveal the plugin so you can manage it.

How Blockchain could replace GTIN, UPC, and Barcodes

Whenever you checkout at a grocery store, your cashier will scan the barcodes of your items and their prices are automatically added to the total.

The tech is rather simple. Each barcode scanned is equivalent to some unique sequence of numbers that exists as the ID of the product.

That ID (aka UPC or Universal Product Code) is used to lookup the product’s name, price, weight, and other data from the store’s local database.

Additionally, that UPC exists in the global scope as well. For example, a specific banana has the same UPC in every store across the world.

But, how can the stores know they’re not going to choose a UPC that’s already in use by apples?

How can interoperability exist between brands?

What about other products like books or shirts?

Enter, Global Trade Identification Number (GTIN).

UPC was the original, but it’s successor GTIN covers a lot more.

The GTIN standard has incorporated the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), International Standard Music Number (ISMN), International Article Number (which includes the European Article Number and Japanese Article Number) and some Universal Product Codes (UPCs), into a universal number space.

Wikipedia

In order to ensure that there are no collisions, individual brands register for a Company Prefix that they can use to denominate all products under.

Specifically, GTIN is managed by a centralized company called GS1 that approves and manages the entire GTIN database.

Blockchain was made for this

So, GTIN is a numeral based standard that requires a central trust to regulate that users don’t interfere with each other’s namespace.

In the same way that ENS allows for a trustless registrar for domain names, a blockchain solution for allowing companies to register and manage the product information within their portfolio while simultaneously preventing conflicting usage and unsanctioned modifications.

For example: if I wanted to register my product with a GTIN, I need to pay GS1 every year for the Company Prefix so I could create GTIN’s within its scope.

Instead, using blockchain, I could use my wallet to transact directly with a smart contract to create a new product GTIN as a 100% unique UUID and manage the metadata associated with it directly.

I would be able to create a product GTIN for the cost of a transaction fee, add pricing data, name, and even logistics data to the public blockchain without ever paying a middle man.

Then, I would print my products with a QR code of its blockchain address.

Graciously, I’m assuming for international tech support for QR code product scanners that interact with the blockchain, but hey we’ve switched before and we can do it again. Progress isn’t painless.

Thoughts?

Why ENS will be superior to DNS in every way

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I have a tendancy to buy domains names without second though (shout out to gotballs.org…).

So naturally, I have a few issues with the domain name registrar industry as a whole:

  1. Premium Domains are an absolute scam. Registrars can choose to markup domain names for profit as they see fit even though they don’t own the domain.
  2. ICANN is essentially shaking down users for profit and owns a monopoly on the creation of new TLDs
  3. Domain ownership requires private information to be provided during registration and you would then need to pay for WhoisGuard on top of that to prevent spammers from retrieving it.

Now, the current industry exists as a natural byproduct of the technology that existed at the time it was required. A central trusted authority was needed to maintain a ledger of who owned what domain and which server had its data. A necessary evil, per se.

Blockchain did not exist to serve as a trustless middleman to coordinate this information.

But now it does.

What is ENS?

So ENS – Ethereum Name Service – is a smart contract built on the Ethereum network that acts as a trustless, decentralized mechanism for registering and managing domain names.

For example, through ENS I have registered jameswmontgomery.eth by sending an arbitrary amount of ether to the smart contract. It then marks my address down as the owner for X number of years and will expire unless I reregister.

Most notably, the ether I sent does not go to some corporation – it literally gets burned.

The first thing you’ll notice, though, is that you cannot simply visit jameswmontgomery.eth as you would jameswmontgomery.com – at least not on major browsers (yet). We’ll revisit this in a bit.

Primarily – at this point – ENS’s main value is acting as a shortcut for Ethereum addresses (and other cryptocurrencies).

Specifically, instead of sending ether to my address 0xcDbB43A1BacB5Fe29ff895C7f79dC9dD0d536F71, you would send it to jameswmontgomery.eth from a supported wallet like Meta Mask or MyEtherWallet.

The ENS smart contract would then automatically route the payment to the correct address; it’s even smart enough to route payments to the different token addresses automatically like Ethereum, Bitcoin, BCash, Ripple, and others.

It doesn’t sound like DNS though.

Payment routing is just the beginning.

They’re also rolling out support for registering existing TLDs like .com and have already established a proof-of-concept with the .xyz TLD.

This allows existing TLD registrants (you can’t just buy google.com, sorry) to claim their domains on the ENS network and enable three key features:

  1. Accept payments from any crypto wallets directly to jameswmontgomery.com without an intermediary like PayPal.
  2. Join Web 3.0 by serving site content through Swarm and IPFS.
  3. Store meta data like email, Twitter username, and others as structured data for easy reference on apps.

It can’t be far from thought for the architects to want to support core DNS features like A Records, CNAME, etc as well, but these features are currently not supported.

TL;DR

When ENS does support these key DNS features, it will ultimately be the superior choice for the future of the internet because:

  1. It does not rely on a central authority to maintain a ledger of ownership
  2. It does not arbitrarily establish “premium” domain names and jack up prices (though, it does have simple character count scaled price to ward off domain piracy).
  3. It is an open source protocol that can ultimately be governed by a DAO instead of a corporation.
  4. It is inherently censorship resistant and governments cannot shut down ENS addresses.
  5. DNS’s core function as a distributed ledger with TTL is handled by default on Ethereum.

Thoughts?

Star Wars meets Blockchain: The Mandalorian and Interplanetary Chain Code

Recently, Disney+ launched a new series to build on the Star Wars universe called The Mandalorian. It follows a Mandalorian bounty hunter (think Boba Fett) on his adventures tracking down various characters for their bounties.

During a meeting with his handler in trying to acquire new bounties, the Mandalorian makes mention of “chain code” in the terms of taking on a vague underworld contract.

Chain code has never been discussed or defined in the Star Wars universe and the show doesn’t explain it at all, but I firmly believe that they are referring to blockchain (and you will too).

Chain code is code run on the blockchain

That’s the literal name of it IRL.

Also called Smart Contracts or dApps, chain code refers to any code that lives on a blockchain and does stuff automatically.

A great example of this would be to, say, put bounty money in escrow that would automatically be released when the subject is captured and returned.

It allows the bounty hunter to feel secure that payment would come through when terms are met.

Blockchain is the solution for interplanetary transactions

If I make a deal on Coruscant to deliver a prisoner to Naboo, I wouldn’t want to wait or rely on intergalactic transmissions to ensure payment. It would make more sense to confirm against a node (computer) on Naboo that has a copy of the chain code.

Since blockchains are immutable, append-only ledgers that are distributed identically across the galaxy, I can rest assured knowing that I will get payed for my bounty from the chain code and that my handler will be notified of the hand off.

If I were using standard centralized servers, I couldn’t guarantee that my handler didn’t delete or alter the contract – or that the government didn’t seize the assets and shut it all down.

And on top of all that, intergalactic communication take a while even at the speed of light. This distance requires asynchronous systems to have any type of reliability; otherwise I’d be waiting hours for communications to confirm.

In short, chain code via blockchain is the only reasonable solution for bounty hunting baby yodas.

DAI: An Actually Decentralized Stablecoin

Quite possibly the biggest concern that non-crypto folks have with cryptocurrency (read as Bitcoin) is the extreme volatility and the prospect of “going to zero”.

Now, I have deep faith that the value of Bitcoin, Ethereum (and a handful of others) will prevail, but the true on-ramp of the masses will not be speculative assets, but rather stable assets – those designed to maintain a specific static value over time.

Stablecoins remove volatility from the equation and are designed to prevent the value of your coins from moving with the rest of the market.

As with Tether, USDC, and others, DAI is a cryptocurrency that is designed to be pegged against the US Dollar.

1 DAI = 1 USD

The usual method for pegging stablecoins against a value is to back them up with that physical asset. For coins like Tether (USDT), reserves of cash are banked away in the same way that the FDIC would insure accounts: for every USDT issued, a physical USD sits behind it to cover liquidity in the case of a “run on the bank.”

DAI, however, is not backed by a bank account. It’s backed by economics (more below).

You might think this is a bad thing, but I’d like the chance to argue that this method is superior.

Issues with USD-backed stablecoins

The biggest flaw I find with USD or other currency backed stablecoins is that this creates a single point of failure for the system.

  1. It’s a single company in charge of the currency
  2. It’s a single bank in charge of that account
  3. It’s a single country’s government that regulates that bank

If that government decides to make cryptocurrency illegal or seizes the assets for reasons, what fate would befall these bank accounts and companies?

If a CEO goes rogue or is coerced into distributing funds, what trust can we have in the stability?

If companies refuse to agree to 3rd party audits, how can we know that these stablecoins are even backed at all?

In order to trust in FIAT-based stablecoins, we must trust in corporations, banks, and governments to get it right. I personally would like to trust them less.

DAI isn’t backed by USD

.. and that’s a good thing. So, how can DAI peg against the dollar?

Simply put: supply and demand. Here’s how it works:

How DAI get’s created

Unlike other stablecoins that are issued by a central issuer, DAI can only be created by staking collateral. (there’s a lot here, but we’ll cover that in another post)

Practically, in order to create DAI, I need to lock up some other valuables as collateral like ether into a vault (and can only retrieve that collateral once I pay back the DAI that was created).

Now, let’s say I create 10,000 DAI with some amount of ether. The worth of this is $10,000.

If the market value of DAI grows to $1.01, I would be incentivized to sell my DAI because it is worth $10,100; earning me $100.

This increases supply of DAI in the market, driving price downward.

But, I still need 10,000 DAI in order to unlock the ether that I put in.

So, if I see that the price of DAI has fallen to $0.99, I can buy 10,000 on the market for $9900; effectively earning me another $100.

This increases demand for DAI in the market, driving price upward.

Now that I can redeem (burn) the 10,000 DAI to unlock my ether, I pocket $200 extra (minus fees) and repeat the process.

In fact, I can specifically create new DAI when the price is above $1 with the express intent to sell it high and buy it back when it returns to $1 or below.

This both increases supply of DAI in the market, driving price downward, and increases demand for undervalued DAI as the collateralized ether will need to be unlocked, driving price upward.

Pretty neat and done completely without a bank.

In short, economics, profit, and the market combined with how DAI is collateralized drives the price to $1 – and has effectively done so since Dec 2017.

Combined with the new release of multi-collateral DAI (ETH, BAT, and other ERC20 tokens on the horizon) and the release of the DAI Savings Rate for hodlers, DAI is a pretty great stablecoin.

More Reading

We’re only scratching the surface here. DAI is a part of the Maker DAO ecosystem and there’s a ton more to explore around the economics of DAI and it’s relationship with Maker.