Nodes? We don’t need no stinking nodes

As a favour to an old colleague, I agreed to proofread a start-up proposal to be aimed at venture-capital types. I knew it had something to do with blockchain. I thought it was just a couple of pages and would take 10 minutes. It’s actually over 20 pages, and will take hours. By ‘hours’, I mean ‘weeks until completion’, because I can’t be bothered to do more than five minutes a day.

Best be oblique. The proposal is for online provision of a service or function we will call ‘widgeting’*. While mundane, widgeting can be fairly important. But: a) most of us need to use such a process only rarely; and b) existing online or real-life methods mostly work fine.

The proposal offers improvements that sound desirable, like ‘greater convenience’. But it insists that they be delivered by (decentralized, verifiable, secured, ‘immutable’ etc) blockchain, when simple procedural changes (like a more user-friendly system) would suffice. The proposal also assumes that untrustworthy or malicious actors are a major problem with current methods of widgeting. This is not usually the case – but where it is, the problem is organizational or institutional, and shouldn’t be swept under the carpet by a superficial technical fix.

To complicate things, the proposal relies on at least some parties paying for use of this platform – or ‘remunerating nodes for their work’. The proposal allows for crowdfunding, though that makes sense for only a narrow range of widgeting-related activities. (Widgeting can be one-off and for-profit, but it is often a small part of a larger non-commercial activity. It does involve admin and other costs, but these are usually bundled into other much bigger budgets or payments. There could be some potential for value-creating through data-gathering.)

As if this weren’t masochistic enough, the business model does not rely on real money, but will have its own cryptocurrency. This will, it seems, acquire some sort of value of its own as ‘the ecosystem grows’.

Talking of masochistic: did I mention that, for a laugh, I agreed to be paid for what I thought would be a 10-minute proofread in these ‘tokens’?

There are several people – fairly smart, I always thought – spending months on this obsessive attempt to find a problem for the visionary anarcho-glam fantasy tech solution.

*Don’t waste time being intrigued about what ‘widgeting’ is. Trust me – it’s boring.

This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Nodes? We don’t need no stinking nodes

  1. Boris Badanov says:

    Steer clear of all crypto/token/blockchain/DLT/unicorn/“disruptor”/digital/“slashie” evangelist-bores. Or make it easy and avoid anyone who works in a co-working space or uses the word “platform” unironically in reference to anything other to the MTR station floor. Snake oil, delusion and South China Sea Bubble, blue-sky merchants all spring to mind as anologies.

  2. Spike says:

    I find it more than a little amusing that people seem to think that blockchain is the answer to any technical challenge now, merely because it’s the buzzword of the year. There are places where it can represent a big step up over previous technologies, but it’s a relatively short and specific list. Long term I don’t see this as a prime technology driver. I think it will always be around but at some point people will have to realize it’s not the correct answer for everything simply because it sounds cool and it will fade into being just another tool in the toolbox.

  3. Roddy the Rodomontade says:

    @Boris

    In my line of work I am regularly confronted with the inane, often meaningless jargon you refer to.

    It is truly woeful.

  4. Cassowary says:

    The cake was taken, sliced, and served to a pack of ravenous, hygiene-challenged five year-olds when a friend of mine insisted that blockchain was the needed solution to an understaffed dim sum restaurant losing/forgetting our orders on a major holiday.

  5. Chris Maden says:

    @Boris – well said!

    Global payments systems turnover approximately US$20trn (no mis-type) per day. Blockchains manage a couple of billion on a good day.

    I believe the mathematical term is “rounding error.”

  6. Hamantha says:

    Antiquated monetization strategies just aren’t doing the needful in disrupting the modern-day paradigm shift.

    For the sake of stakeholder syndergies, blockchain technologies need to go out and break things in the fintech sphere, growth hacking their way into revenue-positivity by adding comprehensive big data value-adds to the toolbox.

  7. old git says:

    One can remember the excitement in the 1960s and 1970s, over memory typewriters, which were to be the forerunner to the “paperless” office, which didn’t happen.

    When word processors were in vogue in the early 1980s, they too, were to be the forerunner to the “paperless office” and a whole lot of efficiencies such as working from home and flexi-time, which didn’t happen until now, for a different reason: a virus not of the computer software type.

  8. Red Dragon says:

    Hemlock, words fail me. That was the most boring thing you have ever posted.

    Pull yourself together, man.

    Nobody is interested in this shit.

  9. Boris Badanov says:

    Remember they’re all “pre-revenue” may favourite neologism. My other favourite is “move fast and break things” should be translated as “our founder will be disgraced/revealed as a lunatic/be in prison/all of these shortly”.

  10. @Boris Badanov – while I agree with your rant on technobabble in general, “platform” does have a generally accepted and easily understood meaning in techno-jargon. It simply refers to a device (phone, tablet, PC) or system on which various applications can be run.

  11. Stanley Lieber says:

    @Boris

    Damn you! Now I’ve got to rewrite my entire investment proposal.

  12. charlie says:

    I bet it has something to do with buying pet food online.

  13. Boris Badanov says:

    I can only ask people who use words like “platform” to mean a system or device to Orwell, Politics and the English Language:

    “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.”

  14. Hamantha says:

    @Red Dragon

    Haha, yeah, for real. Nobody got time for this blockchain bulls—!

  15. Bagesty says:

    @Boris… bit confused, I thought DLT = Dave Lee Travis, ex BBC Radio 1 Dee-Jay. What’s the Hairy Cornflake got to do with unicorns?

  16. @Boris – I don’t believe Orwell meant that one could never use a short word in place of a longer phrase – otherwise we would still be calling a car a horseless carriage. He did, after all, say “never use a long word where a short one will do”. Sure, “platform” in this sense began as jargon, but it has now achieved general currency – if i say “the mobile phone is replacing the personal computer as the most widely used platform for social media”, any reasonably educated reader will understand me. “Blockchain”, by contrast, still means nothing to the average person, which is exactly why it can be used to bamboozle the easily impressed.

  17. odaiwai says:

    Bagesty, a DLT is a Distributed[1] Ledger[2] Technology[3] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_ledger).

    [1] We both have a copy and can check the other isn’t cheating.
    [2] Database, spreadsheet or just any file.
    [3] more or less meaningless word attached to make it a TLA[4], becase two letter acronyms aren’t taken seriously enough.
    [4] Three Letter Acronym.
    [5] Unreferenced Footnote +++ OUT OF CHEESE ERROR +++ RESTART +++

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *