SWRM Labs Blog

SWRM Labs July 2020 Update

Aug 6, 2020 11:28:07 AM / by SWRM Labs posted in Ethereum, Development, Content Distribution, Distributed Storage, Cryptocurrency, Cdn, Blockchain, Updates

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Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

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Introducing SWRM Labs

Jul 15, 2020 3:56:36 PM / by SWRM Labs posted in Development, Streamspace, Content Distribution, Internet of Things, Distributed Storage, Cryptocurrency, Technology, Cdn, Blockchain, Updates, Tech

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StreamSpace Is Emerging from Development Stealth Mode

Jun 4, 2020 10:02:09 AM / by Robert Binning posted in Cdn Video Streaming, Distributed Storage, Cdn, Uncategorized, Blockchain

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Photo by Jeremy Bishop on  Unsplash

It has been a year since StreamSpace described its architecture for a new distributed CDN supported by blockchain technologies like IPFS and Hedera Hashgraph. In this time, we built development, test, and operations teams, and we now have a working testnet for passing files between publishers, nodes, and end users.

The new StreamSpace CDN features two key modes:

· a web-based mode, where customers can upload content files, manage organization access rights, track content popularity and usage, pay bills, along with numerous other features

· a desktop-based mode, where storage hosts, who we call “cachers,” can allocate storage capacity, earn tokens based on content throughput, and manage their token wallets

Here are a few of the use cases for StreamSpace’s new CDN:

1. 4K and VR video streaming. Traditional CDNs cannot support large numbers of end users stressing local servers for high bandwidth content, but a distributed mesh of peers can swarm content to end users from dozens of local servers to deliver the streams with higher end user satisfaction levels.

2. Mass deployment of IoT software updates. When time to “first frame” is less important, but total file delivery time and reliability is critical, a distributed CDN can really pay off. StreamSpace provides a permanent record of all file transfers, certifying both the transmission and successful update registration from millions of clients. StreamSpace’s thousands to millions of nodes help to reduce latency by sending file shards from any nearby peer node that holds any of the file shard fragments; they are reassembled at the client interface, and thereby limited in speed only by the client access link.

3. Non-commodity or blockchain-powered p2p marketplaces. There are hundreds of examples of marketplaces for unique goods and services, from eBay and Etsy to Fiverr and Tinder; specific transactions between sellers and buyers cannot be easily replicated, and the goods or services might be completely unique and irreproducible. Conventional centralized marketplaces such as the environments listed above charge between 3–15% commission for enabling the transaction, often bundling other financial or insurance services based on their brands. Transitioning to peer to peer services moves more control back to the buyers and sellers themselves, with blockchain proofs to certify the successful completion of all transactions. StreamSpace can support p2p markets with secure file and token transfers between buyers and sellers.

StreamSpace also offers a valuable proposition for data center operators and businesses or individuals with excess storage available and with reliable broadband connectivity. The StreamSpace “cachers” earn 1 SSH token for every 50 GB file transfer through their hosts. Popular content served dozens to thousands of times can provide a significant revenue stream for partners. Trading for the StreamSpace tokens is supported through several crypto exchanges around the world, and the StreamSpace ecosystem uses external exchange transfers to complete our dynamic tokenomics ecosystem. This ensures that cachers recognize income from their participation in our network, not just accumulate tokens.

Over the next few months, we will be rolling out our testnet to potential customers and cachers. If you are interested in exploring our service, check out our website stream.space and our social media pages, and let us know that you would like to join our revolution by submitting our “Cacher Survey” form at https://forms.gle/Ldi8U7emFtZbNCw88. Thanks!!!

StreamSpace social media pages:

StreamSpace website: https://stream.space

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StreamSpace IoT Application Business Case

Apr 5, 2019 10:03:47 AM / by Robert Binning posted in Internet of Things, Cryptocurrency, Cdn, Uncategorized, Dapps, Blockchain

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5 April 2019

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StreamSpace 4Q18 Update

Dec 12, 2018 12:46:32 PM / by Robert Binning posted in Marketing, Development, Uncategorized, Blockchain, Updates

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It’s been a busy quarter for StreamSpace, both on our product development and our marketing fronts. Major accomplishments include launching the StreamSpace Bangalore Development Center, which will accelerate our alpha schedule by several months, and a number of executive engagements that showcased our leadership in blockchain video distribution.

StreamSpace Bangalore Development Center

StreamSpace launched its BDC in November, helping to accelerate the delivery date for the alpha version of StreamSpace’s distributed content delivery network (dCDN). Currently staffed with 6 talented developers, StreamSpace is ramping the center to a planned 8–10 developers by January. The new dev team will allow us to showcase a working alpha version of our service by March 2019.

Recent Development Accomplishments

The StreamSpace team demonstrated our capability to use IPFS across multiple nodes to store and distribute video files. We published architecture specifications for the video marketplace system, which will use distributed ledgers to manage the payment system for video content through whitelisted servers to the edge of the dCDN and then to content purchasers and viewers.

The StreamSpace white paper continues to evolve as the project matures. You can find our latest details and insights at https://www.stream.space/pdf/StreamSpace_White_Paper.pdf.

Digital Hollywood, Los Angeles October ‘18

Robert Binning led a panel discussion at the latest edition of Victor Harwood’s Digital Hollywood conference about evolving financing methods for video entertainment, with an emphasis on Initial Coin Offerings and related blockchain finance techniques. Co-panelists included Partners, CEOs, and General Managers from AGC Partners, Fanchise, Kochava Collective, Hollywood Portfolio, Transform Group, and Greenberg Traurig LLP.

National Association for Broadcasters (NAB Show), New York October ‘18

James Baggett was a featured panelist for the Streaming Summit, part of the NAB Fall conference in New York. Along with the chief strategist for Theta Labs, another blockchain distributed CDN project, and Akamai’s VP for Product and Operations, James shared insights about how blockchain and hashgraphs enable a new way to deploy CDNs without committing to hundreds of millions of dollars in capital infrastructure. This conference followed StreamSpace’s involvement in the April ’18 NAB Show in Las Vegas, where we demonstrated distributed content streaming from several storage devices to assemble one viewing experience.

American Film Market Conference, Santa Monica November ‘18

StreamSpace was a sponsor for the AFM Distribution Conference as well as a speaker and key contributor for the Blockchain Conference. Robert Binning shared with an audience of 500 filmmakers and influencers how StreamSpace is leveraging blockchain technologies to revolutionize royalty payment systems so filmmakers can quickly receive their fair share of project profits, and also enabling a new distribution network which will allow filmmakers to retain artistic and financial control over their film projects. Other speakers included executives from AMBI Media/TaTaTu, FilmChain, Cinemarket, Cinezen, Wardour Studios, and White Rabbit.

Independent Film Ambassador Program

StreamSpace made the decision to freeze our Film Ambassador Program in October, so we could concentrate management efforts more fully on the dCDN development rather than promoting visionary independent filmmakers without a platform to increase their ability to generate film revenues. We remain fully committed to indie film and to our partner filmmakers, and we anticipate relaunching our social media efforts in support of our ambassadors in 2019, as we begin to deploy our commercial services. We thank all of our partners for their patience and commitment to this new way of financing and commercializing video film projects.

SXSW 2019

StreamSpace expects that we will have a lot to share with the world by March 2019, beginning with our working alpha service. We will send updates for SXSW with information about where and how to see our working prototypes and how to get involved as we prepare to come to market.

Stay tuned!

Thanks,

Robert, James, and the rest of the StreamSpace team

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Why the World Needs a dCDN

Oct 8, 2018 4:07:36 PM / by Robert Binning posted in Streamspace, Content Distribution, Cdn, Uncategorized, Blockchain

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Video has completely transformed the way people are entertained and informed, so it makes sense that video has driven the internet to include a superstructure of interlinked private content delivery networks, or CDNs. The huge bandwidth requirements imposed by the shift from static webpages and file downloads to video streaming forced service providers to push the most likely and popular content to the edges of the network, reducing the median time to buffer and launch the content from 20–40 seconds in the 1990s with dial-up access points down to less than 4 seconds today.

Superior content delivery performance

Video buffer incidents are often quite minor, but even one buffer delay leads viewers to reduce the time they spend on that content by 39% according to MUX. Akamai found that streaming video viewers start to abandon content when it takes just two seconds to launch; after 11 seconds launch delay, fifty percent of videos are abandoned.

Decentralization allows CDNs to scale from tens or hundreds of edge sites to thousands or potentially millions of nodes. With blockchain CDNs, the nearest content node could be as close as down the hall or next door; launch delays may be reduced to fractions of a second.

Lower capital investment and cost to serve

Conventional CDN architectures are planned to accommodate peak traffic loads with sub-second delays, so it should not come as a surprise that most servers in typical CDNs see very light loading under normal conditions. All that capacity comes at a price.

Decentralized, tokenized CDNs follow the Uber or Airbnb model instead: private owners offer their excess storage and communications capacity in return for a reasonable per-use compensation. Other than infrastructure equipment vendors, everyone wins in a shared-economy market: the CDN supplier foregoes the capital costs, the storage contributors offset some of their sunk costs, customers see lower prices for equivalent services, and new customers can explore a service they might never have considered.

Flexible architecture

One fundamental benefit of shared economy services is that participants can easily enter and leave a sharing service because the barriers of entry and exit are low. The cost and time to sign on with a shared economy service is usually very low, assuming the participant complies with local regulations. If an Uber driver finds a more lucrative full-time job, he can scale back his hours working for Uber or stop entirely. If an Airbnb host finds a full-time tenant or needs that space room for something else, she can simply block an extended period from booking through the service or drop out entirely. Similarly, a business or individual that wants to enroll and earn tokens by sharing excess IT capacity can opt into the StreamSpace CDN network quickly and easily. The two keys to maximizing token earnings are (1) choosing the most popular content to store and serve, and (2) having an optimal location, near the end users for that content. While anecdotes about expensive duds are famous, the recipes for hit movies and popular short-form YouTube videos are actually quite well known: Tell a great story, execute the production professionally, and promote the offering with a brand or image that people can recognize.

Superior security

Another chief reason why video service providers adopt CDNs is to improve security, especially DDOS attack denial, since the CDN content is replicated across a large number of servers. Blockchain storage architectures such as IPFS extend that power through decentralized content replication, with an added security advantage: the blockchain stores an encrypted hash address, so only the keyholders can access the content. Only whitelisted servers are allowed to connect to a private IPFS network, reducing the risk even further. Finally, the StreamSpace CDN further breaks the video content into shards, file segments that individually are meaningless, but which combine to make a seamless video experience.

New services

8K Virtual reality (VR) content has 25x the data density of conventional 720p HD video content and 4x the density of 4K video. Today’s conventional CDNs often struggle to support 4K video files, which require 30–50 Mbps transfer speeds; 8K VR content requires 128–200 Mbps connectivity. As more people adopt VR, we will see an explosion in VR content sharing, just as we now see 50–100% annual increases in demand for 4K video. And beyond 8K VR lie even richer media structures, like “6 Degrees of Freedom” (6DOF) and Lightfield content, which require 1–5Gbps connectivity or higher. Live media streaming adds an extra wrinkle, where content loss is more acceptable than buffer delay; extraordinarily rich VR live streaming places the viewer directly into a scene to interact with other participants to enable new and powerful experiences.

A world of distributed applications (or DApps) is just emerging to take advantage of IPFS and similar decentralized network structures. StreamSpace is exploring a range of dApps and encouraging content developers to build DApps that support the IPFS ecosystem.

StreamSpace, a blockchain startup based in Austin Texas, believes that its decentralized video content delivery network can reduce the cost to serve content by 50–70% compared to conventional CDNs. Not only does this provide an economic advantage to video creators and distributors, the StreamSpace CDN also provides an income stream for content curators who participate by contributing underutilized storage. Join the discussion with StreamSpace through our social media channels.

References:

1. Dahl, Jon. MUX, https://mux.com/blog/buffering-reduces-video-watch-time-by-40-according-to-research/, Sept 14, 2016.

2. Krishnan, S. Shumuga and Sitaraman, Ramesh K. “Video Stream Quality Impacts Viewer Behavior: Inferring Causality Using Quasi-Experimental Designs,” https://www.akamai.com/kr/ko/multimedia/documents/technical-publication/video-stream-quality-impacts-viewer-behavior-inferring-causality-using-quasi-experimental-designs-technical-publication.pdf,IMC’12,November 14–16, 2012, Boston, Massachusetts, 2012.

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Dear StreamSpace Community Member,

Jul 16, 2018 9:46:43 AM / by Robert Binning posted in Streamspace, Film, Community Update, Streaming, Uncategorized, Blockchain

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Dear StreamSpace Community Member,

Thank you for being part of our community! We want to keep you abreast of what we’re up to across a variety of technical and business development fronts.

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Six Technologies that Revolutionized the Film Industry

Mar 12, 2018 3:07:34 PM / by Robert Binning posted in Film, Disruption, Technology, Uncategorized, Media, Blockchain

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The earliest motion pictures were a series of short 50-second films created by the French brothers, Auguste and Louis Lumiere. In 1895, they demonstrated their invention — a hybrid portable recording camera, film processing unit, and projector called the Cinemagraphe — to a paying audience. A year later, the Edison Manufacturing Company showed an improved Vitascope projector, the first commercially successful projector in the United States.

Over the past 120 years, there have been any number of twists and turns that have affected the motion pictures industry, but here are six technologies that have in turn destroyed the industry as it was known and set it on a new path:

  1. Sound

The 1910s and 1920s saw the first explosion of film, and the Silent Era had its own slate of star actors and filmmakers: Rudolf Valentino, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Buster Keaton, Ernst Lubitsch, Cecil B. DeMille, Louise Brooks, Clara Bow, Max Linder. The introduction of “talkies,” films with synchronized audio, in the mid 1920s, especially The Jazz Singer, the first talkie feature film, in 1927, led to the first upheaval of the film industry. By 1929, silent films had ceased to be box office draws, by the early 1930s, talkies were a global phenomenon. Silent film stars who couldn’t shift to newer, less emotive acting methods, disappeared, and a new generation of studios and filmmkaers took over.

2. Television

Prior to and during World War II, the cinema was a standard entertainment option for most of the industrialized world; about 60% of Americans saw a film at least once a week in the war years. After 1948, however, television sets shifted from technical curiosities to standard household appliances and regular weekly movie attendance declined to about 10% of the population by 1964. Across the 1950s, between 5–7 million sets were sold each year in the US, for a cumulative installed base of 67 million units at the end of the decade, or 1.3 sets per household in 1960. Television’s popularity growth across the 1950s led Hollywood studios to adopt a “coopetition” strategy, in which the studios shifted their focus to blockbuster productions, launched production of their own television series, and also began selling rights to rebroadcast rights to pre-1948 films. The first feature film broadcast on US television was The Wizard of Oz (1939), which aired on November 3, 1956. Once again, the established Hollywood studios with their closed shop systems of producers, directors, and actors disappeared, and a new Hollywood system with distributors at the financial center took over.

3. Videotape and Digital Video Discs

The first consumer videocassette recorders were Sony’s U-matic from 1971 and Philips’ N1500 launched the following year. The development of two standardized tape formats — Sony’s Betamax (1975) and JVC’s VHS format (1976) led to an explosion of supply and demand along with rapidly declining device prices across the 1980s. Initially, studios fought the technology as a method of piracy of its copyright content, but by the mid-1980s, studios discovered that consumers were willing to rent or buy movies, and home viewing became a source of revenue as large as the theatrical release phase in many countries. Cult films and other specialized content allowed studios to make money from projects that would have been flops under other circumstances. By the mid-1990s, studios shifted more and more resources to promote DVDs, which offered many technical advantages: they could be viewed repeatedly without wearing out, they were more durable, could not be erased, and DVDs could offer more viewing formats, plus extra features not possible with VHS. DVD sales peaked in 2004.

Home entertainment revenues dramatically changed the economics of the film industry. Theatrical release schedules became marketing events for resales of old titles, and the number of profitable films exploded with this new opportunity for direct-to-consumer sales and rentals.

4. Netflix and Streaming Video

Netflix was founded by Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph in 1997 with a DVD-by-mail rental concept that attacked Blockbuster and similar retail outlets with a flat-rate pricing plan that allowed subscribers to watch and return movies without incurring late fees, a key customer dissatisfier of the traditional DVD rental industry. In 2007, Netflix launched an online streaming video on demand (SVOD) service; after 2010, Netflix began to expand internationally, and Netflix now operates services in 190 countries. Shifting to a global SVOD platform moved Netflix from being an expert in logistics to being the leader in video content distribution networking. The latest strategy shift, from film and series merchandising to integrated production and distribution, began in 2013, and is just starting to drive competitor responses by Disney (acquiring Fox Searchlight) and Amazon.

“Netflix and creative destruction” produces over one million hits on a standard Google search. Beginning with a New York Times article in 2010 and a Harvard Business Review article the following year, Netflix became one of the most documented examples of Clayton Christensen’s theory of successful disruptive businesses. The Netflix Effect first destroyed the DVD rental business leaders, Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. Then the company turned its attention toward the studios themselves, producing and distributing its own content outside the Hollywood studio distributor system, beginning with a new format, binge-watching a season’s worth of content in one long weekend, to today’s plan to make and promote as many as 80 films in 2018 alone, with a budget of $7–8 billion.

In response to this destructive stack on DVD sales, the major Hollywood distribution companies have been consolidating. Ten studios account for 90% of all theater revenues and more than 70% of all film income. Almost all of the energy of the top studios is focused on billion-dollar blockbuster productions, most of which involve multiple sequels or other forms of off-shoots. Nine of the top 10 US grossing films are sequels or spinoffs; only one, It, based on the 1986 Stephen King novel, does not stem from a previous film.

5. Augmented Reality

Creative filmmakers have described fantasies and utopian or dystopian futures since the earliest silent film days. Every decade has brought advances in set design and animation to allow a blend of live and virtual action, from King Kong in 1933 to the latest billion-dollar Star Wars film, The Last Jedi. Virtual Reality (VR) headsets were invented in 2000 as a personal way to augment reality, tricking the eyes and ears into believing that you are moving through a different and personal universe. Recent proliferation of smartphones capable of supporting virtual or augmented reality (VR/AR) experiences is enabling an explosion of new content formats that may dramatically change how consumers choose their entertainment experiences.

Currently, the industry is in its early stages, advancing rapidly in both hardware and foundational software. Video game developers have taken an early lead, modifying multiplayer games with an immersive experience. Augmented experiences for travel and immersive stories about exotic locations are starting to appear, and new standards for format will enable thousands of storytellers and filmmakers to expand into a new medium of immersive augmented reality experiences.

6. Blockchain

Bitcoin and Ethereum are foundational technologies that enable distributed apps to replace the cartels that characterize much of today’s media and entertainment industries. Blockchain platforms allow filmmakers to crowdfund their projects and keep control over their projects rather than cede the financial interest to Hollywood. Decentralized smart contracts allow intellectual property and content revenue streams to be shared with the owners. Online blockchain distribution changes the economy of deploying proprietary content networks, with peer-to-peer sharing of video content shards providing more security than traditional encrypted file formats.

Just as blockchain decentralization is transforming the world’s foreign exchange system and the online gaming industry, the same technologies are starting to transform many marketplaces, including the media and entertainment industries.

StreamSpace, www.stream.space, is one of the leaders using blockchain to disrupt the streaming video industry. StreamSpace is developing a blockchain content distribution network (CDN) and a blockchain-powered marketplace for independent filmmakers to connect with their fans and offer views of their film projects directly to consumers around the world. The project uses social media so filmmakers and fans can interact without intermediaries.

The winners of all of these technological innovations are the consumers, the fans of compelling content. From the earliest examples such as The Great Train Robbery to today, people have wanted to tell and be entertained by stories. All technological advances raise the standard for consumer entertainment, making it more powerful, more personal, and more popular. Who knows what the next decades will bring?

Photo source: WikiCommons, Director Cecil B. DeMille, page 60 of the July 1922 Photoplay.

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The Future Is Not Linear

Feb 8, 2018 1:20:27 PM / by Robert Binning posted in ICO, Ethereum, Bitcoin, Film, Uncategorized, Blockchain

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Photo by Rene Böhmer on  Unsplash

Most strategic plans involve projecting events into the future, often between 3–5 years, or about half of a normal business economic cycle. A few firms in very capital-intensive or regulation-controlled industries might look ten or more years into the future, but these exercises are usually meant to fully account for the business life of a major capital investment or R&D program into a new drug.

Projections for future demand and pricing are almost always simple extrapolations from today’s environment. Often planners will look back a few years, calculate the rate of growth across the history and project that the rate of growth will be sustained into the future. This is momentum planning, and actually works well for short periods. Sales for August should look a lot like sales levels in July.

However, one of the key observations I’ve made over 30 years of building strategic plans is that long term planning has very little to do with near term momentum-based forecasts. Rather, there are two critical factors that should dominate your thoughts.

First, you need to understand the critical uncertainties that will have a huge impact on industry structure and the value chain — the possible events that will change all of the assumptions about supply, demand, prices, share patterns, and competitive behaviors. Peter Schwartz introduced the concept of scenario planning in his book The Art of the Long View (1991); this tool helps leaders explore their core assumptions about industry structure and behavior and describe a number of possible future environments under which the project or firm might operate. There are five major sources of seismic shifts that planners need to explore — social, technological, economic, environmental (or ecological), and political (including regulatory change). These five dimensions may be abbreviated as STEEP, making a useful mnemonic. Usually one or two uncontrollable possibilities will jump out as having a major impact on the desirability of the future opportunity; at that point, the team should look for early signals that might suggest that the future will look like one or another of these “high impact” scenarios.

The second dimension has to do with the will of the team — the decisions that the team leaders take to influence the outcome to happen in one particular way. If a particular political environment is extremely favorable, then what can we do to lobby the decision makers to enable that regulatory environment? If a certain resource is extremely limited, what can be done to either expand the availability of that resource or to maneuver our project so we can take the lion’s share of that resource? Again, a handful of critical decisions and changes can often make a huge difference in the likelihood of success for a particular strategy. Bend the odds to favor the project team.

The StreamSpace project is an entrepreneurial blockchain team with the vision of disrupting the Streaming Video on Demand (SVOD) film industry. Today’s environment favors the largest provider, Netflix, along with the four broadband ISPs that share about 70% of the US market — AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter Spectrum. The supply side of the film industry is dominated by ten studio/distributors, each with a slightly different target audience and appetite for medium vs large budget investments to promote and merchandize their film offerings. The studios are starting their own consolidation process, with Disney planning to absorb most of Fox’s content businesses over the next year or so. Disney, which already owns 60% of Hulu, plans to launch a competing SVOD platform again Netflix.

Against the expected collision between Disney and Netflix, StreamSpace believes we can work closely with independent filmmakers and bring compelling content to consumers who will be otherwise ignored — those who seek great stories over lavish blockbuster productions.

The StreamSpace scenario challenge involves two dimensions of critical uncertainty — what role the SEC and related regulators in other major countries will take regarding blockchain crowdfunding programs such as ICOs, and the elephant battleground environment that is looming between Disney, Netflix, Amazon, and Google.

Against that backdrop, we are pulling beyond our expected weight by building loyalty to the indie film community, championing regional filmmakers and festivals in our search for great stories. This is a “Moneyball” strategy for the film industry. We are not seeking billion-dollar returns; we are looking to help filmmakers build successful brands and passionate follower communities and grow from project to project profitably.

Come join our community and participate in our project!

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The Wisdom and Herd Behaviors of Crowds

Jan 29, 2018 1:21:14 PM / by Robert Binning posted in ICO, Ethereum, Bitcoin, Cryptocurrency, Uncategorized, Blockchain

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Photo by Elijah Hiett on  Unsplash

James Surowiecki, a finance journalist at The New Yorker, wrote the fascinating book The Wisdom of Crowds in 2004. Conventional wisdom suggests that you should listen to experts — titans on Wall Street, business executives, the rich and famous. Surowiecki’s unconventional insight was that regular people often have a better collective sense of what is right. As fans of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire know, “Ask the Audience” was by far the most valuable lifeline on the show. Even if you know a good set of experts, soliciting the advice of a few hundred strangers beat “Phone a Friend” by a whopping 91% versus 65% success rate.

There are limits to this policy, of course: it only works when the crowd providing the answer are truly acting independently without information provided by others. The game show was a perfect test environment — the crowd has just a few seconds to select an answer from four options, and only the final percentages are revealed. When people influence others, the technique fails. Look at stock market boom and busts, mass riots, and other irrational crowd acts that “can similarly be explained as the outcome of a series of mutually reinforcing decisions.” [ref. Skidelsky]

The recent roller coaster of cryptocurrency prices, especially Bitcoin’s explosive rise to $20,000, followed by a 40% drop in five days, is an example of crowd behavior gone awry. Public awareness of bitcoin has grown dramatically over 2017, from a brief mention in a Super Bowl commercial in February to weekly updates on regulatory policies in Spring and Summer to the launch of three bitcoin futures listings in December 2017 after they won approval from the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission regulatory agency. Each step has built awareness of cryptocurrencies, particularly bitcoin, among the general public.

So far, the vast majority of people are aware only of bitcoin, and the most frequently asked questions are “What is it?” and “How do I buy it?” More common awareness of other coins is only just emerging now; there is almost no awareness of coins with lower market capitalizations beyond the top 10. Nonetheless, the term “ICO” has entered mainstream conversation in much the same way that “IPO” became a mainstream term in the 1990s during the dot-com boom phase.

To be sure, there are plenty of “scam ICOs,” projects that exist solely to line the pockets of the founders. One project, called a “Useless Ethereum Token,” took this observation to a satirical level, raising more than $300,000 by telling investors that the funds would only be used to buy a big-screen TV. The Long Island Ice Tea company changed its name to Long Blockchain Corp, and saw its stock value climb by 500% for a while. As Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Remember Pets.com?

But beyond the crass promotions and unrealistic promises of outsized investment returns, the blockchain truly is enabling a wholly new wave of entrepreneurs to address market inefficiencies and attack monopolies and cartels. Most of these experiments will fail, just as most venture-backed startups fail, but the winners will truly change our lives. Prepare for a wild ride, similar to the birth of the internet in the early 1990s. And hold on for dear life.

References:

  1. Skidelsky, Edward. “Always ask the audience,” The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3620109/Always-ask-the-audience.html June 28, 2004. Accessed Jan 5, 2018.
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