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A Brief Introduction To Blockchain – For Normal People

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Crypto-what?

If you’ve attempted to dive into this mysterious thing called blockchain, you’d be forgiven for recoiling in horror at the sheer opaqueness of the technical jargon that is often used to frame it. So before we get into what a crytpocurrency is and how blockchain technology might change the world, let’s discuss what blockchain actually is.

In the simplest terms, a blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions, not unlike the ledgers we have been using for hundreds of years to record sales and purchases. The function of this digital ledger is, in fact, pretty much identical to a traditional ledger in that it records debits and credits between people. That is the core concept behind blockchain; the difference is who holds the ledger and who verifies the transactions.

With traditional transactions, a payment from one person to another involves some kind of intermediary to facilitate the transaction. Let’s say Rob wants to transfer £20 to Melanie. He can either give her cash in the form of a £20 note, or he can use some kind of banking app to transfer the money directly to her bank account. In both cases, a bank is the intermediary verifying the transaction: Rob’s funds are verified when he takes the money out of a cash machine, or they are verified by the app when he makes the digital transfer. The bank decides if the transaction should go ahead. The bank also holds the record of all transactions made by Rob, and is solely responsible for updating it whenever Rob pays someone or receives money into his account. In other words, the bank holds and controls the ledger, and everything flows through the bank.

That’s a lot of responsibility, so it’s important that Rob feels he can trust his bank otherwise he would not risk his money with them. He needs to feel confident that the bank will not defraud him, will not lose his money, will not be robbed, and will not disappear overnight. This need for trust has underpinned pretty much every major behaviour and facet of the monolithic finance industry, to the extent that even when it was discovered that banks were being irresponsible with our money during the financial crisis of 2008, the government (another intermediary) chose to bail them out rather than risk destroying the final fragments of trust by letting them collapse.

Blockchains operate differently in one key respect: they are entirely decentralised. There is no central clearing house like a bank, and there is no central ledger held by one entity. Instead, the ledger is distributed across a vast network of computers, called nodes, each of which holds a copy of the entire ledger on their respective hard drives. These nodes are connected to one another via a piece of software called a peer-to-peer (P2P) client, which synchronises data across the network of nodes and makes sure that everybody has the same version of the ledger at any given point in time.

When a new transaction is entered into a blockchain, it is first encrypted using state-of-the-art cryptographic technology. Once encrypted, the transaction is converted to something called a block, which is basically the term used for an encrypted group of new transactions. That block is then sent (or broadcast) into the network of computer nodes, where it is verified by the nodes and, once verified, passed on through the network so that the block can be added to the end of the ledger on everybody’s computer, under the list of all previous blocks. This is called the chain, hence the tech is referred to as a blockchain.

Once approved and recorded into the ledger, the transaction can be completed. This is how cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin work.

Accountability and the removal of trust

What are the advantages of this system over a banking or central clearing system? Why would Rob use Bitcoin instead of normal currency?

The answer is trust. As mentioned before, with the banking system it is critical that Rob trusts his bank to protect his money and handle it properly. To ensure this happens, enormous regulatory systems exist to verify the actions of the banks and ensure they are fit for purpose. Governments then regulate the regulators, creating a sort of tiered system of checks whose sole purpose is to help prevent mistakes and bad behaviour. In other words, organisations like the Financial Services Authority exist precisely because banks can’t be trusted on their own. And banks frequently make mistakes and misbehave, as we have seen too many times. When you have a single source of authority, power tends to get abused or misused. The trust relationship between people and banks is awkward and precarious: we don’t really trust them but we don’t feel there is much alternative.

Blockchain systems, on the other hand, don’t need you to trust them at all. All transactions (or blocks) in a blockchain are verified by the nodes in the network before being added to the ledger, which means there is no single point of failure and no single approval channel. If a hacker wanted to successfully tamper with the ledger on a blockchain, they would have to simultaneously hack millions of computers, which is almost impossible. A hacker would also be pretty much unable to bring a blockchain network down, as, again, they would need to be able to shut down every single computer in a network of computers distributed around the world.

The encryption process itself is also a key factor. Blockchains like the Bitcoin one use deliberately difficult processes for their verification procedure. In the case of Bitcoin, blocks are verified by nodes performing a deliberately processor- and time-intensive series of calculations, often in the form of puzzles or complex mathematical problems, which mean that verification is neither instant nor accessible. Nodes that do commit the resource to verification of blocks are rewarded with a transaction fee and a bounty of newly-minted Bitcoins. This has the function of both incentivising people to become nodes (because processing blocks like this requires pretty powerful computers and a lot of electricity), whilst also handling the process of generating – or minting – units of the currency. This is referred to as mining, because it involves a considerable amount of effort (by a computer, in this case) to produce a new commodity. It also means that transactions are verified by the most independent way possible, more independent than a government-regulated organisation like the FSA.

This decentralised, democratic and highly secure nature of blockchains means that they can function without the need for regulation (they are self-regulating), government or other opaque intermediary. They work because people don’t trust each other, rather than in spite of.

Let the significance of that sink in for a while and the excitement around blockchain starts to make sense.

Smart contracts

Where things get really interesting is the applications of blockchain beyond cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Given that one of the underlying principles of the blockchain system is the secure, independent verification of a transaction, it’s easy to imagine other ways in which this type of process can be valuable. Unsurprisingly, many such applications are already in use or development. Some of the best ones are:

  • Smart contracts (Ethereum): probably the most exciting blockchain development after Bitcoin, smart contracts are blocks that contain code that must be executed in order for the contract to be fulfilled. The code can be anything, as long as a computer can execute it, but in simple terms it means that you can use blockchain technology (with its independent verification, trustless architecture and security) to create a kind of escrow system for any kind of transaction. As an example, if you’re a web designer you could create a contract that verifies if a new client’s website is launched or not, and then automatically release the funds to you once it is. No more chasing or invoicing. Smart contracts are also being used to prove ownership of an asset such as property or art. The potential for reducing fraud with this approach is enormous.
  • Cloud storage (Storj): cloud computing has revolutionised the web and brought about the advent of Big Data which has, in turn, kick started the new AI revolution. But most cloud-based systems are run on servers stored in single-location server farms, owned by a single entity (Amazon, Rackspace, Google etc). This presents all the same problems as the banking system, in that you data is controlled by a single, opaque organisation which represents a single point of failure. Distributing data on a blockchain removes the trust issue entirely and also promises to increase reliability as it is so much harder to take a blockchain network down.
  • Digital identification (ShoCard): two of the biggest issues of our time are identify theft and data protection. With vast centralised services such as Facebook holding so much data about us, and efforts by various developed-world governments to store digital information about their citizens in a central database, the potential for abuse of our personal data is terrifying. Blockchain technology offers a potential solution to this by wrapping your key data up into an encrypted block that can be verified by the blockchain network whenever you need to prove your identity. The applications of this range from the obvious replacement of passports and I.D. cards to other areas such as replacing passwords. It could be huge.
  • Digital voting: highly topical in the wake of the investigation into Russia’s influence on the recent U.S. election, digital voting has long been suspected of being both unreliable and highly vulnerable to tampering. Blockchain technology offers a way of verifying that a voter’s vote was successfully sent while retaining their anonymity. It promises not only to reduce fraud in elections but also to increase general voter turnout as people will be able to vote on their mobile phones.

Blockchain technology is still very much in its infancy and most of the applications are a long way from general use. Even Bitcoin, the most established blockchain platform, is subject to huge volatility indicative of its relative newcomer status. However, the potential for blockchain to solve some of the major problems we face today makes it an extraordinarily exciting and seductive technology to follow. I will certainly be keeping an eye out.

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Source by Marc Crouch

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Where to Find Those Efficient and Hardworking Affiliates?

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Everyone wants a hardworking affiliate, employee, associate, partner, or even spouse, and why not? It’s the next best thing to doing the work yourself. However with the massive outbreak of work and income opportunities available online, how can you beat everyone else and find that one (or more) ideal person who will make your online business explode with success? Here are some of the most ingenious and uncommon ways to snag the idea affiliates for your affiliate program

Direct Sales Agents

Direct sales people are really one of the most enterprising, hard-working individuals in business. They mostly work on commissions or rebates and are willing to literally go door-to-door offering their products to anyone and everyone they bump into. Imagine how much easier their job would be if they could be an affiliate and simply work via the Internet and a mobile device or desktop.

Also, most direct sales people tend to carry more than one brand in their product arsenal so signing up as an affiliate would be almost the same type of work but using a different approach.

Colleges and Universities

Many college kids would be interested in a part-time income opportunity if it would mean funds to help pay for their education, loan, or partying. All you have to do is make sure to offer them products they can endorse as a student.

Freelancers

Did you know that the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest annual report show that 75% of U.S. businesses used freelancers in 2011? Freelancers earned a whopping US$990 billion in 2011 which is a 4.1% increase from the previous year. The only industries where the number of freelancers decreased were in insurance, finance, and construction. Most probably your affiliate program isn’t a part of these 3 industries.

Furthermore, online business and finance experts are predicting the growth to increase incrementally every year even with an economy that is improving. People just want income security and more control over their earnings. With the spate of lay-offs, it’s understandable why many would prefer to work as an affiliate than as an employee.

Scout For Them At Affiliate Conventions

There are annual affiliate conventions held in different cities around the country. You should try to catch one when it is held somewhere near your location. The average turn-out for these types of conventions has increased regularly over the years. Last year, many of them were sold out weeks before the event.

Advertise!

The US Census Bureau has said that as of 2012, 15% of Americans are poor, 43% of young adults depend on their parents to some extent for money. Even more surprising is that the median income of young adults in 1982 was $31,583 and last year it was $30,604 for the same age group! Income is dropping and people are looking for ways to earn additional income outside of their 9 to 5 jobs. That’s where you can come in playing the hero and helping others realize their dream income.

Finally, go online and talk about your product. Make the affiliate marketers come to you and have the luxury of picking the best candidates. You will need some help in marketing your affiliate program so target a marketer who’s experienced in affiliate program and SEO.

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Source by Lina Stakauskaite

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Recession Is Here… Six Costly Mistakes Home Sellers Make During Recessions And How To Avoid Them

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The U.S. is officially in a recession. What is a recession? A recession is a business cycle contraction or general economic decline due to significant drop in spending and other commercial activities. Most pundits and politicians will blame Covid-19 crisis for the recession, but even pre-Covid-19 the proverbial writing was on the wall.

The U.S. had over 120 months of economic growth, which was the longest expansion in the modern history. Other indicators, such as negative yield spread on treasuries (long term bonds having lower interest rates than short term T-notes), were pointing to an imminent change of the economic cycle and an impending recession. The only real question was: when and how bad?

Then Covid-19 came… If the cycle was going to change anyway, Covid-19 acted as a huge and unexpected accelerant to make the recession much more immediate and severe.

Inevitably during recessions all classes of real estate, including residential homes and condominiums, will be negatively impacted as lower consumer spending and higher unemployment rates affect real estate prices and marketing times.

Here are the six costly mistakes home and other real property sellers make during recessions and how to avoid them:

Mistake #1: This will pass and real estate market will be hot again soon

First thing to remember is that real estate cycles are much longer than general economic cycles. Even if the general economy recovers, which eventually it always does, a typical real estate cycle takes as long as 10 to 15 years. The cycle has four key stages: Top, Decline, Bottom and Rise.

Let us consider the last real estate cycle, which lasted approximately 14 years:

  • 2006 – Prices hit the Top
  • 2006 to 2012 – Prices Decline
  • 2012 – Prices hit the Bottom (Trough)
  • 2012 to 2019 – Prices Rise*
  • 2020 – Prices hit the Top
  • 2020 to? – Prices Decline

*NOTE: In 2016 the national residential real estate price index reached its pre-recession 2006 peak levels. It took 10 years for the real estate market to recover.

The way to avoid this mistake is to recognize that real estate cycles take years to run and plan accordingly. Additionally, nobody knows for sure when the prices will hit the top or bottom until after the fact.

Mistake #2: Low interest rates will make the economy and real estate market rebound

Between 2006 and 2011 the interest rates (Fed Funds) were continuously cut by the Federal Reserve Board and went from low 5% to almost 0%. However, that did not stop the real estate recession and depreciation of property values.

Undoubtedly, low interest rates made the economic decline and real estate recession less severe and saved some properties from foreclosures, but it still took six painful years for the real estate market to hit the bottom and then four more years for the prices to go back to their pre-recession levels.

Some markets had never fully recovered. For example, residential home prices in some parts of California, Arizona and Nevada are still below their 2006 highs.

To avoid this mistake, one needs to realize that although low interest rates help stimulate the economy and the real estate market, they do not cure them.

Mistake #3: I don’t need to sell now, so I don’t care

If you do not need to sell until the cycle plays out, which typically is over ten years, then you will not be as affected, especially if you have a strong equity position, limited mortgage debt, and solid liquid assets.

However, it is good to keep in mind that “life happens” and either professional or personal circumstances can change and we may need to sell property before the downturn runs its course.

Furthermore, if a property has a mortgages and its value declines to the point being “upside down,” meaning the mortgage loan balance exceeds the value of the property, then the options of selling, refinancing or even obtaining an equity line of credit, will be significantly limited.

This does not mean that everybody should be rushing into selling their real estate if there is no need to do so, just keep in mind that circumstances may and often do change and property options will be affected, so plan in advance. As one wise proverb says: “Dig your well before your thirst.”

Mistake #4: I’m selling, but I won’t sell below my “bottom line” price

This is a common and potentially very costly mistake. Generally speaking, every seller wants to sell for the highest price and every buyer wants to pay the lowest price. That’s nothing new. When selling real estate, most sellers want to achieve a certain price point and/or have a “bottom line.”

However, it is important to understand that the market does not care what the Seller, or his/her Agent, think the property value should be at. The market value is a price a willing and able buyer will pay, when a property is offered on an open market for a reasonable amount of time.

Overpricing property based on Seller’s subjective value or what is sometimes called an “aspirational price,” especially in a declining market, is a sure first step to losing money. When a property lingers on the market for an extended period of time, carrying costs will continue to accumulate and property value will depreciate in line with the market conditions.

Additionally, properties with prolonged marketing times tend to get “stale” and attract fewer buyers. The solution is to honestly assess your selling objectives, including the desired time-frame, evaluate your property’s attributes and physical condition, analyze comparable sales and market conditions, and then decide on market-based pricing and marketing strategies.

Mistake #5: I will list my property for sale only with Agent who promises the highest price

Real estate is a competitive business and real estate agents compete to list properties for sale which generate their sales commission incomes. It is not unusual that Seller will interview several agents before signing an exclusive listing agreement and go with the agent who agrees to list the property at the highest price, often regardless if such price is market-based.

Similarly to Mistake #4, this mistake can be very damaging to Sellers, as overpriced properties stay on the market for extended periods of time costing Sellers carrying expenses such as mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance.

Furthermore, there is the “opportunity cost” since the equity is “frozen,” and it cannot be deployed elsewhere till the property is sold. However, the most expensive cost is the loss of property value while the real estate market deteriorates.

During the last recession, we have seen multiple cases where overpriced properties stayed on the market for years and ended up selling for 25% to 40% below their initial fair market values.

The solution is to make sure that your pricing strategy is based on the market, not empty promises or wishful thinking.

Mistake #6: I will list my property only with Agent who charges the lowest commission

Real estate commission rates are negotiable and not set by law. A commission usually represents the highest transactional expense in selling real properties and is typically split between Brokers and Agents who work on the transaction

Some real estate agents offer discounted commissions, in order to induce Sellers to list their properties with them. But does paying a discounted commission ensure savings for the Seller? Not necessarily.

For example, if the final sales price is 5% to 10% below property’s highest market value, which is not that unusual, due to inadequate marketing, bad pricing strategy, and/or poor negotiation skills, it will easily wipe out any commission savings and actually cost the Seller tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenues.

The solution is to engage an agent who is a “Trusted Advisor,” not just a “Salesperson.” A Trusted Advisor will take his/her time and effort to do the following: 1) Perform Needs Analysis: listen and understand your property needs and concerns; 2) Prepare Property Analysis: thoroughly evaluate your property and market conditions; 3) Execute Sales and Marketing Plan: prepare and implement custom sales and marketing plan for your property; and 4) Obtain Optimal Results: be your trusted advocate throughout the process and achieve the best possible outcome.

Finding such a real estate professional may not be always easy, but it certainly is worth the effort and will pay off at the end.

In conclusion, this article has outlined six costly mistakes real estate Sellers make during recessions and how to avoid them. The first mistake is not understanding that real estate cycles are long and take years. The second mistake is a misconception that low interest rates alone will create a recovery. Another mistake is not realizing that circumstances may change and not planning in advance. Mistakes number four, five and six pertain to understanding the market value, proper pricing and selecting the right real estate professional.

By understanding and avoiding these mistakes, real estate Sellers have significantly better chances of minimizing the negative impact of a recession while selling their properties.

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Source by Robert W. Dudek

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Useful Tips To Build The Best Gaming Computer

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Every gamer will want their computer to be the best gaming computer among their peers. Sometimes, with a little knowledge and tips and tricks, it is possible to build the best gaming computer and show it off to your peers. This article will show you how:

1) You can’t get the best gaming computer from computer retailers

If you want to get the best gaming computer, you have to build your own. Different gamers have different requirement for their gaming machine. Unless you are willing to pay a high price, you will not be able to buy a commercial computer that fulfills all your gaming needs. The only option you have is to build your own gaming computer.

2) You don’t have to be rich to build the best gaming computer

It is not necessary to burn a hole in your pocket to build the best gaming computer. With some due diligence, do some market research and compare prices around the marketplace. Merchant such as TigerDirect and NewEgg give regular discount to their products and you could save a lot of money if you catch them during their promotional period.

3) Most expensive parts do not have to be the best part

Sometime, the latest model or the most expensive model does not have to be the best part for your computer. It requires various components to work together to form the best computer system. When choosing a computer part, what matters is how well it can integrate with the rest of the components. Compatibility is more important than individual performance. What use is there if you spend lot of money on the latest quad-core processor and find that your motherboard doesn’t support it?

4) You don’t need to change the whole PC to own the best gaming computer

It is a misconception that you have to change the whole gaming machine to build the best gaming computer. If you already have a good barebone system, what you need to do is to upgrade the necessary parts and your gaming computer can roar back to life instantly.

5) Brand is important

Unless you want to see your computer system malfunction every few days, it is important that you purchase the parts from branded manufacturers with strict quality control. Motherboard brand such as Gigabyte, ABIT, ASUS are some quality brands that you can consider

If you follow diligently to the tips stated above. You will be on your way to build the best gaming computer. While price can be an issue, it is better not to scrimp on important computer parts such as motherboard, CPU, RAM and graphics card as it will cost you more to upgrade in the future.

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Source by Damien Oh

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