BitCoin news back at the top this week after it emerged that Thailand had banned the cryptocurrency…or had it? A local Bitcoin Exchange company had been going through the process of fully registering with Thai authorities. As part of that process the company were called in front of a panel of experts at the Bank of Thailand.
At the conclusion of the meeting senior members of the Foreign Exchange Administration and Policy Department advised that due to lack of existing applicable laws, capital controls and the fact that Bitcoin straddles multiple financial facets the following Bitcoin activities are illegal in Thailand:
Buying any goods or services in exchange for Bitcoins
Selling any goods or services for Bitcoins
Sending Bitcoins to anyone located outside of Thailand
Receiving Bitcoins from anyone located outside of Thailand
Following that announcement the BitCoin world went into a frenzy but it is still far from clear whether or not the activities listed above are legal or if the requesting company have just not been granted a money transmitter license. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds over the next few weeks especially if the Bank of Thailand do confirm their postion.
The Dutch Banking regulator (DNB) has approved Amazon Web Services for use in “all facets of Dutch financial operations”. This is huge news, will we now see a raft of banks making infrastructure (and shortly followed by core bank systems) their next commodity? Will we see other countries follow suit? Or will it be a wait and see approach i.e. let the others make mistakes first.
Programmer Sergey Aleynikov has been rearrested for the theft of code from Goldman Sachs. The ex-employee uploaded modified open source code containing his own alterations so that he could unpick the code and release the improvements back into the open source community. He has already been tried and acquitted following an appeal but has now been rearrested and is facing several charges in New York. Michael Lewis has written a brilliant and lengthy article on the story that I can’t recommend highly enough. I have a feeling this might just blow open banks usage of open source and whether they are taking more value than they create, which seems to be their default behaviour.
Serge quickly discovered, to his surprise, that Goldman had a one-way relationship with open source. They took huge amounts of free software off the Web, but they did not return it after he had modified it, even when his modifications were very slight and of general rather than financial use. “Once I took some open-source components, repackaged them to come up with a component that was not even used at Goldman Sachs,” he says. “It was basically a way to make two computers look like one, so if one went down the other could jump in and perform the task.” He described the pleasure of his innovation this way: “It created something out of chaos. When you create something out of chaos, essentially, you reduce the entropy in the world.” He went to his boss, a fellow named Adam Schlesinger, and asked if he could release it back into open source, as was his inclination. “He said it was now Goldman’s property,” recalls Serge. “He was quite tense. When I mentioned it, it was very close to bonus time. And he didn’t want any disturbances.”
In slightly related news I liked this interview with Visa developer, Michael White, I think glimpses into the world of financial systems and their creators are rare things and I am not sure why. Do banks just keep these things secret just for secrets sake? Or to give the perception of infallibility by obscurity?
Westpac New Zealand is running a competition aimed at developers and designers. The Westpac App Challange is looking for app ideas/prototypes that ”make a process, transaction, application or any other common banking activity easier, faster and safe for customers”. The winners will get 10,000 New Zealand Dollars each. Watch the cringe inducing video to get more details. I love these kinds of initiatives but as the video shows these interactions with the real world still feel very awkward.
Isis the US carrier based mobile payments initiative reminded everyone it still existed by announcing they will launch something by the end of the year, honest. I am yet to be convinced that the carriers have anything to offer but further complications in the already byzantine system of payments. I am willing to be proved wrong but I still don’t see why you would move the secure element on a plastic debit/credit card onto virtually the same chip on a SIM card? Sideways move.
OpenTable the restaurant reservation service is looking to embed payments into its app. So not only will you be able to get a great little table by the window you will also be able to pay directly from the app and keep your talking to humans at an absolute minimum. Banks thinking they can continue to own end to end payments journeys must surely see the writing on the wall (not the menu).
The payments Nascar problem shows no signs of being resolved and last week saw another payment option soon to be added to the morass. Mastercard’s MasterPass brings its virtual mobile wallet stylings to the UK. I guess anything that stops me giving away the keys to my house every time I buy is a good thing. Argos, Boots and House of Fraser are all on the launch list.
You can learn more about banking security requirements from this tale of woe than you ever will from a banks own website where they just say ‘Cover your PIN’ and S’hred your documents’ and other such lazy platitudes. I love a good tale of security woe.
Brett King’s Breaking Banks radio show (Every Thursday at 8pm EST) continues to be an interesting series of shows. This weeks episode looked at how people spend and use money and how it is far more simple than saving and avoiding the temptations of daily life. Well worth a listen each week.
I have managed to do this 30 times. That must be enough to have formed a habit by now. Anyway I only managed to write this as a meeting got cancelled which is a bonus (for me, you might have hoped for a week without this pointless curation).
After a week in which the continued focus on Twitter Trolls and their awful sexist/threatening/outright criminal behaviour has been almost as depressing as the UK Home Office taking to social media, it is a wonder anyone uses the Internet at all.
Someone who was forced off the web (and I have mentioned a few times before as a bit of a hero), Kathy Sierra, was back on Twitter and with a new blog as well. She published an amazing first post on the cognitive drain interface designers place on people. it ties in so well with a few things that are really bothering me about banking, especially security related, interfaces. Other things to make my brain smile were a letter from a director at NASA to a nun, a deep web heist, JP Rangaswami on customers and flow, William Heath Robinson, why most innovative companies aren’t and the info ladies in Bangladesh.
This image also caught my eye this week. My first thought was that it is hilarious, my second is that when someone is responsible for destroying art/fun/creativity etc then their face should be on that decision…I would like to see something similar in my place of work.
If your UX asks the user to make choices, for example, even if those choices are both clear and useful, the act of deciding is a cognitive drain. And not just while they’re deciding… even after we choose, an unconscious cognitive background thread is slowly consuming/leaking resources, “Wasthat the right choice?”
Very fortunately though, the space age not only holds out a mirror in which we can see ourselves, it also provides us with the technologies, the challenge, the motivation, and even with the optimism to attack these tasks with confidence. What we learn in our space program, I believe, is fully supporting what Albert Schweitzer had in mind when he said: “I am looking at the future with concern, but with good hope.”
On May 15, 2013, just as HackBB was attempting to reestablish its primacy, a second attack brought the forum to its knees. The attacker was thorough and deceptive in ways even these experienced hackers and criminals hadn’t expected. During the first attack, Boneless had used his admin powers to create other, hidden accounts under his control, then granted them administrator status. It was as if, before leaving, he had dropped a half-dozen secret keys around the property.
In the run up to and during World War One, Robinson became known for a series of drawings in magazines such as The Sketch and The Tatler, poking fun at modern living, carrying normal tasks to ridiculous extremes often using complex or convoluted contraptions — described as “simple devices” — to perform trivial tasks, such as potato peeling,wart removal and pancake making. Very quickly his work became popular, allowing him to command healthy commissions.
The larger the company, the deeper the orthodoxy. Leaders of complex organizations tend to surround themselves with likeminded people, which reinforces their conventional approaches. At every stage in the life of a new idea or initiative, compliance crushes dissent. The Point: According to executives the biggest challenge they face is connecting the dots between departments, regions and other companies which is inhibited by organizational design and control-based rules
As she approaches the village, Sathi rings her bicycle bell and the children come running to meet her, shouting “Hello, hello”. Women emerge from their homes one by one. Sitting in the middle of a beaten-earth yard, Sathi carefully places her laptop on a plastic chair, plugs in headphones and launches a session on Skype. The faces of village men working thousands of kilometres from here appear on the screen.
Have a lovely weekend. Feel free to subscribe to these reads via email or via RSS here or you know, don’t bother. I am happy if you got this far.
A jailed detective has broken his silencestealing confidential information for a number of financial services firms. The investigation by SOCA (Serious Organised Crime Agency) was called Millipede because it had so many legs to it.
‘SOCA doesn’t want to give up the Millipede names because if they did, they would be forced to investigate them and charge them for conspiracy to defraud as they did us. On that list are the names of law firms, banks and insurance companies who all used private detectives for all sorts of reasons.’
A new browser extension from Abine, called MaskMe offers a number of features for those wanting to stay safe online. Included in the package is the ability to create one time only credit card numbers, in light of the above story it is clear that credit card numbers as we know them today are not fit for purpose.
A good article from the Economist on remittances in Africa. Sending money back home is a core need for migrant workers. The methods of transfer are fraught with risk for the banks that provide parts of the infrastructure. When big banks pull out of the systems what can be done to bring these systems back to life? Innovation opportunity for sure.
The furore over bank notes in the UK and the replacement of Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note with Winston Churchill has been resolved. Winston will not be the face of the fiver but it will actually be Jane Austen thanks to an impressive campaign lead by Caroline Criado-Perez. Unfortunately this campaign turned sour with Caroline receiving awful abuse on Twitter, which has thankfully lead to one arrest so far, this shows it was certainly worth fighting for and that there is much more work to be done. On a lighter note this article on the design of banknotes is a nice read.
And finally an interesting video clip on the history of Fintech from way back in 1972 in the very early stages of the computing age. It features some wonderful imagery and commentary although worryingly it also features a sexist classic about the risk of this new fangled electronic banking
“a husband doesn’t want his wife to know what his income is…”
Obviously we have moved on as a society in 30 years…haven’t we?
This week it seems I have been collecting articles that actually relate to my job, which is increasingly rare these days. The fact it is half year review time and our team is going through some organisational changes I am sure has not had a subconscious impact on my reading of choice. A heady mix of innovation stuff, organisational working attitudes and styles, Google’s attempts to become a real enterprise software provider, the failure of platform thinking at Facebook, two interviews with innovators (innovatorviews?), dark UX patterns and what happens when you test the prisoner’s dilemma with actual prisoners (not obviously work related although maybe it is). Read them and be ready for your appraisal…sort of.
In the era of the iPhone, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become enamored of ideas that spread as effortlessly as ether. We want frictionless, “turnkey” solutions to the major difficulties of the world—hunger, disease, poverty. We prefer instructional videos to teachers, drones to troops, incentives to institutions. People and institutions can feel messy and anachronistic. They introduce, as the engineers put it, uncontrolled variability.
…if you examine the births of the most successful consumer internet companies, you’ll quickly realize that initial product and “vision” are flawed criteria. More often than not, founders, early employees, and investors of the largest tech companies will tell you that the product that took off was never part of (at least not fully) the original “plan.” Twitter spun out of Odeo, Instagram was a Burbn pivot, BuzzFeed evolved from one of many “for fun” experiments?—?the list goes on and on. By and large, innovative products aren’t strategically imagined ahead of time – they’re stumbled upon while experimenting on-the-go.
The opposite of the work hero is the person on the team who has kids. Well, they’re probably more of a hero than the work hero, but that’s another story. They do good work, they’re prompt, professional, committed and they’ve got experience. The trouble is, that if you have work-heroes around, you’re bound to have a nasty moment where the people who just can’t work late or drop weekends to satisfy the heroic workload pattern end up looking like they’re slacking or are uncommitted.
According to Ford, who came close to dubbing the Tuesday night sessions Work ‘n’ Twerk,”jank” is a very specific category: “Long-standing bugs, slightly broken user experiences, processes that could be automated or improved, visual imperfections in the product, development environment annoyances, hacky code that’s on the verge of causing that one bug, again, and other tasks clinging to the bottom of a to-do list.”
Today, just after its sixth birthday, Facebook Platform is a shadow of what it could have been, a missed opportunity that might amount to tens of billions of dollars of squandered revenue. Outside of games, there has been no killer Facebook app. Other than Zynga, you’ll struggle to name a single business that has built itself entirely inside the Facebook framework. Once-promising startups Slide and iLike would ultimately abandon their big bets on the platform, selling to Facebook rivals Google and MySpace for amounts smaller than their one-time valuations.
Petlon didn’t want end users to perceive that this new technology was being jammed down their throats, so nothing was taken away and growth toward Google Apps was organic. If users wanted to use an Outlook client to access the Gmail back end, they could. Two years in now Petlon estimates that 90 percent or more users are happy Googlers. Collaboration using Google Apps probably doubles every month, he estimates, and having to use Microsoft Word documents with “track changes” turned on feels as old school as getting a fax.
“But with the Internet, there’s no common understanding,” he continued. “There are things everyone gets like email or hyperlinks, but there’s still this lack of concrete rules. Could that cause-and-effect thing be turned into one of these fundamental rules? How do we productize that? How do we make this available with an interface anyone could use? What are some of those other rules that might exist?”
One night, I was giving myself a really hard time and my boyfriend, James, brought me into the kitchen and pointed out all the humble little solutions I had done. He said, “What if it’s not you that’s the creative person, and what if it’s not one perfect design or solution? What if this could be a humble, handy household product thateveryone could use to make their things better?” Suddenly, it was about everyone’s potential; users know why things don’t work, from the teapot that doesn’t pour properly to the shoe that’s really uncomfortable. That was a real light bulb moment for me. I saw this huge potential and everything clicked. I thought that if I could make it simple enough and attractive enough, then millions of people could use it—I felt very sure from the start that it had the potential to be something universal.
So how would you react when your boss says to you that you have to cut wait times to under 5 minutes per patient or you’re fired. Just think about this for a moment. You’ve got no spare capital, no spare staff time, no way to stretch your resources. How can you possibly do this? Well here’s a little idea. How about you create a job role for a nurse where their job is simply to say hello to new patients. Nothing more. That way the patients are seen to, that way the wait time problem is solved. You get to keep your job. Sounds devious – but this really happened throughout the NHS in the 90s.
In sequential games, where players know each other’s previous behaviour and have the opportunity to punish each other, defection is the dominant strategy as well. However, on a Pareto basis, the best outcome for both players is mutual cooperation. Yet no one’s ever actually run the experiment on real prisoners before, until two University of Hamburg economists tried it out in a recent study comparing the behaviour of inmates and students.
Bonus Aden Link i.e. blatant inclusion of my own writing.
I assume that most people who own financial services products, be they current accounts, credit cards, loans, savings, insurance etc. do not have them all from the same organisation. Even though I work for a bank, and I should probably whisper this, I do not have all my products with that organisation. This is of course the benefit of a free market, competition and choice, which is a fantastic thing. The big issue from my point of view is what is known in the banking industry as single customer view i.e. the ability to see your full financial picture in one nice shiny interface. This is not a new problem in the industry it is also something I have written about before, but it is one that seems far from being solved or even on any of the banks to do list.
Enjoy the rest of your Friday. Feel free to subscribe to these reads via email or via the much cooler (and more content filled) RSS here
Let’s start with news of a few ‘oops’ moments from the leading P2P payments company this week. PayPal had a mixed week to say the least. First they managed to accidentally credit PR executive, Chris Reynolds, with the princely sum of $92 Quadrillion, briefly making him the richest man in the world by quite some distance. PayPal also accidentally exposed some rather arbitrary censorship their systems have in place. Italian communications research centre and all round innovation hub, Fabrica, published a book entitled ‘Iranian Living Room’ which is a collection of 15 Iranian photographers work showing life in Iran. The problems began when they realised that orders placed on their site using their PayPal merchant details via Shopify were failing with a non specific error.
In better news for PayPal they announced a very strong set of quarterly results. $1.6 billion in revenue was the headline number but the really interesting thing was that almost half of their total payment volume, $43 billion, was processed via mobile.
Meanwhile in an alternative universe, PayPal founding member and all round mega rich dreamer/doer Elon Musk announced some details of his proposed Hyper Loop, a pneumatic tube system that will fire people at 600mph from San Francisco to Los Angeles in around 30 minutes. He might need that $92 quadrillion mentioned above.
My favourite digital banking startup, Simple, celebrated their first birthday i.e. one year open to customers, with a nice blog post talking about the history of the firm and realesing some numbers on their progress. They currently have around 40,000 customers, are doing over $1 billion dollars in transactions per year and their customers are saving towards goals worth over $100 million. Good luck to all concerned for year two.