Bitcoin,  Cryptocurrencies,  Opinion

A crypto writer’s letter to Santa Claus

Everything we need to make crypto great in 2019

Dear Santa,

This is a letter in regards to two letters you received in 2014 and 2015 when I asked you for bitcoin. In 2014, I got 4 BTC in my decentralized stocking (thanks!) for $419 each. By 2015, they had risen to “just” $890. Last year they went to $20,000 each. Thanks, Santa! They’re back down to about $3,900 as of the end of December 2018, but you won’t hear me complaining. Since you’ve effectively 50x’ed crypto in the time you’ve been involved, I’d like to ask you for several special other things that don’t depend on the markets in 2019.

I’ve been a very good boy. I have a very common name, so I hope you don’t mind me reminding you that: I’ve helped a prosthetics clinic in Bolivia, I gave one homeless woman a new home and last year reddit freaked out when I spent Christmas with the homeless woman who caught someone stealing my bike. But I wasn’t able to do any of these things with crypto.

So here’s what I’d like to ask for this year:

  1. Street-level crypto. What will it take to get a genuine, Western Union level use of crypto? As I mentioned in my letter in 2016, it still costs me $10 to send $10 to patients at our prosthetics clinic in Bolivia so that they can get a cab to appointments. As of June 2018, Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek said the global money transfer service will not add a cryptocurrency transfer solution to its services anytime soon. But couldn’t they just give it to themselves and charge the same fees for the time being? Crypto isn’t going anywhere. Western Union is acting like Blockbuster did when they passed on buying Netflix.If Western Union does add crypto, then it will soon become quicker to transfer short-term money through them, thus reviving the service. Remember when children sent Santa Claus telegrams? It was simple and easy and anyone who could afford it would know for sure that their message got sent. American banks are still painfully slow.

    In the American banking system, it can take five days to deposit a check. In the UK, the Vocalink’s system can take just 15 seconds. “People were getting tired of waiting three days,” Vocalink’s founder told NPR’s planet money. “Most thought it would be easier to take money out of an ATM and walk it around to the other bank and give it to them.” Beat them at their own game and make the banks pay for these minor transaction fees since we know they are saving money

  2. Decentralize the wealth and remove the billionaires. Until this year, Bitcoin Cash was the closest thing to Satoshi Nakamoto’s white paper. Then two millionaires got in a pissing contest and split BCH. Bitcoin Cash had a $10 billion market cap in November. Recently it fell as low as $1.5 billion. Did anyone ask for that? Do these guys get us any closer to being able to use Bitcoin Cash at the bodega? Nah. But they did destablize their own market at their users expense just to prove a point.Aren’t we supposed to be too decentralized for that?
  3. We need more women in crypto. Blockchain conferences are lamer than an autoparts convention. Discussing crypto online feels like you’re listening to gamers swear into their headsets while hiding behind imaginary armor. And the level of dialogue is way too fratty, so that even successful crypto researchers like Ian Balina get called the n-word. We need more people of all genders at stably-funded mainstream projects.According to Coindance, men are 91 percent of Bitcoin enthusiasts. Are you serious? My electric skateboard group is less than 90 percent male.Yes, we’ve all heard the argument that women don’t like to gamble. But having a job at a good firm isn’t exactly gambling. Some argue that all the problems in crypto are areas where women often excel. They mean in terms of PR and marketing. But I’d like to work at a company that had more diversity in the coding staff. I’d like to work on code and have a human conversation about it later.

    The problem isn’t the markets. In fact, none of the things I’m asking for this year have anything to do with the price of any coin in a given year. Mainstream crypto entities like Coinbase need to be in competition to bring women to the highest levels. They’re not going anywhere.

  4. I do want a disruptive bank account like the one Robinhood wanted to offer. Most millennials have nothing in savings. In fact, only 39 percent of Americans could handle a $1,000 medical emergency if needed. Capitalism is inherently evil when it comes to life and death situations, but what about the fact that so few account holders see any point in saving? Last week, the trading app Robinhood this year tried and failed to change that with a guaranteed 3 percent return on savings and checking.What if bank accounts could offer this up to a small emergency fund of $5,000 as a promotional offer? That would help users learn about compound interest and it would bring in about $20 per month. That would bring in $152 in the first year. It would be $6,749.21 after 10 years.

    All finance suffers from people who don’t understand it. Sixty-one percent of Americans have no savings. Mostly because they literally don’t see the point. How are you supposed to see interest accrue when it comes in 0.01 percent at a time?
    And how will we pay for this? Start by saving the $0.30 per transaction that we currently spend using our outdated credit card system and switch to a crypto solution.

  5. Oh, and person-to-person fiat payments in every crypto app. The Cash app awkwardly started this way and then did high-fee crypto later. But if all your friends use Coinbase, Robinhood, or even Acorns, it would be super helpful if you could also use these funds for everyday payments. You don’t need a blockchain to Venmo someone $1 from your Venmo account. Even recently, Elon Musk said to his biographer, “Almost no one understands how PayPal actually worked or why it took off when other payment systems before and after it didn’t… And the reason the cost of transactions was lower is because we were able to do an increasing percentage of our transactions as ACH, or automated clearinghouse, electronic transactions, and most importantly, internal transactions. Internal transactions were essentially fraud-free and cost us nothing.”
  6. I want to stop hearing about the Winklevii already. I don’t care how many Winklevoss twins we have next year. They take fees. Shouldn’t these guys be on a beach somewhere or getting opera wings named after them? There’s no way they haven’t been on your naughty list since before texting.
  7. Just give everything a damn blockchain. De Beers can trace the origin of single diamond even after it is cut. France has a blockchain for their eggs. And yet here in the United States, we had to throw out all out romaine lettuce on Thanksgiving? If we can put expiration dates on packaging we can use blockchain for time and origin.This would then help the CDC to find out what exactly happened in a given outbreak. As of 2018 what usually happens is a contamination event goes undetected. When an outbreak happens it usually takes down some place down the line like a poor, unsuspecting Chipotle. Meanwhile the origin of the outbreak just disappears. A contaminated hose in Nebraska? Someone didn’t wash their hands in Virginia? We never have any clue.

    Herd immunity is one of our strongest human skills. When an outbreak happens, it needs to be singled out and flagged so we can figure out how the hell this happened before we cancel salads again.

  8. Crypto for giving. And I mean all giving. This is the season of giving but the only way to get a single dollar directly to another person is with Venmo and Paypal person-to-person (I hear cash also works). This week, Patreon announce a new fee schedule. Now all donations will incur a flat 2.9 percent, plus 35 cents on each pledge. That means that you can’t give $1 without turning it into $0.61.The problem there is that you have to be exclusionary at the detriment of your base. A person who chooses to support an organization with their last dollar is giving more than anyone with their name on a foundation even could. Think of all the good-citizens we’re creating who use their allowance to support cool science and research projects like Healthcare Triage and Kurzgesagt.

    When I was doing a report from school, you still had to go to the library and plagiarize their encyclopedia or have a full $1,400 set at home just to get outdated information. Not for profit creators like SciShow, CaptainDisillusion, and Mike Boyd create content to educate their fanbase. Now Patreon wants to force their creators to educate the platform’s donor class. They want users to see that making one big donation per month is more impactful than making smaller donations.

    To hell with that! If a kid—any kid, even a college student—cares to give $1 each month to 10 different organizations, then that kid is already 10 times cooler than someone who blows $10 of their allowance on Spotify.A Patreon spokesperson also told The Verge that “we think endlessly about the creator and patron impact for every decision we make. After running tests with both creators and patrons, we settled on a fee that would impact creators and patrons in the smallest way possible, considering both the amount that patrons pledge and the likelihood that they’ll keep supporting their creators on Patreon.”What they mean is that they can’t stand up to the credit card companies. That $0.35 fee is really just a standard $0.30 to the credit card company and $0.05 to themselves just because.

    That only covers the fun kind of giving, like to NPR or your favorite YouTuber. What about when you are the majority of Americans who have to rely on GoFundMe to pay for your operation or to build a stupid pointless border wall? They’ll be paying the credit card companies too.

    As of the Saturday before Christmas, a certain $15 million GoFundMe project had 245,000 donors. On Patreon, they would be on the hook for $85,750 in card fees plus $435,000 to Patreon’s vig. That’s $520,750 in donations that just went up in smoke.

    For comparison, I asked my friends on Facebook to help me raise a few bucks to help a homeless woman get through Christmas. I raised about $1,000 just $1 at a time using Paypal and Venmo. They sent it to me, I gave it to her, person-to-person-to-person. No middleman jerks. That $1,000 went straight to her. On most funding platforms, that would be have left us with $610—almost $400 in fees.

    Did I mention I tried to be a good boy this year?

    Anyway, no wonder so many people have so little money when they’re paying these fees even when they’re donating to each other.

  9. Easy home cryptomining. The people who got in earliest in Bitcoin were just letting their laptops run a simple command-line program to see what it could do. One guy used 10,000 of his homespun bitcoins to get a pizza. That pizza was worth about $40 million on the weekend before Christmas 2018.But it’s now nearly impossible to get into mining unless you are a large scale operation. And 74% of it is mined in China. Iceland spends more electricity mining bitcoin than all of their homes combined. This makes us less decentralized than ever and no wonder we’re susceptible to the whims of billionaires who mess with the mining pools.

    And if some company wants to just send me one to review that’s fine too.

That’s all I could want for 2019, Santa.  Make sure to get something nice for yourself. If none of this works out then please just send a little love to Prosthetics for Bolivia if you’re making any year end donations.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I still believe in you, Santa!


Your pal,
Brendan Sullivan

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Brendan Sullivan is a writer, producer, and author of the memoir Rivington Was Ours: Lady Gaga, the Lower East Side, and the Prime of Our Lives. Disclosure: he owns cryptocurrencies. Follow him on Twitter.