Open Thinkering


Tag: Bitcoin

Of Bitcoin and Badges.

Over at the site for Badges for Lifelong Learning they were, until recently, using the Bitcoin image (shown above) to represent Badges. This got me thinking of the similarities and differences of the ideas behind the two systems.

Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer currency system that does away with the need for state-level control of the monetary system. It’s run into some issues but I think it’s promising, even if just as an alternative idea. Badges, or more particularly Mozilla’s Open Badges infrastructure and the result of the DML Badges competition, are (to me) even more interesting. Using badges to support lifelong learning sounds straightforward but it’s actually a fairly nuanced idea that takes some investigation to understand fully.

The problem with both Badges and Bitcoin is that adherents get carried away with the rhetoric, talking of their new system ‘destroying’ or ‘revolutionising’ an existing one. Many present it as either/or. On the other hand, critics are never satisfied unless a rigorous, comprehensive alternative to the status quo is presented in toto.*

Whilst as an historian I’m all-too-aware that almost every person in history has thought that they live in ‘important’ and ‘unprecedented’ times, I do think that the meltdown in our financial and educational systems is a rare occurrence. I certainly can’t think of too many civilisations who have gone through what we have experienced since 2008 and lived to tell the tale. 😮

We’re in the privileged position of resting upon the work of tireless advocates of civil society, the kind of people who have campaigned for a brighter future for their offspring. I think it’s time for us to do some building of our own. Occupying Wall Street and other financial centres is a good way to protest against the current system but it doesn’t (in itself) provide much in the way of an alternative. Similarly, instead of lamenting the state of our schools and universities, it’s time to do something about it. It’s time for and/and/and.

That’s why I’ve become involved in exploring Badges, and that’s why I’ll continue to keep an eye on the direction taken by advocates of Bitcoin. As they say, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.**

*And on the odd occasion this does happen, they complain about the lack of consultation!

**An alternative phrasing is ‘if you’re not part of the solution, there’s a lot of money to be made prolonging the problem’.

Giving my visitors some (virtual, P2P) cash.



In 2009 Wikileaks started publishing data. Whether or not you believe their actions are justifiable, one thing became clear: you are not in control of your money.

What do you mean?

For convenience, for safety, and to earn interest, we store our money in bank accounts. We also use credit facilities and numbers-as-currency services such as Paypal to purchase goods and donate money. Using the latter facilities makes sense online because they’re safer.

The trouble is that Visa, Mastercard and Paypal stopped people from using their services to donate money to Wikileaks. That’s a form of censorship.

I’m not a big fan of censorship.

Enter Bitcoin:

Bitcoin is a digital currency created in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto. The name also refers both to the open source software he designed to make use of the currency and to the peer-to-peer network formed by running that software.

Unlike other digital currencies, Bitcoin avoids central authorities and issuers. Bitcoin uses a distributed database spread across nodes of a peer-to-peer network to journal transactions, and uses digital signatures and proof-of-work to provide basic security functions, such as ensuring that bitcoins can be spent only once per owner and only by the person who owns them.

The peer-to-peer topology and lack of central administration are features that make it infeasible for any authority (governmental or otherwise) to manipulate the quantity of bitcoins in circulation, thereby mitigating inflation.

More info

The Deal

Bitcoins can be ‘mined’ by using spare CPU/GPU cycles to solve complex problems. Done alone, this isn’t exactly a get-rich-quick scheme. It’s best to work with others.

This is an experiment.

BitCoinPlus is a way of mining Bitcoins using your browser. In fact, you’re doing it right now! (unless you’ve scrolled to the bottom of this page and clicked ‘Stop’)

Let’s go 50/50.

If you visit this site and don’t press ‘Stop’ in the widget located in the footer, you’re mining Bitcoins. I’ve configured it so that 50% goes to me and 50% goes to you. Unless you reset your browser, your share will be transferred into an account when you set it up.

But why?

  • Because it’s interesting.
  • Because it’s possible.
  • Because there’s got to be a better way.

Let me hear what you think in the comments below!

Update: experiment over, applet now removed.