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A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Consensus Algorithms, Zane Witherspoon, Hacker Noon, Feb 15, 2018

A 'consensus algorithm' is a mechanism for verifying transactions in a distributed network. A transaction doesn't take place until everyone (or a large enough subset of everyone) agrees that it can take place (ie., it isn't contradicted by some previous transaction). But how do you get to have a say in these consensus networks? That's what the algorithms decide. The first is 'proof of work', such as solving equations to 'mine' bitcoins. Another is '... [Direct Link]

MIT Introduces Digital Diplomas, Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Ed, Oct 19, 2017

People have using blockchain for certification for a number of years now so it's no real surprise to see MIT's new digital diplomas. "Using a free, open-source app called Blockcerts Wallet, students can quickly access a digital diploma that can be shared on social media and verified by employers to ensure its authenticity. The digital credential is protected using block-chaintechnology. The block chain is a public ledger that offers a secure way of making and recording ... [Direct Link]

Universal Paperclips, Jason Kottke,, Oct 12, 2017

The idea of the 'meta-game' is that "you click a button to make money and use that money to buy upgrades which gives you more money per click," and so on. The reference here is to a thought experiment by Nick Bostrom reprinted in the Economist: "Imagine an artificial intelligence, he says, which decides to amass as many paperclips as possible. It devotes all its energy to acquiring paperclips.... This apparently silly scenario is intended to make the serious point that ... [Direct Link]

JSON-LD, Various authors, Aug 10, 2017

The Acronym in full is 'Javascript Object Notation - Linked Data', or just 'JSON Linked Data'. This page is a central resource on the specification. The idea of JSON-LD is that yopu can present a body pof information that can be read by machines and interoperate with other information. To get a flavour, click on the 'Playground' tab (upper left) and 'Recipe'. Then click on the 'Visualized' tab (half-way down the page). If you see a green dot, click on ... [Direct Link]

Blockbench: a framework for analyzing private blockchains, Adrian Coyler, The Morning Paper, Jul 05, 2017

This is a daunting post, and the article it summarizes is more daunting still. But don't worry about following all of it. Here are the main things. First, in addition to 'public' blockchain networks, like Bitcoin, there can be 'private' blockchain networks, used (for example) for internal recordkeeping. Blockchain's immutability and transparency make it attractive for this purpose. Second, in non-public settings, you don't need such an elaborate mechanism for ... [Direct Link]

Brace Yourself For The Bitcoin Hard Fork, Rob Blasetti, Decentralize Today, Mar 23, 2017

There's a lot of history behind this one, but essentially the split is between the original developers, who want to keep the size of a block limited, and Bitcoin miners (ie., the people who actually encrypt the blocks), who want the size of the block to grow. This can happen in distributed systems. It's not necessarily a bug; think of it as being like mitosis, where a simple network begins to develop into a complex network. But the short term message is risk. Lots of it, because ... [Direct Link]

“Edublocks” Could Change How We Learn by Adapting Bitcoin Model to Continued Education, Eliana Osborn, Education News, Sept 05, 2016

You will want to have a look at this video from the Institute for the Future and ACT Foundation. It describes The Ledger' as it is used in education to define 'edublocks'', which in turn are basically blockchain credentials. What's significant is that it enables anyone to give  learning credits to anyone. I have to think that this is the beginning of a huge debate: "The idea of a ‘national learning economy’ isn’t new—America has been moving in ... [Direct Link]

A New Approach to Consensus: Swirlds HashGraph , Leemon Baird, Sammantics, Aug 06, 2016

Encrypted currency like bitcoin works because everyone agrees that a transaction has taken place. In the case of the blockchaain, everyone agrees because the record of the transaction can't be changed; it's encrypted and stored in the block. But does everyone need to agree for us to be able to say everyone agrees? Probably not; a good interconnected subset of users will do. And that's the idea behind the mechanism of the blockgraph, the system employed by Swirlds as an alternative ... [Direct Link]

Bitcoin and Blockchains explained, David Hopkins, Technology Enhanced Learning Blog, Jul 05, 2016

This is another useful attempt to help people get a base-level understanding of what a blockchain is and does. Transactions are encrypted and put into blocks. "A block is the ‘current’ part of a blockchain which records some or all of the recent transactions, and once completed goes into the blockchain as permanent database." [Direct Link]

What we learned from designing an academic certificates system on the blockchain, Juliana Nazaré, Kim Hamilton Duffy, J. Philipp Schmidt, Medium, Jun 04, 2016

Some of the issues: the choice of bitcoin rather than ethereum; using a link to view certificates rather than public-private key pairs; leaving the possibility of certificate revocation in the system; privacy and transparency around blockchain; the right of the user to curate the certificates being shared; and whether the use of certificates can be tracked. There are three repositories: the certificate schema, defining the data structure;  the certificate issuer; and the certificate ... [Direct Link]

Interested in Bitcoins? Here are 10 Blogs You Need to Check Out, Dave, The Blog Herald, May 25, 2016

Unlike Don Tapscott, I'm not going to transform myself into a blockchain expert. But some people will, and if you are one of those, here is a list of blogs that might get you started. [Direct Link]

Blockchain for Education: A Research Project, Audrey Watters, Hack Education, Feb 25, 2016

I'm addressed the topic of blockchains a couple of times recently, mostly in relation to badges and certificates. But as Audrey Watters writes here, it may be too early to determine whether there's any 'there' there. "But with news this week that Sony plans to launch a testing platform powered by blockchain and that IBM plans to offer 'blockchain-as-a-service,'" it might be time to take the phenomenon more seriously. Blockchain is the technology behind digital ... [Direct Link]

The resolution of the Bitcoin experiment, Mike Hearn, Medium, Jan 16, 2016

I've discussed Bitcoin and blockchains on this website before. This article is about the failure of that system, at least in the case of Bitcoin. The reasons are on the one hand technical, but on the other hand, the result of human failure. In a nutshell, the production of new Bitcoins has essentially been monopolized - At a recent conference over 95% of hashing power was controlled by a handful of guys sitting on a single stage - and these people have an incentive to prevent ... [Direct Link]

The Blockchain and Open Innovation, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Jan 12, 2016

As Wikipedia notes, "a permissionless distributed database based on the bitcoin protocol that maintains a continuously growing list of transactional data records hardened against tampering and revision, even by operators of the data store's nodes." It might in time prove to be a significant invention. People have suggested the use of blockchains to recognize educational achievements. This article points to a couple of advances in the use of blockchains by financial institutions to ... [Direct Link]

IMS Global Announces Initiative to Establish Digital Badges as Common Currency for K - 20 and Corporate Education, Press Release, IMS Global, Apr 21, 2015

Knowing IMS, the phrase "common currency" was probably very carefully chosen, and it brings to mind Doug Belshaw's proposal the other day to issue badges using Bitcoin-like encryption. So I wonder whether IMS is thinking that far ahead (it wouldn't be the first time they've picked up on someone's idea like that). According to the press release, "IMS will leverage existing experience, expertise and momentum. IMS Digital Credentialing will complement and further IMS’s ... [Direct Link]

Peering Deep into Future of Educational Credentialing, Doug Belshaw, Apr 02, 2015

Is an educational credential like a type of money? That's the core thought behind Doug Belshaws post that challenges traditional thinking on things like badges. Because, he argues, if they are like money, then they could be like something like bitcoins, generated through a cryptological algorithm called a blockchain, and hence able to be dispensed without being duplicated. "If we used the blockchain for Open Badges," he writes, "then we could prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person ... [Direct Link]

Disruptive technologies 2015-2016, Jane Hart, Learning in the Social Workplace, Jan 13, 2015

Via Jane Hart: "Brian Solis explores some of the biggest technology trends and possible twists on the horizon for 2015 and 2016. Topics include cyber security, mobile payments, drones, bitcoin, social media, digital, omnichannel, attribution, cx, music, movies, Hollywood." [Direct Link]

The Bitcoins of Learning?, Unknown, Jul 22, 2014

There isn't time (nor bandwidth in what has become terrible airport lounge wifi over the years) but I think that the concept of a bitcoin for learning is a really bad idea. I get the concept - students are looking for more than just grades; they want a learning 'currency' they can take with them to the workplace. And "currency, ideally, must travel, quickly and simply, and as widely as possible. It's a reductionist, simplistic mode of social interaction." But a substantial ... [Direct Link]

How online 'chatbots' are already tricking you, Chris Baraniuk, Jun 11, 2014

OK, so chatbots that lure people to dating sites or convince bitcoin users to give each other tips are not going to impact most of us. But with as much as 65 percent of online chatter being generated by bots, chances are you've read or interacted with one. Of course, it really depends on how you define 'bot'. I have systems that automatically generate content - if I post a photo on Flickr, it`s automatically tweeted, blogged and Facebooked (when the system is working). OLDaily ... [Direct Link]

The future of the open Internet is decentralized, Joseph Cox, May 12, 2014

Many of the recent problems being seen in digital communications - from the cost of acess to the widespread spying to the blocking of services like YouTube and Twitter to the commodification of commercialization of services that used to be free - have resulted from the ongoing re-centralization of the internet, where one or a few services are able to monopolize discourse. This has not resulted (as they say) naturally, but as the result of the deliberate intervention by corporations and ... [Direct Link]

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