Pokebit Operations Suspended

I’ve been happy to talk about Pokebit, my not-for-profit enterprise that offered the lowest prices on all Pokémon Trading Card Game and Magic the Gathering products and only accepted Bitcoin as payment.
I suspended operations this month.

There were some things on my to-do list, including getting a better CMS (I was using WooCommerce, with some custom plugins that did not receive updates to keep pace with WooCommerce), changing the presentation of the website to make it more educational (my mission is to teach people about alternative currencies), and, to allow users to pay with one of multiple cryptocurrencies. Perhaps I will address those things in a future effort.

I was very pleased by the people, Pokémon fans, cryptocurrency enthusiasts, and others, who took interest in the website. I was also pleased to know I was funding Sean’s Outpost.

News Article Application

I got an idea for a new application. It is designed for people who listen to talk radio on their computer or smartphone.

It uses voice recognition on the audio your computer is playing, in order to identify words that are being said.
The application has a database of keywords. When the application detects that one of the keywords has been said, it searches the web for news articles relating to that keyword, and displays previews of those articles to the user.

So, for example, you’re listening to you favorite podcast, and the host says, “helicopter”.
The application acknowledges that a word in the database was said (“helicopter”).
The application searches an archive for articles relating to the word, “helicopter”, and displays headlines or previews of those articles on your screen, with the option for your to click on them, and view the entire article.

Possible additional features:
1. The archive of articles that the app chooses can be the entire world wide web, or articles from a list of websites specifically chosen by the user.
2. The database of keywords that activates the software is customizable and automatically suggests new keywords to the user, based on words other users have added to their own database.
3. To understand currency (relevance), the application pulls articles that are from around the time period the podcast file was published. The date could be established by the “date created” on the .mp3 file or by pulling RSS data.

Bitcoin Is Good Enough

Bitcoin fulfills the desire for people to have a currency that:
1. Does not rely on the already-established, state-approved financial apparatus.
2. Does not have costs associated with storing physical material.
3. Allows transactions to occur in seconds and to confirm in minutes, rather than days.
4. Is potentially anonymous.
5. Is decentralized.
6. Allows for the creation of applications that interface with an open, accessible data source (like the blockchain) that allow for the automation of otherwise costly services such as: fundraising, contract enforcement, transfer of assets after one’s death, establishing public records of owership, and stock brokerage.

People have demonstrated that they want these things.
So, if Bitcoin is going to lose popularity soon, as many people allege, what’s going to “fill in the gap”? I ask because like to hearing well-though-out alternative points-of-view and it is always preferable to hear concrete suggestions and solutions than complaining… Anyone up for answering this question?

What To Do With Bitcoin?

What do I do with and regarding Bitcoin?

I run an online retailer that accepts Bitcoin, and offer to help others set up their own store.
I run a facebook and twitter social media campaign in my town to get businesses in my town to accept Bitcoin.
I contact the local media about BTC when appropriate, I send Bitcoin-related fliers. (let me know if you want one, I have plenty to go around!)
I wear Bitcoin shirts in public as conversation starter.
And OF COURSE I accept and spend Bitcoin whenever it is an option. I have hand about 17 face-to-face Bitcoin transactions in the last 7 weeks.

In the past, I have participated in the Bitcoin Weight Loss Challenge in an attempt to draw media attention to Bitcoin. It was a contest among 11 Bitcoin enthusiasts to see who could lose the largest percentage of their weight over the course of 12 weeks. 4 participants pulled out, but among the remaining 7, I got 4th place.

Hampton Roads Business Journal Bitcoin Article

I was quoted in a news article a few weeks ago.
Getting Bitcoin some attention in the local newspaper.

A Virginia Beach Bitcoin firm is venturing into the Wild West of money

Bitcoin Article

I’m a little put-off by the fact that some people seem ONLY to be interested in talking about Bitcoin as an investment opportunity.

I think that:

  • Folks in draconian countries that must spend money anonymously to receive services their country intends to track or block (like wordpress.com)
  • A poor immigrant who is sending remittance payment to his family in Kenya, where paypal transactions are blocked and Western Union wants to charge obscenely high fees to send money
  • People in the third world with entrepreneurial spirit that want startup investments or IPO to fund their new business from multiple sources, and don’t have the resources to comply with the old way of setting up investments

Will appreciate Bitcoin- just as much as a bunch of rich white guys in the 1st world bragging about their yearly investments going up 10 percent instead of 9 percent.

Semi-Positive Customer Experience With Bitcoin Retailer

I made a purchase from major online retailer that recently started accepting Bitcoin, TigerDirect, just to show them my support, to speed up Bitcoin adoption.

I bought a couple of items from them on January 24th. I paid with Bitcoin. I then received an email confirming that the order was complete and that the items were shipped.

On January 30th, I received a document in the mail, asking that I pay TigerDirect with dollars. They already have my Bitcoin. I paid them already.

Make me pay twice, no don't think so!

I sent them an email yesterday:

Hi just want you to know that some people might be getting invoices for payments that were already made.
I bought items ***, ***, and *** and I paid with Bitcoin. The order number is ***.
Yesterday, I received an invoice in the mail in DOLLARS for products that I already purchased with BITCOIN.

Congrats on joining the Bitcoin economy. I look forward to seeing people getting all the kinks worked out.

Just today, they sent me an email:

Dear Valued Customer:
Thank you for your order.
We apologize for the inconvenience.

We understand your concern that you got the payment invoice for Bitcoin. Please disregard the notice you received because this information has been forwarded already to our management. If you have paid twice or charged double, please contact Bitcoin for refund at 855-424-8729 for your convenience.

Thank you for visiting our website. We appreciate your business. If you have further inquiries and reply to this email, please make sure to include your entire message, so we can address it appropriately. Please feel free to contact me at the phone number below should you require any further assistance.

TigerDirect.com Customer Advocate

Now, I gotta say, the phrase “please contact Bitcoin” makes no sense at all, but hey, whatever, I’m not paying TigerDirect twice and they acknowledge this, so I’m good!

Keep businesses in line. Some are good at responding to customer requests, concerns, and complaints. Some are not. Bitcoin-accepting businesses being honest and efficient is good for Bitcoin’s image. Thanks for staying honest, TigerDirect!

Drawing In Media Attention to Bitcoin

I am participating in a competition called Bitcoin Weight Loss Challenge 2014. 11 Bitcoin enthusiasts have signed up to see who can lose the most weight, by percent, over the course of 12 weeks.
The prize pool is distributed to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, with a sizable portion of the pool also going to charities that accept Bitcoin.

The contest started on Jan 20th, and, as of the first week 61, pounds total were lost. With 11 participants, that’s an average of 5.55 pounds per person.

Good things about this contest, from my perspective:

  • Weight loss is something that the average person can comprehend. I’m hoping this will get people interested in alternative currencies.
  • This contest is just one more effort to get people to associate the word “charity” with the word “Bitcoin”. And, by proxy, it also highlights the need to get more charities to accept currencies like Bitcoin or create new ones. As a wise Bitcoiner once said, “Support Bitcoin charities. When a legislator runs out against the campaign that says, ‘If you kill Bitcoin, these kids starve, this puppy goes to a kill shelter, and this bear in China doesn’t have a future and goes extinct,’ that’s a much better message than, ‘Bob the Speculator won’t make enough money.’ Invest in charities, because that enhances the concept of Bitcoin’s neutrality, and makes it concrete.”

I am enjoying myself. My opponents are quite enthusiastic, and it’s a nice thing to have.


Google Adding Bitcoin Functionality?

When Baidu accepted Bitcoin, the exchange rate went up. Will Google be the one that brings Bitcoin to the moon?

Who knows, the exchange rate of Bitcoin doesn’t matter. The important thing to focus on is the prevalence of decentralized/stateless currencies. Just the existence of this news story might further that goal.

Bitcoin Economy Graph

A graph I created to show people what the size of the Bitcoin economy looks like relative to the size of a few other economies. Click on it to see larger version.

Graph of the Bitcoin Economy.