Bitcoin Bubble

I have always wondered what the story with Bitcoins was. OK, it's a cryptocurrency, completely digital money - the first and biggest. I kind of get that. But how do you spend them? How do you get them? What are they worth? What is Bitcoin Mining? Is it something like Super Mario collecting coins?

They seem to pop up in the media every now and again - not normally for positive reasons. They even made an appearance in the BBC drama series - Ashes to Ashes. They've popped up recently on the news where Baroness Michelle Mone (originally of Ultimo, now a leading entrepreneur, speaker and mentor) was discussing her latest venture in Dubai. Here apartments are being priced in Bitcoin. However buyers will have to convert bitcoin into dollars, and the crypto price will be adjusted in line with the currency's dollar exchange rate.

Also in the news last month (also on the BBC) was information that the value of Bitcoin had tumbled by more than 10% having previously hit a record high value of nearly $5,000 per BTC. JP Morgan's Chief Executive, Jamie Dimon, has publically described Bitcoin as "a fraud" which will eventually "blow up".  Bitcoin has definitely had a chequered history with issues over hacking, theft and illegal pyramid schemes, with losses running into the millions!

It is possible to acquire Bitcoins as payment, they can be bought through an exchange, exchanged with an individual or earned through mining. This is how Bitcoins are created. I had considered this could be a little pocket money generator, after all it's just something you leave the computer to do - right?  Back in 2013 a Norwegian man remembered about a $22 investment he had made 4 years earlier. Having just timed it perfectly he found this (£14) investment was now worth a staggering $850,000!!! Well all we can say to that is hindsight is a wonderful thing. And as sometimes happens, it's the early adopters who took the risks that will reap the dividends - assuming they haven't lost their fortune to a hacker. 

The mining process involves individuals using their computers to process Bitcoin transactions and securing the Bitcoin network. It's like you doing Barclaycard's job for them and getting paid for it. This process is incredibly intensive on your poor old computer. There are companies out there that will build you a specialised machine that costs $6,000 - but pure speculation suggests that this could net $50,000 a month. Surely if that was the case we'd all be doing it! One thing for certain, your electricity provider would be happy with your bills - this computer has a 2100w power supply (your desktop will probably be around the 500w mark). This is like running an electric kettle - all day - every day.

So who owns Bitcoin? No-one. It's a consensus network with no central authority. Developed during 2009/2010 it recorded a total value last April of $20billion. There can only ever be 21 million Bitcoins in existence, but considering no-one owns or runs Bitcoin - who made this decision? Ah yes - the consensus! The number created each year is automatically halved until the 21 million has been reached - so they are created at a decreasing and predictable rate. This means that everyone is working for a share of a finite amount. The more people involved, the less your potential share can be - hence it's competitive.

All things considered, I think I'll leave Bitcoins where they are. I'm a little too risk-averse for this kind of adventure!

Will this article change the way you work on a day to day basis? I severely doubt it! But hopefully it has answered a few niggling questions about the elusive Bitcoin. It certainly has for me.

If you have a question about any aspect of technology and IT please email lee@itcentral.scot

 

Sometimes You Need To Get Away From Technology, Yes Really!

What a way to start a blog post, especially considering I run a tech company!!!

But I think this is true, I also think that sometimes we need to have a bit more discipline in our working day, but we also need tools to fall back on when distraction wins.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed and not sure what to work on next? I go through phases with this. I have times where I can be incredibly focussed and achieve loads in a day - even stretching beyond one day at a time. I also have times where life robs my focus and my head ceases to be able to function with the efficiency that I would like it to. On these days I can come away from work not feeling like I'm achieving anything.

This is where having a few practical tools can make all the difference - and 20 minutes is all it takes.

Tidy your workspace - a clearer workspace equals a clearer mind. I find it also gives a tremendous sense of achievement, however I am not going to show you what my workspace looks like right now! I absolutely have times where I can work in any level of mess, noise, whatever. Tidying your workspace up is like pressing ctrl, alt, delete and rebooting your system. A good old cathartic chucking out (recycling wherever you can) never goes amiss either - and will earn you a coffee (or tea if you prefer).

I'm a firm believer in creating action plans. Little ones, big ones - for the day, for the week or for longer.  Sitting down for 20 minutes at the beginning of the week could make all the difference for how much you achieve before Friday afternoon chugs around. It improves productivity, gives you the information to create to do lists meaning you can prioritise what you want to achieve. Personally, I use post-it notes as a starting point and do a complete brain dump of everything I need to do (if it's a big action plan), then start to put some organisation in. 

Research has shown that making lists is a positive psychological process, calms a sense of inner chaos. People who stress out over their day-to-day tasks often get a lot out of writing them down in a contained way. 

An action plan covers the bigger picture which I then break down into a daily to do list. One word of warning, don't include too many items for one day. It's easy enough to pick something up from tomorrow's list if you have a great day, but demoralising to not get through everything you hoped to achieve day after day.

Try to write goals for the next month, or the next three months - whatever is appropriate to your situation. Dr Gail Matthews study found that you are 42% more likely to achieve your goals if they are written down. Writing it down makes it real, confirms what you really want and motivates you to take action. It's encouraging to see real progress and an opportunity to reward yourself when you achieve your target. This can be as simple as a Chinese takeaway, or an evening out - it doesn't have to be something huge (although you could possibly work up to this!) I'm working up to a Mercedes - I'm currently at chocolate bar level.

Social media and emails can be a terrible distraction which is where a bit of self-discipline comes in. Don't check them all the time - schedule times during the day to check emails - maybe just before a break so the time is limited, and perhaps limit social media to break times (unless that is what your job is of course).

Print out some inspiration pictures or quotes and stick them up on your wall, this will give you a fresh boost of enthusiasm and determination. Personally I like to work using pretty things - I have appealing folders, use pretty notebooks (I have a slight notebook addiction!) and use brightly coloured post-it’s because I know this works for me. I'm far more likely to pick up a notebook that makes me smile than a refill pad that reminds me of school!

Take a walk in the fresh air, either with a notebook, or preferably with a method of recording. I use my mobile to record ideas and thoughts. The air clears my head, and 20 minutes away from the shop, phones, customers and staff is a marvellous thing. Your head needs space to be creative and work through to a solution, like white space on a page. This is why you so often can work out a solution in your sleep.

You won't be surprised to know that I'm a fan of mind maps. They are not new, but let’s consider them tried and tested!  It's a belief that you can accomplish 20 hours of work in 6 hours by using mind maps to organise your thoughts. That may be if you are in a locked room with no phone and limitless coffee, but it does boost productivity. We're back to post-its and brain dumps again!

It helps you to see the overall picture better. I'm an avid note-taker, but note-taking is linear - 1-2-3. Mind maps give space to put ideas together - lots of lines and arrows. It's also easier to take the information in this way.There is time management software out there that includes mind mapping tools, but I've never found anything that can beat the creativity and speed of paper and coloured pens!

My Mobile Phone, Marketing and Me!

I know, as the owner of a small business, how much I use my smartphone on a day to day basis for work. Ofcom's research has found that smartphones have overtaken laptops as UK internet users' number one device. Certainly something we have seen in the IT repair industry.  My phone of choice is the iPhone 6S Plus, however my colleagues have other phones, a Samsung Galaxy S8 edge, a Google Pixel and others in the mix. I also know that marketing for my business seems to be far more hit and miss than the traditional days of putting an ad in the paper - but also far more in my hands than ever before.

Global Internet Advertising is predicted to overtake television advertising by 2020 according to Marketing Land. This stands to reason when you consider how much we use our phones during the day to how we now consume television. Personally I don't have 'live' TV, just Netflix, but I'm not a great consumer of television any more.

There are issues that come with the accessibility and immediacy of smartphones. Deloitte's research has show that one in three adults check for messages at night. It's the last thing before bed, and the first thing in the morning - often also accessed if you wake during the night. This can lead to tensions with arguments about one partner or another using their mobile too much. It seems to be an excuse for what I would consider rude behaviour (I'm in my 40's), but my son (21) would find perfectly acceptable. You can certainly see why Ofcom has declared the UK a Smartphone Society with 90% of 16-24 year olds owning a smartphone.

We need to consider how this impacts businesses. Many of us work for small businesses, but larger organisations are equally caught up with this.

Business to consumer marketers use an average of 7 social media platforms (The Content Marketing Institute). My immediate reaction is to think that isn't me, but when you start to list them you'd be surprised at how many you do use, or are at least linked to. Our aim is to use Facebook and Twitter for day to day social media, Instagram for behind the scenes and LinkedIn for professional connections - then of course starting this blog on Blogger, where a listing on Google+ (while it still exists) will help. You begin to wonder if you will actually get any time to work! But it is imperative that we get this to work for us. If the majority of customers prefer to get information about a company from content rather than ads (70% according to Content +) then we have a responsibility as business people to provide that content.

NewsCred report that 90% of users listen to recommendations share from friends. We certainly rely on this as a business as we have zero traditional marketing. The question of course is how we achieve this. And to be honest, I don't yet have an answer. I aim through this blog to discuss issues around technology that as an individual, and as a business you may face. Our social media aims to reflect who we are as a business - open and honest, with the customer needs coming first - but this is an ongoing process that sometimes we get right, and sometimes we get gloriously wrong!

In 5 years we've gone from using mobile phones for casual pursuits to now being used for business, work and commerce. Technology has changed every aspect of how a business operates. Change has been faster than at any other time in history - it's no wonder it has left our heads spinning!

People use mobile devices to buy, sell, shop - to find local businesses and to share their experiences often loud and clear. With the correct software it is possible to work from remote locations - depending on the business - mine is a physical business, so not yet able to relocate to Barbados! On the flip side we are give so much more information. Data collection has made it easier to understand the customers that you're looking for - and in theory customer segmentation (and algorythms) mean that targeting has never been easier. Just think FaceBook ads, choice of age, gender, location - you get the idea.

The costs have come down as the functionality has improved. Mobile devices and apps are easy to use and affordable. So let's take advantage of these developments. Young consumers are tech savvy, so we need to become more tech savvy as well. Social networking has made the world feel a much smaller place. We connect without geographical obstacle, and without the world knowing your financial background or social status. 

Whether you fall into the luddite or technophile category, your responsibility it to understand how technology affects your business (good, bad and ugly) and how to use them to your advantage. So maybe it's time to get your business out there. Be brave, be honest and be authentic. You can't please everyone, so allow people to see how you work. Those who like what you do will love you and tell others, and those that don't? Well, it's their loss!

If you have a technology question please get in touch.

Lee