BARTist
February 7, 2018, 9:30 am

Draw every day. Practice every day. Practice like you mean it.

Love this video portrait, made by my student Yingzi Zhang. Funny story, we shot footage for about an hour for this 2 minute video. If you ever want to fall asleep, just get me talking about a subject, and I'll keep going.

A Bitcoin and Crypto Primer: Part 2
January 8, 2018, 8:51 am

Read Part 1

So you have a vague idea of what Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies are. So now you want to buy some, but how?

What is an exchange?

Exchanges are the place to go to do one of two things. You can either place an order into or out of your fiat currency (government issued currencies), or you can trade cryptos between each other. Exchanges are the stock market of crypto.

Whereas Cryptocurrency creation and use is unregulated in the best way, exchanges are unregulated in the worst way. The exchanges are where trades happen, prices change, and the incredible volatility of Bitcoin is birthed. I'm sure that you've read or heard that Bitcoin is a volatile, speculative, market. And you're right, but not because of bitcoin itself. It is because on the crypto exchanges, the price is always moving. Because there is no regulation for these exchanges, sometimes big players can come in and splash the pot around, and sometimes a million average joes come in and make weird moves.

But exchanges are also the only way to move from currency to currency at the moment. So they are a necessary evil. Anyone can become a miner, and begin to slowly accrue a small amount of many coins. But for most people, the way to get in to crypto is to buy on an exchange.

What exchange should I use?

This question largely deals with personal need, personal use, and availability. There are quite a number of exchanges out there. There are whole sites dedicated to just listing exchanges. But generally, you might want to do those two main things, move fiat in and out, or exchange between cryptos. Actually, you'll probably find those two tasks happen on different exchanges.

Fair warning, many of the upcoming links are referral links. Sign up for what you want, and don't just take my word for it. Honestly, it's so hard to give suggestions to people without feeling a tiny bit responsible for their money. I'm honestly just trying to help, and if you sign up with these links, you help me back.

CoinBase.com is a major US exchange for USD to crypto. It has an easy interface, a nice design, and you can exchange USD for a few common cryptos. A couple things to know about this market; it takes about a week for any USD transfer to finalize on the exchange, so don't be surprised when you can't make any other moves for a while. Just hold tight and wait it out. Gdax.com is the more proper exchange for those coins, once you've purchased some from CoinBase. They are two sides of the same company.

Binance.com is a Chinese based exchange that is one of the most popular for trading a large amount of different cryptocurrencies between each other. As of this writing, Binance has limited new signups to random times throughout the day. Binance has a very good App on both iOS and Android, although because of the a number of things, you have to download their app directly and allow it as a trusted developer. It's up to you to make or not make this decision, but understand that a little trust is the price to pay for getting into these unregulated markets.

Kucoin.com is an exchange that looks nearly identically skinned from binance on their website, but their app is different in a number of ways and this exchange has different coins available.

Cryptopia.co.nz is a very large exchange with a huge amount of coins for trading, but they don't have a mobile app, and they are quite complicated as a starting point.

Gemini.com is another option for fiat conversion, but they can be quite slow in their approval process.

Which Crypto Coins should I buy?

I mean, this is definitely not a question with a good answer. Most people's first intro to this space is the coinbase interface, and upon opening that app, you'll be greeted, currently, by four different coins. Bitcoin, Bcash, Ethereum, and Litecoin. Which coin you want to buy is entirely up to you. Most investors would say that the key to long term success is diversification. So perhaps a small amount into each, or a couple, would be a good place to start.

Do I have to buy a whole Bitcoin?

Not at all. Bitcoins, and other cryptocurrencies can be broken down into smaller increments, just like dollars can be broken into cents. 1.0 BTC is one Bitcoin. 0.0001 BTC is one Bit. 0.00000001 BTC is known as one Satoshi. That's four and eight digits to the right of the decimal place.

Now some exchanges do require a minimum amount of exchange between any particular currency, often times equaling out to at least 10 USD worth. But you don't have to spend 15,000 USD to get into cryptocurrency. You can spend 100 USD to purchase about 0.006 BTC. You don't have to purchase in terms of whole coins, you can purchase in terms of initial investment.


To be continued....

Part 1

If you would like to tip me some Bitcoins, you can use this address.

1N37odPafRyrKRnKxEsPLFqiEgtoPbxE4S

A Bitcoin and Crypto Primer: Part 1
January 6, 2018, 10:11 am

So. Last year around this time, I went nuts for 3D Printing. I mean I bought and constructed about seven 3D Printers. I love it, and I learned a lot.

This year I've gone full bore into Cryptocurrency, and I would like to impart some knowledge onto anyone who reads this.

First off, let's get one thing straight. You may call them all bitcoins if you want, but there are a number of cryptocurrencies now, and you don't want to be your grandma calling all game systems Nintendos. Bitcoin is one of and the first cryptocurrency. It is also currently the most expensive of the cryptos. But what is its worth?

What is Bitcoin worth?

This is perhaps the most wrong question new people ask. As of this writing BTC (the identifier for bitcoins) are worth different things in a lot of different places. Bitcoin is a pure currency, like dollars. What are dollars worth? Nothing. That bill that you hold is worth nothing, except what someone is willing to trade it for. It's not worth anything in gold, or anything else, inherently.

Dollars don't have a value in gold. Dollars are worth nothing. Gold is worth something in Dollars, not the other way around. Dollars are worth nothing except your own trust in a system.

So what are Bitcoins and other Cryptocurrencies worth? Bitcoin can be given a worth in Dollars, because it can be traded into dollars, but it can also be given a worth in apples, a worth in Ethereum, a worth in Euro, and a worth in drugs. It is a currency in the purest sense. The difference is that although your Dollar responds only to your trust in the system, Bitcoin is built around a technology called the Blockchain.

What is the Blockchain?

The blockchain is a digital, decentralized ledger of every Bitcoin transaction that has ever occured. So imagine that you were a bank, and you wanted to accept a check. You would need to talk to the new bank and make sure that that check actually came from the other bank, that it actually belonged to that customer, and that there was actually a worth denoted by the check. At that point, that worth could transfer from one bank to the other.

Now imagine that instead of needing to communicate with a bank, you could just pull 6 random people off the street and tell them you wanted to move money to a new location. What if everyone was their own bank all hooked into the same ledger. Imagine that you would say you wanted to move money somewhere, and everyone knew the original location. If 6 people all were checking around the ledger that day, and they all confirmed that the money from the original location was legit, then the money would go through, and everyone's ledger would update with value in a new location.

That is an overly simplified description of the blockchain, but it's good enough for these purposes. The blockchain is a virtual decentralized guarantee that the amount of currency you say you're transferring came from somewhere and is the amount you said it was.

So how does Bitcoin mining work?

Not all cryptocurrencies are based on the same technology, and some of them have utility beyond their worth as a currency. Bitcoin mining is the way that the ledger is proved. Anyone can become a miner and it serves two purposes.

One, when Bitcoin was first proposed, in order to not allow anyone to be able to fully control it, not all of the coins were produced at once. Coins can be mined by solving complex mathematical problems. As these problems are solved, new coins are unearthed at certain stages. Everyone mining improves the distance for everyone else toward the next coin, but only the last person gets the coin. Everyone chips away at a gold mine, until only one person gets the nugget. This system actually encourages miners to pool their resources and then share the spoils if a coin is unearthed.

Two, as miners mine, they also are the ones proving transactions. When bitcoin transactions are occuring they get passed to miners for approval before being confirmed in the core ledger. Every transaction also incurs a small fee, and these fees are then passed on to the miners to encourage the act of mining beyond the possibility of finding whole Bitcoins, and indeed the time after all Bitcoins have been mined.

How many Cryptocurrencies are there?

Lots. Hundreds, bordering on thousands.

So isn't that bad? Sort of. Not really. Think about it this way, most countries have their own currency. Wouldn't it be better if all countries, indeed all peoples, used the same currency? Possibly, but that's not happening. Although any country can issue its own currency, it doesn't mean anyone will use it.

Likewise, although anyone can create a currency based on a doge, it doesn't mean anyone will use it for anything other than collecting and trading. These days there are not just different Cryptocurrencies, but there are even different underlying technologies. Many of these currencies are based on what's called a fork of the original Bitcoin documentation. They took what Bitcoin was, and made their own version. Some of them even took the same ledger as Bitcoin at the time, and gave everyone who had some Bitcoin some of their new altcoin.


Part 2

If you would like to tip me some Bitcoins, you can use this address.

1N37odPafRyrKRnKxEsPLFqiEgtoPbxE4S

The Landscape Ahead
January 4, 2018, 8:34 am

What seems like ages ago, one of my first crypto purchases was litecoin. I liked litecoin, and I liked that it was cheap.

When I started trading coins, litecoin was the first one I traded, cuz it was a pawn. It was the nuthin coin. I traded like 1 whole litecoin for like a million of a coin called TRX. An even trashier coin. Because, in my mind, I wanted to have a lot of a coin. It was worth 17 SAT at the time, or in other words 0.00000017 of a bitcoin. It was worth nothing, but that's why I bought it. I just wanted a lot of coins. I wanted to jingle some pennies.

TRX just passed litecoin in marketcap today. That's insane. We used to use the term big 3 to refer to Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. But I'm not certain we can use those terms anymore. The whole landscape of crypto has drastically changed in the last 2 weeks, much less the last two months.

TRX has a lot of coins in circulation. Way more than BTC. This means it's worth can only go so high. But it's market cap actually still has quite a ways to go. I'm on the ride though. On this trash coin that I thought would go no where. It might go all the way.

Gambling is taboo because people suck at it
November 28, 2017, 9:08 am

Ok, let's talk about the difference between gambling for fun, gambling for profit, and gambling with your life.

Gambling for fun is something most people can do. Hell you probably do it every time you play a video game. Gambling concepts, strategies, and triggers are all over the video game world. The new Battlefront Star Wars game is coming under heavy fire for having a gambling system in place that uses real money. I think the key to gambling for fun involves a few things.

1. Gamble with gains. Never gamble at the bottom of your worth if you want to have fun gambling.

2. Set yourself a goal, and cut out your goal from your gambles, if you've managed to win. You'll walk away with something, and you still had fun.

3. Always consider your gamble to be money spent. This is the problem a lot of gamblers can't get their head into, and they psych themselves out. "I'm up 5 since last hour." No, you're down 20 for the day.

Now gambling for profit is a different beast. It is 100% possible to gamble for profit, and not have a problem. BUT, whereas all the previous rules still apply, there's an amount of strategy and higher buy in that SHOULD discourage the average joe from thinking they can attempt it. gambling for profit involves a full understanding of the rules, the odds, and a complete separation of the personal need for any one amount of money.

I think this is where gambling with your life comes in, is when people can't see those road stops in the concept of gambling. They see people gambling with high amounts, and they think that's what gambling is. They see people making moves, and they think it's JUST guessing. They see people winning lots of money, but they don't see the losses the next day.

When I used to go to the casino I would leave my wallet in the car. I would bring in 50 dollars, and I considered it payment for the amusement park ride. If I got up above 100, 50 would go in one pocket, and I would only gamble with the other pocket. And most days I would walk away with nothing. But more often I walked away with 50. And some days I walked away with more. But I always had fun. I think it is possible to gamble and have fun. I think one has to keep their head about them in order to do it. But I think it's possible.

The Elements of Euclid
October 3, 2017, 8:53 am

I bought a book on a whim while at the book store.

The Taschen books on art and history are really fascinating to me, and last night I picked up The Elements of Euclid from Green Apple on the strength of its interior alone. Lately I have been doing a lot of work with geometry and trigonometry and this book speaks to me in a very real way.

If you have ever been interested in math, geometry, or even design, this book will be an amazing addition to your repertoire.

When is the best time to post content?
September 5, 2017, 10:00 am

Statistics have been tested time and again, and proven that the best time to post something online, in order to reach the highest amount of eyeballs, is on Tuesday at 10am.

But why? Well there's a number of reasons. And they cover a broad range of topics.

People who are at their desk job

Most people with a regular desk job are just getting set up and sitting at their desk, and checking emails. And what else? That's right, checking the latest news, blogs, and reddits. This means that they are actively seeking out content. They are also probably at their desk before any meetings.

More importantly they are not currently swamped with work from the weekend. Monday is a day to catch up on work that has accrued from or was put off during Saturday and Sunday. So when Tuesday rolls around, things are a bit more relaxed.

People who are still commuting

Ok, so the thing is, not only do not all people get to work at the same time, but timezones mean that 10 am doesn't mean the same thing all over the world much less a country. So some people are still on their commute. In the morning over 50% of your web traffic will probably be from phones. If you've ever bothered to check your site analytics with any amount of scrutiny, you've probably noticed this.

People on their phones not only are checking things at slightly different times, but most often using slightly different apps. Things like instagram and snapchat and other phone forward apps are being checked, which means that the strategy for what to post where gets even harder to figure out.

People who are watching videos

Then we have the video watching lunch crowd. Now you might be saying "But Hamilton I don't eat lunch at 10 am". You're right. You eat lunch some time later, at a point when the content seekers have had a chance to upvote and like and generally give credence to whatever things have been posted, and get them onto the feeds of people who might otherwise not have seen them.

When the lunch crowd comes in, you want all your content to have already been upvoted and made important so that when this other wave of consumers comes in they will have it placed in front of them.

So in conclusion.

What have we learned here? Probably nothing. This is all speculation. But speculation based on numbers and statistics can be not only fun, but profitable. Go check the analytics on your own content. Do these suggestions align with your own reasoning? Maybe not, but now you're at least thinking about it.

Making plans and telling people about them
August 8, 2017, 9:26 am

If you don't follow Max Landis on youtube, you should. He is an interestingly polarizing figure in pop culture today, and he makes videos that talk about screen writing and the screen writing process. He is a suddenly prolific writer. Go check his credits on IMDB. I bet you've seen one of the movies he's touched, and didn't even know it. Now, one of his continual points in his youtube is to never judge a movie by his name, because his script got chosen, even if the movie didn't follow it. But I tend to like the movies he's done. In terms of script.

That's a side topic though. I want to touch on his thought in the above youtube video. Never tell anyone your plans. If you started watching and stopped, go back and watch it through, it's less than 2 minutes. His most important thoughts come after the preamble. He says don't tell people your plans, until they're finalized. Don't wag your mouth about meetings and the things you're working on.

Don't follow his advice, and withhold your exciting developments, because people might judge you. You shouldn't care too much how people judge you. Follow his advice because of how it might end up making you feel. Bad. Don't put yourself in a situation of hyping up something that hasn't been confirmed, only to have to explain to someone later that it didn't happen. Not because they'll be disappointed, but because you will be.

I'm generally awful at following this advice. I have plans all the time. I want to do more art. I want to write. I want to play music. I want to practice my spanish. I need to practice my mandarin. I should clean my house. I'll work on an app this weekend. I'll exercise every morning. I'm going to eat better. All of these thoughts are fine in your head. But when you start telling people them, they put anxiety into your head space.

Now maybe you thrive on anxiety. Maybe you need the social pressure of failure to do great things. I can get behind that. But for me, I end up feeling like it doesn't help. It just makes me feel bad every time I'm not doing the thing.

I've been using a phrase more often in my life. "An appropriate amount of selfishness". I think selfishness gets a bad rap sometimes, because we are told we should care for others more than ourselves. But I am of the opinion that you can't care for anyone else, until you care for yourself more. I think you need to have an appropriate amount of selfish pride, selfish secrets, selfish joy, selfish time, and selfish gain. Care for yourself enough to give yourself the things you need. Be selfish enough not to hurt yourself for the pride of others.

I'm trying to live my life better and improve.

... ah shit, I just did it again, didn't I?

Tips for a successful slideshow presentation: continued
August 3, 2017, 9:37 am

If your job involves telling other people your ideas in a corporate environment, chances are, you've had to make a slideshow and do a presentation. Previously, I wrote about some tips to a successful slideshow presentation. Let's continue that conversation with some more tips. But this time let's do it with a more... purplish plum hue.

  • Make eye contact: I don't mean just look at your audience. I mean make a connection with as many people in the room as you can. This means making sure that you actually make eye contact. Both of you. The addendum to this tip, is that you should let your gaze meander around the room, never laying on one person too long.
  • Practice your presentation: You might think this one is obvious, and it is. But never the less, you need to practice your presentation. Out loud. Not in your head. Not reading it silently, once over. You need to get at least two or three people sat down in front of you, and you need to speak through your presentation. You don't need to memorize it, but the day you give your presentation should not feel like the first time looking at one of your slides. The rhythm of the presentation will make itself known in the action of presenting. A script writer can write a perfect scene, but until it's been filmed and put in front of an editor it never truly comes alive.
  • Make sure all the information is legible and able to be retained: This encompasses a number of concepts. The text you want your audience to know, needs to be able to be read. This means it must be a high contrast color. Find out what kind of screen you will be presenting on. Is it a projector, or a tv? A projector in a dark or a bright room? Small text on your screen might be impossibly small on a tv far from viewers. Give important phrases their own slide if your presentation is about making a point. Make last minute adjustments to your slideshow if necessary. Which leads me to...
  • Learn how to use your presentation software: Learn how to make master slides or whatever similar concept is in your slideshow software. Powerpoint master slides, Indesign master pages, and Keynote master slides will let you edit all of your page styles at once. They will also let you make last minute adjustments to text color or size to your entire document before a presentation. If you are only able to use a pdf, then at least know how to make it full screen. Of course if you can use real slideshow software, you'll be able to have a presentation mode. Take advantage of page notes, and a timer.
  • Lead into your point: Sometimes you show a slide and you start talking about it. But sometimes, do the opposite. Start talking about the topic of your next slide and as your sentence reaches a point, bring up a slide that enforces it. Mix up the rhythm of your presentation. Presenting is like jazz or love making. You can't just go at one pace and expect anyone to stay interested. Also, feel free to move around, there's some unexplored furniture in this place.
  • Set expectations: You might as well be a teacher with a classroom when you're doing a presentation. I mean, it's what we do every day. And one thing a teacher has to do is give the students a timeline for the expectations of the day. It helps them gauge the rhythm of the presentation and dance back to your music. There is a phrase I learned when I first started teaching. Tell them what you're going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them. Set up the expectation for what is to come in your talk. Give your timeline of events and then your thesis statement. At each landmark in your presentation make it known that you are shifting talking points. And at the end of your presentation, reiterate any important aspects of your presentation.

Thanks to my former colleague Jim Mollé and my former student Tammie Leung for some ideas to get the ball rolling on another post. If you have any other tips for a great presentation, I'd love to hear them.

Tips for a successful slideshow presentation
August 2, 2017, 9:07 am

It's my job to watch presentations periodically. And then judge them. That's just part of my job. I've seen a few presentations in my day. Some great ones. Mostly mediocre ones. Some bad. Here are some tips I've accrued to help a presenter make their slideshow a little bit better.

  • Have page numbers: If there's anything worse than sitting in a presentation and not knowing how long it will last, I don't know what it is. Please for the sake of your attendees, have page numbers on most of your pages (you don't need them for cool power slides) and include a total number as well. Something like 3/40. It makes the whole process so much better.
  • Don't read your slides: If you have a paragraph that isn't a direct quote on your slide, don't read it. Paraphrase. Slideshows should augment a presentation, not duplicate it. You should say words that are at least somewhat different than the words on your slide. Don't put pages of text onto the slides if you're just going to read them, put those into your notes, and put something more interesting onto the slideshow.
  • Use the spacebar, or a presentation remote: Heck, there are apps on the phone that can be used to control a slide deck. Step away from the podium, interact with your audience, and don't try to find the arrow keys every time a slide needs to change. Don't use the arrow keys. Use the space bar. You can find it with your eyes closed. It will advance the slides in every slideshow application ever.
  • 40 slides is like... perfect: If you think you have the perfect amount of slides, and it's over 40, you're wrong. Look if you're doing a 2 hour presentation, we might not be talking about the same thing. I'm talking about a 15 to 20 minute presentation to a company. You do not have enough time to cover 60 slides in that amount of time. Which leads me to...
  • Don't just skip slides: If your whole plan was just to waft through ten slides saying "and here was some process *click *click *click" DON'T. Don't do that. It takes all the wind out of the sails of your presentation, and it grinds interest to a halt. You've just told me, here's a bunch of stuff I shouldn't be interested in. If you have ten slides worth of nothing, make them into one slide of something. Even if it's ten small things.
  • Have an after deck: This is something I've come to realize only after watching many presentations that have a questions and answers session afterwards. You need more content than just your presentation. You need answers to every question that might come up. If you ever had someone disagree during the testing of your product/project you need to be able to justify your decisions, because those same questions are bound to come up if you don't address them directly in the presentation. So have a whole deck of slides after your presentation is over, that answer questions. More research. More designs. Justifications. Statistics and specifications. All that stuff that was too boring for an exciting presentation is all the stuff you would be wishing for during the Q&A.

I might add more to this list later, but I think these are the keypoints that I am constantly noticing with presentations. Things like watch your body language, and your ums, and speak up should all be implied. Check your spelling. Jesus, check your spelling and grammar. Pay someone else to do it.