Monthly Archives: August 2015

Tweether is Twitter on Ethereum to break access restrictions

TL:DR: a quick blockchain hack Tweether could let anyone, anywhere, post to twitter without governments limiting access.

This past weekend, ConsenSys held a hackathon with BlockApps for people to create distrubuted apps (dapps) running on the recently released “frontier” version of Ethereum.  I will try and explain all these organizations for those who are confused about all the names in the mix.  Ethereum is a venture-backed non-profit that created a platform which uses BitCoin’s blockchain and distributed consensus mechanisms to create a cloud computing environment that can’t be hacked, manipulated or taken down.  ConsenSys is a for-profit LLC that looks to invest in and support startups that are built on Ethereum, with the goal of creating a thriving ecosystem.  BlockApps is one such startup that offers dev support to other startups trying to get off the ground with Ethereum.  Joe Lubin is the lynchpin of it all.  He is a co-founder of Ethereum and ConsenSys, and his son Kieran runs BlockApps.

The hackathon produced some interesting dapps that highlighted the power of Ethereum.  One app created tools that allow individuals to create their own legally binding documents (crypto-law), create equity dispersement mechanisms for multi-owner entities that can’t be cheated, or distributed registries for things like pure-bread horses or dogs.  The one dapp that stood out was Tweether created by Stefan George, a Berlin-based ConsenSys employee. His Dapp Tweether is Twitter, but based on Ethereum. Anyone can tweeth, from anywhere.  All one needs is the address of any Ethereum node to do it, and there is no business behind it to intimidate, only permanent code running across the cloud, making a government blockade infeasible. Obviously what Tweether lacks that Twitter has is a huge user base that is reading content and can potentially make things viral.  My suggestion was to connect Tweether to Twitter and repost content with attribution which is technically simple, as long as Twitter is on board. And if the press is good, why wouldn’t they be.

He built the entire thing in 48 hours.

Ethereum runs the risk of gaining a bad rap.  If the first dapps that are released use the robustness of Ethereum to government intervention to do things in a legal gray area, say the next Silk Road, or prediction markets like Augur, that shady reputation could leak over to Ethereum itself.  Tweether presents a case of something that can be done quickly and uses those same advantages for social good (although some officials in China might quibble about what “good” is).  Tweether could give everyone a voice, representing real personal data empowerment, and at TwoSense we hope it is weaponized and released quickly to demonstrate the awesome positive potential of Ethereum.  Getting Ethereum branded as “the good guys” paves the way for startups like us to use their platform as engines for positive social change.

-dg @d4wud

Stop hatin’ on Google and Facebook.

When people talk about personal data privacy, there are two names we all love to be hatin’ on that always pop up: Google and Facebook. At TwoSense we are all about personal data empowerment and giving you control over your own data, so you’d think we’d hate them too. But we don’t, in fact we use them and like them to some extent. It’s companies like Zeotap and their cell carrier clients that we should really be hot and bothered about. Here’s why.

TL;DR Google and Facebook give you a fantastic utility for your data and don’t sell it. Data brokers give you nothing and make a killing.  Worse still are companies that you pay for a service which sell off your data anyway.

The internet ecosystem is full of the good, the bad and the really, really ugly companies when it comes to personal data and privacy.  Some of “the good” candidates we’ve talked about are people like Personal, who give you utility from your own data while working really hard to protect your privacy.  We’ve done our own fair share of Google and Facebook bashing, but in the end we posted those rants on Google and Facebook.  The truth is, they give us a service that we love, and we pay for it by having our attention monetized through targeted ads.  That’s what our data is being used for primarily. It’s not being sold or leased (we hope). In fact, our data is their secret sauce that they guard preciously. That gets them a score somewhere between good and bad.  But put into the context of what else is happening out there, their rating is far closer to good than bad.

Good Guy Google

The bad are the data brokers and warehousers who collect everything they can without giving you any utility whatsoever.  It’s brokers like Acxiom, Epsilon and Experian to name a few that really grind our gears.  This is a $200Bn industry that churns away in the background, tracking everyone and everything and selling that info off for whatever they can get for it.  They offer no service to you directly and you really have no benefit from their existence at all.  They are “the bad” in the personal data ecosystem, but they aren’t “the ugly.”


The really, really ugly are the businesses where you pay for a service and get monetized anyway. “The ugly” just hit the news as a new startup Zeotap announced that it raised $4.6M to help cell carriers monetize all the data they have about from their users and generate “much needed” revenue. Cell carries offer consumer-facing cell service like AT&T that you pay to get your iPhone online, and we pay enough to generate a projected $1.5Bn for the top 4 US carriers in 2015 alone, so “much needed” is apparently meant relatively. And Zeotap is not the only one: Verizon failed spectacularly to launch their own version with a broken opt-out.

“That’s like buying a house and then having the previous owner
continue to AirBnB out a bedroom.”

Both companies claim to protect the privacy of the end-user, but a) data is intrinsically identifying, and b) why should any business a be further monetizing me for a service I pay for? That’s like buying a house and then having the previous owner continue to AirBnB out a bedroom. It’s your house, why shouldn’t you get the payment for that service?  So why would it be OK when it comes to your data data?  The infrastructure to enable you to offer those services yourself don’t yet exist, but that’s only an engineering problem.  Even if it did exist though, the value the cell carriers have comes from having data on millions of users, so a lot of people would need to opt in with you to make it happen.  

TwoSense wants to bring you, the end user, and others like you together to make you the money that third parties are earning with your data. Join us and help us to empower you.

-dg @D4wud