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TruBlo Newsletter #3

TruBlo Newsletter #3


TruBlo 1st Open Call – join until March 19, 2021.

Up to 175.000 Euro for innovative ideas. Apply here


News

Trust, Content, Blockchain, Next Generation Internet.


Blockchain for business: Why is it not taking off?

The value of Bitcoin is rising. But the hype there has so far not helped with business solutions using blockchain. Why is development in this area so slow? 

A report from MIT Sloan says:

“The biggest challenge to companies creating blockchain apps isn’t the technology — it’s successfully collaborating with ecosystem partners”. 

International container shipping is an example: If implemented, containers could one day pass through customs faster. But this will only happen once many shipping compannies and port authorities adopt the technology. 

Early blockchain projects for business are in a catch-22 situation: They need a network to be valuable. 

For the study researchers studied over a dozen live blockchain applications including TradeLens, the IBM Food Trust, the Grass Roots Farmer Cooperative, We.Trade, KoreConX, MediLedger, Santander (bond issuance and settlement), SmartResume, WineChain, ANSAcheck, Rapid Medical Parts (3D printing of parts to convert sleep apnea machines to hospital-grade respirators), Stellar (payments platform), and Xbox royalty payments (compensating content creators).

So, everyone is waiting for the first big success to open the gates. 

Key takeaway: Should you plan a blockchain project consider how it could be picked up fast by many users or many members of one particular group. LINK


A way to timestamp documents

Wordproof offers a way to add verification options to online articles, through “timestamps”. Using a hash value which is then stored in a blockchain this creates a “birth certificate” for content. The company offers a module which can be added to WordPress for this purpose. For starters, there is a free plan. Plus, there is a video showing how timestamps work. Video


Clubhouse would like to access your contacts

“When you join the fast-growing, invite-only social media app Clubhouse — lucky you! — one of the first things the app will ask you to do is grant it access to your iPhone’s contacts. A finger icon points to the “OK” button, which is also in a bolder font and more enticing than the adjacent “Don’t Allow” option. You don’t have to do it, but if you don’t, you lose the ability to invite anyone else to Clubhouse.”

This sounds like the next privacy and what is surprising is that it starts the way other such issues started: By an eagerness to gather data – without making it clear for what reason. Why would my doctor want to join Clubhouse? Let him decide. Why is this strategey of collecting all those names a higher priority than a rock-solid user experience? LINK


Facebook reports rise in content takedowns

In the last quarter of 2020 Facebook took down 6,3 million posts to enforce against online bullying and harrassement. The number has rissen from 3,5 million takedowns in the third quarter of 2020. LINK


12 ways to build trust for tech companies

An article published on Forbes lists up 12 ways to gain trust. Among them: Transparency, showing that privacy is important by example and “privacy by design”. Blockchain is listed as the enabling technology. LINK


In 2020 consumers spent $13 billion on non-game subscriptions, up from $9,7

The market for paid content, in various forms, is growing. In the past it was very difficult to make money this way, but this has changed. Figures reported by Sensor Tower say spending has increased by 34% in one year. if LINK


Fifty million content creators

“There are currently over 50 million creators on Youtube, Instagram, Twitch, TikTok, and other social media platforms. Two million of them are full-time, and they earn six-figure salaries by creating content daily or weekly. And that massive distributed content creation engine means that about 90% of the video, audio, photo, and text-based content consumed today by Gen Z is created by individuals, not corporations.”

Via Forbes. This is a from mid-2020, but notable.
LINK


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TruBlo Newsletter #2

TruBlo Newsletter #2

Trust and privacy have been high on the list of relevant topics this week. We collected relevant updates for this short newsletter. 

Is there a topic or project you would like to hear more about? You can reach us anytime via info@trublo.eu. Website: Trublo.eu


TruBlo Project 1st Open Call

Open until March 19, 2021. Apply here

Frequently Asked: Is it possible to apply to multiple NGI projects at the same time?

It is not possible to get funding for the same idea from different NGI projects. Here is our advice: You can apply to several open calls, provided your idea fits into the focus of the call. But once your idea gets accepted in one call, you have an obligation to cancel participation in the other. A short notice is sufficient to do so. 

Frequently Asked: How much funding is available per applicant?

Our 1st open call has a total budget of 950.000 Euro. Independent jurors will select the ten best projects. These projects will receive up to 75.000 Euro. After six months, the best two projects have a chance for an additional 100.000 Euros to extend their projects even further. How much an applicant can receive is subject to the legal status (single researcher or company). Our FAQ page has all the infos: LINK


News


Blockchain 50, 2021 (Forbes)

Forbes magazine published an updated list of relevant blockchain companies this week. 

Quote: “Bitcoin’s 2020 surge grabbed the attention of C-suite executives worldwide; not only are companies employing the technology underlying Bitcoin to perform tasks such as reconciling invoices and verifying product provenance, but dozens are now holding Bitcoin as a treasury asset.”

Many large companies on the list, with a wide range of use cases. Some are after financial gains, others work on better workflows based on blockchain (e.g. logistics). So, two fundamentally different approaches.

This mix of motivations is making it very difficult to judge how far blockchain is making inroads into the fabric of workflows, in reality. We need to have a bit of patience whether the projects will last.
LINK


Apple intensifies the focus on data privacy

The impression right now: Apple expects user privacy to become a reason for consumers to switch from one offering to the other – or even to stop using a platform that is not transparent. As a result the company is strongly pushing towards more privacy. 

This week Apple published a digital brochure called: “A day in the life of your data”. The story is about a father and his daughter spending a day in the park. How much data is shared and how is this data used? This is relevant user information, but of course with a PR twist. There are direct jabs towards Facebook and other platforms. LINK

In addition: Last week Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke at CPDP21, the EU Data Protection Conference. He took a strong stand against private data being used without transparency. Tim Cook on privacy


Facebook introduces new pop-ups asking for permission to use data

The business model of Facebook is in peril should users around the world change their views on sharing usage data. Recently the company introduced a new pop-up screen in their app on iPhones. Users are asked for permission that their data is used. It is one step against the the plans of Apple and Google to change the way how user data is handled. Expect to see this battle heat up further in 2021. 

In terms of reputation Facebook is not in the best position: “Fortune recently released its list of the World’s Most Admired Companies. Apple, for the 14th year in a row, sits at the top. Facebook isn’t even on the list. Seriously–there are 332 companies listed according to their reputation, and Facebook isn’t one of them.” LINK


The next 50 years in tech?

Benedict Evans writes a really good technology newsletter, with helpful analysis of what is going on. His key question is always: What does this mean? In addition, every year he puts together a presentation deck. Here he asks: What is next? This years presentation is called: The great unbundling. It is a long presentation, but full of data and analysis. The last chapter discusses what is going on right now: Privacy, trust, regulation of so far often unregulated internet platforms. Worth your time. LINK



Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

TruBlo Newsletter #1

TruBlo Newsletter #1

Let us know about topics you are interested in. You can reach us anytime at info@trublo.eu.

TruBlo Open Call # 1 started

The objective of our Open Call #1 is to invite academic teams, researchers, SMEs and startups to define and implement small scale research projects on two topics:
  • Trust and reputation models on blockchains
  • Proof-of-validity and proof-of-location of content
Topic one targets innovative applications, demonstrators and technical approaches which increase the level of trust in user-generated content. Topic two is about new mechanisms towards transparency and trustworthiness of the content. The call is open until March 19, 2021, at 17:00 CET. After that we proceed in two phases: For phase 1, a total of ten projects will be selected to conceptualize a research project for one of the two focus topics. There is nine months time for this work. Then, in the next phase, two projects from the original ten will be retained based on their quality. These two will get another six months (and additional funding) to elaborate on their concepts. The total funding available is 950.000 Euro. A note on that: The maximum amount of funding each beneficiary may receive during the TruBlo open calls is subject to the legal status of the applicant. Documents describing the details can be downloaded on the TruBlo website. If you want to participate and have questions please use info@trublo.eu to get in touch. Also, if you know individuals or teams who would be interested in participating please pass on this information.

News


EDMO: United against disinformation

TruBlo cooperates with the European Digital Media Observatory (EDMO). EDMO started its activities on 1 June 2020. The organisation will serve as a hub for fact-checkers, academics and other relevant stakeholders to collaborate with each other and actively link with media organisations, media literacy experts, and provide support to policymakers. LINK

Google to open a center against harmful online content in Dublin

A new “Google Safety Engineering Center” will be located at the site of the Google European headquarters.  It is the first team focusing on this issue in the world for Google. Europe, according to a Reuters news report, has taken the lead in developing new rules for digital platforms. One key demand is that digital platforms take more responsibility to remove harmful content. LINK

Twitter starts Birdwatch, a community-based approach to tackle misinformation

The idea is to let users flag tweets with misleading information. The new offering is currently in a pilot in the US. You can follow the project, it has its own Twitter account LINK

Twitter: Could the next Twitter be decentralised?

Twitter, again. A group of technology experts has published a review of various available technologies which could enable decentralised social networks. This a step forward for the so-called “Bluesky” project, which was initiated by Twitter last year. Bluesky is still in the very early stages, currently, the company searches for a team leader. The work has the support of Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey though. In tweets, he stated the hope that decentralised technologies solve some of today’s communication challenges. Backstory: In late 2019 Twitter announced to fund a small group of experts to explore whether a social network could use decentralised technology. Now a report is available. The paper is an interesting read, providing an overview of what technologies could be used. The report discusses how to support key features of a social network, such as discoverability, moderation and privacy. It further covers how such new platforms could make money. The technologies listed include ActivityPub (in use at Mastodon), Solid (initiated by Tim Berners-Lee) and other approaches. Download the report here: LINK

Video: The subtle aspects of how we form trust

What is this thing called trust? Can we define it? In order to create new technology, we should go deeper here. Rachel Botsman is a leading expert on the topic. She is the author of a book called “Who can you trust?”. Our link leads you to a public talk she gave at the DLD conference: “The currency of trust”. LINK
What We Know About Twitter Project “Bluesky”, so far

What We Know About Twitter Project “Bluesky”, so far

Key points about Bluesky: As of January 2021 the project has not officially started, nor does it have a dedicated project manager or a team. But based on initiative by Twitter a group of experts investigated what it would mean for Twitter to be decentralised. The findings were published in a report on January 21, 2021.

In this brief article we collected all currently known information about the – potential – project. Further we look at key findings of a report published by a group of experts, initiated by Twitter.

Chronology: On December 19, 2019 Jack Dorsey anounced in a tweet that a small team of five experts would be funded to explore a decentralised standard for social media in general. In other words: Twitter started an exploration how the architecture of social media in general could be changed. Dorsey said that Twitter could “ultimately” become a client of the standard. After this though there was more or less silence about Bluesky. 

Update January 2021

Bluesky was mentioned again after quite dramatic events, when Twitter indefinetly blocked the popular account of Ex-US president Donald Trump. In a threat discussing the decision Dorsey mentioned his hope that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin be the basis for new, decentralised networks and new models for privacy, moderation and monetisation.

What the experts found 

A week later an open report got published, based on the findings of a group of experts. The report has 59 pages and provides an overview about existing protocols and applications. At the core it aims to describe the pro’s and con’s of technologies which are already available.

To that end existing applications like Aether, Diaspora and Mastodon and others are discussed. In a dedicated called “Topics” the examination goes into more detail which components could help to create the next generation of social networks. Here aspects such as data, discovery, identity, moderation and business models are discussed.

Link to download the report via Matrix.org

To provide an example of the content, here is what the authors say about the options to handle privacy using the various components: A big challenge for the shift from todays centralised networks to the future would be monetisation. The report looks at three layers applicable for business models: The application level, provider level and protocol level. 

  • Charging on the application level is what is done mostly in todays centralised social offerings and, in theory, this could be done for decentralised platforms too.  This would include advertising or – in reverse – charging a fee from users who want to get an ad-free experience. Another way to monetise would be charges for promoted tweets, charging for custom curation or moderation. In addition a platform could receive a cut of monetised services offered by third parties. 
  • Next comes the provider level. Here charging a commission from applications would be an option. Further members could be charged a fee or for premium features like storage. 
  • As a third option the document discusses something new: How to to create business models at the protocol level, by utilising tokens based on an existing or newly created cryptocurrency. 

Brave Browser as an example

As an example the authors talk about the Brave Browser. This alternative browser, created by people who formerly worked on the Firefox browser, uses “Basic Attention Tokens” (BAT) as a currency. An ad must be paid in BAT, for placement. Users of the Brave browser can earn BAT, by looking at ads. They can later donate the BAT to publishers of their choice. 

Instead of a newly created currency it would be possible to use existing cryptocurrencies, too.

Summary

It is exciting to see a major platform rethink how it could re-invent itself for a decentralised future. However, project Bluesky is in very early stages. What the building blocks for decentralised platforms are evolving there is no killer-application at the moment and the market for alternative offerings to the main social networks is quite fragmented. 

Latest status of project Bluesky, according to a tweet by Jack Dorsey, January 2021

Links:

Adi Robertson: “Twitter’s decentralized social network project takes a baby step forward”, The Verge, January 21, 2020.

Jay Graber and contributors: Ecosystem Review (PDF), January 2021

Brave (web browser), Wikipedia entry