Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Funny Little Modern Oddity

Yesterday, the oddest email landed in my inbox. It was from Amazon. "Paul Vigna," it said, "are you looking for something in our Industries in Business & Money eBooks department? If so, you might be interested in these items."

Now, what item do you think was at the top of the list? The Age of Cryptocurrency. Now that, I thought to myself, is fantastic. Amazon is promoting my book in its little email circulars (does anybody use the term circular for these kinds of things? Am I showing my age there?) I actually started getting pretty excited about it.

Then I thought about it for a second, and it dawned on me why that book was at the top of the list.

It was at the top of the list because I've been going to the website and looking the book up (this is the page, in case you're interested in a preorder). Not daily, but a lot, pretty much daily, probably more than anybody save maybe Mike. So, of course, what happened is obvious: Amazon's tracking software records that I've been there, and it almost certainly also knows I haven't placed an order (although that certainly shouldn't stop you). When it comes time for Amazon's algorithms to select the books I'm most likely to buy, because they're the ones I've been looking at, what does it pick?

The Age of Cryptocurrency.

Now, on the one hand, that's a nifty piece of software Amazon's got there. I'm quite sure they spend an awful lot of money to get that stuff right, and to be able to match people up with the things they are most likely to buy.  But on the other hand, it's a failure, because it sent an ad to the least likely person to buy that book. I mean, I've, like, already read it. The computer read my name on the sales side, but didn't read it on the author side. Or, if it did, it couldn't discern that they were the same (it's not like my name is Joe Greene, after all) and that it shouldn't try to sell me a book I wrote.

Modern living, man. It's a blast sometimes.

Still, I was excited to see Cryptocurrency there, and I'd imagine, or hope, it will be included in other circulars, to other people. So all in all it's a good sign.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Coming Soon: The Age of Cryptocurrency

Things are going to start happening quickly now, I think. "The Age of Cryptocurrency" is 75 days away from publication, Jan. 27. We got our first review, too, from Publishers Weekly. It's what they call a starred review, meaning it's got a little star next to it, which I'm told is their way of indicating this is an important book.

I sure as hell they're right; Mike Casey and I poured a lot into this book, and we really do think this is going to be the first comprehensive look not only at bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, but at everything that's gone into bringing them about and pointing at where they're going: their genesis, their cultural influence, their potential, the technology, where it can fit into the mainstream world, and what challenges that presents.

Publishers Weekly didn't do a full-blown review for the general public, mind you; that's not what they do. These reviews are mainly for media and book buyers, it's a way of telling them what's coming up.

Anyhow, it's pretty exciting. Now that we're done with the writing and editing (I believe), we're into planning the marketing and publicity. This is a completely new world for me.

Even though I never wrote a book before, I've certainly written. But I've never done press interviews, and book launches, and marketing, and everything that comes along with trying to sell a book. It's kind of fun.

Anyhow, here's their review:
While many readers understandably have a hard time wrapping their heads around the concept of non-government-backed currency, journalists Casey (Che’s Afterlife) and Vigna, who blog about cryptocurrency at the Wall Street Journal’s MoneyBeat blog, here use their considerable expertise to make the Bitcoin phenomenon accessible. They take a thorough, multidisciplinary approach to the topic, including a fascinating examination of the origin of money. The authors are appropriately cautious, warning that despite increased public awareness of Bitcoin, it remains a niche product, and the jury is still out on how far and how quickly it and other digital currency will spread. However, newcomers will gain a better understanding of the revolutionary potential of digital currency, especially for the “roughly 2.5 billion people from Afghanistan to Africa to even America who have been shut out of the modern finance system.” And the explication of the non-currency applications of the concepts behind Bitcoin—such as tamper-proof records of verified information—will be valuable to any reader. Agent: Gillian McKenzie, Gillian McKenzie Agency. (Jan.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Money Quotes

In line with a project I've been working on, I compiled a bunch of quotes about money, i.e., money quotes:

“Cursed he be above all others who’s enslaved by love of money.” – Anacreon, Greek lyric poet, 500 BC

“Of all the foul growths current in the world, the worst is money.” Sophocles 442 BC

“Love of money is the mother of all evils.” Diogenes the Cynic, 400-325 BC

“By right means if you can, but by any means makes money.” Horace, 13 BC

“Money, it has been said, is the cause of good things to a good man and of evil things to a bad man.” Philo, 20 BC-45 AD

“O cursed lust of gold!” Virgil, 19 BC

“The love of money grows as the money itself grows.” Juvenal, 60-140 AD (Crescit amor nummi quantum ipsa pecunia crescit)

“He is bound fast by his wealth…his money owns him rather than he owns it.” St. Cyprian, 200-258

“All things obeyen to moneye.” Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, 1387-1400

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Daredevil Joby Ogywn Recounts Everest Avalanche

On the morning of April 18, Joby Ogywn was lying in his sleeping bag, in a tent, at a base camp on the side of Mt. Everest, when he heard the awful sounds of the avalanche that would claim 16 lives, including three members of his own team. It was the single worst disaster in the history of the world's tallest mountain.

Ogywn, a famed daredevil, was prepping for an audacious stunt: climbing to the top of Everest and jumping off in a wingsuit. He canceled the stunt the next day (Discovery Channel was going to air it live), and started a relief fund to help the families of the victims.

He stopped by the newsroom to talk about that day, the relief fund, and why the the tragedy won't stop him from doing what he does for a living.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Norman Reedus

I should've posted this a while ago, just been busy on a whole load of other things, which I'll be talking about more over the rest of this year. In the meantime, we were lucky enough to snag Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon on "The Walking Dead" for this interview back in the beginning of March. 

Also, if you've got nothing better to do, here's my season finale recap. The last three episodes, we were not provided with screeners, so I was watching, taking notes, and writing all at the same time. Wasn't easy. Anyhow, it was a fun season - I know "fun" sounds odd to attach to a show about human catastrophe - and I'm already looking forward to October, when the show comes back, the Grimes clan fights it way out of that rail car, Carol and Tyreese find Terminus, and we finally find out what happened to Beth. We have to find out what happened to Beth.

Friday, January 31, 2014

I Died on Broadway

If I work for another 40 years, I may not have as much fun as I had today in making this video.

Broadway has been turned into Disneyland for football fans this week. From 47th to 34th, the whole thing is one big Super Bowl carnival; nothing but football fans and football games and football rides and the Lombardi Trophy. I don't know how you could not like it.

(Yes, that's a GoPro camera on my head. Sadly, none of that footage made the final cut.)

So anyhow, on Friday we grabbed a bunch of the WSJLive on-air talent and headed out to Times Square for a little field-goal kicking competition. I'd seen the goal posts set up on Broadway and 46th Street earlier in the week, and wanted a chance to get on there.

I got in touch with the NFL people, who were really very helpful, as they were earlier with our Lombardi segment. Honestly, I was surprised that we asked for two segments the week of the game, and they got back quickly and made we had everything we needed.

They blocked out a half-hour for us, and then it was just a matter of us making our kicks.

As a team, we weren't so hot. We went three for eight. Personally, I had an even worse performance. I was 0-3, shanked every one wide right. And on right on the Great White Way no less. The indignity.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Super Bowl Indicator and the Lombardi Trophy

Having some fun with the Super Bowl Boulevard thing they set up on Broadway this week. Went down to see the Lombardi Trophy and talk stocks with JC Parets.

Friday, January 17, 2014

You Can Do a Lot With Bitcoin

I collaborated with my colleague Mike Casey on a post this week, listing some of the things you can buy with bitcoin: tickets to the Sacramento Kings, classes at the University of Nicosia, gold (yeah, really, no kidding), dates, dates with other bitcoiners, a house in Southampton, luxury autos...well, you get the picture.

Yeah, bitcoin's still a mystery to most people. For what it's worth, I can state this definitively about bitcoin, though: it works. At least on an individual basis. I can say this because I have physically seen purchases made with bitcoin. Whether the currency ever gains wide acceptance or not, whether it can support large numbers of people using it, there are a lot of questions surrounding it. But on a small-scale basis, a simple transaction between two people, it works. It facilitates commerce.

Here's a bit of the post. You can read the whole thing over at the MoneyBeat blog.

From Space Travel to Pizza, Your Bitcoin Goes Far These Days

You can’t get much more mainstream than professional American sports. In that sense, Thursday’s news that the Sacramento Kings basketball team will let its fans use bitcoin to purchase tickets, jerseys, hot dogs and anything else from its selection of products may go down as a key moment in the digital currency’s coming of age. 

But this is only the latest in a steady progression of vendors choosing to transact in bitcoin, a group that is at the vanguard of the digital currency’s bid for legitimacy.

There are now tens of thousands of merchants around the world accepting bitcoin. Merchant processor Bitpay now has more 20,000 separate clients and says that at its current rate of growth it will hit 100,000 by year end.

So, even though bitcoin might not yet have truly earned mainstream status, there’s already a lot you can do with it.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

All the Me's (My First Touchcast)

I've started experimenting with Touchcast, a new software tool that allows you to do some really fascinating things with interactive video. It allows individuals to create some pretty professional looking videos, but what's really ingenious about is that all of the graphics that you bring into the video, pictures, charts, web pages, anything, are all interactive.The viewer can touch or click on them, and be pulled into that graphic.

It really is an amazing little program. They have a free version for iPad, and now a desktop version, too. The first time I saw it was back in May, when we made a pilot in the WSJLive studio with a more advanced rig, a touchscreen desktop computer. As cool as it is to watch, I think it's even more impressive to see it on the other side. At the time, I compared it to, as an anchor of a show, going from driving a Malibu to driving a Maserati. The picture above I took is actually the monitor, with my own reflection in it.

To get the full flavor of it, you'll have to watch the video on Touchcast's site. Here's the link to my channel. This is the first one I produced on my own. It's a goofy little thing about all the other people I found on through the web named Paul Vigna; you can get an idea of how powerful this technology can be.

Hopefully, I'll do more and better ones as I get more used to the technology.