With Strategy, the Medium is the Message

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The mediums you use to communicate strategy are more important than the strategies themselves.

Image source.

Note: This is my latest in a series of posts on innovation theory inspired by the philosophy of Levi Bryant.

Marshall McLuhan, with his famous quote, “the medium is the message,” makes the point that the content of a message is less significant than the medium used.

To illustrate, consider two parallel societies. Both societies have the same laws. In one of the societies, the laws are only spoken by the leader and shared verbally from citizen to citizen. In the other society, the leader speaks the laws but they’re also inscribed on walls and on paper.

In both societies, the content of the laws are the same but the media Is different. One uses speech and the other uses writing.

The difference in media has a profound impact. Through his research into societies with spoken versus written laws, the anthropologist Jean-Pierre Vernant concluded that the “[s]etting [laws] down [in writing] not only ensured their permanence and stability; it also removed them from the private authority of the [ruler], whose function was to ‘speak’ the law” (as quoted by Levi Bryant in Onto-Cartography).

The sound waves of speech can only travel so far. Its content transforms from one listener to the next and fades away in memory. Without inscription, a spoken law is a commandment that the leader can easily alter with minimal accountability. The leader issuing laws is the lone authority on what the law actually is.

When a law is written down, in contrast, it takes on an existence independent of the leader who uttered it. This leader can still change the law, but they must reconcile modifications with the law in its previous form. Bryant explains:

… insofar as the law has been inscribed or written down, it takes on an objective value that rescues it from the whim of the ruler. In being inscribed, the law becomes a thing or machine in its own right rather than a command of the ruler. To be sure, the law written down issued from the ruler, but in its inscription on parchment or the wall of a temple, it now takes on an alien existence, an independent existence, that the ruler himself must contend with. Today he might be inclined to enact a different law, but because his “speech” lingers in the form of the written document, the ruler now finds that he must mesh what he said last year with what he wishes to decree today. Indeed, not only must he contend with what he said last year, but he must also contend with what previous rulers inscribed.

Written laws can be copied and proliferated without changes to the content. While interpretations of the law differ for individuals, the words themselves aren’t subject to the game of telephone.

Consequently, societies with written laws can scale across larger geographical areas than societies with only spoken law. It is not the laws themselves that facilitate the scale but the medium in which the laws are communicated. This is what McLuhan means by “the medium is the message.”

You can apply McLuhan’s principle to corporate communication. While it’s tempting for leaders to focus foremost on creating the right strategy, the mediums they use to communicate strategy are more important than the strategies themselves.

Strategic direction must constantly shift with signal from the real world. A leader’s pivots risk losing the confidence of the team. By writing down and sharing the rationale behind a shift, a leader makes the new strategy easily transferable and projects sound reasoning throughout the company. When strategy changes are only discussed verbally, in contrast, the intent can be lost in translation leaving contributors feeling jerked around by the whims of management.

Just as lack of written law inhibits a society’s scale, lack of written strategy stifles startup growth.

More companies, on the growth path, are following Google and The Gates Foundation in using OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). OKRs are a framework where teams and individuals define their goals and measurable criteria indicating progress. OKRs are captured in spreadsheets or tools to be shared openly with the company at large.

The rise of the OKR model demonstrates that more companies recognize that the medium is the message. Brilliant strategies raining down from the executive team are insufficient for success as teams scale. Instead, a culture of open, stable, and written strategy is required to navigate an evolving landscape.

My project, Double-Loop, is another application of McLuhan’s principle. Double-Loop creates the expectation that product developers explain the hypotheses of their launches and loop back to examine the results relative to the original goal. The result is a culture of scientific product development. Double-Loop reflects that the mediums you use to communicate your product ideas are more important than the ideas themselves.

Mediums, in McLuhan’s sense, go beyond what you might traditionally think of as a medium. Levi Bryant explains:

We can see just how broadly McLuhan expands the concept of media, giving it a much deeper ontological significance than it is often taken to have. Often when we think of media we immediately think of things such as newspapers, television, music, etc. While these are indeed examples of media, McLuhan expands the notion to include everything from forks to seeing eye dogs. McLuhan thus recovers the Latinate sense of media as medius, denoting “intermediary.” A medium is an intermediary that relates one thing to another. Thus, for McLuhan, a medium does not so much refer to a particular medium of communication such as speech, sign-language, radio, television, writing, or smoke-signals — though all of these things are included in his theory of media — but rather places emphasis on both the materiality of media and the specific nature of that materiality, as well as the manner in which these media extend and amplify our sense-organs.

Bryant goes even further than McLuhan in arguing that machines can be mediums for other non-humans machines. In this sense, for example, your analytics systems are mediums for your website.

McLuhan and Bryant’s broad understanding of media is a valuable lens for understanding how a company’s systems and tools profoundly impact long-term success. What your company is doing at one moment is less important than the mediums its selected to structure the behavior of multiple generations of employees.

With Strategy, the Medium is the Message was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

AWS Events Analysis with ELK

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Recording your AWS environment activity is a must have. It can help you monitor your environment’s security continuously and detect suspicious or undesirable activity in real-time. Hence, saving thousands of dollars. Luckily, AWS offers a solution called CloudTrail that allow you to achieve that. It records all events in all AWS regions and logs every API calls in a single S3 bucket.

From there, you can setup an analysis pipeline using the popular logging stack ELK (Elasticsearch, Logstash & Kibana) to read those logs, parse, index and visualise them in a single dynamic dashboard and even take actions accordingly:

To get started, create an AMI with the ELK components installed and preconfigured. The AMI will be based on an Ubuntu image:

To provision the AMI, we will use the following shell script:

Now the template is defined, bake a new AMI with Packer:

Once the AMI is created, create a new EC2 instance based on the AMI with Terraform. Make sure to grant S3 permissions to the instance to be able to read CloudTrail logs from the bucket:

Issue the following command to provision the infrastructure:

Head back to AWS Management Console, navigate to CloudTrail, and click on “Create Trail” button:

Give it a name and apply the trail to all AWS regions:

Click on “Create“, and the trail should be created as follows:

Next, configure Logstash to read CloudTrail logs on an interval basis. The geoip filter adds information about the geographical location of IP addresses, based on sourceIPAddress field. Then, it stores the logs to Elasticsearch automatically:

In order for the changes to take effect, restart Logstash with the command below:

A new index should be created on Elasticsearch (http://IP:9200/_cat/indices?v)

On Kibana, create a new index pattern that match the index format used to store the logs:

After creating index, we can start exploring our CloudTrail events:

Now that we have processed data inside Elasticsearch, let’s build some graphs. We will use the Map visualization in Kibana to monitor geo access to our AWS environment:

You can now see where the environment is being accessed from:

Next, create more widgets to display information about the identity of the user, the user agent and actions taken by the user. Which will look something like this:

You can take this further and setup alerts based on specific event (someone accesses your environment from an undefined location) to be alerted in near real-time.

Full code can be found on my GitHub. Make sure to drop your comments, feedback, or suggestions below — or connect with me directly on Twitter @mlabouardy.

AWS Events Analysis with ELK was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How Blockchain And Cryptocurrencies Could Greatly Impact Retailers

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Photo by Hitesh Choudhary on Unsplash

Cryptocurrencies tend to make a lot of headlines these days; usually, and unfairly, for negative reasons.

Any new technology is going to receive its fair share of criticism and skeptics, but that early pessimism often overlooks the upside those innovations offer.

It’s the same thing with blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Despite all of the hand-wringing that takes place about how the technology will disrupt the financial sector, its potential to bring positive changes to the world far outweigh its purported risks. Even in the early stages of global blockchain adoption, both businesses and consumers are starting to recognize the incredible value of using the technology as a catalyst for transformation.

Some retailers are already taking advantage by accepting Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as forms of payment. Online e-commerce sites Overstock, Expedia and Newegg are just a few that already take Bitcoin as a secured payment method. It’s inevitable that more retailers, including brick-and-mortar stores, will start accepting cryptocurrencies in the future. They have plenty of reasons to embrace blockchain and spur further crypto adoption.

Here are the biggest opportunities for retailers.

Improved Safety and Trust of Transactions

Blockchain benefits payments and transactions in several ways. First, since it functions as a distributed ledger, it makes it easy to track payments and deliver payments securely. Secure payments are essential for e-commerce brands, and blockchain allows for very secure payment platforms, e.g. with Bitcoin. The value of this security is even more significant when making cross-border payments, or when facilitating purchases from international customers.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies can enable purchases and transactions from consumers who currently exist outside of a payment system. As Forbes notes, this makes it easier to do business with international consumers, many of whom lack access to a financial system that facilitates cross-border transactions. Not only can security be an issue, but traditional transaction methods come with very high fees, whereas the cost for blockchain-based transactions would be nominal, even though the security is superior.

Tokenized Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs are often overly complicated and require a lot of management and upkeep. Tracking rewards on an individual level is taxing for many organizations, even with a digital management system in place.

I think that blockchain will eventually be used to track loyalty rewards through the use of tokens, creating a low-maintenance, efficient, easy system for running a loyalty program. Consumers will also be able to update, use, or transfer their rewards in real-time, improving the customer experience. Through the use of blockchain, which is potentially perfectly scalable to serve any consumer base as the technology progresses, brands can implement an easy-to-use, fixed-cost system that treats rewards points like digital currency and increases consumer engagement with the rewards program.

Tools to Counter Knock-Off Products

One of the benefits of blockchain is its ability to authenticate purchases, transactions, even entire supply chains. While blockchain makes it very difficult to counterfeit cryptocurrencies, it also could be used to verify the authenticity of counterfeited products.

High-end retail items from luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Rolex and Coach are in a constant battle with cheap knock-offs that replicate the brand’s logos and designs. Blockchain could be used to track a product’s progress from assembly through shipment and onto delivery, authenticating the product’s origins and verifying its status as a genuine luxury product.

Through this application, consumers would be less vulnerable to consumer product fraud, while businesses would gain better control of their brand and their products.

Combating fraud, theft and poor brand experiences remain ongoing challenges for retail brands. By leveraging blockchain and cryptocurrencies as part of their commercial strategy, retailers can improve their service to customers while enabling faster, more secure transactions.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

If you want to learn more about trading, technical analysis, or even just chat about the market

Stop by Cosmic Trading and say hello, my Discord handle is Joakim#0209

How Blockchain And Cryptocurrencies Could Greatly Impact Retailers was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How Blockchain Is Revolutionizing Foreign Aid Delivery

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When people hear the word ‘Blockchain’, they usually think of Bitcoin.

Perhaps they think back to a sensational media headline about:

‘Bitcoin being in a bubble’

‘Bitcoin being used by criminals’

or other similar exaggerations.

The reality is that the underlying technology that makes cryptocurrencies possible, blockchain, has a wide variety of uses, far beyond that of just the financial markets. Many, or most, of these uses are objectively good. In refugee camps and aid distribution centers around the world, blockchain technology is poised to revolutionize aid delivery, with cases of its use already appearing. This article will examine how blockchain technology can be used to improve the lives of refugees, and how it‘s being used for that purpose, right now.

Greater Transparency Of Aid Distribution

One of the greatest challenges in distributing foreign aid is making sure it reaches the right people. Foreign aid goes through various middlemen, which can make it difficult to track the distribution of funds. This is especially true in the developing world, where record keeping often doesn’t meet international financial reporting standards. Blockchain makes it possible to easily track the flow of funds, anywhere around the world. This provides greater transparency than ever to ensure the effective distribution of aid.

Reducing The Risk Of Fraud

Blockchain technology can also reduce the risk of fraud or theft in the aid distribution chain. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Firstly, blockchain technology allows for there to be verification of transactions from NGOs to government agencies, and finally to the end recipients. With usage of the technology, all transactions made, and their records, are immutable; meaning that they can not be tampered with or altered. This makes theft far more difficult, and infinitely more traceable. In addition, the blockchain-based transactions can be paired with biometric data to confirm when those in need actually receive funds, as well as how they’re spent.

The World Food Program In Jordan

The World Food Program has combined the usage of blockchain technology with biometric technology to ensure secure, efficient delivery of foreign aid to Syrian refugees living in Jordan. At the Zaatari refugee camp, displaced Syrians can walk to the grocery store, select what products they need, and pay by simply glancing at a retinal scanner. The identity of every refugee in the camp is stored digitally in a biometric database. At the point of sale, the retinal scanner confirms the buyer’s identity, queries a World Food Program account on a variant of the Ethereum blockchain, and settles the bill.

This all happens without cash ever changing hands in the refugee camp.

Blockchain For Good

Blockchain technology has the power to revolutionize aid delivery in the developing world, and the ability to change the lives of many for the better as a consequence of that. Greater security and accountability will make it easy to confirm when aid has actually reached its intended recipients. Greater accountability may also make it easier for NGOs to raise funds from donors, now that they can see and track the direct impact of their contributions.

The Zaatari refugee camp could be the model for getting critical aid to those who need it most, or it could turn out to just be a stepping stone to something better. It represents an important, and easily forgotten reminder:

blockchain technology is not just a tool to be used for speculative assets, but also for the bettering of the world, and all its people.

— — — — — — — — — — —

If you want to learn more about trading, technical analysis, or even just chat about the market

Stop by Cosmic Trading and say hello, my Discord handle is Joakim#0209

How Blockchain Is Revolutionizing Foreign Aid Delivery was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

“That’s our Two Satoshis” — Crypto Market Recap (BTC, ETH, XLM, EOS, LINK)

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What happened this week in the Crypto markets?

A Sea of Red

Last month’s gains are starting to look like a mirage — as the crypto market continues to hemorrhage following a second straight week of double digit losses. Bitcoin fell 10% to $6300 last week, while the overall Crypto market cap declined by another $40B (not an insignificant number considering the entire asset class now represents just $213 bn in value).

The carnage started on Tuesday when the SEC extended the deadline of the VanEck ETF proposal to September 30th, causing Bitcoin to drop $500 intraday, and the rest of the market reacted in kind. We did not expect the SEC to approve the Van Eck filing in August nor do we expect an approval in 2018. The downward price action continued throughout the week, accelerating into Thursday and Friday. We believe we have entered a “Capitulation phase”, where many retail investors have given up on trying to recoup gains and have sold off their portfolios at a loss, unable to cope with the daily stressors of the market. This is historically the tail end of a bear market.

It is perhaps curious that Bitcoin has such a perceived dependence on the SEC’s looming decision. Cryptocurrency was the brainchild of a group of people disheartened by how ‘money’ was controlled by banks and regulatory agencies — yet here we are in 2018, nearly 10 years after the Bitcoin Whitepaper was written, watching as a regulatory agency’s decision (or lack thereof) dominates the price action of the whole market.

Elsewhere, other large cap tokens such as Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin (LTC) and Eos (EOS) were hit much harder than Bitcoin, falling between 20–40% on extremely thin volumes (more on volumes below). Ethereum is particularly interesting to watch. The majority of ICO projects raised funds in Ethereum, but these project owners have no need to hold ETH, especially in a declining market. As a result, there is a consistent overhang from these project owners looking to offload ETH in order to secure enough funds to keep operations afloat. An example of this was seen in EOS, which sold their remaining ETH in June and July of this year — a position that had initially been as high as 3 million ETH. From what we can tell, almost all of the selling pressure at these depressed prices is coming from short-sellers looking to push prices lower until they find resistance, and ICO project owners.

Low volume / wide markets — perspective on illiquid securities

At this point in time, we want to remind our readers that the Arca Funds team has decades of experience trading illiquid assets, like high yield bonds, distressed bonds, emerging markets debt, and reorg equities. It is not uncommon to buy a distressed bond on the way down at 80 cents on the dollar, 60 cents on the dollar and 40 cents on the dollar… in the same day. News comes out, prices adjust, and market participants must react to new prices that may or may not be transactable (i.e. it takes time to get to a market equilibrium where there are equal buyers/sellers on both sides).

Bringing this back to crypto, just because crypto exchanges allow anyone to see real-time prices does NOT mean that any trading is actually happening at these levels. This is an extremely immature market that is lulling people into a false sense of liquidity by showing constantly available prices that appear to be transactable, but really aren’t. Crypto is largely an OTC driven market — and that can mean very wide Bid/Ask spreads as buyers and sellers are miles apart. As a result, liquidity is thin in crypto right now. Prices of many crypto assets are falling dramatically and swiftly on little to no volume. Most of these tokens, including some of the ones that are perceived to be liquid, are moving lower without sellers. Market makers are like casino bookies — they don’t care which side wins, they just want to find a level where there is even action on both sides (so they can make their money on higher volumes). We believe illiquidity was a primary contributor to last week’s price action. The selling largely stopped two weeks ago, but there just were not enough buyers to bring the market to equilibrium — so market makers continue to test the market lower to see where the buyers will step in. When they finally step in and we touch a “floor”, there will be very little volume traded down at the bottom either as we quickly bounce back up to see if any sellers are still there at these lower levels. It takes a different approach and discipline to invest in volatile, illiquid markets — one in which we’re very comfortable.

Macro Concerns

We have been tracking several macro trends that we believe have an impact on crypto, and markets in general. The first trend is inflation and how higher commodity prices will impact digital assets (See our thoughts on commodities and oil here). Inflation is of high concern and the primary mandate for central banks who are preparing for battle by raising rates, first in the US by the Fed, and now by the ECB, as described here. Higher rates have an effect on Emerging Market economies, as their borrowing costs are more reliant on the Fed Funds rate and LIBOR than their own local rates. Hawkish policies by the Fed, ECB, and BoE have hurt Emerging Markets, as demonstrated by the recent depreciation of the Turkish Lira (-20% last week) and the South African Rand (-10% yesterday). Onerous tariffs have also been a catalyst for this move. We have been tracking correlations between crypto and other risk assets, such as EM equities, but we believe that hyper-inflation and currency volatility will drive more adoption into cryptocurrency.

For specific information about Arca or the Arca Funds, click here.

Notable movers and shakers

The overall market fell an astonishing 21% last week, on the heels of a 15% loss the week before. Very few assets were safe in crypto, with a few exceptions and notable movers.

  • Chainlink (LINK) was up 10.5% last week, and +20% versus BTC. The Chainlink development team has been extremely active — it’s the 18th most active project out of thousands in the last 9 months. A storm seems to be brewing in the background with this project as they gear up for mainnet release.
  • The XRP/XLM battle rages on, with XRP falling 30% and XLM falling 9.5%. Ripple and Stellar have been classified as competitors ever since Jed McCaleb left Ripple to found Stellar in 2013/2014. While they tackle different sectors of banking (transaction fees vs. remittance network), they are always brought up in tandem for comparison. While XRP has been the dominant project thus far, it seems to be losing significant steam to XLM, as depicted in the chart below made by a prominent cryptocurrency analyst on Twitter.
  • Bitcoin (BTC) dominance has now reached 50.8%, and shows no signs of slowing down. In an extended bear market such as this, Bitcoin continues to be the safe haven in the store of value debate. With markets, traditional and otherwise, suffering (see Turkish Lira and South African Rand), Bitcoin offers stability.

What we’re reading this week

Has Blockchain Hype Peaked?

  • Blockchain fatigue has begun to hit firms, as evidenced by a decline in the number of times ‘blockchain’ was mentioned on earnings calls. In 2018 companies seem to be more cautious on name dropping crypto related terms.

Real life Security Token use case — Real Estate properties being sold on Blockchain

  • We’ve argued that the best is yet to come for crypto assets, particularly security tokens. Soon, the fact that you are buying assets on the blockchain won’t even be a topic of conversation, it will be assumed (much like ETFs are assumed to be the vehicle that you buy baskets of stocks now). In this case, the equity of The St. Regis Aspen Resort is being sold to investors via a new “Aspen token”.

Brave Browser Redefining Online Advertisement

  • Brave will add Twitter and Reddit support by the end of the year, allowing for users to cash in on tweets and posts. This will be done voluntarily by user donations to authors of content they find worthwhile, using the cryptocurrency BAT as payment.

Bitcoin No Longer Dominated by Criminal Use

  • According to the U.S. DEA, the use of Bitcoin is no longer primarily as a means for illegal activity. One member of the DEA even admitted they’d prefer criminals use Crypto, because of how easy it is to track via the Blockchain’s flawless record-keeping (dispelling a popular myth of crypto as a criminal safe haven).

Cryptocurrency Led by Youth Investors

  • A survey done by analytics firm Harris Insights shows the age gap of investors in both Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in general. With the extreme volatility in the new asset class, youth investors are more prone to taking a chance whereas older investors are more hesitant to take the risk. With the youth being more connected to the digital age, Bitcoin seems to resonate more so with them than other adults.

And that’s Our Two Satoshis!

Thanks for reading everyone! Questions or comments, just let us know.

– The Arca Portfolio Management Team

Steven McClurg — Chief Investment Officer
Jeff Dorman — Head Trader
Sasha Fleyshman — Trader
Katie Talati — Head of Research

Disclaimer: This commentary is provided as general information only and is in no way intended as investment advice, investment research, a research report or a recommendation. Any decision to invest or take any other action with respect to the securities discussed in this commentary may involve risks not discussed herein and such decisions should not be based solely on the information contained in this document.

Statements in this communication may include forward-looking information and/or may be based on various assumptions. The forward-looking statements and other views or opinions expressed herein are made as of the date of this publication. Actual future results or occurrences may differ significantly from those anticipated and there is no guarantee that any particular outcome will come to pass. The statements made herein are subject to change at any time. Arca Funds disclaims any obligation to update or revise any statements or views expressed herein.

In considering any performance information included in this commentary, it should be noted that past performance is not a guarantee of future results and there can be no assurance that future results will be realized. Some or all of the information provided herein may be or be based on statements of opinion. In addition, certain information provided herein may be based on third-party sources, which information, although believed to be accurate, has not been independently verified. Arca Funds and/or certain of its affiliates and/or clients hold and may, in the future, hold a financial interest in securities that are the same as or substantially similar to the securities discussed in this commentary. No claims are made as to the profitability of such financial interests, now, in the past or in the future and Arca Funds and/or its clients may sell such financial interests at any time. The information provided herein is not intended to be, nor should it be construed as an offer to sell or a solicitation of any offer to buy any securities. This commentary has not been reviewed or approved by any regulatory authority and has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances or objectives of persons who may receive it. The appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives.

“That’s our Two Satoshis” — Crypto Market Recap (BTC, ETH, XLM, EOS, LINK) was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Mining Regulations Hamper Access to America’s Own Rare Earth Metals and Minerals

China is President Trump’s favorite whipping boy when it comes to blaming other nations for our chronic international trade deficits. Good economists – a category that assuredly does not include the president’s trade advisor Peter Navarro – don’t worry at all about the balance of trade with any single trading partner. We look for other logical reasons explaining why the United States buys more goods from one nation than we sell to it.

A case in point: the rare earth minerals purchased by the armed forces and critical to national defense. America’s supplies of those materials depend heavily on imports from China and other unfriendly countries.

As a matter of fact, the U.S. Department of Defense procures 750,000 tons of minerals and metals every year. Many of them are essential for manufacturing armaments ranging from bullets, turbine engines, advanced radar and electronic warfare systems, to missiles.

The United States imports half of 50 critical minerals and 100 percent of 21 of them. The imports are shipped from many countries in various corners of the globe – South America, Australia, Africa and Asia. But the largest share by far originates in China or from mines located elsewhere that are owned by Chinese companies.

You might think that the national defense posture of the United States depends on imports of minerals and metals to such a great extent because we’ve run out of them. But you’d be wrong. There is no domestic shortage. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the United States is home to $6.2 trillion worth of minerals reserves. The problem isn’t a lack of resources, but a rather a burdensome regulatory policy toward mining that has pushed minerals production to other countries, most notably China.

Washington’s knee-jerk reaction to the trade imbalance in so-called rare earth minerals and metals is to amend the National Defense Authorization Act to forbid acquisition from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea of minerals used in the production of three of the most militarily sensitive products – tungsten components, samarium-cobalt magnets, and neodymium-iron-boron magnets.

The House approved the ban in an amendment to the defense measure that’s awaiting action by a House-Senate conference committee. The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), would also prohibit purchases by U.S. defense industries of eight other commodity minerals from adversarial nations. Copper, molybdenum, gold, nickel, lead, silver and certain fertilizer compounds would be added to a list of critical minerals.

Copper is essential in the production of jets, tanks, and warships; beryllium is used to enhance aircraft speeds and is vital for enemy surveillance technologies; rare earth minerals are used to manufacture night-vision goggles. The bill’s aim is to raise domestic prices and thereby stimulate investment in the domestic mining of these and other strategic minerals.

Trade protectionism always is a bad idea, although it would reduce imports and increase the quantities of minerals extracted here at home. But higher minerals prices caused by limiting supplies from overseas mines would add to an already bloated defense budget.

The good news is that Rep. Amodei’s amendment to the defense measure also would streamline the mine-permitting approval process from the 10 years it now takes to just two years, putting U.S. mining operations on the same regulatory footing as the requirements with which Australian and Canadian mines must comply. The Amodei plan includes formal review timelines and schedules for completing the permitting process, the goal being to lower the regulatory barriers that discourage domestic investment in critical minerals production.

Regulatory reform would help offset China’s comparative advantage in mining more effectively than banning imports from there or from any other country. U.S. dependence on imports of militarily critical minerals from unfriendly nations is less a problem of international trade policy than it is of domestic regulations that make it too costly to mine our own abundant domestic supplies.

Over-reliance on imported rare earth minerals, if it worries you, is our own fault. It can be fixed without inviting retaliation from our trading partners.


William F. Shughart II is Research Fellow and Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, the J. Fish Smith Professor in Public Choice at Utah State University, past President of the Southern Economic Association, and editor of the Independent book, Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination.

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Squire Ltd. to Develop Next Generation 10nm ASIC Chips and Trade Bitcoins

Squire Mining Ltd. recently announced the closing of a non-brokered private placement equity financing of Canadian $25,500,000 to fund the developing, manufacturing, and selling data mining infrastructure and system technology.

The Next Generation of 10nm ASIC Chips Is Coming

The dizzying growth of the blockchain and crypto asset industry continues to attract new investors. Squire Ltd. estimates that the cryptocurrency market could rise to USD 1 trillion in late 2018 and USD 10 trillion by 2030.

Thus, encouraged by this sentiment, on August 10, 2018, the Canadian investment company Squire Ltd. announced that it now engages in the crypto industry.

According to the announcement, the net proceeds of the financing (Canadian $25,500,000) are to be invested, among other things, in the design, development, testing, and mass production of the initial next generation application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chips, as well as a mining rig for mining Bitcoin.

This financing also covers the development of a second next-generation ASIC chip and mining rig, marketing, and administrative expenses.

The company estimates that by the end of the fourth quarter of 2018, it will complete the manufacture and assembly of pilot production tests of its first ASIC chip and rig for mining Bitcoin.

On March 14, 2018, Squire Mining Ltd. entered into a binding agreement with Peter Kim to form the company that will focus in the development of ASIC chips. Under the letter of agreement,

The joint venture company, undertake the design, development, and commercialization of next-generation 10nm ASIC chips in which the Company will hold an initial 66 2/3% interest, and Kim will hold a 33 1/3% interest.

The agreement also stipulates that the joint venture company will “also initiate the sale of bitcoin and crypto-mining systems as well as developing its own mining facilities.”

Investing in Bitcoin Mining Gathers Steam

The battle for the supremacy of the ASIC chip manufacturing sector is heating up. New companies are entering the crypto mining space or expanding their operations.

For example, the chip manufacturer Samsung Foundry aims to expand its ASIC Engineering operations to better support North American operations. In this regard, the company is presently looking to hire a Senior ASIC Engineer.

Investment in Bitcoin mining was a profitable business in 2017. For instance, the Chinese Bitcoin mining giant Bitmain declared profits of between $3 billion and $4 billion USD in 2017. Now, Bitmain reportedly plans a multimillion-dollar expansion of its operations into the United States.

How do you think the growth of the Bitcoin mining space will affect Bitcoin’s value? Let us know your views in the comment section below.

Images courtesy of Pixabay, Shutterstock

The post Squire Ltd. to Develop Next Generation 10nm ASIC Chips and Trade Bitcoins appeared first on Bitcoinist.com.

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Former Visa CEO’s startup runs the fastest crypto transactions in the world

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Blockchain based fintech startup Crypterium challenges classic banks by introducing its new feature that allows its users to transfer any amount of cryptocurrency using not the complicated wallet addresses, but simply the recipient phone number. Those transfers happen simultaneously, and the company claims it can process up to a million transactions per second solving blockchain’s scalability issue.

Does it mean the first truly user friendly crypto solution has arrived, and we’re witnessing the Netscape moment for the whole industry? Marc O’Brien, who has held the position of CEO of Visa UK for six years, to then become a key advisor to Revolut, Britain’s first digital bank unicorn, bets the house that it did.

Going Mainstream

Almost all blockchain applications are not user-friendly. Tech-savvy people have created them for other tech-savvy people, and those solutions are still very confusing for both businesses and consumers who are not as computer literate.

Former Visa UK CEO Marc O’Brien has set a goal of bringing the crypto industry mainstream and making it more user friendly. “We’re on our way to the 21st century’s “Netscape moment”, the day when a California startup’s eye-popping market debut illuminated the World Wide Web for millions of people, otherwise only vaguely familiar with its potential and promise,” — he explains, mentioning that his own startup, Crypterium, “makes buying, selling and spending of cryptocurrency in everyday life as easy as possible, and that’s what will bring the next billions of people to using crypto.”

Problems unsolved

There are two key problems all crypto holders are facing today, while trying to transfer coins and tokens to each other. First of all, you can get confused with the wallet address. This is how they look like — 0xc5b133a52145990313915612bd732f059330287f — so getting confused is really easy. And once you do, you never get your money back.

There are also special hacker apps, such as CryptoShuffler, that change the address of the wallet while it is being copied. So in the “Send to the wallet” field, you enter the thief’s wallet number.

The second problem is that any transaction takes a while. If we are talking about Ethereum, it could be minutes, if it is Bitcoin — a transaction may take hours. When the blockchain networks are overloaded, transactions may take days.

Solution is on its way

Crypterium is aiming to solve both problems. There is no need to copy the recipient’s wallet address. You just need to know his or her phone number. Send crypto to your mom, your friend, your ex-girlfriend in France. They will get money even if they don’t have any crypto wallets. Once the transaction is processed, they’ll get an SMS with a link to get their crypto with some very clear instructions on what they can do with it. For example, they can use their newly acquired Bitcoin to top up their mobile phones.

What is even more great, the transaction of any cryptocurrency takes seconds. This has become possible because all transfers are done off-chain. When the user wants to spend the coins externally, the money is withdrawing from the sender’s wallet inside Crypterium. While not spent, all the transactions are written in the system, make the transfer the fastest of all.

“We have analyzed the most popular crypto wallets in the market, and none of them offer anything like it, though it sounds so exciting,” O’Brien says.

Time will tell, if crypto transactions will become more popular than the payments with Visa and Mastercard, but this solution is for sure one big step towards global crypto popularization.

About Crypterium

Crypterium is building a mobile app that will turn cryptocurrencies into money that you can spend with the same ease as cash.

Shop around the world to pay with your coins and tokens at any NFC terminal, or via scanning the QR codes. Make purchases in online stores, pay your bills, or just send money across borders in seconds reliably and for a fraction of a penny.

Learn more at http://crypterium.com/ and join the discussions in ourTelegram Chat.

Former Visa CEO’s startup runs the fastest crypto transactions in the world was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The NVT Ratio

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Cryptocurrency’s Answer to P/E

Have you ever wondered how to actually measure the true value of Bitcoin? Wouldn’t it be useful information to know that Ethereum is currently under-priced and potentially about to skyrocket in value? Perhaps you are looking to sell a handful of Ripple for Bitcoin, but don’t know if it’s the right time yet. In traditional finance, there are established tools to provide insight into making these decisions in traditional stocks, but those same tools don’t typically relate or apply to crypto. However, algorithmic index trading platforms like Samsa.ai are working to implement this valuable ratio into their index funds to make cryptocurrency traders better returns.

How NVT Works as a Valuation Metric

The Network Value to Transactions Ratio, or “NVT”, provides us with insight into how to assign fair value to coins in an industry where doing so can be tediously difficult, if not impossible. It is one of the key measures that analysts and proactive investors are currently using to gauge and appropriately value cryptoassets. Willy Woo, the creator of this insightful metric, has some fascinating insight into the importance of NVT as a primary ratio to follow in cryptocurrency on his site. He goes on to say:

“When Bitcoin’s NVT is high, it indicates that its network valuation is outstripping the value being transmitted on its payment network. This can happen when the network is high growth and investors are valuing it as a high return investment, or alternatively when the price is in an unsustainable bubble.”

NVT is a way to equivalently compare unknown intrinsic values of cryptocurrencies. When we look at how the NVT line relates to its normal range, we can gauge when Bitcoin is becoming overvalued or undervalued. In an interview a year ago, Woo said:

“We didn’t know how to value internet stocks in the 1990’s. P/E ratios were through the roof and people didn’t understand zero marginal cost of companies. …In Bitcoin, we know the transaction throughput, but we don’t know its earnings as it is not a company. It’s the closest proxy we have to it. That’s all it is really. If Bitcoin was a payment company, let’s measure how much throughput it has, to its valuation.”

Most successful traditional stock investors are familiar with the Price-Earnings (P/E) ratio. Put simply, by dividing a company’s current market price by its current earnings per share, the P/E ratio allows investors to gauge a stock’s growth potential. More importantly, it can provide insight into whether a company is undervalued, fairly valued, or overvalued based on its current market position.

How to Calculate NVT

Let’s take a look at this formula in greater detail:

This calculation is straightforward, only needs two variables to solve, and provides us with a telling number if we compare it to an individual coin’s own historic values or to other coin’s values over the same timeframe.

Let’s do a quick sample with Bitcoin, using June 10, 2018 as an example. Here are some metrics from Coinmetrics:

  • 6/10/18 Market Cap (Network Value): $128,128,000,000
  • 6/10/18 Transaction Volume (USD): $7,172,614,294
  • 6/10/18 NVT (Market Cap / Transaction Volume): 17.86

As we can see, dividing Bitcoin’s market cap value by its transaction volume for just this 24-hour period, we get an NVT value of 17.86. Wonderful.

Now, let’s give that number some actual meaning. How does an NVT of 17.86 on one particular day compare to the all-time average historical NVT ratio of Bitcoin? Note — this data begins with its first full month of data in May 2013:

  • Median Historical Market Cap (Network Value): $7,329,110,000
  • Median Historical Transaction Volume (USD): $666,703,284
  • Median NVT (Market Cap / Transaction Volume): 13.70*

* Note that for the most precise statistical evaluation, the average NVT is being calculated as the median value among roughly six years worth of Bitcoin data.

We can see that the overall median NVT for all individual Bitcoin daily data from CoinMetrics is roughly 13.70, which makes the 17.86 NVT value we found in our calculation for June 10, 2018 a moderate 30.4% above its average historical rate.

How to Interpret NVT

If we are looking to buy, we would want to see a higher transaction volume compared to market cap, as this would indicate there is a convincingly significant amount of utility (transactions) currently being used in the world.

With our Bitcoin example, we can see that June 10th did not have the transaction volume we would want to see with the current market cap levels. Therefore, this value would be an indicator that the price of $7,499.55 was overvalued. Remember, this was only one specific day, and these numbers can vary drastically on a day to day basis compared to daily price shifts.

It is worth mentioning that, here at Samsa, we are getting our statistics from CoinMetrics, which has a disclaimer on their website’s FAQ:

“…other estimates of NVT are done only for Bitcoin, and use blockchain.info’s estimate volume, other than very straightforward exclusions. Thus Blockchain.info has an estimate of USD volume transmitted on chain that’s 5–6 times lower than ours, resulting in a higher NVT.”

It is worth taking note of this delta, as Woo’s website will often have Bitcoin NVT values averaging triple digits, while Samsa’s calculations are significantly lower. Either data source is acceptable, and proportionally the lines over time in either analysis should ebb and flow similarly.

Let’s look at a visualization of our monthly NVT data from Coinmetrics and see how Bitcoin’s price has correlated along with it:

When creating this model for Bitcoin, there were plenty of things I had to factor in during the process of putting it together, as well as plenty of things I noticed after it was completed:

  • The respective buy, hold, and sell zones were formulated based on history combined with some math. Keep in mind these color groupings are only applicable to the orange NVT line corresponding to the right y-axis on the chart. The zones are all based around the median historic NVT value for Bitcoin, which as we learned above, currently sits at about 13.7. I knew that I would want to symmetrically make the hold zone slightly above and slightly below this number by the same percentage basis on both sides. I was also able to notice trends via this time scale indicating almost no price movement whenever the orange line fell within 7.5% above or below this median value of 13.7. This gave me a range of about 15% for the yellow hold zone, and the same 15% window was used to create the other zones.
  • I originally considered magnifying plot points to scale daily, but there are too many outlier NVT spikes that don’t correlate with price. Instead, I decided to use the mean average for every month as plot points, and we can see some VERY significant and statistically meaningful movement of Bitcoin’s monthly price (in blue) over time in comparison to its monthly Network to Value Transaction ratio (in orange).
  • From an overall historic perspective, we can see that our orange NVT line is splitting a bit under half its time in either the “Buy” or “Strong Buy” zones, a bit under half the time in the “Sell” or “Strong Sell” zones, and the remainder of time in the hold zone. But how could there be an equal number of buy and sell signals from the all-time NVT chart if Bitcoin has gone up 60 times its value since May of 2013? Well, this is the beauty of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency as a market still in its infancy stage. Historically, when Bitcoin’s NVT value is in the buy zones, there is historically much more upside to price movement than there is downside when in the sell zones. For skeptics of NVT, an argument could be made that this is a flaw of the formula overall and shows NVT as unreliable and unpredictable when it is well above its median average. Admittedly, there is much less consistent correlation compared to the large price leaps that strongly correlate whenever the chart is in a buy zone.
  • We can see that when Bitcoin’s price exploded in mid-late 2013, this correlated with its NVT dipping into the green buy zones for the first time. We can see this confirmed again on a larger scale when NVT again went into the green beginning in September of 2015 and lasting all the way until December of 2017. This 28 month stretch of Bitcoin’s NVT range providing buy signals saw its price shoot from below $250 to above $19,000.

Advantages To Using NVT

There is no perfect solution to accurately value cryptoassets that have no real company representation, balance sheets, or quarterly earnings reports. However, there are a couple reasons for using NVT as a metric:

  • NVT can be a good indicator of relative value compared to other coins and individual coin historical price based on their averages over time.
  • NVT can be calculated for most popularly traded coins, as those coins have their own historical market caps and number of transactions recorded.

Don’t Forget — It Is Still Crypto

Of course, there are several pieces of news over the years that have historically contributed to the monthly rises and falls of Bitcoin’s price. And no matter how much we here at Samsa love the Network Value to Transactions ratio, it is not the sole metric of value. There will be occasions where NVT will completely fail as a reliable indicator for a coin’s price, particularly on a short-term timeframe.

Because cryptocurrency’s value is so heavily influenced by human speculation, it can be extremely difficult to rely on a mathematical ratio to predict a price line that is essentially controlled exclusively by its investors. Anyone who depends solely on the NVT ratio, MACD and RSI indicators, Bollinger Band signals, or any other individual metric as a sole indicator for price direction without understanding the risk involved or weighing other fundamental factors, has a high likelihood of eventually failing as a trader.

We view NVT as a very useful supplementary research aid when investing. The metric is not an end-all, be-all key to easily buy low and sell high for easy profits, but we’ve seen evidence that the NVT line has preceded many major market price shifts in both directions. And when we see evidence of a ratio that, more often than not, has a strong long-term correlation to price and often foreshadows the direction of future price (on a long-term basis), it is a fundamental metric worth not only understanding, but paying serious attention to.

I write in depth cryptocurrency analysis at Samsa, the passive investing tool for crypto. See what we’re doing at Samsa.ai and see our other analysis at our magazine. If you love what you see, give this article 50 claps! If you hate it, show your displeasure with 49.

This article and related content is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered investment advice, and you should consult a financial advisor and do your own research and due diligence prior to making any investments. Where securities or commodities are referenced, it is only for illustrative purposes only, and does not imply any position on securities or commodities classification. To the extent that Samsa services are offered or discussed, those services are available only for Samsa whitelisted assets only.

The NVT Ratio was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

An (Opinionated) Beginners Guide to Start-up Web Architecture

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The vast array of choices when sketching out your backend architecture can be bewildering. The decision fatigue is real.

With every tool you pick, you have to wonder about community support, edge cases it doesn’t take care of, whether there are established best practices for it and more.

Most early-stage, web-based startups can get away with a fairly similar architecture for the first year or two. You will have an application layer, an asynchronous tasks layer, caching, a database service (start with Relational DBMSes unless you really know what you’re doing), a text-search service and S3 as an object store.

At TapChief, we’ve spent a lot of thought into getting these right. We tried Solr for search and realised it didn’t work out well for us. An earlier Redis service provider was finicky and expensive.

I’m listing out a set of tools that we use in-house at TapChief that have stood the test of time for us. Hopefully, it can be a good way for someone to jump-start their backend architecture.


Heroku takes away a lot of the headache of deployment. Deploying to it is as simple as writing “git push heroku”, irrespective of how many instances (dynos) you have running for a given service.

It also has great add-ons for services like Redis, Postgres, and AMQP. There is hardly any lock-in to the platform and you should be able to move out easily as your codebase is not aware of Heroku at all.

Heroku is built on top of AWS so if you really need to, you could always keep some of your more expensive services running on AWS and have Heroku running other services in the same AWS region.

We deploy our services via Nginx and gunicorn with gevent enabled for extra-concurrency.

web: bin/start-nginx gunicorn -c config/gunicorn.py tapchief.wsgi --worker-class gevent --log-file -


A boring stable framework with a ridiculously useful admin panel feature. If you are working at a start-up with back-office operations, you’ll really appreciate this.

Django operates as a shared-nothing framework which means scaling it is as simple as running more instances of it in parallel. And it’s old and popular enough that it has an ample number of well-tested libraries. StackOverflow is teeming with answers to help you out in case you get stuck.

You could use Rails or the Play Framework for your application too. Both follow a similar shared-nothing MVC type of structure. But the Django Admin panel seems to be a unique and useful feature.


I miss Java here, I’ll admit. We’re a start-up, we don’t really have too much test coverage. Seeing runtime exceptions because we thought an object was a string when it was actually a list is painful.

What we have done is write types for all arguments in the docstring of most functions we use. We let PyCharm yell at us whenever it thinks we’re doing something wonky.


Use a real IDE. Something which lets you refactor effortlessly, tells you when you aren’t using coding conventions appropriately and highlights potential bugs. I’ve heard Visual Studio has gotten quite good and is much less of a memory hog than PyCharm/IntelliJ.


You’re going to need asynchronicity. Your application service should not be doing long-running tasks. Instead, it should offload it on to a queue and worker processes should pick up and work on these tasks in the background.

This is a critical part of how to achieve scale with your app.

Celery is also a great way to set periodic tasks. Want to send automated daily analytics reports on how many users have signed up? Celery has you covered.

CloudAMQP is a reliable provider on Heroku for the message broker (queue) part of this system.


Caching is another key part of the strategy to build a scalable and low-latency solution. Common read queries which do not change frequently can be cached to prevent them from causing database hits.

Keep in mind that your database is usually going to be the hardest thing to scale. Especially if you go for a relational store. So use your cache to “protect” your database from heavy reads.

RedisGreen. There are loads of add-on providers for Redis on Heroku. But this is probably the cheapest and with the most comprehensive metrics dashboard.


Heroku Postgres. This is an add-on officially supported by Heroku. And it’s excellent. For $50 a month, you get daily automated back-ups, excellent metrics, roll-back ability, and a quick way to snapshot and download your database at any time.

Django plays particularly well with Postgres.

Django Rest Framework

Abstracting out your UI layer as Rest APIs is a better idea than using Django’s templating system. You can support multiple different clients this way. Django’s Rest Framework is a great choice here.


Don’t serve static content from your backend. Application servers like Django are especially not designed for that. Nginx is still a reasonable option for this.


Use a CDN like CloudFlare to cache and deliver your static files.

Angular? React? Vue?

We’ve used Angular here at TapChief. And we absolutely love it!

We like structured opinionated frameworks taking away the cognitive load of choosing which packages to use together. That batteries-included approach is why we like Django over Flask. And we’ve found exceptional success with Angular, Universal and NativeScript.

But somehow, the rest of the community seems to be rallying around React and more recently, VueJS. *shrug*

I’m really not sure what to pick here. (Pick Angular!)


This is a one-click easy and free solution to get logs of the past 7 days. Very easy to install and comes as a Heroku add-on for any service you host there. There should be paid plans with more extensive logging options but we haven’t needed to explore them all that much.


Search is one of the first things you should offload from your application server and primary database. And ElasticSearch provides a really good DSL for Python.

Bonsai ElasticSearch on Heroku has been an easy way to scale and reliable option for us.


This is often conflated with concurrency. A (horizontally) scalable system is one in which adding more machines should lead to a linear increase in the workload the system can handle.

Django is excellent here since it is stateless. One Django instance is not enough for all your requests? Well, just add a couple more behind your load balancer. (Pssst.. this is super easy with Heroku).

In terms of concurrency (requests per system), a Go-based REST API Service will probably do better. But you can get pretty far with Nginx buffering your requests and using gunicorn with gevents enabled.

Of course, the real bottleneck here ends up becoming the relational datastore you use. These don’t scale out as well as their NoSQL counterparts can do. It is entirely possible to use Django with NoSQL stores to tackle this.

But make sure your system load is heavy enough to warrant the additional complexity that NoSQL systems can add.


Have you heard of the fundamental theorem of software engineering?

Indirection. Most issues in software occur since one layer makes certain assumptions about another layer.

Okay, fine, it’s not a real theorem, but it is remarkable how many problems in Computer Science can be solved with an additional layer of indirection.

Your goal as an architect is to keep the system flexible.

The classic Django MTV architecture assumes a relational store accessed via an ORM. Fat models, i.e. business logic coupled with objects generated via the ORM are commonplace.

What if you need to use NoSQL for some of your heavy transactional objects later? It would be a pain to move away all that business logic.

Instead, we can keep a Service Layer between the Views and the ORM. And our business entities could be plain Python objects. (POJOs as they are called in the Java world).

You access them via an interface and it doesn’t matter if they are originally from the ORM or another adapter you built out to work with NoSQL stores.

Is this overdoing it? It really depends on your use-case. This works if you’re sure you’ll need to handle that sort of work-load extremely quickly.

If you can keep going with Postgres and Redis for a year or two, you probably shouldn’t bother with this. You can just slowly abstract out the entities you want to move over to a NoSQL store. It’s unlikely that you will want to move your entire database to NoSQL anyways.

You’ll notice that this has been a very monolithic architecture. A service-oriented architecture is probably where you’ll eventually be headed but starting with that up-front usually slows down development at a time where you should be aggressively trying to find product-market fit.

Be mindful of the fact that you may have to migrate to an SOA, and keep different concepts as separate as possible. This way, you’ll be able to peel out different entities into their own services later on.

Read Hackernews

Google “hackernews golang vs java”. You’ll see quality discussions between folks who’ve used different technologies in the wild.

Hackernews has built a great community of people who build things. People share their experiences with new languages, frameworks, and technology. Think of it as a better behaved Reddit for technology.

An interesting discussion on Hackernews about picking the “right” framework.

I know this isn’t really a part of the architecture, but the discussions help shape your understanding of the trade-off of various tools.

It can be mind-boggling trying to fit all the pieces together to build a scalable architecture. But that’s the really fun part of backend engineering. The tradeoffs of shipping quickly v/s the “right” architecture. What and where to cache. When to move over to NoSQL stores. How much technical debt to accumulate in order to get product clarity.

Running your own start-up? Tell us what stack/tools/architecture you use. It’s always comforting hearing that someone else is using the same tools as us!

Want a less tool-oriented guide on designing your technical architecture? You should check out Clean Architecture by Robert C. Martin.

Or for a quicker overview of backend architecture in general: https://github.com/donnemartin/system-design-primer

An (Opinionated) Beginners Guide to Start-up Web Architecture was originally published in Hacker Noon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.