The Case for Bitcoin

by Joseph Akbrud


Earlier today the New York Times published a piece written by Marc Andreessen (a co-founder of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz) titled "Why Bitcoin Matters".  This article is, in my opinion, the most compelling case that has been made for Bitcoin  thus far.  While many have defended the virtual currency, here is what makes Andreesen's case so compelling:

He has a knack for accurately predicting tech trends:  

He's predicted the rise of social, the cloud and the web browser itself to name a few.  Andreesen introduces his readers to Bitcoin my making the following claim:  

"Eventually mainstream products, companies and industries emerge to commercialize it; its effects become profound; and later, many people wonder why its powerful promise wasn’t more obvious from the start.  What technology am I talking about? Personal computers in 1975, the Internet in 1993, and – I believe – Bitcoin in 2014."

Because he isn't the type to make grandiose statements often, when he does he should be taken seriously.

He puts his money where his mouth is:

Andreesen Horowitz has invested over $50 million in Bitcoin related companies so far (including $25 in Coinbase alone).

He sees Bitcoin as more than just a digital currency:

When most people defend or denounce Bitcoin they focus solely on its application as a digital currency.  Andreesen goes beyond that and focuses on its potential as a secure method of transfer for digital and physical goods.

"...Bitcoin gives us, for the first time, a way for one Internet user to transfer a unique piece of digital property to another Internet user, such that the transfer is guaranteed to be safe and secure, everyone knows that the transfer has taken place, and nobody can challenge the legitimacy of the transfer. The consequences of this breakthrough are hard to overstate.

What kinds of digital property might be transferred in this way? Think about digital signatures, digital contracts, digital keys (to physical locks, or to online lockers), digital ownership of physical assets such as cars and houses, digital stocks and bonds … and digital money."

 


Facebook's App Strategy and the Fragmentation of Social

by Joseph Akbrud


Earlier this week The Verge ran a story stating that Facebook will unveil a “suite of standalone mobile apps”.  These apps will most likely be lean and utilitarian, similar to the messenger app.  This is part of Facebook’s evolution from a social networking behemoth focused on a single product (Facebook.com) to a layered, complex organization that weaves together many products.   

When Facebook launched in 2004 Myspace was by far the most popular social network in the United States with millions of registered users.  Myspace was used for photo sharing, dating, microblogging and video and music sharing making it the social hub of the internet at time.  Myspace’s success however was short lived.  College students began flocking to Facebook because of it’s clean design and lack of spam (issues that plagued Myspace since its inception).  By the time Facebook opened its doors to the world, it was clear that Facebook was the new de facto standard for social networking.   

Fast forward to 2014 and the social landscape is a very different place.  Almost half of online adults use multiple social networks and that number continues to grow.

People use Facebook to share personal updates with friends and family, Twitter to share news, Instagram to share photos, Foursquare to share location-based tips and Linkedin to share professional updates.  The rise of mobile has only helped accelerate this trend.  In its infancy the internet was so difficult to navigate that the most successful websites of the time were walled gardens that helped users navigate the internet (Yahoo, AOL).  Today people are migrated to mobile social networks that are lean and singularly focused.  Instagram makes it easy to take a photo, apply a filter to it and share it with the world.  Sharing your thoughts with the world is merely a 140 character tweet away.  Facebook realizes this and is adapting by focusing on expanding their catalog of apps and making them as easy to use as possible.  

Whether their multiple app strategy will work remains to be seen.  On thing is clear, there will no longer one social network to rule them all.  Mark Zuckerberg knows this and is realigning Facebook as a result.


What Will Your Verse Be?

by Joseph Akbrud


Earlier this week Apple release a new ad titled "What Will Your Verse Be".  The ad features Robin Williams narrating poetry (including Walt Whitman) in the background while iPads are used in various ways.   The beauty of the ad is that it perfectly represents what Apple strides for: elegance and simplicity.  There are no obvious slogans or calls to action.  The ad showcases what the iPad was designed to do: make technology as accessible as possible to as many people as possible.  The cinematography, music and overall production value makes the ad resemble a movie trailer.  Technology companies and and Ad agencies the world over should take notice. 


Smartphone Photography Tips

by Joseph Akbrud


About a year ago Instagram began posting tips from some of their most famous photographers in their "How I Shoot" series.  These tips provide users with insight on how some of the most creative users on Instagram shoot their photos and videos.  Even if you're not a fan of Instagram these tips are invaluable for anyone shooting photo or video using a smartphone.  Most of the posts are split into the following categories

Hardware - the phone preferred by the shooter

Vantage Point - how the shot is framed

Shooting - how the photo is shot (tripod, lighting, etc)

Editing - the software used to edit the photo to obtain the final result.  

Instagram does a nice job of choosing photographers that shoot their photo on Android, iOS and Windows Phone.  Each post is short, succinct and well worth the read.  


Paris

by Joseph Akbrud


Paris in December.  What could be more majestic?  For more photos check out my Flickr Set.


Os Gêmeos Mural

by Joseph Akbrud


As many of you are most likely well aware of, New York City has been one of the most vibrant and important epicenters of the graffiti and street art movements since the 1960’s.  Having lived in Brooklyn my entire life I've seen countless murals scattered throughout the borough.  While reading an excellent article on New York City street art in the New York Times it was brought to my attention that the Dreamland Artist Club 2005 commissioned Os Gêmeos to paint a 60-foot mural in Coney Island.  For the uninitiated, Os Gêmeos are graffiti artists (and twin brothers) from São Paulo. They began in 1987 and slowly became a main influence in the São Paulo street art scene, helping to define Brazil's own style. Their work often features yellow-skinned characters but is otherwise diverse and ranges from tags to complicated murals. Their style is influenced by traditional hip hop style and the Brazilian culture.  Below are a few photos that I took at the mural earlier.  All of the photos were shot using my Samsung Galaxy S4 and retouched in Lightroom.


Shooting with the S4

by Joseph Akbrud


When Samsung began promoting the Galaxy S4 early this year, one of the most talked about features was the new and improved 13-megapixel camera.  Samsung claimed that the camera in the S4 was far superior to the competition (including the iPhone 5).  The hardware combined with Touchwiz's new and improved camera software supposedly created the perfect balance between quality and functionality.  A quick google search shows that there are plenty of users interested in using Samsung's proprietary camera software on non-touchwiz devices.  So how does the S4 perform as a camera?  In my four months of using the S4 as my primary camera I have been pleasantly surprised by the results.  Photos taken with the S4 are crisp, with good contrast and color reproduction (assuming the lighting is decent).  Below is a gallery showcasing a few photos that I took with the S4.  These photos have not been cropped or retouched in any way.