If you have been following tech news then you've probably heard the term blockchain mentioned more than once. This word is rarely explained in non-technical terms, but it is thrown around a lot by tech companies trying to get in on the hype.
We've even seen a few companies like Binded or LBRY claim to offer services to authors, and a lot of people in publishing saying that blockchain is the greatest thing since sliced bread. So far, none of the new ideas from either the tech companies or publishing pundits are actually useful to authors, but one day that is going to change.
With that in mind, I think now is a good time to go over some basic guidelines on how to evaluate new tech and whether we should use a new tool or service based on that tech.
I was inspired to take up this topic by the recent announcement about a new startup called Authored.
The Authored Platform is an application, which is active on both the iOS and Android platforms. This platform will function like Google Books, Amazon Books, Apress, Wiley, and many other online publishing systems. However, Authored is also a social networking site, which will allow users to publish high-end content from writers and authors of products.
Authored is scheduled to open to the public in in the second quarter of 2019. Right now Authored is raising funds via an initial coin offering (ICO) which may or may not be a scam (I would not invest my money, even if I had any to spare).
The thing to remember about blockchain (this will help you avoid falling for the hype) is that it is a technology, not a service or product.
To put that in perspective, you are reading this blog post in an app or web browser that integrates hundreds of different technologies on a computing device that integrates thousands.
The app, browser, and computing devices are the products that use tech, most of which you have never heard of.
The only reason blockchain is mentioned more than all the other tech we use everyday is that it is the tech buzzword du jure.
Rather than listen to the buzzwords, what you should do is ask whether a tool or service based on blockchain is useful - just like you would with any other new service you encounter.
I usually ask myself these questions:
- Does the service do something I need?
- Does it fill that need better than a service I am already using?
We still don't really know anything about Authored other than it is supposed to be a social network and sales platform, so there's no reason to think it will be better and more useful than Gumroad or a dozen other third-party sales services.
I do know a few details about Binded and LBRY, the two services mentioned at the beginning of the post, so let's analyze those companies and see whether we should use them.
I have written about Binded before; it offers a blockchain-based alternative to "poor man's copyright" that does absolutely nothing useful while at the same time misleading creators about how it protects their copyright.
LBRY, on the other hand, is a sales and distribution platform where the content is locked inside the LBRY apps. This is arguably less useful the many existing sales platforms, and at the very least it offers no obvious improvement over what we have now.
If we let ourselves be swayed by the hype then we might sign up for one or both of these services just because they use blockchain, but when we step back and ask the hard questions it is clear that there's nothing to recommend either service.
The next time you encounter a service that pitches itself on its use of blockchain, you should ask yourself the two questions I used in this post. These are actually the questions you should ask about every new service you encounter, but they will be especially useful in keeping you from falling for the blockchain hype.
image by wuestenigel