Matt Ward

@mattwardio

User Hostile Tokens

Blockchain’s Big Money Grab Problem

The customer is always right…

Isn’t that the mantra of every business (except Bank of America)? Customer-centered design is everything these days. UX/UI is make or break for a business, at least in consumer.

Think about it — when was the last time you downloaded an app? It has probably been a while. As consumers we have been so inundated with technology and companies fighting for our attention that we become numb to it.

In a world of saturation where scarcity is dead, customer experience is king.

GAFA

Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple dominate the world for a reason — they built the best customer experience. Google search is unparalleled, both in usage and performance. The same is true of Amazon (both for buyers and sellers), and Facebook has the best social graphs, Apple the hardware/software experience…

The Gods of Valley (check out my new book on the topic if you haven’t) have monopolized the future with customer-centric business flywheels. The more data, the most users, the more sites… the better. This is Ben Thompson’s aggregation theory in practice — the dominant players just keep getting stronger.

And unfortunately governments cannot do much (more on this below).

GAFA are customer friendly — it is the best experience possible (thanks to tons of data, optimization and machine learning) and it is almost all free. Who is harmed here? Certainly not the consumers…

What about privacy?

Bingo. That is the one and only critique that sticks. By giving up personal information, companies know way too much about you.

Unfortunately for the majority this is an acceptable trade, hence our current environment. If customers cared they would leave GAFA in droves, but they don’t.

When was the last time you read the terms of service?

What about censorship?

Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple can crush your business (or voice) in a heartbeat. It takes no effort and is probably automated. The algorithm sees something it doesn’t like, flags it and suddenly your channel/business/site is gone…

This happens everyday (I experienced this threaten every day while building my business on Amazon, here is more on platforms and playing with fire…).

This is something blockchains are perfect for.

But really, do average Americans care? Is ANYONE outside of the tech/crypto sphere really talking about this? If so, then barely.

The truth is, the majority are perfectly happy handing over their data and control to centralized companies. Most blockchain enthusiasts just don’t get that.

IF YOU ARE READING THIS POST, YOU ARE NOT IN THE MAJORITY — don’t assume that you are.

To change the world you need to change lives.

To change lives you need to change habits.

To change habits you need a damn good reason…

User experience

In business the tried and true means to move the needle is a combination of great product and great marketing.

Bad products fail, poor marketing prevents things from ever getting started.

Today I see two things in the blockchain community as a whole: bad products and bad marketing.

The marketing isn’t the problem. Today’s blockchain systems are not remotely ready for mass adoption.

Forgetting scalability concerns, the user experience getting started with blockchains is comparable to the mainframe era of computing. It is bad, it is hard. Even educated folks struggle, get their money hacked and don’t understand the point: “it’s all about speculating/making money, right?” (which to be honest it is at this point).

There good news

This is how technology works. It takes time and effort, hype and investment. We are right on track. The excitement and rags to riches success of many crypto enthusiasts has got the world’s attention and attracted a sea of talent. We are moving in the right direction…

But let’s not delude ourselves into thinking a crypto future is right around the corner.

The big problem

Outside of the millions of things wrong with the usability of all major blockchain systems today, there is a more systemic problem that I’d like to address: unity.

Prior to January 1st, 1999 every European country had its own currency — it was a nightmare. Currency exchange is a drain on the system: financially and in terms of efficiency. It was a pain to travel and extra expensive because of it.

And regardless of your political leanings, it would be impossible to argue that the Euro didn’t made transacting across European borders simpler.

Source: Hubpages

Take things a step further: bartering. Trading eggs for sheep or wood or cloth is even worse, imagine a world without money…

That world is more or less what many ICOs are actively trying to build. If every app and every ecosystem requires its own unique tokens to participate, what the hell is the point. It is cumbersome and inefficient and going backwards as a society.

The issue of course is incentives. Developers are more incentivized to start/ICO their own project/token than build on existing protocols, further fragmenting the system. If I need 100 different tokens to use a 100 different apps, my wallet (and head) gets complicated pretty fast.

From a user adoption perspective this is a no go. Simply having to use crypto is bad enough. If using an app is like walking through a grocery store and wondering which tokens you need to buy, then this experiment might as well end now…

Closing thoughts

Greed is blinding folks to the self-destructive path we are headed down. Average Joe’s aren’t going to do atomic swaps and manage a portfolio of dozens, 100s or 1000s of tokens needed in everyday life. How can we start to consolidate?

Asking people to pay money to use a social network or read a blog is bad enough, much worse (in their mind) than the status quo.

Facebook and the New York Times are free — why would I pay tokens to like a post, share a video or read an article? What idiot designed this system?

How can we get developers and techies to remember the most important principle: the customer is always right.

Action steps:

  1. Build with the lowest common denominator in mind — average American reads at a 7–8th grade level
  2. Focus on interoperability over new protocols.
United we stand, divided we fall.

3. Build robotic systems to handle token exchange (if necessary) between applications and protocols

Please like/share this if you think Blockchain better get its act together when it comes to build better systems TOGETHER. It takes a village and city-states ALWAYS tear each other to pieces.

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