From Sweden

Klättra För Livet – Film Projekt. 

This coming September i will join a wonderful group of guys on a mission to climb the largest mountain in Sweden, AKA Kebenkaiser.

The project is called Klättra För Livet (Climb for Life) and is a homage to Christopher and Niklas friend that took his own life last year, their friend had always wanted to climb Kebenkaiser but never made it to the top – our job is to get a photograph of the friend to the top of the mountain and make a short film along the way. The films purpose will be to raise awareness around mental health issues, and mainly comprise of conversation about mental health and their memories of their friend between Niklas and Christopher as they climb the mountain.

The team comprises of five of us, three of us in the film crew; Peter, myself and David. With Christoffer and Niklas in front of the camera, we plan to get up and down in one day, which is usually around 12 hours when not filming a documentary. I am under the impression it will take us north of 16 hours if weather permits. Alternatively, and something we can not possibly know before hand – if the weather is fine we can also camp on a glacier half way up, in this way we can break the climb in to two parts that will unfold over two days, and will not require us to return to base camp.

The dates are set and we will begin the trip on the 14th of September 2017, if you would like to follow our progress, check out the Klättra För Livet FB page.

 

Sergej Kotliar clip 2017 (BitJoin Cross-Post)

In April 2017 i began following up with the 6 founders featured in my first documentary short – Founded. I started by catching up with Sergej Kotliar of BitRefill. In the past i have published the full interviews on the BitJoin youtube channel, however this time i intend on publishing these interviews solely on Popchest in order to help raise funds for the production of the follow up documentary to Founded. If you know of a better way to raise funds don’t hesitate to contact me at rich@bitjoin.me

New Money Old Problems

Money’s funny isn’t it, I have always been somewhat intrigued by the way people think about money and how it motivates them to get what they want. But what happens when the money you have collected is suddenly worthless and unable to get you what you want?

Demonetisation is happening in both Sweden (where i reside) and India where in November 2016 the fairly new prime minister Modi, announced the demonetisation of all ₹500 and ₹1,000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi Series. The government claimed that removing 86% of the currency in circulation would “curtail the shadow economy and crack down on the use of illicit and counterfeit cash to fund illegal activity and terrorism.”

I am not sure how they plan to prove that (if ever), or if anyone else could prove otherwise due to the difficulties in acquiring concrete statistics on the shadow economy, but now, after several months of demonetisation many thing appear crystal clear; the poor in India are the ones that end up worse off, and it appears in parallel those with the capacity to provide digital infrastructure to Modi’s new vision for the rupee are the ones that have prospered most.

Listen to this BBC podcast for a more in-depth report on the fallout from the demonetisation situation in India.

How does India’s Demonetisation differ from Sweden’s recent efforts?

I write this post as Sweden enters its final phases of demonetisation, (which for some reason is being called the “major money changeover” by the Local.) It means that old 1-, 2- and 5-kronor coins, as well as 100-kronor and 500-kronor banknotes, will become invalid after June 30th 2017.

One noticeable difference between the two countries is the pace in which the demonetisation has occurred, India’s transition appears to have happened rather quickly in comparison to Sweden, which began in 2015. Another difference is that Sweden has replaced the old notes with new notes; so the medium of exchange has remained the same, in contrast India’s Modi has pulled the cash out of society and replaced it with an entirely different kind of money which is heavily reliant on digital infrastructure to function properly.

This struck me as quite curious, surely the hard physical cash would have been better in the hands of the Indian population – a society that lacks good reliable digital infrastructure nation wide. Wouldn’t they have benefited from a more accessible currency form? And Sweden – a supposedly already cashless society – introduces new cash notes. Something feels back to front here.

A possible reason could be that, by Modi forcing a new form of money through it may help to encourage development of those needed infrastructures that otherwise are not being built, that’s a bold and disruptive move but could well turn out to be great long term thinking for the country. With those sorts of bold moves there will always be unforeseen side effects in the economy, and from what i have observed so far – for India’s poorest – the worst is yet to come, it will likely be years of downwards mobility before it starts to pick up again, but what gets me, is how many media outlets talk as if its over – it has been done – it’s in the past, try telling the people affected everyday that; I doubt they would agree it’s over, i think they know quite well it has only just begun.

Sweden’s “major money changeover”

So what does Sweden get out of their “major money changeover” or more accurately, their demonetisation plan. Sweden often makes headlines around the world for being such a fantastically cashless utopia and that’s fine if you are pro-cashless, i am not – yet. My own experiences here in Sweden trying to deal with cash have been infuriating to say the least. I have heard numerous stories of persons trying to deposit cash into their own bank account (of which they had been a member since almost birth) and being treated like a suspect in a line up; and the banks will point at the regulators – and the regulators will point back at the banks, or at the EU or some other such entity. Whats apparent is that the bank is the gate keeper, they own and run the channels, therefore they have absolute power over how the channels are used. K.Y.C and other similar regulations are unenforceable if you are the right kind of customer, as we have seen numerous times across the world when it comes to bad banking behaviour; not to even mention the question of data ownership when it comes to the transactional data we all create (big or small) every day.

The Riksbank tells us on its FAQ’s page”

“The banknotes have new security features to make them harder to counterfeit. The older banknotes were designed around 30 years ago and need to be modernised.” For the coins they say: “Firstly, the new coins are much smaller and lighter, which means that the handling costs for coins will be lower than they are now. Secondly, the new coins are completely nickel-free. This eliminates the risk of nickel allergy, which is a problem for many people. Thirdly, there is less environmental impact as fewer transports will be needed for the same value of coins. The new coins are also much cheaper to produce, which means that the Riksbank, and thus the state, has lower costs. By introducing a 2-krona coins, fewer coins will be needed as the 2-krona coin will replace two 1-krona coins in many payments.”

So, some fairly obvious benefits to using the new Swedish Krona coins for the citizen right? Although i was not aware nickel allergy was such an enormous problem in Sweden that it would actually help determine the makeup for the country’s new currency, i certainly learned something today (especially relevant to a film project i am working on at the moment.)

But the counterfeit argument for the notes, i have seen this one time and time again from many well developed modern societies, from Australia to the UK, this idea that you can make a note any more secure than it wants to be seems more theatre than anything else. Counterfeit or not, bad people will keep finding ways of exchanging value, putting an intelligent strip in the note or a GPS beacon on it (which we already have thanks to mobile banking) will likely not deter any criminals from business as usual.

So why do it? why go through that process if it will not necessarily provide immediate improvements for the lives of the citizens of these countries? My theory – for India, it’s a combination of appearing to be both innovative (High tech) to outsiders, and becoming more growth oriented, (Privatisation) regardless of the immediate consequences.

For Sweden, it is likely about reduction in circulation, being able to take a bunch of these notes out of circulation, making it more likely for people to transition over to digital payments, coupled with the appearance of doing something new, everyone seems to get excited when a country issues new currency, i am unsure many bother to think why it’s happening, especially if it does not directly or immediately affect them personally.

Open Letter – BitJoin re-post from 2016

This is a re-post from my bitjoin.me blog posted here on Apr 28, 2016

A letter to the University of Nicosia

Hey guys, i would like to tell you a little about the project i have been working on for the past 18 months. I was also on the MOOC back in 2014 and found it really insightful, i came to the course due to my own interest in trading cryptocurrencies on the exchanges through the winter of 2013/14, eventually getting bored with that i wondered if i might build something useful with this new technology known as blockchain. My idea stems from my time trading all those funky named coins and learning all about the communities behind them and the individual value-twist a new coin would bring to the table, it was a rather wild west time for alt coins and it was fun investigating the various projects and ideas.

Somewhere down the line during October of 2014 i began to realise that there were so many coins being added all the time and the barrier was so low to entry (even i was asked if i wanted my coin registered on Bittrex when all i had was a domain registered and a twitter handle) it made me realise that this technology was going to have a long and troublesome road ahead towards the mainstream especially if a) currencies are so easy to publicise you don’t even need to have one running on a blockchain to be approached by a major exchange and b) validating the persons behind the currency brand, whether a community of enthusiasts or a group of experienced engineers it still remained rather difficult to identify which brands were valid amongst a tidal wave of different coins.

This, coupled with the numerous pump and dump schemes, constant developments of genuine new technologies i.e ColoredCoins / SmartContracts etc, and the just plane inability to understand from the mainstream media made it a super interesting place to be.

I decided the problem i would try to solve is that of having clearly recognisable currencies on exchanges, so that even the laymen could look at an exchange full of cryptocurrencies or hear about a currency and instantly recognise that currency. They key was putting recognisable brands behind those currencies, and its what i have been working on for the last 18 months. Along with five other guys, two in Germany, three including myself in Sweden and one guy in China, we are now beta testing with several small companies here in Sweden, we have soft launched, are facing the market and are set to fully launch in the 3rd quarter of 2016.
To learn more about the project from a brands perspective go to qwids.biz
or as a user you can grab a wallet at qwids.co
we are also building a dedicated test community at qwids.me
We are currently testing the service in Sweden and so the brands available as of now are Swedish but we are looking for people and brands to test the service outside of Sweden also.
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
RichTella
rich@qwids.co
qwids.biz

Workshop Meditation

About four years ago i had just arrived to Sweden and was looking for a path forward; a path in which i could enjoy my working day.  I started by upcycling junk that i found at local dump sites, and by collecting building site scrap materials. I documented my works on a blog called MakeMendMakeDo these […]

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FOUNDED – My first micro- doc

After much grappling with the art of story telling and many years of experimentation with video production i have now published my first short documentary.

It is based around interviews i conducted in 2015 with Bitcoin founders, back then i was just starting with producing video; the audio and video are a little sub-par, but i have been informed that viewers will watch if the story is strong enough to hold their attention.

I am hoping to use this first short to raise funds for a follow up film with the same six founders in an effort to show how the landscape has changed since these six founders set out on their journey to build successful companies in the Bitcoin space.

Viewers can help fund the follow up film by donating bitcoin to the documentary fund found here: https://bitjoin.me/bitjoin-documentary-fund

Chance Empathy

Chance plays a rather large role in life in general, we all experience it somehow, some time or another. Lately i have really felt like chances have been arising left right and center for me, i am still not fully sure how they arise or why, but i have a theory that goes something like this:

Connecting with people that are willing to give you a chance, no matter what it is, no matter how strange it may seem at first glance makes me think that somewhere along their own journey they have also experienced the same thing.

Someone, somewhere down the line has given them a chance in the past, and when they look at me they are reminded of a chance they were given. Even if it was twenty years ago, deep down, they recall that person giving them that chance; and how it set them on the path towards where they are today, if you are attentive you can just about hear the nostalgia in their tone when you first speak with them.

I write this because i often wonder why some people even bother with me to the extent that they do, why is this person even interested in what i am trying to do? why should they use up their precious time on my crazy project ideas?

I recently came to the realisation that perhaps they were once in my position and someone gave them a chance to hear them out, and this single chance changed their world and lead them on a path toward something they hold dearly to this day.

It made me feel (if i am accurate in my theory) that the world must be filled with people like this, all able to recall when they were given a chance that helped them realise their potential, and in holding on to that moment, are easily able to give others the chance they need to achieve what they need to achieve.

So something i would suggest looking out for when you meet people who you need to help you unlock a door or even join you on a quest, is empathy.

Can they relate to my struggle?

Does the journey I am on resonate at all with them?

If you look and listen closely you should be able to answer these questions within the first few moments together.