Category Archives: Online Tech

Hyped Bitcoin ban in China sees prices drop

Recent headlines that have seen China ‘banning’ Bitcoin have been misleading consumers and causing a significant drop in Bitcoin’s price this September. Bitcoin reached a peak of over $50,000 United States Dollars (USD) this month, but since the speculative release of much press and media announcing China’s ‘ban’, has dropped to around $40,000 USD in the last week of September 2021. 

Whilst not entirely false, the headlines have been definitely exaggerated. Henri Arslanian, PwC crypto leader and partner, took to Twitter to clear up the matter: “whilst this is not a surprise as China has “banned” crypto many times in the past, this time there is no ambiguity. Crypto transactions and crypto services of all kind are banned in China. No room for discussion. No grey areas.” 

The new directives from China do not go as far as to make owning cryptocurrency illegal, but they do make it much harder for those in mainland China to hold assets. Huobi Global and Binance are two of the biggest cryptocurrency service providers in China, and both have already made moves to host the majority of their business offshore to protect from interference from the Chinese authorities. Both companies have immediately stopped registering new users as a result of the legislation, and Huboi Global says it aims to close all existing accounts on the mainland by the end of the year 2021.

In a statement released by the Chinese government, it claims cryptocurrency activity has been “disrupting economic and financial order”. It went on to describe cryptocurrency as enabling illegal activities such as “gambling, illegal fund-raising, fraud, pyramid schemes, and money laundering, seriously endangering the safety of people’s property.”

Cynics of the ban cite China’s plan to launch its own digital currency as a key motivation for the legislation. It seems China’s government may be clearing competition from the market, ready for the Central Bank to launch an official cryptocurrency in the future.

Bumble places mental health over profits

The dating app Bumble has made global headlines this month by giving all its employees a week off from work. The online dating platform says it sees its global team as suffering from pandemic related burnout, and hopes that a week off to rest and focus on themselves will help everyone to recuperate. The move is unusual for the highly competitive tech industry that usually prioritizes profits over mental health, but is a growing trend amongst companies who are looking to improve working conditions for their staff members. 

The week off is aiming to help fight work related stress amongst staff and alleviate symptoms of burnout following a hard year of working through a global pandemic. The week is fully paid and staff are asking to go fully offline also to make the most of the week. 

Bumble is a woman-led company as well as a dating app. Within the app, women are the ones to make the first move in a complete reversal of traditional gender stereotypes. The app was founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd and Andrey Andreev in response to the misogynistic and patriarchal tendencies with behaviour they saw on other dating apps such as Tinder. Whitney Wolfe Herd controversially left her position at Tinder shortly before starting rival dating app Bumble that positions women instead as leaders of interaction. 

As women become more commonplace in positions of leadership within companies, and even nations, mental health awareness within the global public seems to equally be rising. It seems women as leaders are also more sensitive to the personal needs and complex issues surrounding keeping a workforce or nation happy and healthy. 

More than 750 Bumble employees around the world will benefit from Wolfe’s decision to release her employees from their work for a week. Elsewhere tech startups Hootsuite and LinkedIn have both similarly given employees a paid week off work to help combat built up stress.

What is Dogecoin?

This past year saw further leaps and bounds in the prices of well known cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. For those of us less familiar with the digital currency landscape, Dogecoin is one coin we might be yet to hear of. The chances of that are getting less and less likely however, as Dogecoin has made some surprising gains in 2021 that have made headline news around the digital currency world. 

So let’s take a look at this latest crypto phenomenon!

What is Dogecoin?

Simply, Dogecoin is another form of cryptocurrency similar to more well known coins such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. Unlike Bitcoin or Ethereum however, there is no limit on the number of Dogecoins that can ever be made. As a result the price of Dogecoin has traditionally stayed relatively low. As of June 2021, Dogecoin has seen highs of $0.35 United States Dollars and lows of $0.09 United States Dollars per coin. As of the 16th June 2021 and the time of writing this article, its price is currently $0.31 United States Dollars a coin. 

Where does the name come from?

The name is one of the more unusual parts of Dogecoin, and does its part to explain the coin makers’ philosophy. The coin was made initially as a joke by Billy Marcus and Jackson Palmer. The two software engineers started the coin as a joke back in 2013 and the name services from the once-popular meme with the dog breed of the same name. The joke was meant to be on the various cryptocurrencies and their uses, however the increasing popularity of the coin in 2021 means it is now the fifth largest cryptocurrency on the digital market. Dogecoin unexpectedly has seen a 5,000% increase in its market value in 2021. 

Dogecoin uses similar blockchain technology to Bitcoin or Ethereum and uses a ledger to record and secure all transactions made. The ledger is then retained by all holders of the coin in a decentralised digital currency market.

What is an NFT?

The art world has been going wild recently over a recent surge in interest surrounding NFTs. But what is an NFT? The acronym stands for non-fungible token. Yes, non-fungible… the basic meaning of this is, unlike bitcoin that can be traded for other bitcoin and you’ll have the exact same thing, an NFT is more like a trade of playing cards. This means you could trade something of equal value but end up with a different token at the end. 

The application of this type of blockchain technology to digital art has been heralded and critiqued widely. While some people see NFTs as a way to deprivigalise more traditional forms of art and open up the art market to those outside of its traditional centres, others cite moral and environmental arguments for why such cryptocurrencies are a bad idea. 

One particular argument against the use of NFTs for digital art is that it affects the experience of the viewer. A benefit of digital art currently is that it retains the aura of the original work with each viewing, unaffected by what number of copies it is. Some are arguing that inscribing an NFT to a work would fix an original of the piece in such a way that the aura of the work  subsequently viewed elsewhere as a copy would be destroyed, and experience of the audeineed diminished. 

The hype for NFTs in the artwork has increased so much that even high-end auction houses such as Christie’s have been getting in on them. Though initially traded between friends for at most $100 USD, a secondary market for digital artwork NFTs made from files such as MP4s, GIFs and JPEGS, has quickly emerged. 

The digital artist Beeple is the pseudonym of NFT innovator Mike Winkelmann who, until October 2020, had never sold a work for more than a hundred dollars. Come March 11th 2021, a recent digital collage from Beeple titled ‘Everydays – The First 5000 Days’ sold for a staggering $69 million USD at a Christie’s online auction. The price was far beyond the estimated $35 million and $15 million more than the painting Nymphéas by Monet which was sold via the auction house in 2014.

Gamestop caught in the middle of protest against hedgehfund shorts

In an unlikely turn of events this month, humble games retailer Gamestop has been caught in the middle of an spontaneous campaign protesting the practices of hedge fund managers in the stock market. 

So what happened?

Let’s begin at the beginning. The campaign to raise Gamestop’s shares began on Reddit. The reddit thread is called “WallStreetBets’ and a place for anyone interested in talking about the stock market or trying to pick up some tips. The users of this Reddit thread came together and decided to sell the Wall Street short-sellers on stock a message through a mass online protest where they would encourage the buying of Gamestop shares to artificially raise the price. In this fashion, hedge fund managers who were shorting the stock had the potential to lose incredibly large sums of money. 

Did it work?

The question of ‘Did it work?’ is a good one, and maybe we don’t quite know the answer yet. From an average of around $20 United States Dollars a share from Gamesop beginning in early October 2020, the stock price rose to a peak high of $357.51 United States Dollars on Wednesday 27th January 2021. Whilst prices reached a second peak of $325 United States Dollars on the 29th January 2021, they have since fallen and peaked again just over $100 United States Dollars since the end of February 2021. Whether the stock can be prevented from falling short ultimately remains to be seen. 

But what is shorting anyway?
Shorting in a term most of us know from Hollywood films such as ‘The Big Short’ and ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, yet our understanding of what the term actually means might not go much further than that. What shorting means is the selling of stock not owned by the seller, which ideally then drops in value and the seller can buy back the lower priced stock, which if there is a significant difference, means lots of profit.

Bitcoin price peaks over $52,000 AUD

Bitcoin is an online currency that has been on the radar for many people for the past few years. Renewed interest in the digital currency has come about though this January 2021 as the online coin’s value has skyrocketed into the new year, and peaked at just over $52,000 Australian Dollars on the 8th January 2021. 

There are many speculations for the reasons behind the niche currency’s sudden peak, but rapid increases and decreases in the value of the online coin are not new. Other notable peaks occurred in 2013 and again in 2017, when Bitcoin’s price went from $5,000 USD to $10,000 USD in a matter of months. 

Jump to 2021 and Bitcoin’s surging popularity has seen a meteoric 40% rise in 2021, quadrupling its value for the same quarter last year. Prices rose steadily into early January before starting a predictable steady and continuing deterioration in price. 

Bitcoin dates back to 2008, when it was supposedly invented by Satoshi Nakamoto – a mysterious and as yet unconfirmed figure. The software was released at open-source in early 2009 in a transaction that took place a prearranged exchange between Nakamoto and an early Bitcoin user. 

Papa John’s pizza chain in the USA was the first business to receive a real world transaction of Bitcoin in 2010. A Bitcoin miner chose to spend 10,000 bitcoins on a pizza in Florida – a transaction that would now make the pizza worth roughly $460,000,000 AUD. 
At its origin the digital currency was worth less than $0.01 USD a coin at its conception at the beginning of 2010, only reaching $0.08 USD per coin in July. The value of the coin comes from its scarcity as only 21 million Bitcoins will ever be allowed to be mine. As of January 2021 there are just under 3 million coins left to mine meaning roughly 88% percent of all Bitcoins available are currently in circulation.

Online exam company sees coronavirus boost

An online tech company, Better Examinations, has seen a massive boost in their profile and usage this exam season. The company hosts software that has enabled thousands of students in Australia and around the world to take examinations at home. The site, Better Examinations, is desirable for educational institutions as it allows multiple students to be monitored taking the test at the same time. All students require in order to join the examination is a stable internet connection and laptop or desktop connected to a webcam. The slightly Foucauldian-esque eye of the webcam and knowledge of the student that they are being watched are thought controls enough to prevent any unusual increase in test cheating. 

How does it work?

The software uses an advanced form of artificial intelligence called machine learning, or ML, to keep watch for patterns in participants’ behaviours that could suggest cheating. Before the exam, facial recognition software is used to ensure the identity of the candidate is correct. During the exam, the software temporarily disables or fully restricts access to the internet, as well as any specified applications on an individual’s computer. The software also contains technology that allows it to mark the answers to multiple choice and Mathematics exams automatically. 

A boost from the coronavirus 

With millions of students at home from the ongoing coronavirus global pandemic, the company saw a much increased demand in their services in April and May this year. Piero Tintori who runs the company said: “We had 60 organisations from all over the world contact us out of the blue, who wanted to run exams online in May and June.” The demand, he went on to describe has been “everything from universities, to professional organisations, to schools”, and even five country’s governments that he declined to name. With the dreaded second wave occurring current across North America and Europe especially, it’s likely the company’s good fortune will continue.