[Estimated reading time 29 minutes, 56 seconds.]

Enters the block chain as a phenomenon and possible solution. And with it projects like Po.et, Dagens Nyheter and Civil that try to merge journalism with the blockchain.

Blockchain is the underlying theory and technology behind cryptocurrencies and was invented by Bitcoins creator Satoshi Nakamoto. That is a nom the guerre and his/her real identity is still somewhat disputed.

The basic idea is to remove middlemen like banks in the case of currencies, governments for equity such as land, or as in this paper Mastheads and brand names in publishing to “certify” journalism.

The need for these middlemen, who often take political or economic advantage of their role in the transaction or registration of an asset, could theoretically disappear if “all” could agree on who owns a certain coin, plot of land or for that matter, creative content.

So, the idea is to have a “paper” where all ownership of land, copyright, coins or whatever is written down, and then the paper is copied to everyone that wants a copy. When I claim your land is mine everybody can confirm by looking in the paper that I’m wrong and you are right. A distributed knowledge instead of a centralized. With no middlemen.

The blockchain itself is just a database of such claims added to one another in a long cryptographically secure chain that is distributed among all who care to store and uphold the chain.

It’s a “web of trust” that in the case of Bitcoin and Ethereum has proven to work. The currencies are traded, and everyone can access the blockchain and see that a certain asset belongs to a certain wallet with crypto coins.

Who owns the wallet is another question which is often kept in the dark deliberately to anonymize who holds what assets. It’s like “bearer shares” used in the offshore industry to protect the real owner of a company to be taxed or sued by his spouse in a divorce.

To take advantage of bearer shares you just establish a company in Bermuda, move your assets over there, issue bearer shares for the company that you deposit with your trusted lawyer and then file for divorce. Now your ex can’t prove you own anything to be shared in the divorce, but you can access the shares and thereby the assets by calling your lawyer. Who better be trusted…

Politically it becomes an interesting practice as a “world-currency” – who both can be used by drug peddlers like the infamous SilkRoad[1] but also for keeping your assets in a situation where galloping inflation like the one currently experienced in Venezuela make cryptocurrency the last resort for people to protect their assets when the middleman, the state, is failing.

My Bitcoin story starts in front of an ATM in Stockholm in May 2015. I make my investment by showing bills of real Swedish crowns into the ATM and go through a simple registration, including scanning my ID card to the bitcoin exchange that has placed the ATM there.

I download the wallet to my phone, see that I have a Bitcoin balance and walkout feeling like I’m part of the future.

And it seems I was.

All my retirement worries disappeared as the investment increased. When I invested a Bitcoin was worth 1 970,19 Swedish Krona. Two years later, May 2017, that was ten times more, 11 979 Swedish Krona. And in May 2018 it was 78 794 SEK.[2]

Today it´s a mellow half of that. But still a 2387 % return on investment.

(In dollars a Bitcoin was worth $19 000 at the height and at the time of writing its $ 4000.)

In addition, my son built a bitcoin miner from a discarded server we found dumpster diving. I started worrying about the real cost of bit mining = the energy to fuel the processor solving the math problem that is the input you make to achieve a bitcoin.

Running an extension cable from my bitcoin ignorant neighbor faintly flashed through my mind but as a teenager’s energy resources are almost inexhaustible, their attention span is short, and the miner never came online.


There are several very interesting applications of the blockchain technology out there that do not aim at selling drugs or becoming a billionaire in cryptocurrency fluctuations. Here I take help of my friend Cameron Grams to show a collection of a few of them.[3] This is from his very interesting paper on how blockchain could stabilize Afghanistan landownership.

The Government of Sweden’s Lantmäteriet

In July of 2016 the private companies of Telia, ChromaWay, and Kairos Future released a report for the Swedish Mapping, cadaster and land registry authority on the potential use of blockchain technology in land registration.[4]

The focus of this report was the process of land sales in Sweden and the prospects for making the process more efficient with the use of distributed ledger technology enabling all parties to share information more rapidly. The report is the first stage of a larger project for the Government of Sweden, the second stage is an actual proof of concept demonstration that facilitates the process of land registration using a local blockchain.

The Government of Georgia

In April 2016 the Government of Georgia’s National Agency of Public Registry announced a partnership with the company BitFury and Hernando de Soto’s Institute for Liberty and Democracy devoted towards providing land registration using the blockchain.[5]

The Georgian government stated that their goal was to provide reliable transparency over the administrative actions of the state in order to eliminate corruption.[6]

The Government of Estonia

Estonia is the most advanced country in terms of moving the interaction between citizens and the government into the digital domain. Estonia has developed a system of governance where citizens can accomplish nearly all of their government related tasks online; from voting, to registering a vehicle, changing a residence or accessing their health care information from anywhere in the country. The country provides an excellent example of what is possible.

Estonia accomplished this integrated system by issuing all of it’s citizens an identification card that has two stage strong encryption and enables them to reliably access, and more importantly protect, their personal information.

Culturally the Estonian attitude of trusting the government with such a concentrated amount of personal information is probably unique to Estonia. It is hard to imagine something that pervasive being accepted in the United States, let alone a country like Afghanistan where violent resistance to the government is still the reality in many parts of the country.

But Afghanistan, and the United States, should look at what has been possible and realize that tailoring these capabilities to local conditions will result in optimized outcomes for the future.

The services provided by the Estonian government reside in 900 databases.[7] The key to the Estonian approach has been to establish standards centrally and allow integration to be performed in a decentralized manner by the offices that are responsible for those databases.

One key component of this distributed database system is the Keyless Signature Infrastructure developed by the Government of Estonia in partnership with the Estonian company GuardTime.[8],[9] This system employs a blockchain as a component of data integration, ensuring that citizens are able to access a uniform baseline of certain information and that that information is stored in a manner that is uniformly replicated and secure.

Compared to having a central government responsible for a single database this has resulted in a significant cost savings; 2015 estimates for Estonia’s costs were between 50-60 million Euros, compared to Russia’s efforts at e-government that ran an estimated 90 million Euros or those of Kazakhstan which cost 150 million Euros.[10]

Estonia has several distinct advantages that enabled them to produce such a robust system relatively cheaply, the most significant being a small population size with no legacy infrastructure or administration that had to be accommodated. But that said they serve as the best example of what is possible between a government and the people in the digital age.

The Government of Ghana

Possibly the best example of what is possible for Afghanistan are the efforts at land registration on a blockchain by the Government of Ghana.

In a partnership between the national government, a non-governmental organization named Bitland, and the Crypto Currency Exchange Denmark (CCEDK), a project for land registration using blockchain technology was started this year.[11] Rural Ghana also struggles with a history of predatory local governance, poor documentation of existing land ownership and unreliable infrastructure. Tribal dynamics also play a part of people’s lives and impact the realities of land ownership. These are similar features found in Afghanistan worth noting.

The Bitland Ghana land registration project is based on the OpenLedger[12] blockchain.[13] The ability to use this system has to overcome local challenges, such as public acceptance and local infrastructure. This has been the focus of the NGO, Bitland, where they plan to establish local centers with solar power, wifi, and a staff trained to educate local landowners on the details of the system.[14] Currently they have one center operational in Ghana, and another in Mauritius[15]. This sort of bottom-up approach is the only realistic path to success in areas of weak governance.

The final intent of the project is to enable local landowners to access a system of micro-credit based on their equity in their landholdings, precisely as described by Hernando de Soto.

The economics of this is definitely a work in progress, but involves a blockchain specific token (called Cadastrals in this case) tied to the actual land.

This currency will facilitate the interaction between registration and the conventional economies of fiat currency.

# The nuts and bolts of blockchain

A good five-minute primer on the blockchain technology was produced by the UK’s Government Office for Science and put on YouTube. That’s five minutes in a laid-back position if you still need a primer on what the blockchain is.[16]

But I feel I still own the reader of this paper to explain the nuts and bolts. To not re-invent the wheel, I asked my friend Cameron to use yet another chapter from his paper.[17]

Here it is, somewhat abbreviated.

4. The Technology of the Blockchain[18]

Transparency and integrity of information are the most essential aspects of blockchain technology. Development of this technology can be credited to the initial work with Bitcoin.

Bitcoin is the most widely recognized implementation of blockchain technology because it was the first, but Bitcoin has since been followed by other implementations that are further driving what is possible.

In 2008 the Bitcoin whitepaper[19] that described this technology was published by Satoshi Nakamoto on a cryptography mailing list.[20] The initial whitepaper explained the concept of a distributed blockchain.[21] Shortly after explaining the technology the software to perform the calculations was released and the community of cryptographers began experimenting with “mining Bitcoin”, or growing the blockchain as described in the paper.

Blockchain technology began as a niche practice among cryptographers and technologists but has grown into something truly unique.

One of the unique applications of the blockchain is the “distributed ledger” feature of the technology. The United Kingdom’s Government Office for Science released an assessment of the potential for blockchain implementation of a distributed ledger in January 2016.[22]

They provided a succinct definition: “A block chain is a type of database that takes a number of records and puts them in a block (rather like collating them onto a single sheet of paper).

Each block is then ‘chained’ to the next block, using a cryptographic signature. This allows block chains to be used like a ledger, which can be shared and corroborated by anyone with the appropriate permissions.”[23]

The fact that the chain grows in a cryptographically secure manner ensures the integrity of the entries made in these successive blocks.

A blockchain is a record of calculations based on the state of the network at successive points in time. Each record, the block, is calculated based on the block that precedes it by reading the header information of the block (like a label or title) and the transactions or other information for that time period.

These calculations are performed by computers linked on the network each trying combinations of values to solve the current problem represented by the state of the network.

These calculations are largely trial and error so the speed of computing power that achieves these calculations drives the evolution of the blockchain.[24] Once a given set of calculations is recognized it is confirmed by the other members of the network. This ensures that there is a consensus on the state of the information in the blockchain.

Confirming the block is a matter of more straight-forward calculation and does not require the computing power needed for the trial and error of initially solving the block.

All of the blocks are visible and able to be authenticated by all of the participants in the network. This is how blockchains provide transparency and integrity for information.

The network recognizes the longest version of the chain that reflects the most recent calculations and continues building from there. This provides all of the participants in the network visibility into the overall state of the network and an assurance in the soundness of the entries in the actual blocks.

The calculations that produce the actual blocks are hard cryptographic problems that require a great deal of computational power to accomplish the trial and error of possible solutions.

This requires a great deal of hardware and electrical power. Completing these calculations is rewarded with tokens, proof of work, for performing these calculations by the network, growing the blockchain provides a greater investment in the blockchain; Bitcoins are the tokens in the case of the Bitcoin network, Ether (Eth) in the case of the Ethereum network, or some other incentive mechanism defined by a local network on another blockchain.

The original implementation of a blockchain with Bitcoin only sought to provide a record of ownership of the proof of work tokens in the Bitcoin system; the individual blocks of information captured between calculations was designed to reflect transfers of ownership of the tokens. What is possible with a blockchain system has evolved to the point where the value of the information entered the blocks is now the object of focus.

The original Bitcoin system allows all participants able to make entries and engage in token exchange freely.

Subsequent systems have defined roles and established restrictions on the capabilities of network participants. This has expanded the potential use of the blockchain; it is possible to provide all network participants full visibility of the entries, but restrict who can make successive entries, or require multiple entries to validate an action.

This has the greatest potential as a tool for governance, where administrative accountability is provided through transparency and permissioned entries are defined in accordance with roles in the government.

Security of the system

The blockchain has evolved in the open source software development community. The technology involved and the practice of growing the blockchain have been publicly available, discussed and examined by the community of experts best qualified to ensure its integrity.

Andreas Antonopoulos, one of the more prominent blockchain innovators, likened blockchain to the “sewer-rat”, since its immune system has been exposed to continuous assaults it has developed a high degree of resilience.[25]

The greatest source of that resilience is the network effects achieved by having many participants in the system; by having a large number of people performing the calculations that grow the network there is greater assurance in the system’s integrity based on the consensus of the large number of network participants. No one is able to change a previous entry without alerting the entire network and consensus is required for new entries to be recognized by the network.

There are theoretical threats to the information in the blockchain; if a single participant captured more than 51% of the computing power of the network it would theoretically be possible to control the entries that were made in the network by establishing a single source of authority, rather than network consensus. This would enable that actor to control future entries, but they would still not be able to alter the past record.

This threat is mathematically possible but the amount of computing power being employed from the large number of sites makes this threat less likely. Blockchain networks benefit from the network effects of large numbers of users; more users ensure more efforts at computation and more locations of the past record.


The Ethereum blockchain is an evolution of the blockchain concept first employed by Bitcoin.

Originally proposed by Vitalik Buterin[26] in 2014 the Ethereum system expands on the original concept of the blockchain employed by Bitcoin by embedding a complete scripting language in the blockchain itself, so that individual blocks can contain additional information.[27] This enables the ledger to capture information complete with instructions for actions to be taken at a later time, or when given conditions are met.

This enables entirely new forms of social organization and economic activity, such as the Distributed Autonomous Organization (DAO) and Smart Contracts. The DAO is a collection of users who have pooled value in the form of Eth tokens and make collective, decentralized investment decisions.[28]

Smart Contracts are the conditions based instructions encoded in the actual blockchain itself, for example: transfer X to Y if conditions A, B and C take place. The transfer would take place only if conditions are met and without further human interaction.

This further expansion of what is possible with the blockchain is very new and still has significant pitfalls associated with implementation. In June 2016 a malicious actor created a Smart Contract with the DAO that caused him to be repeatedly paid without termination.

This led to the DAO being effectively robbed of the Eth tokens from the network that had a value of $50 million at the time.[29] These tokens were never converted to conventional currency or removed from the Ethereum network; it was possible to identify exactly where the misappropriated funds had been placed, they were just no longer able to be accessed by the rightful, previous owners.

The theft of these tokens presented the network development team with a significant test; although the tokens were taken against the will of the previous owners, the Ethereum blockchain system had performed exactly as it was designed. The fault or cause of the incident was that the DAO had accepted a Smart Contract with a script that took more than they realized it would.

The incident provided a challenging test for the governance of the Ethereum community; many embraced blockchain technology out of a Libertarian ethos that eschewed central authority, they felt that the incident should be allowed to proceed and serve as a lesson to other members of the community.

Others felt that the Ethereum community should collectively go back in time to the point on the blockchain before the script became active so that the tokens never left the DAO account. This is possible by establishing that the blockchain will proceed from the block that was previous to when the theft occurred; the process is called “forking” and is a matter of changing the orientation of network participants. In the end there was a split between these two views; the blockchain that included the theft proceeded as “Ethereum Classic” and another chain forked or established its new record from the point before the incident.

The difference between the two blockchains is now a matter of where the tokens are located. Both have been proceeding since the fork took place.[30]

Implications for Use

The virtue of the blockchain is that it provides a mechanism to establish trust in an objective, transparent, and secure manner by creating a cryptographically secure record of activity.

The incident with the DAO was resolved in a very public manner that reinforced the consensus of the community, with those who disagreed for ideological reasons moving in a different direction. But the incident does highlight the danger of automating too many functions that are deemed critical. The technology is still evolving and will be from here on out.


Po.et, CIVIL and Dagens Nyheter

At least three attempts at using the blockchain for journalism is underway.

# Po.et

According to its website, Po.et is “an open, universal, and immutable ledger for managing the ownership and licensing of the world’s creative works.”[31]

Po.et writes in its whitepaper:[32]

“By creating an open platform on the Bitcoin blockchain, Po.et aims to create the most institutional, globally-verifiable record of digital media assets. Tis record will be a framework for building smart, interoperable media applications using a shared, standard and extensible metadata format.”

It makes use of the technology for one single purpose: keep track of ownership of content.

Anybody can take digital content and with a free account post it on the Bitcoin blockchain with Po.et. With a piece of code on a WordPress post a plugin to the server will share the content with Po.et automatically. Po.et makes a hash – a short string of unique numbers representing the content – and puts that irretrievably on the Blockchain.

On your page a Po.et stamp shows up with a link to Po.et´s server where a “Claim made by” link is found that links to the profile of the creator of the claim (you)and displays the profile’s name.

There you can see when it was uploaded to the blockchain and by whom.

For example:


is stored in:


and the claim itself has the content in:

https://ipfs.poetnetwork.net/ipfs/Qmcd32oKZeXLckPtyB67TK33FgW6WGGoe2uTykRXNFN2Vx. (archiveUrl property).

Po.et, at least for now, stores the uploaded content but the main idea is to shares it with the internet on a distributed filesystem called IPFS.


The filesystem used by Po.et is a separate invention that is in itself distributed technology. Not only that many servers now can have an exact copy of a particular content, it’s “content addressed” as opposed to “location addressed”. It’s the identification-hash that’s important, not the particular hard disk or server where the content is stored.

Traditionally content would be found on: https://laurin.xyz/content.html, but with IPFS it’s a hash, and a database of where the content that corresponds to that hash is to be found on the net, on one server or many.

Here things got so complicated, that I turned to David Turner, Project Lead@Po.et. I read his blog and engaged in a Q&A with him. Here are some excerpts:

“IPFS defines itself as a peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol to make the web faster, safer and more open. For Po.et, IPFS is a perfect fit because it satisfies three requirements: content addressability, file immutability and extreme durability.”

Content addressability enables us to refer to any piece of data by name as opposed to location. IPFS’s addressing system is based on a hash of the content which creates a unique address for every piece of content on the Po.et Network, including the claims. If a file is changed, the address will change, too.

IPFS is a coordination layer above your actual hard drive. It allows multiple computers storing information to coordinate about who all has a particular file.

When you request a specific item from IPFS, it’s just broadcasting out to all of the IPFS-enabled computers to see who has that file. This means that the files are now “content addressed” as opposed to “location addressed”, where location addressing would be using something like an IP address or typical URL like yahoo.com.

The address for IPFS enabled content comes from the hash of the content which ensures that you’ll always get the exact same file as anyone else vs. requesting a file from yahoo.com/file and that server could return you any file it wanted. [33]

We run IPFS enabled storage on our nodes. We’re currently storing the information people put on the network for free. In future implementations, we’re changing how that works so that nodes have more control over what they’re storing.

Any computer that uses IPFS can decided to “pin” any piece of content that they want, which is what helps make IPFS really resilient.

If there’s only one computer in the world that has the file and it goes down, then the file is still inaccessible; IPFS does not guarantee permanent persistence of the file, only permanent addressing of the file. [34]

As for durability, if one IPFS server decides that it is willing to expend resources to keep a piece of data online, then the entire network has access to that data. By leveraging this decentralized storage model, users of the Po.et Network distribute their content and claims across a wide range of IPFS network participants, making the complete removal of those claims extremely difficult as long as the content is worth storing.“ [35] [36]

For example, when creating a new work claim, the claim and content are both stored in IPFS, which generates IPFS separate file hashes for each respective piece of information. A number of these IPFS file hashes are batched together and stored in a single IPFS directory, which also is identified by a unique hash. The IPFS directory hash identifies this claim batch and is anchored in the Bitcoin blockchain.[37]

We’ll also be working towards allowing communities to form around topics/tags that have incentivisation pools + governance to help attract content to those communities. This allows us to separate out the curation of content (topics/tags) where content doesn’t just live in only one silo. An example might be a “journalism” topic/tag where people that want more of that content can financially incentivize others to put more content on the Po.et network and register it with that topic. The content can always live on Po.et, even without a topic/tag or if it’s encrypted information. We’re building the basic building blocks for a better web, something that we have over 25 years of work put into with the semantic web.” [38]

Since Jill Abramson purported plagiarism is one of the cases in this study I asked Turner how Po.et could help with fraud/plagiarism?

Plagiarism is a very complex problem and not a problem Po.et aims to solve directly. Instead, we’ve taken an approach where everyone can make claims about ownership, sign that information with a cryptographic signature, and build up historical reputation on-chain so that a conflict of ownership can be discovered.

You can claim that you’re the original author of whatever you want on Po.et as there’s no way we can enforce truth.

However, take a read of https://blog.po.et/breaking-down-po-et-the-stages-of-the-po-et-protocol-b6ce00422477.

You can claim that you’re the original author of whatever you want on Po.et as there’s no way Po.et can enforce truth. But Po.et can be an arbiter of claims to original content – AKA plagiarism

There’s two parts to how that can work:

– The hardest part is simply having enough volume of content available in which to check against if you’re trying to do something automatically.

That’s the “slicing of the sausage” problem mentioned in the Abrams story, how much, or rather little, data is it relevant to investigate for plagiarism? The use of the word “and” is not.

The second part is how that data can be compared by Po.et:

– Assuming you know of two pieces of content that exist on the Internet, you can put both on Po.et. You don’t have to claim to be the author/owner/publisher of the other content and can still give correct attribution.

All we’re doing is recording “this person (David) claims that this content has this metadata (Author = Fredrik)” because that allows David, the claimant, the ability to build up a history of making reputable claims, even if the content is not his as this isn’t a requirement that we could ever enforce.

In addition to recording all the metadata, you also will be able to use a claim to link two pieces of content together; more specifically, you can make a claim about two pieces of content that they are the same piece of content. This would then allow everyone else looking at the Po.et data to understand that someone thinks there’s plagiarism involved.

Today, we haven’t implemented an interface for claims about multiple subjects, but it will be part of our next milestone. That also allows for a much more in-depth graph of information in general.[39]

Turners blogpost “Breaking Down Po.et: The Stages of the Po.et Protocol”[40] will help explain a little bit of what’s on the horizon, but the gist is that Po.et is working towards compassable filters that will allow you to decide which claims of the content you consider to be valid.


Civil is the closest so far to a new kind of masthead, it’s both a media platform and a blockchain network, owned and operated by journalists and citizens, and a Blockchain startup.

“We believe that the ad-driven business model is slowly killing good journalism — which is itself a critical foundation for free, democratic societies,” Matt Coolidge one of the founders, wrote[41] on Medium.

We aim to reignite a more direct connection between readers (or “Citizens,” as they’re known on Civil) and journalists (“Newsmakers”), while taking advertisers, publishers and other third-parties out of the equation.”

The websites that are members of Civil can put icon in a corner that is intended to work like a “Good Housekeeping seal of approval” or “Sustainably fished”. The stamp means the site adhere to the Civil constitution[42] which is like the now common declaration of “this is how we work” in traditional Mastheads.

By becoming members, the journalists and newsrooms not only accept working according to the standards of the constitution, but also to be ousted by the Civil community of they don’t.

Civil attempts to do several things:

* the same trick of stamping origin as Po.et employs (But Civil puts the hash of the content on Ethereum’s blockchain instead of Bitcoins)

* defining and controlling what is good journalism.

* offering a model to monetize the content.

The latter is done by buying a share of Civil, called tokens, a part of the Ethereum blockchain implementation. These can be re-sold, but you can also be paid for your work in Civil’s – which is a true cryptocurrency that can be traded on the open market and exchanged for greenbacks.

Only this time the cryptocurrency is intended for paying for content and there are mechanisms introduced to Civil’s to protect the currency from speculation.

The idea has been followed closely by others, one Podcast was set up by two former NPR journalists, Manoush Zomorodi, and Jen Poyant who left WNYC in 2018 to create “ZigZag” to follow Civil.[43]

Others, like The New York Times, has also dissected Civil. This is how Jonah Engel Bromwich of The New York Times tried to explain the model in a lengthy piece in November 2018 called “Alas, the Blockchain Won’t Save Journalism After All”[44]:

“Financial sustainability first: Civil’s newsrooms (18 listed on its site so far) are welcome to use traditional business models (like subscriptions, paid for with dollars), and many, like The Colorado Sun,

Block Club Chicago and Popula, an “alt-daily” with a worldly mind-set, have chosen to do so. But as citizens became convinced of Civil’s value as a publishing platform, they could opt in to the network by purchasing Civil tokens. These would buy them some control, making them, essentially, shareholders. They could “tip” journalists with tokens or portions of tokens, request stories or even suggest the creation of whole newsrooms dedicated to specific subjects. As the news organizations got stronger and stronger — ostensibly, with the input of citizen-shareholder-readers — others would purchase tokens, the value of the tokens would increase, and the entire community, journalists and readers alike, would prosper.”

The tokens can also be used for voting on the Civil “board” who is responsible for selecting who can be on, or should be thrown out of, Civil. The tokens are just like shares, the more you have the more votes. Hence major players that want to invest dollars in exchange for Civil’s can get a lot of power over what is accepted and not.

And here of course Civil runs into the problem of defining what journalism is. Asked about this at ONA18 in Austin 2018 Civil’s representatives couldn’t produce a very good answer to this central question of the governance model.

The Civil Media Foundation oversees “upholding the principles of the network.” AKA: Running the board that would by voting make these difficult decisions.

Vivian Schiller is chief executive of the foundation.

She’s a former president and chief executive at NPR and head of news at Twitter and ducked the question of how to handle an application from f. ex Steve Bannon, former editor of Breitbart, by referring a decision and definition of who´s welcome to votes cast by the Civil community.

Meant for the masses

Civil is meant for the masses, the public that cares about and want to support and influence “good journalism” – but the process of becoming a member is so inherently complicated that Civil’s initial coin offering, ICO, failed last fall.

Formally it fell short of the minimum number of tokens it had hoped to sell by more than $6 million. And of the $1.4 million worth of tokens that was sold 80 percent was purchased by ConsenSys — a software company that helped Civil get off the ground.

But, it also had a terrible user experience. It took me literally weeks to get my dollars’ worth through the multitude of steps in Civil’s system, including answering a quiz about the Civil constitution so that I was clear of what I was becoming part of. Interesting thought but in the end not for the faint hearted.

Civil’s is a difficult lens to analyze whether blockchain will work or not, since Civil failed due to the difficulty of purchasing tokens.

The demand was there, I do think some people wanted Civil’s tokens (I clearly did) so the question is: is it scalable? Would my mom purchase Civil’s tokens if it was easier? Ease of use for blockchain is inevitable.

The question, then, is will people like my mom be willing to PAY for (potentially more accurate) news.

When I finally was accepted after multiple interactions with their support the ICO failed and I never got to lose my money.

This spring they restarted with a much more streamlined process, but that still failed at being a smooth experience by software on their side not delivering.

Eventually now a Civil member and investor, it will be very interesting to get to participate in the vote when Steve Bannon applies.

Jonah Engel Bromwich doesn’t believe much in the concept:

“For now, Civil is essentially just another media operation with venture capital funding. The money underwriting it, from ConsenSys, remains, you know, regular money. The company uses some blockchain technology underneath the hood, including a plugin for its publishing software. But the technology remains difficult to comprehend, and, for any news consumer’s purpose, irrelevant.”

Being backed by ConsenSys, who has made a lot of real-world money on its expertise in the blockchain nand poured another $3 M into the relaunch, is probably what can save Civil and possibly make it a viable alternative to traditional Mastheads.

At least the idea is sound: that journalism is the core product of publishing and that by watermarking and monetizing it one could circumvent failing or struggling economic and governance structures.


DNN is the Decentralized News Network, another collaborative news platform based on blockchain technology that calls itself “Collaborative News for the People” “

DNN, is a news platform, combining news creation with decentralized networks to deliver factual content, curated by its community.”

Basically, they are trying the same as Po.et and Civil by offering to store hashes of content on the blockchain but also certifying it as “good content”.

Interestingly, they also ask you for your political leanings when you register.

//Updated 20190426//

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  4. Report available on request from company’s site: http://chromaway.com/landregistry/

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  6. Shin, Laura. “Republic Of Georgia To Pilot Land Titling On Blockchain With Economist Hernando De Soto, BitFury.” Forbes. N.p., 21 Apr. 2016. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

  7. Reynolds, Mathew. “Welcome to E-stonia, the world’s most digitally advanced society.” Wired Magezine. N.p., 20 Oct. 2016. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

  8. “Keyless Signature Infrastructure.” E-Estonia. Government of Estonia, 2007. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

  9. “KSI Technology.” GuardTime. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

  10. Leonid Bershidsky. “Envying Estonia’s Digital Government.” Bloomberg . N.p., 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

  11. Aitken, Roger. “Bitland’s African Blockchain Initiative Putting Land On The Ledger.” Forbes. N.p., 5 Apr. 2016. Web. 5 Jan. 2017.

  12. Open Ledger, https://www.openledger.info/

  13. Aitken, Roger. “Bitland’s African Blockchain Initiative Putting Land On The Ledger.” Forbes. N.p., 5 Apr. 2016. Web. 5 Jan. 2017.

  14. Ibid.

  15. 8 Dec conversation with BitLand’s Chief Operations Officer, Elliot Hedman

  16. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sm5LNqL5j0&feature=youtube

  17. https://understatement.laurin.xyz/index.php/glass-shield/(opens in a new tab)

  18. A good 5 minute primer on the blockchian technology was produced to support the UK’s Government Office for Science, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sm5LNqL5j0&feature=youtube

  19. https://medium.com/coinmonks/bitcoin-white-paper-explained-part-1-4-16cba783146a

  20. Davis, Joshua . “The Crypto Currency.” The New Yorker. N.p., 10 Oct. 2011. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

  21. Nakamoto, Satoshi. “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System.” Bitcoin. N.p., 2008. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

  22. “Blockchain Technology.” UK Government Office for Science . N.p., 19 Jan. 2016. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

  23. “Blockchain Technology.” UK Government Office for Science . N.p., 19 Jan. 2016. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

  24. This is a “proof of work” blockchain model. Other models, such as a “proof of stake” where greater responsibility for blockchain integrity is performed logically by software on the actual blockchain are under development.

  25. Antonopoulos, Andreas. “Andreas Antonopoulos DevCore: Bitcoin, the Bubble Boy, and the Sewer Rat, a must see speech!” YouTube. N.p., 9 Nov. 2015. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

  26. Mr. Buterin was 19 years old when he first drafted the concept. By any measure he is a mathematical genius.

  27. A Next-Generation Smart Contract and Decentralized Application Platform.” Ethereum. GitHub, 2014. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

  28. ” ibid.

  29. Price, Rob. “Digital currency Ethereum is cratering because of a $50 million hack.” Business Insder 17 Jan. 2016: n. On-line.

  30. Buterin, Vitalik. “Hard Fork Completed.” Ethereum. N.p., 20 July 2016. Web. 6 Jan. 2017.

  31. https://adage.com/article/qaa/q-a-jarrod-dicker-blockchain-publishing/312379/

  32. https://nextcloud.webo.hosting/s/NqXZNCRSaKNGxkJ

  33. Q&A with David Turner Project Lead @ Po.et

  34. Q&A with David Turner Project Lead @ Po.et

  35. https://blog.po.et/breaking-down-po-et-the-architecture-f468216a7ae7 accessed 2019-04-01

  36. https://blog.po.et/@wdavidturner

  37. Q&A with David Turner Project Lead @ Po.et

  38. Q&A with David Turner Project Lead @ Po.et

  39. Q&A with David Turner Project Lead @ Po.et

  40. https://blog.po.et/breaking-down-po-et-the-stages-of-the-po-et-protocol-b6ce00422477

  41. https://blog.joincivil.com/what-is-civil-95b7e5e09e62 accessed 20190413

  42. https://civil.co/constitution/ accessed 2019-04-14

  43. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/16/business/media/blockchain-podcast-manoush-zomorodi-zigzag.html accessed 2019-04-13

  44. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/01/style/blockchain-journalism-civil.html accessed 2019-04-13