I’m a bit of a bitcoin enthusiast. I run a small web business called CRON-O-Meter that lets you do detailed nutrition and fitness tracking. The free version is ad-supported, but users can upgrade to a premium ‘gold’ edition with no ads and premium features. In June, I added Bitcoin (using BitPay) as an additional way to purchase gold subscriptions, to the existing options of credit-card (using Stripe), and PayPal.
I even placed the bitcoin option above PayPal:
Serious kudos to BitPay, who’s API was super simple and easy to implement, test, and deploy in just a few hours. BitPay gives retailers the option of instantly converting some or all of received bitcoins instantly to USD. For the record, we’re keeping ours all in bitcoin, and hope someday we can pay some of our hosting expenses and contractors in bitcoin, rather than fiat.
So far, after 4 months, the results have been pretty underwhelming. Just 0.73% of our purchases have been made using bitcoin, and PayPal is still the dominant option our customers choose.
This shows how far bitcoin still has to go before one could consider it a mainstream payments choice. I’ll revisit this in an update post in another 6-months to a year and see if things have changed.
Here’s what I’ve been working on the past couple of months — Chatbox, a site that lets you form instant chat rooms with any group. You can even take an email thread and turn it into a chat room by cc’ing firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants get sent a link and are instantly in a persistent chat room. You can share files (just drag & drop anything into the chat).
It’s perfect for any sort of team project — you can drastically cut down on your emails by keeping a chatbox going. It’s also great for quickly getting a group together to decide something. Planning with your group where and when to meet for drinks after work? Instead of sending 400 emails back and forth, just launch a chatbox to hash it out in real time.
Hot on the heels of our other two games, Jawfish Poker has just been released into the App Store. In this casual poker game, we’ve boiled poker down to it’s essence for quick action. Every hand is played heads-up from the pool of available players, and you can only go All-in or Fold. You only have a few seconds to act for each decision, so game play is super fast. You can play an entire tournament while waiting in the grocery line.
We also have a cash-game mode called King of the Hill, where players can come and go like in a cash game, but the player with the largest stack at the end of every minute of gameplay is the King of the Hill, and wins bonus coins from the jackpot pool. The blinds are dynamically set on each hand to be roughly 1/10th of the smaller of the two stacks, so every hand is a big decision. I hope you’ll check it out!
Just wanted to let y’all know about my new iOS game. Created by a startup I co-founded, Jawfish Games, and published by Big Fish Games, Match-Up! pits players into multi-player, real-time tournaments where players comete in casual games of skill. You can currently play Mahjong, Word Rack (a word scramble game), and Qbeez (a block clearing game).
I’m super exciting to finally have this game out for the world to play. We’re launching several other fun games in the coming months that will also feature real-time multiplayer tournaments on your mobile devices.
I’ve just combed my iTunes playlist for my most played and liked songs of 2011. Here are the winners of the prestigious 2011 Aaron’s Favorite Tracks Awards.
1) Opportunity by Brasstronaut, Album Opportunity EP
Just a kick ass track, amazing on so many levels. Funky and tight, with a depth of layering that rewards multiple listens. I’m very much looking forward to their upcoming album. Runner up would be Hollow Trees, from the same EP (free download), also a beautiful track.
2) Comedown by Ohgr, Album Undeveloped
Simple, catchy, with a great build towards the end. Me likey. Runner up track: Pissage.
3) Icktums by Skinny Puppy, Album handOver
Granted, Skinny Puppy is an acquired taste, but lets just say I have acquired this taste in spades. Thus, the infrequent treat of a new Skinny Puppy album is always a time of great glee. This track is my pick of the album, with all the madness and chaos Puppy does best. Runner track up is Village.
4) WDKYWMYK by Rabbit Junk , Album Lucid Summations Single
Unnnnngg. Two rocking songs in one really. The first bit, some dub-steppish bad-ass badassery that breaks into a Marylin Mansoneqsue rock anthem. Behold:
5) Please take your hand away by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Album The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo Soundtrack
My chill out mellow pick of the year. Runner up Parallel Timeline with Alternate Outcome.
This is a little late, but version 0.9.9 of CRON-o-Meter was released a few weeks ago.
This version brings an update to the foods database (USDA sr24). Naturally my web version of the popular nutrition software was also updated with this new data.
The website’s traffic has been steadily growing since it was launched in March.
For anyone that checked out the site several months ago, but didn’t switch over, I strongly suggest checking it out again, as there’s been a lot of work and improvements made over that time.
I’ve run the whole thing as a bootstrapped startup, and almost all of the growth has been organic (A negligible amount of traffic is from online paid advertising). A bootstrapped startup is one that starts with basically no capital investment, besides your own elbow grease. It starts generating income modestly from the start, and then feeds that back directly to cover operating expenses as it scales.
It’s currently making about 25% of its revenue from the mobile app sales (iPhone & Android), 25% from advertisements, and 50% from the gold subscription sales. There’s still a long way to go before I can claim a stable income, but the steady growth and revenue stream has been quite encouraging that all the hard work I’ve put in over the past 8 months will be worth while.
If anything, it’s been a tremendous learning experience, and at times frazzling, to mentally juggle so many codebases and platforms (the Java/GWT/SQL website, Android, iPhone, and the original open source version).
I’m surprised that the iPhone version is outselling the Android app nearly 4-to-1. I had thought there were a lot of Android users out there, but maybe they don’t like buying apps as much as iPhone users.
Version 0.9.8 of CRON-o-Meter was released today.
This version brings an update to the foods database (USDA sr23). It also includes the ability to upload your data to cronometer.com (Help Menu -> Export to cronometer.com).
Speaking of which, I’ve been doing quite a bit of work on the cronometer online website. If you haven’t checked it out in a while, have a gander at all the fancy new features!
On April 15th, the DOJ and FBI brought down the ban-hammer to online poker in the USA.
Prohibition is a crime against personal liberty. Just because a small percentage of people cannot responsibly handle something, is no reason to ban it for everyone. In the USA, you can still buy guns, cigarettes and alcohol, despite their proven dangers. You can drive motor vehicles, even though thousands of people are killed in traffic accidents every year. Some people are addicted to shopping and rack up massive personal debt, but shopping malls and credit cards have not been banned.
It is perfectly legal to gamble away your entire life savings in the stock market, but a responsible adult cannot deposit $10 and play a card game on the internet? This is ridiculous. It’s like banning peanut butter because some people are allergic to it.
There are many arguments the prohibitionists make against online poker. I think well designed regulation can solve all of the major problems raised by those supporting prohibition. If done right, good government regulation of online poker can prevent minors from playing, prevent problem gamblers from playing, prevent fraud and money laundering, ensure the game is fair, and generate a significant revenue stream from taxation.
Many countries in Europe have started to regulate online poker. While it is good to see countries like France and Italy now regulating online poker, I think they got a few things horribly wrong. Their regulations were clearly not drafted by anyone familiar with poker. They made a lot of decisions that were a the detriment to the quality of the game, ultimately hurting their players.
The following would be my recommendations for an ideal regulatory framework that would be in the best interests of all involved (poker players, site operators, and legislators).
Regulation should start with regular third party audits by professional security teams. This is already standard practice in the industry, and is required to get gaming licenses in each jurisdiction. This ensures operators are using secure systems that are compliant with the regulation, and correctly dealing a fair and unbiased game for the customers. Operators need to have theoretically sound random number generators, collusion detection systems, bot-detection systems, and anti-fraud systems in place to properly protect their customers.
Just as you need a license to operate a vehicle, buy a gun, or go fishing, citizens wishing to play poker should have an easy way to apply for their own gaming license. To obtain a license, a citizen must verify their identity and register their social insurance number. A player must be of age to obtain a license, and the license can be revoked by the government if there is reason to believe the person is a problem-gambler. Each license can have a maximum limit on how much the player may spend per month. Appropriate spending limits can be determined based on income tax returns. A janitor making $25,000 a year can clearly be labeled a problem gambler if they were losing $1000 a month playing poker. For a lawyer making seven figures, the same amount can simply be considered as an expensive hobby and not something hazardous to oneself and family.
Operators must communicate with a government system to authorize key events such as a player making a deposit or withdraw of funds from the site. This allows the government to have control over each player’s spending limits. Movement of funds is strictly tracked this way, making fraud and laundering very difficult.
Tax can be collected through two avenues; Profitable players will pay income tax on yearly poker income. Income tax can even be automatically deducted from withdrawals, just like is done with payroll. A poker site makes all of its revenue by charging fees to deal hands and run tournaments (respectively known as rake and juice). All fees collected from a player by the operator from rake and juice can also be taxed. This tax should not be too high. France made a big mistake here and taxed the game too heavily for a lot of good players to make a profit. Taking too much money and destroys the incentive to play. Don’t kill the goose that lays golden eggs!
The biggest mistake France and Italy made is that they made their systems closed-loop. French players can only play with other French players. Italians can only play with Italians. This limits the population of players in each jurisdiction, dramatically shrinking the available game selection and prize pools. Poker is a game where you play against other players. The more, the better. Size matters a great deal in the poker ecology. Players should be able to play a global game, but their respective governments can collect tax on the revenue generated by their players.
As a Canadian poker player, I really hope my government considers these recommendations if and when they decide to draft poker legislation.