Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to Share a Job

By Cat Johnson
From Shareable.net

There’s something very cool happening in the workplace — people are re-claiming their lives. They’re creating a more humane work/life balance, they’re spending less time in the office, and, yet, their careers are thriving. How can this be? Two words: job sharing.

To best explain what job sharing is, let’s start with what it is not. It is not two people working part-time jobs in parallel. That’s just part-time work. Job sharing is two people, through shared responsibilities, identity, and accountability, occupying one position. They are a single unit, a team.

Laurie Cremona Wagner and Elaine Miller have been job-sharing, career partners for years. Throughout their career they have held several high-impact corporate positions and are currently Director of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives at EMC. The two women, both of whom have children, have been able to not only maintain, but further their careers while also having quality time to spend with their families. They have had such success with job sharing that, in 2008, they founded a Bay Area non-profit, Mission Job Share, to spread awareness and job-sharing resources.

“There’s no way that we would ever have had the kind of jobs we’ve had, that are really demanding, more than full-time positions, without job sharing,” says Cremona Wagner. “We’re not job sharing because we want to plateau our careers; we’re doing this because we want to accelerate and grow our careers.”

When thoughtfully executed, job sharing is a win for everyone involved — employees have the personal time that they need while maintaining their position in the company, and employers are able to retain high-performing individuals and glean the value of having two valuable (and not over-worked) people on their team.

And job sharing is not limited to the corporate world. Michelle Spahn, who currently shares a teaching position in Santa Cruz, Calif. emphasizes that job sharing benefits her not only on a personal level — the artist and web designer has plenty of time to spend on her creative pursuits — but on a professional level, as well. “When I started job sharing, my teaching got better,” she says. “When you work in isolation you don’t have anyone to bounce things off of. But with job sharing, our skills compliment and inspire each other.”

Cremona Wagner and Miller, through their work with Mission Job Share, have found that, with a little creative thinking, job sharing can be adapted to any work environment. “We could not find an area that a job share wouldn’t work,” Cremona Wagner says, listing doctors, nurses, and lawyers among some of the professions that have had successful job shares. “We just found that it doesn't work for all people.”

A successful job-sharing situation requires organization, commitment, unselfishness, and seamless communication. Both Cremona Wagner and Spahn stress the need for both partners to be clear, open, and honest in communicating everything from workday details down to personal problems and frustrations when they arise. Both partners need to know exactly what’s going on; and employers need to know that the communication is being handled by the team, that they don’t have to say everything twice. “The more organized you are,” says Spahn, “the better the job share is going to work.”

It is also imperative that the team is seen as a single entity by co-workers, employers, and the partners themselves. “You have to be interested in how the team looks,” says Cremona Wagner. “If, for one second, you’re interested more in how you look than how the team looks, then there’s just disaster waiting to happen.”

Cremona Wagner and Miller have a joint e-mail, voice mail, calendar, and IM. They communicate several times throughout the week to keep each other up-to-speed on what’s happening. “If you have a conversation with one of us, you can pick up where you left off with the other,” says Cremona Wagner. They also take great measures to insure the well-being of their partnership and they stress the importance of being treated exactly equal. From salaries and bonuses to benefits and reviews, they are 100% a team. “It’s very much like choosing a life partner,” says CremonaWagner. “That’s how important they are.”

While some employers already have job-sharing options in place, others are unfamiliar with the idea and may need to be enlightened as to how the arrangement can benefit everyone.

Here are a few tips on pitching a job share to an employer:

Familiarity: When possible, choose a partner that you’ve already worked with and know that you are compatible with. It can work out to be randomly placed with someone, but the odds are much better if you and your partner choose each other. Hiring someone as a consultant is a good way to find out how you work together.

Do the Legwork: Before you pitch the job share, have the details worked out. What’s the breakdown of days going to be? Detail how everything, from early morning meetings to weekend e-mails, will be covered; stress the commitment the team has to making it a win situation for everyone; and breakdown how benefits could be divided (some companies will give 100% benefits to both partners). Like the job share itself, preparation and clear, detailed communication is the key to a successful pitch.

Toot Your Horn: Detail the successes you’ve had in working together. Highlight that, although you’re two different people, you have common values and a commitment to the organization, your career, and job sharing. As Spahn says, “If you can make it work, you can pave the road for other people.”

As people look to mix a little more living into their lives, and employers realized that 60-hour work weeks are just not productive, the job-share model makes a lot of sense. “It’s an amazingly valuable situation for the company and employee,” says Cremona Wagner. “I couldn’t recommend job sharing more highly.” She then adds, “And you can consider that you had this conversation with both of us.”

See the original article for lots of good resources on this topic

Maine Town Declares Sovereignty over Food

Editor's note: Global Exchange of San Francisco is initiating a similar campaign across the US called "Community Rights" to protect themselves from higher levels of government and corporations that use the government against environmental and human health harm.
And Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County, CA is asserting their community rights over local elections and local business.


Written by: Chris Dixon

The Maine town of Sedgwick took an interesting step that brings a new dynamic to the movement to maintain sovereignty: Town-level nullification. Last Friday, the town passed a proposed ordinance that would empower the local level to grow and sell food amongst themselves without interference from unconstitutional State or Federal regulations. Beyond that, the passed ordinance would make it unlawful for agents of either the State or Federal government to execute laws that interfere with the ordinance.

Under the new ordinance, producers and processors are protected from licensure or inspection in sales that are sold for home consumption between them and a patron, at farmer’s market, or at a roadside stand. The ordinance specifically notes the right of the people to food freedom, as well as citing the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Maine Constitution in defending the rights of the people.

Local farmer and member of the National Family Farm Coalition Bob St. Peter noted “Rural working people have always had to do a little of this and a little of that to make ends meet. But up until the last couple generations, we didn’t need a special license or new facility each time we wanted to sell something to our neighbors. Small farmers and producers have been getting squeezed out in the name of food safety, yet it’s the industrial food that is causing food borne illness, not us.”

Also, ordinances similar to this one will be going before a vote in three other Maine towns: Penobscott, Brooksville, and Blue Hill.

The text of the “Local Food And Community Self-Governance Ordinance of 2011″, which was passed unanimously, can be found here.

The Food Sovereignty movement has been growing, as it gained a boost with the U.S. Senate bill S. 510: “The Food Safety Modernization Act.” Georgia, Montana, North Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming have introduced legislation that, if passed, would nullify Federal laws that unconstitutionally affect food that does not cross state lines. Maine Representative Walter Kumiega (D-Deer Isle) has also taken the lead in the Legislature for food freedom with L.D. 263, which would exempt people from licensing requirements when engaging in sales that are local, such as at farmer’s markets.

Chris is the state chapter coordinator for the Maine Tenth Amendment Center. He is also a writer for Maine Web News.

Christopher Waters | Entrepreneur · Organizer · Consultant | Gypsy Spirit Mission Inc.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Worker-Owners in the Bay Area: A Business Model for the 21st Century

by Georgia Kelly
from the Huffington Post
November 15, 2010

A few years ago, when former CA state legislator Tom Hayden suggested that Northern California should apply for observer status with the European Union, it was understood that our region had more in common with Europe than much of the rest of America. Widely recognized for its progressive politics, the Bay Area is also home to the largest number of worker-owned businesses in the country.

Though they receive little to no press, these models for 21st century business are still below the radar. Perhaps they are not dramatic enough (they are successful) or corrupt enough (no one is suing anyone), or exploitative enough (all worker-owners earn a living wage).

Inspired by the Mondragón Cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain, many of these local businesses have flourished for years and have developed a template that works in the US.

One of the better-known examples is the Alvarado St. Bakery, featured in Michael Moore's film Capitalism: A Love Story, and located in Sonoma County. Alvarado St. was established 1981 by five people with roots in the 1970's "Food for People, not for Profit" movement in San Francisco. Today, they employ more than 100 worker-owners in what has become a national business.

Alvarado Street uses whole grain and organic ingredients whenever possible and sells to natural food stores as well as large supermarkets that package Alvarado St. bread under their own labels.

Joseph Tuck, the CEO of Alvarado Street said that worker-owners' salaries range between $57,000 and $63,000 a year. Clearly, the democratic model of worker ownership honors a substantial living wage. The highest salary approved in their system could reach 3 times the lowest salary, but no one is currently receiving that high a wage. With revenues of $24.6 million in 2009, Alvarado St. has proven that worker ownership thrives, even in an economic downturn.

Alvarado St. offers a robust medical plan that includes dental and vision. Workers pay $30 per month for a family plan and $10 per month for a single. Fourteen percent of Alvarado St. profits go into 401k plans for workers. They do not have to match the contributions.

San Francisco's Rainbow Grocery, the largest worker-owned supermarket in California, won SF's Bay Guardian 2010 award for best Bay Area grocery store. What began as a small collective in 1975 today employs 239 worker-owners. Kasper Koczab, who was Steering Committee Secretary at Rainbow and is now working for the Network of Bay Area Worker Coops, said that Rainbow was strictly worker-owned and not a consumer coop. One worker-owner equals one share and one vote. Rainbow Grocery has outgrown its premises three times and has had to move to larger quarters or add nearby space. Rainbow also offers an excellent healthcare plan that includes preventative care, fitness and even massage.

Representatives of the worker-owned businesses noted how difficult it is to get loans for these types of enterprises. When there is no designated owner, banks are reluctant to lend money. Consequently, Rainbow Grocery has paid cash for all of its expansions.

Worker-owned businesses even have a support group in the Bay Area, the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives. Their stated purpose is to support the growth and development of worker-owned cooperatives. They sponsor workshops, conferences, resources and networking opportunities for new and established cooperatives. Melissa Hoover, the executive director of the federation, is also on the board of the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives.

The five Arizmendi Bakeries, including the Cheeseboard in Berkeley, are famous for their pizzas, pastries and breads. Labeled "socialist scones" in a Salon.com article, the Arizmendi bakeries emerged from a study group that was learning about the Mondragón Cooperatives in Spain. Father Don Jose Maria Arizmendi, the founder of the Mondragón Cooperatives, inspired the name.

Hoover said that the mission of the Arizmendi coops "is to create as many living wage jobs as possible and to offer significant opportunities for personal and professional development." With more than 100 worker-owners, the Arizmendi Association is planning to expand their businesses beyond bakeries, maybe even branching out into finance.

While the Bay Area may have much in common with Europe, we have also been raised with the same competitive values as other Americans. We value innovation and creativity and these qualities are needed in both private businesses and cooperatives. Clearly, worker-owned businesses in the Bay Area are competitive with private businesses and are highly creative and innovative. What sets cooperatives apart is their focus on sharing the wealth, supporting each other, and responsibly living within limits on a planet with limits.

For those who claim worker-ownership can only develop in countries sympathetic to socialist ideas or cultures where cooperation is highly valued, the success of worker-owned businesses in the Bay Area and in many other parts of the US demonstrate that people who are motivated by sharing the wealth and creating jobs can create coops anywhere. The resources listed below can help those interested in learning more about worker-owned businesses:

Video presentations of the people cited in this article
An entry on the Mondragón Cooperatives

Monday, March 7, 2011

Urban Gardeners Push Local Gov to Allow Informal Economy

Mr. Vegetable Goes to the Planning Commission
By Heather Smith
From Mission Local
February 22, 2011

Christina Olague, vice president of the San Francisco Planning Commission, stares in disbelief at the stack of comment cards in front of her. “None of you are opposed to this,” she says. “I don’t want to put you on the spot, but is anyone opposed?”

The room is silent. Meetings of the Planning Commission can be among the most contentious in the city. (See: CPMC’s plans for St. Luke’s, or American Apparel’s plans to open a store in the Mission, or any number of planning disputes.)

But make a proposal [PDF] to simplify permits for small-time gardeners in San Francisco to sell their own produce, and suddenly the wood-paneled room becomes a giant love-in. In a town like this, who comes out against food?

Olague tries another tack. “Those of you who are in favor, stand up and show your support.”

There is scuffling of feet. Everyone in the room who is not associated with the Planning Commission stands up. Most of them sport various signifiers of the new urban agrarians: Carhartts, beards, fedoras, plaid flannel, large-gauge earrings, artfully knotted scarves, feather earrings, sweaters with reindeer on them, clogs. A few of them are recognizable from a recent New York Times pictorial on the Bay Area food movement. Through the doors, even more people can be seen hovering, blocked from entry by a fire-code-conscious security guard.

Olague ponders this.

“You can clap,” she says.

The room bursts into applause, and gleeful whooping.

“Well,” Olague says. “We’re breaking all the rules here.”

Large groups signing up for public comment are both what often sways a city meeting in favor of the side with the most numbers, and what makes those meetings run into the wee hours. Perhaps, Olague says, since everyone is in agreement, not everyone who signed up for public comment needs to come up and speak.

It turns out that support for the measure is a bit more varied than a show of hands would initially reveal. Several people come up and say they don’t believe that gardens should have the same fencing standards applied to similar projects, because vegetables are so attractive, and watching people weed them creates a sense of community. Also: farmers are broke and chain link is cheap.

Others complain about the permit fees to sell their produce, which could be in the realm of $400. Others want to include the right to sell produce at sites in the city other than where it is grown. Still others want the right to sell pies and jam and salsa.

None of which deflates the air of homespun ebullience. “Last April, we found out current zoning code prevents us from selling the produce we currently grow,” says Brooke Budner, who co-farms three-fourths of an acre in the Bayview called Little City Gardens. “Because it’s produce grown in a residential zone. I can’t wait to begin selling to San Francisco’s residents and restaurants. We’re planning to produce 50 to 75 pounds of produce a week!”

More applause, and a few whistles.

There’s Ellen Bauman, who commends her urban agriculture-producing neighbors as an improvement to her neighborhood. “This isn’t a new idea,” she says. “My grandparents grew up here, and I’ve heard their stories about cows in the neighborhood. I remember horses in Glen Canyon. That’s long gone, but I want my kids to have it, too.”

And there’s the thin young man who walks up to the podium and describes, in heavily accented English, going four months without a job when he first arrived in San Francisco. “I hope this will pass,” he says, “so that students like me can make an easier living.”

And with that, public comment is closed. “I’m so enthusiastic!” says Commissioner Gywneth Borden. “I’m the granddaughter of farmers! I spent summers picking strawberries and, as kids, it was our job to keep rabbits out. It was really exciting!” She suggests that the city revise its fees so that temporary use permits are less expensive than long-term ones. (Currently, the reverse is true.)

“Unfortunately,” she says, “as a planning commissioner I can’t advocate for no fees.” She laughs merrily.

“I have no problem with crops growing seven days a week,” says Commissioner Ron Miguel, who can always be counted on to tackle any legislative minutiae head-on. “They’ll do that whether we let them or not. But to allow selling from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. in residential neighborhoods — we’re going to have a lot of kickback if that happens.” He is assured that local farmstands are unlikely to stay open that long.

Miguel continues. He has reservations about the request to pool produce from multiple gardening sites and sell it in one location. His worry is that, given the difficulty of enforcement, the whole idealistic endeavor will be overwhelmed with opportunists selling produce that they claim is grown in the city but which is in reality from Chico.

“I know that is not the intent of the people in this room,” says Miguel, sternly. “But it would happen. There are people who would do that sort of thing. There are all over the city people on street corners selling agricultural goods that have no relation to this city, or to this country, even.”

Commissioner Michael Antonini alternates between reminiscing about the Bay Area’s pre-sprawl agrarian past and wanting to make certain that neighbors have the power to object if someone is growing vegetables in front of their house.

“My great-grandparents farmed up in the Delta and grew pears there,” says Commissioner Rodney Fong. “I continue to be impressed by this commission’s farming background.”

Fong then immediately goes for the dog pee issue, mentioning, somewhat cryptically, worries of “anything that might be left in your yard in the middle of the night.” He doesn’t want anything added to the legislation — he just asks the urban farmers of the Bay Area to be vigilant.

“When my father was an immigrant he came here and and picked strawberries,” says Commmsioner Hisashi Sugaya. “That was as close as I got.” He goes on to say that, given that the Planning Commission has a hard time just enforcing massage parlor regulations, it’s a bit of a stretch to imagine that it will be able to run stings on any urban gardens that prove to be fronts for conventional fruit sellers.

”We have a great staff,” he says, “but I’m noticing an inability to enforce any of this stuff.”

He smiles. “For all you younger people out there — you had a great idea, and then you ran into the bureaucracy. So here you are.”

“I just wanted to comment that I fully support this,” says Vice President Olague, heatedly. “Up here we hear a lot of greenwashing – used to justify dense development. I think it’s so ironic that growing vegetables in your living space is so complicated.

“Our fears seem to be more around the success of this model,” she continues. “I’m more concerned that it becomes successful. Then we can address problems as they come up. It’s easy for us to go into fear mode. Anyway, I’m ready. I don’t know of anyone else.”

The commissioners cast their votes. Ayes all around, and proposal 2010.0571T moves on to the Board of Supervisors.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Healthcare for the People, Not Profit

By Mira Luna
From Shareable.net

If you think you’re covered by health insurance, think again. According to a 2007 study in the American Journal of Medicine, illness and medical bills caused 62% of all bankruptcies and most of those people were insured and middle class. Meanwhile, “the five largest health-insurance companies racked up combined profits of $12.2 billion, up 56 percent over 2008”, according to a report by Health Care for American Now based on SEC filings.

In CNN’s analysis of the Fortune 500, “The star of 2009 is undoubtedly health care. The sector's earnings jumped to an all-time high of $92 billion. Health-care earnings rose by $23 billion, or 33%...from two groups, one surprising -- medical insurers -- and the other more predictable, pharmaceuticals. For the drug industry, it's as if the recession never happened. The sector's earnings surged by one-third to $64 billion.”

Three years ago I learned this the hard way. I contracted Lyme disease and coinfections at the peak of my health, right after my employer had closed down, leaving me without health insurance. At the last minute, I was able to get expensive guaranteed health insurance that would cover my new preexisting condition…or so I thought. I fought repeatedly with my insurance company for coverage of my life-saving medicines. They refused to pay for any expensive treatment by denying that it was medically necessary – I could probably survive without it. My health never really improved on the cheaper, less effective drugs they sometimes covered. I was in and out of the hospital, hit with huge co-pays and unable to work due to my disability for years, leading me to declare Chapter 7 medical bankruptcy.

“We waste one-third of every health care dollar on insurance bureaucracy and profits while two million people go bankrupt annually and we leave 45 million uninsured," says Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program. Even government programs to help the uninsured often leave people stranded, especially the middle class. When I asked Healthy San Francisco, a municipal health plan for the poor about my condition, they said, “We don’t cover chronic Lyme disease.”

In addition, none of the alternative healthcare treatments that helped my body’s own healing process and significantly eased my symptoms were covered by my insurance. Alternative healthcare is often less expensive than conventional medicine and is much better for preventing illness. With its proven treatment value and the comparative rising cost of conventional medicine, one third of all Americans now use alternative medicines and tend to visit alternative healthcare practitioners more often than conventional doctors. Alternative healthcare has been at least half of the recipe to my recovery.

While the government fumbles over legislation to provide this basic safety net that most developed countries guarantee all their citizens, innovative grassroots projects have jumped in to fill the gap. One such project in San Francisco, Adaptogen, that I have volunteered at is a monthly community alternative healthcare clinic providing unlimited visits to professional healers like naturopaths, herbalists, and bodyworkers for a sliding scale admission fee. The event offers tea service, healthy meals, and a talk on alternative healthcare.

Charlotte Maxwell Clinic, where I volunteered for a year, offers free complementary care to low income women with cancer, such as bodywork, acupuncture, herbs and supplements. Many women I massaged there tried to give me tips of money and food in exchange, despite being poor- some were so poor that they were homeless or living out of their cars while receiving chemo and radiation therapies. One terminally ill nun I massaged was so grateful for pain relief, she said she’d put in a good word for me. As a patient, I frequent Circle Community Acupuncture in San Francisco, which provides low cost acupuncture in a communal setting with a social justice mission, linked to similar clinics of the same model across the country.

The Karma Clinic (Oakland, CA), The Gifting Tree (Ashland, OR) and Volunteers for Health Care Today (Mount Shasta, CA) all offer health services through a network of local volunteer providers with the expectation that their communities will support them with gifts to continue providing service and their nonpaying clients will “pay it forward” by volunteering for their community when they are well. The Volunteers for Health Care website explains “we appeal to patients receiving free care to volunteer their skills, knowledge, and energy in your community – to “Pay It Forward”to others in need rather than paying it “back,” in “cash” to those not as needy. My own Lyme specialist doctor continued to see me on the pay it forward model after I ran out of money so I could continue my treatment and keep doing my activist work, as did several bodyworkers and a naturopathic doctor.

Taking the “pay it forward” model to another level, some low income clinics have integrated with local Timebanks to provide more access. Four low income health centers in St. Louis (Grace Hill Neighborhood Centers) use their local Timebank (MORE) and two health clinics in Portland, Maine (Turn the Tide Health Collaborative and True North Clinic) use Hour Exchange Portland to allow lower income clients to earn service credits called time dollars by volunteering to help community members and nonprofits. Healthcare is the most used service on Hour Exchange Portland and offers 30 different kinds of health services. One hour of childcare or community gardening can be exchanged on the Timebank for one hour of healthcare consultation. However, clients don’t have to earn first to spend, allowing them to join when they are sick and give back when they are well again.

South Korea has a similar indirect reciprocity system that provides conventional healthcare to thousands of low income patients through Hanabat LETS (Local Employment Trading System). One Hanabat LETS organizer noted that they have no trouble with “freeloading”. In fact, in most of these systems, including the one I coordinate, called Bay Area Community Exchange, people have more trouble receiving gifts than giving. Orion River Exchange in Vermont recently got a three year, one million dollar grant from the federal government to facilitate mutual aid care for the sick and disabled elderly. In Japan, the Fureaui Kippu time exchange is part of the national social security system, where able-bodied people provide care to the sick and elderly in exchange for care for their parents or themselves.

Many of the models mentioned above provide a wide array of outpatient alternative and conventional care, though not usually hospital or emergency care. Ithaca Health Alliance is working to change that through a nonprofit community fund available for minor emergencies, as well as a low cost community provider network. Their health fund was challenged under for profit insurance laws, but maintains they are a nonprofit mutual aid organization. The roots of this program, according to its staff, are in the Amish tradition of community members pitching in for each other’s healthcare costs when in need.The Old Order Amish do not typically carry private commercial health insurance, and about two-thirds of the Amish in Lancaster County participate in Church Aid, an informal self-insurance plan. The Amish have asserted and been approved by the government to opt out of national healthcare.

I wouldn’t have survived without the help of my community and alternative medicine. We need more locally based, community-driven medicine with design, feedback and participation from doctors and patients, not corporate executives that see life value in terms of short-term, quarterly profits. As the national government flounders, communities should pick up the reins, cut out the middlemen, and start implementing these simple and low cost local solutions.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

BitCoin: a rube-goldberg machine for buying electricity

From ξFin

With the EFF’s announcement that they would being accepting BitCoin donations, the alternative money community began to take a larger interest. I certainly did, and found that there are good and bad things about this form of money. In the end, BitCoins create a perverse incentive to consume energy to “create money.” Here is why.

What is a bitcoin and how do you create one? — A BitCoin is created whenever a user’s computer churns though a SHA-256 hash repeatedly from a hash until it results in a number less than a given number. Statistically, hash functions are supposed to have very unpredictable content–that is what makes them secure. Whenever a BitCoin client churns through a hash starting from a given number issued to the network, it burns CPU time (and thus energy). The probability of getting a hash to be “less than” a given 256-bit number is quite low. Successfully determining how many SHA-256 rounds it takes for a particular nonce to hash to a number lower than some value is called the “proof of work.” If while your computer receives a new “block” from the network (meaning another computer successfully won some BitCoins), your computer must start over with a new nonce.

How much energy does it require to mine the average BitCoin? — With my “older computer,” the hash rate averages around 2000 khps on a microprocessor going full-bore consuming about 65W. The current difficulty shows that a new BitCoin can be mined by a computer at this speed on average every 113 days. So, 113 days × 24 hours = 2712 hours. 2712 hours × 65W = 176280 Wh or 176.28 KWh. The average cost of a KWh in the United States is 10.45 cents. So we’re looking at spending $18.42 to create 50 BTC (at the moment). So the electrical cost is about $0.36/BTC. BitCoins are trading now already at values below this, so I can only assume that they’re being sold at a loss or others may be externalizing the costs of electricity and not taking this into account. If you were to pay your electric bill in BTC, you would have a positive feedback loop (always a bad thing) that consumes more energy to earn money to pay back the power company. It doesn’t matter how efficient your processors are—you’re spending more money to make money.

Now I understand the motive to why BitCoin is like this: it is to prevent run-away inflation– the number of BitCoins that will ever be available to the world is limited to X million. If BitCoins are lost due to corruption or data loss, they can never be recovered. (Clue in the Greifer who writes a trojan horse that seeks out to destroy unprotected wallet.dat files!) While the BitCoin FAQ claims that it is a misconception to say that BitCoins gain their value via the electricity used to generate them, as there is no other way to feasibly generate a BitCoin other than the mass consumption of electricity, I don’t agree with this assertion. Once a BitCoin is generated, you still have the problem of a market that still must determine their “value”–does it cost you 25 BTC for a sandwich or 2.5 BTC for a sandwich? With an absolute fixed quantity of BTC to be created (until about the year 2140) and a specification that says that BTC can be subdivided down to the 0.00000001ths (not that any client supports this at this time, most mandate the limit of hundreths of a BTC are the smallest subdivisions) we have a currency that will devalue itself almost as easily as the Zimbabwean dollar, except by using progressively smaller and smaller subdivisions of a BTC. Should we be using BitCoin 10-decades from now, we’ll still reminisce how it used to be that 10 BTC would have bought you a nice meal, and so on.

So what use is BitCoin? — BitCoin is driving a lot of people to think about the problems of creating transactions that cannot be interfered with by third parties, without fees, etc. The “Timestamp Server” concept and distribution of publicly “spent” transactions (to prevent double-spending) is still a valid concept. Anonymity in transactions is still something desirable, but I don’t believe that you can achieve it via near-anonymous digital signatures online.

In the end, the artificial creation of the limited number of possible BitCoins via this “proof of work” (doing millions of SHA-256 hashes over and over) is madness. All you really need is to have “proof of limitation” without the politics—was the market restrained from creating too much money too fast? BitCoin’s use of a procedural solution is the wrong track when all you need do is define a constraint via a formula and apply it as needed over time, instead of everyone continuously spinning a hash function and wasting electricity. Keep the transactions public, cryptographically sign them, and audit them with a money model and you’ll be able to keep much of what is good about BitCoin. And of course, use a “commodity” the people can intuitively understand, something like… time.

for more info about Bitcoin