Will the Sean Parker of blockchain please stand up?

Now that Ethereum Frontier has launched, the only thing between us and cyber-utopia is an app. Not just any app–but a P2P blockchain app that makes normal people lots of money. And before that, we need an anti-hero willing to do the work of building the prototype for this world-changing app without getting paid.
Imagine a company. Imagine the management of this company resigns. The employees who remain are allowed to keep the company running by working peer to peer. The incentive: they’d get to split the money that used to go to management salaries.
That is a lot of extra dough to go around. But without anyone at the helm, people would need a system of agreements between one another to make sure each individual was held accountable to coworkers.
Without a legal department (they resigned too) each individual would need to write their own contracts: one for each person they work with regularly. As an editor, my contract with a writer might stipulate they send me a certain number of articles per day; when this “smart contract” looks in my WordPress account and sees articles, it automatically executes on our agreement and pays the writer.
That’s supposedly the promise of blockchains: peer-to-peer transactions for everything. And it’s the vision of Ethereum, the open source blockchain platform that officially launched last week.
If you missed the Ethereum launch, you are in no small majority. Distributed apps are still in the toy stage, with steep learning curves and no easy commercial path. Meanwhile, conventional startups pay. It will take someone making a killer d-app in the spirit of Napster, for the fun of disruption, to kick off an economic tremor.
“You don’t see the BitTorrent company today making billions of dollars and becoming the new Google,” says Stephan Tual, CCO of Ethereum. “What you do see is people starting to think: I don’t want to pay for music anymore. It’s allowed Apple to come and create its music store,” says Tual.
That means someone needs to find a highway-robbery scenario that lots of people care about: something on the order of $20 CD’s, says Tual.
“Whenever there’s a disruption it’s usually because of reaction to a rip off that has somehow become normal.”
Bitcoin is useful; it obviates bank charges and taxes. But those fees aren’t acutely frustrating our brilliant youth quite the way the retail music industry was doing back in the Napster days.
When the killer d-app comes, it might be employment. With millions of college-educated Millennials under-employed or under-earning, it’s only a matter of time before pressure to earn drives people towards online marketplaces where knowledge workers can moonlight and build skills. This “Napster for employment” might get attention from engineers, inspiring them to build mainstream blockchain copycats.
The ultimate promise is persistent online identity. Participating in more than one employment marketplace would reflect back on one common log of ratings and transactions.
“This reputation system would ask: What is this Stephan good for? Has he sold stuff on the decentralized eBay? Has he used the decentralized Airbnb?” says Tual. “All that reputation accrues over time. Who Stephan is becomes a valuable thing; I can then put that as a collateral for a loan–now you’re in microfinance territory.”
Abstractly, the value of blockchain is governance: how we organize with each other and work together. So just as Napster led to BitTorrent and the iTunes Store, niche blockchain applications could radically change the way our corporations and governments work.
“The impact will be tremendous,” says Tual.

Amen gets major feature boost and new investors

Hot Berlin startup Amen has got plenty of hype for building a simple app that lets you say if things are good or bad. But fresh money and major new additions — including deep integration with Facebook and iTunes — could make it a whole lot more useful.

Like it or not, the reputation graph is here to stay

Klout, the reputation-ranking service that recently confirmed a new round of funding, may not win the race to create a “PeopleRank” for the social web, but someone is going to do it — because the need to measure online influence is only going to increase.

For online reputation, transparency is king

When it comes to users, transparency is important for taking reputation with them across sites. Being chattygirl32 in the New York Times comments section isn’t so helpful when you try to leverage online reputation elsewhere. A real name, however, might stick.

Is Klout crossing the line when it comes to privacy?

Critics claim Klout is invading the privacy of those who haven’t even joined the service, including children, by compiling “shadow profiles” of them based on their activity online. Is that an infringement of their digital rights, or just the new reality of living our lives online?

LinkedIn’s Digital Resume and the World of Work

The IPO of LinkedIn is probably the most significant web stock issue since Google, so I wanted to take a moment to reflect on LinkedIn’s impact on the world of work. LinkedIn’s “digital resume” has become an important tool for connecting job seekers and employers

Online Identity Isn’t a Transaction — It’s a Feeling

Former Twitter CEO Evan Williams breaks the important aspects of identity down into five distinct pieces, including authentication and personalization. But the reality is that what we mean by “identity” can change from moment to moment, and that may be the most difficult problem of all.

How to Build Your Reputation on Social Q&A Sites

Can social Q&A sites really help you build your professional reputation? I’ve taken a look at three sites that offer similar functionality, yet are vastly different under the surface. Here is a breakdown of how to use Quora, Focus and Namesake to enhance your reputation.

The Race to Build a PageRank for the Social Web Continues

As the race to build the social version of Google’s PageRank heats up, PeerIndex has added a new data source to its rankings: users can now connect their Quora profiles to the service, which will use their activity at the site as a measure of authority.