e$: 24 Hours

Robert Hettinga
Shipwright Development Corporation
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131

Comments: rah@shipwright.com

 

November 2, 1995

 

Yesterday, I had probably the most amazing day I've had in a very long time. As the day revolved around e$, strong crypto, cryptoanarchy, Macs and the life on the internet, I thought I would share it with you.

6:00

Got up before the alarm. Carol, my wife, dropped me off at the gym, where I hadn't set foot in about 6 months. Started up yet another new exercise program. Did a lot of big muscle stuff, like squats and deadlifts -- now I can't climb stairs so well for a while. Shaved off yet another unfinished goatee (3rd time in 6 weeks) because I had to be presentable in public today.

9:30

Showed up at the speaker's desk at Internet World Boston, got credentialled and went to find David Fox's session on transaction methods. Had some time before, so I ran down to the floor and weaseled an Apple Internet guy named Tom Bartlett into shooting a picture of me with a QuickTake so that Vinnie Moscaritolo, another friend at Apple, wouldn't have a picture of him holding a scrawled sign saying "Bob: send me a GIF for this!" on the e$ web-page he's building for me at http://www.webstuff.apple.com/~vinnie/Rah/ . I had Tom e-mail the GIF to me from the floor, and ran back to the session, with 5 minutes to spare.

The session got about 300 attendees, who listened to presentations from Pierre from First Virtual, Cliff from Open Market and Mike from Checkfree, and then I got to talk a bit.

I had never spoken to a convention before, and here I was batting cleanup after all the pros pitched their stuff. David Fox introduced me as a "Wild Card", and I did my best to help him out. We were running late, but after asking them to get up and stretch after sitting through 2 hours of dog-and-pony, I asked the audience how many people people were from Boston, and told them about The Boston Society for Digital Commerce and when the meeting was. I then asked them how many of them had ever sold a car, and then asked them whether they took MasterCard from the buyer, and got a nice laugh.

I told them that I thought that digital commerce *was* financial cryptography, and that most people settling trades on the net were just figuring that out. I told them to go out and buy Applied Cryptography by Schneier, and Out of Control by Kelley. I told them about the difference between certificate-based and book-entry transaction systems. I told them about Tim May's idea of Crypto-Anarchy, and about the Cypherpunks.

Finally I asked them to imagine a world where instead of needing to enforce copyrights and patents, a developer's code would simply refuse to run periodically without a digital receipt saying that some specified amount had been paid, to the developer, preferrably in cash. I told them about Digicash, Mark Twain Bank, and about how important that was, even if it was a bumpy first start.

At question-and-answer time, a guy from Germany asked us about the ITARs, regulatory restrictions on international transactions, and deutchmark-denominated business. All of the other presenters allowed that while that was hard, they had patches or were working on it, and that regulations were a problem. I talked about Eric Hughes' idea of regulatory arbitrage, how John Gilmore said that the internet saw censorship, and by extension arbitrary regulation, as damage, and routed around it, and I said that the folks at Mark Twain and Digicash had seen this as a problem and set up their system to be denominated in one of 5 currencies, including marks.

I picked up about 10 cards from people who wanted to come to lunch at the Boston Society for Digital Commerce. (Plug: The first Tuesday of the month at the downtown Harvard Club. This month's speaker is Win Treese from Open Market, on how to design systems for digital commerce. E-mail me for details.)

In addition, I saw BSDC member Dave Lash, a real-estate mogul turned web-fanatic who told me how to clean up my presentation style for next time.

2:00

After schmoozing, and trying to find a bank to cash a check. I met David Fox and his web guy (forgot your name, sorry) on the trade floor in front of the Netscape booth, which was about 20% the size of the IBM booth, and was blocking the aisles so much that the fire marshall was giving them grief for it.

We then went to see Jim Phillips at Security First Network Bank. SFNB is in Atlanta, and while the likes of Citicorp and Chase were putting together proprietary, dial-up, bank-by-phone systems, Jim went ahead and did his stuff on the web for some rediculous fraction of their costs. They were the only bank there. They had this tiny booth way back in the corner, and they were also a fire marshall problem. Jim was talking to a guy from California somewhere about setting up an account right then and there.

I told Jim to expect a visit from my anonymous digital signature law source "Irwin" , (for Irwin Cory, The World's Foremost Authority, RIP), who had asked me earlier in the week about SFNB, and how to get ahold of them.

Then, David, who was the original Aldus and Radius distributor in Australia before moving here a few years ago, went around lining up sponsors for his WWW pre-tradeshow tradeshow which in turn evolved out of his tradeshow directory business.

While we walked around, I talked to David some more about e$pam, my idea for building a group of three e$-mail lists (a filtered list of other e$-ralated sources, an unmoderated "watering hole", and a newsletter), and we agreed to talk more about it on Friday sometime.

3:00

Cashed a check from my first-ever writing sale, a longish rant entitled "The Geodesic Network, OpenDoc, and CyberDog", which originally was posted to apple-internet-users, was cross-posted by bunches of other people in the Mac world to other e-mail lists all over the place, got me fan mail from the likes of Kawasaki, Alsop, Petreley, and various Apple Vice Presidents, and was even cited in a New Zealand law journal. An editor from InfoWorld bashed it from a 20kb rant down to a feature article of about 1300 words, and it will appear this Monday in the November 6th issue.

4:00

Went to see a client, who is the CFO for a famous, er, beauty salon, with about 50 salons world wide. I sort of core-dumped at him about how someday he could send his e-mail his cash to the home office in London every night. He's seen me like this before, so he didn't quite think I was from Mars...

5:45

As a lurker on the internet-marketing list, I got invited to a party at Bob Metcalfe's 5-story Back Bay townhouse. I had recruited Julie Rackliffe, a friend of mine in "Development" at the Computer Museum, to come along so I would know at least one person there. When I got there, I saw Dave Lash again. Small world.

Besides the usual groceries, Bob had a big bunch of posterboard on a on his dining room table, and another piece of posterboard on his fireplace mantle. There were a bunch of questions on the table's poster, and one was about winners and loosers. I said that digital financial certificate underwriters would be the winners, and that loosers would be companies which depended on large information hierarchies. There was a question about anonymity, and I quoted Gilmore on network damage again. On the fireplace mantle was this posterboard with an org chart with business-card sized blank boxes all over it. One side of the pyramid said "Client", the other side said "Server", and so I drew a big cloud off to the side with the label "Crypto-Anarchist" in it, and put my card there. A few people moved their cards into the cloud. I was rather pleased with myself...

I went upstairs where I met John Levine, who was in the PBS internet special last year, and Margy Levine Young, who wrote "The Internet for Windows for Dummies Starter Kit" in a room with a Windows box, a bonded ISDN connection and a wall projector. I showed a few people the e$ web-page, met the author of the refrigerator magnets page, and found out the John and Margy were fellow Unitarians, and that Margy's husband is the UU webmaster. We're everywhere, we're everywhere.

I went up to the third floor, where by that time they were serving coffee and dessert, and Bob Metcalfe was there reccommending desserts to people. By that time I was talking to a trust officer at a very large institutional trustee bank here in Boston about how to underwrite digital cash. This guy was sympathetic because what he really wanted to do was chuck it all and go to work for Open Market. I told him that the next best thing was to let me come in and evangelize his bank a bit. He agreed. Dubiously. Anyway, He wants to come to lunch at BSDC, probably to schmooze the Open Market folks. So while I was standing there waiting for coffee, I told Metcalfe about getting a feature article into his magazine. One thing led to another, and the next thing I know, we're up another flight of stairs, and I'm dumping core again, this time about 10 steps from ARP-1, the original ARPANet transponder. Oh. Metcalfe uses a Mac, even though his internet feed is to a Wintel box.

Metcalfe first starts off with a few coy questions about Phiber Optik, and Phil Zimmerman, and he figures out that my interest in cryptography is pretty much in its financial implications. So, for the better part of half an hour, he's quizzing me about stuff like digital cash, digital certificates and financial disintermediation, and pretty much the whole geodesic market rant. He says he likes "Mr., Doctor, Doctor, Huber's" stuff, a reference to Huber's hypercredentialed resume. He talked about these crazy people who were creating a secondary market in Digicash's beta certificates, so I told him about Lucky Green, Rich Lethin and how all of us created ecm.

I told Metcalfe about reputation capital, and, when he talked about the evils of anonymity, I talk about how on the net, a key pair *is* your identity, and about Tim May's cryptoanarchy stuff. I told him about BSDC and asked about him speaking sometime, but he says he's working on a conference and a book, and his wife will kill him if he starts making speeches again. He wanted on the BSDC list, though, so I'm going to subscribe him and see what happens. I also said I'd mail him the e$ URL.

10:45

I get home and after telling Carol all about my day, I still can't sleep, so I jump on the net and filter cypherpunks for buyinfo, and then answer some mail from my college roomate, who found me last week. He's a commander in the Navy who's now flying planes at McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. I shot him back a message and told him about the e$ web-page, which he's going to have to sneak into another office to look at some other night, ;-), and I told him that I was writing this and would send it to him when I was through.

I still wasn't sleepy, so I plinked on the development version of the e$ page with the new picture, and when I was done with that, I read news, and, in reply to a comment I posted on soc.culture.alaska (I spent middle school in Anchorage), I get a reply from Mr. Pickett, my 7th and 8th grade science teacher, and my favorite science teacher on the whole planet. Since I had just put a picture on my web-page, I put the development page's URL on the message so he could see what I looked like now.

1:45

I finally go to sleep.

 





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