Category Archives: technology

A response to Rory Gillen’s views on Bitcoin

Over recent weeks months, several high profile figures in the banking and finance world have taken time out to comment on Bitcoin. Their message has been singular: Bitcoin is worthless and its recent rise is value is a speculative bubble.

There has been lots of commentary from the Bitcoin community challenging this view, which can be reviewed elsewhere. I’m going to specifically address the views raised by Rory Gillen, of the Irish investment company, Gillen Markets. Rory published an article in August this year in which he elucidated his understanding of Bitcoin, and why it isn’t “sound money”. The article can be view here. I going to quote it and respond to each quote in turn.

“..an understanding of what constitutes ‘Sound Money’ is more important here than any understanding of technology in trying to determine whether bitcoins are a currency, an asset or a mirage.”

Let’s be clear. The technology behind Bitcoin is absolutely central to its value, and an understanding of the technology is just as important as understanding “sound money”. Why? Because it is the technology that creates the features of Bitcoin that make it more appealing to people than fiat currency. It is the technology that allows Bitcoin to be used without Counter Party Risk (your bank losing your deposits); it is the technology that makes Bitcoin secure; it is the technology that limits the supply of Bitcoin; it is the technology that allows Bitcoin transactions remain more anonymous that banking transactions; it is the technology that allows Bitcoin to be used economically for micro-payments. To suggest that Bitcoin is just a more technologically advanced version of fiat demonstrates an immediate misunderstanding of Bitcoin’s appeal and potential.

“Paper money and credit facilitates trade, and,  to be accepted as payment, each must be trusted and have intrinsic value.”

This is incorrect. The US dollar has no intrinsic value, but is the world’s reserve currency. To be accepted as payment, a currency must retain only characteristic, which as Rory points out, is trust. More about this later.

The next couple of paragraphs in Rory’s piece make no sense to me. He tells us that the Government’s ability to raise taxes underpins Central Banks, who in turn underpin bank deposits, and that bank deposits are therefore “Sound Money”.

However…

“…as paper money can be created at will,  not all paper currencies have  acted as a store of value – think of the German Reichsmark after WW1 and, more recently, the Argentinian peso and the Zimbabwean dollar – all worthless as a store of value due to the fact that their governments spent recklessly and printed money in huge quantities to try and pay for that spending.”

So, no, the fact that Governments can raise taxes is quite obviously not a guarantee that bank deposits are “Sound Money”.

Having left the question reliability of fiat currency hanging, Rory moves on to Gold.

“When you accept gold in settlement of a trade you have an asset whose value is not dependent on a third party…Gold is an excellent store of value, but it has never been an ideal medium of exchange.”

Correct, and correct, and now on to Bitcoin.

“Bitcoins are earned by those who verify transactions using blockchain technology over the Internet, so that one could suggest that a base intrinsic value for a bitcoin is the value of  the programmer’s time.”

No, Bitcoin, like every other currency, has no intrinsic value. Also, Bitcoin is not generated by programmers. It is generated by computer processors solving math problems. That’s not really relevant, but let’s be accurate.

“Fans of bitcoins seem to be placing all their faith in the strictly limited supply.”

Firstly, the word “Fans” suggest that adopters, supporters and users of Bitcoin are aren’t really well enough versed in the minutiae of finance and economics to be taken seriously. On the contrary, the community of people across the world who manage the development of Bitcoin, who promote Bitcoin and who use Bitcoin retain a depth of economic, technical and social experience that would be difficult to match is any commercial bank of state department of finance.

Secondly, these ‘fans” are not placing all their faith in the limited supply of Bitcoin. Instead, Bitcoin users place their faith in Bitcoin because they foresee a time when ordinary people will no longer trust fiat currencies, and that in searching for an alternative, they will have regard to a variety of factors. Limited supply will be one of those, but not the only one. Of equal importance will be separation of the currency from the banking system, durability, security, portability, divisibility and perhaps most importantly, stability. Bitcoin ticks all those boxes bar one: stability. But stability is something that requires time, and Bitcoin is still less than 10 years old.

Rory now moves on the the subject most favored by Bitcoin detractors: its use in the criminal underworld:

“Given the abundance of illegal trade and the increasing volumes of it over the Internet there is a natural demand for transacting in a currency that has no trail….For crimes more readily targetted (sic) by law enforcement such as drug sales, the dark web and bitcoin provide an irresistable (sic) combination.”

Firstly, it is not true that Bitcoin transactions leave no trail. Transactions in the Bitcoin Public Ledger (the Blockchain) are recorded as cryptographic strings, rather than bank account numbers that can be readily traced to a person. But that does not mean that transactions are untraceable. The use of a private key in the Blockchain can be traced to the point where it transacts against a known entity, at which point the owner of the key can be revealed. This is not a simple process, but it can be done, and has been done to reveal high value criminal operations. The point is that this type of audit is only attempted in very serious cases, and is not worthwhile for the vast majority of transactions, which is why the average user of Bitcoin can be confident that their transactions are effectively anonymous.

Secondly, the use of Bitcoin in the criminal underworld is vastly overplayed, and represents a tiny, tiny fraction of the value of criminal transactions transacted using cash, the legitimacy of which is never questioned. Moreover, all mainstream Bitcoin exchanges, which must be used to convert Bitcoin to fiat currency, must observe anti-money laundering regulations, so relying on Bitcoin to underpin criminal activity is just as risky as using cash.

“If this is the attraction of bitcoins, then surely authorities will move to clamp down on such trade if or when the problem becomes big enough. Even if authorities are behind the curve, anonymity doesn’t quite explain why the supply of bitcoins has to be limited.”

OK, so criminality isn’t the attraction of Bitcoin, but an interesting question is raised here. Can authorities actually clamp down on Bitcoin? The answer isn’t straight-forward. It is certainly the case that authorities can’t clamp down on Bitcoin itself (other than by shutting down the Internet), as Bitcoin does not rely on any aspect of the State to exist.

However, authorities can clamp down on interactions between Bitcoin and the current banking system, which is controlled by the State. This manifests itself in authorities preventing banks dealing with Bitcoin exchanges, which means Bitcoin holders cannot convert their Bitcoin to fiat currency. This exists as an option only for as long as people want to convert Bitcoin to fiat currency, which they will not want to do forever, as their range of goods and services they can purchase with Bitcoin continues to expand.

So why have the authorities not done so already, if the window for doing so is gradually closing? There are various theories in play here.

Some believe the State is simply being complacent, albeit that authorities in China and New York have already regulated Bitcoin exchanges out of existence.

Others suggest that the authorities want to keep Bitcoin in the open, where it can be monitored, rather than forcing it underground where the technological community will put it beyond the reach of the State forever.

 Others suggest that clamping down on Bitcoin will stifle FinTech innovation, allowing banks to maintain their highly-profitable control over the monetary system, which is perennially unpopular.

Most likely, its a combination of all these things.

But back to Rory, who now broaches the question of the Bitcoin “bubble”.

“…we are simply witnessing a speculative development where the limited supply of bitcoins is leading to higher prices as the demand to own them multiplies, with these higher prices bringing in more speculators who drive the price still higher.  “

This is simplistic, and demonstrates a limited understanding of the wider philosophical nature of Bitcoin. 

Let me state clearly that most Bitcoin users believe that the value of Bitcoin at any time contains a speculative element, and that when Bitcoin experiences a surge in value, this is almost entirely explained by speculation.

 Where Bitcoin detractors go wrong is in believing that Bitcoin will ultimately fail because a portion of its value derives from speculation. The logic of this is difficult to fathom. All assets classes, including currencies, experience surges and falls in value. Real estate is probably the best example. Property price bubbles happen at least once per generation, but has anyone ever suggested that real estate will one day cease to have value?

But people will claim that Bitcoin’s surges and falls in value are far more dramatic than regular asset classes, and currencies in particular, making it unreliable as a means of exchange. This is true, but lets remember some other things. Bitcoin is less than 10 years old. Its still virgin territory, so fluctuations in value will be more frequent and pronounced. Moreover, Bitcoin’s total market capitalization is infintesimately small compared to fiat currencies, so the impact of larger transactions is greatly amplified in setting the spot price of Bitcoin. Again, these things will change as Bitcoin adoption continues to grow.

But does this address the question posed? Is Bitcoin a bubble?

The most straight-forward answer to this is as follows:

At any given time, the price of Bitcoin will be inflated by speculation, but as time passes, Bitcoin will arrive at a value that does not rise of fall any more rapidly than other Tier 1 currencies.

What that value is is unknown. It will either be very small, if Bitcoin retreats from whence it came, and is only held and used by a relatively small number of die-hard apostles, or very, very great, if Bitcoin continues on its current trajectory as an long term alternative to fiat currency.

“If bitcoin is a novel way to settle trades outside the banking system, then why limit the supply? If the supply is increased, as we think inevitable (there’ll be no shortage of new digital currencies), then the prices will fall to their intrinsic value, which in bitcoin’s case is far below today’s price.”

There are a few parts to this. The ability of Governments to increase the supply of Bitcoin to address political problems is regarded by Bitcoin users as a central flaw in fiat currency, so it obviously isn’t a feature of Bitcoin. Regarding the increase in supply that Rory thinks is inevitable, I am again struggling with the logic. There are multiple cryptocurrencies, but the supply of one does not impact the value of another, any more than the supply of the Danish Krona impacts on the value of the US Dollar. The value of any individual currency depends on the trust place in that currency, which is impacted by the amount of that currency in circulation, which is not impacted by the amount of any other currency in circulation.

The final quote from Rory’s piece is this: 

“If we have misunderstood the bitcoin revolution we stand ready to change our view.”

Let me try and explain the Bitcoin revolution as succinctly as possible.

Belief in Bitcoin does not stem from blind faith in Bitcoin’s features. In fact, Bitcoin has many flaws. Instead, belief in Bitcoin stems from an understanding that the current monetary system of politically-controlled, derivative-spawning and infinitely supplied fiat currency is unsustainable.

The 2008 financial crisis revealed just how vulnerable this system is. The crisis required the guarantors of the current system to deploy solutions that were previously unthinkable; solutions that can really only be deployed once, meaning that their armoury is virtually empty if they are required to deal with a similar crisis in the short to medium term.

If that understanding exists, it follows that Bitcoin users foresee a point in time when the current monetary system will face an existential crisis. If there is another shock to the system, will democratically controlled governments be allowed to bailout of the banks again? And if they are not, what alternatives are left other than to inflate the supply of currency, given that this is the most immediate and politically pain free solution to any deflationary crisis? This was the solution that many commentators proposed to the last crisis, and was used indirectly in the form of quantitive easing. If the next crisis presents a choice between deeper easing, and the lethal cocktail of bank bailouts and austerity, its difficult to see any Government opting for the latter.

So what happens then? Lets go back to that word “trust”. As ordinary people see their spending power, and the value of their savings, gradually began to erode, they will inevitable began to question their trust in the paper currency in their pockets. In the past, a retreat in trust was always stemmed by the absence of a workable alternative (they weren’t going to do their grocery shopping with gold). In the future, that will not be the case. There will be an alternative, that retains the “store of value” characteristics of gold, and the transact-ability of fiat currency.

In such circumstances, why would Bitcoin not prosper?

Coping with Fear of Flying

Don't let go...!

Don’t let go…!

I’ve been afraid of flying since I had a nasty landing at Gatwick Airport in 1992.

That’s over 20 years ago, but I’ve continued to fly since. I’ve learned a lot about coping with my fear, so I thought I’d share my experience and techniques.

The first thing to say is to forget the statistics.

People who are afraid of flying know that flying is statistically safe, but that’s like saying to someone who has a morbid fear of spiders that spiders can’t kill you. We’re not dealing in logic here. We dealing with a disorder, and logic doesn’t enter into disorders (disorder = absence of order).

The second thing to say is that you will never overcome your fear of flying, and that you need to accept that.

You are afraid because your mind has decided that the only thing keeping the plane in the air is the fact that you are afraid it will crash, and that as soon as you stop being afraid, it will hurtle to ground. You have convinced yourself that once your presume everything is going to be OK, fate will conspire realise your worst fears.

So, once you accept that fear is going to be part of your flying experience, you can get on with minimising that fear, and finding a “sweet spot”, which is a point in your subconscious where you are sufficiently afraid to keep the plane in the air, but sufficiently relaxed not to try and jump out the window.

Here’s how I hit my “sweet spot”, and how I regain it when events throw it off kilter.

Get a window seat

One of the reasons you are afraid of flying is that you no control over your situation. When you’re driving a car, you can stop; when you’re on a train, you can get off at the next stop; but when you’re on a plane, you’re all in. Once the door closes, there is nothing you can do until it opens again.

Having a window seat removes some of the uncertainty. You can see what’s going on around you, you can see how far you are off the ground, you can scan the horizon to ensure their are no other planes about to crash into you.

That little bit of extra information removes some of the mystery of what is going on around you, making your lack of control slightly more tolerable.

Also, on a clear day, or even above a cloudscape, the views from an airplane can be spectacular, and take your mind off your fears.

Avoid early flights

If you’re like me, you’re at your most alert first thing in the morning. Your senses are heightened, and any worries or stresses that were temporarily suppressed while you were sleeping have suddenly reappeared with renewed vigour.

This makes it harder to cope with your fear of flying. Try to travel later in the even instead. After grinding through another day you’ll be more relaxed and at ease, which will help you to deal with the stress of flying.

Get to the airport early

This goes back to the control issue. People who have a fear of flying generally have a routine, and if they don’t have enough time to get through it, it can lead to heightened anxiety. Always give yourself time to go through your routine.

Arriving early also gives you more time to acclimatise to the various sights and sounds of an airport, which can make the flight itself less intimidating.

Think of your destination

If you’re travelling on pleasure rather than business, the arrival of your flight is something to look forward to, whether you’re on your outbound leg or returning home. When bad thoughts start to take over, force yourself to think about the great holiday you’re going to have, or the prospect of being tucked up in your own bed again.

Take (legal) drugs

Don’t discount drugs. Go to your GP and ask for a few valium tabs for your fear of flying. GPs get this request all the time, and are happy to oblige. I generally take 10mg of some form of valium (Xanex, Anxicalm) about 1 hour before the flight takes off. If you were to take that during a normal day, it would put you to sleep, but in a situation where you are feeling a lot of anxiety, it just brings you back down a bit. You will be still be able to function normally.

Take a nip of brandy

Again, this is one for pleasure trips. I have a little mouthwash bottle, that I half fill with brandy before I fly. I put this is my see-through toiletries bag so that I can get it through the security check (it looks like mouthwash). Just as the plane is taking off, which always the worst bit, I take a little swig. Taking valium and brandy probably isn’t a great idea for everybody, but in moderation, it works for me.

Look for signs on take off

Take off is always scary. As the plane lumbers along the runway it seems improbable that it can haul itself into the air, and when it finally does, you convince yourself that its going to start struggling under the weight of all those people and bags and tumble out of the sky into the nearest housing estate.

To get over this, decide on a few identifiable signs that you can concentrate on during take-off, and as each one becomes apparent, your anxiety will gradually diminish. Here’s a few ideas:

Clearing the airport apron; stowing of the landing gear; getting to a height where the airplane has enough momentum to glide away from trouble; getting to a height where cars appear to be moving very slowly; first turn of the airplane to the right or left (pilot is happy to continue); cabin crew start moving around the cabin; seat belt sign goes off

 Listen to music

Sit down some evening and buy some music on your smart phone specifically for flying, and get some bud earphones (you can use these with your phone in airplane mode during take off and landing). Relaxing music is best, but go with whatever works for you. I never thought I’d be calm enough to listen to music, because I wouldn’t be able to hear signs of trouble, but its easier than you think, and definitely takes your mind of the flight. A particular favourite of mine is “Flight over Africa” by Joel McNeely. Listening to that and watching the sky flow by through the window is actually quite a pleasant experience.

Have a drink

When the trolley comes around, have a drink. People have been using alcohol for centuries to sooth anxiety. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t too.

Try to have a conversation with someone

If you have enough to drink, this is inevitable. It really does help. Everything about fear of flying is in your mind, so if you can distract yourself, the flight will always pass quicker.

Look for signs on landing

Like take-off, landing is the a portion of the flight that gives heightened cause for concern. As the plane slows, you feel like its going 20 miles per hour, and that whenever it banks to lines up with the runway, its just going to keep turning until and it eventually stalls and spirals into ground. You’re aware that the landing phase generally takes about 20 mins, but that 20 minutes seems to last for about 4 hours.

There are 2 things I do during the phase of the flight. The first is to keep watching the cabin crew. This is the busiest part of the flight for them, and they’re generally shuffling about and concentrating on their jobs rather than the passengers.

Cabin crew fly hundreds of times per year, so if something is not normal, they’re going to know about it. If you keep watching, and seeing that they are not in any way distracted by the progress of the airplane as it makes its descent, you can be pretty confident that things are going according to plan.

The second thing I watch for are cars. Airports are always bound in by major road networks, which accommodate traffic 24 hours per day. I always watch out the windows for the first sight of cars moving on the road. When I can see cars moving, I know the airplane is close enough to the ground to get through any malfunction. This may or may not be true, but its a waypoint that you are guaranteed to see, so use it.

And when things don’t go so smoothly….

Once you are on the plane, and its in air, and gliding smoothly along, your fear is generally manageable, and while the flight continues humming along, it may even subside.

And then there’s a slight bump, and then another, and then a it of trundling, and then PING!, “the captain has switched on the seatbelt sign”, and suddenly all your anxiety control techniques go out the window.

Turbulence is something that anxious flyers live in dread of. We know that a bit of turbulence is not going to cause the airplane to crash, but we also know that very heavy turbulence, although rare, can be dangerous, and that every little bit of turbulence might be a precursor to the that type of turbulence.

Its a control thing again, the fact of not knowing, and having to expect the worst, even though the worst never seems to happen.

My technique for dealing with turbulence is a little bit strange, but it is the most effective in my armoury of techniques.

It comes from a story a pilot told me about then they were learning to fly. During one of his earlier lessons, he encountered a his first bout of turbulent air. His instinctive reaction was to seize the controls and try and compensate for the bowing and jerking of the aircraft as it moved through the air.

His instructor let him grapple with this impossible task for a few minutes and then told him to let go of the controls, and allow the aircraft negotiate its own way through the turbulence. When he did this, the aircraft levelled out, and while the turbulence was still having an effect on its course, its general progress was a lot more stable.

I apply the same principle when turbulence heightens my anxiety. My instinctive reaction is to stiffen up, and grip the armrests even tighter than I already him. But what I’ve learned to do recently is the exact opposite. I now force myself to loosen up completely, from my toes to my fingers. I lift my arms slightly off the armrests, my feet slightly off the ground and close my eyes. I imagine myself as the airplane, floating along allowing the air to take me where it needs to.

Yes, the odd jolt requires me to concentrate harder, and I’m pretty sure than I won’t be able to sustain the illusion through really heavy turbulence, but for the general run of the mill turbulence that your experience on any flight, this really does help.

That’s also pretty much the last advice I have. If you want one takeaway from this, let it be that you should aim to accommodate your fears rather than try to overcome them. As I explained at the beginning, your mind is welded to the idea that your fear is the only thing keeping the airplane in the air, so you can never escape from that.

Once you accept that your fear is part of you, like a birthmark, you can learn to live with it, and keep flying, which is all you really want.

 

 

 

 

 

Going off the deep end over PRISM

Darth Vadar pulls up a PRISM developer on frequency of cat images pulled from Facebook

Darth Vadar pulls up a PRISM developer on frequency of cat images pulled from Facebook

The degree to which stories about governments mucking around with the Internet (eg SOPA) turn into forewarnings of an impending apocalypse really demonstrates how shallow our appreciation of the world around us has become.

On any given day, the US Military could fly an drone aircraft into northern Pakistan, a sovereign nation, ostensibly in search of terrorists, and kill 30-40 civilians. This would barely make the international news cycle, but as soon as a Government agency starts looking at pictures of people’s cats on Facebook, its the end of the world.

That is not to say that digital snooping on the part of a State agency is a trivial matter; it isn’t, but it needs to be presented in the correct context, rather than with the type of alarmist rhetoric that has accompanied recent reporting of PRISM.

To believe various organisations who specialise in State paranoia, and indeed certain news organisations, PRISM is a real-life version of Skynet, programmed and managed by Darth Vadar from a city-sized space ship somewhere in outer space.

On the other side of the coin, the agency that developed PRISM, the NSA, have claimed that PRISM is entirely innocuous (if you’re a US citizen) and of no more concern to your digital privacy than posting a Facebook update about what you had for lunch.

And who is telling the truth?

Well, that’s the thing, we just don’t know, but as in all these things, the truth is probably as far from either extreme as is mathematically possible.

What we do know is as follows:

1. US Law permits the NSA and FBI to obtain data about users from Internet companies whose networks are in the US. Information can be requested about individual users, groups and users and trends. For instance, if the NSA wants the personal details of any users who have used the phrase “bomb in my backpack”, they can legally obtain this from the likes of Google and Facebook.

2. To facilitate this (the transfer of data from the companies to the agencies), agencies like the NSA have hardware located on the premises of these companies. This was explicitly referred to in some of the documents leaked to the Washington Post and the Guardian.

3. Companies affected are legally prevented from disclosing the nature or existence of such systems (which is why they didn’t refer to the existence of such equipment in their statements about PRISM).

4. Companies like Google and Facebook, for whom privacy is a key selling point in the delivery of their services, are not required to allow any State agency connect directly to their servers. They are only required to provide data in accordance with specific legal requests, as indicated in their various responses to the PRISM story.

And that’s really about it.

What this paints a picture of is a permanent and sophisticated IT infrastructure that allows the likes of the NSA and FBI to quickly obtain specific data from private companies when those agencies have obtained legal permission to do so.

The payload of data, which is derived from parameters entered into the system, could include a large portion of information which is of no interest or value to those agencies (eg a picture of your cat), but it is gleaned none the less. Seemingly, only that information that is relevant to the particular investigation made by the agency is kept and used further.

What this doesn’t paint a picture of is a system which is sucking every single piece of data directly out of Facebook and storing it permanently in a State owned database which is then opened up to tax authorities, health insurance companies and private detective agencies.

So, is this something you should be worried about? Well, yes and no.

Yes, because it demonstrates yet again that the US citizens have no problem with their Government pushing the envelope on civil liberties to the absolute limit in terms protecting “National Security”; and no, because if you’re a regular, sane person, you’re not including highly sensitive personal information in Skype chats and Facebook status updates, let alone sharing plans for dirty bombs with your friends, and will therefore not be of any interest to anyone working for the NSA or FBI.

But isn’t there some sort of principle involved here, that should prevent the State looking into your inner most secrets, even if those secrets involve no more than pictures of your cat? Isn’t it the thin end of the wedge, that will ultimately result in CCTV in our living rooms?

Probably, yes, but these compromises arise all the time in our daily lives. A law enforcement officer can stop any motorist at any time and ask them to perform a breath test; you can be denied bail even if you have not been convicted of a crime; tax authorities can require you to  provide details of your income and assets.

All of these are infringements of civil liberties that we take for granted, partly because we recognise their value in preserving order in society, and partly because they have been around for a long time.

However, when it comes to the Internet, perspective seems to go out the window at even the slightest mention of State intrusion. The difference seems to be that the Internet is regarded as some sort of frontier territory which has been colonised by “good guy” activists and which the State now belatedly wants to control. The fact that the Internet is also a “hip” subject to offer your opinion on (unlike dead Pakistani peasants) and widely misunderstood in technical terms are also contributing factors.

And what of claims from EU leaders, that the NSA is infringing the rights of EU citizens by looking at their data?

There may be something in this, but how it can possibly be policed is beyond me. Are we going to have an EU-only Facebook, Google and Twitter, where nobody in the US can interact with anyone in the EU, and vice-versa, or is the EU Commission going to ban Google unless Google locates its entire data infrastructure (for the entire world) in the EU?

This would appear to be another case of politicians thinking that global data communication can be regulated in the same way as dog licenses.

Over the coming weeks, a lot more technical detail will probably emerge in relation to PRISM. The NSA will most likely review its use, and rebuild it in some other way, and the detail about the old system will lose its security value.

This will give us a better picture of what PRISM was/is capable of. It may be the case that Darth Vadar is in fact at the controls, but I’m guessing that probably isn’t true, so for now, just  follow the Golden Rule re. Internet Privacy and you’ll be fine:

Nothing on the Internet is private

Twitter goes all cheap on Apache

Are things really that bad in Twitter?

Are things really that bad in Twitter?

Back in April 2012, the Twitter Engineering Group released a blog post in which they announced that they were going to start sponsoring the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), the non-profit group that maintains the world’s most popular Open Source Web Server, Apache, as well as numerous other platforms which form a core part of Twitter’s IT operations.

The blog post makes such grand eloquent statements as:

“Sponsoring the ASF is not only the right thing to do, it will help us sustain our existing projects at the ASF by supporting the foundation’s infrastructure. We have a long history of contributing to Apache projects, including not only Mesos, but also Cassandra, Hadoop, Mahout, Pig and more. As Twitter grows, we look to further our commitment to the success of the ASF and other open source organizations.”

At the time of the announcement, Twitter didn’t specify what level of sponsorship they were going to provide, but given Twitter’s girth in the world of e-Commerce, most people would have presumed that a sizeable donation was in the offing, certainly in at least the Gold Tier of the sponsorship levels that the ASF provides for.

Not so it would seem. A quick glance at the ASF’s web page for current sponsors show the likes of Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo and Google in the Platinum Tier, but no sign of Twitter.

To find Twitter, we have to scroll all the way down through the Gold and the Silver Tiers to the Bronze Tier, which signifies a donation of just $5,000 (!), where we finally find a reference to Twitter in amongst such Internet Star Destroyers as Two Sigma Investments and Digital Primates.

$5,000?

How many users does Twitter have again? Are things really that bad financially in the world’s largest micro-blogging website?