Interviewed - 11/2/2014 to 11/18/2014
THE PEOPLE OF LITECOIN: A Conversation with the
Ambassador Director of the Litecoin Association, TheMage.
Much of this interview was conducted after its potential was identified following the Litecoin Association meeting of October 19th. This may be the first in what could become a series of interviews held with, "The People of Litecoin." Special thanks to TheMage for spending his time with me as we discussed a diversity of matters including his identity and background, motivation and personal style, involvement with the Litecoin Association, development of the Koinyx crypto-currency exchange, and the state of Litecoin and crypto-currency development.
Good Evening, Andrew.
Oops! I mean, "TheMage!" Thank you for agreeing to an interview with LitecoinLearner.com. I would like to begin with some dialog about your name and your views on identity. I ask this first series of questions knowing that you intend to make yourself known to the community sometime in the very near future and as a result of your work on Koinyx, the crypto-currency exchange you are in the process of building. By the way, do you care to fully identify yourself in this interview? LitecoinLearner.com would be pleased to bring this information to the community! You are Andrew, "TheMage", what???
Haha! First, you are very welcome Litecoinlearner! Thanks for having me! :)
My full name is, Andrew Vegetabile.
WOW! Thank you for that! I have been after you about your true identity for quite a while! (FYI: At the time of this interview, TheMage's identity had not been released - thus my enthusiasm) So, Mr. Vegetabile, what does "TheMage" mean and how did you come up with it? Does it have something to do with the graphic image you use for your avatar?
Well, I was a long time gamer, back in the day, and my cousin and I were very big into warcraft 3 at the time and we played games over the internet. He had an affinity for Black Sabbath, and their one song, The Wizard. So he chose that name. Having a lack of imagination at the time, I picked TheMage. I felt it was synergistic as well since we often played on the same team. The handle has stuck with me throughout my online interactions, going on over 15 years now. The image in my avatar was simply a modified image of a Mage, holding a Litecoin.
I know of Black Sabbath, but cannot now think of their song, "The Wizard." I should take time for a listen! I have created quite a few mixed play lists over the years and I have been thinking about what to include on a Litecoin play list. Perhaps this song will make the cut!? Anyhow, thanks for explaining your online persona. I think I've got it! And again, thank you for sharing your full name. So many people in crypto-currency have chosen to present themselves with an alias, while others use their legal name. Why do you think that is and what factors might shape a person's decision to withhold their true identity? Do you think illegal behaviors have anything to do with it?
While there are scammers and sometimes illegal behavior going on in cryptos (the same with any community honestly, you can equate the same behavior association with crime and fiat aka the US dollar). I believe in this day and age we lack privacy. The vast majority out there are not asking for privacy because they are dealing in illegal activities, but rather have a deep desire to have some sort of individuality that big companies and governments seem to be taking away day by day. And I think more and more people are beginning to realize how much our identities are being sold, bought, data mined, and resold to other parties. Cryptos, much like internet handles, gives that individuality back.
Interesting! But I want to know more about you! For example, I noticed that you recently updated your Twitter description from Litecoin Association (LA) Ambassador to Litecoin Association Director. I have no doubt this change has something to do with the on-going re-organization of the association, but could you help my readers to better understand what this change means for you specifically? How will your role as Director be any different from your role as Ambassador? Historically, I know there to have been two LA Ambassadors, where your counterpart has been Kyrio (AKA Zipzo). With your move to Director, will the vacant position of Ambassador be filled or does it cease to exist in the re-organization?
Yes, I was asked during the current Litecoin Association re-org if I was interested in being on the board of directors. I gave an enthusiastic yes to it. As far as what that means in terms of the specific role, that will be written in the By Laws which are not yet released. I am also not in a position to say if the Ambassador role will be backfilled or even exist. Some things are in flux right now, to include roles and responsibilities. In the coming weeks we should be able to give further clarification to everyone on the LA :).
Moving beyond your identity, what do you make of the pseudo-anonymous nature of Litecoin and other crypto-currencies? Do you foresee a time when Litecoin will move beyond its current relationship with user's identity? For example, will a person's legal identity ever be tied to a wallet or the blockchain? And by this I mean more significantly than the way third parties like exchanges and merchant services companies currently use one’s legal identity.
In all honesty, I feel that we are going to move in that direction. In order for businesses and companies to comply with regulations that are tuned over time (see FinCen's Oct 27th release of guidance on their previous rulings and exchanges), people will need to register with some sort of personal information for those companies. Certainly there are going to be people utilizing the technology in an anonymous nature, and I feel that is very important. But because of fears of money laundering and funding terrorist organizations, crypto businesses will need to comply with these regulations and people will need to supply some level of personal information. As far as tying someones legal identity to their wallet via the blockchain, I can only see this happening if those persons voluntarily do this with things like "smart contracts" (contracts that will reside on the blockchain).
You voluntarily give A LOT of your time to the Litecoin Association and the broader crypto-currency community. What are some of your reasons for giving so much of yourself?
My main reason for volunteering my time for Litecoin and cryptos collectively is because I believe in the movement. I really do believe in financial freedom and giving power back to the people. I believe there should not be a penalty for people to use their money to buy products. Aside from that, I feel that crypto's have given me more of a purpose to help everyone, from adoption to charities, to even bringing together communities and making friends. So far the time I have spent with Litecoin/crypto's has been nothing short of amazing, if for at the very least the friendships I have made.
I can relate to all those motivations, but I am amazed at the time investment you've made. Literally, I know of no other person spending such time on Litecoin. Abstractly speaking and without any particular context, Litecoin or otherwise, identify (in hierarchy) your top three motivators from this list of six: Tangible Results, Curiosity, Inspiration, People, Belief, and Duty.
From top to bottom: Belief, People, and Inspiration
That equates to the Enterprising, Social and Artistic motivations described by John Holland, a Sociology Professor from Johns Hopkins University. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, you might make for a good "Public Relations Specialist!"
I have, for quite some time, observed you working for Litecoin, and I am convinced you are an artisan at heart. You may not know it, but there are four types of artisans: Promoters, Crafters, Performers and Composers. Which one sounds most like you and how do you leverage that in your work on Litecoin?
Hmmm, I guess I don't get a definition of each one do I? :)
Sorry, Mr. V, you get no definition. Part of the question involves how this "sounds."
If I were to label myself as one of those 4, I would have to pick composer. I feel that my work is more of an orchestration of the communities' efforts in order to continue the path forward of making Litecoin and cryptos adopted among the masses. I feel I am simply logistical support for those who are eager to help with the skills that they have. Making connections from person to person and requesting help when a task needs to be worked on.
That is an interesting elaboration on the selection of composer; though, it sounds more like promoter! Of course, I have the definitions and all you have are the sounds. :)
Let us move on to the Litecoin Association. My question is about its not-for-profit status. I understand the organization is in flux and there are things you cannot, for various reasons, elaborate... Despite that, it is my understanding that the pursuit of this status is on-going and has not been officially secured at this time. For those U.S. citizens who have donated funds to the association's efforts and/or would like to do so in the near future, will they be able to expect achievement of this status by the end of 2014? If not, I do not believe donations can be used as a deduction to reduce taxable income. Isn't that right?
Hmmm... there may be some confusion on your end. The LA has been a non-profit for a while, we are just switching from FL to Tx.
You are right, there may be confusion on my end. I thought 501 c 3 was pursued unsuccessfully and that 501 c 6 was being pursued alternatively and that the process is on-going. That leaves the LA without an official status of any kind, does it not?
This part of the LA website identifies our status. You will see the Litecoin Association is a registered non-profit incorporated in the State of Florida. I do believe, though because im not directly involved with the reincorporation, we are changing from one type of status to another and from Fl to Tx. Carnth (Eric Mihalik) is handling the logistics of getting this completed.
I hope to interview Carnth, so I will be sure to ask him about the non-profit status. Moving on... In an interview with Kingscrown published on July 16th, you were quoted, "The LA also protects the public resources of Litecoin such as Litecointalk.org, the Litecoin wiki, and the up and coming Litecoin.com." How is the development of Litecoin.com moving along and what can you tell us about its release?
Litecoin.com hit a snag earlier this year due to resources. Now that we have folks available to work on it (thanks artilectinc.com!) we plan to push forward with it. Hopefully with the assistance of a few other community members we can can get this completed in a timely manner. Litecoin.com will be dedicated to merchants, from how to get started to how to accept payments, we are hoping this is one more resource we can provide to help the aid in adoption.
Will we ever see a Litecoin-only or Litecoin-focused conference? If so, when? Perhaps sometime in 2015?
This is something that I have discussed a few times with other people in Litecoin, and yes I do believe at some point in time we will see a Litecoin focused conference. I dont know when or where, but with the adoption of Litecoin I would be amazed if Litecoin didnt have one at some point in time.
Again, going back; though, this time to October 26th, you released an initial list of coins to be traded on Koinyx and not everyone has been pleased with your initial selections. Will more coins be added before the launch? Do you care to name any of them now? What do you make of criticism behind selecting Vericoin? Are they not a world class crypto-currency?
Yes we do plan to have more coins at launch; many, many more. We are planning to implement a coin verification method that will help us gauge what coins we should initially support at launch. We will be announcing it hopefully soon of how exactly this will be done. Since there are such a tremendous amount of coins out there, it is hard for us to seek out each community and do personal interviews. I cannot name additional coins now, just note that right now, until we get that extra verification in place, I am personally reaching out to certain communities in order to get a feel of what they represent and if we should list them. I have had many personal talks with Vericoins community manager, Jay Jay (also known as VeryVeriViral), between him and some other in their community, I am happy to list them at Koinyx.
So, I have been thinking about building a crypto-currency exchange. No I haven't, I'm kidding. How much time have you invested in the Koinyx effort? I know you have done a lot of work to develop your organization and that you have a wide range of talent available to you. Who on your team is focused on security and what is being done to ensure that Koinyx will not become the next Mt. Gox or Mintpal? It seems to me, these exchanges have significantly harmed the crypto-currency industry.
As far as time, I can say the team collectively has work hundreds of hours in order to bring Koinyx to the communities. We have all invested near equal time over time, but not everyone was brought on at the same time. I have had to find a replacement for our lead developer at the beginning of summer and a new CTO/regulatory compliance person at the end of fall. Needless to say, we have hit some snags but we pushed through them and came out in the end better than before (not to knock our previous team members, they are great people to work with!). Both our CTO and lead developer, Umlauf, and our CIO and director of security Muegen, are responsible for security. I wish I could make statements about how we plan to implement security but for obvious reasons we do not want to let others know. Rest assured, along with compliance security is of the utmost importance and taken very seriously. As for Mt. Gox and MintPal, it's a larger topic to talk about and I do not have a short statement to make about them.
It has been said that, "Crypto-currencies will succeed when people are able to use them without knowing they are doing so." Identify some examples of how someone could potentially use Litecoin without knowing it. Are you aware of any existing efforts to make this a reality?
User friendly applications and third parties are an absolute must for cryptos to succeed. We need the next generation of developers to create the infrastructure and the vision to get it implemented much like credit cards have done. I can imagine two ways this will become a reality (both of which are being worked on I believe, but I can not think off the top of my head the companies that are doing it), crypto cards like a debit card, and cell phone applications that allow easy transfer to merchants with either near field communications or 3d barcodes (also known as QR codes) but the most critical part of this infrastructure is giving merchants the tools to accept these payments in a live scenario.
Indeed! I am excited to be traveling to Toronto in the very near future. I will be writing about my experience spending Litecoin in a downtown cafe, Snakes and Lattes. I understand they accept Litecoin through a coinkite terminal. It should be my next article following this interview. Watch out for it!
I certainly will!
So, how are you feeling about the price of Litecoin, Bitcoin, and other crypto-currencies? With the on-going bear market, I have noticed a real shift in attitude and an emotional deflation, not to mention great frustration and even anger. It seems some people have lost considerable sums of money. In your view, what are the most important factors contributing to the prolonged price decline and how significant a roles do both FinCen regulations and continued industry fraud play?
Well, for me, I have a duality of the price. I obviously hold a small amount of Litecoin so I would love to see the price way above what it is now. However, I also feel that price should be secondary and our collective primary focus should be in user adoption in order to teach others how important cryptos are to put the power of the bank into their hands. Logically speaking, if we get more users the price should naturally rise (since there are limits to cryptos in most instances or very small inflation rates). I'm not worried about price. It seems that every day there is news about some major business accepting crypto's or some large VC funding a major project. The more this happens, the more curious the public will be, and the more we should see the price rise once more and more people get on board. Ultimately what we really need is A: businesses keeping their coin instead of liquidating them and B: businesses paying their employees in crypto. This is going to be the turning point for all of us. As far as the prolonged price decline, there are a few reasons, each one can be different per coin. But one of the largest factors is the BTC price decline, because it really affects all other coins. My personal belief is that because there are exchanges that have enabled complex trading such as leverage trading, the prices have suffered in the name of greed. As far as fincen goes, because of Koinyx we have been working very closely with them. To be honest, FinCen is very eager to help out where they can. While some people may poopoo it, I feel that FinCen is really trying to help as best they can with the role that they have, and it will be all for the better to get rid of less than savory exchanges and other unethical businesses.
Speaking of anger and frustration, I noticed you have been the target of some challenging accusations and that they are often misinformed and inaccurate. It might be easy to say these comments and accusations come from "FUDers," but what do you make of their behavior and how does it make you feel? Perhaps there is a particular FUDer or two who you would like to communicate with through this interview? I would be happy to publish here any specific responses from you.
To this day, I never really understood the troll mentality or FUDers. I guess Alfred Pennyworth (Batmans butler) was right, some people just want to watch the world burn. I try not to let it bother me, but of course I am only human and sometimes it does. I just realize that these people are doing it to make me feel bad, and I move on with a smile.
I am struck by the wisdom in Batman! I cannot say I have thought about that show in a looooooong time! This next question has to do with Toshi.io. For those who are unaware, Toshi.io is an enterprise grade Bitcoin node built to power large scale web applications. Produced by Coinbase, the technology is not exclusive to Bitcoin and includes Litecoin support. Some have suggested that Toshi.io is a precursor to Litecoin support at Coinbase. Can you speak to this in an elaborated way? For example, do you know of anyone now using Toshi.io for Litecoin?
I can't really speak to this or have much knowledge of it beyond what was announced. Sorry, next question!
No problem. Again, going back to your July 16th interview with Kingscrown, you predicted a December 31st Litecoin price of $50.00USD. With just over a month between now and the 31st, do you care to revise your prediction?
Haha......sure. Personally, one thing I was not expecting was the low price of BTC. I think that hit everyone like a brick wall so far. Because of Litecoin being the go to or natural trading partner of Bitcoin, Litecoin shares in Bitcoins success and loss. One of the many reasons for Litecoin's price decline is BTC's price decline, along with the downward pressure from miners selling such significant amounts with their asics trying to get fast ROI. These to me are the largest two factors, but there are others (I will add that the downward pressure was mostly felt in spring and summer timeframe, I believe we are seeing less of this today). As far as the price goes, at this point I do not want to say my confidence is down, but realistically it may not happen. I have revised myself several times since that interview that we may not see major improvements in price until 2015. Of course, if BTC goes down or stays where its at, this will also play a large factor as well. This is the world of cryptos, and anything can happen. I have less confidence in anyone's theory or analysis than I had before. Then again, maybe we will see a spike up to $48 again like last year (within a week or two timeframe). I honestly do not know at this point, the markets are following a downward pressure and at some point there is speculation that it will jump up significantly. I can not at this point say with any degree of confidence when that will happen.
Also in that July 16th interview, you were quoted as identifying one of the goals you have with Koinyx, "to become the leverage that Coinbase needs to add Litecoin." I am curious, are you consulting with Coinbase and/or any of its Engineering Managers in your work on Koinyx?
To date, I have not contacted or communicated with anyone from coinbase as far as what they may need for Litecoin. However I would imagine once we are large enough it might be beneficial to have discussions with them in order to bring Litecoin to a larger population.
I have two formal questions remaining and then some out-take questions that I will email you for additional consideration. So.... is Litecoin money?
Can it be used to buy goods and services? Sure. Is it sanctioned by governments as a means to pay debts? Some yes, some no. What is really important, and I harp back on my statement about bringing financial freedom to the people, is that we the people can use Litecoin for what we want to buy. So yes, it is money for the people.
Will Litecoin ever become legal tender? If so, what locality will be the first to make it so?
At some point in time, I expect Litecoin and Bitcoin to become legal tender in many places around the world. Right now, we are starting to see the early stages of this, such as in June California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill to make Bitcoin and other digital currencies legal for use to pay for goods and services. While this is at the state level, all of us involved in crypto know that big players are watching, and if we get more politicians to understand the real world use cases for digital currencies such as Litecoin, we can expect more bills like this to pass and help greatly in adoption.
So, we have spent considerable time over multiple days discussing you, your motivation for pursuing Litecoin, your involvement in the Litecoin Association, the development of Koinyx, and the state of Litecoin and crypto-currency development. You have answered numerous questions and, I will add, some that you have not permitted me to publish! You have reported on the past and have considered the future. Thank you for your time! I feel more well informed! My last question for you has to do with anything of significance not covered in my questions. Here is your opportunity to assert your agenda. Is there anything you would like to share with our readers and beyond the scope of what has been asked of you tonight?
First of all I want to thank you for having me. This interview honestly has been thought provoking for me. I look forward to reading more interviews that you perform!
Secondly I would like to say if anyone who is interested in an exchange that is legally compliant, very secure, and has the ethics and morals that some businesses in crypto seems to lack, please check out Koinyx. The team has worked tremendously hard at this effort and on a personal level I would love to see the day I can quit my day job and work full time on crypto's. I want to help shape the future for the better for cryptos, and Koinyx will allow me to do so. (Yes I know, shameless self plug haha)
The last thing I would like to share is this. I really believe in cryptos as a whole, and I feel both the idea and the technology will change the world. When I talk to people that don't know anything about it, I tell them this is like the internet in the 90's. I remember watching TV and new reporters asking "what is the internet? What can the internet do? What is it for? Can I do XXX with it?". Looking back, these questions are fairly silly, and we will see in 10 years once there is a larger adoption, these questions will be silly too. I ask all crypto supporters to push on and continue to tell their family and friends about it, and mention that this will literally change the world.
You and I have similar beliefs, Mr. Vegetabile. By the way, how should that be pronounced?
Ve-Ge-Ta-bi-lay, aside from the lay part all vowels are soft.
Might you care to submit a photo of yourself for the article?
Let's not get too hasty here! :D
How about a stool sample instead?
Oh, boy... I can see the preface now, "In a wide-ranging conversation..."
Following my time with TheMage, he and I revisited some out-take questions. Care to read more? Continue here....