‘Official’ Blockchain Standards for 2019

The succinct statement details the government’s pending official definitions of blockchain regulations. Publicly advertised rationales may appear comparatively innocuous or indeed prudent yet such official justifications are an obvious attempt at the curtailing rather than development of decentralized technologies. Even rudimentary, preliminary investigation of the statements highlight what may generously be labelled as contentious logic.

“China is set to publish official standards on blockchain technology next year, with one official telling Xinhua they will “give the industry some guidance” on the technology.

Li Ming, a director of the Blockchain Research Office under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), told Xinhua’s Economic Information Daily that work had already begun on forming the standards. Li, however, made clear that while standards would provide some guidance to blockchain developers, authorities did not expect official guidelines to “quickly advance the development” of the industry. Despite efforts to clamp down on the financial risks associated with cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings, the Chinese government has looked to show its support for blockchain development. China was the world’s biggest source of blockchain patents in 2017, while last September saw a blockchain research center opened by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a research institution under the MIIT.

The new standards being drawn up by the Blockchain Research Office will include guidelines for the application of blockchain in terms of business, information security and reliability, Li told Xinhua. Despite the exciting potential surrounding blockchain, the technology remains in a stage of infancy. Without clear regulations in place, security problems have caused nearly 2.9 billion US dollars’ worth of losses worldwide between 2011 and 2018, according to Baimaohui Security Research Center, a specialist in online security that has worked with Alibaba and Huawei.

The last two years alone have seen 1.9 billion US dollars lost because of blockchain security issues, according to Baimaohui. Not only are China’s leading tech firms and banks applying for blockchain patents and researching how the technology can improve services and boost public trust in supply chains, China’s Ministry of Public Security is also studying how to implement the technology in terms of data storage. Earlier this week, data from China’s Intellectual Property Office showed that a patent application had been filed by the Ministry of Public Security for a blockchain system that would securely and transparently save unalterable data to the cloud. Such a system could be used and shared by police across the country, allowing data to be shared rapidly between various agencies. ( CGTN )”

To begin let’s not forget the differentiation of decentralized capacities versus centralized services. A regionally authorized service naturally adheres to geographically specific governing legislation. For example an international fast food chain may, in some European countries, sell alcoholic beverages over the counter while the same operator is typically not permitted to do so in North America. This variation is possible because of service use being localized. To have ‘official’ guidelines of decentralized capabilities would be to imagine access and or use of decentralized services being regional, or under the same legislation. It may not. It is decentralized.

Secondly it has been calculated by the American Government Accountability Office ( GAO ), that the 2008 financial crises cost $12.8 trillion dollars. This further omits subsequent bailouts, unemployment and broad reaching detrimental consequences suffered by millions.

The causes of the 2008 financial crises have been largely attributed to deregulation, securitization (double dipping and bundling), sales of subprime mortgages and the Federal Reserve’s raising rates on subprime borrowers. In short, actions conducted by government, banking and financial industries.

By contrast for one set of activities to lose under $3 billion over seven years is minuscule. Regardless of political stance, decentralized technologies offer the capacity for individual’s independently enacting personal choice. Personal loss resulting from bad decision making, such as ICO investment, is contained. Moreover it is a conscious participation where any individual may only invest or access a set amount, that which is in their immediate control. Compare this ceiling to unilateral extents achievable by governments and corporations.

To incorporate decentralized technology into one regional government’s operational guidelines may prove nothing more than redundant methods of double accounting. Used by individuals whom may collectively be under no single government’s purview, concurrently decentralized technological capacity must itself be equally discovered.

Responding to Employees’ Questions: Tell, Teach, or Ask?

Asking questions to gather knowledge is a major learning method for employees at all levels of an organization, and it a major responsibility of the manager to help them. Let’s say that in the course of your daily work, an employee comes to you with a situation that she doesn’t know how to handle. She may have tried one or more ways to solve the problem, but they didn’t resolve the situation. It doesn’t matter what kind of challenge the employee is facing – it could be an imperfect product coming from the manufacturing process, a customer complaint she can’t resolve, a line of programming code she can’t get to work, or a medical procedure about which she is uncertain. Your goal as a manager should be not just to get the situation resolved, but also to help the employee learn how to solve similar problems in the future.

These types of situations arise every day, often multiple times in a day. So, as a manager, how do you respond? Here are some common responses that employees often hear from their managers.

“Don’t bother me. Figure it out yourself.”
“Just leave it with me and I’ll take care of it.”
“Why don’t you ask Fred or Mary to show you how to do that?”
“Here’s what you need to do”
“Let me show you how to do that.”
“What do you think you should do?”

Let’s look at each response from the perspective of both the manager and the employee.

“Don’t bother me. Figure it out yourself.”

As a manager, you have a lot on your plate. Perhaps you think this employee already knows how to answer the question or solve the problem, but is relying too much on your assistance – perhaps she doesn’t have the self-assurance to solve the problem without getting your approval first. Or, perhaps, you already answered a similar question for this employee several times and feel that the employee should be able to extrapolate the right answer from other answers you have already given.

From your perspective as a manager, this answer will get rid of a potential time-sink and allow you to work on matters you think more important. Having received this response, the employee has three options:

She can come up with a solution that may or may not work. If it works, that’s great. If it doesn’t work, she can blame her manager for not helping her. From your managerial perspective, this is not an optimal solution – the problem may not get solved, and the employee has learned nothing about how to solve such problems herself in the future, so she will continue coming to you every time she faces a problem.
She can go to someone else in the group to see if they can help her – perhaps they have faced this situation before and know how to solve the problem. This may or may not result in a successful resolution, depending on the knowledge and experience of the person she approaches and their willingness to help her.
She can abandon the problem, feeling that if the manager doesn’t think it important enough to help her solve, it must not be very important. This is not a very satisfying result for the employee – the problem isn’t getting solved and whoever relies on her work, be it a customer, a supplier, or some other internal or external person or group, is stuck with the problem and no solution. It also shouldn’t be a satisfying result for the manager – there is a problem for which your group is responsible that is not getting solved, and the employee feels that you are not supporting her.

“Just leave it with me and I’ll take care of it.”

From the manager’s perspective, this may be the quickest solution. The manager knows how to solve the problem and can get it done quickly without having to take the time to explain the solution to the employee. It also ensures that the problem will get fixed correctly (at least from the manager’s view).

But how does the employee feel when this happens? He may be relieved that the doesn’t have to worry about the problem anymore and can move on to other work at which he feels more competent. But he may also feel dejected because he feels that he should have been able to solve the problem and by taking it to his manager, he is admitting weakness. The last common feeling invoked from this response it that the manager doesn’t value the employee enough to explain the answer and teach him how to solve such problems in the future.

“Why don’t you ask Fred or Mary to show you how to do that?”

This is a better response than the first two. As a manager, you are recognizing that the employee needs to learn how to solve the problem, and are delegating responsibility for teaching the employee to another of your employees. Assuming that Fred or Mary is willing and able to teach the employee, this is a good solution. It ensures that the problem will get solved (assuming that Fred and Mary know how), that the employee will learn the correct procedure, and it doesn’t take time from your other managerial work.

“Here’s what you need to do”

Simple. Straightforward. Gets the problem solved.

And, sometimes, it is necessary. If there is an immediate danger or if the situation requires an immediate response, this will get the job done. When I had a heart attack and was in the hospital emergency room and my heart stopped, I didn’t want the doctors to have a discussion about what to do. I needed immediate action. Similarly, if you are in the control room of a nuclear power plant and alarms start ringing, you don’t want to take a lot of time discussing what you should do – you need to act immediately.

For the employee, there is great relief – the problem will now get solved. Assuming the employee retains the memory of the situation and the solution to that situation, she may be able to replicate the solution if the exact same problem arises again. But has the employee really learned anything? If a similar, but not identical situation arises in the future, will the employee be able to derive a solution without going to the manager again.

The best course of action for the manager in this situation is to first get the problem solved by issuing a directive, but then to sit down with the employee to explain how to diagnose similar problems in the future and how to derive the correct solution. That is, to teach the employee.

“Let me show you how to do that.”

This is a great solution. Here the manager is taking the time to teach the employee how to solve problems, to develop the employee’s skills for the future. The manager’s explanation can be brief (“Do these steps.”) or it can require more time if the manager instructs the employee on how to think about the problem, what alternatives to consider, and how to select the best of those alternatives. This response takes more of the manager’s time than any of the earlier responses, but it will result in more learning and a greater probability that the next time the employee faces a similar situation, he or she will be able to diagnose and solve the problem without taking more of the manager’s time.

“What do you think you should do?”

This is a coaching response, rather than a directive or teaching response. It can be useful when:

You, as the manager, don’t know the answer or are interested in exploring possible solutions with the employee.
You feel that the employee can come up with a good solution himself, but doesn’t have the self-confidence to do so.

This response answers a question with a question and implies a coaching approach. It is designed to empower the employee, as Judith Ross stated in her Harvard Business Review blog. She suggests that managers who use empowering questions “create value in one of more of the following ways:

They create clarity: “can you explain more about this situation?”
They construct better working relations: Instead of “Did you make your sales goal?” ask “How have sales been going?”
They help people think analytically and critically: “What are the consequences of going this route?”
They inspire people to reflect and see things in fresh, unpredictable ways: “Why did this work?”
They encourage breakthrough thinking: “Can that be done in any other way?”
They challenge assumptions: “What do you think you will lose if you start sharing responsibility for the implementation process?”
They create ownership of solutions: “Based on your experience, what do you suggest we do here?”

The point of coaching is to help the employee develop thinking, problem analysis, and decision-making skills. It does not imply that the manager doesn’t know what to do, although coaching questions can help both the employee and the manager analyze a problem if neither of them has a ready solution. Asking coaching questions should never be used to force an employee to select the solution that the manager already has in mind – a manager should never keep asking the employee to suggest a solution and keep the employee guessing at alternative solutions until the employee comes up with the one the manager wants – that’s not coaching, it’s manipulation.

Taipei Taiwan Travel Guide for First Timers

If you are planning a trip to Taiwan for the first time, there are several areas worth visiting to make the most of your trip. While there are multiple beautiful, historic areas, the following are my personal favorites for Taipei travel. Please feel free to use this as a sort of personal Taipei travel guide when planning your Taipei vacation.

Taipei 101

We start our Taipei tour at Taipei 101. This is a skyscraper located in the Xinyi District. In 2004, it was listed as the world’s tallest building at 1,671 feet. It held that title for 6 years until the Burj Khalifa in Dubai eclipsed Taipei 101 in 2010. The tower boasts 101 stories and features an outdoor observation deck on the 91st floor like the Empire State Building in New York City where you can see beautiful views of the surrounding areas.

The bottom five floors of Taipei 101 feature a luxury shopping mall with upscale shops such as Burberry and Louis Vuitton. On the 88th floor indoor observatory, you can see the 730-ton mass damper, basically a giant ball that acts like a pendulum to counteract the buildings sway during high winds. Without this damper, people on high floors can actually suffer from motion sickness from the constant swaying of the building! Taipei 101 is a city icon that is visible for miles across the city. Every New Year’s, Taipei 101 attracts tens of thousands of visitors to see its spectacular fireworks display.

Ximending Shopping

If you are into shopping, you can’t go wrong with Ximending. This is the shopping area in the Wanhua district of Taipei and is considered to be the fashion capital of Taiwan. On weekends, Ximending streets are closed to traffic and becomes a pedestrian shopping mall. The area is popular with street performers of all types and, because it is a hotspot, you can catch celebrities hosting small outdoor concerts, album launches, and other events.

Ximending is also famous for its “Theater Street” where there is a concentration of several movie along Wuchang Street. For history buffs, though, the most famous theater in the district is the Red House Theater which was built in 1908 during Japanese occupation and is still an operational theater with regular performances.

Yangmingshan National Park

If beautiful sights are what you look forward to when travelling, then I can’t recommend Yangmingshan enough. It is the largest natural park in Taipei. Yangmingshan is great for hiking and has numerous trails that can last an entire day or just a couple of hours. Popular trails include Seven Stars Peak which will take you to the highest peak in Taipei at 1120 meters (3600 feet) or see the stunning waterfall of the Juansi Waterfall Trail.

Each February through March, Yangmingshan is the site of the Yangmingshan Flower Festival when several varieties of flowers such as azaleas, camellias, and especially cherry blossoms reach their peak bloom. Every evening of the festival, cherry blossom trees are illuminated for a particularly romantic sight. Visitors can also have lunch and dinner at one of many restaurants such as The Top or Grass Mountain Chateau for spectacular vistas of Taipei below.

Between the beauty of the cherry blossoms and the views of the city, Yangmingshan is a well-known romantic spot for lovers all over Taipei. From April to May, when calla lilies reach full bloom, you can pick your own lily flowers for only a few dollars at one of several flower farms.

Lastly, don’t miss out on Yangming Shuwu, also known as Yangming Villa, the beautiful summer retreat of the late president Chiang Kai-shek. Yangming Villa house and gardens are maintained as they were when occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Chiang. The house is a two-story traditional Chinese home, with reception rooms and offices on the first floor and the Chiang’s personal residence on the second floor where their paintings and personal photographs are still displayed. The gardens are especially beautiful in the Spring when the flowers are in bloom. As a bit of trivia, it’s been noted that several bushes are planted in bunches of five – to symbolize the “5-star” rank of General Chiang.

National Palace Museum

Next, we find ourselves at the National Palace Museum which opened in 1965. If you love history, this is the place to be! National Palace Museum has a humongous collection of 700,000 permanent exhibits of Chinese Imperial history and artwork that spans over 2000 years plus prehistoric Chinese artifacts and artwork that dates to the Neolithic era, or better known as the “Stone Age”.

The most popular item in its collection is the Jadeite Cabbage. Carved during the 19th century, it is a piece of jadeite that has been shaped to resemble a head of Chinese cabbage and has a locust and a grasshopper camouflaged in its leaves. Legend says the sculpture is a metaphor for female fertility, with the white cabbage stalk representing purity, the green leaves of the cabbage representing fertility, and the insects representing children.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Another historically significant landmark on our trek to learn about the history of Taiwan is the Chiang Kia-shek Memorial Hall. This is a national monument that was built in honor of former Republic of China President Chiang Kia-shek. The memorial marks the geographic and cultural center of Taipei. It is the most visited attraction by foreign tourists. The pagoda style memorial hall has a presidential library and museum on the ground level.

The main hall features a large, seated statue of Chiang Kai-shek, much like the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The memorial hall and its surrounding Liberty Square plaza encompasses 60 acres and includes many ponds and garden spaces. The plaza also houses two of Taipei’s performance art buildings, the National Theater and the National Concert Hall.

Beitou Hot Springs and Public Library

My favorite place to visit while in Taiwan is an area called Beitou. Beitou is a mountainous district north of Taipei City and is most known for its hot springs and its magnificent public library. The mineral waters from the many natural geothermal vents in Beitou are famous for their healing and therapeutic properties. An entire industry of hot springs bathhouses and hotels have sprung up in Beitou offering aroma therapy, massages, and hydrotherapy. There are a lot of places where tourists can soak their feet in the hot springs stream. Be sure to visit the Hot Springs Museum. When it was built in 1913, it was the largest public bathhouse in Asia at that time. Today, the museum offers a glimpse at its bathhouse facilities and Beitou’s history.

Next, visit the Beitou public library. Its wooden structure that fits seamlessly into its Beitou Park setting. Through use of eco-friendly features and design, the library is Taiwan’s first “green” building. The library opened in 2006 and was built to reduce the usage of water and electricity. To do this, architects used large windows to allowing in natural light and a solar panel roof to provide the electricity needed for operation. Also, the library collects rain water to be stored and used to flush its toilets.

Tamsui Fisherman’s Wharf

Our final stopping point is Tamsui. Tamsui is located on the western tip of Taipei and our favorite place was the Fisherman’s Wharf. We learned that not only do the restaurants that dot the Fisherman’s Wharf boardwalk provide the freshest seafood available, it also provides breathtaking sunset views. Fisherman’s Wharf still functions as a harbor for local fishermen and they proudly provide harbor for 150 vessels! Our favorite walk is across the “Lover’s Bridge” pedestrian bridge, named as such because it opened on Valentine’s Day 2003.

Its architecture resembles a sailing ship’s masts. It was about a 3-minute walk across the bridge, which at sunset is magnificent. Lover’s Bridge is also a great place to catch the yearly fireworks show and concert that the city hosts each year to celebrate Chinese Valentine’s Day (which occurs in August and not February 14th). Another way to experience Tamsui is to take a ferry from the Tamsui Ferry Pier and disembark at the Fisherman’s Wharf. The ferry is a cheap way to see terrific views of the Tamsui waterfront. A one-way fare costs only $2 USD and takes only about 15 minutes.