A Crypto Security Lesson Worth $3800

While away from my keyboard, enjoying a trip to Hawaii, I lost ~$3800 in Crypto assets from my multisig wallet (app.safe.global).

I was eventually notified by my gnosis safe mobile app of a transaction moving some ENS out of my safe to an unknown address. Upon investigation I found my entire safe emptied.

The “attacker” as I’ll call them for now, began withdrawing funds from my multisig wallet on Ethereum at 0xec819F77d464aeeF84A204F88CA85284D96A3acF. The withdraws started the same day I left for my trip on the 16th of June 2023. Each day following around the same time another unique token in that wallet was moved to an address I was unfamiliar with (0x3851bb469Eb2fF35D3C8415d321a425e1E967858).

I was genuinely confused at first, because I am a very security conscious person and had no clue how one of my private keys associated with the multisig became compromised. Upon inspection I knew I didn’t own the address the coin was heading to and noticed the transactions were signed by my “backup” address (0xe0b4Ff23f7268508Eb5923C3Cb415F531110C42f).

I began wracking my brain while cruising threw the mountains of Oahu trying to remember everything I knew about how I setup this multisig safe and my “backup” wallet.

Mistake #1

When I created the safe wallet initially, mpoletiek.eth was the only address listed as an owner on the wallet and when I added the backup wallet I never adjusted the required number of confirmations for any transaction from 1 to say… 2. Had I done this, the “attacker” wouldn’t have been able to move the funds without an additional confirmation from my primary wallet.

I also remembered that I stored the private key to the backup wallet on a fully encrypted hard drive that could only be unlocked with a key stored on another fully encrypted device. That is pretty secure. Each device required physical access to read and I only ever imported the private key to the backup wallet once to validate it’s usability with the multisig safe. I used Metamask, which is a non-custodial wallet and immediately removed the wallet from Metamask when I was finished so even if my browser was compromised (It wasn’t) my private keys were safe.

Even after realizing my first mistake I was still confused as to how the “attacker” got ahold of my backup wallet’s private key. To be honest $3800 is not enough of a bag to tie up a ton of compute power to brute force so they must’ve easily nabbed the private key from my browser?

I did a ton of research as fast as I could. Were there any known security issues with Metamask? With Gnosis multisig wallets?? None that I could find. I don’t sign transactions at sketchy websites. I do a ton of research before hand and typically wouldn’t use my “secret” “backup” wallet to test a sketchy website….

Wait…. How did I even create this “backup” wallet? Since I was able to delete it from Metamask, I must’ve imported it, which means I didn’t use Metamask to create it….. Oh crap…. I’m such an idiot.

Mistake #2

While I don’t entirely remember exactly how I created this “backup” wallet, I definitely didn’t use localized software like ‘geth’ or even my Metamask plugin.

I most likely created this wallet a long time ago and stored the private key as a “backup”, but did so using some website like ethereumaddressgenerator or paperwalletcrypto.

The likelihood that small, simple websites like these are run by bad actors is very high. Additionally, it’s also highly likely that they are easily hacked without the owners knowledge and are stealing the private keys of any address created for later inspection.

Why I trusted this at the time is beyond me now, but I can only guess that in the past my involvement in Crypto and the amount of risk I was taking was relatively low compared to the $3800 I just watched vanish from my multisig. Still, probably chump change compared to the scores this individual is getting if this has been going on for as long as I can imagine.

While there wasn’t much I could do in Hawaii to validate the rest of my security profile, I did a little research into some of the addresses associated with the transactions that drained my multisig wallet.

I reached out to Gnosis Safe to validate that they didn’t see anything additional or had any other perspective on how these transactions were initiated. From what both of us could tell, it was and could only have been initiated from someone with the private key to my “backup” wallet.

Once I knew that I dug into the address the crypto was shipped to. At the time of this writing (06-25-23) the address (0x3851bb469Eb2fF35D3C8415d321a425e1E967858) still has all my crypto.

The “attacker” hasn’t moved the crypto out yet it seems.

I did some more digging and noticed an ENS address that was interacting with the address (0xtrippy76.eth).

Now I don’t want to make any claims that 0xtrippy76 is the attacker, but I will say that compared to other transactions this one is suspicious.

First, when knowingly taking crypto that wasn’t theirs, they spent a week withdrawing all the coin and have since held onto it for about another week. I’m comparing this to the transaction of almost 4billion PEPE from 0xtrippy76 and immediately shipping it to Uniswap (a decentralized exchange).

I did a quick search and found a twitter user by that same handle. If this is the attacker, that PEPE transaction must’ve been a mistake.

I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask…..

They seem to be fairly active on twitter and a huge fan of PEPE so I’m hopeful they will reply. 🙂

Taking Action

So, I’m fairly certain I’ll never see that coin again, but am grateful for the lesson and have taken the following steps to ensure one of my multisigs doesn’t get compromised again.

  • Create a new multisig with wallets I created myself that requires 3 confirmations before any transaction is executed. To withdraw crypto I will confirm the transaction from 3 separate devices (this is probably overkill). Safe!
  • Isolate my wallets to the devices they reside on. No need to maintain 1 wallet on all of my devices. Crypto isn’t “spending” money yet in today’s economy, it’s more a store of value and an investment today (with more utility arriving daily), so we will “store” our crypto in our multisig and withdraw what we need, when or before we need it. Smart!
  • Setup notifications on etherscan.io. The Gnosis safe app was very slow to notify me of the transactions happening. With notifications from etherscan.io I would have caught the first transaction and saved myself ~$1500 in pain. Alert!

In the end 2 big mistakes lost me $3800 USD of crypto at the current valuation. The lessons learned lead to 3 big steps in improving my crypto security posture.

Sometimes we wish we didn’t have to make mistakes to learn our lessons, but I know better these days and while it hurts, it’s just money in the end and I didn’t get my lunch stolen. I have spent enough time in security to know that the paranoia can destroy ya so I quickly shift to hardening my posture and charging forward, better armed, and equipped to go farther and longer for my people.

May I share appreciations to my enemies for keeping me sharp and strong.

To be continued?…… We’ll see.

Getting to Yes

When tasked with obtaining some official training in the art of negotiation, after a lack of budget discovered, I chose to read a book recommended to me. This is not the book which was recommended; “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss. However, that book was being shipped to my door when I realized I had a copy of “Getting to Yes” sitting on my shelf. I either acquired this book from my tenure in an incubator for entrepreneurs or from a colleague at Nike, but nonetheless I turned to it before eventually reading the summary of “Never Split the Difference” and taking Chris Voss’s Masterclass online.

I have to start by saying that Chris Voss is clearly an artist baptized in the stress and fire of hostage negotiation for the FBI. While he references terms and concepts found in “Getting to Yes”, a summary of the knowledge produced by Harvard’s Negotiation Project, Chris Voss has developed a much more practical set of tools for students looking to apply themselves in everyday negotiation.

I consumed both “Getting to Yes” and Chris Voss’s methods in a short time period and sincerely felt like each set of knowledge supported the other.

“Getting to Yes” seemed to me, really, as a counter for position based negotiations where parties negotiate from starting positions and one or the other gives ground or changes their position throughout the negotiation. Since this method doesn’t lend well to sustaining relationships for continued collaboration “Getting to Yes” proposes negotiating on the merits of any potential agreement, keeping the concept or idea of a successful agreement at the forefront of conversation.

The first half of the book really outlines what merit based negotiating looks like, while considering how to identify and solve any potential relationship issues first. The second half of the book is a tool one can use to help counter all the potential pitfalls and challenges one may experience negotiating with others who aren’t exactly aligned with this style of negotiating.

I received a lot of value out of the second half of the book as there were numerous examples of helping others align with a new framework and skillful ways of negotiating with individuals who may be stubborn in doing things their way. The first half of the book, as the authors admit, sounded a lot like everything I’d been doing. Except, the concept of BATNA or Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement was something I’ve chosen to remember. Knowing what your alternative is to not successfully negotiating an agreement can help you understand your bounds, how far you’re willing to go, and potential leverage over another party. Chris Voss also references BATNA in his masterclass, but calls it by another name.

Ultimately I’d have to say I probably got more tactical value out of Chris Voss’s methods as he provides tangible tools such as mirroring, labeling, and asking targeted questions as great tools for progressing conversations while revealing information that can be used again later to discover the best possible agreement among multiple parties.

However, it’s clear that “Getting to Yes” is an amazing introduction to a framework with basic concepts that anyone can use and I’m grateful to have words to explain some of the tricks I’ve picked up in my own experience. Additionally, it helps make clear the value of other frameworks and techniques like something extremely tactical like Chris Voss’s methods.

I enjoyed the book as it’s an entertaining walk through a variety of human negotiations and all the drama and comedy that comes with it.

Highly recommended.

State of the World – July 2020

It’s Complicated

I’m going to mention up front that this write up will attempt to paint a picture or map of the current state of socio-economic and human issues that will include a brief history as well as a path forward.

First of all, considering how we prefer to communicate today, I need to warn the reader that it’s complicated. It’s a multivariate problem within a multivariate problem. Therefore, don’t expect any memes to help you along the way. Ironically, that’s a big player on the map we’re drawing today.

Some Assumptions

In order for this to work the reader and I have to agree on the following assumptions.

  1. Nothing is constant
    • Everything in this world is fluid. Nothing stays the same, even our most coveted symbols take on new meaning and the necessity for bedrock institutions wanes over time.
  2. Power revolves around the most basic commodities required by every individual in order to survive in the current system in which they operate.
    • Commodities are things like food, water, and oil which are basic necessities for an individual or a community to survive. Those who control the commodities ultimately have all the power.
  3. The powerful are not always interested in directly controlling individuals or communities, only the commodity itself.
    • Often what the majority of humanity believes to be the source of power or their interface for interacting with it is just a proxy for others who are actually in control.
  4. Like bullet #1 the commodities that are most important often change and those who control it as well.
    • Once the majority of humanity determines a new commodity is an absolute necessity, many will enter the struggle to control it. Control could be absolute or divided and contentious or harmonious, but it is always temporary until a competitor arises or the priorities of commodities shift again.
  5. Most systems evolve.
    • Systems created for any particular purpose are more likely to evolve and adapt than be replaced by another.
  6. When looking at a problem at scale, we must observe in generalities.
    • The universe is a complex and diverse place beyond what most can imagine. In order to attempt to understand it to a point, some stereotypes and generalities must be used. An example is that everyone who lives in a particular region belongs to and subscribes to the ruling government of that region. This is a fairly safe generality, but we are also aware that people move and at any point of time there will be foreigners who take up residence and don’t necessarily agree with the local government, support, or participate in it’s operations. Their impact on our analysis at the point we make the assumption, is immaterial.
  7. This is a ‘Western’ perspective.
    • This analysis only considers the historical perspective of the west. Everything that happens east of modern day Europe doesn’t play a role until much later. It is, however, more and more important as time goes forward.

A Brief History at a High Level

In the beginning we lived in tribes. The world was chaotic and dark. We worked together to get through the long cold night and depended on our elders to show us the way. They understood the changing of the seasons and the movement of the herds better than anyone and this knowledge was the most coveted commodity of the time.

It can be argued that it still is today, but we’ll get there.

They passed their knowledge down to the youth orally and used stories to transmit their message. These stories were useful in not only providing a basic understanding of the world around us, but a consumable explanation of chaos so that we could live in confidence and minimize fear.

Eventually we learned agriculture and animal husbandry. We understood the basics that allowed us to settle in our preferred area and grow wealth. This wealth came in the form of food, shelter, and ultimately safety.

As we evolved, not everyone rose at the same rate or held similar priorities. Armies were required to prevent other tribes from taking advantage of those who had what they needed to survive. Why hunt and gather when you can regularly take from others?

As things evolved, human’s still had the same basic needs; food, water, shelter, ect. However, the method to acquiring those basics were changing and the gatekeepers of those methods became powerful.

By this point it was the military. The west had often evolved to a point, only to be raided and brought low by a threatening empire from the east. Rulers were the generals of their armies and in Rome, still held the senate at the point of a sword.

Eventually one military general was able to control most of the known world at that time, but his kingdom wasn’t united. Constantine the Great recognized that the majority of inner conflict was due to individuals within his empire subscribing to various religions. His attempt to unite them eventually created the Catholic Church years later which ruled through the Pope as a living god for centuries to come.

At this point in our history, security was still the most coveted commodity around. Kings provided this commodity to their people, but ultimately were chosen and blessed by the Catholic Church via the Pope. Therefore the ultimate commodity was the Church’s blessing as it not only guaranteed a better life after this one, but allowed the Kings to operate outside of their borders.

Therefore, the way for a King to provide security for his people was to receive a blessing from the Pope. This is one example of the majority of people being ruled via proxy. The people were acutely aware that they were required to swear fealty to their king and obey all orders, but well understood the difference between a blessed king and one who might be acting outside of God’s favor.


We’re going to take a break here for a minute to discuss what life was like during these times as it will be important to understand later.

Feudalism is a well known, historic form of government where a class of nobility owned lands and infrastructure from the King and in return provided military service when demanded. Vassals were servants of the nobility and everyone else was known as serfs. In the end, the idea of ‘rights’ did not exist, but depending on your class you had more opportunities and freedoms within the system by which humanity was organizing itself.

Serfs mostly had no rights. Some have argued they were no better than slaves, however generally speaking they were free to move about the land and attempt to rise through the social ranks. However, movement up the social ladder was almost impossible due to the requirements to create value for one’s self.

One particular reason why this was so difficult is because humanity became dependent upon collective agriculture and animal husbandry to survive. Mills were essentially platforms by which anyone could come and leverage it’s services as long as they paid the tax required by the King in the form of milled grain or otherwise. The same analogy could apply to housing and education in most cases.

Peasants, whether serfs or otherwise, were also often required to use the fee-based services provided by the lord’s manor. For example, many manors had grain mills that could be used by the peasants to grind their grain products into flour, but these mills also usually required fees or surrender of some part of the flour produced. In a way, these mills represent a sort of local monopoly, in which the only options available to the peasantry were to use the lord’s mill and pay its fees or to use no mill at all. The latter “option”, although notionally possible in some circumstances, would be functionally impossible because flour was one of the few easily stored calorie sources.

Zach Scott, Digital Feudalism. How the data ecosystem is becoming medieval

A Power Shift

At this point the Pope ruled the western world through his proxy kings via blessings. Eventually this song and dance began to break down as the people became more and more exposed to the inner-workings of this relationship.

Niccolo Machiavelli, who infamously wrote about the political strategy of these times, coached Italian nobles on how this relationship worked.

With the security provided by the Kings, technology began to advance. Warring technologies saw rapid improvement during this time thanks to advancements in blacksmithing and other popular trade skills. For a King and his Nobility, life on earth was becoming quite comfortable.

On top of that, the Pope of Rome was mired in almost constant scandal. The ‘Holiness’ of the Pope and it’s Church was often called into question. It didn’t help that the Vatican City was struggling to feed it’s people. This was especially highlighted during the reign of Pope Alexander the VI, demonstrating to the world that a Pope is merely human and the church itself subject to the whim of France’s modern military.

Chaos began to creep back into the western world as Italian nobility went to war, France and Spain were at each other’s throats, and central control over the Blessings of the Church began to splinter.

Ultimately skilled labor, merchants, and those who facilitated trade became the ones who avoided most of the impacts of the new chaos. Eventually they began to organize and become a ruling class of their own.

Merchant Guilds were founded initially to educate and train new tradesmen in the various crafts needed to maintain infrastructure. Blacksmiths, carpenters, scribes, all kinds of guilds came and went, but the new demand was for the knowledge and experience generated by the guilds and their craftsmen. They controlled this knowledge through approved apprenticeships and seals that verified their work. The quality generated was coveted by Kings and Kingdoms that needed stability in their own infrastructure in order to continue to operate, but ultimately the Guilds were not as loyal to any particular King as they would like.

Merchant Guilds really shook things up for the majority of people as well. All of a sudden, there was a new path for serfs to rise in the ranks of society and carve out their own wealth and freedom. Having a Guild located within your Kingdom or on your lands provided an attraction for increasing your population.

The Guilds themselves provided an additional demand for traders and their goods from all over the world as it improved their craft and allowed them to compete with other Guilds.

Traders began to move across the land and as wealth grew and the influence of older powers waned, some major events took place which cemented the new order.

Amsterdam, a city founded mostly by foreigners attempting to escape from the rule of the Kings, dependent upon their own resourcefulness and trade relations, became the target of the King of Spain (Louis XIV) and went to war in the late 1600’s.

During this time the Netherlands was quickly becoming the center of the world. The people of the Netherlands held very liberal ideals for the time and welcomed foreigners from all walks of life to their city as long as they contributed in some way, shape, or form. Advancements in shipbuilding in the area lead to the Dutch East Indies Trading Company, which is arguably the oldest and most powerful corporation the world has ever seen. The first stock market was created in order to fund and incentivize men to dedicate years of their life to a single journey upon a ship that may or may not return at all. The women at home did most of the trading in the beginning.

This system required a new form of government or a modernized version of what the Greeks attempted before. Amsterdam became, arguably, the first global world power and Democracy. The Kings eventually lost their influence over the nobility who were tired of being stuck in modern feudalism.

The end of these times were also marked by the French Revolution and the rise of the United States of America which began as a colony of both British and French Kingdoms.

The fruits of global trade and democratic relations was no longer deniable and the general public demanded it.

Trade as a Commodity & World Wars

Trade at this point was global but still very unstable and risky. Pirates and poor technology often took their toll. As individuals and communities began to depend on goods from outside of their own nation, it was still very expensive and risky to provide.

People with the money to finance these operations and net new ones took huge risks and if they failed, often more than just their life was on the line.

In response people began to study economics. Adam Smith wrote ‘The Wealth of Nations’ and people began to focus on trade itself and the ability to finance it as a commodity. Financial ‘instruments’ were created to leverage what they had and mitigate risk. Central banks were created to attempt to control it, and stock markets went global.

Those who understood economics and controlled the flow of trade became the most powerful individuals and organizations the world had ever seen.

The Industrial Revolution

Eventually technology began to catch up with the economists and trade began to speed up.

At this point the world was still ruled by the financial organizations that governed it’s lifeblood (money), but via the proxy government. In order to facilitate this relationship clear lines were drawn as to the roles of corporations compared to governments. These definitions are still defended today however it only serves the majority who must work within the system and doesn’t necessarily apply to the corporations that fund it.

Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!

Mayer Amschel Rothschild

This disparity began to unravel when certain populations or countries became discounted by those who funded the system. Also, initially the definition of the role of government provided corporations the freedom to ignore their impacts on what are known today as Stakeholders (Employees, communities, environment, NOT Shareholders).

The economic system the majority of the west subscribed to (Capitalism) was studied by prominent individuals like Karl Marx and discovered to be potentially painful to the majority of people within it. At this point, general opinion over the role of government and corporations began to shift and other popular ideas began to take shape around the globe (Socialism, Communism).

On top of that the ability to trade became more and more dependent upon the industries created with our newfound technologies (Railroads, Ships with steam engines, Radio, ect).

The orderly world began to devolve again as the ability to conduct trade was determined by Industry and certain nations were better situated to solve their economic problems than others. In addition to the rift in economic theory, the problems created by financial institutions alienated a large populations of people who were living in worse conditions than ever before.

Germany was uniquely positioned at this time as arguably the center of trade. Being the largest, most central country in Europe, they indirectly controlled most of Europe’s trade and therefore a large portion of the world’s. They quickly took advantage of this by creating incredibly effective railroad systems that connected all their major and minor borders.

Leveraging the philosophical differences between capitalism, socialism, and communism, Germany jumped at the opportunity to dictate global trade with the greatest Industry the world has ever seen. They went to war.

Again, at this time, although they acted mostly independently, governments were essentially controlled by their ability to trade and therefore their corporations and financial institutions. When the world wars began, everyone was impacted. Trade was minimized, individuals received rations and governments battled for the favorable opinions of their people to push on in terrible factories for the victory of their Nation and ideology.

In the end multinational corporations had to play both sides to survive. Trade feeds, clothes, and provides shelter for the majority so it must go on. In fact, governments were so dependent on corporations that an entire defense industry and market was created. It’s arguable that some conflict after this time is related to corporations propping up their own supply and demand.

The Rise of International Institutions

After two world wars and over 100 million deaths the leaders of the remaining countries came together and decided an ulterior agent was needed to maintain peace in a world of global trade among differing ideologies.

The United Nations, World Trade Organization, and International Court of Justice eventually came to exist as global governments that would rule over those countries that subscribed to the charters put forth. These charters were written by the nations that won the previous war and it is argued that they intentionally left-out nations that weren’t necessarily viewed favorably by Democracies and Capitalists. Russia is one of those nations and the result of this plunged the world into what is known as the “Cold War”.

The most coveted commodity on the planet was still trade via industry, but after recognizing the role they played and ultimate indifference to the destiny of any particular nation, the new International Institutions established directly, in their own charters that corporations are not allowed representation.

This was a setback to those (mostly corporations) who would seek to control trade via industry. Now, their proxy governments could dictate how they conducted trade globally without the interests of the corporations at heart. This essentially democratized trade internationally and corporations were forced to adhere to the laws as they were dictated to them.

What is Trade?

Let’s take another minute and break this down because it’s important to understand the multivariate issue that is trade in order to understand what happens next.

Trade is essentially the flow of goods and services between individuals, corporations, communities, and governments.

In order to conduct trade you need investment. That is where the financial institutions and corporations that control investment come in.

In order to receive investment, a financial institution or corporation need to believe in your success. This can be achieved a number of different ways, but in reality there must be some form of Supply and Demand in this economic system.

Now, as much as we’d like to believe supply and demand to be naturally created things in a perfect economic model, it rarely is. Supply can be artificially limited or inflated which can have an artificial impact on Demand as well. Demand can be created where it never existed before through marketing. A lot of advancements in technology solve problems most people never knew they had. In order to create demand in this situation, individuals need to be enlightened to the problem before a Demand for the solution or Supply exists.

In this case one could use their investment to improve their products & services, or market to the people who need them, but ultimately with enough investment, this can be created where it doesn’t exist. Therefore the corporations that trade at the highest volumes become the most powerful as they receive more and more investment and can predict where the economy is heading in terms of Supply and Demand.

This becomes a feedback loop as corporations that control some of our most basic commodities like food, water, and oil are the ones that end up investing in the rest of the world. Financial institutions depend on them for returns and insights into whats happening in the economy so they can make smart decisions with their money and the resources of a nation’s worth of savings.

This idea was cemented in 2008 when America’s largest banks were ‘bailed out’ through investment from the government and it’s central bank when their financial ‘instruments’ failed them. The common defense for this solution was that these banks were ‘too big to fail’ in a market where Capitalism was supposed to be the guiding ideology.

The Current World Order

Okay, so at this point international institutions are dictating trade to the best of their ability via a democracy of appointed officials from their own local governments, ruling by a vote without allowing corporations representation.

This is a problem for corporations, mainly finance corporations that are unable to operate or invest where they please without a previous blessing by the World Trade Organization.

It’s only natural that instead, they attempt to influence the WTO via their ability to fund their own politicians.

Enter Political Action Committees. These are organizations that support the infrastructure required to run for any office in a modern government. The rules and regulations surrounding them differ depending on the country you’re in, but nonetheless corporations use them as instruments to ensure their interests will be highly represented in their local governments and abroad. The most interesting aspect of these committees and their counterparts is that the source and amount of funding is often unknown. This leaves the public, who ultimately chooses the politician, in the dark.

However, even among financial corporations and those who control the majorities of commodities, there is competition.

In order to create a more unified front internationally the largest corporations in the world got together and established the World Economic Forum where executives from other corporations are given titles such as ‘Governor’.

Established in 1971, the mission reads;

“committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas”


Once again the most coveted commodities on the planet fall under centralized control. However, like before, there is no need to directly rule over people as government provides an effective tool.

The Rise of The East

After WWII the west continued to rule the world with it’s corporations and free trade, capable of placing a McDonalds anywhere in the world within a few months and enlisting additional countries as willing participants of our modern economy. The wealth generated by this system was impossible to deny. Even the most resistant to western ideologies gave in.

However, one nation still refuses to adopt it holistically to this day; China.

In the East, Hong Kong is the capital of Finance. When the British ended it’s rule due to colonial agreements in 1997 China promised to allow to operate and rule itself as it had up until then. The phrase was ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and one of the poorest populations on the planet finally began to benefit from free trade.

Chinese culture, however, did not change that much.

In the west, corporations are essentially independent individuals that can choose to operate almost as their own sovereigns complete with all the rights of a free individual within their country. In China, it’s well understood that corporations absolutely cannot exist outside of the government or free of it’s influence. For experts, it’s often very, very difficult to understand where the government ends and the corporation begins.

This creates a very unique situation where international trade is concerned. While western corporations govern themselves through a democratic World Economic Forum, Chinese corporations operate and act in a very communist manner.

Often corporations that wish to conduct business in China, must also conduct themselves within a communist system in order to succeed. This often puts them ideologically in dissonance with the west whose values are inherently different.

More often than not, corporations opt to establish a Chinese corporation and then feed it trade secrets and intellectual property in order to survive, essentially putting all other nations around the world in a precarious situation. Especially, when those trade secrets and intellectual property can become liabilities to national security.

However, as more and more Chinese are raised out of poverty thanks to investment from the west and a focused vision by the government, the potential for them to become the ruler of global trade and usurp the World Economic Forum is growing. The fear is that this will lead to China enforcing standards and values that are at odds with western values over the entire globe.

The World Economic Forum is reacting to this threat on many fronts as their influence is great.

The Rise of Tech Corporations

By the late 1980’s a new form of communication was created and began taking off. The Internet, or the World Wide Web, became something that everyone could imagine as a part of their daily life. People raced to invest and the result was the dot-com bubble of the late 1990’s.

People lost millions, but the genie was out of the bottle. Like the Industrial Revolution before it, the way people worked was changed forever. Computers showed up on everyone’s desk at work and home and people began dreaming of a futuristic world of hope and abundance in ways never imagined before.

As the technology began to infiltrate our lives, all forms of communication required updating in order to compete. Corporations that once ruled via artificial supply and demand were usurped by corporations that could transact faster and more transparently than before. Technology corporations showed up everywhere. Finance, Food, Transportation, and even the Military was impacted.

There was a new commodity on the block, and that commodity was data. With data corporations could know more about themselves, their competition, economic trends and investment opportunities faster than ever before. They could outpace their competition with enough data and the right analysis. They could make smarter decisions and more accurate risk analysis. Corporations could target their market better and had more power to influence buyers based on the results of their analysis.

Ultimately corporations could make smarter trades and investments and like the feedback loop from before, invested more and more into technology companies above all others.

Unfortunately for corporations, the skills required to leverage the latest technology were in low supply. At the time, a great understanding of mathematics and engineering were required and the western world was more infatuated with liberal arts over the sciences.

In order to keep up with demand, Tech Companies began employing individuals from the East, leveraging mostly China and India as their source of labor. Often providing Visas to those workers to move west. We’ll come back to this.

For some reason the text stops here. I don’t remember where this was going, but didn’t want to lose the effort.


Mastodon RSS Bot

I wrote a Mastodon RSS bot in Python today.

The script reads a CSV file of RSS feeds and checks each feed’s entries for the latest entries compared to the last time the bot posted.

Once a collection of new toots is created, the bot attempts to toot separating each post by 20 seconds.

run.sh runs the bot repeatedly, once a minute.

Posts are easy to create. I started with the entry title and link with some hashtags at the end.

Trillion Dollar Coach

Written by modern leaders of industry, this book shines a light on the possible source of many cultural trends found in modern IT organizations or most corporations in America today.

The book itself is a tribute to Bill Campbell, a well known corporate coach who was well connected among technology executives. It opens with comments about who attended his funeral in 2016.

Organizing Bill’s coaching method in 6 chapters of stories and examples which do a great job of helping the reader get to know bill who sounds like a walking controversy, the book tells tales of Bill from his early football days before diving into how he approached teams in corporate America.

As it’s told, Bill seemed to naturally understand or Intuit what is taught today in modern IT organizations as Servant Leadership. As the leaders at google understood on the surface, Bill understood that winning teams make winning organizations and a coach is required to help unite and guide them to make decisions on their own. Bill was also able to lead people, because he genuinely cared about the people he was working with.

A common theme throughout the book was “your title makes your a manager, your people make you a leader”. This was reiterated throughout and became a dependable metaphor throughout the stories.

Bill’s efficiency was in his ability to focus on the human challenges that presented any team. Top performers often have conflicting views on the right direction of a project or any other decision. Bill would quickly discover who or what was causing tension and bring it front and center for the group to deal with. This expedited decision making and solidified key relationships for continued success.

This book solidified a lot of the lessons I’ve picked up and would categorize under Servant Leadership. However, I got the most value out of the stories. They served to demonstrate how powerful some of these basic principals are when applied consistently.

In fact, consistency is when these principals begin to have their most power. When the people around you begin to depend on you to be a servant leader. Bill was able to be consistent and dependable when applying his natural talents which lead him to be trusted by some of our titans of technology.

The Checklist Manifesto

“The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande was an ironically random and inspiring read.

Originally recommended to me by a peer when attempting to coordinate on a better way to handle IT Service Escalations, “The Checklist Manifesto” had rave reviews and a length short enough that convinced me to pick it up.

Not only did the book satisfy, and inspire, but it forced me to come face to face with my own human nature.

The book itself is written by an experienced surgeon who begins by explaining the level of skill involved in surgery. Along the way you start to get a glimpse into the complexity of surgery in a modern hospital today.

The writer thrust me into the operating room over and over again, each time describing a unique surgery, the equipment being used, the complex obstacles of human biology that have to be overcome, and the variety and diversity of the teams performing the operations.

By the end of the first few chapters I had a great appreciation for the individuals working under these conditions and the incredible teamwork required to pull off even the most simplest of procedures. After multiple examples and stories I was absolutely amazed that we’re even capable of being successful a majority of the time.

However, that’s when Atul hit me with the reality of the situation. There are mistakes, tons of mistakes, enough to make one shudder honestly. The scariest part might be that all these mistakes are seemingly small and insignificant compared to the major tasks these surgeons have to perform. The majority of deaths due to surgery are related to basic steps that everyone in an operating room should be aware of, no matter what part of the globe or conditions they’re operating in.

Atul was forced to come to terms with this problem when the World Health Organization (WHO) reached out to enlist him to help them reduce the number of deaths caused by surgery worldwide. His tact was to take a page out of the aviators handbook… almost literally… Checklists.

Ironically I don’t even remember what inspired him to look into checklists, but once we were hooked we dove headfirst into how aviation adopted these long ago. Today they’re ingrained into the discipline.

Checklists are so standard in aviation that their computer systems are designed to present them to the pilots at the most opportune moment. Even in the face of death at thousands of feet in the sky, the most skilled pilots in the world resort to checklists before allowing their skill and intuition take over.

The best real world example I thought of to bring it home for myself was learning to drive dirt roads on the eastern plains of Colorado. When your vehicle hits a patch of ice or compact snow and you lose traction, your gut reaction is to pump the breaks. However, I was taught like most that this is exactly the last thing you want to do and I only had to experience it once to remember the lesson.

When you lose traction driving on ice or snow:

  1. Don’t touch the brakes.
  2. Point the wheel in the desired direction of travel.
  3. Slowly engage the throttle.

Not even realizing it, I depend on this checklist every time I run into this situation. It’s almost muscle memory today, but that doesn’t stop me from having to grapple with a gut reaction every time I feel the vehicle lose traction.

This gut reaction is a part of human nature it seems. In the book, one of the infamous aviation checklists begins with the first step: “Fly the Airplane”. It sounds so ridiculous out of context, but in an emergency situation that can come as a complete shock to the human experience, a simple reminder can go a very, very long way.

My favorite part of this book, the part that inspired me to remember I want to write these reviews, is the story of some of the biggest investors in the global stock market. While the most successful investors are incredibly skillful, Atul was aware of at least 3 of them who depend heavily on checklists to minimize the mistakes they make.

While trading in the hundreds of millions of dollars, mistakes can be as costly as the mistakes made in the operating room of a hospital or at thousands of feet in the sky. While not directly related to human death, I imagine the misappropriation of millions of dollars could easily create far more human suffering.

One trader referred to it as “cocaine brain” when they get excited about making a lot of money. It’s been measured by psychologists and the rush can and often clouds our ability to think rationally and follow a process. Especially if that process is not written down.

This is the key I took away; humans are just that, human. Whether its “rockstars” in the operating room, pilots with “just the right stuff”, or hedge fund managers on “cocaine brain”, none of us can see and think clearly 100% of the time. When the stakes are high, and egos prevent effective teamwork, we will make mistakes. It’s guaranteed.

As I write this I remember my military training, the drills, the pre-combat checks, and pre-combat inspections. The most dedicated, and professional soldiers I ever worked with depended on drills and trained with a level of discipline that I’d never seen before. I saw the opposite (cowboys) as well.

It’s clear to me now, that our human nature will always get the best of us, no matter how hard we work or how much talent we’ve been gifted.

Checklists, drills, and ultimately muscle memory built for situations and activities where we’re operating at our peak are essential for sustainable success.

The Irony: in an industry swarming with individuals and organizations trying to achieve 0.001% increase in performance, checklists are not being adopted en-masse. It was difficult to get “rockstar” surgeons to adopt checklists in modern hospitals, and everywhere else you look, there are only a few leaders who point to checklists & drills as the key to their success instead of luck, talent, or unique background.

While we still have to be inherently good at what we do, we can never forget we’re only human. However, that seems to be the real challenge here.


What an irony.