7 votes

Coinbase is a mission focused company

20 comments

  1. [2]
    no_exit
    Link
    thread

    coinbase engineers walked off because brian wouldn't say "Black Lives Matter," he posted it so they'd get back to work, now he's having an executive "YOU AREN'T THE BOSS OF ME!" meltdown* about it.

    thread

    18 votes
    1. RapidEyeMovement
      Link Parent
      Thank you for the context! The blog post without that is a lot of banal corporate speak.

      Thank you for the context!

      The blog post without that is a lot of banal corporate speak.

      4 votes
  2. [6]
    tindall
    Link
    This post buries the lede, and does so for a reason: their mission is an explicitly political one, and by pretending to be apolitical while purporting to "want to use cryptocurrency to bring...

    This post buries the lede, and does so for a reason: their mission is an explicitly political one, and by pretending to be apolitical while purporting to "want to use cryptocurrency to bring economic freedom to people all over the world" they explicitly support the status quo.

    I've worked with Coinbase for a long time, since I first got into Bitcoin mining in 2012, and this attitude has slowly become more apparent over time. As a large and very wealthy financial services company in the Bay Area, they are deeply complicit in the destruction of the land and housing market there, and have failed to address this. They also require a level of identity verification above and beyond what is reasonable for the services on offer, which seriously harms trans people, unhoused people, and people seeking shelter from domestic violence - all of whom could otherwise be well-served by a medium of monetary exchange untethered from traditional structures of the financial system.

    A few years ago, I got most of my investments out of Bitcoin and into less volatile instruments, and this is not the least of the reasons. The whole community is a toxic right-lib cesspit.

    17 votes
    1. [5]
      skybrian
      Link Parent
      Everything is political, but I think that it’s not wrong for an organization to have a mission and stick to that mission. Like, someone joining the Biden campaign should be there to get Biden...

      Everything is political, but I think that it’s not wrong for an organization to have a mission and stick to that mission. Like, someone joining the Biden campaign should be there to get Biden elected, not promoting some other cause they believe in so the campaign gets distracted by infighting. Another example is Wikipedia’s here to build an encyclopedia page. There are usually plenty of on-topic political issues to deal with without opening the door to all of politics.

      So, I am sympathetic to the notion that someone going to work for Coinbase should be there to make cryptocurrency better, and I shared this as an example of a clear statement of corporate mission that’s not just the usual boilerplate.

      However, to be clear I think this is a crappy mission. I don’t think cryptocurrency supports the status quo, it undermines it. If cryptocurrency became commonly used then I think it would make the financial system worse by making more transactions irreversible. It’s like making deals with the Elf King, where you will be screwed whenever you make a mistake or fail to anticipate something. Dealing with money is tricky enough already.

      I think their level of identity verification is pretty intrusive, but somewhat understandable given the amount of interest that cryptocurrency gets from crooks and that they are often dealing with large amounts of money. The risk of “identity theft” leading to someone’s bank account being drained seems pretty high. Figuring out how to make this easier for everyone (but still safe) seems like it should be part of their mission, though it’s not easy.

      (I got into it for dogecoin because I thought it was a funny parody of cryptocurrency, but it turns out that using an actually working cryptocurrency as a parody is a bad idea because the same bad behavior will still happen.)

      2 votes
      1. [4]
        tindall
        Link Parent
        On a micro level, maybe, but on a macro level, it generally supports wealth transfer to people with existing wealth, and Coinbase has actively made decisions that support that outcome. Those are...

        However, to be clear I think this is a crappy mission. I don’t think cryptocurrency supports the status quo, it undermines it.

        On a micro level, maybe, but on a macro level, it generally supports wealth transfer to people with existing wealth, and Coinbase has actively made decisions that support that outcome. Those are political decisions, and they're explicitly relevant to Coinbase as an organization, but they were justified at the time by the same excuse expressed in this post.

        4 votes
        1. [3]
          skybrian
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          I’m not sure what you mean by that. What’s your theory about who makes money on crypto? (Which wealth transfers do you mean?)

          I’m not sure what you mean by that. What’s your theory about who makes money on crypto? (Which wealth transfers do you mean?)

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            tindall
            Link Parent
            So, on the micro scale, crypto allows people with little liquid cash to speculate. That's what I did; I was a high school student at the time, and I managed to save up enough that, with several...

            So, on the micro scale, crypto allows people with little liquid cash to speculate. That's what I did; I was a high school student at the time, and I managed to save up enough that, with several friends, I could buy a Butterfly Labs mining rig (yes, BFL, I got scammed, but I did end up getting the hardware).

            That's cool, but ultimately, the big money is elsewhere. Crypto also supports new kinds of transactions between existing businesses. For instance, smart contracts allow automating certain kinds of finance. Many millions of dollars are automatically transacted via Etherium smart contracts, and the vast majority of that money never makes its way into the hands of consumers.

            Ultimately, these new currencies are acting more like investment instruments than real currencies because of their volatility, and like all volatile instruments, the more money you can risk, the more money you can make.

            5 votes
            1. skybrian
              Link Parent
              Okay, makes sense! I don't see established businesses using this in any big way, since cryptocurrency doesn't do anything they need? It seems more like "pump and dump" schemes where there are...

              Okay, makes sense!

              I don't see established businesses using this in any big way, since cryptocurrency doesn't do anything they need? It seems more like "pump and dump" schemes where there are shady people making money off less-knowledgeable or less-lucky speculators. I guess that's more of the same, but it means that instead of "old money" investors benefiting it is "new money" investors. Maybe no better than the old, but different pockets.

              An exception might be rich people in China and other places who are trying to move their money somewhere else, since crypto actually does something they need.

              And there are also VC firms investing in Coinbase and then the techies working there making money off providing the service.

              Maybe a good comparison would be to gambling? Yes, some Native Americans benefit from this "industry" and some states use lotteries to finance good things, and there are lot of ordinary people working in Las Vegas who make a living from it, but it also benefits people like Trump and Steve Wynn and the mafia.

              Ultimately this kind of casino capitalism increases inequality, but there is a lot of randomness to it.

              1 vote
  3. [9]
    stu2b50
    Link
    This article might just be dogwhistling for some other issue, but imo the point itself is fine. Many people are just reading it as "apolitical", but technically it's not that you can't talk about...

    This article might just be dogwhistling for some other issue, but imo the point itself is fine. Many people are just reading it as "apolitical", but technically it's not that you can't talk about politics, but just politics that isn't directly related to cryptocurrency. It's "don't talk about things that aren't related to crypto at work", which does include many political topics, rather than "no politics".

    Their stance is slightly more "extreme", in that other companies will be willing to do token gestures to unrelated issues, political or not, but those are, in the end, token. Basically all companies take this stance. The idea that coinbase has expertise in a narrow field, and that their resources are more efficiently spent on their field, isn't incorrect in a market economy.

    If there is insufficient allocation to important issues, that is where the government should step in; that's the point of taxes. Of course, that's not happening anytime soon, but corporate philanthropy is a poor solution given the economic model the US subscribes to.

    2 votes
    1. [8]
      han2k
      Link Parent
      I find the idea that companies should only focus on making more money in their narrow field a little puzzling. I know that's the established truth and that's how the world mostly operates right...

      I find the idea that companies should only focus on making more money in their narrow field a little puzzling. I know that's the established truth and that's how the world mostly operates right now, but aren't we seeing pretty disastrous results coming from this practice? If anything, I feel like small, dedicated group of talented people with means to be self-sufficient are in a much better position to tackle all kinds of issues in our world than the government.

      4 votes
      1. [7]
        stu2b50
        Link Parent
        The idea is that expertise, equipment, and so forth have a compounding effect. A Coinbase engineer will do a great job at doing crypto related engineering, but asking them to work on something...

        The idea is that expertise, equipment, and so forth have a compounding effect. A Coinbase engineer will do a great job at doing crypto related engineering, but asking them to work on something else will be less efficient at other fields.

        So having each company focus solely on their field is more resource efficient. $1 towards Coinbase staff working on crypto produces more than $1 towards Coinbase staff working on edtech.

        And then the overall allocation is "good" because in a market economy, it reaches equilibria naturally at an optimal state. Obviously we know that latter point isn't exactly true, but at the same time, how is it better for companies to guess and work at areas they have no idea how to work in? In a mixed market economy, it is the role of the government, which has greater vision, and greater resources, than a single company. Better to have this big entity coordinate it, than all these smaller entities try to coordinate among themselves.

        Would you rather a private organization allocate resources in how they think is optimal, or would you rather the elected body do so? Well, with the current government, the former is no doubt tempting right now.


        Also companies trying to do everything leads to these big horizontal conglomerates, which in addition to being anti-trust issues, have also just proven to be inefficient, hence why most of them are disappeared in recent times in the US market, even with anti-trust laxing.

        1 vote
        1. [6]
          han2k
          Link Parent
          Right, I understand the intent behind the way things currently work. What I'm saying is it's time we explore upgrading or modifying these systems, because the world as we know it is turning upside...

          Right, I understand the intent behind the way things currently work. What I'm saying is it's time we explore upgrading or modifying these systems, because the world as we know it is turning upside down. The way companies work today is pretty much how rogue AIs work in sci-fi stories. Like paperclip making AI that turns entire planets into paperclips, we have companies that purely focus on making more money in their narrow field and ignoring the damages they're doing to the world. It doesn't have to be that way. Companies can focus more on building and sustaining communities than just getting their shareholders and executives richer.

          2 votes
          1. [5]
            stu2b50
            Link Parent
            That is something completely different, though. For example, in this case, social damages Coinbase causes (making it easier to buy drugs or something) would be in their purview, up for internal...

            we have companies that purely focus on making more money in their narrow field and ignoring the damages they're doing to the world

            That is something completely different, though. For example, in this case, social damages Coinbase causes (making it easier to buy drugs or something) would be in their purview, up for internal debate, etc. etc. and not prohibited, since that relates directly to their mission.

            I think it's a great move for Apple to make their supply chain net zero emissions, for instance. But the blogpost was about focusing on the issues the company has expertise in.

            I.e right now, in the US, there's a huge education gap. But is Coinbase is the right company to tackle it? Would Duolingo be better suited? That kind of thing.


            As to "it shouldn't be that way", maybe, but I really don't see how that is in any way a better system. Relying on companies to do this just isn't going to work. For one, even assuming all companies will in good faith try to solve what holes there are,

            A) this puts so much power in unelected hands

            B) it is incredibly hard to have long-term planning from a bunch of disparate organizations

            C) likely to be resource inefficient (i.e produce worse results overall)

            At some point, it's not a job "companies" should have anymore. This is why we have government systems. It's very similar to billionaire philanthropy; it can do good, but it should not be the system we rely on. It puts society at the whims of these entities, who may or may not have any idea what they're doing.

            2 votes
            1. [4]
              han2k
              Link Parent
              Coinbase may not tackle the education gap, but the attitude that companies shouldn't worry about the greater communities and the things that happen within those communities is detrimental to the...

              Coinbase may not tackle the education gap, but the attitude that companies shouldn't worry about the greater communities and the things that happen within those communities is detrimental to the well being of not just humans, but many other species on Earth is what I'm trying to say.

              Yes, I understand that within current systems having companies like Google take care of social issues may be more problem than worth. I'm trying to speak of a paradigm shift, though (something like democracy 2.0). We live in a world where billions of people are connected and our government is hopelessly ill-equipped to handle such a reality. There is a growing number of people who believe that it's time for major changes to our social systems to get on with the times.

              2 votes
              1. [3]
                stu2b50
                Link Parent
                But the paradigm shift shouldn't be towards a system that fundamentally isn't accountable nor logically sound. The solution to a problematic government, is not to have companies become small...

                But the paradigm shift shouldn't be towards a system that fundamentally isn't accountable nor logically sound. The solution to a problematic government, is not to have companies become small governments. It's to fix the governmental structure.

                If we want to continue with a market economy, horizontal conglomerates should be broken up, companies should focus on their area of expertise. That allows efficient resource allocation. Companies are just machines that do one thing, and they are kept in line by.. the government. Corporate taxes allow the government to siphon off resources to reallocate to areas needed. Further incentives can fix market deficiences.

                Or you can pull all out and pull out the manifestos.

                2 votes
                1. [2]
                  han2k
                  Link Parent
                  I find it interesting that all I've said can be summarized as "we can probably do better than the status quo" and already this idea is being called fundamentally unaccountable and illogical. I'm...

                  I find it interesting that all I've said can be summarized as "we can probably do better than the status quo" and already this idea is being called fundamentally unaccountable and illogical. I'm not upset or anything, but I think it leaves very little room for any real discussion, which I'm always down to have. I never meant to criticize you so if you got that impression, I apologize.

                  1. stu2b50
                    Link Parent
                    Apparently I came off as too strong? So in my opinion, having companies "care" about areas other than their expertise is not better than the status quo. For one, it assumes that they end up...

                    Apparently I came off as too strong?

                    So in my opinion, having companies "care" about areas other than their expertise is not better than the status quo. For one, it assumes that they end up "caring" in the right way. But a lot of issues are really complicated, and it's not just something that can be done "better". And it's best for people who know a lot about those issues to handle them.

                    And it doesn't mean companies shouldn't be accountable. Harm caused by your product is in your area of expertise.

                    A company trying to fix some area that they have no idea about can easily cause many issues to become worse!

                    When it's really in the purview of the government. This is what the government is for (partially, at least). To have an accountable system, with a big picture view, to come in and massage market failures.

                    So let's say Coinbase is off, working hard on allowing everyone to have digital currency or whatever they do. Maybe the country has an education crisis. Bam, that's where the government can reallocate resources collected from Coinbase to fix that issue, hopefully in a fruitful way. Coinbase shouldn't be the one decided whether or not to contribute, and how. Because who knows if they're going to do a good job, and if you really believe that Coinbase's mission is for human good (which evidently Coinbase believes in), you're taking away from that goal. And who's to say which goal is more valuable? Well, the government. The government steps in and decides that improving education > improving digital currency.

                    On the other hand, if Coinbase's platform causes another opiod crisis, because it's easier to buy them with crypto, then that is an issue Coinbase needs to fix. And they know best how to do it, and they should be responsible.

                    2 votes
  4. Deimos
    Link
    Coinbase posted a follow-up blog post today with some more details, including that about 60 employees (5% of the company) decided to take the exit package they were offered: A follow up to...

    Coinbase posted a follow-up blog post today with some more details, including that about 60 employees (5% of the company) decided to take the exit package they were offered: A follow up to Coinbase being a mission focused company

    2 votes