Bitcoin Mining Records Largest Difficulty Drop Ever—Here’s What Miners Say

In brief

  • Bitcoin’s recorded the lowest difficulty drop in its history.
  • It could be good news for miners outside China.
  • The rate is unlikely to recover significantly anytime soon, but it’s unlikely to go much lower than this, miners told Decrypt.

Bitcoin’s mining difficulty fell by 28% today, the largest drop in the network’s history. The decline shows the severe impact of China’s recent crackdown on its Bitcoin miners.

Mining difficulty measures the computational power required to validate Bitcoin transactions and consequently how hard it is to earn new Bitcoin. The network adjusts the difficulty each fortnight to reflect the level of competition among miners. Lower mining difficulty indicates less competition.

Today’s difficulty mining drop follows China’s crackdown on Bitcoin miners, which were responsible for an estimated 65% of the network’s hash rate. Well before the government started to shut down miners last month, Bitcoin’s hash rate peaked at 198 EH/s (i.e. a lot) on April 15. After the crackdown, the hash rate sunk to 89 EH/s.

Chinese miners are now emigrating en masse or selling mining machines to foreign mining farms. But until China’s Bitcoin miners find new homes, non-Chinese miners stand to benefit from the reduced difficulty, which makes it cheaper and easier to mine Bitcoin.

“All other miners who continue to operate gain a commensurate amount of market share and therefore daily block rewards,” Ben Gagnon, chief mining officer at Toronto-based Bitfarms, told Decrypt.

Peter Wall, CEO of London-based Argo Mining, told Decrypt that while miners in the West are trying to capitalize on the gap left by the Chinese crackdown, the market for mining sites is booming.

“Displaced Chinese miners are searching the globe for appropriate hosting sites for their machines, and that means, in places like North America, power and space are at a premium like never before,” he said.

The Chinese government crackdown and subsequent exodus of miners have contributed to a halving of Bitcoin’s price (from about $64k to $33k). The reduced hashrate also means that there aren’t as many computers backing the network, making it less secure.

But the crackdown is good for Bitcoin in the long run, said Josh Goodbody, who used to lead Huobi’s mining sales in the West before he became COO of crypto custodian Qredo. He said the network is now less reliant on the Chinese government.

More difficulty ahead

The woes may not be over anytime soon. Bitcoin will, once again, adjust for difficulty in two weeks. But the change is unlikely to be this dramatic, miners told Decrypt.

“While we may see some more hashrate in China come offline over the next few weeks, it will be small compared to what we have already seen and likely offset by the first miners relocating to new facilities,” said Gagnon. In any case, “Nearly all the Chinese hashrate has come offline already,” he said.

Wall said that Chinese miners want to get back to normal as soon as possible. “For miners looking to relocate, time is of the essence,” he said. “The reduction in hash rate and subsequent dip in mining difficulty isn’t going to last forever.”

But it’s difficult to determine when and where Chinese mining operators will reinstall their machines, said Gagnon, since the scale of Chinese infrastructure simply doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. “The world doesn’t operate at Chinese speed,” he said.

The digital currency, then, is clearly still subject to real-world constraints.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed by the author are for informational purposes only and do not constitute financial, investment, or other advice.

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Bitcoin: Our Only Hope To Separate Money From State

Discussion around Bitcoin for years relegated it to being a bubble, tulipmania or some Ponzi scheme, but now even disbelievers likely acknowledge that Bitcoin is here to stay. What they may not realize is that beneath the veneer of charlatans, gamblers and grifters is a movement slowly making progress towards a grand vision of the future. A future where money is the medium of a flourishing society rather than an oppressive arm of the state.

Since the odds of Bitcoin collapsing in on itself grow slimmer each passing day, Bitcoin’s enemies have begun coming to terms with what its steady progress means for them. As they slowly realize the ensuing revolution, politicians and central bankers are starting to say the quiet part out loud by arguing that Bitcoin is a threat.

For once, Bitcoin’s opponents are actually correct in their analysis of the subject. A threat is exactly what Bitcoin is: a vicious threat to fiat currencies and government coercion everywhere. While the media has chosen to spread this idea as Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD), Bitcoiners embrace it as the reason for Bitcoin’s entire existence: a practical means to separate money from state.

There are two falsehoods society has strangely accepted as truth: a) it is natural for government to control money and b) inflation is necessary. People argue in favor of separating powerful institutions when it comes to church and state, yet they do not apply that same logic when discussing money and state. Money’s impact on society cannot be understated as it is the means by which people transact value and interact with the economy. Putting this powerful institution in the hands of government, another extremely powerful institution with a history of misusing said power, is the natural conclusion we draw?

When government is given full control over money, it has the capacity to debase the money as its ruling party sees fit. Everyone is aware of the perils of hyperinflation, yet people are unphased by the ability of a small few to arbitrarily expand the money supply. Not only are they unbothered, but many even view it as natural that central bankers should determine the value of the money they use to store their hard work and that this interference in money is required to prevent economic collapse. This reality comes as no surprise given the dominance of Keynesian economics in politics, central banking and academia (as a current Economics major at a university, I witness this firsthand).

Keynesians’ entire theory is focused around government intervention and boosting demand to spur economic growth, so naturally they abhor something that severely limits those goals. Sound money, like bitcoin and gold, incentivizes saving and planning for the future which Keynesians, by their own admission, view as detrimental. To them, inflating the money supply is the necessary motivation for people to deplete their nest egg in favor of needless high time preference production.

Often referred to as a hidden tax, inflation breeds financial serfdom as citizens are subjugated to the silent theft of their purchasing power. Bitcoin finally provides an opportunity for the masses to opt out of this one-sided arrangement. With an immutable monetary policy and decentralized consensus structure, there is no fear of an arbitrary change to the rules of the game and those in power can no longer mold the monetary supply to meet their ends.

One of the most important qualities of money is its portability over space and time. Fiat is good for transferring value around the world (though you do run into restrictions with KYC or when moving large amounts), but it is terrible at transferring value across time as it is guaranteed to lose some purchasing power each year through inflation. Conversely, gold is difficult to move in large quantities or across distance but has proven adept at holding value over thousands of years.

Before Bitcoin came around, gold was viewed by many as the solution for separating money from state. However, this is misleading since gold is heavily reliant upon centralized institutions. Custodians are required to safeguard any meaningful amounts of gold and entities must be trusted to issue coins or paper notes in an honest fashion. Bitcoin requires no such trust as each individual can take delivery of the asset and custody it safely.

Gold is a durable, scarce, shiny rock that we have collectively chosen to use as a money for thousands of years because of its soundness and superior qualities when compared to other forms of money. Likewise, bitcoin has value because it serves the same purpose that gold does as a monetary good chosen by the free market, but without the handicaps inherent to gold’s physical nature. Simply put, bitcoin is gold 2.0 in that it is easily divisible, has a verifiably capped supply, is practical for self-custody, is seizure-resistant and is fully permissionless. The only valid criticism of bitcoin in relation to gold is that gold has stood the test of time, but Bitcoiners are willing to look past bitcoin’s relative infancy and bet that its ever-growing network effects will allow it to do the same.

Bitcoin is incredibly powerful in that it is one of the few true bearer assets. Practically all other forms of property you own are yours only because some centralized authoritative power deems it so. Strong property rights are necessary to the flourishing of society. It can generally be trusted that those rights will be respected and upheld in stable democracies. However, the same cannot be said for much of the world’s population. In countries with authoritative regimes or where rule of law means nothing, private property is a luxury afforded to few and where the solution may lie in Bitcoin. A person’s bank accounts could be frozen, possessions stolen and house repossessed, but so long as they memorize their mnemonic seed phrase, their bitcoin will remain stored in cyberspace, ready to be claimed.

In the United States, this notion of true property can serve as an insurance policy or even be used as a political statement. Bitcoin exists completely separate from the current financial system which operates under the steady gaze of the state. Removing your wealth from a system under their control to one outside their purview severely limits the state’s ability to coerce. Through holding an asset that the state is powerless to seize or freeze, an individual gains a great deal of leverage over those wishing to impede their civil liberties.

The narrative of bitcoin being a store of value has successfully entered mainstream discourse. Many bitcoin advocates, notably Michael Saylor, focus their pitches on how bitcoin’s fixed supply schedule and seizure-resistant properties make it the preeminent store of value. This is a far less threatening narrative than others they could tell. Evangelizing bitcoin as the future currency of Earth immediately turns heads, so pitching the more palatable notion of bitcoin being “digital gold” is a perfect Trojan horse.

As this narrative continues, more capital and individuals will flock to bitcoin in search of a store of value amid inflationary fears which, unbeknownst to them, begins the process of hyperbitcoinization. Soon, as development and adoption of Lightning Network increases, bitcoin will make inroads toward becoming considered a scalable medium of exchange. After it has proven sufficient in that regard, bitcoin will steal fiat’s final redeemable quality: its status as a convenient unit of account. Keep in mind this process would take decades to play out as bootstrapping a currency with no leaders to global adoption is a hugely audacious task. Nevertheless, Bitcoiners have a rather low time preference and have no issues with being the patient stewards of this long-term project.

Despite some coming from benevolent intentions or misunderstanding, the FUD against Bitcoin has never been about saving the environment, preventing ransomware or stopping criminals. Co-opted by statists, it is now a vessel to restrict individual freedom and keep people entrenched in the coercive legacy systems that provide their power. If you ever want to see true bipartisanship in government, just start messing with the monetary system. When two diametrically opposed people like Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump share the same stance on Bitcoin, monetary sovereignty is clearly not an issue of left versus right, but one solely of power. Even politicians with the noblest of intentions become slaves to the allure of using other people’s money to achieve their own goals. Bitcoin fixes this.

Now, do not expect governments to give up their prized possession without putting up a fight. If history and recent regulatory scrutiny are any indication, a bitcoin ban is inevitable once the mass exodus from fiat draws near. Unlike the criminalization of gold in the U.S. following the Great Depression, trying to successfully ban Bitcoin is a nearly hopeless task.

While there is nothing nations can do to restrict the network itself, apart from shutting down the entire global internet, what they can do is destroy the fiat on and off ramps. Doing so would certainly weaken bitcoin’s price, but would only be successful if every nation showed a united front. The thought of Russia, China, North Korea and the U.S. working together to ban bitcoin of all things is nothing more than laughable.

Without a fully uniform ban, Bitcoiners would simply take advantage of jurisdictional arbitrage by moving to nations (or U.S. states) that establish bitcoin safe havens. Nations will be incentivized to create those safe havens in order to attract the wealth and investment of Bitcoiners to their local economies. Ironically, breaking bitcoin’s connection to the legacy financial system would likely just force Bitcoiners to leave fiat forever.

A revanchist revolution to remove from the state control over its prized possession and restore sound money chosen by the market is long overdue. The answer is not in greasing the wheels of politics to reinstate a gold standard that, despite perhaps being in their best interest, voters either think is archaic or just simply don’t care about. Not to mention how politicians on both sides of the aisle would be reluctant to give up control of the money printer that so easily helps fund their agendas. Instead, as F.A. Hayek presciently forecasted 37 years ago in reference to denationalizing money, “all we can do is by some sly roundabout way introduce something they can’t stop.”

The movement to separate money from state must always remain fully voluntary. No one must be forced to take part in it, which is why aspects of El Salvador’s new bitcoin law are concerning. If the law were to end at treating bitcoin as currency and eliminating capital gains, then this could be considered a win for freedom. But it does not stop there. Instead, Article 7 requires merchants to accept Bitcoin. Now, merchants do have the option to immediately exchange bitcoin for dollars through a $150 million government fund, but that is a fund financed by Salvadoran taxpayers who should not be forced to bear the brunt of bitcoin’s volatility.

It remains to be seen whether Article 7 will be strictly enforced or not, however its mere inclusion spells worry. The moment we stoop to the level of the entities we are attempting to replace for the sake of increased adoption, we lose any possible moral superiority. Make no mistake, a country adopting bitcoin to help end their reliance on the U.S. dollar is a huge step forward. What this means, however, is that more eyes will be on Bitcoin and FUDsters will be waiting with bated breath if things go even slightly awry. Therefore, Bitcoiners must remain vigilant and stay just as critical of themselves as we are of those looking to attack Bitcoin if we wish to preserve the Bitcoin ethos.

Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Bitcoin can provide property, hope and self-sovereignty to billions of people. Money is purely a social construct which means each and every one of us has a voice in what we deem valuable and choose to transact with. Do not be tricked into thinking that money must be a top-down phenomenon bestowed upon us by our overlords.

Bitcoiners are used to being the ones forced to defend their position, so the next time a nocoiner or precoiner friend asks you about Bitcoin, posit them a question instead. Ask: why, during this epochal monetary revolution, have you chosen the side of theft, coercion and censorship when the alternative is so clearly in front of us?

If this proposition of a fully digital money controlled by no one were immediately accepted by all, then this would cease to be a revolution. It is precisely because of how radical and ambitious Bitcoin is that we must undertake this project as a society. What does it say about us if we are unwilling to embark on what is certainly a Herculean effort, the success of which we may not see in our time? Our society is at its best when we build for the future. Now we have a tool to build a freer one together.

This is a guest post by Jack Kriesel. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC, Inc. or Bitcoin Magazine.

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EY Open-Sources Code for Zero-Knowledge Layer-2 Protocol on Ethereum

London-based multinational professional services firm EY has open-sourced the prototype code for its zk-proofs Ethereum Layer 2 solution, Nightfall 3.

EY Releases Code for Ethereum Layer-2 Scaling Solution

According to a report by The Block published July 2, auditing and accounting giant EY has open-sourced the code for Nightfall 3 – a zero-knowledge Layer 2 protocol built on Ethereum blockchain.

For the uninitiated, rollups are aimed toward taking the transaction load off of the main Ethereum blockchain (Layer 1) and transferring the same to a secondary layer (Layer 2). The idea behind such a mechanism is to free the Ethereum blockchain of transactions to increase scalability and transaction throughput.

At present, the Ethereum community is burning the midnight oil to develop one particular kind of rollup dubbed the optimistic rollups. According to EY, these rollups are named so “because the system assumes the transactions to be valid unless proven otherwise and eliminates the process of having all participants verify all transactions.”

The aforementioned optimistic rollups have drawn considerable attention from VCs in the crypto space, is considered the silver bullet to all of Ethereum’s existing transaction woes.

To date, several Ethereum Layer-2 scaling solutions such as Arbitrum have already gone live and have started onboarding projects to help them facilitate economically feasible transactions for users. Similarly, another Layer-2 scaling solution Optimism is expected to launch its offering sometime in July 2021.

EY Looks to De-congest Ethereum

Per sources close to the matter, EY has developed Nightfall 3 to cater to the demand for solutions that can ease “network congestion and raised transaction costs.”

Indeed, the sky-high transaction costs associated with the Ethereum network in the DeFi space have been astonishing to say the least. As reported by BTCManager, a DeFi user accidentally paid a whopping $42k in gas to approve a transaction to move funds to Uniswap.

While, of late, the Ethereum gas fees have come down considerably due to lethargic market action, it is by no means a long-term solution.

In a statement, Paul Brody, EY’s global blockchain lead, noted:

“Based on EY experience, ZK-Optimistic roll-ups are currently among the most effective in balancing security incentives and mathematical efficiency for running private transactions on the public Ethereum network. As we have in the past, we are again contributing this code into the public domain to speed up enterprise adoption of this technology.”

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Obscure Altcoin Erupts 127% After Sudden Crypto Shout-Out From Elon Musk

A new Dogecoin spinoff more than doubled in price after Tesla CEO Elon Musk gave the altcoin a shout-out on Twitter.

Musk has become a primary influencer of cryptocurrency moves in recent months, as price volatility spikes often follow his tweets about various coins.

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On Thursday, Musk once again turned his attention to crypto, sharing a meme with his 57.7 million followers on Twitter, calling to “Release the Doge!”

Just an hour after the initial tweet, Musk followed up with a more direct Baby Doge Coin (BABYDOGE) shout-out in a playful twist on the kid-friendly musical YouTube sensation Baby Shark.

“Baby Doge, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo,

Baby Doge, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo,

Baby Doge, doo, doo, doo, doo, doo,

Baby Doge”

Shortly after the tweet, BABYDOGE soared 127% from a low of $0.000000000916 to a high of $0.000000002088, according to CoinGecko. 

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Baby Doge Coin, which runs on Binance Smart Chain, claims to be birthed by fans of the Dogecoin community.

“Baby Doge seeks to impress his father by showing his new improved transaction speeds and adorableness. He is hyper-deflationary with an integrated smart staking system built in so more baby doge are being added to your wallet. Simply Love, pet, and watch your baby doge grow.”

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Cryptocurrency and the rise of the user-generated brand

In the whirl of excitement and debate over where cryptocurrencies are going and whether they are legitimate, sustainable and prudent investments, there is an overshadowed conversation of interest to those in marketing: Are Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Cardano’s ADA, Litecoin (LTC), XRP, Dogecoin (DOGE), etc., crypto brands?

And, if so, how are those brands created, and what role do they play in each coin’s adoption? Or, for that matter, how does branding collectively contribute (or detract) from the legitimacy of a cryptocurrency as it seeks increased mainstream acceptance/use?

Related: Decentralization vs. centralization: Where does the future lie? Experts answer

To begin to answer that, consider David Ogilvy’s — a British advertising tycoon, known as the “Father of Advertising” — definition of a brand: “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” These often include an identity, voice, empathy, value proposition and consistency in delivering on promises made. Ultimately, attributes like these, among others, circle the nucleus of a product/service like atomic particles to create trust, preference and loyalty (or lack thereof).

Branding finances

One could argue that fiat currencies are brands insomuch that their issuing countries work to create value and confidence in them. However, with little to no competition in their native countries, assigned commodity identities (dollar, pound, euro, yuan, etc.), and no real attempt by the governments (the “brand” owner) or other entities to change how the currency is perceived or even used, it’s difficult to consider them as such.

Looking to other examples in finance, stocks are a way to own the brands that issue them. Mutual funds also assume the halo of the brands that manage them — though there are instances where funds such as Fidelity’s Magellan Fund and Vanguard’s Wellesley Income Fund have become prominent brands. You can also think of funds as baskets of brands.

Moreover, commodities such as gold, silver and copper are, well, commodities. And this brings us to cryptocurrencies.

Consider the following:

  • Bitcoin has many unique attributes for a currency, such as: 1) a hero’s epic narrative in the form of Satoshi Nakamoto’s pseudonymous pursuit of a decentralized currency culminating in the now-famous 2008 white paper; 2) a recognizable and evolving identity, as well as its perception of being the founding father of digital currency; 3) “first-mover” advantages that all other brands (cryptocurrencies) are forced to compare or contrast to.
  • Arguably, there are two dominant players, or established brands — Bitcoin and Ether — and a growing, very long list of “challenger brands” in the form of altcoins.
  • Said challenger brands each have individual selling propositions and — with names like Avalanche, Sushi and Chiliz — a means of helping investors/consumers remember them.
  • The swirl around Dogecoin and other so-called memecoins — which the Crypto Dictionary describes as a “joke that turns into a crypto coin” — illustrates how pop culture (and by extension, marketing) influences markets. Older folks may cringe, but for younger generations of investors in particular, there’s nothing unusual about it at all, positioning Dogecoin and others as a consumer currency.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, there is a rapidly-growing marketplace for cryptocurrencies in which technologies/platforms compete not only for financial engagement but also social currency — that is, a share of voice on social media within the cryptocurrency community and beyond.

For all these truths, a few intriguing questions remain: First, if decentralization is core to the concept of cryptocurrency, who is controlling and nurturing each of the brands? And if trust is a central tenet of brand health, how does a trustless technology fit in?

Related: Bitcoin’s evolving narratives make it antifragile

Cryptocurrencies are the first true user-generated brands

Unlike user-generated content (UGC) — which is solicited by marketing organizations to provide a voice for the customer, authentic perspectives and active engagement — a user-generated brand’s (UGB’s) content is largely unsolicited and uncontrolled. Like sourdough, get it started and it’ll grow on its own. (That seemed like an apropos analogy given sourdough’s global COVID-19 pandemic popularity.)

Lacking a central owner or the equivalent of a brand manager or chief marketing officer, these brands are created and nurtured by project founders, user communities, investors, miners and more. They’re at Meetups, on forums, chat rooms and subreddits. In fact, brand health can be correlated to just how robust the conversation is on channels like these.

Brands are molded by a vocal and growing community of influencers who include crypto heroes like Andre Cronje and Vitalik Buterin, tech pioneers like Marc Andressen and Elon Musk, finance stars like Cathie Wood and Jamie Dimon, and popular voices like Shark Tank’s Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O’Leary) and The Mooch (Anthony Scaramucci). This all suggests that the trajectory of these UGBs and how they will be consumed by individual investors, institutional investors and the media is largely unpredictable. Or is it?

Related: Experts answer: How does Elon Musk affect crypto space?

Building the crypto brand

Many, if not most, crypto projects have a foundation or decentralized autonomous organization (DAO). Think Bitcoin.org, the Ethereum Foundation, the Cardano Foundation and other open-source resources of which there are too many others to mention. These foundations release white papers as de facto advertisements and raise capital through crowdfunding using initial coin offerings as their currency. And, yes, advertising agencies are hired and other resources are implemented to mold their brands — though those who actually approve the creative can vary widely, perhaps the community of users itself or those holding governance tokens.

Ultimately, from a traditional brand management standpoint, only so much control exists while these projects seed and shepherd their UGBs. Armed with that active, engaged, highly passionate community, they can:

  • Tap into the herd mentality bias that drives much of the category. This is heuristic and describes an investor’s tendency to want to join the conga line — to follow other investors based more so on emotion (fear of missing out) than on rational consideration, and contributes to much of the space’s rapid growth. Be armed with influencers, and let the races begin.
  • Stoke content momentum. User-generated content is a bit like a street performance: Get a few people to hoot and holler, and more people will look to see what’s going on, thus causing the audience to swell. As such, quality content drives a crowd and bequeaths more quality content. The operative word here is “quality.”
  • Make education entertaining. Let’s face it: Most people don’t want to take the time to decipher how Merkle trees and nonces work. They want to understand what this new asset class is, why they need to consider it and how it will help them meet their personal goals. So, there needs to be a strategic call to arms to make the content easy and enjoyable to consume.

Returning to the second question, the most important task of any foundation, along with its community of followers within a UGB, may be to create trust in the trustless. To put it another way, to distinguish and differentiate the currency based on how its technology/project is vetted, secure, truly independent, and — perhaps most importantly — how it can quickly answer the question: What is it for?

This last point, of course, isn’t unique to cryptocurrencies and their UGBs. The institutions that must communicate their choices to customers, the companies selling exchange-traded products, the exchanges themselves, wallet applications and so forth in this category that is growing blisteringly fast while still being a colossal mystery to all but a few, will ultimately distinguish themselves in the mainstream by doing what other great brands have done: Making it clear, making it simple and delivering on a promise.

In other words, to dispel the misconception among the vast majority of non-crypto nerds that all cryptocurrencies are intended to replicate fiat for the purchase of common-day goods and services, and instead, articulate their very specific purposes.

Where cryptocurrencies will go from here will be fascinating to watch. Ark Invest recently described Bitcoin as “the purest form of money ever created.” In an odd way, it may also become the purest form of marketing ever created.

This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Rich Feldman currently leads marketing for Finario, an enterprise capital planning SaaS provider. Prior, he was chief marketing officer at PrimaHealth Credit and was an agency owner/partner and chief strategy officer at Doner CX (part of the MDC Partners Network), where he led the CRM, analytics, digital media and other strategic areas of the business. Rich has lectured on strategy at the New York University master’s program in marketing, at Syracuse University and is an adjunct professor at Western Connecticut University — where he is an advisory board member of the Ancell School of Business. He is also author of the book Deconstructing Creative Strategy.