Tag Archives: Math

The Perfect RFP in a few Steps

The Perfect RFP in a few Steps

RFP writing can be a daunting and involved process. An RFP (or request for proposal) is a document your organization may create in order to seek services for a given task (think: a redesign for your nonprofit website). An RFP provides your organization with the opportunity to express its needs and find the person or firm best suited to execute them. Consider it a dating profile for your nonprofit: you are on the search for that special someone whose capabilities match your criteria perfectly.

Determine Exactly What You’re Looking For

As with any form of business communication, RFPs should be concise but still provide plenty of detail. Luckily, there is a straightforward framework you can follow to make sure you’re covering all of your bases. If you’re totally swamped with grant applications and year-end fundraising or simply don’t have the time to research how to write an RFP, don’t fret! We’ve compiled our advice and best practices to help you write a perfect one.

The first step, before you even begin writing an RFP, is to know your guiding principles. In other words, be certain of what you require from a proposal and what you will not accept. Take it from us – we’re web design experts. This will help you frame your request to target your exact wants and needs. Also, with this framework in place, you will have a clear understanding of when you’ve found the right candidate for the job.

Take this time to also determine whether your priorities lie more in optimal price or in highest quality. Establish where, if at all, you are willing to compromise. Doing this early will prevent any last-minute surprises and keep you on track for the creation of your ideal web project.

Outline Your RFP

Create an outline for your request. To do this, you must first specify which categories you want to include. Usually, an RFP will include some combination of the following categories:

Introduction

You will want to provide a preliminary explanation of a few things here. Start with a quick organizational overview — tell people what your organization does, its missions, and specific goals for this project. Explain why you are submitting this request and what needs it will be filling. Identify your target audience, who the project will directly affect, and any additional information a candidate may need to understand the scope of the project. Keep everything high-level in this stage, for you will be delving deeper into detail in the coming sections of your RFP.

Requirements, Scope of Work, and Deliverables

Clarify exactly what you want out of this process. Make all of the specific deliverables known and specify what you will expect through every step of the process. Include every component that you will want from the vendor. The more you include here the better – this will help those submitting proposals know the full scope of work, and will also help you get a more accurate price quote right off the bat. Use this space to include logistical information such as completion dates, budgets, expectations throughout development, rigid requirements versus room for creative liberties, etc.

Timelines

Delineate your timelines. Let the vendors know how long they have for each step of the process – deadlines for submitting proposals, how long you plan to take in evaluating them, general project timelines, the whole nine yards. Make sure that whoever you choose will be able to meet these deadlines, or is able to suggest an alternative schedule that also fits within your timeframe.

Selection criteria

Let applicants know specifically what you are looking for in them. With the high volume of proposals, you may receive, define what you want will ensure that the right people apply and that you are able to easily filter through other criteria. Make your process as straightforward for yourself as possible by requesting examples of previous similar work, references, etc.

Point of Contact & Other Logistics

Include pertinent information such as who on your team vendors should contact with proposals, by what method (physically or digitally), and in which format (PDF, Word document, hard copy, etc.). If there are any other specific things you’d like to receive in your proposals, include them here.

Dissemination

One of the largest components of the RFP process is your strategy for getting it out there. Determine first if you want the proposal submission to be open-ended such that anyone who sees it can apply, or if it is to be invite-only to people of your choosing. Next, determine your method of dissemination, be it through snail mail, email, your website, social media posts, or online job forums such as upwork.com. Getting your RFP in front of the right people ultimately determines the quality of your return, so don’t neglect this important step!

Tweet it, share it with your local or state nonprofit associations, print it out to include in your organization handbooks, or just keep it on hand for future use. We hope you’ll find it to be a helpful resource.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor


Markethive

Obama White House Social Media

Obama White House social media, Trump campaign receive expansive archives

 Probably not in President Obama's Social Media Archive

In one of the weirder political coincidences in recent memory, digital archives for President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump launched within hours of each other on Thursday.The Obama Social Media Archive launched officially by Obama’s administration and developed by ArchiveSocial, serves as the first-ever culling of an administration's full online presence. It contains every post from every social media channel made by everyone within the Obama White House, from the president to the first lady and all the way down to various staffers who posted in one way or another on the White House's behalf.

This fully searchable archive lets users type in all kinds of search terms, then refine results based on poster, social media platform, and other search criteria. (For example, a lot of White House staffers spoke about pizza.) While image-based social media (e.g. Instagram) is also included, search terms do not include terms for visual tags (meaning, if an image doesn't have a descriptive caption, you'll have to find certain images in more granular ways).

While every White House administration is required to hand over its internal documents and communications to the Library of Congress, this publicly uploaded cache of social media data is a first for an American administration.

Affiliated projects are set to launch with designs on doing interesting things with the data (and the White House continues to offer an open call to any developer interested in joining the fun). One of those, which launched simultaneously with the White House's full archive, won't actually kick into gear until May of this year, because it will serve as a real-time reenactment of Obama's Twitter timeline, time-shifted eight years into the future. (Obama's first-ever Tweet was on May 1, 2009.) This Twitter bot, @Relive44, is a creation of famed Twitter bot machinists Courtney Stanton and Darius Kazemi.

520 hours and growing? That's yuge

On the other side of the political spectrum is the simply titled Trump Archive, created and maintained by the Internet Archive. This dump of video mostly contains appearances by the president-elect on news networks throughout his presidential campaign alongside a relevant video of other politicians speaking about Trump's campaign. The archive mostly consists of footage from cable news networks and American network television news programs.

While much of that video archive's content had already been uploaded to archive.org in the past, the Trump Archive stands out with a particular call to action by Managing Editor Nancy Watzman: "Reporters, researchers, Wikipedians, and the general public are invited to quote, compare, and contrast televised statements made by Trump," she writes in the collection's introduction.

"By providing a free and enduring source for TV news broadcasts of Trump’s statements, the Internet Archive hopes to make it more efficient for the media, researchers, and the public to track Trump’s statements while fact-checking and reporting on the new administration," Watzman writes.

The collection currently contains roughly 520 hours of Trump-related content, and Watzman writes that the project is ongoing and will grow over time. The enormous amount of campaign-related Trump footage was certainly remarked on throughout his campaign. Analysts have argued over exactly how much Trump benefited from unprecedented campaign coverage throughout 2015 and 2016, with value figures in the billions being projected.

The Internet Archive will simultaneously host the entirety of the Obama Social Media Archive, as well. That's good news, as the official White House archive site is currently down as of press time.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Search Engine Optimization Software & SEO Tools

Search Engine Optimization Software & SEO Tools

There are a lot of options in terms of search engine optimization software and tools on the market today. In fact, there are multiple tools for just about anything you want to do and multiple tools that try to do them all.Personally, I like to use a lot of SEO tools. Unfortunately, that will increase the ongoing cost of software to support clients but I feel having the right tool for the job is paramount.

I suspect both Devon and I will be using a suite of tools to support our research and ongoing work with our case study websites. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of my favorite search engine optimization tools, how I use them and whether or not you should explore them.

Search Engine Optimization Software & Tools

Screaming Frog
This is by far my most favorite piece of SEO software out there. It’s important to note though that this is desktop software and not a web-based tool, which I understand can be limiting for some people, however, it’s totally worth it. Honestly, this tool can do it all. I use this tool for a lot of tasks including:

Competitive on-page SEO analysis
In a few minutes of crawling and examining the data of competitor’s websites, you can determine what sort of URL / Silo structure they are using and whether or not they have likely invested in good on-page seo. Great tool for a quick check on your competition.

On-page SEO Audits
Similar to using it for competitive audits, you can use it to audit your own website’s on-site optimization. This is great for client audits or collecting data to put together a proposal for your clients to understand the state of their website and how much work it might take to properly optimize it.

Keyword mapping document preparation
This is a big one. Since I love to pull existing page data while preparing a keyword mapping document (this adds value to the document and lets the client quickly be able to compare the changes that you’ve proposed). Screaming Frog lets me quickly pull the page structure and the meta data that I need to populate and setup the document.

Building out Private Blog Networks
Another plus for screaming frog is that it gives you the ability to find high authority domains without having to rely on expensive software or bidding at auction.

Finding cheap 301 backlinks
Another gray hat strategy that is great for kick-starting new websites.AHrefs.com is an all-around SEO tool that can be used for many things, including link profile analysis, keyword research, content idea generation, and competitive research.

This is one of the best tools that I have used for link profile analysis. AHrefs.com seems to find links more often and faster than Moz or Majestic. However, that’s about all I use it for. While I do believe it’s worth the hundred dollars a month to get excellent insights into your own and competitive link profiles, I understand the reason why some people may not feel the same way.

Moz.com
Now Moz.com Pro has a lot of different tools to use for your SEO business. I think this was the first SEO app that I purchased years ago when I got into the industry. It really does have a lot of value.

OSE link profile analysis
I like having open site explorer to check link profiles in addition to AHrefs.com (but I wouldn’t pay for Moz strictly for this). It’s a great tool and while it works well I feel AHrefs.com has performed better at finding more links.

Keyword research
Specifically, I use Moz for their rank checker and for their keyword difficulty analysis tool. I like both of these for quick keyword research. I don’t use the rank checker for ongoing checking, rather I use it to do a quick check on some targeted keywords when performing audits or preparing a keyword research document. Also, their relevancy scoring tool is a great value-add for keyword research. The real value for me is in the keyword research for this tool.

SEMRush
Another great tool that flies under the radar a little for SEO professionals. This tool is great for competitive research for both SEO and SEM, but I really like its keyword positioning tool for organic search. This is great for keyword research and identifying opportunity in both head and long-tail keywords.

Majestic SEO
Majestic’s trust flow and citation flow metrics are becoming widely accepted as a gauge of quality. If you are building out a PBN or doing a lot of expired link building having Majestic is a must to do the digging in terms of backlink quality and TF/CF ratios.

This tool is also very good at picking up inbound links and if cost is an issue I would likely drop AHrefs over Majestic as this tool gives me the benefit of being able to compare trust and citation flows of domains.

Advanced Web Rankings

Advanced web rankings is a great tool for bulk client ranking analysis. If you need to report on ranking changes for multiple clients this is likely the tool for you. There is decent functionality in terms of grouping keywords and exporting data and a few limitations as well. Overall it’s a great tool and fairly affordable for how accurate it is.

Some Final Thoughts on SEO Tools

Choosing the best search engine optimization tool isn’t going to make or break your business. I understand that some companies differentiate themselves on having access to the best software solutions available within their industry and that’s great. I think it’s important to use the right tools for the job, but I also know that no SEO tool replaces experience and an excellent planned out strategy. So while you can leverage great tools to add value to your services and deliverables, just make sure you’re building your business on a foundation of excellent talent and experience.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Markethive

Learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Learn Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Real world SEO and practical search engine optimization tutorials and lessons. That’s what we’re all about here at SEO Brothers. We work with talented web and digital agencies to help bring a world-class organic search service to their clients.

But that’s not enough.

We want to educate and empower you to grow your knowledge in the world of organic search and keep you up to speed on the best practices (and a few creative tactics) along the way. Search engine optimization is a constantly evolving industry and one that requires a lot of work to stay well informed and up to date on what works and what doesn’t. It really is more than just “making awesome content and getting it promoted”.

That said, there are a lot of practices – solid keyword research, proper site structure and theming, excellent keyword mapping, and technical SEO to name a few – that have stood the test of time within organic search. Many areas of on-page SEO and off-page SEO continue to work. Regardless of whether you decide to join our family, we hope that you can learn from our search engine optimization tutorials and gain a stronger understanding of SEO to best serve your clients.

So what is search engine optimization?

In case you’re new to all of this, search engine optimization is the process of improving your website’s visibility and rankings in the organic results of search engines. This is done by improving both on-site and off-site factors that search engines deem important, resulting in improved organic performance.

Even though SEO is so confusing and frustrating, it is still an amazing source of traffic, leads, and sales, especially for small businesses. In fact, organic search is responsible for over 60% of website traffic across all industries. However, it’s really hard to understand what works and what doesn’t if you aren’t constantly trying and testing different strategies. Fortunately, that’s where we come in. And we’re going to share our knowledge with you.

We Focus on SEO

Want a paid search campaign? We don’t do that. Need someone to manage your social media? That’s not us. Need hosting or development for your website? You’ll have to go somewhere else. Sure, we have the technical ability to do all of those things, we’ve just decided to focus on search engine optimization. You see, we felt that SEO changes far too often and is way too important to be an after thought. We focus on learning the ins and outs of SEO so that we can provide the best possible solutions to our web professional and agency partners.

We are Transparent

I’m sure you’ve heard the terms white hat, gray hat, and black hat. While we are adamantly against any sort of “black hat” or illegal or unethical tactics, we do understand that there are a lot of strategies depending on the situation. We’ll teach you a variety of tactics and strategies that work in today’s SEO landscape so you can make the most informed decision for your business.

We Teach

It’s not enough for us to offer a great SEO service that lets web professionals and agencies deliver excellent SEO solutions to their clients. We also want to teach both the professional and the end user what’s happening in organic search and how you can leverage strategies to increase your visibility in search engines. That’s what this training is all about.

Who is this SEO training for?

We can help a variety of different individuals and businesses with our free organic search training:

  • Agencies looking to expand their organic search services or sell more SEO
  • Freelance web professionals looking to add SEO to their list of service offerings.
  • Businesses or Agencies looking to train employees to be SEO superstars.
  • Independent SEO-enthusiasts or bloggers trying to start an online business

Regardless of whether or not you are currently working in the organic SEO industry, we can help increase your knowledge of how things work and thus adding value to you as an employee or web professional.

Our Free SEO training & Tutorials

We hope these posts will help you build a solid knowledge foundation of search engine optimization best practices and what is currently working and happening within the industry right now (2016). These posts will be sprinkled with supporting audio and video, some of which will tie directly in with our case study websites and others will simply help you understand the topics better.

SEO is a continuous process and constantly evolving – and so is this training. We are constantly adding great content on a variety of topics in the industry so be sure to bookmark and come back often. Use the table of contents to find the specific topics you want to learn. If you have any questions the best way to reach us is to leave a comment in the respective post.

Research & Planning

Before diving into executing an SEO strategy you need to make sure you have a well thought out plan based on solid research. This stage is even more important if you are working on client SEO as it will help define the scope of the project and set expectations for all parties involved.

SEO Audits

SEO audits are a great way to uncover and identify potential threats or issues for a website and industry. Audits are commonly completed for free but also have a lot of value as a stand-alone service offering. Learn about creating and delivering SEO audits below.

Keyword Research

Keyword research will really lay a foundation in terms of what areas of your business you’ll target and when. Good keyword research is important both for your own web properties and if you are consulting with clients.

On Page SEO

 

This is where we will lay the foundation for any out-reach or link building program to come. Solid on-page SEO is crucial to help improve the search visibility of any website. We’ll cover implementing the fixes found in the research and planning phase and executing proper on-page optimization.

Keyword Mapping

 

Keyword mapping is essentially assigning the keywords found during the keyword reserach process to specific pages on the website. Read more about keyword mapping in our detailed post.

Link Building

Link building is still the most important aspect of search engine optimization, which is why a good while at SEO strategy can be expensive to execute when done properly. We dive into a mix of link building strategies that can all be combined to create a well-rounded link profile.

Private Blog Networks

Private blog networks are becoming increasingly popular due to the fact that they are both an affordable link building strategy and because they work extremely well. We dive into a lot of information on PBNs in the posts below. If you have any questions be sure to leave a comment on any of the posts.

Local SEO

Local SEO is all about competing for search terms within a geo-specific region. This includes competing for organic search results for searches with geo-modifiers and increasing visibility within the 3-pack Google My Business map results. Managing multiple physical locations and multiple GMB profiles can be tricky.

Google My Business

While not specifically part of the organic search results, the Google My Business 3-pack map listing is a crucial part of local SEO and competing in local markets, especially in those with higher competition within the regular organic search results. Getting into the 3-pack can typically mean equal traffic volume as the top five organic placements.

eCommerce SEO

Doing SEO for eCommerce websites is in itself a very specific style of organic search. Paying attention to the long-tail, while optimizing category pages, product pages, and managing duplicate content issues is a very specific skill set.

Optimizing your eCommerce website with good SEO practices can really make a huge difference in online sales. One of the main benefits of working with an eCommerce website is the amazing ROI tracking and analytics that is available by being able to direct measure revenue.

Definitions & Resources

Let’s be honest. Sometimes we use terms within this industry that no outsider could possibly understand, and if they do, chances are they don’t know all the information and specifics. Consider these posts on terms, tools, or common things that you may hear within the organic search engine optimization industry.

SEO Definitions & Information

Welcome to our glossary of SEO. From the different color hats to specific metrics, and just about anything else you’ll come across in this industry, we’ll cover here. At least a clear-cut definition, but usually we’ll accompany our take or opinion as well.

SEO Tools & Software

There are more SEO tools and software solutions than any SEO professional could probably use. Choosing the right tools for the jobs without having to spend thousands a month in software can be a challenge. We’ll review SEO tools and solutions here to give you our opinion on what is essentially nice to have, and can do without.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

The year of innovation, collaboration, disruption

The year of innovation,
collaboration, disruption

With 2015 now behind us, I don't believe that anyone will deny the fact that the year has been good for digital. The year took off to a slow start but gained momentum along the way. But most importantly, it ended on a high. From all the interactions I have had with clients and industry folk one thing is certain, 2016 is going to be a great year for digital advertising. I believe we will see advertising taking a new shape as content creation begins to gain momentum. Here is a list of 10 important factors to ensure a positive change.

Data will have its day

This year we will truly see the potential of data and the use of it in the development of new services, marketing plans, and relationship management. Big Data will live up to its name and brands will be willing to spend a fair amount to analyze and get the best out of it. It just takes a few successful examples to get the buzz going and with ‘KaanKhajura Tashan' being one of them reaping huge rewards in effectiveness (and winning a bunch of awards while they are at it) things will only get BIGGER moving forward.

Risk-takers will reap rewards

Speaking of rewards, the risk-takers will be the ones to avail of them the most. Consumers don't want to see the same stuff. I believe age and attitude has a lot to do with the decisions we make in life. If we are attached to the old way of thinking and always look to see if there is a tried and tested model out there, this safe route curbs innovation. Risk-taking promotes innovation and risk-takers will take the lion's share (pun intended) of recognition for their vision and innovation.

Innovations – the new media

Which leads us to innovations. Innovations is the (new) new media. Whether its is trying to develop a better way to learn, work or play, if you are solving a problem in a different, simple and unconventional way, you are innovating. Being unconventional is looking at a problem in a different light and coming up with a solution that is simple enough to be accepted by the masses. Innovation is also pertinent for niche audiences. Spurred by the startup revolution in the country, apps and wearables will give a new lease of life for most brands that are not in the spotlight.

India will see a start-up boom

And speaking of startups, India is the hotbed of the same. Start-ups will be the fuel for innovations and with innovations brands will find new ways to communicate with their consumers. The startup revolution will also, sadly (from those that do not succeed), also give rise to a huge availability of talent. This will end up tipping the scale of the demand and supply ratio of talent and will make cost of development a lot lesser than it usually is.

Work will become network

With numerous ways and means to communicate with the customer, great marketing campaign will be about perfect collaborations. This year will see musicians, film studios, comedians, professionals, industry experts and even the common folk collaborate with brands to communicate to consumers through unique visual content and innovations.

Content will truly be king

But ultimately it will come down to the content. Content will continue its rule as king. Visual content will go through an evolution in 2016. We have already seen the revival of animated GIFs (all brought upon by compatibility on Facebook and other popular social media platforms), I believe moving forward we will see the rise of the micro-video.

Platforms like Dubsmash have already made creators of Indians (India being one of their largest markets for content creation) and with more such content creation products to be launched we will see a lot more of this (and a lot of this will be very good content surprisingly). The digital space has also given rise to a new breed of content creators.

Comedians had a field day last year and quite a few of them raked in the moolah. This year we will see a flurry of genres taking centerstage and we might just see Agencies creating divisions that focus on the same considering that brands are forecasted to spend approximately 35% of their marketing budget on Content Creation.

Disruption is the new normal

But first, one needs a good idea to begin with and it’s the disruptive ones that will have a longer and more fruitful life in the minds of the consumers. In this connected age consumers are privy to a plethora of ideas across platforms and the staid ones deliver little to no reaction from the consumers. Disruption can be caused by controversy too and a lot of brands will resort to this tactic to garner mind-space among the consumers. Secondly, disruption also needs to be prevalent across platforms/media and now more than ever seamless cross-platform ideas will be what brands are looking for and not mere plugins.

Experiential goes multi-media

Innovation and the need to have your communication everywhere will lead to traditional media becoming not so traditional. Technology will be used to make billboards speak and interact with you and experiential will truly go mainstream. This will also help in the promotion of disruptive brand communication.

Cause and effect

One of the biggest changes we saw in 2015 was the adoption of cause marketing. Granted, government policies spurred the use of the same but for most brands this was a blessing in disguise. Consumers were attracted to this mode of communication because it was relevant and real. I suspect there will be a lot more brands hoping to create impactthrough this mode of marketing. As long as some good comes out of this, I don't see anyone complaining. We will see a lot of these campaigns make it to the award books too.

Mobile will be the only constant

And in all this struggle for mind space the device that will remain king will be the mobile phone. It is the only communication device that is with the consumer at all points in time and with India taking leaps and bounds in mobility we can expect to see the mobile phone as the connecting tool being used in practically every form of communication. Some will use it to inform, some to interact and some to integrate. Mobile will be the constant in all forms of communication.

Here’s wishing everyone a very happy 2016.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Marketing is missing, Let’s find marketing

Marketing is missing
Let's find marketing

 

Actually, marketing is very much around. Just a wee bit of loss of Mojo. We need to get that Mojo back in 2017. So here's a list of gifts that the year should offer the marketing world!

The gift of impatience

The marketing fraternity is aging, I’m afraid. The youngest of youngsters in marketing think just so old. There is little yen to yank oneself out of the morass of marketing to mythical patient people.

The reality is that there are just no patient people left out there. This is the era of the I-Gen: the impatient generation. There is just a little time to think and stall. There is very little time with the fast-paced consumer out there. Decisions are made and un-made in nano-seconds. Brand loyalty is dead. The Bio-clock generation is here. This generation believes we are dying by the minute. Therefore, there is just no time to waste on long-winded marketing spiel that takes you just nowhere. Everything needs to be quick and in the face.

Marketers in many marketing companies, old and new, are very patient people. People who have either grown up in the patient environs of the eighties, or are governed by senior managers who still hold the reins of every marketing breath you take. Patient marketers are marketing to impatient consumers. In reality, there are no patient consumers around anymore. If they do exist, they are an endangered species.

The gift of impatience is a great gift to the marketer in 2017 for sure. Maybe a small vial of impatience, gift-wrapped in gold?

The gift of good service

In reality, everything is a service today. The traditional product jumps out of its product avatar and becomes a service when opened and used at home. And the traditional service, be it a bank, a telecom service provider or the 12,000 plus services that contribute to 53% of the GDP of India, is a core service that either attracts or repels revenue and franchise from it.

Good service is a magnet. In an era where brand loyalty is dead, the only reality is service loyalty. If marketers cannot and do not possess the yen for good and consistent service, loyalty is missing from the game that the marketer wants to create and dominate. And when loyalty is missing, the marketer is groping in the dark.

The gift of a good service mindset is a valuable gift to the marketer who is on the treadmill of managing her regular business with regular inputs. A large barrel of good service mindset that is genuine in every drop, right unto the last drop?

The gift of positive paranoia

In an era where business is usual, business unusual jolts one and all. 2016 saw a series of path-breaking disruptions that had marketers running Helter skelter. The disaster management plan was just not ready. Not many had run a forecast that PM Narendra Modi’s demonetization of the Rs.1000 and Rs.500 note would happen. Not many had anticipated the power of Ayurveda, and the power of the rustic brand, as represented by Baba Ramdev and Patanjali Ayurved. Not many had calculated the collateral damage a Reliance Jio would leave behind in the wake of its entry.

Positive paranoia is being prepared for the worst of thoughts with the worst of eventualities. Think the worst and do your best.
The gift of positive paranoia is a much-needed gift for the marketer who is so sedated, staid and stolid in his every response and plan. A whole thick wad of positive paranoia in freshly minted non-demonteizeable form maybe?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

S7 Airlines and Alfa Bank Test Blockchain for B2B Payment in Russia

S7 Airlines and Alfa Bank Test
Blockchain for B2B Payment in Russia

Blockchain for B2B

Blockchain, a technology behind the widely known digital currency Bitcoin, is more actively integrating decentralized data storage and secure communication between business partners. Impossibility to steal, change or delete registered data makes platforms built using this magic technology the most secure business solution.

Driving business with smart contracts

Earlier this year, the Bank of Russia has introduced Masterchain, an Ethereum-based Blockchain prototype created specifically to serve the interests of financial market actors. Alfa Bank, along with Sberbank, Qiwi, Banks Tinkoff and Otkritie, was one of the contributors to this newly developed and tested platform.

Alfa Bank finds Blockchain to be the ideal solution for business structures involving plenty of partners. Therefore, financial players have actively been developing and testing the potentials of this technology.

Recently, Alfa Bank has collaborated with S7 Airlines to test an execution of service payment transactions using smart contracts deploying Blockchain technology.

Alfa Bank provided the participants of the deal with special facilities through its Alfa-Business Online electronic system. Using this system the customer applies for the opening of the letter of credit, and the contractor then submits all necessary documentation upon finalizing of service delivery to the bank. Once the application for opening the letter of credit has been submitted, funds can be withdrawn from the customer’s account and first transferred to a special transition account and later to the contractor’s account.

Key steps of the deal – opening and closing of the letter of credit – have been performed as transactions deploying smart contracts using the Ethereum platform, and were registered in the distributed ledger. Records in the distributed ledger contain a hash of the following information: deal’s identification codes, type of services, and terms and conditions. This allows for all participants of the deal to check its status at any time.

Bringing more transparency

Using two smart-contracts simultaneously is a distinctive feature of the deal: one was used only for initiating the letter of credit and the other for completing it. Deployment of two interacting smart contracts is intended to reduce the potential for code errors and therefore protects the interests of the parties of the deal improving its transparency.

Nadezhda Avdanina, Head of the Center for innovations at Alfa Bank commented:

“Using Blockchain in the bank is building a platform that allows handling transactions in the clearest and transparent way. Technology also helps in securing the interests of participants of the deal from any kinds of failures to perform obligations defined by the contract.”

Dmitry Kudelkin, the S7 Group Deputy Director commented:

“S7 Airlines is the most technologically advanced airline on the Russian air transportation market. We traditionally use the newest solutions and technologies not only to develop our passenger service but also to develop business. By conducting the deal, we have tested the efficiency of smart contracts and realized how this technology could help optimizing business processes and improving the effectiveness of document flow. We are planning to continue cooperation with Alfa Bank in this respect.”

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Blockchain technology is maturing at an incredible speed. A recent report by Deloitte shows that 12 percent of large enterprises with an annual revenue more than $500 mln, 308 Blockchain-knowledgeable companies that participated in the survey have already integrated Blockchain in their business operations. Approximately 25 percent of companies are starting Blockchain projects in 2017.

Deloitte CIS advised S7 Airlines to start the integration of Blockchain technology into their business strategy. Deloitte experts also provided legal support for the project. Artem Tolkachev, Director of Legal Services for Technology Projects Department at Deloitte CIS says:

“We are glad that Blockchain technology is being more actively integrated into business operations at innovative companies within the Russian jurisdiction. We welcome S7 Airlines’ willingness to experiment with smart-contract implementation in business processes and believe that further use of Blockchain technology will help to significantly reduce costs and improve work efficiency. This deal meets all the legal requirements for conducting of such a form of wire transfer as a letter of credit, clearly, demonstrates application options of smart contracts under Russian law.”

Blockchain technology allows solving two important issues, those of trust and the speed of business operations. Both these issues are extremely important in the area of trade financing. Alfa Bank and S7 Airlines are certain that technology will change their products and services in the nearest future.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Beppe Grillo’s Bitcoin Blockchain Truth or Joke

Beppe Grillo’s Bitcoin Blockchain
Truth or Joke

Bitcoin Blockchain

The Bitcoin Blockchain has countless and the most different use cases, from finance to real estate, from copyright management to assurance. Now, Italian Five Stars Movement leader Beppe Grillo seems to have found a new application for the distributed ledger.

Hunting party colleagues

You might think that the main problem for the Five Stars Movement is winning political elections or managing the issues of the administration of the Roman capital, but no. The major issue for Grillo’s political party are expulsions, that have become a real obsession for him.

All political parties expel their unwanted members, but no one has managed to invent as many systems to hunt their own party colleagues as Grillo has so far.

Grillo’s Blockchain system

Apparently, Grillo failed to ensure compliance with the rules and has to launch a new system to make decree expulsions unassailable and incontrovertible through the use of an algorithm.

A few days ago, in fact, during an interview about the Federico Pizzarotti suspension from his party, Grillo commented:

“We’re working on a project, the so-called Blockchain for the encrypted information. It is very interesting- you have an algorithm and there are no intermediaries. If the Blockchain could be used in politics that would be very interesting, so if a Parliament Member you voted for does not follow the program he/she would be automatically expelled."

Obviously, it is a joke, but this attests that Grillo knows what Blockchain is, it cannot be excluded that sooner or later the Italian government will use the ledger with political use cases.

Blockchain technology in Italy

The old country has always been interested in Blockchain technology and in the last months a few projects captured their attention. We recently talked about the Italian startup Helperbit, that created a Blockchain-based platform to manage natural disaster donations.

The Blockchain Education Network Italia (BEN Italia) is also working on a law proposal that could encourage the adoption of the Blockchain within the Italian country. Last but not least, Italy proved to be very interested in the distributed ledger thanks to the BlockchainLAB in Milan, the first entrepreneurial effort that brings together the best expertise on the technology.

Bitcoin in Italy

Italy is now demonstrating how Bitcoin could be an easy and faster method of payment in a few sectors, for instance, booking a taxi. In fact, in Rome taxis even started to accept Bitcoin through a platform called Chainside which creates an invoice to be paid in Bitcoin by the final user.

Furthermore, a few months ago Italy decided to regulate Bitcoin as a currency, as the Italian tax agency called  Agenzia delle Entrate published a paper titled “Bitcoin and digital currencies buying and selling: clarification on the tax treatment” about the fiscal regulation of Bitcoin and how VAT would be applied to cryptocurrency transactions.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Unleashing the blockchain

Unleashing the blockchain

Although action on the state level may have been limited, 2016 saw regulators begin exploring and learning about the technology. Both the Federal Reserve and the SEC, for example, have indicated a willingness to pursue distributed ledger products and have formed working groups to investigate integrations with the technology.

This interest in using blockchains as an alternative to the current system of interconnected, incompatible databases emerged from two relatively recent developments in blockchain technology: the use of smart contracts to automate business processes and the ability to conduct transactions between different blockchains.

Looking forward to 2017, Lewis Cohen, a partner in the intellectual property practice at Hogan Lovells, shared his thoughts on this issue, noting that interconnected blockchains offer regulators the potential to be involved directly in this new wave of innovation. "The biggest surprise of 2017 may be the rise of ‘interconnecting’ blockchains," Cohen said. "The inability to deliver this type of blockchain integration will otherwise prove to be a major pain point for the industry."

Cross-blockchain technologies, such as Polkadot, IBM’s HyperLedger, Overstock's tØ and Ripple, create the possibility of nodes from one blockchain conducting transactions with nodes from another blockchain – potentially those operated by regulators – in real time. This, coupled with privacy-insuring technologies such as R3’s Corda, which allows a node to choose the information it wants to decentralize while protecting the rest, allows for a new way to think about public ledgers.

The DAO's wake

With bitcoin values likely to keep climbing in the short term and ethereum set to continue growing, it may be safe to say that the states will continue to consider legislation and regulations that will make the taxation and the tracking of this new form of wealth easier to manage. However, the impetus for the rule-making of the future may shift towards engineering a proof-of-concept on how this technology can work in real-governance situations, rather than experimenting with ways to track money transfers to and from fiat currencies.

"If 2016 was the year that the blockchain burst into public view, 2017 is the year that blockchain pilots and proofs-of-concept begin to permeate the mainstream of industry,” said Alan Cohn, co-author of the Steptoe Blockchain blog and former Department of Homeland Security assistant secretary.As highlighted by The DAO, while blockchain tech can help to solve some of the administrative problems associated with large-scale data management, it creates new potential problems that must be closely monitored by regulators.

The 18th June hack on The DAO revealed that smart contracts can – if not implemented correctly – be used to drain value from the system, putting consumers at risk. Finding solutions to mitigate the problems that may arise from a blockchain failure may be a priority in 2017. Unlike cryptocurrency networks, a loss on a data-bearing distributed ledger may not just result in loss wealth. Yet, the potential loss of personally identifiable information, the unauthorized access to critical data and the potential for violations of existing security laws all are areas that must be resolved should a public sector blockchain solution be pursued.

Standards as a hedge

2016 saw cryptographic transaction technology emerge from its adolescence and take its first steps as a mature mode of operations. Accordingly, the government has reacted and has taken steps to both understand the technology and come up to speed with it regulation-wise. Yet, there is still the question of incoming president Donald Trump.

With both cryptocurrency advocates and opponents named to his cabinet, it is unclear how the new administration will approach cryptocurrency and distributed ledger legislation. Uncertainty, it seems, is now the biggest roadblock preventing further public experimentation with blockchains.

Mike Massaro, CEO of cross-border startup Flywire, for example, told CoinDesk that he believes regulatory uncertainty will be the largest roadblock against moving past proofs-of-concept forward and that industry-led work on standards may have to take its place.

Massaro concluded:

"I expect there to be some real progress in this area."

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

A Slow Awakening 2016 in US Blockchain Policy

A Slow Awakening
2016 in US Blockchain Policy

baby, steps

At the PYMNTS' Innovation Project 2013 conference, former US vice president Al Gore made waves by speaking out in favor of bitcoin and the potential of the distributed ledger technology that drives the cryptocurrency. "I think the fact that within the bitcoin universe an algorithm replaces the functions of [the government] … is actually pretty cool," Gore said. "I know that there are a lot of innovators that are out there that are trying to … come up with new models and I look forward to that."

And 2016 saw governments on both the local and national levels come to the same conclusion as Gore for the first time.

From the Federal Reserve's declaration of interest to Illinois's embrace of distributed ledgers, this year saw US governments take big steps in evolving their thinking on financial tech. While no major actions have yet been taken, the governments' apparent interest in blockchain tech has been encouraging, experts have indicated.

"I have been in Washington now for many years and what I have observed is an unprecedented effort to catch up if not get ahead of the curve on blockchain technology," Carol Van Cleef, FinTech specialist and partner at financial services law firm BakerHostetler, told CoinDesk.

Van Cleef added:

"It is impressive, the level of effort being made in many areas of the government to learn about blockchain technology – not just to better inform the regulators but to potentially change the way the government operates internally and fix what many find to be broken about the current system."

In this end-of-the-year review, we'll look into the ways government policy has changed toward blockchain in 2016 and explore what we might be able to expect in the new year.

New York's struggles

The beginning of the year saw some of the more notable attempts to regulate cryptocurrencies suffer growing pains. In particular, New York State's 'BitLicense' – created in an attempt to provide clear guidelines on reporting obligations for cryptocurrency businesses in the state – seemed to prove the most problematic.

Once heralded as an advance for the industry, advocates of the law hoped that having clear expectations would remove the uncertainty of doing business in digital currencies in the state. However, opponents argued it created undue pressures on startups and violated the privacy tenets that are key to the technology’s success.

Nearly two years in, it seems like the opponents might have been right. Due to the hurdles involved, by the deadline for license applications in 2015, only 22 companies had applied. Now it seems fewer are being approved. By June 2016, the state has only assigned two BitLicenses, with the other 20 applicants still operating under the regulation's "safe harbor" provisions.

Uncertain approaches

In the wake of struggles in New York, other US states seemed reluctant to begin enacting regulations for the industry. California, for example, flirted with and scrapped its attempt to issue New York-like licenses. Elsewhere, Connecticut's Substitute House Bill 6800 made virtual currency an equivalent to money, but also made a business that transfered it subject to different regulatory criteria than those that deal with national currencies.

This leaves many elements of regulation at the discretion of the state’s Department of Banking, such as the size of the surety bond that must be filed, allegedly to "address the current and prospective volatility of the market in such currency or currencies". Georgia signed into law HB 811 in April, giving state regulators the power to create rules for all virtual currency businesses. But, as it gives no definition in regards to the scope or intended target of this law – short of excluding “software” and “protocols” from the definition of “virtual currency” – the law is ambiguous.

New Hampshire – like other states on this list – also chose to make cryptocurrency dealers in the state money transmitters, subject to the same requirements and rules applicable to traditional money transmitters. This means that those choosing to sell or trade cryptocurrencies in the Granite State must apply for a state money transmitter’s license and pay a $100,000 bond. This is similar to North Carolina's HB 289, passed in June, which defines a money transmission to include "maintaining control of virtual currency on behalf of others" and set the required bond at $150,000.

New Hampshire did, however, exclude individuals using virtual currencies in private transactions from the licensing requirement and defined virtual currencies as cryptocurrencies that could be converted or redeemed for fiat. Pennsylvania passed its long-delayed HB 850 in November, which defined money to include any form of virtual currency, but the bill was temporarily tabled due to a budget impasse.

Finally, Wyoming failed to pass HB 0026, which would have relieved virtual currencies from the state’s current money transmitter rules that require a reserve to be held equal to the amount of the company’s payment obligations. This regulation has effectively kept exchanges and other cryptocurrency businesses out of the state.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive