How do New York Times journalists use technology in their work and in their private lives? Nathaniel Popper, who deals with cryptocurrencies and financial technology for The Times from San Francisco, discussed the technology he is using.
There are many cryptocurrencies and often have a floating value. What technological products do you use to keep your finger on your wrist?
Most conversations about cryptocurrencies tend to start with the price, and now there are countless services that track the ups and downs of the thousands of digital tokens out there.  The most popular site, Coinmarketcap.com, was briefly obtaining more visits than the Wall Street Journal home page last winter. My favorite is Onchainfx.com, which facilitates the comparison of many interesting statistics, such as the number of people using a coin and how intensely the programmers are working on the underlying software.
Beyond the price, however, cryptocurrencies are so fascinating because of the communities that develop around them. People tend to get together on Reddit, Twitter and Telegram, so I have to check there to see what people are talking about. This is also the point where we tend to see the first suggestions that projects are fraudulent or fraudulent.
To communicate with sources, I have to use too many messaging apps. In China, where the cryptocurrencies are great, everyone is on WeChat. Most other sources outside the United States are on WhatsApp or Telegram. In the United States, anti-government people – and privacy advocates who are worried about surveillance – just want to chat on Signal, which encrypts messages in both directions.
It also affects financial technology. How has technology changed the way banks do and what do you think of all the fintech start-ups?
There has been a lot of progress in online financial services that seems like real progress and I'm always surprised that more people do not take advantage of it At the most basic level, the advent of online check deposits has been made so that I do not have need to enter a bank, which I will be happy to never do again.
Online banking has also made it easier to buy for better interest rates and benefits. Led by sites like Bankrate and Nerdwallet, I moved my money a little while looking for the best deals. I currently have an account with Ally, which gives me 1.8 percent of my money – compared to 0.1 percent that Wells Fargo offers – and reimburses me for any fees that are charged to me when I use ATMs outside from the network.  I do the same shopping for credit cards, often following the advice of The Points Guy to find the best benefits and free miles. For people with good credit, there's no reason not to go back 2% on everything you buy, and for people with worse credit, it's now much easier to find lower interest rates.
Beyond these banking services, however, I was somewhat underestimated by the products offered by the huge crop of fintech start-ups that emerged in the last decade. I've tried many apps and tools to tidy up my financial life, but few are fairly intuitive, or they add a lot more than what you can get from traditional providers like Vanguard and Mint – or a simple Excel spreadsheet.
When I was hunting for home last year, I used Credit Karma to stay on top of my credit score. But beyond that, financial agreements are incredibly personal, which seems to make automation difficult. It is also more difficult for people to experiment with financial apps than other online services because it is often necessary to include many bank details that people do not want to share. At this point, the only financial apps I regularly use over my bank are Venmo and Square Cash, which have made it much easier to send money to friends and family.
You do not have permission to invest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for ethical reasons. But if you could, would you do it?
When people ask me if they should buy cryptocurrencies, my answer is almost always not. All these digital tokens have a much greater chance of going to zero than most of the investments available for small investors.
I make an exception to people who are genuinely interested in the new qualities of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies, such as the ability to hold money on a shared ledger, rather than on a bank, and to send money without passing through intermediaries. But even for these people, the starting point is the purchase of a very small amount – say $ 50 of Bitcoin or Ether – to try it out and see what it can do. If, at that point, you still think this will conquer the world, then you will buy more – but only what you are willing to lose.
The cryptocurrencies have been recently excavated. Do not the likes of Bitcoin, Ether and Ripple ever be worth anything?
This is a distinct possibility. Also one of Bitcoin's biggest cheerleaders, Wences Casares, said that there is still a 20% chance that it goes to zero.
For most other coins, which have undergone far fewer unexpected attacks and obstacles, the odds are undoubtedly higher. There are still basic questions about whether the technology underlying virtual currencies can scale to hire more users and preserve the privacy of those users. There are also economic questions about how prices behave and how users will respond to price changes if and when more people start using coins.
At this point, they are all still experiments in what happens when you put together a bunch of cryptography at the forefront, legal theory and economics. But this is also what makes it so interesting.
What technological products obsessed with your private life?
My love of music has constantly searched for better streaming radio stations without advertising or talking. I'm also always trying to create better playlists on Spotify in the hope that it will help Spotify find new music for me. I'm fascinated by the reason why Spotify does not give me better suggestions and generally offers only the most boring version of what I've already heard.
Both in my personal life and work I am a great user of services like Instapaper and Evernote that help keep all my readings and notes synchronized on various devices. I do my best when I move, so I wrote a lot of my book and proofs of many articles in the Evernote app on my phone.
Around the house, we use Amazon Echo and Google Home device to set timers and play music for my kids. But I also like to test all the ways in which these "smart" devices are still terrible in answering the most basic questions and completing the most basic tasks. One of my favorites was when I asked Alexa to play a Beethoven symphony and she said to me: "I could not find any Beethoven symphonic pieces".