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Digital panhandling is the next internet boom
September 25, 2013 6:26 AM   Subscribe

“It’s a lot less embarrassing,” he says. “You don’t have to put yourself out there.” And unlike panhandling in Pensacola, using an app like Bitcoin Tapper won’t put him on the wrong side of the law. This past May, Pensacola — where Angle has lived since April — passed an ordinance that bans not only panhandling but camping on city property. -- Homeless, unemployed and surviving on bitcoins (and food stamps).
posted by MartinWisse (19 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Surely the caption with him “mining Bitcoins” is inaccurate; wouldn't all the low-hanging ones have been mined out, to the extent that one needs thousands of dollars of high-end graphics cards and/or custom FPGAs to get anything but dirt? I can't imagine a homeless guy's laptop would yield many.
posted by acb at 6:46 AM on September 25, 2013


As for the next boom, with the growing army of the destitute, perhaps we can expect the next wave of blog comment spam to be artisanally hand-composed by a homeless person in return for bitcoins?
posted by acb at 6:48 AM on September 25, 2013


Every time people bring up the idea that the advance of technology is causing us to need fewer workers, somebody asserts that some kind of new jobs will be created, just you wait and see.

Well, now we know what those jobs look like.
posted by MrVisible at 6:53 AM on September 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Something I didn't understand about this article was the tiny amounts of money involved. He seems to spend all day watching videos and clicking, but making only pennies. How is that enough to buy food? Later in the article they talk about buying pizza gift cards and stuff, but it sounds like that would take months!
posted by mittens at 6:54 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought the point of all the expensive mining rigs etc was to mine them faster than the electricity charges rack up. This guy isn't paying for electricity so the effort/reward ratio is different. If the people supplying the electricity are OK with this then *shrug*.

And since he's actually getting the bitcoins in return for work it's more like all the other clicks/attention/views/whatever for pay schemes out there, just easier for him to actually cash in as a homeless person. Since there seems to be a market for this, someone thinks it's worth giving him money for what they get in return, I don't see any problem with it.
posted by shelleycat at 6:56 AM on September 25, 2013


It seems like Mechanical Turk would pay out more for less if you follow one of the aggregators of better jobs like r/HITsWorthTurkingFor
posted by jason_steakums at 6:59 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


With things like Mechanical Turk can you access the money without an address and bank account? I think that's probably one of the main draws for bitcoin here.
posted by shelleycat at 7:01 AM on September 25, 2013


Something I didn't understand about this article was the tiny amounts of money involved. He seems to spend all day watching videos and clicking, but making only pennies. How is that enough to buy food? Later in the article they talk about buying pizza gift cards and stuff, but it sounds like that would take months!

It's almost as if the article was total horseshit written to hype currency speculation...
posted by ennui.bz at 7:16 AM on September 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


This article is filled with math that is ridiculous on the face of it and reads like something that was written by Bitcoin evangelists. I mean, it'd be awesome if Bitcoin were some kind of great thing for the homeless, but six cents a day is not going to feed anybody.
posted by koeselitz at 7:17 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


(I mean, the headline itself is blatantly a lie. Nobody anywhere is "surviving on bitcoins" at any level – certainly not the homeless. I thought Wired was generally above this type of shit, but then I guess Bitcoin has fanatical supporters all over.)
posted by koeselitz at 7:20 AM on September 25, 2013


With things like Mechanical Turk can you access the money without an address and bank account? I think that's probably one of the main draws for bitcoin here.

IIRC you can get Amazon gift card credit as payment without a bank account, then you can turn that into gift cards and sell those for bitcoins (I've seen a few exchanges for that). Still, stuff like Mechanical Turk seems to me like it's got a half-baked vision behind it if it doesn't explicitly have a plan to pay the very people best suited for it, in situations like the guys in this article. It could be a force for good rather than a force for a bit of extra cash for bored office workers.
posted by jason_steakums at 7:23 AM on September 25, 2013


"...six cents a day is not going to feed anybody."

Pretty sure that's six bitcoin cents where TFA stated the exchange at the time was around USD 50.00, which would make six bitcoin cents worth about USD 3.00.

I know next to nothing about bitcoin, nor do I own any.
posted by digitalprimate at 8:15 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Then the problem is the article isn't explaining the math very well, as it says within the first few paragraphs, "Angle gets 0.00004 bitcoins, or about half a cent," which suggests a much different exchange rate.
posted by mittens at 8:24 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I run a Bitcoin gambling site (Dragon's Tale) where some of the games are risk-free and do pay out small amounts of Bitcoins. (It all makes sense in the overall context of the game.) And yeah, we have some people who do nothing but play the risk-free games all day long and withdraw. They tend to make about $0.30 worth of Bitcoins per hour. I've never understood it.

There are plenty of high-stakes games and actual gamblers, so it all works out.
posted by Teppy at 8:43 AM on September 25, 2013


The article shows him plugged into an outlet. Yay for public outlets! I think about this all the time, where are the places to charge things (phones, laptops) if one were homeless because a prepaid phone would be very useful and not too expensive but only if you could actually keep in charged. There's some outlets underneath the stairs at the mall, and yesterday on the way to grab a midnight snack I saw a guy hunched on the sidewalk by the Walmart entrance, talking on his phone while charging it.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:23 AM on September 25, 2013


I run a Bitcoin gambling site (Dragon's Tale) where some of the games are risk-free and do pay out small amounts of Bitcoins. (It all makes sense in the overall context of the game.) And yeah, we have some people who do nothing but play the risk-free games all day long and withdraw. They tend to make about $0.30 worth of Bitcoins per hour. I've never understood it.

I used to play ATITD. The very first exposure I had to bitcoins was discovering Dragon's Tale. Congrats on picking up on something so big like this so early.

(Also, ATITD is awesome, keep up the good work!)
posted by heathkit at 11:48 AM on September 25, 2013


me: “...six cents a day is not going to feed anybody.”

digitalprimate: “Pretty sure that's six bitcoin cents where TFA stated the exchange at the time was around USD 50.00, which would make six bitcoin cents worth about USD 3.00.”

No, that isn't what it says. Here's what it says:

“For every video he watches, Angle gets 0.00004 bitcoins, or about half a cent, thanks to a service, called BitcoinGet, that shamelessly drives artificial traffic to certain online clips. He can watch up to 12 videos a day, which gets him to about six cents.”

If 0.00004 bitcoins is "about half a cent," and that's what he gets per video, then he is indeed getting 6 actual real-life cents per day for watching twelve videos.

The next sentence does indeed say he can use another service to more than double it. So if he can find somewhere that will sell him enough food for a day for thirteen cents, he's all set.
posted by koeselitz at 1:19 PM on September 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


(Also, I don't think "bitcoin cents" is the parlance. There are just bitcoins – it's a unitary measure. You could have 0.01 bitcoins, but that wouldn't be a "bitcoin cent," it'd just be 0.01 bitcoins.)
posted by koeselitz at 1:49 PM on September 25, 2013


How does this work with transaction fees? That's one of the things I've found most confusing when dealing with bitcoin, and it seems like it would really dig into the amount you'd receive on small transactions.
posted by base_16 at 7:42 PM on September 25, 2013


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