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July 3, 2013 6:00 PM   Subscribe

The Winklevoss twins have created and filed an SEC S1 for the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust for people who wish to invest in a fund that invests in Bitcoins. They also funded BitInstant, a site for brokering sales of bitcoins.
posted by rmd1023 (106 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Internet, stop trying to make Bitcoins happen. It's not gonna happen. /Mean Girls
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:02 PM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Can't see anything going wrong with this. Nope, not a thing.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 6:03 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Felix Salmon's take, with which I largely agree (though he's a little harsher on ETFs as an asset class than I am).
posted by dsfan at 6:04 PM on July 3, 2013




This whole Bitcoin thing seems to me like a tremendous scam, like that bank in EVE where the guy running it eventually pocketed all the money and shut it down. Back there somewhere, someone -- a lot of someones -- have added real money to the system to buy bitcoins. Eventually someone is going to try to turn their bitcoins back into real money and discover that the money is gone. And when that happens, and gets publicized, the value of the bitcoins themselves is going to collapse.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:13 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ahh cool, even those two have finally decided to dump their bitcoins now. Ain't so quick for Harvard graduates but at least their upbringing taught them to pawn their bad investments off onto even greater tools.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:14 PM on July 3, 2013


It's the new douchebro economy, bro.
posted by planetesimal at 6:56 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


nothing about "Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust" sounds real.
posted by liketitanic at 6:57 PM on July 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


Great name for a band, though.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:04 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, we should all invest in regular not risky things like real estate and commodities. Fools!
posted by Brocktoon at 7:07 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Man, I wish the winklevoss twins would just go away. I was in middleschool/highschool with them, and couldn't stand them then either.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:09 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


nothing about "Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust" sounds real

I have serious questions regarding elivability for this reality's show runner, I know with such a long running series you end up having stranger and sillier plot lines but haven't we jumped the shark enough? Can just one week go by without feeling like we're in the prequel montage for your post-apocalyptic spin-off?
posted by The Whelk at 7:09 PM on July 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well, up until now I had considered Bitcoin to be roughly the shadiest and least convincing speculative bubble this side of the South Sea Company, but obviously if the Winklevii are involved then everything must be legit.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 7:12 PM on July 3, 2013


Even if BitCoin weren't itself suspect, it's not clear an ETF makes sense. As pointed out in this Hacker News discussion the entire order book for all BitCoin transactions is worth about $2 million. The daily transaction volume is about $4M USD. ETF volume needs to be a tiny volume of all transactions to be efficient. So what, they're going to trade $100,000 a day?
posted by Nelson at 7:14 PM on July 3, 2013


It's the new douchebro economy, bro.

I wonder why the press keeps calling Bitcoins a currency. It's not like anyone can go down to the grocers and ever buy food with them. It'd be like trying to buy a bottle of shampoo with X-Men #268.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:15 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was in middleschool/highschool with them, and couldn't stand them then either.

That kind of cries out for a little elaboration. Short of libel, of course, but, you know - some kind of bone. For the gossips here.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:18 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


This whole Bitcoin thing seems to me like a tremendous scam, like that bank in EVE where the guy running it eventually pocketed all the money and shut it down. Back there somewhere, someone -- a lot of someones -- have added real money to the system to buy bitcoins. Eventually someone is going to try to turn their bitcoins back into real money and discover that the money is gone. And when that happens, and gets publicized, the value of the bitcoins themselves is going to collapse.

It is exactly a pyramid scheme, but it probably has a while to go before it collapses.
posted by empath at 7:36 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


> For the gossips here.

The short hand is the Social Network's portrayal of them as spoiled arrogant rich kids obsessed with rowing was pretty accurate.

I attended a private school with them for 8th and 9th grade, and given the school and the location, rich white kids with entitlement issues who liked to pick on folks who were different was par for the course. I didn't particularly enjoy my time there, and their name is a reminder of it.
posted by mrzarquon at 7:49 PM on July 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


It'd be like trying to buy a bottle of shampoo with X-Men #268.

Yeah, I'd like a bottle of Selson Beast Blue, please.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:54 PM on July 3, 2013


nothing about "Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust" sounds real

Otoh, the "Wee Willy Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust" sounds like the start of a cautionary nursery rhyme.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:55 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sold all the Internets
Then they went bust.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:57 PM on July 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


How a total n00b mined $700 in bitcoins

Well, yeah, using a review sample of a unit which has been backordered for a year. They keep the "but maybe" stingers for the last few paragraphs:
So should you don your prospecting gear, buy a Butterfly Labs miner this very instant, and start making money? You could, but there are a couple of issues. The first is that Butterfly Labs has only recently started shipping products, and its first priority is to its year-long backlog of preorder customers. If you're buying a unit today, you're going to be way, way down the list. There are tons of other high-speed ASIC-based miners, though—sites like The Genesis Block keep tabs on what's available and what's worth buying.

The other issue is a bit stickier: the Bitcoin system adjusts its overall difficulty as mining speed increases in an attempt to limit the speed of Bitcoin production. A few years ago, a 5GH/s miner like the Jalapeño would have produced a veritable torrent of bitcoins in a day; a few years from now, specialized hardware will be required to mine even tiny fractions of BTC.

If you're going to buy an ASIC-based miner, it might be best to get one, as they say, while the gettin' is still good.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:03 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Internet, stop trying to make Bitcoins happen. It's not gonna happen.

Errr, they 'have happened' and were at $110 now at $70 of a different kind of thing that is not money if one believes only Gold and Silver are money.

With moves towards debit cards and no cash at all economies - Bitcoin is performance art attempting to educate about what 'money' and 'value' are.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:08 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


They apparently landed on this investment scheme after a good deal of research into a pharmaceutical company that holds the patent for the "circle, circle, dot, dot, everlasting cootie shot."

They also considered investing in Schrute Bucks before realizing the market's ratio of unicorns to leprechauns was too unstable for these uncertain times.
posted by 4ster at 8:21 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Talk about pre-emptively jumping your own shark. (methinks the twins have not spent a whole lot of time on tvtropes)
posted by oonh at 8:22 PM on July 3, 2013


Frankly, this looks to me to be a much more significant development than what the Winklevi are up to.

Gyft is making Bitcoin more usable as a currency. It looks like the Winklevi are trying to make it work as a security or commodity.

If it has utility as a currency, it will move toward greater stability. It's real utility is not just as a currency, but as a currency that can, with effort, be hidden from the clawing hands of nation-states. And yes, while that is a liability, it's also potentially a huge asset.

Let's not forget that before it had it's ridiculous bubble, it was hovering in the $30 range. How exactly to determine what it "should" be worth is hard say. But if it is to stabilize, my hunch is needs to both deflate a little and that more projects like Gyft need to happen.

Regardless of where this all goes, it's only a beginning. The desire to outfox and whither the power of nations states is very real and it isn't going away. Assange, Cody Wilson, Edward Snowden and Bitcoin won't all win. They may all lose. But they're ultimately just the first salvo of what will come to be a much longer war.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 8:28 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust

I think I hit the trifecta. Or bingo. Or something.
posted by slogger at 8:31 PM on July 3, 2013


Yeah. bitcoins are a thing. I can see why it looks shady to a casual observer but bitcoins have traction.

They serve a unique, useful purpose. They have real value.
posted by Bonzai at 8:34 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I came in to this thread to make sure that it had the Winklevii tag. I see that everything is good here. Carry on.
posted by donajo at 8:35 PM on July 3, 2013


I just bought the second Humble ebook Bundle and was surprised to see Bitcoin as a payment option.
posted by ODiV at 8:43 PM on July 3, 2013


They serve a unique, useful purpose. They have real value.

What does "real value" mean?
posted by Juffo-Wup at 8:56 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


> What does "real value" mean?

Not too unlike any fiat currency, really.
posted by planetesimal at 9:04 PM on July 3, 2013


Oddly enough, the reason the USDollar has value is because the US government accepts it for payment of taxes. Since taxes must be paid (a lot of taxes) then everyone who holds dollars knows they have value (even if a given person doesn't themself have any tax liability).
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:12 PM on July 3, 2013


The real money is in Cat Based Assets.
posted by arcticseal at 9:17 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not too unlike any fiat currency, really.

Well, except for being backed by a well-armed state that can force people to accept and/or spend them.
posted by empath at 9:23 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Real Value: They facilitate anonymous transactions. It's like they perform a wanted service.

In other words they are the perfect vehicle for doing drug deals or laundering drug money.

The guy who runs Silk Road is pulling in over $1/2 million US a month.

Anonymity has a value.
posted by Bonzai at 9:30 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


The short hand is the Social Network's portrayal of them as spoiled arrogant rich kids obsessed with rowing was pretty accurate.

Oy. I just started reading TSN fics last night. Now you're making me wonder if Eduardo really did lend Mark the seed money because he had an inexplicable crush on the dbag. /angst
posted by fatehunter at 9:57 PM on July 3, 2013


Bonzai: Actually they aren't very anonymous: this is the source I think, though I can't find the article that directed me there.
posted by Canageek at 10:33 PM on July 3, 2013


@Bonzai

If only the drug war were easier to fight, we could win this awesome thing and put Reagan's lonely ghost to rest

seriously plese help me with reagan's ghost

i opened my box of silly-smart shit to mock prole/nerd stuff with and all i found was reagan's ghost wailing whaaaat if theeeey replaaaced seeiiiinfelllllld with coooooorgiiiis
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:20 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


This whole Bitcoin thing seems to me like a tremendous scam, like that bank in EVE where the guy running it eventually pocketed all the money and shut it down. Eventually someone is going to try to turn their bitcoins back into real money and discover that the money is gone.
I've made, I would guess, probably around $7,000 selling bitcoins, generated with about $1,600 worth of computer equipment - I started in mining July of 2011. Most of them I sold when the price was a far lower, and I had not done so they'd be worth far more then that now. I had an 8-GPU setup with about 40% of the power of the BFL device they talk about.

So the idea that you can't convert them into cash is definitely false. (and as you can see if you read the article, the author was able to sell his)
It is exactly a pyramid scheme, but it probably has a while to go before it collapses.
I've always randomly heard this from people - I can only guess that some people are extremely jealous that they didn't get in when they could have, and it's a case of sour grapes or something.

But beyond that, what are the actual mechanics of this supposed scam? People keep talking about "the money" being gone or being "taken" by someone.

I have to ask, what money? Do you think there is some giant pool of "bitcoin money" out there for someone to take? There is no money there is no pool of US dollars our any other currency out there for someone to run off with.

When I sell a bitcoin, that bitcoin is transferred to someone else who transferred money to the exchange. It's true that the exchange operators could run off with the money that people have put in exchange accounts, but that would make the exchange a scam, not bitcoin itself. And of course, they would have no reason to do that as they make money off of commission. For MtGox or someone like that shutting down their system would be turning of a spigot of free money - real money, not just bitcoins. They make money no matter what the exchange rate is.

But again, the exchanges are secondary to the bitcoin system itself. The actual bitcoin system doesn't deal with anything other then bitcoins. There is absolutely no non-bitcion "money" in the actual bitcoin system whatsoever. And if that's the case, what money could scammers steal?

So what is the scam? Could bitcoin go down in value? Obviously it can. People might lose interest or it might get shut down. But in order for something to be a "scam" there needs to be some kind of lie, some kind of hidden information. What is the lie with bitcoin? How can you have hidden information when the whole system is in public, mathematically verifiable and mirrored on hundreds of thousands of computers around the world?

Seriously, what is the scam? I seriously have no idea how this supposed scam is supposed to actually work.
posted by delmoi at 11:35 PM on July 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


I've always randomly heard this from people - I can only guess that some people are extremely jealous that they didn't get in when they could have, and it's a case of sour grapes or something.

But beyond that, what are the actual mechanics of this supposed scam? People keep talking about "the money" being gone or being "taken" by someone.

I have to ask, what money? Do you think there is some giant pool of "bitcoin money" out there for someone to take? There is no money there is no pool of US dollars our any other currency out there for someone to run off with.


The people 'mining' bit coins are essentially selling worthless tokens to people for REAL MONEY. And the people who are buying bitcoins are doing it with the expectations that they will rise in value -- there's absolute no doubt that there is a speculative bubble here, since the price fluctuates too much for it to be a legitimate currency.

The prices will rise as long as there are more suckers who are willing to invest in the bitcoin bubble. When there aren't, it will collapse. This is tulipmania.
posted by empath at 11:45 PM on July 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


What is the lie with bitcoin?

The lie is that they are functionally anything other than the equivalent of baseball cards and comic books, physical items that have no inherent value other than what the market will allow to be exchanged for real currency, which is what can be used to buy real goods and services. To go back to the grocer-based analogy again, you can't buy a bottle of shampoo with a mint copy of X-Men.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:57 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I prefer Winklevoi.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 12:15 AM on July 4, 2013


The people 'mining' bit coins are essentially selling worthless tokens to people for REAL MONEY.
Right, but that money went into my pocket. It didn't go to some shadowy cabal somewhere. So how is it a scam?
The prices will rise as long as there are more suckers ... When there aren't, it will collapse.
Yeah, but so what? that's already happened. It happened once when the price went to $30, then crashed to $2.5 then again recently when it went all the way to $250 and then back to $55 or so.

When you say "the price will collapse" you're not predicting the future, you're just describing something that's already happened, and happened twice. What does that have to do with bitcoin being a scam?

It's not like tulipmania somehow caused tulips to cease to exist. They're still around, people still make money growing them. The fact that a speculative bubble formed in tulips does not mean that tulips were somehow a "scam"

I mean, that's like saying the internet stock bubble meant that the internet was a "scam" and there was no real value in it.

___
no inherent value other than what the market will allow to be exchanged for real currency, which is what can be used to buy real goods and services.
As far as this part is concerned, how is that a lie? There is nothing intrinsic in the bitcoin system that makes any claim otherwise. The only claim being made is that there is a fixed amount, that they can only be transferred by someone with the private key. That's it. There is literally nothing else being claimed by the system itself.
To go back to the grocer-based analogy again, you can't buy a bottle of shampoo with a mint copy of X-Men.
I don't really understand this. If I have a bottle of shampoo, and I want some bitcoin, what prevents me from accepting bitcoin from someone in exchange for that bottle of shampoo?

With comics or baseball cards, I have no way of knowing if they are legitimate or what the real value is. With bitcoin, equal amounts are completely indistinguishable from eachother - with the exception of what address they're associated with.

It's the same thing with gold. I can't use gold to buy shampoo at the store, and gold has no "intrinsic" value either. Does that mean that gold is some kind of "scam"? Certainly, some people have scammed others using gold, like Goldline selling overpriced gold coins.

And it's also not true that you can't exchange them for goods and services, you can buy domain names from namecheap, and internet hosting from various hosting providers. You can buy electronics here.

So I don't really understand what you mean. Are you saying it's somehow impossible for people to buy and sell things directly using bitcoin? Like if I wanted to sell something online, it would be impossible for me to accept bitcoin directly? If so, what do you think prevents that from happening?

If you're just saying that there aren't many places online, or in the real world, accepting bitcoin I suppose that's true but I don't really see how that makes bitcoin a scam or some kind of lie. In order for something to be a lie, someone has to actually be saying it.
posted by delmoi at 12:32 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think I'll wait for the next Bitcoin Trust, founded by someone who stole the idea from WinklevossX2. Because they appear to be destined to always come in a distant second.
posted by vacapinta at 12:55 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right, but that money went into my pocket. It didn't go to some shadowy cabal somewhere. So how is it a scam?

It's a scam the same way a chain letter or pump-and-dump stock scams are. It doesn't need to be a conspiracy where everyone is on the same page for it to be basically a pyramid scheme -- and lots of people have the opportunity to profit from a pyramid scheme before it collapses. The only people who really lose money are the last ones in.
posted by empath at 12:59 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


When you say "the price will collapse" you're not predicting the future, you're just describing something that's already happened, and happened twice. What does that have to do with bitcoin being a scam?

When I say 'collapse', I mean it will go to 0. Not drop by 50%. Drop by 100%.

If you're just saying that there aren't many places online, or in the real world, accepting bitcoin I suppose that's true but I don't really see how that makes bitcoin a scam or some kind of lie. In order for something to be a lie, someone has to actually be saying it.

Lots of people are independently using bitcoin to scam people, just like people are using gold to scam people. The end result for both is that the price is hugely inflated and a lot of people are going to lose their shirts when the bottom of the market drops out.
posted by empath at 1:00 AM on July 4, 2013


I don't understand the link up thread about the companies selling ASIC miners. You're a company and you make machines that when plugged in make money (in the case if the linked article it was claimed it paid for itself in ten days). So rather than plug them in you sell them at a price less than you'd make if you kept them?

Smells a bit funny.
posted by edd at 1:07 AM on July 4, 2013


I don't understand the link up thread about the companies selling ASIC miners. You're a company and you make machines that when plugged in make money (in the case if the linked article it was claimed it paid for itself in ten days). So rather than plug them in you sell them at a price less than you'd make if you kept them?

Are they selling them? Why do you think they're all back-ordered? They're probably holding on to the first ones and aren't going to ship them out to people until all the profit is gone.
posted by empath at 1:10 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well yes. I suppose that then makes it a question of why you would buy one when you don't have a reasonable expectation you will get it by a time it can generate a profit. But I suppose that would come down to the Wizard's First Rule.
posted by edd at 1:15 AM on July 4, 2013


Just browsing /r/bitcoin.

Butterfly mining-rig is an unstable broken piece of shit.
posted by empath at 1:30 AM on July 4, 2013


It's a scam the same way a chain letter or pump-and-dump stock scams are. It doesn't need to be a conspiracy where everyone is on the same page for it to be basically a pyramid scheme -- and lots of people have the opportunity to profit from a pyramid scheme before it collapses. The only people who really lose money are the last ones in.
First of all, there is a fundamental difference in that the structure of the ponzi scheme implies a future value, while there is no future value implied in the bitcoin system. The bitcoin system itself has no concept of any other currency, all you can do directly is send it back and forth between addresses. That's it.

Secondly, what you're saying here is true for any tradable asset. Everyone could lose interest in gold, or silver or diamonds or whatever.

So I don't really understand: what makes bitcoin different then gold or silver or other tradable assets?
When I say 'collapse', I mean it will go to 0. Not drop by 50%. Drop by 100%.
So what you are saying is that at some point in the future, no one - not one single person will be willing to buy bitcoins for any price at all?

Can you explain what would cause that to happen? I mean in the first crash it's price dropped by 90%, and in the most recent crash it's price dropped by 75%, then rebounded to an overall 50% drop.

If bitcoin can survive crashes like that without going to zero, what would have to actually happen to make the price go to zero?

I mean, I could personally guarantee to buy bitcoins for a price no less then $1/million - and doing so would never cost me more then $21 - are you saying that's somehow not possible?

Again, I don't understand the mechanism by which you think this occurs.

___

Ultimately, I have no idea what you people are talking about and maybe I never will. There are people who are completely convinced that the US dollar or social security are somehow scams too. In general, their belief stems from their inability to understand how the economy works.

Similarly, if you're unable to actually understand how the bitcoin system works, there's no way for me to actually understand what your criticism is, because it's based on your own confusion, which may ultimately be inarticulatable.

Right now, the criticisms you're making are also true of gold or any other tradable asset. Unless you think they're all scams (and it's possible you might think that) what you're saying doesn't really make any sense.
I don't understand the link up thread about the companies selling ASIC miners. You're a company and you make machines that when plugged in make money (in the case if the linked article it was claimed it paid for itself in ten days). So rather than plug them in you sell them at a price less than you'd make if you kept them?
The first companies to do this took pre-orders to fund ASIC production. They'd already been selling mining equipment built using field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). Most people got burned, a company called bAsic went under completely and most people lost everything. Butterfly labs, the company that made the unit being reviewed was delayed by 8 months and units have only been trickling out. A lot of the people who bought from them have basically gotten screwed.

Finally a third company, bitsyncom has mostly delivered what it promised to do, it's actually based in Shenzhen china. Since they shipped out their first few runs of units, though they're switching to half mining and half selling chips.

The other things to remember is that the units can sell for a lot of money. For example, a 50Ghash unit was selling on ebay for $25,000. To pre-order that was around $1000 I think, once the products actually materialized the pre-order price went way up.

Another interesting story, there used to be a bitcoin "stock exchange" that someone setup, kind of like kickstarter - you could send bitcoin to a "company" and in exchange you would get "stock". The owner of the exchange decided to shut down out of concern about money laundering laws. One of the companies involved was a scheme to use the bitcoins to develop an ASIC that would be used to mine bitcoin and send the proceeds to "shareholders" on the exchange.

Amazingly, these people actually succeeded in building ASICs and are now sending out dividends and re-investing in more chips. They're also selling the chips themselves, I think.

So basically the bitcoin ASIC market has totally been a huge risk to "invest" in, but it was the need to raise funds. Today, the few companies that have actually shipped units can charge an enormous price. A unit that costs $1000 to make can sell for $25k. They could mine for themselves, but it might actually take years to make that much back. It depends on how fast the hashrate increases, which is in turn impossible to estimate.

So yeah, I wouldn't recommend buying a mining unit at this point. Certainly not from BFL.
posted by delmoi at 2:09 AM on July 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


If bitcoin can survive crashes like that without going to zero, what would have to actually happen to make the price go to zero?

I dunno, someone releasing a competitive e-currency, for example.

Or government regulation.
posted by empath at 2:21 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can already see Bitcoin vs Ripple where people invested in each are touting their own currency and calling the other a scam.
posted by empath at 2:33 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


You can't possibly compare bitcoin to gold, silver or diamonds which have a real value as matter that can be used for real purposes. A bitcoin has doesn't.
This isn't to say there aren't better analogies to bitcoins.
posted by edd at 2:40 AM on July 4, 2013


I dunno, someone releasing a competitive e-currency, for example.
Those already exist, sorry.
Or government regulation.
As far as an outright government ban, that's true of any tradeable asset. The problem here is that you're not articulating any critiques that aren't also true of gold or any other tradeable asset. Gold was banned at one point too.


I'm not saying the government won't ever ban bitcoin. What I am saying is that simply claiming that bitcoin might some day be banned by the government isn't sufficient to call it a scam.

(And, of course, there's more then one country in the world)

The problem here is that you are not articulating any specific critiques that aren't also shared with any other tradeable assets.
You can already see Bitcoin vs Ripple where people invested in each are touting their own currency and calling the other a scam.
I don't think the existence of internet flamewars proves anything. There are other bitcoin derived currencies, like litecoin that are actually being traded as well. Litecoin is worth about $2 right now, for example (bit difference is that it uses a hash algorithm that's hard to implement in ASICs, and even difficult with GPUs, making it easier for non-specialists to mine).

There is nothing to prevent multiple online currencies from existing simultaneously, each holding some small value.
posted by delmoi at 2:50 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can't possibly compare bitcoin to gold, silver or diamonds which have a real value as matter that can be used for real purposes.
Gold and silver have some value for use in electronics, but what 'real' value do diamonds have? (Industrially people use synthetic diamonds for stuff like abrasives, but you'd need to smash up large natural diamonds to do that)

But I'm not saying that bitcoin is "like" gold and silver, the big difference is that it can be instantly verified just with a computer - you never have to 'grade' a bitcoin the way you would with a diamond or gold. And it can be transferred instantly via the internet (well, actually it takes maybe half an hour to an hour)

That's what makes it useful as a medium of exchange. But it does not make it a scam.

The only point I'm making is that the "it's a scam people" are making complaints that actually also apply to gold/silver/diamonds.

There is no clear explanation as to why bitcoin is a scam, and those things are not. In all cases the money people make selling those things is equal to the money that "new" people spend buying them, so that can't be a sufficient condition for something being a scam.

IMO it's just like people who say social security is a Ponzi scheme (for the exact same reason) or that "fiat currency" is all a huge scam. It's not like there is anything wrong with it, it's a misapprehension on their part of what actually makes things a scam.
posted by delmoi at 3:08 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually let me ask for some specifics: at what point in time will the value of bitcoin be less then 1/10¢ (At which point, the entire set of bitcoins would be worth <$21,000)

A year from now? 10 years? 100 years?

At what point in time can we declare the haters officially wrong?
posted by delmoi at 3:27 AM on July 4, 2013


Can someone explain in plain words how Bitcoin value is arrived at? How can a Bitcoin be worth $x when the currency itself isn't traded on the open market against the rest of the world's currencies? There seems to be an awful lot of "Because MtGox says so" when it comes to Bitcoin valuation. Dismiss, if you will, the dollar by decrying it as fiat currency, it's still subject to open-market forces for its value, traded against all other world currencies. Bitcoin, as far as I can see, is a closed system, feeding on itself. It seems less a currency, and more a collectible. The Beanie Baby for 21st century nerds.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:07 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is traded on the open market - Mt Gox is one of the main clearing houses but there are others. Mt Gox doesn't set the price, it just matches buyers and sellers.

I think Beanie Baby is a great analogy. Interestingly since the total number of Bitcoins is fixed, it makes for a perfect speculative asset - as long as there is some buyer interest, the price will never fall all the way to zero. And since there is a limited supply, I think there will always be some base level of interest. (Like there is still for Beanie Babies!)

But the fixed supply which makes it so tempting to speculate, also makes it hopeless as a currency. And don't get me started on how the protocol is fixed to an arbitrary maximum of around 2000 transactions every 10 minutes (per block) - regardless of the amount of computing power applied to it. THAT's not going to scale well!
posted by dave99 at 5:19 AM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, I read about this in a friend's blog, which included a big image of the S1, and before sitting down to turn it into a FPP, I had to run into the other room where my partner was, and say "OH MY GOD. THREE WORDS: WINKLEVOSS. BITCOIN. TRUST." just so I could see the look on her face.

So, I'm not that familiar with the financial instruments in question, but does this boil down to "I'll own bitcoins and charge you fees to let you claim to be part of it"? If I think bitcoins are going up, why wouldn't I just buy some bitcoins? It's not like I have to worry about storage like I would with, say, gold bullion.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:37 AM on July 4, 2013


In general, their belief stems from their inability to understand how the economy works.

Yes. I do not understand how this works. First, how can one have an enforcable contract with bitcoins? What makes currency work is that you can pay debts with it--meaning that if I owe you $1,000 and give you $1,000 in cash, you cannot sue me saying I still owe you $1,000. One can refuse to enter into a cash transaction, but once a debt is established, payment in cash will satisfy any debt in the eyes of the law.

With bitcoins, someone you owe money to can refuse to take bitcoins and can take you to court for non-payment of debt.

Second, Bitcoin can't work by itself. It must have real-world currency to work. At some point, one must transmute the bitcoin into something which can be used in a contract which one can enforce legally. In the courts, if you do not pay, your assets are seized. Literally, law enforcement officers arrive at your home and physically take things out of your home or business and auction them off and provide the proceeds, or there is a bank levy where your bank is legally forced to give money to the creditor. (It normally does not go this far, people pay up or declare bankruptcy). This creates a big problem.

There are a limited number of bit coins. This means that price shocks will hit the bitcoins quite hard. The value will skyrocket if deflation occurs or fall off a cliff from inflation.

Central banks adjust the money supply to make sure that the value of goods and services is matched by just enough money out there so people's relative store of value remains somewhat constant relative to the cost of goods and services . This means you can generally trust the value of money to move in an orderly fashion. In the past this was not so, and people were totally destroyed when prices rose dramatically from inflation or dropped from massive deflation (these prices include wages). Now by increasing or decreasing the money supply, the effect of these shocks is mitigated to a large degree.

Not so with bitcoin. Its a fixed money supply, so it will fluctuate far more wildly that other currencies, making it less useful to store value. And if there is a large inflation or deflation in outside currencies, a real loss in value will occur in bitcoin that does not happen in the real world because there is zero flexibility in the money supply.

Also, someone is gonna figure out an exploit eventually and wipe out value in one way or another.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:16 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think by arguing about the viability of bitcoins as a currency, we're actually underestimating the crappiness of this product. Even if you believe bitcoins to be valuable, it's hard to imagine what problem this ETF solves. ETFs are great when you want to be able to have people purchase smaller blocks of a broad asset class, or when people don't want to deal with storage fees. But bitcoins are designed to be highly divisible and don't require any storage costs like oil or gold.
posted by dsfan at 7:21 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even if you believe bitcoins to be valuable, it's hard to imagine what problem this ETF solves.
It looks to me like this Winklevoss thing is intended to solve the problem of there being fools who have not yet been parted from their money.
posted by Flunkie at 7:32 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


dsfan is right. If you read the prospectus the viability or lack thereof for Bitcoin is the least of your worries if you buy this product. I'm especially fond of how the Winklevii determine the price the trust buy BTC from them at.
BTW - shouldn't Bitcoin's value over the long-term reflect the cost of mining - capital investment in processing power and the cost of electricity? So the long-term price is going to end up being a function of the difference in deflation in processing costs and the inflation in processing required to earn a BTC and some function of the electricity costs of the marginal miner.

If you were someone who believed in the long-term viability and convertibility of BTC you'd be looking into locating your processing equipment in Iceland or Northern Quebec. Ironically it'll look a lot like Aluminum Smelting - where the only thing that matters is your cost of electricity.

BTW - generally businesses like that see long-term deflation - the thing you need to figure out then is if the increase in complexity is enough to swamp the decreasing cost of processing power.
posted by JPD at 7:33 AM on July 4, 2013




I've really been enjoying reading about this all week. The Felix Salmon article linked above is great, if only because he refers to the Winklevii as "the biggest helminths in the bitcoinverse".

My favorite quote though, came from Alphaville. You'll probably have to read the whole thing for context but the closing quote is great:

So here’s an ETF which promises to create $20m worth of liquid exposure to an arguably illiquid crypto-currency by relying on the cooperation of broker-dealers making riskless profits through arbitraging fractions of the virtual coinage.

Something tells us this is one Winklevoss-innovation Mark Zuckerberg won’t be stealing.

posted by triggerfinger at 8:55 AM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder if I can sell my beanie baby hoard for bitcoin? I swear, beanie babies are going to come back...
posted by Eekacat at 9:15 AM on July 4, 2013


I think even strident BTC backers recognize that this WinkleTrust thing is a scam, and I'm not seeing anything resembling a defense of it here. Can we all at least agree that, leaving aside the merits of the BTC cryptocurrency and the patchwork of exchanges and middlemen, this ETF trust adds nothing to the Bitcoin economy except a layer of abstraction that provides no additional value beyond trading in BTC directly on one of the exchanges?

With respect to Bitcoin itself, there's no "scam" built into the algorithm, but there is definitely a network of skimmers and scammers built on top of the currency, and a lot of overselling its benefits and minimizing its drawbacks. Just because the code is out there for everyone to audit, and just because there's plenty of knowledge about the finite amount of coins and the increased processing power that will required to generate more of them in the future doesn't mean that there's not some sleight-of-hand occurring on the part of the middlemen.

Of course, we have skimmers and scammers built on top of U.S. dollars and other fiat currencies, but a lot of people like having the full faith and credit of nation states behind their money. Of course this is no guarantee that the value will remain stable against other currencies or commodities, but at least you have a government to raise your pitchforks against (or, in the case of foreign currencies, to have your own government fight with) instead of a shadowy network of regulation-skirting entrepreneurs with no legal responsibility to do right by the holders of the currency.

I don't think we have to adjudicate the cryptocurrency vs. fiat currency debate here to understand that Bitcoin fails at being just about everything people want it to be. As a medium of exchange, it's terrible because transactions are irreversible, and also because it can take many minutes for transactions to clear unless you pay a hefty fee to expedite them. As store of value, it's terrible because of the price volatility relative to commodities and other currencies, the lack of intrinsic value that many commodities offer, and the potential of a protocol fork or persistent block chain fork that undermines confidence in the currency.

The one thing Bitcoin's done is made some miners rich, and it's been pretty easy to make money mining them in the past, but that goes away as the difficulty of the transactions goes up and the fixed rate of new coins produced goes down. It's telling how much support for Bitcoin comes from the people taking advantage of the relatively short window in which mining them has been profitable.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:03 AM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


As store of value, it's terrible because of the price volatility relative to commodities and other currencies, the lack of intrinsic value that many commodities offer, and the potential of a protocol fork or persistent block chain fork that undermines confidence in the currency.

tonycpsu said in two sentences what I said in three paragraphs. What that guy said.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:28 AM on July 4, 2013


Is there a Zuckerberg Bitcoin Trust I could throw my money at instead?

I don't know Bitcoin from Adam, but I really liked The Social Network, so it would really be investing in a possible sequel.
posted by dgaicun at 12:06 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read the Ars Technica article about the BFL Jalapeno and I have had gold fever ever since. I started checking it out, and yeah, it looks like a Ponzi scheme with promised returns of almost 1000% per month. But it still looks like there is substance there. The Ars article says the guy ran the $275 Jalapeno box for a week and cashed out immediately with $700. Holy crap it's a box that prints free money. I'm going to bounce my rent check and get two of them, I'll pay back the landlord in 2 weeks and make twice my rent in BTC income. I could pay the rent (and increased electricity) with half the income, and buy another box or two and really start making money. But there has to be a flaw in this scheme, it's too easy.

The way I see it, BTC do have value because of the inherent difficulty of producing the crypto hashes. You can't just print money, you need intensive computation to produce one. The problem is, it gets more difficult to compute them over time, and there is a fixed limit on how many BTC they release per week. Also now there is a computation war, with the ASIC miners replacing GPU systems. The amount of computer hardware pointed at the crypto hashes suddenly jumped exponentially. It will level off soon, until the next tech advancement which is unlikely to happen until quantum crypto is workable at a basic chip level.

It reminds me of back in the 80s when I started working at a new Computerland store, and we sold these newfangled live stock quotes radio receivers for the nascent Day Trading market. My boss had one at home, I asked him if you could really make money with it. He said yeah, there was a time for about a year, ending a year ago, when you could really make money. But now everyone has the box, so you can't make money anymore. But for a while, the dough was really rolling in, that's how he raised the funds to start the new ComputerLand store.

I looked at the BTC scenario briefly, when it first started out. It was too speculative, the command line apps sucked, and it looked like a huge waste of effort. But then over time, I started seeing articles about amateurs who set up an old Wintel white box with hot GPU cards, they started out with one and pretty soon it's so lucrative they have a room full of boxes cranking at full power, dissipating so much heat they are buying extra air conditioners to cool them all, and installing heavier electric lines into their house to power them all. The market fluctuated, it looked like it would only be practical and moneymaking if you spent all your time tracking the market and building more machines. Forget it, there's no money for me in this scenario.

But right now, it looks like the sweet spot, if you have serious GPU power you're making money, but in declining profitability. If you can get an ASIC machine, you're just raking in the dough hand over fist. Here's what I figure it looks like right now. You can buy a BFL "Jally" that produces 5Gh min, for $275. If you plugged it in today, it would start generating about .2 BTC per day, about $20 at a conservative estimate, $25 a day back when the Ars author ran it and the BTC was worth $129 (today it's $80). The box would pay for itself in 2 weeks to 10 days. The problem is, there's a year of backorders, and they only started shipping them last week, after almost a year of delays burning the ASICs. By the time you get a box, it could be a year from now. BFL just announced it would take them 2 months to deliver their existing backorders from as far back as 1 year. So if I ordered one today, I could have it running in maybe 60 days if I order today and I get the fastest possible delivery time. By then it might not deliver so much return. Maybe it only makes $15/day. Or it might not ship for a year, and by then it maybe makes $5 day. Hard to tell, especially now that other people will be running the BFL ASIC machines, competing with you. It is speculated there are as many as 40k orders for BFL machines, some of them running 500Gh. It is currently unknown how the BTC mining world will run once all these ASIC machines start going online. And other companies have their ASIC machines starting to ship, although they're more costly than the BFL machines. It looks like an exponential chase after BTC. You buy a Jally, soon it is half as effective, so you buy another. Then those two machines are halved. Buy two more. Put all your BTC mining earnings into buying new mining rigs, purchased with BTC. And you're pumping electricity into them. People are looking at these rigs as hashes per joule of electricity, efficient rigs generate BTC with less electric power. I can foresee one possible conclusion to this exponential scenario. Miners keep doubling their rigs, trying to chase after the more-than-doubling of the difficulty of mining BTCs. Soon the worldwide demands for electricity just for mining will increase. If it keeps going exponentially, soon they will have to run mining rigs with quantum crypto, each consuming as much power as your personal nuclear power plant can generate. Eventually everybody will have to get into one big mining pool, to consummate their project of harnessing the entire fusion power generation capacity of the Sun, and the entire mass of the Earth will have to be turned into a massive computer, its speed only limited by heat disspation. Perhaps we can skip the middleman and convert the Sun into a fusion power generator AND computer. Soon we will max that out and will have to seek nearby stars for conversion, and another limiting factor will be light speed communications of the BTC mining network. There are physical limits to practical computation networks, after all.

But for now, the ASICs are ahead of the exponential curve. You could run one for a while, and maybe cash out when it becomes unprofitable, either by increased competition or if the market crashes. So I figured, maybe I'll try it out. This is a speculative investment and you never spend more money speculating than you can afford to lose. I am living hand to mouth, I can't really spare $275, but it wouldn't break me either. So I decided to look a little closer.

I started reading the BTC blogs. Holy crap, someone released a Mac GUI mining app. I read about it in the Ars article, it has only been out about a week. Back a couple of years ago, I don't think the unix apps compiled successfully, and the range of GPU support didn't seem to be very wide. But now it runs on my Mac mini with an 2.7Ghz i7 and the upgraded Radeon 6630 GPU onboard. The CPU can only do about 1Mh and consumes every available CPU cycle, my machine is completely unresponsive, so it can't mine in the background while I use the computer. Fail. But the GPU has a pretty high spec, let's give it a whirl. Hey it cranks out 53Mh at only moderate GPU load. I could probably get it up to 60 or 70Gh. Put it online and see how it goes. I ran it for about 3 days, at 53Mh it seems to crank out about 0.0015 BTC per day. Oh crap, my mining pool has been unlucky, the last few BTC have been at a ~70% "luck" factor, which seems to mean that it was only 70% as successful as predicted at finding the successful keys. Right now, 0.0015 BTC/day is about $0.12 per day. But on Thursday, that was about $0.15 per day, the BTC trading index dropped from about $96BTC/USD to about $80. Crap, a whole day mining wiped out.

I decided to look at the optimal hardware to see if I could get a cheap white box up and running instead of a Jally. Oh no. I bought a new Mac mini 1 year ago to replace my PowerMac Quad G5, it had a hot GPU Quadro FX 4500 card, it was a $1500 build to order upgrade. I bought it to run Maya but it had a bug and they never fixed it, so the card was a complete waste of money. I checked the Mining Hardware Comparison chart, there's no listing for a 4500, but the closest comparison is the 5000, it generates 67Mh. Oh crap. I could have been generating maybe .002 BTC or more, for years. And back then, BTC were much easier to generate, and have increased in price tenfold. I sold the Quad G5 on eBay for $900. I was surprised it went for so much money. They probably bought it to mine BTC. I figure if I had used it for the last 2 years, I would have at least 200 bitcoins, possibly more by a factor of 10 (I have to check the difficulty charts and the markets, but that's a conservative estimate). At best, I might have made maybe 2000 BTC which would be worth at least $160k. Oh I have been walking right past money laying on the ground, and too lazy to bend over and pick it up. Damn.

But no more. I am cranking out 15 microBTC a day. It just keeps rolling in. I figure I might make .1BTC per week, maybe more. That's a whole buck a week. And the dollar will keep rolling in, day after day, until the difficulty increases, and then maybe it's 50 cents a week. Or maybe the BTC market fluctuates, and I make 5 cents a week, or maybe it goes up and I make $5 a week. Or maybe the US Feds crack down on BTC and try to shut it down, either completely wiping out the value of BTC, or perhaps pushing it underground and making BTC immensely valuable. It is impossible to speculate.

So I think I'm going to pull the trigger and buy a Jally. It will cost about $300 with shipping. It could get here by September, and profitable immediately (although to what profit is is hard to determine). If it runs for only a month before it becomes unprofitable, pays itself back and I cash out, no big deal. Or I could really rake in the dough and maybe it's worth buying more ASIC miners. I could get a 500Gh Mini Rig for $22.5k. It would really crank out the heat, which would kick out so much waste heat, it would overheat my apartment. Hmm.. I could put it in that gas fireplace I never use, and direct the heat up the flue. I could fit maybe 2 Mini Rigs in the fireplace, if I rip out the gas fixtures. Maybe 3 rigs, that's 1.5 TeraHash. Electricity is cheap around here, we have a nearby nuclear power plant, and even Microsoft and Google have placed data centers in my state due to low electricity costs. If this becomes profitable, I could rent a space and put in some rack mount rigs, and keep ramping up the GigaHashes. Some small mining centers are already measured in PetaHashes. 20 Mini Rigs would produce a PetaHash and cost under $500k, and would easily fit in one room that could be air conditioned and powered conveniently. I could quit my job and become wealthy, just sitting back and watching the meters add up the BTC.

OR

Someone could put all this computer power behind something fucking practical, like the experiments I saw using ASIC miners to compute X-Ray diagnostics, for automated cancer detection.

Nah, I want the money. I've been poor too long. Someone show the the numbers that this scheme won't make money, or else I will order a 5Gh Jally this week.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:55 PM on July 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I read the Ars Technica article about the BFL Jalapeno and I have had gold fever ever since. I started checking it out, and yeah, it looks like a Ponzi scheme with promised returns of almost 1000% per month. But it still looks like there is substance there. The Ars article says the guy ran the $275 Jalapeno box for a week and cashed out immediately with $700. Holy crap it's a box that prints free money. I'm going to bounce my rent check and get two of them
The problem is that if you were to order one now there's no way to know how long it will take to arrive. Some orders have been waiting over a year and just recently the company actually canceled an order that was going to arrive soon because someone talked shit about them in a forum thread, and said they would only ship him the units he'd been waiting for if he publicly apologized. In fact, the company might go under before they ever ship a unit too you. It's not clear at all how fast they're shipping out units. I in no way recommend buying anything from this company.

Oh, and apparently some of the units they shipped internationally were seized because they, amazingly faked their CE certification

If you want to buy one that's already shipped and in someone's hands the price on ebay is about $3,600 - $4000, not $275.

The other problem (which you pointed out) is that if the company was actually able to fulfill all of it's orders instantly, the bitcoin 'difficulty' would skyrocket. There's a fixed number of coins that can be created, and the number of hashes you need to compute to mine a coin is adjusted every two weeks to keep the rate constant. If a ton of new hashpower came online - the hashrate would skyrocket instantly, and instantly reduce the amount of money everyone is able to make with their units.

So basically, you can make money quickly if you were actually able to get a unit like that for $275. But you simply cannot actually do that. You'll need to pay about $3-4k, and at that price it's not clear if you'll ever get what you paid for. And, if you do pay that price on ebay whoever is selling it might keep the unit for weeks getting the most of the value out of it.

I don't really know if there's a reasonable way to get into ASIC mining right now at a price equivalent to the pre-order price people were paying when it was still vaporware. The problem is that people are not going to give up the chips unless you're willing to pay more then what they think the units will make in 6 months or a year. There's too much incentive to just keep the chips and mine for yourself.

But if you really want to try I'd look into trying to get a device using Avalon chips – Those are from a company that has basically fulfilled all it's pre-orders so far, and only a month or two late. They switched to selling raw chips for other people to manufacture units to sell. I don't know where you'd buy one though. What's been happening is that people have been organizing on forums to organize "group buys" of raw chips. I think the only realistic way to get involved at this point is to monitor the forum and see what's going on with group buys and the like. Although at this point it's going to be difficult for a noob to follow that's going on. Sorry about that.

But that said, BFL might ship your $275 pre order sometime in the next two years, sometime before the difficulty hits a billion, the company might not try to defraud customs or cancel your order out of pure spite. It's theoretically possible you might make back the $275 you spent over several years.
posted by delmoi at 2:59 PM on July 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Someone could put all this computer power behind something fucking practical, like the experiments I saw using ASIC miners to compute X-Ray diagnostics, for automated cancer detection.
Huh? ASICs are Application Specific Integrated Circuits. That is Application Specific - they can't do anything other then calculate SHA256 hashes of random inputs. That's it. They aren't like GPUs that can be used for lots of different things.
Can someone explain in plain words how Bitcoin value is arrived at?
People buy and sell it on exchanges. When you place a sell order you specify the price you're willing to sell at, when you place a buy order you specify what you're willing to pay (these are the bid and ask prices). This exactly the same as a stock market, by the way or any other exchange. If the ask and bid prices overlap, a sale goes through and that specifies the current 'market' rate.
There seems to be an awful lot of "Because MtGox says so"
The same way stock prices are defined by "Nasdaq says so" or "NYSE says so". There are other exchanges besides MtGox that you can buy and sell bitcoin on, but, because you can buy it on one exchange and then sell it on another the price is going to be synched due to arbitrage. If you can buy Bitcoin on campBX for less then the price on MtGox, then you could buy it there, then sell it on Gox and make a profit.
Dismiss, if you will, the dollar by decrying it as fiat currency, it's still subject to open-market forces for its value, traded against all other world currencies. Bitcoin, as far as I can see, is a closed system, feeding on itself. It seems less a currency, and more a collectible. The Beanie Baby for 21st century nerds.
Both dollars and bitcoins are traded in open markets. And so are beanie babies. How is it a 'closed system'? I don't really understand what you mean here.

___

Anyway, there are obviously tradeoffs and downsides with bitcoin. The problem is the claim that those tradeoffs and downsides somehow make bitcoin a "scam"
posted by delmoi at 3:22 PM on July 4, 2013


Getting into mining now is a huge gamble. You'd be better off taking whatever money you planned on using on mining hardware, and buying a few coins directly. And that is still a really risky gamble that I wouldn't recommend.

But mining is worse.
posted by ymgve at 3:23 PM on July 4, 2013


At what point in time can we declare the haters officially wrong

Herbalife isn't going out of business any time soon, but that doesn't mean it's not a scam. There are an almost endless amount of suckers in the world.
posted by empath at 3:52 PM on July 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Herbalife isn't going out of business any time soon, but that doesn't mean it's not a scam. There are an almost endless amount of suckers in the world.
The problem is that doesn't make any sense at all.

You can't say that the following two statements are both true:

1) Bitcoin is a scam because in the future the value will drop to zero
2) The scam may persist indefinitely into the future.

Because if 2 is true, then 1 is false.

The whole reason a pyramid scam will ultimately fail is that there is a finite number of suckers in the world, and pyramid schemes need exponential growth, meaning the supply of suckers is exhausted quickly.

As long as people out there want bitcoin, it will have some value - you don't need exponential growth, or even growth at all for that to be true.

The criticism you're making is exactly the same as the criticism by goldbug types who complain about "fiat currency" being made out of thin air and having value. It's true that the value of bitcoin is created ex-nihilo, the same way the value of regular money is simply declared by the government. Or the same way that the value of gold and diamonds are created simply by human desire.

The problem is you're confusing a memetic, self-sustaining feedback system with with circular logic.

That's why you need to have some kind of deadline for when it will fail in order to call it a scam. Without one there's no way to ever be "wrong" - There have been lots of naysayers who have claimed bitcoin was dead at various points in time over the years. So far they've all been wrong.
posted by delmoi at 4:16 PM on July 4, 2013


Delmoi, how much do you have invested in it?
posted by empath at 4:21 PM on July 4, 2013


The problem is that if you were to order one now there's no way to know how long it will take to arrive.

Yes, right now people are speculating on ship dates, and I mean financial speculation buying and selling pre-orders. People who have early pre-orders are selling their spot in line. I see several eBay auctions for early pre-orders from sellers in Czecheslovakia and Romania. Yeah right.
Right now on the BFL blog they're making guesstimates that are vaguely in line with BFL assertions of 60 days to fill the backorders. The problem is, BFL says that since their machines are now in production, all sales are final, no refunds.

Oh, and apparently some of the units they shipped internationally were seized because they, amazingly faked their CE certification

More ASICs for me.

Anyway, that's not what the thread says. They (apparently) accidentally shipped a non-RoHS compliant 120v US power supply instead of the European 220v. There's nothing in the thread except some guy's assertion that the package is being inspected to make sure it's CE compliant. Of course the PS isn't CE compliant. They sent the wrong one. There is massive disinformation being spread to confuse people about availability and shipping. This is all FUD.

So go straight to the manufacturers. If you go to the Avalon site and try to place an order, it says Unavailable. ASICMiner's site has no sales offerings except you can buy a share in a Blade farm. I see Block Erupters for sale on Amazon for $170 to $390. They only do 300Mh so you'd need like 17 of them to get 5Gh. I suspect the Erupters originally wholesaled for maybe $25 and people are reselling at huge profits.

Huh? ASICs are Application Specific Integrated Circuits. That is Application Specific - they can't do anything other then calculate SHA256 hashes of random inputs. That's it

You understand that you can make a custom ASIC for any specific application, right?
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:24 PM on July 4, 2013


They really missed a home run by neglecting to name their new company 'Facebuck'.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:47 PM on July 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


Or, as a way to counter the growing influence of the lord of Facebook, Parry Zuckercoin.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:12 PM on July 4, 2013


Delmoi, how much do you have invested in it?
What do you mean? In 2011 I spent about $1600 on GPUs on PC hardware, 8 GPUs and 2 motherboards, etc.
You understand that you can make a custom ASIC for any specific application, right?
Right... but I don't really understand what that has to do with with bitcoin ASICs, I thought you were saying that the chips might be better used for something else.
posted by delmoi at 5:39 PM on July 4, 2013


So go straight to the manufacturers. If you go to the Avalon site and try to place an order, it says Unavailable. ASICMiner's site has no sales offerings except you can buy a share in a Blade farm. I see Block Erupters for sale on Amazon for $170 to $390. They only do 300Mh so you'd need like 17 of them to get 5Gh. I suspect the Erupters originally wholesaled for maybe $25 and people are reselling at huge profits.
If you really want to trust them, go ahead I guess. I suppose if you're paying with a credit card instead of bitcoin, you'll be able to do a chargeback if you're not happy, if you don't get your product within 90 days.

I haven't really followed what's been going on with that company recently, other then that there's been an enormous amount of drama - they made claims for months and months that they were about ready to ship, for example, and never did. They finally just started, and it's not at all clear how long it's actually going to take for them ship their pre-orders. If they say they'll clear their pre-orders in two months, it might as well be two years given their track record.
posted by delmoi at 6:25 PM on July 4, 2013


You can't say that the following two statements are both true: 1) Bitcoin is a scam because in the future the value will drop to zero [and] 2) The scam may persist indefinitely into the future.

Can you say that, 1) while the value of Bitcoin may never drop to precisely zero, it is likely to drop to a point that will make it worthless to anyone who owns them at that time and that 2) because Bitcoin will never drop to precisely zero the scam, or rather the dreams of wealth that drives people to invest in Bitcoin, may persist indefinitely into the future?
posted by octobersurprise at 7:28 PM on July 4, 2013


Well, I asked for a date when 1 bitcoin would be worth less then 0.1¢, making the entire blockchain worth less then $21,000 - not when it would hit absolute zero. It was empath who said the "scam" could continue forever.
the dreams of wealth that drives people to invest in Bitcoin, may persist indefinitely into the future?
The only "claim" made by the bitcoin system itself is that there is a fixed amount, and that you can transfer bitcoins between addresses.

The purpose of the bitcoin system isn't to make people rich, it's to enable people to transfer money online. Ideally for that purpose you would want the price of bitcoin to basically be flat, which would mean that people just buying bitcoin to hold it wouldn't make any money.

If people are buying bitcoin now for $78 thinking it'll go up to $700, or $1,000 anytime soon they're idiots. But that doesn't make bitcoin a "scam", any more then the fact that some people think gold will hit $100,000 an ounce means that gold itself "scam"
posted by delmoi at 8:27 PM on July 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyway, there are obviously tradeoffs and downsides with bitcoin. The problem is the claim that those tradeoffs and downsides somehow make bitcoin a "scam"

Yes it is true that tradeoffs and downsides make things a scam.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:33 AM on July 5, 2013


> Yes it is true that tradeoffs and downsides make things a scam.

I think the point, which is kind of lost on this useless endless arguing, is that Bitcoin itself is not a scam, but there are many ways that people can scam others with the promise of Bitcoin earnings. That doesn't mean that the original Bitcoin protocols a scam, though. But, please, don't stop quibbling on my account.
posted by planetesimal at 9:42 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes it is true that tradeoffs and downsides make things a scam.
If I had any idea what that actually meant I could respond.


Bitcoin isn't a "scam" because it doesn't fit the definition of a scam, where some one lies to you in order to con you out of money. There's no lie with bitcoin, there's no false claim.

So far no one calling bitcoin a scam has been able to articulate what that false claim is supposed to be. It's just declared to be a "scam" for some nebulous and unstated definition of "scam"
posted by delmoi at 11:18 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The claim by its boosters that it has any value at all is the scam.
posted by empath at 11:38 PM on July 5, 2013


There are other exchanges besides MtGox that you can buy and sell bitcoin on, but, because you can buy it on one exchange and then sell it on another the price is going to be synched due to arbitrage. If you can buy Bitcoin on campBX for less then the price on MtGox, then you could buy it there, then sell it on Gox and make a profit.

All of which deal exclusively in bitcoin. That's a closed system. They aren't valuating bitcoin based on its strength/weakness against the rest of the world's currencies. This is why my comparison to a collectible seems appropriate. Bitcoin's value seems to be driven by the frenzy of the collectors, and not on any real-world strength or utility. Its value seems to be pegged to whatever the fans/collectors will pay. As such, it's subject more to the vagaries of faddishness than anything else.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:28 AM on July 6, 2013


empath: "The claim by its boosters that it has any value at all is the scam."

This is patently false. Bitcoin has value because people are willing to pay, at this time, around $70 for one of them. That means it has value.

Of course there are no real fundamentals behind that value. Most of the Bitcoin sales pitch is not about it being useful as a medium of exchange (which it's really not when compared to alternatives) or that it's good as a long-term store of value (which it's not, for reasons I outlined above), but because recent meteoric rises in value have created an opportunity for speculators to get rich quick, and that's clearly where most of the recent spikes (and crashes) in value have come from.

Perhaps the right thing to do here is to cede the point to delmoi that BTC itself isn't any kind of scam, but that the economy of hucksters and regulation-skirting exchange operations built on top of Bitcoin is?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:53 AM on July 6, 2013


All of which deal exclusively in bitcoin.
That's straight up false.

I honestly have no idea how you think the exchanges work. Can you explain in your own words how you think someone converts bitcoin stored on their computers into US dollars in their pocket using an exchange? Because it doesn't seem like you could possibly understand how it works, even though it's pretty simple.

Earlier you said you didn't know how the price was set, then drew a bunch of conclusions on the false assumption that MtGox just put out whatever number it wanted - but because the premise was wrong the conclusions were wrong too.
All of which deal exclusively in bitcoin. That's a closed system.
That's another example of drawing a conclusion from something that isn't true to begin with.

There's no way to explain something to someone who doesn't understand something and doesn't care either. If you're just going to assume random things are true without actually bothering to check there isn't much reason to invest a lot of time in explaining anything to you.

Either way, the exchanges don't deal exclusively in bitcoin, and indeed it would be impossible for that to be the case (obviously), and so the conclusion about them being "closed systems" you've drawn from assuming that to be true are also false.
Bitcoin's value seems to be driven by the frenzy of the collectors, and not on any real-world strength or utility.
Like most of the criticisms, that's something that also applies to gold and natural diamonds, which have little or no real world value either, besides people's desire for them, and their limited supply.

(Furthermore stuff like baseball cards, some comics, and fine art have held their value for decades. It's not like "being a collectable" implies it is guaranteed to lose value at some point in the future)
posted by delmoi at 1:30 AM on July 7, 2013


Oh, also I just checked and on btc-e.com I can trade directly between Euros, the Russian Ruble and USD if you want.

Right, for example now there's an offer to sell €0.39 for $0.49, which is actually below market rate. If you go up in price, you can get up to €115 for an exchange rate of 1.2727. There's apparently €15,892 total at any price in USD at the moment, and about $2,393 available to buy in euros. Compared with 7682 btc available to buy in dollars and $360,750 available to buy in btc
regulation-skirting exchange operations
What regulations do you think they're skirting? MtGox goes out of it's way to follow any relevant regulations, and CampBX is a US company subject to the same regulations as any other US company. I suppose some of the other exchanges might be more lax if they don't operate directly in the U.S (like btc-e)
posted by delmoi at 2:06 AM on July 7, 2013


delmoi: "MtGox goes out of it's way to follow any relevant regulations"

Out of it's [sic] way?
Mt. Gox and specifically Mark Karpeles AKA “MagicalTux” flagrantly attempted to skirt the law. They had 2 years to come into compliance with US regulations and chose to form a shell company to try and exploit a loophole. This isn’t a case of the “Feds coming down on bitcoins” or “Mt.Gox simply failing to mark a checkbox”, this is about Mt. Gox defrauding the US Goverment to avoid regulation. They’re completely fucked.
...
In a very very special case of complete stupidity, Mt. Gox decided to lie on official documents when setting up their dirty fiat bank account with Wells Fargo, specifically denying they were ever planning on setting up a currency exchange.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:36 AM on July 7, 2013


Eh, I don't actually pay that much attention to MtGox, since I don't use the site for anything - I never setup my account for USD withdrawals there at all, although I do remember hearing something about it at the time

Anyway, the entire point of buttcoin.org is to post articles with as negative a spin on bitcoin as possible, and the posts are highly speculative. MtGox has apparently restarted US withdrawals since that happened.

What I meant was the regulations regarding their interactions with customers, anti-money laundering regulations, things like that.
posted by delmoi at 11:21 AM on July 7, 2013


delmoi: "Anyway, the entire point of buttcoin.org is to post articles with as negative a spin on bitcoin as possible"

Missing: the part where you refute any of the facts presented in the linked articles.

delmoi: "What I meant was the regulations regarding their interactions with customers, anti-money laundering regulations, things like that."

Well that's not what you said. I have no idea what you're talking about with respect to "their interactions with customers", but the regulations that Mt. Gox is accused of hiding from are in place to prevent money laundering, among other things, so, no, they're not in any way going "out of [their] way" to follow money laundering regulations, they're actually going out of their way to sidestep them.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:50 AM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Missing: the part where you refute any of the facts presented in the linked articles.

I'm not their lawyer - the bitcoin system itself is completely transparent, but MtGox, just like any other company, is opaque and could be doing anything behind the scenes.

They could be running some kind of tax avoidance scam against the government, laundering money for themselves, something like that. How would I know? People can read the sezure affidavit themselves what proof was included, the buttcoin article speculates about a lot of facts that aren't actually pointed out in the affidavit itself (I'm not going to go over it myself, like I said I'm not their lawyer)

I would think you would agree that companies like Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, HSBC and other large banks which are critical to the operation of the banking system engaged in a broad range of criminal activities, right? Selling known bogus securities they were shorting for other clients, fixing the LIBOR rate, foreclosing improperly and in some cases literally ransacking houses and 'trashing out' houses they didn't have the right too. Oh and of course. laundering billions of dollars in drug money.

(I wouldn't have a problem with MtGox going out of business - as I said I don't use them and didn't pay much attention to this story or pay much attention to them in general. If they did go out of business, it would certainly prove all the people who think bitcoin is a "scam" run by MtGox, that they set the price, etc, are wrong. )
posted by delmoi at 5:55 PM on July 7, 2013


delmoi: "as I said I don't use them and didn't pay much attention to this story or pay much attention to them in general"

Funny, I could have sworn I read you testifying as to their strict adherence to regulations earlier in the thread. I remember it as if it were just five comments ago...

delmoi: "I wouldn't have a problem with MtGox going out of business"

I think you would, assuming you still have coins you haven't cashed in yet. As I'm sure you're aware, Mt.Gox constitutes more than 70% of all Bitcoin transactions worldwide. We're not talking about some rinky-dink boutique exchange or anything. If the most popular, most visible exchange suddenly got shut down, that would almost certainly have an adverse effect on the value of BTC, and I doubt that the other sites could absorb the remaining load when everyone's trying to redeem their coins after the sudden shutdown of the largest exchange.

Look, I understand you're inclined to minimize the problems with the Bitcoin ecosystem, and given that you mine coins, I can understand that inclination. But you're really not fooling anyone by beating dead horses and moving goalposts.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:14 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I read you testifying as to their strict adherence
Testifying? I said they went out of their way to comply with regulations, which was my impression, not that they were completely successful in doing so. Technically, that's not an inaccurate statement - especially given the fact that the seizure affidavit does not make any claim whatsoever that there was any intentional deception going on.
If the most popular, most visible exchange suddenly got shut down, that would almost certainly have an adverse effect on the value of BTC
it's not clear on why you think I care about your hypothetical speculation?
But you're really not fooling anyone by beating dead horses and moving goalposts.
I actually have no idea what you mean with this frothy mélange of clichéd metaphors.
posted by delmoi at 8:31 AM on July 8, 2013


delmoi: "Testifying? I said they went out of their way to comply with regulations, which was my impression, not that they were completely successful in doing so."

But where would your impression come from if, as you say, you don't pay much attention to them?

delmoi: " it's not clear on why you think I care about your hypothetical speculation? "

You were perfectly happy to comment on that hypothetical when you made a claim that you wouldn't care if they went out of business. I simply responded by saying that Mt.Gox going out of business would almost certainly have an adverse effect on the value of any Bitcoins you may hold.

Do you hold Bitcoins? Do you agree that the value would tank if the largest exchange was shut down? If the answers to these questions are "yes" then you have an obvious reason to care if they were shut down.

delmoi: " I actually have no idea what you mean with this frothy mixture of clichéd metaphors."

This would be an appropriate response if I had said "beating goalposts and moving dead horses", which I did not. Using two distinct metaphors in series does not constitute mixing of metaphors. .-o* The More You Know!

"Beating dead horses" refers to your incessant harping on comments by people who have long since stopped participating in the thread that Bitcoin itself is a scam.

"Moving goalposts" refers to how you first said Mt.Gox went out of their way to follow "any relevant regulations", but then retreated to the safer ground of "interactions with customers, anti-money laundering regulations, things like that", and now you're stopping just short of disavowing any knowledge of what Mt.Gox is, and refusing to comment on "hypothetical speculation" that you were perfectly happy to comment on earlier.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:47 AM on July 8, 2013


*shrug* I still don't see how that's "moving a goalpost," but whatever.
posted by delmoi at 1:23 PM on July 8, 2013


Hey, man, I have no more interest in quibbling over the precise definition of goalpost-moving than you do, but that's basically all we're left with now that you've ducked my more substantive questions pertaining to (a) where you got the impression that Gox went out of their way to comply with regulations if you don't pay that much attention to them and (b) whether you recognize that, regardless of whether you use Mt.Gox or not, the closure of BTC's largest exchange would have a major adverse impact on the value of the currency.

You are of course under no obligation to answer either question, but the extraordinary claims you've made require more evidence than you've presented.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:45 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


no obligation to answer either question
That's right. Being interrogated by someone bent on twisting my words out of context would hardly be an enjoyable use of my time. I also answered some of your questions, but the posts were deleted, so you'll just have to live with the mystery.
posted by delmoi at 5:47 PM on July 8, 2013


delmoi: "Being interrogated by someone bent on twisting my words out of context "

As anyone who cares to scroll up a couple of pages can see, that's not actually what's happened here, and if you're having multiple posts deleted, then maybe this just isn't a topic you're capable of speaking dispassionately about.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:27 PM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not the topic that's the problem, and I think I've only had one question deleted actually. I think I've made it clear I don't have any interest in defending MtGox, yet you keep asking me questions about it. I'm not answering your questions because I find them annoying.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 PM on July 8, 2013


Pedants' corner, and not really related to Bitcoin, but while "beating dead horses and moving goalposts" is not in itself mixed metaphor, it is possibly a mingling of metaphors in a fashion identifiably catachretic, as we normally assume that the goalposts being moved are those of a game of football, or soccer outside the US, and therefore the beating of a horse on the pitch would be an unusual circumstance.

However, on reflection there are games and sports which involve both horses and goalposts - one could, for example, have a metaphorically consistent experience of a game of polo in which one was both moving goalposts and beating a dead horse.

It would probably not be remembered as an enjoyable game of polo. But it would certainly be memorable.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:07 AM on July 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


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