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Crypto Banking Wars: Can BlockFi & Celsius Disrupt Banking?
These crypto lending & borrowing services found early traction. Are they capable of bundling more financial services and winning the broader consumer finance market? https://reddit.com/link/icps9l/video/98kl1y596zh51/player This is the third part ofCrypto Banking Wars— a new series that examines what crypto-native company is most likely to become thebank of the future. Who is best positioned toreach mainstream adoptionin consumer finance? While crypto allows the world to get rid of banks, a bank will still very much be necessary for this verypowerfultechnology to reach the masses. As we laid out in our previous series, Crypto-Powered, we believe a crypto-native company will ultimately become the bank of the future. We’re confident Genesis Block will have a seat at that table, but we aren’t the only game in town. In the first post of this series, we did an analysis of big crypto exchanges like Coinbase & Binance. In our second episode, we looked at the world of non-custodial wallets. Today we’re analyzing crypto lending & borrowing services. The Earn and Borrow use-case covers a lot of what traditional banks deliver today. This category of companies is a threat worth analyzing. As we look at this market, we’ll mostly be focused on custodial, centralized products like BlockFi, Nexo, and Celsius. Many of these companies found early traction among crypto users. Are they capable of bundling more financial services and winning the broader consumer finance market? Let’s find out.
Because speculation and trading remains one of the most popular use-cases of crypto, a new crypto sub-industry around credit has emerged. Much of the borrowing demand has been driven by institutional needs. For example, a Bitcoin mining company might need to borrow fiat to pay for operational costs (salaries, electricity). Or a crypto company might need to borrow USD to pay for engineering salaries. Or a crypto hedge fund needs to borrow for leverage or to take a specific market position. While all of these companies have sufficient crypto to cover the costs, they might not want to sell it — either for tax or speculative reasons (they may believe these crypto assets will appreciate, as with most in the industry). Instead of selling their crypto, these companies can use their crypto as collateral for loans. For example, they can provide $1.5M in Bitcoin as collateral, and borrow $1M. Given the collateralization happening, the underwriting process becomes straightforward. Companies all around the world can participate — language and cultural barriers are removed. https://preview.redd.it/z9pby83d6zh51.png?width=600&format=png&auto=webp&s=54bf425215c3ed6d5ff0ca7dbe571e735b994613 The leader (and one of our partners) in this space is Genesis Capital. While they are always the counterparty for both lenders and borrowers, they are effectively a broker. They are at the center of the institutional crypto lending & borrowing markets. Their total active loans as of March 2020 was $649M. That number shot up to $1.42B in active loans as of June 2020. The growth of this entire market segment is impressive and it’s what is driving this opportunity for consumers downstream.
While most of the borrowing demand comes from institutional players, there is a growing desire from consumers to participate on the lend/supply side of the market. Crypto consumers would love to be able to deposit their assets with a service and watch it grow. Why let crypto assets sit on an exchange or in cold storage when it can be earning interest? A number of consumer-facing products have emerged in the last few years to make this happen. While they also allow users to borrow (always with collateral), most of the consumer attraction is around growing their crypto, even while they sleep. Earning interest. These products usually partner with institutional players like Genesis Capital to match the deposits with borrowing demand. And it’s exactly part of our strategy as well, beyond leveraging DeFi (decentralized finance protocols). A few of the most popular consumer services in this category include BlockFi, Nexo, and Celsius. https://preview.redd.it/vptig5mg6zh51.png?width=1051&format=png&auto=webp&s=b5fdc241cb9b6f5b495173667619f8d2c93371ca
BlockFi (Crunchbase) is the leader in this category (at least in the West). They are well-capitalized. In August 2019, they raised $18.3M in their Series A. In Feb 2020, they raised $30M in their Series B. In that same time period, they went from $250M in assets under management to $650M. In a recent blog post, they announced that they saw a 100% revenue increase in Q2 and that they were on track to do $50M in revenue this year. Their growth is impressive. BlockFi did not do an ICO, unlike Celsius, Nexo, Salt, and Cred. BlockFi has a lot of institutional backing so it is perceived as the most reputable in the space. BlockFi started with borrowing — allowing users to leverage their crypto as collateral and taking out a loan against it. They later got into Earning — allowing users to deposit assets and earn interest on it. They recently expanded their service to “exchange” functionality and say they are coming out with a credit card later this year. https://preview.redd.it/byv2tbui6zh51.png?width=800&format=png&auto=webp&s=bac080dcfc85e89574c30dfb396db0b537d46706 Security Woes It’s incredible that BlockFi has been able to see such strong growth despite their numerous product and security woes. A few months ago, their systems were compromised. A hacker was able to access confidential data, such as names, dates of birth, postal addresses, and activity histories. While no funds were lost, this was a massive embarrassment and caused reputational damage. https://preview.redd.it/lwmxbz5l6zh51.png?width=606&format=png&auto=webp&s=ebd8e6e5c31c56da055824254b35b218b49f80e0 Unrelated to that massive security breach and earlier in the year, a user discovered a major bug that allowed him to send the same funds to himself over and over again, ultimately accumulating more than a million dollars in his BlockFi account. BlockFi fortunately caught him just before withdrawal. Poor Product Execution Beyond their poor security — which they are now trying to get serious about — their products are notoriously buggy and hard-to-use. I borrowed from them a year ago and used their interest account product until very recently. I have first-hand experience of how painful it is. But don’t take my word for it… here are just a few tweets from customers just recently. https://preview.redd.it/wcqu3icn6zh51.png?width=1055&format=png&auto=webp&s=870e2f06a6ec377a87e5d6d1f24579a901de66b5 For a while, their interest-earning product had a completely different authentication system than their loan product (users had two sets of usernames/passwords). Many people have had issues with withdrawals. The app is constantly logging people out, blank screens, ugly error messages. Emails with verification codes are sometimes delayed by hours (or days). I do wonder if their entire app has been outsourced. The sloppiness shines through. Not only is their product buggy and UX confusing, but their branding & design is quite weak. To the left is a t-shirt they once sent me. It looks like they just found a bunch of quirky fonts, added their name, and slapped it on a t-shirt. https://preview.redd.it/mi6yeppp6zh51.png?width=600&format=png&auto=webp&s=fd4cd8201ad0d5bc667498096388377895b72953 Culture To the innocent bystander, many of these issues seem totally fixable. They could hire an amazing design agency to completely revamp their product or brand. They could hire a mercenary group of engineers to fix their bugs, etc. While it could stop the bleeding for a time, it may not solve the underlying issues. Years of sloppy product execution represents something much more destructive. It represents a top-down mentality that shipping anything other than excellence is okay: product experience doesn’t matter; design doesn’t matter; craftsmanship doesn’t matter; strong execution doesn’t matter; precision doesn’t matter. That’s very different from our culture at Genesis Block. This cancerous mentality rarely stays contained within product & engineering — this leaks to all parts of the organization. No design agency or consulting firm will fix some of the pernicious values of a company’s soul. These are deeper issues that only leadership can course-correct. If BlockFi’s sloppiness were due to constant experimentation, iteration, shipping, or some “move fast and break things” hacker culture… like Binance… I would probably cut them more slack. But there is zero evidence of that. “Move fast and break things” is always scary when dealing with financial products. But in BlockFi’s case, when it’s more like “move slow and break things,” they are really playing with fire. Next time a massive security breach occurs, like what happened earlier this year, they may not be so lucky. Institutional Focus Based on who is on their team, their poor product execution shouldn’t be a surprise. Their team comes mostly from Wall Street, not the blockchain community (where our roots are). Most of BlockFi’s blockchain/crypto integration is very superficial. They take crypto assets as deposits, but they aren’t leveraging any of the exciting, low-level DeFi protocols like we are. While their Wall Street heritage isn’t doing them any favors on the product/tech side, it’s served them very well on winning institutional clients. This is perhaps their greatest strength. BlockFi has a strong institutional business. They recently brought on Three Arrows Capital as a strategic investor — a crypto hedge fund who does a lot of borrowing. In that announcement, BlockFi’s founder said that bringing them on “aligns well with our focus on international expansion of our institutional services offering.” They also recently brought someone on who will lead business development in Asia among institutional clients. BlockFi Wrap Up There are certainly BlockFi features that overlap with Genesis Block’s offering. It’s possible that they are angling to become the bank of the future. However, they simply have not proven they are capable of designing, building, and launching world-class consumer products. They’ve constantly had issues around security and poor product execution. Their company account and their founder’s account seem to onlytweetaboutBitcoin. I don’t think they understand, appreciate, or value the power of DeFi. It’s unlikely they’ll be leveraging it any time soon. All of these reasons are why I don’t see them as a serious threat to Genesis Block. However, because of their strong institutional offering, I hope that Genesis Block will ultimately have a very collaborative and productive partnership with them. Assuming they figure out their security woes, we could park some of our funds with BlockFi (just as we will with Genesis Capital and others). I think what’s likely to happen is that we’ll corner the consumer market and we’ll work closely with BlockFi on the institutional side. I’ve been hard on BlockFi because I care. I think they have a great opportunity at helping elevate the entire industry in a positive way. But they have a lot of issues they need to work through. I really don’t want to see users lose millions of dollars in a security breach. It could set back the entire industry. But if they do things well… a rising tide lifts all boats.
While many companies in this category seem to be slowly adding more financial services, I don’t believe any of them are focused on the broader consumer market like we are. To use services like BlockFi, Nexo, or Celsius, users need to be onboarded and educated on how crypto works. At Genesis Block, we don’t believe that’s the winning approach. We think blockchain complexity should be abstracted away from the end-user. We did an entire series about this, Spreading Crypto. For many of these services, there is additional friction due to ICO tokens that are forcefully integrated into the product (see NEXO token or CEL Token). None of these services have true banking functionality or integration with traditional finance —for example, easy offramp or spending methods like debit cards. None of them are taking DeFi seriously — they are leveraging crypto for only the asset class, not the underlying technology around financial protocols. So are these companies potential competitors to Genesis Block? For the crypto crowd, yes. For the mass market, no. None of these companies are capable of reaching the billions of people around the world that we hope to reach at Genesis Block. ------ Other Ways to Consume Today's Episode:
An old friend of mine emailed this to me a while back with the subject line “Hide and Seek” and I’ve been hesitant to post it for reasons that should become obvious as you read it. That said, I feel that enough time has gone by for this to be safe so I’m going to post it here. The only edits I’ve made were swapping out names and formatting, otherwise it’s all exactly as he sent it. T, if you’re reading this then message me. I want to know if you’re alright, and if you are I know you’ll be looking for this story to show up. This is what the email said: Rijento, I’m writing this story because I feel like I need an outlet. I swear to god that you better actually check your email for once in your damn life! Please… As for if you actually are reading this, I want you to wait as long as your (admittedly) better judgment tells you to wait and then post this story online. I know it’s a bit vain, but I want people to know my story. Hell, it might be the last one I ever tell. Double hell, it might actually even help some poor soul out. I’m going to disappear after sending this, hopefully the good kind of disappear and not the death kind. I know nobody but you is going to believe this story but damn if typing this out didn’t make my sorry ass feel better. You were right about that man, I’m sorry for giving you shit for writing so much…
This is the attached file. “Hide and Seek”: Before I get in to the ‘hiding’ and ‘seeking’ I have a bit of a confession that needs to be made. I work as a transporter for a deep web black market site… I hope it doesn’t change your opinion of me too much, sorry for not telling you sooner. I’m the guy they call when they get an order for something they can’t send through the mail. Guns and live animals are two good examples. You’d be pretty hyped to know how many rich assholes just order lions and tigers from the dark web. For obvious reasons, I can’t go in to too much detail, I don’t want to make any dangerous enemies and even after this I still don’t want to lose my job. It’s a pretty sweet gig all things considered, all I have to do is pick up from the seller and deliver to the buyer. I can even choose what jobs I want to take, lets me cling to what little principles I still have. And I DO have principles. After a few years working for the site, my two rules were: no people and no crossing borders. Anyways, I got into a bit of a bind with the cryptocurrency crash that happened early this year. The site mostly pays in Bitcoin and, well, I decided to let my wallet sit and grow. By the time I realized what happened, my savings were destroyed. Nobody expected it to crash that hard… And it probably wouldn’t have been as much of a problem if I hadn’t also gotten used to living a life full of the finer things. I didn’t really ‘save’ all that much to begin with either. So when my savings finally ran dry and the market was still down, I decided to… Lower my standards a bit and take a riskier, higher paying job. Organ transport. I haven’t done it before… I hadn’t been that broke in a long time. Organ jobs pay well too, and I figured I still wasn’t strictly breaking my ‘no people’ rule if it was just their organs. So, I hopped on the site and browsed through the pitiful number of requests in my area till I found what I was looking for. A rich buyer who: had shady connections, was in need of some organs, and lacked either the time or patience to wait for them to come legally. As far as these sort of requests went, this was pretty much the norm from what I’d heard. So I accepted the job and got an email with some additional details about the order: the customer needed two kidneys (which was what I was to transport) and a liver (which they had made a separate request for). From what other people on the site have told me, what should have happened was the job would move to the ‘seeking seller’ section and I’d be on hold till someone… ‘_acquired_’ the kidneys. What actually happened probably should have tipped me off to use my monthly free withdraw… I got a notification two hours later that there was a seller. Rijento, I don’t know how much you know about medicine, but if you do know anything then you’re probably squirming in your own skin about right now. For those who may or may not be reading this that are not in the know, not only do the donor and receiver have to have compatible blood types but kidneys only last about a day outside of a warm body. Not exactly a product you can stockpile. I got another email, about the pickup this time, and began the internal debate between the bad feeling in my gut and my empty wallet… You can probably guess which one of them won out… Anyways, I planned my route; one hour to get to the seller and four hours to get from there to the buyer. I sent the site my plan and within minutes they approve of it and set up an actual meeting point. I sighed and grabbed my things, trying to swallow my nerves the entire hour it took me to reach the meeting point. I sat down on a bench in a city park and waited for what seemed like ages before I felt someone staring at me. It took me a solid minute to pick out who it was even though there were only a few people around. He was sitting with his back to me at a picnic table about ten yards away from me and whenever I looked away I could feel his eyes on me. When we eventually did make eye-contact he bounced excitedly in his seat and waved me over; my heart sank as he also slid a small case into my line of sight. I forced myself to smile, walked over, sat down, and hid my annoyance. Most of the buyers on the site were practically carbon copies of each other. Probably because you could only become a buyer if another buyer knew and endorsed you. The sellers, on the other hand, were all certifiably insane. None of the other transporters I’d chatted with had ever met with a ‘normal’ seller. Because of this, all of them quickly learned to keep conversation to a minimum and to not under any circumstances piss any of them off. I decided to follow in their example. The man sitting in front of me looked friendly enough, overly so if anything. He was scrawny, didn’t look like he would be strong enough to… well… kill someone and harvest their insides. He had a strange smile on his face, and even now I can’t get it out of my head. The kind of overly friendly, wide toothed smile that mothers warned their children to stay away from. It somehow managed to be both inviting and creepy at the same time. I smiled back and spoke up, “So you’re the seller then?” I asked, and the man nodded. He nodded and responded in a sickeningly sweet voice… He sounded like a child in a toy store, his voice strained with excitement and wonder as he droned on to his parents about what toys he wanted. “Oh I’m so glad you found me. For a minute there I thought I’d have to call ‘olly olly oxen free.’” He said with a pleased sigh, pushing the case to my side of the table. “You know… Over the years I’ve gotten quite good at playing hide and seek. So good, in fact, that I’ve never been found. Not. Even. Once. Do you want to know my secret?” the man asked, his voice still just as unsettlingly sweet as his smile. “Sure, what’s your secret?” I asked. I really, really didn’t want to know what the hell he was talking about; but if it kept him happy then… He clapped rapidly and bounced in place, “Oh I’m so glad that you’re a curious one. My secret is that the seekers never know that they’re playing.” “Makes sense…” I said, opening the case momentarily to verify. Two kidneys in pristine condition, doused with preserving fluid, wrapped in plastic. and packed in ice. “If the seeker doesn’t know they’re playing then how would they know to start looking?” I said, leaving out the fact that it would just be stalking at that point before swallowing hard when I thought about where these kidneys came from. “You’re a smart one…” he said with a smile as I sent a message confirming the pickup. All that was left was to wait for the transaction to process. “I was worried about this last one though… she came right up to me. This. Close.” he said, leaning in till our faces almost touched. I struggled to keep my composure, and managed to keep from jumping or pushing him away. “So what did you do?” I asked as he leaned back, my suspicions about these kidneys being all but confirmed. “Why, nothing of course…” He said, a slightly bewildered expression on his face. He looked as though I just asked him how to breathe. I glanced down at my phone to see if the transaction had been verified yet and he snapped his fingers like he remembered something. “Oh I must apologize!” he said, making me look up, “I forgot that you don’t play much… I simply held my breath, closed my eyes, and wished that she would just… go away.” “You’re right… You are good at hide and seek...” I said, wishing to myself that he would just go away and hearing the familiar ding of a successful transaction sound on both of our phones as if to answer my prayers. I reached out my hand as a formality and he grabbed it and shook it vigorously. I forced a smile and stood, although what he said next made my blood nearly freeze. “You’re the first person to find me in oh so long…” He trailed off as he said it, his voice slowly shifting from that of an exited child to the cold blooded maniac that he was. “Maybe my games won’t be so one sided from now on,” He said, his voice disturbingly normal. Although, even without looking back I could tell that the same sickeningly sweet smile was glued to his face. I kept walking but waved my arm as though saying goodbye. The worst part was that I could feel him watching me as I walked back to my car… Not just at first, like if he was watching me leave, but the entire way back, and even as I got in my car. I took a moment to look around and sighed as I saw nothing. It might not sound like much to you. I don’t know, I can still hardly describe it myself, but he had this… creepy way of getting under your skin just by talking to you. I wrote it off as me just being paranoid, the guy harvests organs from people for a living so of course everything he says is creepy. I groaned and started my car, but it wasn’t until I hit the freeway that I was finally able to shake the feeling of his gaze. It’s not like he could’ve been following me, by then I was already paranoid enough to be checking for that, making a few detours just to be sure of it. And because of my detours, I ended up being about an hour past the scheduled drop off with the buyer… Lost my chance at a tip for sure, guy was furious and there was nothing I could tell him to calm him down. I’m pretty sure, ‘sorry I’m late, but the seller was a total psycho and I wanted to make sure he wasn’t following me,’ wouldn’t have been a very good excuse. Whatever, I had my money and the buyer had his organs and plenty of time for whatever operation that used them. Not much to complain about on either side, well except for the fact that I already knew I wouldn’t be sleeping that night. Especially because the feeling of being watched had returned as soon as I set foot out of my car which was, again, impossible. The site never tells the sellers anything about the buyers or transporters, so there’s no way he could have known where I was headed to and no way that he could have followed me. I hopped back in my car and started to head for home, hoping that a few tabs of melatonin would be enough for at least a few hours of sleep. And again, I could feel eyes on me as I drove and I saw his eerie smile everywhere until I hit the highway. I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders then, although I made sure to take the most winding path home that I could afford gas for (which was quite a bit after a job like that). By the time I did get home it was starting to get dark, and I had made a few loops around my apartment just to be sure I didn’t still feel his eyes on me. Luckily, my apartment building has a public parking garage attached to it so even if I was being followed I felt safe enough that nobody would be able to find my room. But Just to be sure, I took the stairs for the first time in months. Have any of you ever climbed seven flights of stairs out of paranoia before Rijento? Well in case you haven’t let me tell you what it’s like. Do you remember running up the stairs from the basement after turning off the lights as a kid? That feeling of unease and terror? Well it’s like that, but you aren’t a kid anymore. It’s not the dark or what imaginary monsters could be lurking in it that frightens you anymore. Instead, you’re worried about who could be hiding in the darkness, what real monster could be following you up those stairs… I’m no slouch when it comes to exercise but it still drained everything out of me hauling my body up those stairs on my hands and feet like an animal as fast as I could. I got inside and locked the door securely behind me, panting, covered in sweat, but I sighed in relief with the fact that I hadn’t felt anyone watching me at all during my climb. I took a moment to catch my breath, slumping down by the door and chuckling to myself while shaking my head. I couldn’t believe that I’d let that freak get so deep under my skin. Once I had caught my breath, I stood up and made my way to my couch before flopping onto it. I wanted nothing more than to go to sleep then and there, but I had to be smart with my money this time. I immediately cashed the Bitcoin out. Better to pay myself out in small increments, but I had bills to pay and I’d already learned my lesson about leaving things in Bitcoin. Once business was taken care of, I grabbed the remote control and flicked on the TV. The familiar faces of the local news anchors greeted me and I began drifting off to sleep while listening to the happenings of our city. It was around seven a.m. when I was woken up by the sound of the ‘breaking news’ alert coming on. “We are just receiving reports of a ghastly murder of one [yeah, I’m not gonna put her name or age here] year old college student living on her own. Police investigators say that several of her organs were found to be missing and that they found evidence of someone living in her home without her knowledge for quite some time before the murder…” The reporters kept talking about how much of a tragedy the situation was… But I wasn’t listening. How could I listen… I’ve never been less happy to be right then I was at that moment. I shuddered thinking about it. My thoughts and paranoia regarding the man I’d met the other day bubbling back up to the surface. It was then that the reality of what I’d done hit me like a freight train. By accepting that contract I doomed that girl to die… All because I needed some quick cash. I stood up and went to the kitchen and opened my liquor cabinet. Without looking, I grabbed a bottle of something with shaking hands and fumbled with the top while trying to keep my mind clear of thoughts. Once I had the cap off I took several deep swigs from the bottle, spilling quite a bit down my chin before I set it down and gasped for air. The burn of the alcohol in my throat gave me something to focus on while it worked its magic on the rest of my body. As my mind slowly clouded I found my way to a chair and found it easier to think about what happened without panicking. My first thought was that I needed to do something. I knew the guy’s face, I should go to the cops! It was at this moment that the… Less impulsive side of my brain kicked in. I go to the cops and all I do is give myself a one way ticket to an early grave. My employers don’t take kindly to police interactions. I slowly resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to live with the consequences of this job for the rest of my life… I’m a coward, I know. Anyways, the next few days passed by slowly. I was… Not in a good place mentally and I’m sure you remember how much alcohol my cabinets were stocked with. I blacked out more than once only to wake up gasping for breath from drinking too much. It was honestly a miracle that I didn’t kill myself through alcohol poisoning. But I… Managed to come to terms with everything. Don’t get me wrong, I still had nightmares where I was the guy hiding in that girls closet… But I wasn’t drinking my problems away anymore, although I think that was more because of the fact that I’d run out of liquor than any meaningful character development. It was about a week later that I was able to get my first night of actual sleep. I didn’t dream about anything either so that was a plus. I know it probably sounds bad, but I was starting to feel normal again… Like I could maybe find a way to just be myself… Either way, even after all that I still wanted to keep my job. I just added a new rule: no organs. From there I fell back into more or less my old routine. I went to eat out almost every day though, I thought any excuse that got me cleaned up and out of my place was worth taking… And then, I began to feel it again. That skin-crawling sensation of eyes on me from somewhere that I felt the day I met Mr. Hide&Seek. I didn’t think much of it at first, I only felt the eyes when I was surrounded by other people so of course one or two would be looking my way right? I thought I was just guilty and paranoid. But no matter what I did, I would always feel like I was being watched whenever other people were around. So I started driving more and more and eating out less and less. Not driving anywhere in particular, just driving… I felt safe on the open road, I couldn’t feel any eyes on me… For about a week. It started small. A shiver down my spine here and there. A sharp sensation that made my eyes snap to one car or another. Then it came more frequently, and I began to get more and more paranoid as the feeling became stronger and stronger. I started driving less and less, and whenever I did, I kept my eyes on the cars around me. Trying desperately to find where that feeling was coming from. To find who was watching me… Trying to catch a glimpse of his face in a passing car. I even thought I did see him a few times… Except that was just paranoia… I hope. Eventually, I stopped driving unless I had to. I shut myself in my apartment, only going out to get groceries and always, always making sure that I didn’t feel anyone watching me before I parked. But that feeling would always find me whenever I went out. This went on for about a month. I started to drink again, I didn’t go out to eat or drive anymore. I paid someone to deliver my groceries to the garage of my building. All I did was eat, sleep, drink, and watch movies or play games… I’d be living the dream, if I didn’t think a serial killer was stalking me. Part of me believed that I was just being paranoid and to be honest I desperately wanted to believe that part of me… But not enough to stake my life on it. And after another week of living like a shut-in the feeling of being watched started to re-surface. Like before it started off small. I felt a ping of eyes on me and from then on I kept the blinds securely closed. Even then, the feeling persisted for days, gradually gathering in strength. So I emptied out all of my closets and cabinets daily… Eventually I just left all of the doors open and everything on the floor so that I could look in to any hiding spot in an instant… But that feeling still persisted. I stopped drinking because I was terrified of being attacked. I started sleeping less and less and when I had to sleep, I slept inside of my closet and barred the doors shut from the inside. I ate and drank only when I felt hungry and always with my back to a corner of the room or locked in my closet… But I could still feel eyes on me, feel His eyes on me the same way I had back at the park. It was about a month later when I finally discovered my haven. The one place left that I didn’t feel watched. The stairwell of my building. I found that whenever I went down and back up the stars to get my groceries – as I’d long since stopped using the elevator – that I would have a brief respite from the feeling of being watched. I started to spend all of my waking hours there, sat on one of the stairs without a care in the world. I only left them to eat and sleep and whenever I entered the building proper I would feel eyes on me almost immediately. But having those stairs to return to made my life almost bearable. It had been a long time since I had anywhere I felt safe, and like every place before it I kept waiting form the feeling of being watched to follow me into the stairwell… But it never did. For another month, I fell into a somewhat bearable rhythm. I’d wake up in my closet feeling watched, I’d eat in the corner of my kitchen feeling watched, and then I’d scurry off to the stairwell where I could blessedly feel alone – Especially near the top floors where the stairs were seldom used. But all good things must come to an end and all that, and while I never did feel watched in the stairs, I did run out of money. Apartments and cars don’t pay for themselves after all, and while I managed a few months on the blood money from my last job it was finally time to get back to work. In the months since I last logged on to the site, things had calmed down significantly and there were now plenty of jobs that didn’t break any of my rules… So I decided to go with a route that I’d done before a couple of times. A gun run. The seller always treated me to a drink or two at his bar and was also always well armed so I felt that it would be a nice and easy job that I could feel safe doing. After confirming the job I closed my laptop, pulled on a fresh set of clothing, and headed out the door. I wanted to get this over and done with, and thankfully the feeling of being watched was rather light that day. I do admit, however, that I lingered in the stairwell for a bit before heading out. I wanted a bit of time alone before being out in the open for the first time in months. Anyways, I hopped in my car after about thirty minutes of blessed stairwell time and headed to the bar. After about two hours of paranoid and twisting driving I managed to make it just on time and pulled my car into the alleyway behind the bar. The owner greeted me with a smile as I got out of my car, “T, long time no see!” he said, his smile fading as I walked up and he got a better look at me. “Holy shit man, are you feeling okay?” he asked, genuine worry in the eyes of the large man. “No… I’m pretty far from okay…” I said with an exhausted sigh. I could still feel the faintest hint of eyes on me even now, though I know that the owner wouldn’t let me be jumped at his bar. “It’s a long story,” I offered, realizing for the first time that it might be nice to actually tell someone what happened. “Is that so.” he said with a hint of a smile and a shake of his head. “Well, hows about we get you a drink while the boys get ready to load up your car.” He offered in return, making me smile. “There’s always plenty of time for stories at my bar.” He said proudly. “I’d like that…” I said with another exhausted sigh, managing to keep the smile up as he put an arm around me and lead me in the back door of the bar. “Oh, by the way, how did you hold up during the bitcoin crash? I heard it hit a couple of transporters pretty hard.” he said, making me chuckle as we made our way through the kitchen. “Funny you should mention that,” I said, making him raise an eyebrow, “because that’s how my long story star—” I began, only to stop short when I looked at the bar. HE was siting there, sipping on a beer without a care in the world. He noticed me out of the corner of his eye and that same sickeningly sweet smile crept onto his face as his eyes met mine. I froze. There was no way that this was a coincidence. There was no way that he just happened to be at this bar at this time. I was broken from my trance by the bar owner waving his hand in front of my face and saying my name, “Hello? T, you alright?” I quickly ducked back into the kitchen and started to hyperventilate. How did he know? How could he possibly have known that I would be here? Did he follow me? “Did who follow you?” The owner’s voice brought me back to reality once again as I realized I’d been thinking out loud. His face was concerned, bordering on scared. “How long has that guy been at the bar?” I asked, hoping that the owner knew who I was talking about. “If you mean tall, thin, and creepy then about an hour… What is going on T?” He asked, as I slumped against the wall. I started crying. I broke down and burst back into the bar only to see that Mr. Hide&Seek he was already gone. “I… I need to go. I need to get home!” I said, pushing past the owner and running to my car. He called after me, trying to get me to stay and explain what the hell was happening but I wasn’t listening. For all I know, Mr. Hide&Seek could be breaking in to my apartment already. I drove straight home and threw open the door to my apartment. It had still been locked, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I grabbed a knife from the kitchen and checked everywhere. But he wasn’t there. Then, my phone rang and scared the living hell out of me. I checked the number and gulped when I saw that it was blocked. I considered not answering but in the end I picked up the call. “H-Hello?” I asked tentatively. “T… What the hell happened at the bar?” a modulated voice rang through the speaker in my ear, making me wince. It was one of the site admins for sure. I was silent for a moment before telling the admin everything. I couldn’t see the man, but I could feel a sudden change when I mentioned seeing Mr. Hide&Seek at the bar. “T,” the admin began, a serious edge to his voice. “I need you to log in to the site… _Now_” he said, and something in me told me to listen. I booted up my laptop and hopped on to the site. As soon as I logged in a dialog appeared that I’d never seen before. ‘ADMIN would like to take control of this computer. Do you consent to this?’ With two buttons. One for yes. One for no. I clicked yes and watched as my cursor began to move on it’s own. “Thank you T. This will only take a moment…” the admin said, a practiced calm in his voice as he downloaded several files and began to do… Something on my laptop. A minute later a dialog box popped up that said, ‘Threat detected!’ and the admin sighed and his voice sharpened as he spoke. “T… You’ve been compromised. You’ve had a nasty piece of spyware installed on your machine, for about a month by the looks of things. It’s been recording your keystrokes and giving someone remote access to your camera…” the admin explained, making me gulp as I realized that all of my information was insecure. “B-but, there’s no way! I haven’t download anything!” I said, making the admin mutter something as a bout of typing could be heard coming through the phone. The admin’s voice was cold and calculated when he spoke next. “No… No you didn’t…” he said, making me gulp. “This software was installed via _USB_…” the admin said, making my heart nearly stop. Hide&Seek had been in my home! He had been here without me noticing and put that program on my laptop. Even after all of my paranoia, he still found his way into my room without me knowing. “I’m going to delete the program,” the admin said, and a few keystrokes later, “done… What the—” As the admin deleted the program, thousands of windows began popping up on the screen of my laptop. All of them saying the same thing… ‘olly olly oxen free’ After that, I threw my laptop in the trash and got a new one as well as a new phone, sim card and all. I was taking no chances. I got all new accounts for everything and the admin told me he revoked Mr. Hide&Seek’s membership personally. But I’m going to disappear all the same, I have a plane ticket to somewhere and my bags are already packed. Don’t look for me, and if you ever start to feel like you’re being watched… It’s because you are.
A better anti-reorg algorithm using first-seen times to punish secret/dishonest mining
Bitcoin currently allows a malicious miner with at least 51% of the network hashrate to arbitrarily rewrite blockchain history. This means that transactions are reversible if they belong to a miner with a hashrate majority, and such transactions are subject to double-spend attempts. Bitcoin SV's miners have repeatedly threatened to perform this attack against exchanges using BCH by mining a secret, hidden chain which they only publish after they have withdrawn funds in a different currency from the exchange. It would be nice if we could prevent these secret mining re-org attacks. Yesterday, I came up with a new algorithm for making secret re-org attacks very expensive and difficult to pull off. This new algorithm is designed to avoid the permanent chainsplit vulnerabilities of ABC 0.18.5 while being more effective at punishing malicious behavior. The key to the new algorithm is to punish exactly the behavior that indicates malice. First, publishing a block after another block at the same height has arrived on the network suggests malice or poor performance, and the likelihood of malice increases as the delay increases. A good algorithm would penalize blocks in proportion to how much later they were published after the competing block. Second, building upon a block that was intentionally delayed is also a sign of malice. Therefore, a good algorithm would discount the work done by blocks based not only on their own delays, but the delays that were seen earlier in that chain as well. Since the actions at the start of the fork are more culpable (as they generate the split), we want to weight those blocks more heavily than later blocks. I wrote up an algorithm that implements these features. When comparing two chains, you look at the PoW done since the fork block, and divide that PoW by a penalty score. The penalty score for each chain is calculated as the sum of the penalty scores for each block. Each block's penalty score is equal to the apparent time delay of that block relative to its sibling or cousin, divided by 120 seconds, and further divided by the square of that block's height from the fork. This algorithm has some desirable properties:
It provides smooth performance. There are no corners or sharp changes in its incentive structure or penalty curve.
It converges over very long time scales. Eventually, if one chain has more hashrate than the other and that is sustained indefinitely, the chain with the most hashrate will win by causing the chain penalty score for the slower (less-PoW) chain to grow.
The long-term convergence means that variation in observed times early in the fork will not cause permanent chainsplits.
Long-term convergence means that nodes can follow the standard most-PoW rule during initial block download and get the same results unless an attack is underway, in which case the node will only temporarily disagree.
Over intermediate time scales (e.g. hours to weeks), the penalty given to secret-mining deep-reorg chains is very large and difficult to overcome even with a significant hashrate advantage. The penalty increases the longer the attack chain is kept secret. This makes attack attempts ineffective unless they are published within about 20 minutes of the attack starting.
Single-block orphan race behavior is identical to existing behavior unless one of the blocks has a delay of at least 120 seconds, in which case that chain would require a total of 3 blocks to win (or more) instead of just 2.
As the algorithm strongly punishes hidden chains, finalization becomes much safer as long as you prevent finalization from happening while there are known competitive alternate chains. However, this algorithm is still effective without finalization.
I wrote up this algorithm into a Python sim yesterday and have been playing around with it since. It seems to perform quite well. For example, if the attacker has 1.5x as much hashrate as the defenders (who had 100% of the hashrate before the fork), mine in secret for 20 minutes before publishing, and if finalization is enabled after 10 blocks when there's at least a 2x score advantage, then the attacker gets an orphan rate of 49.3% on their blocks and is only able to cause a >= 10 block reorg in 5.2% of cases, and none of those happen blindly, as the opposing chain shows up when most transactions have about 2 confirmations. If the attacker waits 1 hour before publishing, the attack is even less effective: 94% of their blocks are orphaned, 95.6% of their attempts fail, 94.3% of the attacks end with defenders successfully finalizing, and only 0.6% of attack attempts result in a >= 10 block reorg. The code for my algorithm and simulator can be found on my antiReorgSim Github repository. If you guys have time, I'd appreciate some review and feedback. To run it:
git clone https://github.com/jtoomim/antiReorgSim.git cd antiReorgSim python reorgsim.py # use pypy if you have it, as it's 30x faster
Thanks! Special thanks to Jonald Fyookball and Mark Lundeberg for reviewing early versions of the code and the ideas. I believe Jonald is working on a Medium post based on some of these concepts. Keep an eye out for it. Edit: I'm working on an interactive HTML visualization using Dash/Python! Here's a screenshot from a preliminary version in which convergence (or attacker victory, if you prefer) happens after 88.4 hours. In this scenario, the attacker wins because of the rule in Note 5. Edit 2: An alpha website version of the simulator is up! The code is all server-side for the simulation, so it might get overloaded if too many people hit it at the same time, but it might be fine. Feel free to play around with it! Note 1: This time delay is calculated by finding the best competing chain's last block with less work than this one and the first block with more work than this one and interpolating the time-first-seen between the two. The time at which the block was fully downloaded and verified is used as time-first-seen, not the time at which the header was received nor the block header's timestamp. Note 2: An empirical constant, intended to be similar to worst-case block propagation times. Note 3: A semi-empirical constant; this balances the effect of early blocks against late blocks. The motivation for squaring is that late blocks gain an advantage for two multiplicative reasons: First, there are more late blocks than early blocks. Second, the time deltas for late blocks are larger. Both of these factors are linear versus time, so canceling them out can be done by dividing by height squared. This way, the first block has about as much weight as the next 4 blocks; the first two blocks have as much weight as the next 9 blocks; and the first (n) blocks have about as much weight as the next (n+1)2 blocks. Any early advantage can be overcome eventually by a hashrate majority, so over very long time scales (e.g. hours to weeks), this rule is equivalent to the simple Satoshi most-PoW rule, as long as the hashrate on each chain is constant. However, over intermediate time scales, the advantage to the first seen blocks is large enough that the hashrate will likely not remain constant, and hashrate will likely switch over to whichever chain has the best score and looks the most honest. Note 4: The calculation doesn't actually use height, as that would be vulnerable to DAA manipulation. Instead, the calculation uses pseudoheight, which uses the PoW done and the fork block's difficulty to calculate what the height would be if all blocks had the fork block's difficulty. Note 5: If one chain has less PoW than the other, the shorter chain's penalty is calculated as if enough blocks had been mined at the last minute to make them equal in PoW, but these fictional blocks do not contribute to the actual PoW of that chain.
You've probably been hearing a lot about Bitcoin recently and are wondering what's the big deal? Most of your questions should be answered by the resources below but if you have additional questions feel free to ask them in the comments. Some great introductions for new users are My first bitcoin, Bitcoin explained and ELI5 Bitcoin. Also, the following videos are a good starting point for understanding how bitcoin works and a little about its long term potential:
Limited Supply - There will only ever be 21,000,000 bitcoins created and they are issued in a predictable fashion, you can view the inflation schedule here. Once they are all issued Bitcoin will be truly deflationary. The halving countdown can be found here.
Open source - Bitcoin code is fully auditable. You can read the source code yourself here.
Accountable - The public ledger is transparent, all transactions are seen by everyone.
Decentralized - Bitcoin is globally distributed across thousands of nodes with no single point of failure and as such can't be shut down similar to how Bittorrent works.
Censorship resistant - No one can prevent you from interacting with the bitcoin network and no one can censor, alter or block transactions that they disagree with, see Operation Chokepoint.
Push system - There are no chargebacks in bitcoin because only the person who owns the address where the bitcoins reside has the authority to move them.
Low fee scaling - On chain transaction fees depend on network demand and how much priority you wish to assign to the transaction. Most wallets calculate on chain fees automatically but you can view current fees here. On chain fees have risen recently due to network demand however instant micropayments are on the way via the Lightning Network, a second layer scaling solution currently rolling out on the Bitcoin mainnet. You can even run a node on a Raspberry Pi :)
Borderless - No country can stop it from going in/out, even in areas currently unserved by traditional banking as the ledger is globally distributed.
Here is a listing of local ATMs. If you would like your paycheck automatically converted to bitcoin use Bitwage. Note: Bitcoins are valued at whatever market price people are willing to pay for them in balancing act of supply vs demand. Unlike traditional markets, bitcoin markets operate 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Preev is a useful site that that shows how much various denominations of bitcoin are worth in different currencies. Alternatively you can just Google "1 bitcoin in (your local currency)".
Securing your bitcoins
With bitcoin you can "Be your own bank" and personally secure your bitcoins OR you can use third party companies aka "Bitcoin banks" which will hold the bitcoins for you.
If you prefer to "Be your own bank" and have direct control over your coins without having to use a trusted third party, there are many software wallet options here. If you want easy and secure storage without having to learn computer security best practices, then a hardware wallet such as the Trezor or Ledger is recommended. A more advanced option is to secure them yourself using paper wallets generated offline. Some popular mobile and desktop wallet options are listed below and most are cross platform.
Another interesting use case for physical storage/transfer is the Opendime. Opendime is a small USB stick that allows you to spend Bitcoin by physically passing it along so it's anonymous and tangible like cash.
If you prefer to let third party "Bitcoin banks" manage your coins, try Gemini but be aware you may not be in control of your private keys in which case you would have to ask permission to access your funds and be exposed to third party risk.
Note: For increased security, use Two Factor Authentication (2FA) everywhere it is offered, including email! 2FA requires a second confirmation code to access your account, usually from a text message or app, making it much harder for thieves to gain access. Google Authenticator and Authy are the two most popular 2FA services, download links are below. Make sure you create backups of your 2FA codes.
Mining bitcoins can be a fun learning experience, but be aware that you will most likely operate at a loss. Newcomers are often advised to stay away from mining unless they are only interested in it as a hobby similar to folding at home. If you want to learn more about mining you can read more here. Still have mining questions? The crew at /BitcoinMining would be happy to help you out. If you want to contribute to the bitcoin network by hosting the blockchain and propagating transactions you can run a full node using this setup guide. Bitseed is an easy option for getting set up. You can view the global node distribution here.
Just like any other form of money, you can also earn bitcoins by being paid to do a job.
You can also earn bitcoins by participating as a market maker on JoinMarket by allowing users to perform CoinJoin transactions with your bitcoins for a small fee (requires you to already have some bitcoins)
The following is a short list of ongoing projects that might be worth taking a look at if you are interested in current development in the bitcoin space.
One Bitcoin is quite large (hundreds of £/$/€) so people often deal in smaller units. The most common subunits are listed below:
1,000 per bitcoin
SI unit for milli i.e. millilitre (mL) or millimetre (mm)
1,000,000 per bitcoin
SI unit for micro i.e microlitre (μL) or micrometre (μm)
1,000,000 per bitcoin
Colloquial "slang" term for microbitcoin
100,000,000 per bitcoin
Smallest unit in bitcoin, named after the inventor
For example, assuming an arbitrary exchange rate of $10000 for one Bitcoin, a $10 meal would equal:
For more information check out the Bitcoin units wiki. Still have questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below or stick around for our weekly Mentor Monday thread. If you decide to post a question in /Bitcoin, please use the search bar to see if it has been answered before, and remember to follow the community rules outlined on the sidebar to receive a better response. The mods are busy helping manage our community so please do not message them unless you notice problems with the functionality of the subreddit. A complete list of bitcoin related subreddits can be found here Note: This is a community created FAQ. If you notice anything missing from the FAQ or that requires clarification you can edit it here and it will be included in the next revision pending approval. Welcome to the Bitcoin community and the new decentralized economy!
I tried to mine some Bitcoins and I think I might have unglued the fabric of the universe.
A little help? I’m a research assistant working at a science facility in China. We’ve got one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world. We had to power it down a few months back to do some upgrades, and we’ve got a skeleton crew until it’s all done. Last night, my friend Chen and I were the only ones on the overnight shift. The majority of the hardware was up and running and we were supposed to be stress testing the nodes. We had software we were required to run, but I had the bright idea to mine Bitcoins to test it instead. God knows those calculations can stress your hardware. It didn’t take much convincing to get Chen on board with the idea. If we could make a little extra money on the side from our endeavor, it was that much better. Besides, we could run the regular software after. Chen downloaded the blockchain, installed everything, and we started processing. Lo and behold, BTC fractions started rolling in. It was way faster than either of us had expected. After an hour, we’d made a couple hundred USD. This supercomputer is something else. Adiabatic quantum emulation, baby. Not quite full QC, but close enough where it matters. When the upgrades go public, you’ll know what I’m talking about. All that said...I think we fucked something up. We were well on our way to our first thousand USD when Chen noticed one of the temperature gauges on a series of node clusters had reached a critical level. Now, each node is set to shut down automatically if anything is running in a manner that might damage the hardware. When stress testing, it’s expected that temperatures will get high enough to cause warnings. The weird thing was, the warning wasn’t because the temperature was too high. It was too low. We both looked at the screen with a good deal of confusion. All the nodes were pegging near their maximum temperatures except a cluster in the very rear corner of the football-field-sized room. “Are those nodes on?” I asked Chen. He nodded. “Yeah, they’re doing just as much work as all the other ones. They should be hot.” “Maybe the gauges are fucked?” “Maybe. I’ll go take a look.” Chen grabbed a walkie-talkie and started the long walk from the office to the far-end of the supercomputer room. I watched the screen readouts with interest. The temperature in that area kept dropping. Another few degrees and the nodes would power down. “It’s fuckin freezing in here,” Chen complained over the walkie-talkie. “You worked in a datacenter for six years, retard,” I replied. “You know it’s supposed to be cold.” “I know, dick. But this is different. Like I think something’s really wrong. There’s frost on the floor.” I took another look at the readouts. Despite the supercomputer operating at 99.997% capacity, all the temperature gauges had started to drop. A flash of red showed up on screen. The first nodes to be affected by the cold had shut down. “Keung, you need to come in here,” Chen said. “Why, what’s up?” “Just come see. And shut down the mining for a minute.” Chen paused. “And bring your jacket.” I gazed lustfully at the BTC readout. $2443 already. I sighed and hit pause. I went to grab my jacket and decided against it. I wanted to call Chen a pussy for being cold. After three steps into the supercomputer room, I realized Chen was not a pussy. Or that we both were pussies. Either way, it was fucking freezing in there. “Holy shit!” Chen yelled. I broke into a jog and met him on the far end of the cavernous room. “What?” I asked. I shivered and balled my fists under my armpits. Chen pointed. I followed his finger with my eyes and squinted to see better in the dimness. It took a second, but then I saw it. Hugging the wall around the corner from a server rack was...well...a hole. “What the fuck?” I muttered. I took a step closer. The cold was borderline unbearable. It was definitely coming from the bizarre opening. Frigid wind washed over us and forced us to step back. On the other side of the hole, there was gray, stony ground and pitch black sky dotted with stars. “What did we just do?” Chen asked. “Did we cause this to happen?” I replied. “Like what the fuck is going on?” The hole was closing. I think Chen was about to respond, but before he could, some...thing... emerged from the hole. We both shrieked and leapt back. Chen fell into the back of one of the racks and I heard a piece of equipment snap. I didn’t care about that. My eyes were trained on whatever had just come out. It was dull red and shaped like, oh hell, I don’t know, a mix between a pineapple and a crocodile with eye stalks all over its back. Chen and I, our breaths held, tried to back away to avoid its attention. The creature’s eye stalks waved around in the air, as if trying to figure out what had happened. Behind it, the hole closed. I grabbed the back of Chen’s shirt and pulled him to his feet. The thing’s stalks fixated on us. We stopped moving. It took a few steps in our direction on its six, pointy legs. Then it leapt forward. Onto Chen. Chen made a sound I’d only previously associated with cats fighting for their lives. He grasped the dog-sized thing and pushed it away. It crashed into a rack of machines. I pulled Chen away and we ran as fast as we could back to the control room. Despite my terror-induced tunnel vision, I didn’t fail to notice another hole in supercomputer room. This time in the ceiling. And another one of those things was coming out of it. Once we were out, we had no idea what to do. Chen wanted to call the head of the supercomputing project but I talked him out of it. That guy had connections to the Party and, technically, the whole project is a government-run operation. We’d be fucked beyond fucked. I helped bandage Chen’s wounds. Every so often, we’d catch a glimpse of one of the creatures in the monitors overlooking the supercomputer room. After a discussion, Chen and I left without telling anyone what we'd done. We didn’t go home because we knew people would be looking for us as soon as they discovered what had happened. We got in his car and drove for hours. Now we’re sitting in an internet cafe. The scratches on his hands and arms aren’t closing up. They’re getting puffy and itchy. He just told me he thinks he felt something move under his skin. Our phones wouldn’t stop ringing before I pulled out the SIMs and flushed them. Now we’re stuck here and we don’t know what to do. To say I’m concerned is a bit of an understatement. I’d really love some advice.
I can't call myself a victim if I know what I took.
"Mom," I said, "Do you really think I can follow my dreams?" I was sitting on a chair on our apartment balcony while I looked up as the clouds passed over another layer of dotted clouds which felt like sand on the shore in the sky. My mother, who looked more tired than she tried to hide, got herself to smile enough when she said, "Honey, if you ever get to do something you really like, something that makes you happy, then that can be both of our dream." She then held my shoulders as I turned around to kiss her cheek. "I love you mom." I said as I gave her a great big hug. Her voice cracking, all she could manage was, "my sweet girl. Promise me that you will come right back here and tell me when you reach that dream. Can you promise me that?" "I promise... H-hey mom." "What is it Haley?" "Think I can help you back into your chair?" "Oh don't you worry about that honey, I'll be fine." She chided as she shook her hands onto her wheelchair as she gently blocked me with her trembling hands, telling me to back away and let her do this. She trembled as she got into her seat and looked at me with confusion. The caretaker came and asked if everything was alright. I told her things were fine and she recommended it was around the time to leave. So I got my coat, took my purse, and kissed my mom goodbye for the day. It was difficult to convince her step by step that she needed assisted living conditions. Needed a caretaker. She even got real upset with me when it was my idea to install a "Life Alert" system in her home. She was losing her hearing but the hearing aid was doing half its job. Her vision on the other hand, had a bad scar in one eye as she loses her vision I try and try to convince her to get some eye surgery. She tells me "when she is ready for it" every time I ask but seriously, who is ever ready for surgery? As I walked out the door I guess no matter how many times I hear it before, and no matter how many times I prepare for it, it always hurts. For lack of a better word, her eyes "change." Suddenly she looks around her surroundings as if the walls had expanded. "Who was that?" She asked her caretaker. "Your daughter." The caretaker said. "No. Haley's my little girl. She's still in the 2nd grade." I couldn't stand it. I opened the door again. "Mom, I grew up." I said. The caretaker looked startled, as if to warn me to stop but she was too late. I didn't care. I love my mother and I want to be by her side. Because she first loved me and I know that beautiful lesson from this teacher. I know it's real, and because of her I still feel it, no matter what happens to me that makes me despise it. It's there. Even when she forgets. "No you didn't. Who ARE you, young lady? Where's Haley? Somebody HELP!" "Mom, it's me." I said as I pressed my face against hers. She resists as usual and is about to push me away when I tell her. "Mommy, you forget this all the time. I grew up." She stops resisting for a moment to wonder if what I'm saying is true. I know that she has to process this all over again. She reaches for my face and her thumb makes tiny circles around my cheek. ".....Is it? Is it really you, Haley? My little Haley?" "Yes mom. It's me, Haley. I'm not going anywhere." I said with tears in my eyes. We held each other for a while and then I decided a few more hours just gently sitting wouldn't be so bad. When it's really time for me to leave, she sits in the chair watching me leave, smiling. That's how I want to leave the room from now on. A lot has changed since I assigned a caretaker. People tell me that maybe I should send her to a home. However, she really wants to keep one last piece of her independence, and my heart burns with power when I think of her strength. I lie to friends and family that I read up on it but I actually have very little knowledge of how retrograde amnesia works. By lying that I know more, in a sense, I guess it's my stupid way of letting people know that I can emotionally deal with it and that I am allowed to be there for my mother without hurting when it does. As though false knowledge gives me the right. My mother doesn't even know her symptoms but she fights on like a delirious knight, swinging blades in the darkness and jumping into the danger. She is, and always has been, my hero. I'm no hero. I didn't make much money. I was a waitress when I was told I was going to be laid off. I visited Mom to comfort her. At least that's what I told myself. I knew that I was really trying to comfort myself, really. Even though I know she wouldn't, I wanted Mom to sit with me and help me sort life's problems with short hugs and warm smiles along the way. I wanted that reassurance you can only get from a mom who loves you. I hosted a makeup show on YouTube. I would just connect a camera to my laptop while I applied eyeliner and nail polish and somehow I garnered a following. To try and stretch my limits, I ended up played some puzzle games and dating sims. People thought I was cute. A good kind of cute. They liked me when I would joke around or mess up on a game. I guess I liked myself more back then as was a fan of along with them. It was around 2010 when people told me in comments that I could make money through something called "ad sense". At the time all I knew was it was some kind of partnership program so when I figured it out I knew I had to join up. At first, I thought the comments were trolling me, but I saw other YouTube users doing it and before I knew it, I was signed up and actually going to be making money. I was connected with it through the help of some of my friends. I was at a party when Tiff, my glamorous friend who always flaunts herself around and is way too forward with everyone around her, especially me. Tiff is the girl who usually never notices signs that I am uncomfortable, or that I did not want this to happen. Then there is Chris. Chris is that awkward little neighbor I used to have and after he moved away we remained close. We still went to the same schools and kept in touch over the years. He was at the party, because he knew how I can go through Google ad sense since he claimed to know one of the Google ad execs so I can make more than a usual creator. They set up my account and got me in through my PayPal account using my credit card and my social security number. I admit in retrospect I could have planned it out better but they told me to keep things simple. Then I told them to create a GoFundMe page for my mother's upcoming surgery expenses. I owe her that much. At the party, Tiff introduced me to some of her roommates' friends who were really loud and wild girls while in the back of the dance floor (kitchen) was Chris, adjusting the volume on the iPod speakers to low. He stood neatly in a suit and tie, and I thought I overdressed. Chris took me upstairs to a computer, and he shut the door and there was someone already on the keyboard, typing quickly as he dictated and asked me exactly what kind of show I put on YouTube. I told him I do makeup and games. He put me in the system, I "signed" documents online and before I knew it I officially had a job. Online. How cool was that!!? Chris thanked me for being patient as he had a dial-up modem and the process took a LOT longer than it needed to be. I was alright and he invited me to go downstairs and have some fun while he and his buddy do a bunch of boring legal stuff for me online. Tiff immediately grabbed me and shoved me in front of this hunky guy who made me get into a cold sweat. I quickly checked my hair and hoped what I was wearing was nice enough. He was a European friend of her roommate who came over to the states to see some cute American girls. He was Kris, who was much cuter than Chris. Kris Dieb. Even his name was incredible. He was full of grace, charm, and wit. The caliber that he held was so high. He just finished talking and shouting back at Chris when I approached him. He gave me one glance-over, and then gave his verdict. "Chris here, tells me that you are cute...." I trembled where I stood. "However I do not think that you are cute." He put his hand on my chin and told me. "I think that you are beautiful." My heart flutter-fainted as I swooned over him cartoonishly. I just melted into a puddle and he danced with me into the night. It was like a fairytale. They even played "You Belong With Me'" by Taylor Swift on the speakers. He was the prince and I was the princess. I will say yes... I was blushing a storm while Tiff excitedly begged me for details as she pulled me from him for a chance with him herself. I figured this was a good a time as any to actually go back home. Before I do that, however, I realize that I just had a major breakthrough. Not the guy. The YouTube Partnership Program. I had a job! Online! And all I have to do is what I like doing all the time, and I get PAID for it? Oh my god, my mind was ready to blow. I have a job now. A real job. Immediately, I knew there was someone else who had to know. She was sitting in her bed watching television when she looked my way. "You're not the caretaker," she grumbled. As she got into her wheelchair, she pushed herself towards me with a look of suspicion and bewilderment. "What is your name, young lady?" "It's Haley." She looked startled upon hearing the name. I was worried she was going to have another freak out and then I would be pushed away from her. I was scared, but the face I gave her was a straight one. Then she looked at me with a much softer expression. She was lowering her defenses and that was always a good sign. She started a small smile. "You know, I have a daughter named Haley. She's still in the 2nd grade. Sweetest little thing, too. Do you want me to show you her picture? I think I have it around here somewhere. Hold on, let me get it." I stood patiently waiting with my hands behind my back against the wall and bouncing on my heels like a cartoon. I was tempted to whistle. "So Haley, what do you do?" "I make money on YouTube now, mom." Oops. I slipped my tongue. She is my mother and I am used to talking with her like that. It's almost as if she is playing a part for a theater sketch and she only has to pretend she doesn't know me to dive deeper into her character. That's what I tell myself. Really, she is at the ocean's floor, as deep as she can go. It is so hard to follow her down. "Calling me mom are we? You are a strange woman to come and visit a lady all cooped up here and call me 'mom'. Is your mother missing?" "She always is..." I said quietly. "That's too bad. Shame on her, leaving a nice young lady out to fend for yourself. I guess your'e just one of those people with abandonment issues or what do you call it?.... " She trailed off in her thoughts and didn't come back. She was still searching her drawer though a pile of messy photographs. "Here we are. Haley.... meet Haley." Mom said proudly as she held up one of the pictures. The small freckled girl in the photograph was holding a baseball bat in front of a chain-link fence along a large shady weeping willow in the middle of the park. The girl was smiling and had missing teeth. Her shirt was stained in flecks you can barely see but I was only looking for the mustard from the nachos her Dad got her before her big game. I still miss Dad, but he left us a long time ago... As I looked into the little girl's eyes tears began to form in my own as I wish I could tell her that something very bad was about to happen. If I could somehow tell her. I wanted to warn her. I wanted to encourage her. I wanted to say so many things that I was going to have a mental breakdown if I continued thinking about them all. About that little girl. So instead, I hit reset and played pretend with her. "She's a beautiful little girl." "Isn't she? Makes me proud to see her do so many things. You know, I bet your mother loves you too." "I know she does." "That's very good to hear. When was the last time you spoke with her?" "That's a very personal question. I think I'd better leave." I was about to make my way towards the door. I meant it. "How about you tell me what you would want to say to your mother, you know, if she were here." If she were here? Does she even knew what she was saying? "If she were here..... I'd tell her that I did it. I want to tell her, 'Mom, I did it. I'm doing what I wanted to. That I'm going for my dreams.'" She looked at me and said, "That's strange.... I'm not sure.... but I think it was a dream where I wanted someone special to me, someone close, to have the same thing....." I smiled at her. "Funny isn't it?" "Well, I suppose as long as you are doing what you want to do, I'm sure your mother is very proud of you." Then she sat up and she turned her head to look at me and gave a knowing grin. "You can call me 'mom' if you want to. It's fine." "Okay. I gotta go. Take care, mom." "Bye honey. Oh honey, you forgot your purse. Don't forget that." I realized that I did leave it. She handed it to me as I clumsily made my way back outside. "Bye, mom." "Bye Haley." That was as close to normal without the tearfully long reveal that "it's me" that I ever had to do. Sometimes as a stranger, I get to see another side of her. It helps me appreciate her more. I still can't believe that this wonderful, suffering woman is my mother. I got back to my apartment and began unpacking things and got out my laptop. I recorded another video and realized I can do movie reviews and that's when I saw the new messages. I guess I enabled live chat as I was streaming and there was this woman who said she was an ad executive but wanted to thank me so wanted to know more about me. She told me that I needed to join her in her sister's wedding and on a whim I sent her a private message and gave her my address. Normally, I would say never give your address but she was a girl and girls don't do anything besides I wanted to get drunk and party with some real girls. I sat alone with my fingers resting on the keyboard with my thoughts as I stared mindlessly into the glaring white of the Google's screen. There was no Google Doodle that day, which was odd since they celebrate practically anyone's birthday or landmark in the world. However, I just kept staring. For a very long time. Until I come back to reality and realize that I just overthink certain things and that I should really get on with living my life. I know that's all in my head, but I could have sensed that something on my screen began to flicker. I checked the cord and it seemed okay. I recently downloaded an update for Adobe flash player and my computer has been buggy ever since. *knock* *knock* Someone was at the door, I quickly logged off and closed my laptop. I went over to see who was there. I was greeted by the sound of Chris, who sounded worried. He asked me to log in to my Google account and he wanted to check something. I didn't know what he was doing but he clicked a lot of "Agree" buttons before logging me off. He also looked really shaken up, like somebody had just scolded him. He never looked at me that way before, like I was a vicious animal, ready to strike and at the same time like he deserves it. After that, he left. So I go online and decide to make a new video that week. In the video, I put in a clip from a movie out-of-context as a joke. I remember clicking "I own this so I can post it" and the message said, "that still does not give you the right to share copywritten material." Then I hit that I think that this is "fair use" under sections of criticism and education (and fun). It was a large file, about a 30 GB video, since the effects of the studio app I have render the video like a monster. It takes HOURS to upload the whole thing, and even more to process the video. Within 2 minutes after "your video is available at " https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hfe73Dhd" it got 3 strikes in one go. I don't know how, but multiple flags were in place and my account was removed from Google. Subsequently it was obvious the video was pulled too, so don't bother clicking the link. I even had a charity live stream and I got a message saying that all the funds have been kept by the issuer of the strikes on my channel. Again, it doesn't sound like it could work and I could be making up details but that's all I know. I don't know how it worked but it did. Not only that, but my PayPal account, my Chase account, and even my BitCoin were all gone. Nonexistent. I went to the DMV and presented my driver's license, but.... it was no longer a match. I tried to claim that maybe somebody stole my identity, but when they asked if there was anyone who could verify my identity, I went to see her again. She looked at me and the man with the notepad. "Mom, it's me. Haley." She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said, "I know you're not." She was right. There were tears in my eyes, too. Haley Petersen was killed while she studied abroad in 2014. Back then she met this charming man who we never got to know the name of. I happened to be an identity thief myself and took her place when I found her credit card in the states. When I went to visit her mother with retrograde amnesia, that did it. The perfect job. It wasn't so perfect when I saw what a good woman this was. I really wanted it to work. I really wanted her to be my mother. Because I was so stupid to investigate my own identity theft, my record immediately caught up with me and I am charged with counts of fraud and embezzlement and probably some false charges added by Google on top from my accusers. I read up on everything about Haley. Her missing father, her baseball games he used to driver her to. The pit stops and meals they shared as a family. It was all right there, in her diary. Her bedroom was my study. After reading so much about her and trying to think like her, I actually began to think I was her. I eventually felt like these mental images while I read her life stories slowly became mine. As though it were thought transference. It's not possible that we can think the same way, but given how close I come to a description of Haley it was only stranger that I can imagine what I think her way of thinking is... I think. I was caught. It was over. I called up Kris Dieb and told him the jig was up. We both had to confess. Youtube and the scam we tried to pull off with the help of my friends are no longer the concern. The very identity of the "Haley" I almost thought I was proved to me that I got in this too deep. I don't feel like a criminal. I just know I am one. I guess my feelings will never catch up with me. So as the police are investigating this and I am allowed one last post. I want to tell you. Yes, there are people who make invalid strikes on YouTube. Yes, the algorithm seems one-sided. Yes, there is censorship. Yes, smaller creators are being taken advantage of. I took one last look at my "mom." There were tears in her eyes. When she saw the police report of her real daughter's death. How my real name is [removed] and how everyone I knew in my life before I abandoned long ago. This woman, the woman I had lied to, feigning sympathy for her memory loss wasn't all fake. At one point this became real. I miss you. Mommy. You were the only real mother to me, and I was taking advantage of you. I should feel terrible. Strange fact of the matter is, I don't. I loved spending time with her. I just felt a connection that I never had with anyone before. I know what I did was wrong, and I cannot feign ignorance. Nobody is going to give me any pity. I was in the wrong. I can't call myself a victim if I know what I took.
Bitcoin doesn't require any special hardware, as it can be used on any device which can do computations. To make a Bitcoin transaction you need to create a ECDSA signature, which is just math, something which all computers do well. You can do it both on resource-constrained like smart cards (think SIM cards) and on large servers alike. The idea that you need a special Bitcoin computer to use Bitcoin is outright harmful, as it limits your choices and dupes you into buying overpriced proprietary hardware which gives the vendor more control of what you can and cannot do. This is very much against the spirit of Bitcoin which can thrive only as an open system. So yeah, that thing 21 inc is trying to sell makes no sense, whatsoever. But a lot of people think that "there might be something in it", let me go through the theories of why this device makes sense:
"It is a dev kit!". Let me guess, you aren't a programmer. Or if you're a programmer, you're a shitty programmer and should be ashamed of yourself. You do not need any dev kit for Bitcoin, all you need is open source software (and, maybe, some internet services, optionally). When I wanted to try to do something Bitcoin related back in 2011, all I needed was to download bitcoind and install it on my $10/month VPS. Then I looked through RPC API call list and made a Bitcoin-settled futures exchange. The whole thing took me only a week. I didn't need to pay $400 for a devkit. Learning how to work with bitcoind took less than a day. There are hundreds of Bitcoin companies and thousands of hobbyist working on Bitcoin projects, none of them needed any sort of a dev kit.
"It is useful because it has APIs and pre-installed software!" No, see above. If needed, pre-installed software can be delivered in a form of a virtual machine (e.g. VirtualBox, VMware, etc), no need for a physical device.
"It is useful because it comes with a micropayment service/API". Nope. These things can be done in software, no need for custom hardware. Obviously, a micropayment system can be more widely adopted when it is open. If it is tied to custom hardware (which I doubt) then you have a vendor lock-in which is exactly the thing we're trying to avoid with Bitcoin.
"it comes with pre-installed marketplace". So what, we have marketplaces such as OpenBazaar. If there are useful features in the 21 inc's marketplace we can replicated them in open source software.
"It's convenient for users!" Are you saying that a $400 device which you need to be connected to a laptop is more convenient than a service which can run in a browser?
"It might offer better security". We already have devices such as Trezor which can protect bitcoins from unsecure operating system. Trezor costs much less than $400 and is actually useful. Even though it was done by a small company without much capital.
"It can be used for applications like a reputation system, etc." When telecom companies wanted an ability to differentiate between users, they created smartcard-based SIM cards. This technology is many decades old. Using Bitcoin for a reputation system is a bad idea, as it is not designed for that. If device holds 1000 satoshi to give it an identity weight, a guy who has 1 bitcoin can impersonate 10000 such devices. It just not going to work.
"A constant stream of bitcoins it mines is convenient for users." User has to pay for this device, he might as well just buy bitcoins. If it is necessary for bitcoins to be attached to hardware, this can be done using a tiny dongle which costs less than $1 to manufacture, or a smart card.
"But this device got backed by VCs and large companies, there must be something to it, we are just too stupid to comprehend its greatness". Well...
There is, indeed, a very simple explanation of this device's existnce: Balaji's reality distortion field. He is a prominent VC, so it was relatively easy to convince others that it's a worthy idea. The big vision behind it -- the financial network of devices -- is actually great. And then there is a question of execution. A guy like Balaji is supposed to be an expert in assessing feasibility of execution. So, as we can guess, investors trusted him. As many VCs tell, they invest in people. They cannot examine nitty-gritty technical details, but just look at skills, track record, etc. So the fact that it got large investments and generates a lot of hype doesn't mean much, there was a plenty of such companies during dotcom boom. It's quite like :CueCat. As we now know, an ability to scan a printed code and open a web page which it points to is very useful, a lot of people use QR codes, they are ubiquitous. This was exactly the vision behind CueCat. But it was implemented as a dedicated hardware device, not as a smartphone app, as there were no smartphones at that time. So after a lot of hype and aggressive marketing the company failed, but just few years later their vision became realized in QR reader apps. Hardware becomes increasingly irrelevant. As Mark Andreessen, Balaji's partner, [once said], software is eating the world. Solving problems which can be solved software using custom hardware is just silly. Balaji talks about internet-of-things applications where devices mine bitcoins and use them to buy services they need to function. Well, in the end, user pays for that, as he pays for physical chips and electricity. It would be more efficient for him to pay directly than to use this mining-based scheme. And it's possible to do so using software. E.g. imagine you have a lot of smart devices which use external services in your home. It would be nice if you can just aggregate the bill and pay it off automatically, say $2/month. Why only $2? Well, if there is a device consuming $20/month, it needs some serious mining abilities, so it will cost much more than $20 in electricity bills... Maybe 21 inc will eventually pivot into purely software solutions, they have a lot of money to play with. But the current generation of devices they make just makes no sense, whatsoever, and people who try to find something useful in them just waste their time. EDIT: One plausible case for using custom hardware is a possibility of off-chain microtransactions using trusted hardware. Not unlike MintChip conceptually. But size of the device as well as its price is puzzling in this case, as this can be implemented (and was already implemented) in smart card form factor.
Console gaming is hardly different from PC gaming, and much of what people say about PC gaming to put it above console gaming is often wrong.
I’m not sure about you, but for the past few years, I’ve been hearing people go on and on about PCs "superiority" to the console market. People cite various reasons why they believe gaming on a PC is “objectively” better than console gaming, often for reasons related to power, costs, ease-of-use, and freedom. …Only problem: much of what they say is wrong. There are many misconceptions being thrown about PC gaming vs Console gaming, that I believe need to be addressed. This isn’t about “PC gamers being wrong,” or “consoles being the best,” absolutely not. I just want to cut through some of the stuff people use to put down console gaming, and show that console gaming is incredibly similar to PC gaming. I mean, yes, this is someone who mainly games on console, but I also am getting a new PC that I will game on as well, not to mention the 30 PC games I already own and play. I’m not particularly partial to one over the other. Now I will mainly be focusing on the PlayStation side of the consoles, because I know it best, but much of what I say will apply to Xbox as well. Just because I don’t point out many specific Xbox examples, doesn’t mean that they aren’t out there.
“PCs can use TVs and monitors.”
This one isn’t so much of a misconception as it is the implication of one, and overall just… confusing. This is in some articles and the pcmasterrace “why choose a PC” section, where they’re practically implying that consoles can’t do this. I mean, yes, as long as the ports of your PC match up with your screen(s) inputs, you could plug a PC into either… but you could do the same with a console, again, as long as the ports match up. I’m guessing the idea here is that gaming monitors often use Displayport, as do most dedicated GPUs, and consoles are generally restricted to HDMI… But even so, monitors often have HDMI ports. In fact, PC Magazine has just released their list of the best gaming monitors of 2017, and every single one of them has an HDMI port. A PS4 can be plugged into these just as easily as a GTX 1080. I mean, even if the monitoTV doesn’t have HDMI or AV to connect with your console, just use an adaptor. If you have a PC with ports that doesn’t match your monitoTV… use an adapter. I don’t know what the point of this argument is, but it’s made a worrying amount of times.
“On PC, you have a wide range of controller options, but on console you’re stuck with the standard controller."
Are you on PlayStation and wish you could use a specific type of controller that suits your favorite kind of gameplay? Despite what some may believe, you have just as many options as PC. Want to play fighting games with a classic arcade-style board, featuring the buttons and joystick? Here you go! Want to get serious about racing and get something more accurate and immersive than a controller? Got you covered. Absolutely crazy about flying games and, like the racers, want something better than a controller? Enjoy! Want Wii-style motion controls? Been around since the PS3. If you prefer the form factor of the Xbox One controller but you own a PS4, Hori’s got you covered. And of course, if keyboard and mouse it what keeps you on PC, there’s a PlayStation compatible solution for that. Want to use the keyboard and mouse that you already own? Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Of course, these aren’t isolated examples, there are plenty of options for each of these kind of controllers. You don’t have to be on PC to enjoy alternate controllers.
“On PC you could use Steam Link to play anywhere in your house and share games with others.”
PS4 Remote play app on PC/Mac, PSTV, and PS Vita. PS Family Sharing. Using the same PSN account on multiple PS4s/Xbox Ones and PS3s/360s, or using multiple accounts on the same console. In fact, if multiple users are on the same PS4, only one has to buy the game for both users to play it on that one PS4. On top of that, only one of them has to have PS Plus for both to play online (if the one with PS Plus registers the PS4 as their main system). PS4 Share Play; if two people on separate PS4s want to play a game together that only one of them owns, they can join a Party and the owner of the game can have their friend play with them in the game. Need I say more?
“Gaming is more expensive on console.”
Part one, the Software This is one that I find… genuinely surprising. There’s been a few times I’ve mentioned that part of the reason I chose a PS4 is for budget gaming, only to told that “games are cheaper on Steam.” To be fair, there are a few games on PSN/XBL that are more expensive than they are on Steam, so I can see how someone could believe this… but apparently they forgot about disks. Dirt Rally, a hardcore racing sim game that’s… still $60 on all 3 platforms digitally… even though its successor is out.
See my point? Often times the game is cheaper on console because of the disk alternative that’s available for practically every console-available game. Even when the game is brand new. Dirt 4 - Remember that Dirt Rally successor I mentioned?
Yes, you could either buy this relatively new game digitally for $60, or just pick up the disk for a discounted price. And again, this is for a game that came out 2 months ago, and even it’s predecessor’s digital cost is locked at $60. Of course, I’m not going to ignore the fact that Dirt 4 is currently (as of writing this) discounted on Steam, but on PSN it also happens to be discounted for about the same amount. Part 2: the Subscription Now… let’s not ignore the elephant in the room: PS Plus and Xbox Gold. Now these would be ignorable, if they weren’t required for online play (on the PlayStation side, it’s only required for PS4, but still). So yes, it’s still something that will be included in the cost of your PS4 or Xbox One/360, assuming you play online. Bummer, right? Here’s the thing, although that’s the case, although you have to factor in this $60 cost with your console, you can make it balance out, at worst, and make it work out for you as a budget gamer, at best. As nice as it would be to not have to deal with the price if you don’t want to, it’s not like it’s a problem if you use it correctly. Imagine going to a new restaurant. This restaurant has some meals that you can’t get anywhere else, and fair prices compared to competitors. Only problem: you have to pay a membership fee to have the sides. Now you can have the main course, sit down and enjoy your steak or pasta, but if you want to have a side to have a full meal, you have to pay an annual fee. Sounds shitty, right? But here’s the thing: not only does this membership allow you to have sides with your meal, but it also allows you to eat two meals for free every month, and also gives you exclusive discounts for other meals, drinks, and desserts. Let’s look at PS Plus for a minute: for $60 per year, you get:
2 free PS4 games, every month
2 free PS3 games, every month
1 PS4/PS3 and Vita compatible game, and 1 Vita-only game, every month
Exclusive/Extended discounts, especially during the weekly/seasonal sales (though you don’t need PS Plus to get sales, PS Plus members get to enjoy the best sales)
access to online multiplayer
So yes, you’re paying extra because of that membership, but what you get with that deal pays for it and then some. In fact, let’s ignore the discounts for a minute: you get 24 free PS4 games, 24 free PS3 games, and 12 Vita only + 12 Vita compatible games, up to 72freegames every year. Even if you only one of these consoles, that’s still 24 free games a year. Sure, maybe you get games for the month that you don’t like, then just wait until next month. In fact, let’s look at Just Cause 3 again. It was free for PS Plus members in August, which is a pretty big deal. Why is this significant? Because it’s, again, a $60 digital game. That means with this one download, you’ve balanced out your $60 annual fee. Meaning? Every free game after that is money saved, every discount after that is money saved. And this is a trend: every year, PS Plus will release a game that balances out the entire service cost, then another 23 more that will only add icing to that budget cake. Though, you could just count games as paying off PS Plus until you hit $60 in savings, but still. All in all, PS Plus, and Xbox Gold which offers similar options, saves you money. On top of that, again, you don't need to have these to get discounts, but with these memberships, you get more discounts. Now, I’ve seen a few Steam games go up for free for a week, but what about being free for an entire month? Not to mention that; even if you want to talk about Steam Summer Sales, what about the PSN summer sale, or again, disc sale discounts? Now a lot of research and math would be needed to see if every console gamer would save money compared to every Steam gamer for the same games, but at the very least? The costs will balance out, at worst. Part 3, the Systems
Xbox and PS2: $299
Xbox 360 and PS3: $299 and $499, respectively
Xbox One and PS4: $499 and $399, respectively.
Rounded up a few dollars, that’s $1,000 - $1,300 in day-one consoles, just to keep up with the games! Crazy right? So called budget systems, such a rip-off. Well, keep in mind that the generations here aren’t short. The 6th generation, from the launch of the PS2 to the launch of the next generation consoles, lasted 5 years, 6 years based on the launch of the PS3 (though you could say it was 9 or 14, since the Xbox wasn’t discontinued until 2009, and the PS2 was supported all the way to 2014, a year after the PS4 was released). The 7th gen lasted 7 - 8 years, again depending on whether you count the launch of the Xbox 360 to PS3. The 8th gen so far has lasted 4 years. That’s 17 years that the console money is spread over. If you had a Netflix subscription for it’s original $8 monthly plan for that amount of time, that would be over $1,600 total. And let’s be fair here, just like you could upgrade your PC hardware whenever you wanted, you didn’t have to get a console from launch. Let’s look at PlayStation again for example: In 2002, only two years after its release, the PS2 retail price was cut from $300 to $200. The PS3 Slim, released 3 years after the original, was $300, $100-$200 lower than the retail cost. The PS4? You could’ve either gotten the Uncharted bundle for $350, or one of the PS4 Slim bundles for $250. This all brings it down to $750 - $850, which again, is spread over a decade and a half. This isn’t even counting used consoles, sales, or the further price cuts that I didn’t mention. Even if that still sounds like a lot of money to you, even if you’re laughing at the thought of buying new systems every several years, because your PC “is never obsolete,” tell me: how many parts have you changed out in your PC over the years? How many GPUs have you been through? CPUs? Motherboards? RAM sticks, monitors, keyboards, mice, CPU coolers, hard drives— that adds up. You don’t need to replace your entire system to spend a lot of money on hardware. Even if you weren’t upgrading for the sake of upgrading, I’d be amazed if the hardware you’ve been pushing by gaming would last for about 1/3 of that 17 year period. Computer parts aren’t designed to last forever, and really won’t when you’re pushing them with intensive gaming for hours upon hours. Generally speaking, your components might last you 6-8 years, if you’ve got the high-end stuff. But let’s assume you bought a system 17 years ago that was a beast for it’s time, something so powerful, that even if it’s parts have degraded over time, it’s still going strong. Problem is: you will have to upgrade something eventually. Even if you’ve managed to get this far into the gaming realm with the same 17 year old hardware, I’m betting you didn’t do it with a 17 year Operating System. How much did Windows 7 cost you? Or 8.1? Or 10? Oh, and don’t think you can skirt the cost by getting a pre-built system, the cost of Windows is embedded into the cost of the machine (why else would Microsoft allow their OS to go on so many machines). Sure, Windows 10 was a free upgrade for a year, but that’s only half of it’s lifetime— You can’t get it for free now, and not for the past year. On top of that, the free period was an upgrade; you had to pay for 7 or 8 first anyway. Point is, as much as one would like to say that they didn’t need to buy a new system every so often for the sake of gaming, that doesn’t mean they haven’t been paying for hardware, and even if they’ve only been PC gaming recently, you’ll be spending money on hardware soon enough.
“PC is leading the VR—“
Let me stop you right there. If you add together the total number of Oculus Rifts and HTC Vives sold to this day, and threw in another 100,000 just for the sake of it, that number would still be under the number of PSVR headsets sold. Why could this possibly be? Well, for a simple reason: affordability. The systems needed to run the PC headsets costs $800+, and the headsets are $500 - $600, when discounted. PSVR on the other hand costs $450 for the full bundle (headset, camera, and move controllers, with a demo disc thrown in), and can be played on either a $250 - $300 console, or a $400 console, the latter recommended. Even if you want to say that the Vive and Rift are more refined, a full PSVR set, system and all, could cost just over $100 more than a Vive headset alone. If anything, PC isn’t leading the VR gaming market, the PS4 is. It’s the system bringing VR to the most consumers, showing them what the future of gaming could look like. Not to mention that as the PlayStation line grows more powerful (4.2 TFLOP PS4 Pro, 10 TFLOP “PS5…”), it won’t be long until the PlayStation line can use the same VR games as PC. Either way, this shows that there is a console equivalent to the PC VR options. Sure, there are some games you'd only be able to play on PC, but there are also some games you'd only be able to play on PSVR. …Though to be fair, if we’re talking about VR in general, these headsets don’t even hold a candle to, surprisingly, Gear VR.
“If it wasn’t for consoles holding devs back, then they would be able to make higher quality games.”
This one is based on the idea that because of how “low spec” consoles are, that when a developer has to take them in mind, then they can’t design the game to be nearly as good as it would be otherwise. I mean, have you ever seen the minimum specs for games on Steam? GTA V
Actually, bump up all the memory requirements to 8 GBs, and those are some decent specs, relatively speaking. And keep in mind these are the minimum specs to even open the games. It’s almost as if the devs didn’t worry about console specs when making a PC version of the game, because this version of the game isn’t on console. Or maybe even that the consoles aren’t holding the games back that much because they’re not that weak. Just a hypothesis. But I mean, the devs are still ooobviously having to take weak consoles into mind right? They could make their games sooo much more powerful if they were PC only, right? Right? No. Not even close. iRacing
CPU: Intel Core i3, i5, i7 or better or AMD Bulldozer or better
Memory: 8 GB RAM
GPU: NVidia GeForce 2xx series or better, 1GB+ dedicated video memory / AMD 5xxx series or better, 1GB+ dedicated video memory
These are PC only games. That’s right, no consoles to hold them back, they don’t have to worry about whether an Xbox One could handle it. Yet, they don’t require anything more than the Multiplatform games. Subnautica
So what’s the deal? Theoretically, if developers don’t have to worry about console specs, then why aren’t they going all-out and making games that no console could even dream of supporting? Low-end PCs. What, did you think people only game on Steam if they spent at least $500 on gaming hardware? Not all PC gamers have gaming-PC specs, and if devs close their games out to players who don’t have the strongest of PCs, then they’d be losing out on a pretty sizable chunk of their potential buyers. Saying “devs having to deal with consoles is holding gaming back” is like saying “racing teams having to deal with Ford is holding GT racing back.” A: racing teams don’t have to deal with Ford if they don’t want to, which is probably why many of them don’t, and B: even though Ford doesn’t make the fastest cars overall, they still manage to make cars that are awesome on their own, they don’t even need to be compared to anything else to know that they make good cars. I want to go back to that previous point though, developers having to deal with low-end PCs, because it’s integral to the next point:
“PCs are more powerful, gaming on PC provides a better experience.”
This one isn’t so much of a misconception as it is… misleading. Did you know that according to the Steam Hardware & Software Survey (July 2017) , the percentage of Steam gamers who use a GPU that's less powerful than that of a PS4Slim’s GPU is well over 50%? Things get dismal when compared to the PS4 Pro (Or Xbox One X). On top of that, the percentage of PC gamers who own a Nvidia 10 series card is about 20% (about 15% for the 1060, 1080 and 1070 owners). Now to be fair, the large majority of gamers have CPUs with considerably high clock speeds, which is the main factor in CPU gaming performance. But, the number of Steam gamers with as much RAM or more than a PS4 or Xbox One is less than 50%, which can really bottleneck what those CPUs can handle. These numbers are hardly better than they were in 2013, all things considered. Sure, a PS3/360 weeps in the face of even a $400 PC, but in this day in age, consoles have definitely caught up. Sure, we could mention the fact that even 1% of Steam accounts represents over 1 million accounts, but that doesn’t really matter compared to the 10s of millions of 8th gen consoles sold; looking at it that way, sure the number of Nvidia 10 series owners is over 20 million, but that ignores the fact that there are over 5 times more 8th gen consoles sold than that. Basically, even though PCs run on a spectrum, saying they're more powerful “on average” is actually wrong. Sure, they have the potential for being more powerful, but most of the time, people aren’t willing to pay the premium to reach those extra bits of performance. Now why is this important? What matters are the people who spent the premium cost for premium parts, right? Because of the previous point: PCs don’t have some ubiquitous quality over the consoles, developers will always have to keep low-end PCs in mind, because not even half of all PC players can afford the good stuff, and you have to look at the top quarter of Steam players before you get to PS4-Pro-level specs. If every Steam player were to get a PS4 Pro, it would be an upgrade for over 60% of them, and 70% of them would be getting an upgrade with the Xbox One X. Sure, you could still make the argument that when you pay more for PC parts, you get a better experience than you could with a console. We can argue all day about budget PCs, but a console can’t match up to a $1,000 PC build. It’s the same as paying more for car parts, in the end you get a better car. However, there is a certain problem with that…
“You pay a little more for a PC, you get much more quality.”
The idea here is that the more you pay for PC parts, the performance increases at a faster rate than the price does. Problem: that’s not how technology works. Paying twice as much doesn’t get you twice the quality the majority of the time. For example, let’s look at graphics cards, specifically the GeForce 10 series cards, starting with the GTX 1050.
1.35 GHz base clock
2 GB VRAM
This is our reference, our basis of comparison. Any percentages will be based on the 1050’s specs. Now let’s look at the GTX 1050 Ti, the 1050’s older brother.
1.29 GHz base clock
4 GB VRAM
This is pretty good. You only increase the price by about 27%, and you get an 11% increase in floating point speed and a 100% increase (double) in VRAM. Sure you get a slightly lower base clock, but the rest definitely makes up for it. In fact, according to GPU boss, the Ti managed 66 fps, or a 22% increase in frame rate for Battlefield 4, and a 54% increase in mHash/second in bitcoin mining. The cost increase is worth it, for the most part. But let’s get to the real meat of it; what happens when we double our budget? Surely we should see a massive increase performance, I bet some of you are willing to bet that twice the cost means more than twice the performance. The closest price comparison for double the cost is the GTX 1060 (3 GB), so let’s get a look at that.
1.5 GHz base clock
3 GB VRAM
Well… not substantial, I’d say. About a 50% increase in floating point speed, an 11% increase in base clock speed, and a 1GB decrease in VRAM. For [almost] doubling the price, you don’t get much. Well surely raw specs don’t tell the full story, right? Well, let’s look at some real wold comparisons. Once again, according to GPU Boss, there’s a 138% increase in hashes/second for bitcoin mining, and at 99 fps, an 83% frame rate increase in Battlefield 4. Well, then, raw specs does not tell the whole story! Here’s another one, the 1060’s big brother… or, well, slightly-more-developed twin.
1.5 GHz base clock
6 GB VRAM
Seems reasonable, another $50 for a decent jump in power and double the memory! But, as we’ve learned, we shouldn’t look at the specs for the full story. I did do a GPU Boss comparison, but for the BF4 frame rate, I had to look at Tom’s Hardware (sorry miners, GPU boss didn’t cover the mHash/sec spec either). What’s the verdict? Well, pretty good, I’d say. With 97 FPS, a 79% increase over the 1050— wait. 97? That seems too low… I mean, the 3GB version got 99. Well, let’s see what Tech Power Up has to say... 94.3 fps. 74% increase. Huh. Alright alright, maybe that was just a dud. We can gloss over that I guess. Ok, one more, but let’s go for the big fish: the GTX 1080.
1.6 GHz base clock
8 GB VRAM
That jump in floating point speed definitely has to be something, and 4 times the VRAM? Sure it’s 5 times the price, but as we saw, raw power doesn’t always tell the full story. GPU Boss returns to give us the run down, how do these cards compare in the real world? Well… a 222% (over three-fold) increase in mHash speed, and a 218% increase in FPS for Battlefield 4. That’s right, for 5 times the cost, you get 3 times the performance. Truly, the raw specs don’t tell the full story. You increase the cost by 27%, you increase frame rate in our example game by 22%. You increase the cost by 83%, you increase the frame rate by 83%. Sounds good, but if you increase the cost by 129%, and you get a 79% (-50% cost/power increase) increase in frame rate. You increase it by 358%, and you increase the frame rate by 218% (-140% cost/power increase). That’s not paying “more for much more power,” that’s a steep drop-off after the third cheapest option. In fact, did you know that you have to get to the 1060 (6GB) before you could compare the GTX line to a PS4 Pro? Not to mention that at $250, the price of a 1060 (6GB) you could get an entire PS4 Slim bundle, or that you have to get to the 1070 before you beat the Xbox One X. On another note, let’s look at a PS4 Slim…
800 MHz base clock
8 GB VRAM
…Versus a PS4 Pro.
911 MHz base clock
8 GB VRAM
128% increase in floating point speed, 13% increase in clock speed, for a 25% difference in cost. Unfortunately there is no Battlefield 4 comparison to make, but in BF1, the frame rate is doubled (30 fps to 60) and the textures are taken to 11. For what that looks like, I’ll leave it up to this bloke. Not to even mention that you can even get the texture buffs in 4K. Just like how you get a decent increase in performance based on price for the lower-cost GPUs, the same applies here. It’s even worse when you look at the CPU for a gaming PC. The more money you spend, again, the less of a benefit you get per dollar. Hardware Unboxed covers this in a video comparing different levels of Intel CPUs. One thing to note is that the highest i7 option (6700K) in this video was almost always within 10 FPS (though for a few games, 15 FPS) of a certain CPU in that list for just about all of the games. …That CPU was the lowest i3 (6100) option. The lowest i3 was $117 and the highest i7 was $339, a 189% price difference for what was, on average, a 30% or less difference in frame rate. Even the lowest Pentium option (G4400, $63) was often able to keep up with the i7. The CPU and GPU are usually the most expensive and power-consuming parts of a build, which is why I focused on them (other than the fact that they’re the two most important parts of a gaming PC, outside of RAM). With both, this “pay more to get much more performance” idea is pretty much the inverse of the truth.
“The console giants are bad for game developers, Steam doesn't treat developers as bad as Microsoft or especially Sony.”
Now one thing you might’ve heard is that the PS3 was incredibly difficult for developers to make games for, which for some, fueled the idea that console hardware is difficult too develop on compared to PC… but this ignores a very basic idea that we’ve already touched on: if the devs don’t want to make the game compatible with a system, they don’t have to. In fact, this is why Left 4 Dead and other Valve games aren’t on PS3, because they didn’t want to work with it’s hardware, calling it “too complex.” This didn’t stop the game from selling well over 10 million units worldwide. If anything, this was a problem for the PS3, not the dev team. This also ignores that games like LittleBigPlanet, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Metal Gear Solid 4 all came out in the same year as Left 4 Dead (2008) on PS3. Apparently, plenty of other dev teams didn’t have much of a problem with the PS3’s hardware, or at the very least, they got used to it soon enough. On top of that, when developing the 8th gen consoles, both Sony and Microsoft sought to use CPUs that were easier for developers, which included making decisions that considered apps for the consoles’ usage for more than gaming. On top of that, using their single-chip proprietary CPUs is cheaper and more energy efficient than buying pre-made CPUs and boards, which is far better of a reason for using them than some conspiracy about Sony and MS trying to make devs' lives harder. Now, console exclusives are apparently a point of contention: it’s often said that exclusive can cause developers to go bankrupt. However, exclusivity doesn’t have to be a bad thing for the developer. For example, when Media Molecule had to pitch their game to a publisher (Sony, coincidentally), they didn’t end up being tied into something detrimental to them. Their initial funding lasted for 6 months. From then, Sony offered additional funding, in exchange for Console Exclusivity. This may sound concerning to some, but the game ended up going on to sell almost 6 million units worldwide and launched Media Molecule into the gaming limelight. Sony later bought the development studio, but 1: this was in 2010, two years after LittleBigPlanet’s release, and 2: Media Molecule seem pretty happy about it to this day. If anything, signing up with Sony was one of the best things they could’ve done, in their opinion. Does this sound like a company that has it out for developers? There are plenty of examples that people will use to put Valve in a good light, but even Sony is comparatively good to developers.
“There are more PC gamers.”
The total number of active PC gamers on Steam has surpassed 120 million, which is impressive, especially considering that this number is double that of 2013’s figure (65 million). But the number of monthly active users on Xbox Live and PSN? About 120 million (1, 2) total. EDIT: You could argue that this isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, sure, so if you want to, say, compare the monthly number of Steam users to console? Steam has about half of what consoles do, at 67 million. Now, back to the 65 million total user figure for Steam, the best I could find for reference for PlayStation's number was an article giving the number of registered PSN accounts in 2013, 150 million. In a similar 4-year period (2009 - 2013), the number of registered PSN accounts didn’t double, it sextupled, or increased by 6 fold. Considering how the PS4 is already at 2/3 of the number of sales the PS3 had, even though it’s currently 3 years younger than its predecessor, I’m sure this trend is at least generally consistent. For example, let’s look at DOOM 2016, an awesome faced-paced shooting title with graphics galore… Of course, on a single platform, it sold best on PC/Steam. 2.36 million Steam sales, 2.05 million PS4 sales, 1.01 million Xbox One sales. But keep in mind… when you add the consoles sales together, you get over 3 million sales on the 8th gen systems. Meaning: this game was best sold on console. In fact, the Steam sales have only recently surpassed the PS4 sales. By the way VG charts only shows sales for physical copies of the games, so the number of PS4 and Xbox sales, when digital sales are included, are even higher than 3 million. This isn’t uncommon, by the way. Even with the games were the PC sales are higher than either of the consoles, there generally are more console sales total. But, to be fair, this isn’t anything new. The number of PC gamers hasn’t dominated the market, the percentages have always been about this much. PC can end up being the largest single platform for games, but consoles usually sell more copies total. EDIT: There were other examples but... Reddit has a 40,000-character limit.
This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with PC gaming, and this isn’t to exalt consoles. I’m not here to be the hipster defending the little guy, nor to be the one to try to put down someone/thing out of spite. This is about showing that PCs and consoles are overall pretty similar because there isn’t much dividing them, and that there isn’t anything wrong with being a console gamer. There isn’t some chasm separating consoles and PCs, at the end of the day they’re both computers that are (generally) designed for gaming. This about unity as gamers, to try to show that there shouldn’t be a massive divide just because of the computer system you game on. I want gamers to be in an environment where specs don't separate us; whether you got a $250 PS4 Slim or just built a $2,500 gaming PC, we’re here to game and should be able to have healthy interactions regardless of your platform. I’m well aware that this isn’t going to fix… much, but this needs to be said: there isn’t a huge divide between the PC and consoles, they’re far more similar than people think. There are upsides and downsides that one has that the other doesn’t on both sides. There’s so much more I could touch on, like how you could use SSDs or 3.5 inch hard drives with both, or that even though PC part prices go down over time, so do consoles, but I just wanted to touch on the main points people try to use to needlessly separate the two kinds of systems (looking at you PCMR) and correct them, to get the point across. I thank anyone who takes the time to read all of this, and especially anyone who doesn’t take what I say out of context. I also want to note that, again, thisisn’t “anti-PC gamer.” If it were up to me, everyone would be a hybrid gamer. Cheers.
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