Sunday, July 6, 2014

Over-Saturation and the Emergence of the Scam-Coin

Tasking myself with learning the current state of the crypto-currency world might be the single biggest undertaking of my life to date.  I can honestly say, I grossly underestimated how much catching up would be needed from the 1 coin crypto world I had known years before. There hasn't been a day go by since, I haven't learned something new.  And for every new thing I learn, I am reminded of really how little I actually do know.  

I like to think I know a thing or two about quite a few coins out there today.  I have my opinions about certain design characteristics, market outlooks, etc.....but not even the first clue as to how the development of these coins actually takes place.  I'll be the first to admit, I haven't mourned the loss of any failed coin.  To the contrary, I've probably been one of the first on the scene to hypothetically kick sand in the face of the fallen.  Yeah, I know.....not nice.  So why do it?  Well, to put it simply....I think the current path the coin world has taken, tailors itself to this mentality.  

Going out on a limb here, but I'm guessing that you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who knew exactly how many different crypto-currencies there are, at any given time.  Recent additions to the world of crypto may not see the elephant standing in the room.....but from a 1 coin world into a 300+ coin world.....that elephant looks pretty damn big from my seat.  It's no secret that since the coming of the behemoth known as Bitcoin.....similar digital currencies started popping up like zits on a teenager.  

New coins are being developed daily and it doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.  Are there this many people who truly believe the coin they're "developing" has what it takes to even hold a candle to our fat-bellied friend the Bitcoin?  Doubtful.  The vast majority of coins out there weren't really even "developed" by their "developer".  It shouldn't come across as much of a shocker that a lot of coins have some pretty distinct similarities.  This isn't just a coincidence, it's due in part to the fact that all these different coins were at one time....the same coin.  No, this isn't some reference to the Matrix.....there is no red or green pill.  I'm basically saying coin source code is getting ripped off, slapped with some pretty pictures and a new name, then the so-called "developers" change something and coin.  

Now, I'm only a graduate with a Bachelor's I know I can be wrong from time to time....but I'm pretty sure if I went through school trying to pass off someone else's work as my own, under the premise that I changed the title and a few minor other things.....I probably don't deserve the same status people who actually did the work, receive.  That's pretty much your textbook definition of cheating.  What part of changing a block time or reward payout should entitle a group or individual the self-satisfaction of watching their coin gain any following, much less share of the digital currency pie that really only exists because Bitcoin, the true innovator, brought it? 

AKA, scam-coins, pump & dumps, pre-mines.....the only real development going on here is how to develop a developer's bank account.  It would give me great satisfaction to know that I'm wrong here. That the vast majority of coins on the market truly believe they've innovated their product so well, that it could not only hold a candle to Bitcoin.....but might one day be standing on the pedestal next to it. Yeah, 300+ coins out there......not even I believe there are that many delusional developers launching coins.  I think I speak for a lot of people when I say:

 "Just because you know how to launch a coin, does not necessarily mean you should."   

And for the "developers" of multiple such's this kind of shit that is train-wrecking the entire digital currency world.  We weren't exactly welcomed in with open arms to begin with and now we're expecting to attract the masses with our multi-page lists, full of clever names and catchy slogans?  I'm not even going to answer that.  It is embarrassing to think society has come to the point where they feel ripping off someone else's work, making a few changes, and relaunching as a new or better product is somehow desirable to anyone.  I'm sure if you gave me a Magic Marker and a Picasso......I could certainly alter the painting.  This however, does not make me a world-class artist nor an innovator, in any sense of the word.  Even if I think my alterations are a spot-on perfect (which they likely would be)......I'm not doing a whole lot, aside from ruining something that previously had deserved value.

If I get worked up over all this, I can only imagine how developers of the few "real" innovative ideas must feel.  It's their work getting hijacked, pissed on, and repackaged......over and over again.  Bravo to coins like my gem Darkcoin....for being the first coin to focus on anonymity through an innovation known as the "masternode."  Now, how many other coins have come along and said, we too are champions of anonymity.....but we do it a different way.  Although not all lack innovation, the vast majority do......and zero points awarded for originality.  Come up with something different.  There is certainly no current shortage of source code to steal.....but we do seem to be really scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to new ideas.  

There was indeed a time when a coin (Litecoin) could do virtually everything Bitcoin was already doing.....and still somehow make it.  We should be approaching if not already past the point where exact copies of coins using a different hashing algorithm, no longer fool anyone.  I was never really around through the early days of Litecoin but for some reason, it makes me think of a particular Seinfeld episode where George and Jerry are pitching their idea for a sitcom.  After explaining the show is about nothing.....a confused TV executive sensibly questions why anyone would be watching the show, if nothing ever happens.  The answer given: Because it's on TV.  I figure this is about how Litecoin got the "Silver to Bitcoin's Gold" title.  

Because I wasn't around at the time, I don't know for sure.....although I can speculate there weren't any other coins available at the time.  If there were, why would people invest in something that did exactly what the only other crypto in the world was already doing nicely by itself?  Ok, I'll even buy the line, "The new Scrypt algorithm had me mesmerized."  When you're given a choice between Bitcoin and anything else......there will always be those who choose anything else.  When you're given a choice between two.....veteran and's pretty obvious that both sides would develop their own following for whatever reasons.  Although now with some competition....I still like to think of this time as "happy."  Bitcoin got a new little friend to play with for a while.  

This is around the time I can't figure out how things spiraled away so quick.  At what point did every neighborhood coin on the block decide the happy Bitcoin and happy Litecoin wanted any of them crashing the party?  Again, another guess......but it probably started somewhat slow, much the way Litecoin evolved.  First there was one.....then another.......then another.  Now having proof with rise of the Litecoin, nearly identical replicas somehow qualify as a valid reason to invest.  Again, we're still at a low number of total crypto's I can see how people might have been prone to switching from their once beloved Bitcoin or twin sister Litecoin.  I'm sure Bitcoin payouts, to it's once loyal army of GPU shibes, were dwindling.  Maybe this is where ASICs started squashing the little guy out of roaches with the lights on, shibes started running for cover to any coin that would have them.  

While this makes for a good story and the perfect opportunity to incorporate ridiculous analogies into my couldn't have been a good sign for what lied ahead.  Truth told, maybe Bitcoin needed to see a few other coins lurking in the shadows.  You can't much blame these first-edition scam-coins for displaying what I'd now refer to as "bad behavior."  We were practically begging anyone with enough sense to launch a coin, to do so immediately.  We showed that it definitely does pay to be unoriginal, unimaginative, and average (at best) when it comes to mass producing cheap replicas of a very good idea.

It still amazes me how quickly the catalog of coins we display now, must have appeared.  Like I said earlier, gross underestimate of how much I had to catch up on.  If you think I'm going to painstakingly research each and every coin considered digital currency by the loose standard encompassing these 300+ are dead wrong.  It's a shame these markets are taking away from the true pioneers.  For every crap-coin out there.....there are droves of people willing to buy into whatever bullshit they're fed.  Investment money that would arguably be much better off helping secure some sort of original idea-bearing coin.  

Any newcomer to this mess of a market, surely wouldn't know where to start.  The newcomer has a few options.  He can be the brightest and most determined person I've ever met, researching the hundreds of coins available before selecting a portfolio lineup......a stretch, even for this fairy-tale blogger.  He can get some advice from someone he hopes isn't a member of the scam-coin troll rebellion......a devilish creature that runs from forum to forum......raining down lies and deceit, aimed solely at convincing normal investors to liquidate everything for said scam-coin.  Or the newcomer can take one look at this disaster.....turn around.....and never come back.  I know which I'd go with if I was entering now, knowing very little and still a bit on the fence about crypto-currency in general. 

Call me old fashioned, but I remember a time when this entire community was rallying behind one coin.  Things were easier then.....yes, we only had one coin......but everyone seemed to be on the same page.  From the shibe that awakens in the middle of the night to the sound of a mining rig that needs the die-hard, crypto-currency enthusiast, dead set on one day being able to buy his groceries with BTC's.......we were all on the same team.  Now, increasing the selection available, expanding the markets, and promoting innovation, were all very good upsides to new coin development. Apparently we just didn't know when to quit.  Launching a new coin suddenly became about how fast you could launch em', what nonsense might make your coin seem unique, and how effectively you could incite fear sell-off's in all other markets.  I think it's even progressed to the point we no longer look at ourselves as a crypto-currency family.  

There's no doubt this new world has become a cut-throat business indeed.  A climate so unimaginable, it's hard to believe this is in any way affiliated with the Bitcoin of yesteryear.  The constant jockeying for position and marketcap make clear the high level of competitiveness now present within the system.  While competition can be a plus, going around hamstringing opponents is a pretty lame way to bring new investors in.  The ability to launch a coin with virtually no actual work being required by these self-proclaimed "developer's" has become's even rewarded.  This over-saturation has created an enormous, confusing mess.....which looks to be causing the problem to get worse.  And the icing on the cake.....we did this.  The decentralized nature of crypto-currency has come back to bite us in a most ironic manner.  We don't have some government or central authority figure to pin our problems on.  

Let's give thanks now to all the future enterpriser's out there who wanted another bullet on their resume, a shortcut to quick profits, or would stop at nothing in an apparent quest to leave their dirty skid-marks on every inch of hard fought ground the early Bitcoin community so nicely paved.  There is no doubt in my mind what really caused this situation.....GREED.  I'm sure you could probably add PRIDE to the list, as well as SLOTH and ENVY.  Any way you want to look at it, a select few felt the world owed them more.  Emergence into the mainstream and long term prosperity, cornerstones in the community, were asked to take a back seat for greed and personal financial gain.  It's almost sickening how fast we let it happen.  

Obviously, some type of action should be taken, and quickly.  While I agree that finding, singling out, and punishing each responsible party, individually, would be the most fair (and fun) doesn't do much for our problem.  I guess a #1 on the list would probably include increasing the awareness within the community.  Basically what I'm doing right here.  Acknowledge how bloated the world of crypto has become.  Explain exactly how greedy, "pseudo-developer's" and fly-by-night scam-coins degrade the entire system while simultaneously bilking unsuspecting investors out of every dime.  With help from "old-school" coiners in the community, we can convince those who weren't around back in the day, that this family/team mentality not only existed, but is alive and well.  This is a group of people that can move mountains....I know because I've seen them do it.  Defying impossible odds and overcoming every obstacle thrown at us, the core community never wavered as we continued to push our coin along.  At times neck deep in skepticism, I like to think our community was exactly what Satoshi Yakamoto envisioned.  

Hopefully that was enough to motivate you to do something.  If not, try to remember that at this very moment, someone is dumping a sizable percentage of the entire available supply of any given scam-coin.....making themselves a lot of money and leaving behind investors like you, to deal with the wake.  If you find yourself in this situation, don't panic.  You should be able make some money back betting on these, all too commonalities.  If you own any of the sold-off coins, you can guarantee they're now selling at the lowest price point you've ever seen.  You can pretty much bank on your delicate genius developer not returning......ever.  This should ensure if your coin wasn't already up in won't be much longer.  Lastly, don't hold your breath waiting for your worthless coins to bounce back.  They typically have a hard time staying afloat without anyone behind the wheel.  Bite your lip and sell for what you's better than the nothing you'll get when it's pulled from every exchange.  I'm afraid you just got owned.  It wasn't the first time and doesn't look to be the least not until we find a way to stop or discourage these practices.  

I probably wouldn't be much of a blogger if I sat here, whining about the current state of the market, and provided no suggestions for a solution.  I honestly haven't really given it too much thought, but right off the top of my about some type of council?  I guess it could be considered similar to the United Nations.....except more like a United Crypto-Currency Advancement League.  Basically start with the firsts.  Obviously Bitcoin would be extended a seat, being the first coin ever.  From there, you've got Litecoin......and so on, down the marketcap list.  Of course, I must make clear that not all scam-coins will be so transparent.  There will surely be genuinely deserving coins that are neither the first, nor highest marketcapped.  This is where the council kicks in.  Once an initial list of coins can be created......the council can, through some type of predetermined majority vote, extend a seat to any coin deemed worthy.  We'll also assume the council has the power to remove seats if they see fit.....also through a similar majority vote.  

I'm not entirely sure whether 1 seat should be the standard or multiple seats offered according to some factor such as % of entire crypto marketshare, or something more arbitrary like how well a particular coin embodies the Advancement League's vision of a reputable coin of the future.  I don't think there is any quick way to shutting a coin down.....but I would be careful even suggesting it in regards to this or any other proposal.  We don't want a witch hunt on our hands.....even if the council does not see a coin as "worthy" of a seat at it's initial launch....that doesn't mean the coin can't get back on track, maybe even petition a re-vote at a later date.  The idea of the council is not to exclude any coin from being bought or sold, it would be more like a rating system.  While the system wouldn't guarantee the price of coins occupying council seats by any means, it would reassure investors they're not likely buying into a scam-coin.  I really think something like this could do wonders for good, honest coins, reduce seemingly endless and senseless coin launches, while providing a less-risky environment for newcomers to the crypto-currency world.

This is far from the only solution available.....although I think it's an OK start.  Who knows?  Maybe I'm alone on this whole issue.  It's possible I'm the only person who sees a problem.  It does bother me that there are probably good, innovative, new coins being launched or already on the market that go largely unnoticed.  It is rational to assume that good coins have potentially gone belly up before life breathing investors could properly locate, research, and purchase a single coin.  On the other hand, I wonder how many investors have been methodically swindled using similar strategies outlined above?  If we're not doing anything to stop or deter known vulnerabilities, we are encouraging them. I gladly await hearing your take on any of this. 




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