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By balder Comments (65)

Taking stock at the 24 hour mark: killing ads looks achievable

Okay, wow, rollout day of anything is a roller coaster. This one's been wild. Here's where we are!

My Luckamancy needs a Healomancer

Okay, I sorta pseudo semi cheated by running the miner every night in the alpha test, along with JBeshir (John of the web team) and relentless user/tester Bandaid. As I said in news, we didn't give ourselves any gems to keep, but we did give real spins for shares mined in alpha. I had 196 spins. I spun them all manually, with Linda watching...


...and got one average red gem with no glow. Another 9 hours of mining last night got me nine spins and no gems.

You know...all I really wanted was to get two gems in those 200 spins, so I could test selling it in marketplace. In our tests of the spinner, I sometimes went more than 100 spins without a gem, but sometimes, I got as many as 6. My own rules say I can't list this little booper for sale until I get another one.

my marbit is philosophical

my marbit is philosophical about it

Bandaid and JBeshir did a lot better - gems sold for 1000 and 5000 Shmuckers!

The marketplace got tested, all right. Not going to name the buyers here, but nobody really knew what to ask for a gem price, so John listed a small canary colored gem with no glow for 1000 Shmuckers and it was sold. Then Bandaid listed a certain massive sized gem for 4999 and it sold, as well. With another sale of 2999, he's made out like a Bandaid.

Not jealous! Nope, because...

We can actually do this.

Day 1 was beautiful!

So, there were plenty of hitches. A few Tools got multiple gems for their free gem spin, and we had to take the extras away. There was a significant glitch in the miner for people with AMD processors that Merilynne earned a Shiny Red Star badge for helping track down.

But several dozen people did get the miner to run. That was more than I expected for a first day of the beta, and though the average miner was making less than I estimated (up around $1 per 24 hours) this proves it's in reach to match our ad revenue. I think this first day alone puts us about 1/6 of the way there, just going off historical data from what our ads have earned. If the adaption of mining is anything like how our Kickstarters developed or the Toolshed grew, then we're on track to kill the ads sometime in March.

We learned that a lot of people hate cryptocurrency

So, the blowback in the news post thread was a little surprising and un-fun. I read what a few people (including some who've been otherwise really supportive of the comic and community) had to say about this idea and cryptocurrency in general, and (how can I put this respectfully and with sensitivity?) you're wrong. Every last one of you is wrong about every single thing you said about Mine4erf. :P But of course, you're entitled to hold and express your very wrong opinions.

What's particularly frustrating about that is that we raised pretty much every one of these objections in discussing and developing this idea. I'll try and hit them all here, even though it's a lot to write when I'd rather be writing Erfworld:

Hey, this is going to destroy (or even wear out) someone's GPU

No, it's not. We researched that exhaustively. Wearing out from constant use is not really a thing, if your GPU temperature stays normal, and GPUs throttle themselves when running too high. My GPU fan never even runs when the miner is going, unlike when Maya is rendering a 3D scene. In the alpha test we all watched our GPU stats carefully, using Speccy and other tools.

We do not *want* to risk your GPU for any reason, and we have no reason to believe we are. If you are experiencing something different or unusual, please grab a quick screenshot to post, then shut the miner down.

Gems are "Skinner-boxing" and/or "loot crates" and/or "gambling"

No, they are quite consciously not. The spins (as I found out) are mercilessly random and the share placements are accurate representations of how your miner performed that hour. We did not design them to make fake near-miss outcomes or to encourage any kind of spinning or spending behaviors.

We absolutely are trying to get some Ethereum out of our Ethereum mining efforts. Can you imagine?

But when we came up with ideas like, "hey, why don't we just let people buy spins for a certain amount of Ethereum that's about equal to what they'd mine?" Then we were back to, "Just no."

It would not be mining. That would be gambling for virtual rewards. With a limit 24 spins an hour, earned only by mining, we are intentionally avoiding a situation where somebody even might turn part of their paycheck into Ethereum for a chance to "win" gems. Finding a gem is not winning anything, it's just a reward for doing the mining. If this ever turns into anything you can pay money to get a chance at a thing, then you can call it gambling. If the behavior of clicking the spin ever becomes the point, you can call it a Skinner box.

But mark my words and screenshot this: you will never be able to buy a chance at winning anything on this website.

I am personally an energy hog, but the miner is not

Most of the arguments against crypto mining we've heard were about energy use. As I mentioned in the initial news post, we factored the electricity costs of running the miner into the decision about whether or not to try this. "Isn't that just having them donate to Erfworld by paying more to their power company?" came up in almost exactly those terms. To test it, I bought a power meter a month ago to check my own power usage. John was monitoring his already.

For the sake of the most up-to-date numbers, here are pictures from testing it tonight.


at startup

Wattage, computer idle, 5 minutes after reboot: (about 83 watts) image 82.8


with Maya

With Maya running and rendering a scene: about 156 watts


with miner running

With only the miner running: 248 watts


normal active use

Normal use, with the browsers and programs I typically have running: about 120-125

So running the miner consumes about 165 watts, or 0.165 kilowatthours per hour, or 3.9 kWh in a 24 hour period, or about 117 kWh if run 24 hours a day for 30 days.

On our last electric bill, power cost a hair over 10 cents per kilowatt hour. So if I ran it 24/7, then the most the miner could cost me is $11.82 per month.

Running for about 9 hours a night as I've been doing, for about 22 days in the last month (I don't always remember to set it running), I have used about $3.25 in electricity.

Our electric bill for this drafty older house is typically over $200 in the winter months, mostly because our heat is electric. Running the GPU at night is currently (ha!) turning electricity into heat in a room we use. At least for the winter months, it washes out. Whatever heat we don't generate by turning it into Ethereum on my GPU, we would otherwise have to pay to turn into heat using the central heating unit.

If I had more time and/or more home improvement knowledge and/or were a better citizen of the planet, I would probably go to Lowe's and get some weather stripping, and/or ride the thermostat and knock about $20-45 off our electric bill in the summer and winter months. So where crypto-mining is concerned, the $3.25 does not particularly bug me when it's generating about triple that much in Ethereum (quadruple, if $ETH price would recover).

Bottom line, you can fault me plenty for renting this place through a second winter without doing something about that bill, but "energy use" as a moral stance against cryptocurrency in general (as opposed to, say, Western civilization in general) is not a great place to be investing your outrage.

Yet...that's why we're not doing browser mining, and why you can criticize Salon for this

A few people in the first news post's comments talked about wanting us to use browser mining, and a lot of people without GPUs (including our alpha testers) wanted it. But we tested it enough to conclude that it actually is a big waste of power.

We had a Coinhive embedded miner in alpha that ran in a browser tab. I would have loved to put that up as part of Mine4erf, because it's a whole lot easier to use than the downloadable miner. Unfortunately, it's not worth it. At 10 to 20 times less efficiency, Coinhive (and other proof of work embedded miners) absolutely would add more to the user's electric bill than they were making for us in $XMR or other cryptocurrencies.

Now, launched an initiative about a week ago that offers to mine in the browser to site visitors with AdBlock, (with permission). I really do believe that method is a waste of resources and maybe a pretty large one, depending on participation. I can't in good conscience do it here, or it would make some of those (again, very incorrect and just absolutely wrong) objections in the other thread right.

Killing ads with mining will be a net reduction of resources consumed

But here's the kicker. We're doing Mine4erf to kill the ads. How many ads? And does that matter?

Well, in February of last year, this site successfully served more than 5 million paid ad impressions. When you load a page, every ad slot is subject to realtime bidding. So information about you and this site, your cookies, your geographical location, is all shared back and forth across continents, among the networks of dozens of ad resellers who submit competing bids for each ad slot. The highest bidder gets to show you an ad. Maybe it's embedded video, or another hefty file which goes through your ISP's system and then is served to your system and sits running in your browser, draining your resources.

What is the energy cost of all of that back-and-forth, across-the-world bidding and ad serving? Sum up all the additional network traffic and all of the additional user processor power to make those ads run on our readers' machines and compare them to Ethereum mining. How much electricity is used?

By our best, honest estimates, will consume a lot less energy if Mine4erf succeeds and the ads go away. A few dozen (hundred? please?) people mining for Erfworld will just not consume more power than 5 million ads being served.

So what's next?

We've heard from people with Macs and people who want to mine Ethereum directly and people who want to mine other coins and just a whole lot of possible stuff to consider and weigh. We probably will roll out some other ways to mine, just not very immediately soon.

The thing I love most about Day 1

The Mine4erf forums are my favorite thing about our first day (other than how the dev team handled the rollout and fixes, which was enormous and brilliant). They're working on cataloguing every gem by color and size and glow. The discussions there and in IRC (and watching people's gem luck behind the scenes...there are a few ridiculous finds already) just make me feel like all the fussing over these virtual screen things was worth the time.

Finally, let me say that all debate, disagreement, and kidding aside, I seriously don't want anybody to do something they're uncomfortable with. If you're seeing a risk or a moral point that feels significant to you in this, please don't mine. We had a few people who either joined the Toolshed or bumped up their pledges and expressly told us, "I don't like this mining thing, but I do like Erfworld and I want to show my support in what I think is a better way." We appreciate it.

Comments are on, but you should really be talking over at the Mine4erf forums because everybody's showing off their gems there. They are almost all better than Little Booper.


it's growing on me, just like the other Red


  • falcore51

    So I run on a laptop and had a bitch of a time getting it configured.  I have two video cards and embedded intel and a nvidia and couldn't get both to run at the same time best I could do was get it to run 1 in one window and run 1 in another.  Even only running one still caused my laptop to heat up so I stopped it after 2 hours or so.  For those of you who have a good desktop this is't a bad thing to run but I just crank to much heat on my laptop.  Its a great experiment and I applaud rob for thinking out of the box but I am just going to stick to my tool shed :-).



  • Tathar

    So I'm finding out that my tool gem is currently the most valuable one out there.  Wow.  If not for me being on the leaderboard with one gem, I would have had no idea.  Can we get something on the gem collection showing the value of a particular gem?

  • Merilynne

    Thanks for the shoutout, Rob! I'm still smiling every time I see that shiny red star.  smile  Like dmolla, I'm considering investing in a new system so I can join in on the fun (insert muttering about stupid laptops with integrated video cards). Of course I don't want or need another laptop, so I'm thinking I can buy a decent tower and upgrade it fairly inexpensively. Darn shame I didn't know about this before Valentine's Day; I could have asked my hubby for that instead of roses, chocolates, and a dinner out.  wink  Of course it's also a shame that I didn't keep my gaming system when I outgrew WoW. Ah well...

  • Intocabille CZ

    I have a stupid question about this...

    WHen prompted for username... which one do I put in... when I log in I use underscore in my login name, but in the profile the underscore is replaced by space...

  • Toolbelt

    There's a technical issue that I don't think anyone has mentioned so far (or maybe I just missed it) so here goes. If I understood things correctly, Mine4Erf is based on the fact that currently Ethereum is using Proof-of-Work for its blockchain validation. However Ethereum developers are planning to switch to Proof-of-Stake which will mean that mining ETH becomes impossible. Is this something that was considered before choosing Ethereum instead of other possibilities?

  • trilo

    Honestly I wish I could pay for ad fee for a year like was talked about a while back, whether that's part of a kickstarter (not saying you should, just that I don't exactly get why that's off the table) or a cheaper-than-tool subscriber method. Maybe you didn't do this out of fears some tools would flip or future tools would fail to subscribe and you'd get less money overall, I dunno. I messed with the mining for a little bit of curiosity, but given that a tech illiterate family member pays power costs I don't feel comfortable doing this long term, ignoring the other potential issues with mining.

    I'm not a tool because I have an extremely low income, though I did do the minimum contribution to a couple kickstarters cause one time payments are easier to manage. When you have cognitive issues and you've lost significant money due to accidentally going over your balance by .50 cents from something you forgot you were subscribed to then the benefit of one time purchases is more salient and the lowest kickstarter tiers were in a range that were doable for me to budget.

    I use adblock too. Ads really are a way of paying by subjecting yourself to deliberate and studied attempts to manipulate people and harvest their attention for revenue. I know some people would say I'm in the wrong for expecting 'free' content and should suck it up, but honestly it's not my fault that I'm a low income disabled person whose income mostly goes to food and I don't think I deserve to subjected to a lifetime of manipulative advertisements for that nor does my privacy deserve to be risked by the internal policies of lucrative advertising companies.

    On the other hand the team absolutely deserves a decent income for the work they do, certainly more than  they're getting. No doubt in my mind about that. If erfworld got placed behind a paywall I couldn't afford I wouldn't resent that at all. Just hoping to respectfully show why these issues don't work for me. I suppose if you get the income you want from other people's mining then it won't matter what I do and maybe I'm an edge case, but the truth is that I'd like to contribute, there are just reasons these two methods don't work for me. If I could save up the money to go ad free by, say, switching to dried beans instead of canned for a couple months (and similar changes) then I'd happily do that.

    If you actually read all this thank you, I'm sure these controversies take up the "mental space" that you'd ideally by using for creativity and planning.

  • Poraxus

    On further mulling, while I absolutely respect Rob's reasoning about why paying directly for chances is a line he doesn't want to cross, given all the enthusiasm from folks wishing they could partake, it seems a shame that there isn't some other way for people to contribute and get involved (engaging beyond being a customer in the gem market.)

  • csdx

    I think it's more a legal thing to not allow directly purchasing spins. It's means this is just a 'sweepstakes' rather than a 'lottery' which could cause troubles. You can buy a bottle of coke to enter a sweepstakes, but you can't directly give the Coke company a buck to enter.

  • Ansan Gotti (Tipped by 1 person!)

    Would be all over this but for my lack of hardware. Hope it works out very well for you!


    As for the rest, support it if you want, don't support it if you don't want... but the whole extremist moralizing thing ("you're a bad person if you do this") just makes me sad, and IMO are a large part of what's wrong with society today.

  • Bandaid (Tipped by 1 person!)

    For public education purposes, the name of a certain massive gem was/is Envy. It was named thus because the color green is associated with envy. General trolling was a positive side effect :).

  • Squishalot

    I think it's important to note that not everybody is going to be able to get ~10c/KWh.  The US has one of the lowest power costs in the world.

    This is an article about worldwide power prices that was produced in Australia a couple of years ago, so it may be out of date, but it should highlight the power problems:

    These numbers are translated to US$ for the sake of comparison.  If the Ethereum price is worth triple Rob's power cost, then it means that he's getting 30c/KWh used approximately.  It does mean that people in much of Europe aren't going to be viable, factoring in transaction costs and other ancillaries.

    I'd also note, at $3.82 a month, it'd make more sense, both environmentally and long-term sustainably (in the event that the cryptocurrency markets continue to flounder), to just donate $0.50 per update.  For people with higher power costs, scale up that donation accordingly.

  • Ansan Gotti

    All of that makes sense, Squishalot, but it may have required focusing attention on the ad/monetization problem in order to make more people aware of the ways they could help (mining, starting/increasing Tool donations, etc.).


    Separately, I think there's a benefit in and of itself to engaging the community with a group project like this, and also to setting up a parallel marketplace where one can use Shmuckers.

  • Knavigator

    It's interesting that Maya chewed less power than the miner but triggered the GPU fan. 

  • shneekeythelost

    Sounds like the most effective way to do this, if you want to dedicate an entire system to this process, is to set up a server tower with serial video cards. Then just let it run passively, and check on your status through your actual computer.


    Mind you, I'm not necessarily advocating this as a course of action, but if you want to do something like setting up a dedicated computer for this, don't bother with a laptop, get a server tower rig and the most stripped-down operating system you can run the thing in.

  • Bandaid

    By the way Rob, I think your Luckamancy needs uncroaking or perhaps decryption.

  • EpicCrab

    How does scoring work? And is that system subject to change? I picked up my free tool gem, then downloaded the mining client. It just confirmed what I was already pretty sure of, that my GPU can't mine, so I let it sit for a while at 0 Mh/s. Now I'm apparently listed on the Team Marbit leaderboards. Since I actually can't mine, that feels like that's not how the system is supposed to work. Comparing the description of my free gem to the one you described, I guess mine is probably worth a lot? But I don't think the mining system should reward someone who isn't mining.

    Do you expect free gems to have a significant impact on the leaderboard going forward, or is that just because you started this system yesterday?

  • Valareos

    To those who may think that Rob is silly considering this.  I give you info from

    Estimated earnings

    Based on your average hashrate as well as the average block time and difficulty of the Ethereum network over the last 24 hours.

    Minute Ξ0.00003 $0.03 ฿0.0000
    Hour Ξ0.00187 $1.67 ฿0.0001
    Day Ξ0.04480 $40.08 ฿0.0036
    Week Ξ0.31361 $280.58 ฿0.0250
    Month Ξ1.34404 $1202.49 ฿0.1072


    That with 50 miners. Now I dont know how much he gets in ad revenue, but toolshed gives 15,491.12/1601 = $9.67 per person per month on average if he updates twice a week.

    The Mine4Erf program? $24.04 per person per month on average

    Just... you show the business side of things....

  • Silverware

    Hey, not sure if it's been suggested, but can we get a set of statistics?
    Number of hours run, total number of shares earned, average shares/hour. That sort of thing.

    Would be nice to have.

  • Senjiu

    I might have done something wrong or maybe I'm just not a good enough miner. Dunno.

    Is there gonna be an FAQ? I've got these questions:

    What are "normal" values for mining speed? I get ~1.8-2.8 Mh/s with a GPU in a Desktop PC I bought in 2015 for ~1000€ (the whole computer) - NVIDIA Geforce GTX 960.

    Do I enter my username (Senjiu) or that number that I can get behind that one URL.. (or your username instead)?

    Where do I get spins? Do they pop up? Is there a URL for them or did I just keep overlooking the button? (Or did I do something wrong and ît didn't register my mining while I was sleeping? It was only 3.5h but I guess it should have resulted in something.. unless 2Mh/s is just sooooo low that I might as well not mine at all.)

  • Valareos

    @Senjiu You use the number you get from that link. When you get some shares, go to your profile, then click on the mine4erf link there.


    shares should show up there once you get them.

    @Silverware feel free to look at what I linked :P

  • dmolla

    woo hoo! got the new laptop up and running! and away we go!

  • Bandaid

    Here come the pros. Looks like we got two mining rigs at work. And some other people who have probably multiple GPUs at work. Or one really, really good one.

  • explicatorrenter

    I guess since I spent the mental energy to read all through the comments on this post, I'll add my two Shmuckers. Not that I have two of 'em.

    What mining boils down to, as I see it, is betting on your own horse, but what miners are offering up for ante are privileges (if I properly understand the value of the "currency" we get for doing it) here on the site and in the community - privileges they wouldn't have had otherwise. We're not really missing out on other opportunities, either, if we're not actively using our machines for them in lieu of devoting that "work" to mining.

    Now, I'll be perfectly honest, I have enough financial troubles that I wouldn't mind mining just for my own needs, if my rig had more than 2GB of memory to work with. As it stands, it doesn't. And as a fellow "edge case", albeit of an entirely different stripe, I rather liked trilo's contribution to the discussion.

    I am curious about a few things. First, I may have a subpar graphics card, but I have a ridiculous amount of regular RAM. My understanding of hardware doesn't go far past popular specs and what they mean for me as an artist and gamer, but I see no reason in the world there couldn't be some adaptation to the mining tool that would let me make use of the 20gb or so that normally goes unused in this machine for a good cause like this. (In fact, I have questions about the general popularity of blockchain, as opposed to any other viable alternative, as far as it being a necessity for the "work" that must be done to mine. But that's a separate line of thinking...)

    Second, I see merit in encouraging edge cases like myself to contribute. I get a regular paycheck, so I can see dropping a few bucks a month on this site (or a bunch at once) for simply killing the ads being a real possibility, regardless of the content that winds up on the site because of it. (I'm not really a "tit-for-tat" kind of guy; I believe indiscriminate patronage has merit on its face. But I'm an artist; of course I believe that - it has merit for me, personally.)

    In all, I have to wonder if there isn't some sort of activity I could engage in that would help produce income for you guys at the same time. I spend a lot of time behind a computer screen being rather unproductive. And I'd like to change the last part of that sentence.

  • Valareos

    @explicatorrenter  There is a method to be able to support with computers not working with eth. I wont go into it JUST yet, (mainly cause doing it myself exposed a bug in one of the services that they are fixing :P)

    But I do know of a program you can run on your computer, to mine multiple different algorithms (cpu and gpu), and get paid in bitcoin, then use that to rent eth miners to mine at the mine4erf servers.

    For more advanced user, you could even use your HARD DRIVE to mine, but this requires actually dealing with exchanges,  I will, eventually, do a write up that allows alternate ways to mine4erf without having the video card needed to do the eth directly

  • Senjiu

    @Valareos: I tried and then it said that it's not a username it knows when I enter the number. Entering "Senjiu" works. I guess I could have tested that earlier.


    My other question is, how much do people mine normally? Like I said, I get about 2Mh/s. I mined for about 4 hours yesterday but I don't see any spins. Is my mining speed too slow?
    Also I seem to get assigned new tasks roughly every 3 to 15 seconds. Is that normal? I might just be spoiled by Boinc where everyone gets their own tasks and then can finish them in their own time (with a deadline of course), so it's not luck based.