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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


  • Valareos

    completly normal, and basically shares are "you have solved the task first".  hrmm for 2 Mh/s should get 1 an hour about. check for your id there and you have to use the id from that link... like mine is  which is 102430

  • JBeshir

    @Squishable: I believe it should typically be a bit worth it at 30c/kWh, or was last I checked, at least on a current nVidia card (they're pretty power efficient), and maybe on the current AMD cards (they're sufficiently good at mining to offset their higher power consumption).

    I'm in the UK and run at 15c/kWh here, although I've not actually done power efficiency math since autumn, because, well, I'm in the UK and it's February. I'm running electric heating anyway, so mining is "free" electricity-wise; it's just replacing power used by the heaters, producing heat just as well, and doing useful stuff while it goes. In the summer power value for money becomes relevant again, but mining efficiency tends to stay fairly stable over time and I expect to still be worth it then like it was last year.

    @Intocabille CZ: You should find that either space or underscore works. If it doesn't match up to an Erf account, it'll say so and ask for your name again, so you should be fine if it passes that check.

  • JBeshir


    "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?"

    Yeah, it's a thing I'd heard about! It's going to be quite a long while- they're talking experiments with letting one block in a hundred or something be PoS then gradually ramping up and it should be a good while before it makes mining stop working. When it does happen we can switch to mining something else, if mining's still a viable thing then. I think it might be well over a year out, though, even on a fairly optimistic timescale.

  • labster

    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?

    Balder, I know you're big on cliffhangers, but it's not appropriate in this context.  You can't just go on to assert the answer as "a lot less" without providing any data.  "It's good for you, trust me," is the standard explanation I hear from people who don't want to have to justify themselves, which is odd in this context because you're clearly trying to justify yourself.  I just worry that it's glossing over your own sunk costs in this endeavor, and it's a form of confirmation bias.

    So let's see what data is available.  Not all that much.  I can't find a good estimate online of how much energy online advertising uses, but there is a relatively ancient paper suggesting that online advertising takes ~2.5W/page on the user's end.  OK, let's estimate 5W total per page with ads -- half server and network side, half client side.  It's likely going to be greater use on the client side because the code is actually executed there and continues to use power; all of the advertising bids is probably an initial power spike.  OK, let's say the average user spends 5 minutes on Erfworld over 158,600 (assuming 1% of users are Tools, and 0% are ad-blocking).  This is 26.4kWh per update.  Let's say 80 updates, giving us 2112 kWh a year.

    Let's say your average miner runs your new program for a month out of a year, and gets your 117kWh as an annual figure.  Let's say 1% of users run the miner -- this works out to 187484 kWh per year.  Wow, that's a lot!  OK, let's back off and say they only run for 1 week per year... which is about 43750 kWh per year -- which is an order of magnitude over my estimates for advertising energy use.  So in the absence of data, I don't find your assertion that ETH mining is more efficient than advertising to be credible.

    The assertion that home mining offsets heating costs is a really good argument, though.  It's a legitimate argument, as computers are excellent heaters.  It doesn't work all that well for me, as most of December and January were in the 80s°F, and oh yeah, our town was on fire for a month and over a hundred homes were destroyed.  All from a weather pattern that never could have existed in the climate of my childhood.  I do worry about energy use, especially in the context of business models.

    The final argument is whether advertising or mining is more pernicious to our culture and our use of energy.  It's a hard call for me personally, as I see advertising as driving unnecessary consumption, while cryptocurrencies displace more environmentally friendly technologies.  In one case force readers to use more energy, in another you recruit people to participating in an environmentally unfriendly technology by gamifying it.  In my book, this one is a tie.  *shrug*

    In summary, please don't call me "very wrong" and then fudge your way past the most important point of the explanation.  Based on my estimates, you are probably wrong, but I await Numbers.

  • JBeshir


    It's admittedly hard to measure. A lot of the plausible power usage is going to be elsewhere, though- the realtime bidding involves lots of servers and companies, and they've got to make the ads. Plus on a broader scale, there's tons of professionals who could be spending their time on all sorts of things or just enjoying their lives but instead they're being spent on wasteful whack-a-mole games with advertisers and zero-sum efforts to gain customers, in a massive waste of human effort and energy. I would not be surprised if that's considerably bigger as a thing than mining as a support mechanism.

    The bulk of the crypto environmental concern is coming from China, I think; they do very cheap electricity as a sort of industry subsidy I think, and it turns out that people basically take that and use it to run bitcoin-specialised mining hardware ASICs usually (and some other stuff?). I expect to see energy use as a whole drop hard once China gets tired of subsidising Bitcoin and starts regulating what people use the cheap power for.

    The right solution to this stuff IMO is renewable electricity; to the extent it's in your energy mix your energy use doesn't hurt the environment anyway. And we all need to be migrated to that anyway.

  • labster


    Arguably the reason the online advertising industry has taken off is because it is so much more efficient and data-driven than what came before, while still being relatively awful.  I agree it's really, really hard to measure ad industry usage, because of all of the bidding.  But it can't be too computationally intensive, because bids only have 100ms in RTB and some of that will be eaten by latency.  I think it would be fair to consider Erfworld's audience size a marginal cost in terms of servers, not big enough for any actor to need more.

    If there are any environmental policy graduate students floating around here, you might want to consider looking into this.  Three of the ten largest companies by market cap are advertising companies (Alphabet, Facebook, and to a lesser extent Microsoft).  Any kind of analysis of the energy usage of the ad industry would be much appreciated, presumably by people other than me as well.

    The era of Chinese energy subsidizing Bitcoin is coming to an end.  On the other hand, it has a pretty bright future in energy-rich Iceland, where it's about to use the majority of electricity produced.  Given that they have a surplus of hard-to-export and carbon-neutral geothermal energy, it's hard to feel to bad about this.

    But for everywhere else, we get back to the discussion of fixed costs.  I'd love to have renewable everywhere.  But the larger the total energy, the more infrastructure we need to build, and the longer we wait before we can stop using the most polluting power plants.  Increase total energy use enough, and we get to the point where demand actually makes coal profitable, kind of a worst case scenario for you.  Most of the IPCC assessments have cited efficiency improvements as a major way avoid the worst scenarios.  So it's with that kind of idea that I'm sounding the alarm about a new monetary transaction system that uses 4-5 orders of magnitude more energy than before.

    Maybe the economic system could do better than this if the costs of electricity actually included all of the externalities associated with energy production, but that's not going to happen because something something marxism.  But even then, cryptocurrencies show all of the signs of a bubble and irrational investors anyway.

    As far as people wasting their lives playing zero-sum games, that's kind of beyond the scope of this thread unless Parson decides to show up.  But Advertising went on back in the classical world, and was mechanized along with everything else in the Industrial Revolution.  So we're not getting rid of that anytime soon.  I just don't feel the same way about the latest TulipCoin.

  • rstoffel

    I am super glad that this is working out for Erfworld! Wish I could be a part of this but for now my computing capabilities are lacking. *sad trombone sound*

  • carrion pigeons

     I'm sure this is just me being dense, but I am not actually understanding what the incentives are for everyone involved.  The basic idea seems to be you want people to download a program that generates money for you, and in exchange you give people art?  What is all this about a marketplace? 

  • Tathar

    @Bandaid: I'd recommend checking to see whether you're getting any spins.  From that page Valareos linked, it looks like you're sending your username as your rig ID instead of your user ID.  When I pulled up your user ID, I didn't see it in the list.

  • Senjiu

    A bit of useful info (imo): If you get 1 hash per hour it takes roughly 709h of mining to have a 50% chance of getting at least one gem.
    354h if you get 2 hashes per hour and 236h for 3 hashes per hour.
    I usually get between 1 and 3 with my 2Mh/s so it's gonna take a while for me to get one (unless I'm very lucky), since I'm only mining at night.

    I'm glad about a way of participating in the support of the site and art and everything. I have ublock on everywhere (sorry but every now and then some malware crawls through ads onto people's computer and only very few hosts have enough control over the ads to prevent that) and since I currently earn less than I spend on rent, food and insurance I didn't really wanna buy stuff. I have to heat my room somehow though and if the generated heat is useful elsewhere too then why not mine some coins or look for aliens through boinc? :)

  • Bandaid

    @ Tathar, thanks for telling me, I still use the alpha miner, my Spins get recorded just fine. After all, without spins I would not have had the chance to sell those two gems :).

  • Tathar

    Fair enough.  I just wanted to make sure you were getting credit.

  • JBeshir

    Yeah, I don't want to recommend anyone using custom miners uses this information, but username as the thing sent to the pool *can* work and does for the existing alpha testers for backwards compatibility.

    I just don't trust the pool to handle longer usernames or usernames with spaces or symbols or other interesting aspects right, so the for wider release we switched to using UIDs, which have a nice, stable sort of length and content. UIDs are the safe way.

  • StClair

    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.

    Well.  That's certainly... a response.

    And I can certainly see how, since you appear determined to go forward with this, having to read and/or respond to all of those "very wrong opinions" would be "un-fun".  Perhaps you might have made it clearer from the start that you were only interested in approval and praise for the decision that you have, apparently, already fully committed yourself to.  And, in conclusion, I sincerely hope that it works out for you.

  • gimli_mx

    How can I get in contact with you guys? I seem to have an issue with my GTX 960 where my whole machine freezes up for a second or two every time I get a new job. It "catches up" when it finishes up the unit but this interferes with things as simple as inputting text or moving the mouse.