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, Salon.com 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, Erfworld.com 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


    • dmolla

      "Currently", I did laugh out loud on that one!

      In all your factoring, did you factor in me now looking into a new laptop (even though my current (ha!) laptop is only a year old) just so I can join in on the fun? :)

      • Brony83

        Well, congratulations on getting it to work so well! I wish you the best of luck in this endeavor, and also happiness at the fact that you won't have to deal with any more ads for the time being. When you say
        "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."
        what does 1/6 mean? Ad-Income per day, week, month or year?

        Also: What will happen if eventually people mine this currency like they do with Bitcoin, i.e. highly specialized FPGAs so that mining with normal PCs is meaningless? I assume it's going to happen sooner or later with any crypto currency that reaches a certain popularity. I posted this in the other thread as well (with my Tool account), but I must've been too late to be included in your response, because you said we're all wrong and I know that I'm not wrong about specialized FPGAs.

        • Brony83

          @dmolla: Don't buy a new laptop if your current one is just 1 year old. If you want to be fast, I assume you'd have to pay like 1500$ for it and for that kind of money you can probably get your own Erfworld backer story instead. I can already picture you as a Mathamancer. tongue-out

          • Tathar

             I'm still trying to figure out how my one small gem is worth a value of 82, but Bandaid needs 5 gems to get 91.

            • JBeshir

              No one knows what's going to happen next in the crypto world, but I'm not too worried about specialised FPGAs any time soon because ETH, like a lot of the current graphics card mined coins, deliberately require lots of VRAM to mine, and this is something that specialised FPGAs aren't very good at even in theory- maybe not even any better than a regular graphics card can be, not sure- and aren't looking to be available with any time soon.

              That said, there's lots of ways this could turn out to not actually be super as a long term source of income, but if it doesn't work out, that's not a problem- people can just stop mining and we can go back to whatever else. We try things, right?

              • Tathar

                Could the crown jewel glow be why my small peach gem is worth so much?  It's so shiny I can't even see the peach color.  How do I show someone my gem if my gem collection is stuck on private?

                • JBeshir

                  For the moment, screenshots work for showing people gems!

                  If you have more than one, you can also put it on the marketplace at a mindbogglingly high price (so no one actually buys it... or if they do you're very happy about it), but with only one gem that's not possible.

                  • Brony83

                    I see, then we should be safe for a while. I assume that ASICs are going to be there eventually, but feel free to enjoy the profits as long as you can and maybe you can even switch over to a different one when the time comes.

                    My 8-year-old graphics card is too old for this, though. :) I shall leave it to you guys with your 10 times higher efficiency.

                    • The Unlurked

                      I'm still currently unable to mine but will be eventually.  So for the future I'd like to know

                      1- Will we be able to set our gem collections to "Public"?

                      2- Will we ever be able to send gems like post tips?

                      3- If you build an Etherium-powered satellite laser, will we ever be able to do a spin for a chance to pick a target for it to destroy?

                      @dmolla- Laptops tend to have worse heat problems than towers, so if you have not invested in a cooling stand with external fans, make sure to pick one up before mining.  They are cheap and make it irrelevant as to what kind of surface your laptop is sitting on for heat loss purposes.

                      • Carl

                        @JBeshir: And somtimes they work, amirite.


                        Sorry couldn't resist.

                        • shneekeythelost

                          You heard about Bitcoin losing 3/4 of its value a couple of weeks ago in a 'market correction' due to speculation, right? I'm just worried that something like this is going to happen to Erfworld, which could cause big problems, both short and long term.

                          It's not that I have a moral objection to mining, it's that I'm worried you may think you are mining up gems worth enough shmuckers for upkeep, when in reality you're just digging tunnels that do nothing but cost your dirtamancer all his juice.

                          • JBeshir

                            Yeah, we've been keeping an eye on the value- thankfully we were already pessimistic enough in our estimates of mining effectiveness that it didn't change much for mine4erf. Mining returns tend to kind of be stable long term by mining getting harder as value goes up, although this won't affect spins or gems or anything. This time it corrected itself by value going down instead, which does about the same thing.

                            Concern about speculative bubble pops is appreciated and it's good to know that so many people are looking out for Erfworld. The team has the ability to move things into regular money as desired (it is a real bear to get setup for that, but with patience and paperwork can be done), so all we need to do on that front is to be sure to make sure we move things out to regular money as needed to avoid being vulnerable to crashes. We've got it setup so we can use it as a source of income without that being tied to speculating and relying on it.

                            • dmolla

                              @Brony83 - it looks like I can get a suitable laptop for ~$800. and its only job in life will be this mining, I'll still use my current (ha! still funny!) laptop for regular use. Also, already got the backer stories (check out the DigDoug stories - for some reason I always related to the dirtamancers) :)

                              @The Unlurked - thanks for the suggestion of the cooling stand! I'll definitely pick one of those up!

                              • JBeshir

                                @dmolla: Oh wow! I'm not sure I'd recommend buying a new system just for this, but if you want to that's definitely... a big thing. I'm not sure what to say- if you do want to buy a mining setup then I think I should at least try to give some ideas in the right direction- you might be better off with a desktop than a laptop, they're much cheaper for a level of effectiveness, and both current generation nVidia and AMD cards at about the 1060 level are good for performance per watt, although it's better to get things with 4GB of VRAM for future proofing (3GB works now but will stop working eventually).

                                The rest of the system spec doesn't really matter at all except that the power supply and motherboard need to be able to run the graphics card- any system you buy prebuilt should be safe for that. I have heard that companies are offering GPU + system bundles as a way to avoid having all their GPUs taken by the big scale miners who shove like four in a machine, which might help, but I haven't looked into prices at all recently.

                                I'm still kind of wow about this and not sure if I should be going "wow, you don't need to do that", but figured I should give some advice. (If you want to have a high spec laptop anyway as a nice thing to have to be able to game on occasionally then ignore all this!)

                                • csdx

                                  At the end of the day i don't have any real objections to what's going on, just want to able about a few things.


                                  Perfectly random rewards can still be used in Skinner boxes, the point of one is operant conditioning, and you don't need to rig the system, even fair games of chance are already alluring enough as is to many. 

                                  Just because you're not asking for money directly doesn't mean there isn't a cost. Miners are essentially paying not just for power, but in opportunity cost for what their work would've earned them otherwise. If they had joined an external pool earned ETH then gave their earnings for a spin, isn't that the same net cost, with just an extra middleman?

                                  Also you should use the full power consumed rather than the difference from idle, unless you just leave you computer on overnight without at least putting it in some sort of sleep mode. Not a huge absolute difference but still.



                                  • Xeranar

                                    It's clear the cryptocurrency markets are going to be a series of bubbles but it isn't really that bad, so long as you can keep up with the curve and stick with a stable one and assume low values over time with sales of them being reasonable.  Obviously the cost of this is going to always be high to maintain because you're relying on outside artists to do work while most others are drawing as writing.  But I think the mixture of patreon and this is a completely reasonable goal.  

                                    Also people who are jerks enough to get upset over it being cryptocurrency need to take it down about 3 solid notches.  You're a small site, you need to try novel approaches to make money because sadly you're not tied to a huge fandom where you can get easy support like Penny Arcade, the tabletop industry is still mostly small printers and WotC and neither of them are in a position to tap into that sweet Erfworld story (though I would kill for a 5e campaign book set in Erfworld....).

                                    • HighJumper

                                      @dmolla, where did you find a laptop for negative 800 dollars?!?

                                      @everyone else, why are you discouraging dmolla from getting a laptop AND 800 dollars?!?


                                      (@peeps w/o sarcasm, why are you even here?!?)

                                      • Bandaid

                                        My fame rises! Thanks for the honory mention Rob. To give everyone an understanding what relentless means, I had about 260 Spins accumulated over the alpha, with average shares of about 18 while the minimum was one and the maximum was 33.

                                        Those spins earned me five gems.  I found a sixth one shortly after. Together with my free tool gem that means I have found seven so far. Thanks to the leaderboard I know those are worth 91 points, averaging 13 points per gem.

                                        At the moment I write this the most valuable gem is worth 82 points. Given the fact that there are about 1600 free gems waiting to be mined that number might go up and is in itself unsurprising.

                                        Just some data for those who are interested.

                                        As for the concerns raised about damaging your hardware:

                                        I only let the miner run unsupervised after I saw that my GPU was practically glued to 63 degrees Celcius and 37% fan power. Should my card break from that load it will become the problem of my dealer or rather that of the manufacturer, as running my card on with that kind of load should not break it.

                                        Things to be on the lookout for: Fans running at 100%, fans constantly changing their speed, Temperatures over 70 degrees Celcius ( Supposedly cards can handle higher temperatures. I would suggest erring on the side of caution.)

                                        If one of those things above is true then mining with your hardware is indeed not a good idea. That being said, any card can give out at any time. The risk is always yours and yours alone. The whole mining thing is voluntary after all.

                                        So those who can and want mine have fun with it, those who do not want to mine don't mine, and those who wanted to mine but could not thanks for trying on behalf of Erfworld, perhaps you can join in after you get new hardware at some point in the future.

                                        • Jango

                                          "you're entitled to hold and express your very wrong opinions."

                                          WOW. Been following this comic since 2007 or so. Never got around to create a login or something, always thought this community and staff were awesome. Until now. Couldn't resist creating a login just to say WOW.

                                          Nevermind many of us are IT professionals and actually researched about cryptocurrencies and voiced our concerns. Thought some "jeez sorry guys, well, those who want to help please do, it is a form of revenue that we could explore". That would be acceptable.

                                          Instead we get that we are entitled to hold and express our VERY WRONG opinions? Talk about very wrong opinion indeed.

                                          • dmolla

                                            @HighJumper: hahaha, that was supposed to be an "approximate" symbol. Apparently it comes out as a negative symbole :)

                                            • bladestorm

                                              The main thing this did for me was make me realize I have no virtual units.  I want some of those.

                                              • Jay103

                                                GPU not big enough :(

                                                • BakaGrappler

                                                  This page is Super Effective, but one suggestion.  Since news posts tend to slide down the page into obscurity, and there is never a shortage of new people asking the same questions on the internet; my suggestion would be to create a Debunkamancy page connected to the Mine4Erf page to address these very concerns for people starting in on the Mining later on down the road.

                                                  This page is very nice, very well laid out, and the information is super solid. I'd just hate for people to have to constantly post links to it in the future to calm outraged interneters.

                                                  • Thaddius1000

                                                    I enjoy helping. I mean I made an account just to mine. I would prefer rewards based on my hashes nor the shares I found. That may be a function of not having found a gem in over 24 hours and thus I am still not part of the event really. 

                                                    • Poraxus


                                                      I'm curious, did you read the previous comments or only Rob's response. I'm not entirely defending him--one of the reasons this account's remained untouched for years is because I had other criticisms some of his choices in curating this community--but I get the feeling that his snark isn't primarily motivated at attacking criticism or warnings in general. A few people were measured, considered, and polite in raising objections, and I sincerely hope Rob wasn't targeting them. As for others... well, snark is what I would consider a restrained and measured response compared to what would be justified by the level of outraged, condescending vitriol that came along with the constructive criticism.

                                                      And you know what, while we like to say that opinions can't be wrong, opinions that are explicitly predicated on information that is misrepresented, misinterpreted, or outright incorrect can be pretty wrong. No matter how much I disagree with you, I'd never say "Barrack Obama was a bad president" is a wrong opinion. I would however say "Barrack Obama is a bad president because he's a secret Muslim, and everyone knows a Muslim can't possibly be a good leader, as proven empirically by this 2013 Harvard study that I just made up," is a wrong statement, containing a wrong opinion explicitly predicated on so many wrong factual assertions and some very wrong bigotry to boot. Doesn't mean I support censoring that person, doesn't mean that I advocate violence against him or some sort of judicial sanction. It just means that with my limited attention span and a huge variety of voices I could be listening to, his just went to the bottom of the list.

                                                      I don't know enough about cryptocurrencies, on the technological side at least, to know which of the sources cited--for or against--should be considered credible. I do think, however, that I can recognize a sincere attempt to explain to lay people how you reached a certain position on an issue, versus an exercise in browbeating.