What It’s Like To Work On An Altcoin?

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You don’t spend the length of time in this industry that I have without ending up with some sort of deep experience. In my case, my obsession with cryptocurrency, financial and digital freedom, as well as, well, money, has led me all over the place. I’ve made a small fortune gambling at places like BitStarz, only to later have to liquidate it at firesale prices in order to keep my life in order.

Gambling is the pornography of cryptocurrency, or its first use case (as pornography was truly the first viable, profitable use-case for the Internet).

Of Dwarves And Logs

But perhaps more interesting than the dozens of uses I’ve found for cryptocurrency is the years-long intellectual pursuit it led me on.

In the late fall of 2014, I had been fortunate enough to mine a coin called Woodcoin, using only my CPU. What interested me about Woodcoin was, at first, I’ll admit, some of the people who were paying it mind. But after reading a bit about it, I learned that it had done something to the supply schedule of Bitcoin: instead of a halving event, as we just had in Bitcoin, Woodcoin’s supply lowers with each block. Using a logarithmic supply schedule, the idea was to create a “sustainable” cryptocurrency.

I had thousands of logs, the token in Woodcoin. One of the first things getting in early on an altcoin made me do was learn how to use Qt Studio, and I quickly made a few enhancements to the wallet user interface. Chiefly, I added the rudimentary logo that the coin’s creator had posted in Bitcointalk.

At my last publication, which I choose not to name, I was running a podcast in early 2015. I decided to share my good fortune as regards Woodcoin, and bring the creator on the show.

He accepted, and I was strangely excited, despite this guy being virtually unknown. By this point, I had spoken to my share of highly wanted fugitives, CEOs, millionaires, and more. I had even appeared on the BBC. But Funkenstein the Dwarf, as he called himself then, interested me more than any of them.

Diving In

We made fast friends after the interview. In the podcast, I admitted that I held the token, so it didn’t pump as a result of the podcast. It wasn’t my goal to pump the podcast. If you want the truth, I was just making sure this wasn’t Satoshi Nakamoto, working out his second version. (It wasn’t.) Any good crypto-journalist is forever on the hunt for traces of Nakamoto. Funkenstein had referred to Nakamoto as a “great wizard” in the Woodcoin whitepaper, and he fundamentally admitted it was a rudimentary copy of Bitcoin with a few changes.

Which is better than most altcoins, which often pretend Bitcoin didn’t invent the space.

I kept his number, and one drunken evening after a particularly biting gambling loss, I called him up. I said I wanted to contribute more, that I would make the time. Unlock a lot of experiences I’d had in cryptocurrency up to that point, I felt welcome right away.

My thought then was that the only thing Woodcoin, like all coins, is truly missing is a community.

Look at Tron. It has a pitifully low token price, but its community thrives, and there’s an awful lot you can do with that token. It’s only a matter of time before that translates into the real world.

Long story short, I worked on the project for years. I’ve contributed directly to wallet development, built probably half a dozen decent websites (most of which are offline), run forums, and attempted to do more. The hope was to attract more competent programmers, but to date we’ve never done it. So Woodcoin sort of languishes, forever on the verge of being called a shitcoin, just keeping up with Bitcoin updates.

Success Is Subjective

All that, and the thing sum total is worth far less than a million bucks. The coin is largely held in burn addresses and speculative holders. We still get the occasional interest from miners. But all in all, it’s quiet in the woods.

I want to explain, however, why I think Woodcoin, and many coins like it, should continue to exist.

If we’re thinking of cryptocurrency as a whole, then central points of failure can be anything from centralized exchanges to, well, you guessed it: allegiance to a single cryptocurrency. While it may retain a low value now, demand for blockchains like Woodcoin has could pick up quickly in the event that Bitcoin becomes unusable or infeasible for real-world reasons.

I probably wouldn’t choose to work on a cryptocurrency again. It’s a hard and complicated process, and sometimes there’s even a little drama. I prefer the comfort of writing words to the difficulty of engineering code. That’s just the simple truth. After six years of good effort, I’ll call it a day, but probably not. Before you know it, I’ll be right back in the thick of it, trying to solve some problem that looks easy on the surface, burning the midnight oil.