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Real-time self-government in the cryptocurrency frontier: The shooting star of altcoin socialism

By Daniel M. Ryan
web posted September 22, 2014

Bilked, Bilked And Bilked

When I wrote that I myself was a Special Snowflake of the Regulatory State, despite my pure-flannel pedigree as a hard-times slacker, I wasn't being ingratiating or cute; I meant what I wrote. Eight months in the altcoin jungle have made me take Dirty Harry's advice to know my limitations – including limitations I never realized I had.

Truth be told, I've been bilked more than a few times there. I thought I was being conscientious by reading the old threads of the more notorious scams of late 2013: ones where an exciting new alt – typically promising path-breaking technical innovations – that ended with the Bitcoin-flush promoter vanishing into the outer space of internet anonymity. By doing this, I thought I could better avoid pre-sale scams coming down the pipe. I had the aim of making a quick buck, of course, but I did have enough sense to know what comes with high rewards. I undertook the research to help me handicap the risk that I'd be bilked.

Three hours' worth of due diligence garnered me several "tells." All of them proved to be mostly useless for the scams that came down the pipe in the spring of 2014. Instead of savvy, I wound up cocksure. The newer breed of scammers evidently had done a parallel due diligence, and had made their scam-running methods more sophisticated. I got burned several times by edge cases, where it was unclear whether the scam-runner was a thief or a kid who had gotten in over his head. Granted that the latter grabbed and ran too; from the standpoint of someone holding the bag, splitting them into two is a distinction without a difference.

But from the standpoint of sizing up the next offering - of gauging whether or not it's going to be a Bitcoin roach motel - it's a distinction that makes a lot of difference. Especially since the huge-winner pre-sales are also vapourware or unreleased prior to the close of the "IPO," and are also announced through newbie accounts set up for the purpose. That similarity makes it pretty difficult to tell if you're buying into a winner, a miscarriage or an outright scam.

What I had to learn, the hard way, was how to lower my sights. Instead of kidding myself about shooting up from scrape-along-the-bottom to real affluence, I had to content myself with making much smaller pre-sale spends, which I cast as like buying expensive scratch-card lottery tickets. If I were lucky, I might win enough to buy a new computer; nothing more. As a result, the last two times I was bilked cost me less than $70 each.

Had I continued in this vein, I would have tried out an utterly cynical riverboat-gambler strategy: scrape up enough for two full Bitcoins, "invest" only 0.1 BTC in each new IPO that came down the pipe until I shrunk my balance to zero, and not buy any more until I got some proceeds from my earlier speculations. Systematically taking minor plunges into all the new pre-sale offering, while cynically knowing that a majority of them would be either scams or unsalable miscarriages. Doing so would have required stifling the natural drive to get mad after being bilked. This system play, consequently, would have required the same emotional control that professional poker players have to cultivate. Since I abandoned the IPO whirl entirely, this scheme is only a neat-o idea, untested.

Confronting my gullibility made it clear that a large part of my Special Snowflake sheltering included protection from being bilked on the stock market. A promoter grabbing the IPO money and running has never happened in my lifetime on the stock market; not once. There have been some frauds, true, but all of those frauds have occurred in working companies. Even on the grandest scale, the most notorious resemble an overheated trader getting in over his head, hiding his losing trades from the boss, and hoping to pull himself out of his hole by getting lucky with his next trades. The only exception is outright Ponzi schemes, and even the Madoff scheme started off legit in the ‘80s.

None of them have involved absconding with the proceeds without so much as a cheery farewell. Even those Jordan-Belfort-type scam IPOs at least went through the motions, making them the equivalent of an altcoin miscarriage. Even at the lowest and scuzziest level, the contrast with the altcoin jungle is striking.

What this means is, all of us are sheltered by the still-very-prevalent regulations extant. So, I can say flatly that liberals who call the securities market "unregulated" have absolutely no clue about what they're talking about. The only unregulated asset trading market, apart from Craigslist-like backwater OTC venues, is none other than the altcoin jungle. I know this for a fact.

Consequently, being bilked financially – once you're over your shock or outrage - just comes with the altcoin territory. You lick your wounds and move on, perhaps by abjuring the IPO game entirely.

I certainly had wounds to lick, but I was also bilked at a level that purely pragmatic people wouldn't understand. The biggest and most profound way I was bilked actually resulted in me ending up with a small pecuniary gain. In practical terms, I didn't lose a thing and gained much. I gained real-world experience with shouldering the responsibilities that come with being in the in-crowd for a white-hot altcoin. I also gained a reputation as a reliable self-appointed pitcher-inner. When the altcoin imploded, my reputation remained intact.

 Ironically, the prior pecuniary bilks I suffered probably had a lot to do with me being pegged as someone who was just naïve.

No: from a practical point of view, I was not bilked in the least. But, in a profound way, I was bilked ideologically. I was bilked out of a lot of study-hours I put into economics, in particular my outside-reading studies. I actually had to shuffle through my book-memory – long after the fact - to recall what I had already long learned.

I am your humble author, and I fell hard for cryptocurrency socialism.    

Socialism Cheat Sheet

Formally, socialism is an economic framework wherein all the assets are owned in common by the community and divided up by head, if only abstractly, via written records. The income distribution is seen to by the community directly or by an institution that's expected to act as a mere mandatory. Incomes are equal by working head unless there's a solid reason for inequalities, like Marx's recommendation to pay skilled workers the "socially necessary" rate. There's also equality of "voice:" each citizen or member has an equal say in how the economy and the rest of the set-up is run.

You may well think I missed something. If so, you likely equate "socialism" with State socialism. State socialism actually is the mainstream in the socialist world, and State socialists typically and actively look down on other kinds of socialists. The blanket exception they give to anarchist socialists is, "these kids have hearts of gold" in kind.  

In fact, there are several varieties of socialism: guild socialism, where the shop or factory is owned by its workers, various strains of "community" socialism, and the good ole commune approach. The last, although it saw a flicker of revival in the later hippie era, is all but gone. The only extant remnants are sparse and fringey experiments with only small groups of people.

Although I studied free-market economists' refutations of socialism in depth when a youth, my emotional aversion is in line with a red-blooded author many decades ago who denounced "Robbery Under Law." Virtually all socialisms count on expropriation in one form or another, which I found really off-putting.

That was the emotional opening for Mr. Branwipe to sneak in my head and fire up his patented Stupidizer. Since standard commune socialism nestles itself into an outside free economy peacefully, by the communers and/or a patron buying the locale for the commune from a willing seller, commune socialism cannot be called "Robbery Under Law." It's the only socialism I'm aware of that is not only compatible with a market economy but is also essentially law-abiding.

Socialism Comes To Altcoin Land Under Another Name

The main reason that the Stupidizer worked on me is that none of the promoters and supports of those altcoin experiments in socialism even hinted at the word. Then as now, you'll only see the word "socialism" in Bitcointalk in the context of someone shooting down some else's idea or plan. "That is socialism" means "that is lousy."

And to be frank, the socialism that popped up in altcoin land during the spring 2014 "Free And Fair Diistribution" frenzy was very weak sauce to any commie-red-blooded socialist's. All of them were driven by fun, the kind of fun that comes with helping build an alt from the ground up, and profit. No-one was kidding themselves about any purportedly noble ideals.

The "Free And Fair Distribution" coins were justified on completely different grounds. Like the original rationale for the first crytocurrency populist coin NEM, the justification was that free distribution of one modest stake per head would assure wide distribution for the coin and a large fan club from the get-go. "Fair" distribution assures that there are no disgruntled bashers of the coin, which in a suspicion-ridden steam pit like Bitcointak can sometimes command a frighteningly high influence. And the underlying rationale for "Free" came from the fact that the altcoin-cloning services were well established. You can buy the altcoin answer to a ready-to-go commune for about a hundred and fifty bucks. That's about the price of a set of snazzy headphones on eBay.

In the days when proof-of-work was standard, however, plunking down $150 essentially meant buying a high-pressure job with a lot of hassles shortly after launch. That didn't change until a sidelined network-securing method grew into smooth-functioning newbie-proof maturity. It's called Proof of Stake.

Proof of Stake has the same network-securing innards as Proof of Work, but they're modified so that anyone with an open and connected wallet has a shot at validating a block of transactions and collecting the block reward. In typical Proof-of-Stake implementations, the chances are weighed by the number of altcoins you have in your wallet. It's like a shareholder vote for a listed company, and it's typically depicted as compound interest. That, of course, led to the same old complaints about the "rich getting richer" and "lousy distributions" until Proof-of-Stake met "Free and Fair."

The intersection of those two, plus the fame that NEM gathered for its "fair distribution," came together to spark the "Free And Fair Distribution" craze. It began when the "country coin" fad fizzled into the usual mess of dormant coins and angry bagholders. "Free and Fair" had the entirely capitalistic advantage of wide distribution, as explained above, but it also mollified the economic-populist complaints that proliferated when Nxt hit it big. Thanks to the exotic world of alternative cryptocurrencies, a socialist initial distribution was not only feasible – even by a newbie dev – but also proved to be an altcoin marketer's dream. Altcoin socialism - unnamed, unplanned, even unintended because of the goal of profit – had arrived in a big way.

The Can Of Unintended Consequences Is Opened

It wasn't long before naifs and Stupidizered people like me learned – or re-learned – a little something about socialism. The first alt to jump on the "Free and Fair" frenzy had the simplest distribution system that can be: one applicant, one stake. It wasn't long before the naïve dev saw what UtopianFuture had savvily anticipated: sockpuppet masters emerged who landed ten, twenty, even fifty or more stakes. This unintended consequence was confirmed by the block explorer, not to mention at least one of the sockpuppeteers bragging about it.

So it was back to the "Free And Fair" drawing board. The first hoop to appear was disqualifying new Bitcointalk account holders from receiving a stake. The generally-accepted circumference of the hoop was: accounts need to be one to two weeks old as of the time of the initial announcement, and the account holder had to have racked up a post count somewhere between twenty and fifty. This, of course led to a flood of complimenty but general-sounding posts all over Bitcointalk's Alternative Cryptocurrency board. The vets had a good chortle over a whole gaggle of different accounts posting the exact same niceness more-or-less at the same time. It wasn't hard to figure out that these bursts of cheeriness came courtesy of Google Translate from a certain originary language, said translations being passed around in certain social networks like a hot tip on a penny stock.

The first hoop did cut off the more egregious kind of sockpuppetry, but it was still surrounded by a cardboard fence. The naïve devs who thought they had been shrewd with their qualifications were soon to discover something that an embittered welfare caseworker would have told them in confidence, and Ronald Reagan had spoken out about publicly in 1980.

"Free and Fair" had met the Giveaway King…and, of course, the Giveaway Queen.

So this led to more tinkering to find the right size of hoop until a newbie dev showed up on March 25th with a plan that – he was sure – would cut through the fussbudgeting. For his new venture into altcoin socialism, with a plain proof-of-stake clonecoin whose total float was a billion, the one thousand Free and Fair stakes of a million each would be only distributed after he had personally vetted each applicant. He himself would only get one stake and be as equal in holdings as the lowliest member. There were the now-standard age and post requirements in the original announcement, but there was another criterion: each applicant had to apply in a special post either through Facebook or two other cryptocurrency forums.

In fact, there were four rules posted:

Rule 1: Only Bitcointalk account created before March 20, 2014 will be qualified

Rule 2: Only accounts with enough contribution (min. 50+ quality posts)

Rule 3: A promise to deserve [the group's] actions and take active role in targets given such as voting, posting, pushing it hard survival of crypto.

Rule 4: Any post of wallet address in the thread will result in disqualifications (Bitcointalk rules does not allow it)

These rules were just below how his depiction of how his new altcoin was supposed to work:

We establish a community and each of the community members has equal number of coins initially (1 million coins each)

We then work together and increase crypto values, by different enhancement/marketing/promotions.

Remember, it is your coin, it is my coin, it is the community coin. So if you want the coin to have a bright future, think of something creative and good for the coin!

As it turned out, the dev was Russian, or from somewhere in Eastern Europe that had recent very vivid memories of State socialism. He didn't want his new alt to become digital Monopoly money, so he had no intention of pretending to pay. And as Rule 3 made clear, he was not interested in sending a stake to anyone who would pretend to work.

Fittingly, this coin was called Community Coin. The economic populists ‘round Bitcoin liked what they saw almost immediately. Free coins! No IPO! A dev willing to essentially work for free! Or so they thought.

As for the dev, who had picked the logical username communitycoin, he proved to be a smart cookie publicity-wise. His essentially arbitrary Rule 3 had a magnetic effect on his quickly-growing community. Perhaps without knowing it, or perhaps with knowledge aforethought, he had tapped into the universal psychological hook for all forms of socialism: We, the Community, are a cut above those embittered foes or sorry sods that are not part of Us. Yes surely, the psychological hook-line-and-sinker for socialism is group pride.

Since the dev made clear that he only wanted people who would pitch in, that got a lot of Community hopefuls pitching in by promoting it around the Alternative Cryptocurrencies board. I found out about it on one of those promo threads, and dropped notice of my application in the first announcement thread linked to above. 

Eight hours later on the same thread, I saw myself and another user recognized by name by the Leader himself:  "1) NXtblg poonamelessme please reach these members they posted wrong wallet and let them pm me correct wallets….2) those who received Cryptos add us some exchange vote lists. We should not lose time."   

And that was it for me. Being recognized in this way meant that the Leader wanted me on the list. Since his overall tone had an air of granting a favour to the people he accepted, this meant I and poornamelessme were earmarked. Swiftly, we both became part of the inner circle of movers and shakers in the Community. I managed the subreddit and posted a lot of cheerleading on the first thread and the huge, monster second announcement thread.

The Community's Strength…

It wasn't long before that announcement thread became white-hot. Some of it was people posting nice things in the hope that they would be approved for a stake, but a lot of it was boosting, planning and even organizing by people who had already gotten their stakes. Bitcointalk user samysamy1 soon became the go-between for the dev and the burgeoning community: in effect, he became the COO of the operation. Several others stepped in, most with a knack for getting the word out or hard cheerleading for the community drives. pabloangello, an altcoineer with a real knack for working twitter, was so energetic and enthusiastic that he got a Twitter promo group together numbering more than twenty. At its height, the promo power on Twitter was strong enough for Community Coin to qualify for a Thunderclap blast that he organized and pushed.

Those community drives included a lot of funding campaigns for a basic ecosystem for Community Coin: a block explorer, a faucet that would dispense small amounts of Community Coin to anyone who applied, a simple dice game using it, a simple scratch lottery, a new Website, a better logo than the original, even a simple dedicated multipool that would mine other altcoins and buy up Community Coin with the proceeds. Since I was well aware that I had essentially gotten a freebie, I was an easy touch for almost all of them. I didn't have the energy or organizational skill to run one of those drives, but I contributed some Community Coin and dutifully posted all of them to the Community Coin subreddit. Since Community Coin was at heart a plain clone, those side services except the multipool, logo and coin Website were quickly coded by programmers who had already offered the same thing for many other altcoins. Essentially, those service providers cloned their own work. So those side services were up and running quickly and didn't cost much in the way of Community Coin bounties.

But these high-powered charity drives were only shadows compared to the one campaign that was legendary in altcoin circles: The Great Mintpal Vote Drive.

Before it half-foundered and was taken over by new management who instituted new policies, Mintpal was one of the top five altcoin exchanges. It was most known for its voting page, where fans and boosters of their favourite alt could vote for it to be added to Mintpal's listings. At the time the Great Mintpal Vote Drive started, Mintpal permitted anyone to vote once every ten minutes; in mid-stream, only registered Mintpal users could do so. There was also an option to cast votes by paying Bitcoin, which explained some otherwise-odd results.

This drive provided a focus and unity that poured out energy and enthusiasm that was almost unprecedented. Watching Community Coin inch up the ranks became like a live sports drama. Where are we now? What rank? Who's ahead of us? Who are we beating? Who have we left in the dust? Who were we going to leave in the dust?

Everyone clicking the "Vote" button was Miami-Heat certain that Community Coin was going right to #1. The united strength of the Community would prevail even against active competitors.

The community was galvanized by it. Soon, a widget appeared that allowed someone to vote for Community Coin every ten minutes automatically. But a lot of those votes were real and manual. It was community-building: a bonding through a mountain-moving collective strive at a level never seen at Bitcointalk.

And when the inevitable happened, the thread was full of cheers. By the time Mintpal listed Community Coin, it was #1 on the voting list with only a smidgen of Bitcoin spent on the drive.

The excitement and drive were so huge, I saw something almost unheard-of in altcoin land. When it comes to new listings, the exchange owners usually have the upper hand. Devs typically have to lobby, publicly petition, beg and/or slip some payola over before their coin gets listed.

But when Community Coin's Great Mintpal Vote Drive had reached its climax, another top-five exchange named Bter announced that it had listed Community Coin entirely on its own initiative. The action was so intense, Bter's owner had decided to pre-empt Mintpal by offering a listing first. Soon, two other biggies - Cryptsy and Poloniex - listed Community Coin as well.

The excitement was so overwhelming, only a small part of me realized that something was missing. That's because, in my part-of-the-collective enthusiasm, I was ashamed at that same something which was missing from my own repertoire of skills. 

…And The Community's Weakness  

That lacking, seemingly a meaningless one, was the almost complete absence of any programming talent in the community. The few who knew how to program at all, only did so at an amateur-hobbyist's level – my level with respect to Java. With respect to C++ or other languages needed by Community Coin, talent was almost nonexistent; only a few had any skill at all.

When thing were going white-hot smooth, that didn't seem to be a problem to anyone. After all, Dogecoin was a mere clonecoin while it climbed to rival only Bitcoin in popularity and recognition. And Community Coin, at its height, had a serious shot at becoming the next Dogecoin. I believed this to the tune of spending 0.5 Bitcoin out of my own pocket for a Dogecoin-like tipbot custom-coded for Community Coin. Given that my total stake was well over that level when Community Coin was blazing, I didn't mind the expense and the little bit of extra work involved.

You've undoubtedly heard the old saw about socialism in the real world: one set of rules for the leader, one set of rules for the community. This homely bit of wisdom did kick in as the Community Coin saga unfolded, but not quite in the way you'd expect.

True, the dev was very explicit – and more than once – about stakes being denied to those who "betrayed" the community. Because his strict criteria found less than 500 takers, he exercised his leader's right to change the terms of the additional offering. Instead of 1000 stakeholders with 1 million each, he decided to issue additional stakes of 1 million each to those Community members he felt to be deserving because of their hard work. The rest of the coins would be held in a development fund to pay bounties for more ecosystem development and, we all hoped, to upgrades to the Community Coin infrastructure itself. The withheld stakes for the development fund ended up totalling more than 200 million.

This policy was not really arbitrary, as he made his decision only after a lot of community input was solicited; that input included a poll. The trouble came in the way he implemented it. First of all, his accepted- and rejected-lists were done sloppily; this sloppiness resulted in more than a few complaints. Worse, he slighted a few provably hard-working supporters. In at least one case, the case of bluewackadoo, the dev's slighting had turned a fervent and indefatigable supporter into a very disgruntled enemy.

No, the enjoyment of power was not the failing of the Leader of the Community Coin commune. His rather unusual brand of me-but-not-thee consisted of passivity.

For perhaps the first time in the history of socialist "experiments," the Community Coin commune had a Maximum Leader who was essentially King Log.

Admittedly, he was upfront about this at the get-go. His position, clear enough although not completely explicit, was: I supply the coin, the first logo and the primitive Website. I give you-all stakes in the coin. Then, it's up to all of you to do the work.

Many of us had figured it out, and didn't have much problem with it when the rocket flew the right way. In terms of strategy, it was a lot like BCNext when he attracted a whole office's worth of top-notch talent for his Nxt. The Leader Who Refused To Lead strategy did work for Community Coin: the dev's passivity did create a vacuum that was filled by a promotional "Dream Team."

But the trouble was, Community Coin had attracted only promotional whizzes. People who were skilled in programming were colossally uninterested in becoming early adopters of Community Coin, even when it was white-hot. They looked down on it as yet another bought-and-paid for clone. To be brusque, the Community only elicited mouth-work.

In fact, even the dev didn't have any programming skill; worse, he proved to be a klutz with his computer. His klutziness meant he made a fatal mistake that turned the Community Coin rocket ship 180 degrees back to the ground.

From White Hot To Red Fury

The mistake he made, in retrospect, is so amateurish it's almost silly. He had kept the wallet file for the 200 million Community Coins earmarked for the development fund on a rickety old computer and didn't back the file up. The hard drive on his old bit-bucket failed, and the coins were unrecoverable. By not backing his wallet up, he had lost almost the entire development fund.

At the time he had announced it, only a few cynics had surfaced in the Community Coin thread to claim that the hard-drive loss was really a cover story for the dev sneaking them to an exchange and offloading them. Case in point, from bitcoinpaul:

Quote from: communitycoin on April 05, 2014, 12:32:06 PM

Dear Community: we have to report an incident to you. This morning one of our team members computer had a hard-drive failure, and as a consequence many files were lost including one of our COMM coin depot wallet, with approximately 196.8 mil COMMs in it. Despite all efforts we are not able to recover the wallet, and unfortunately no backup was made for this wallet (while we made backups for other wallets, this one was somehow missed as it was created later than others).

This is the wallet:


We are sorry about this incident, and we want to sincerely apologize to the community. Since the wallet (private key) was erased, it is like this amount of coins was never mined.

Haha, loled very hard. And there are people who believe this. Nice.

That snip was made almost thirteen days after the dev's original announcement, which reflected how slowly the surmise spread at first. All of us in the Community just shrugged it off, and the few cynics which claimed it was a cover story were just snapped at and quickly forgotten. After all, the Great Mintpal Vote Drive was on! And there were lots of other things to do, too.

There was good reason why we Community members more-or-less shrugged off the snipe crew. As the original announcement shows, Community Coin had a working block explorer at the time of the accident. It was easy to show that the coins in the now-destroyed wallet hadn't been moved anywhere, let alone to an exchange to be sold. So those dark surmises were treated as nothing more than FUD. The above-mentioned group pride kicked in; it was easy to see people who made that accusation as Community-haters, or embittered, or just plain troublemakers.

But the suspicions mounted up, to the point where the above-quoted bitcoinpaul soon had a seconder - someone who had assembled a large list of grievances:

Now the case became more and more funny.

200 Mil coins got "LOST".  And fix doesn't work.

There are a lot of really ACTIVE members killed in the second distribution.

There are a lot of fully qualified applicants ignored by the stupid dev with no result or bad luck.

There are at least 7mil interests in the hand of dev. He never mentioned it and he pretend there are no interests at all. He said it's a FAIR coin as he will get only one stake like other stakeholders. However, can the dev show us how many stakes he finally get? 

There is no a list of full distribution, even it's easy to have one. If you said the dev was busy on the distribution before, WTF he is doing now?  Sell the bulk of coins on Poloniex?  I guess so.  People even don't who get the coins and how many people got the coins. I can imagine there could be some imaginary "stakeholders" whose stakes finally flow into the dev's wallet.

There are still 80 mil coins in the hand of dev for "final" distribution.

It's like a long term cat-catch-mouse game.  How long will the dev plan to play the mouse?  Another three [months]?

Stop scam us.

One reasonable and friendly observer, who had just became a minor 100,000-coin stakeholder through the generosity of none other than bluewackadoo, was moved enough by the grievance list to politely suggest voiding the blockchain and relaunching. When his polite suggestion was politely rejected, he got a little more outspoken: "What's the point of that? It's like monitoring a tank saying "don't worry, i'll stop it if it fires". What will you do if he decides to dump all his coins on all exchanges within the space of an hour? Nothing. There is nothing anyone can do then except watch their own coin value disappear into nothingness and watch the dev become rich."

At that time, Community Coin was #12 on Mintpal's voting list and the same bluewackadoo was tirelessly and energetically rallying everyone to vote and vote more. Needless to say, that initially polite skeptic's new outspokenness got him the standard treatment meted out to FUDsters. At that time, the rah-rah and enthusiasm was laced with some rather salty language.

But the doubts had reached the dev himself, who announced: "Another dev contacted regarding issue, i accepted stake reward for fix for any dev, ask samysamy1 for details" The issue was unresolved at the time Community Coin shot past 46,500 votes on the Mintpal list, but the multipool operator Adriano soon announced that he had updated the wallet so that the coins in the lost wallet could never be spent.

This modification was a "hard fork," an upgrade that breaks backward compatibility with earlier versions. Since Community Coin was a Proof-of-Stake coin, every open wallet helped secure the network and had a say in which blockchain would be the consensus one. Driven by community spirit, a large majority downloaded and used the upgraded wallet which was specifically hard-coded to reject any send from the now-questionable lost-coin address. With that majority in place, the coins would never enter the blockchain ledger. They were locked down.

This should have put the question of "scam" to rest, but it didn't; if anything, the decriers were encouraged. Especially since, when Mintpal finally listed Community Coin, it entered a bear market.

And that was the point where Community Coin's fate was really sealed. In addition to a bear market that proved to be solid, the successful Mintpal drive was like the post-season championship. When the Community won, then began off-season. The excitement dribbled away and the angry cynics saw that the momentum had shifted their way. Unfortunately, the tipbot I ordered took too long to break in and test. By the time I unveiled it, it was too little, too late.

That's where the weakness of altcoin socialism really surfaced. By that time, everyone had received their stakes. Many of those took the better part of community spirit and sold off. Even I sold some off, although the proceeds did compensate me for the tipbot purchase.  

As May turned into June and then July, both the price and the volume of Community Coin drifted to shadows of their former selves. So did the rate of new posts on its announcement thread; eventually, the only ones who still posted regularly were the inner core of the old in-circle. Only some of them, that is.

Occasionally, there are some people that drift in and wonder what happened. As of the time of this writing, there's a little talk about a few members of the now-torpid Community teaming up and taking over the responsibilities from the original dev. Six weeks beforehand, the most active poster on the thread was the reviver of another altcoin who was looking at Community Coin in the same way a NASDAQ pink-sheet punter would size up a shell company. That's where the once-legendary Community Coin is: a shell of a coin, with a couple of people lobbying others to get it resuscitated under new management. It's like the rickety remnants of an abandoned commune.

Altcoin Socialism Turns Out To Be…Socialism   

Since I had to relearn the old learnings the hard way, I can relate why socialism has the perennial appeal that it does. Strangely, a well-run commune or socialist "community" taps into the same yearning for glory you find on the football field. If you're iron-clad sure in your heart that your team is the best there is, you'll pour your guts out on the gridiron. And, if you're convinced that your commune is inevitably going to rock the world as well as yield a nice living, you'll throw yourself into the work just as a professional defensive tackle throws himself into a tackling dummy in practice sessions.

The trouble is: the world of work does not fit into a gridiron.

When you're on the football field, you give it all you got for the two to three hours that the game lasts. But then, the game is over. It's time to get ready for the next one. Followed by the next one after that, and so on until the season ends.

If this high-charged and high-powered ethic is transformed into a commune, it puts a psychological premium on short-term tasks that produce short-term results. Results that you can show to the rest of the commune during the inevitable and necessary morale-keeping rah-rah sessions. That's what keeps everyone going: a touchdown here, a field goal there, and so on. As a result, a commune is not conducive to all the necessary long-term work that takes weeks or months of sustained effort without any visible results. Even if the Leader is conscientious enough to make them "feel included," everyone can see the difference. The people who've completed something and show it – who've won a tangible victory that everyone sees – get real applause, while the long-termers get the polite A-for-effort applause. Inevitably, this drains the morale of people doing the long-term building work.

And if the Leader is not conscientious, the long-term builders wind up getting treated like the towel boy.

The only way to compensate for this inevitable short-termism is to turn the cheerleading and applause into a ritual that sticks. That's why commune rah-rah inevitably turns into an outright faith or even cult. You need that faith securely in your heart to keep plugging away when the incentive tie between your personal work and your personal reward is broken. Like it is in the commune setup, and like it is in any socialist scheme.

Eventually the good ole tragedy of the commons surfaces, which gets a good push from the fact that some people – shrewdly if cynically – see that they'll get fed even if they putter around. They also get the idea that they're smarter than the hard-chargers. So the Stakhanovite, in an essentially voluntary socialism, wonders why he goes from local hero to Animal Farm's Boxer.

The hard workers thus become disillusioned, in small clusters or one by one. Then they get outraged and start yelling, or they get apathetic and quietly move on. Once the tragedy-of-the-commons ball gets rolling, it's only a matter of time before the commune breaks up and winds up as yet another cautionary tale.

Now you know why all forms of essentially voluntary socialism are very much out of the mainstream n the socialist world, except for essentially childlike idealists who are normally treated gently by the others. Now you know why State socialism, relying on State coercion, is the mainstream.

On July 25th, 2014, the formerly fervent and durned effective publicity whiz pabloangello had this to say publicly to Community Coin's King Log:

I officially say it. [----] YOU DEV. You are a lazy [----].

You even couldn't sell your own coins for a good prize because of such a behavior.

This repudiation by one of the last holdouts garnered a response from another inner-circle straggler and a brief conversation between the two. If you've read the Black Book Of Communism, this otherwise sensible response should send a chill up your spine:

I am sure this retarded dev have a God Syndrome, given away 0-value coins and thought he did his best. One thing he missed is that not such thing like a community without active leader…

There you have it: no such thing as a "community" without an active leader. An active leader…

As the histories of State socialism amply demonstrate, that variety of socialism has never had any trouble calling forth active leaders.

Our tour of the "Fair Distribution" fad is not over; there are more teachable moments from the altcoin jungle. Strangely, most of them are so ordinary that they veer from the tragic to the darkly comic. And yes, a certain type of character shows up too. ESR

Daniel M. Ryan is a long-time contributor to Enter Stage Right and has returned to the fold. © 2014 Daniel M. Ryan.







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