Hallo. Can you let me out of the jail? I would like to post a topic in the Economics section about exchanges and solvency.
Page the 1 stated newbies can post something that demonstrates attainment of more knowledge than an average newb. Last week one of my college buddies sent me an email seeking information about BitCoins and whether he should buy them. I penned this quick response which I think demonstrates this:
It's good to hear from you bud. I'm glad everything is going well. I think the last time we spoke you were looking for a job over in Europe? That had to be maddening. I've been doing alright, still living in Philadelphia and trying to save a couple dollars.
Bitcoins are finally getting attention in the mainstream media. I heard a story on NPR this morning about them. I'll say, their ascent to $100+ dollars has been pretty amazing, if a bit ridiculous and/or irrationally exuberant. I'm of the opinion that these growth numbers that we have seen through 2013 are not the best thing for a few reasons, which include "Tulip Mania," viability as an alternative currency, FX stability and confidence in the currency.
It's difficult to pin this huge move higher on any single event or cause; the timing of these events leaves a lot of room for speculation. There are a couple theories:
The Block Reward was halved - In late 2012 the reward for 'mining' a block of coins was halved from 50 to 25, or read another way, the difficulty of mining doubled. So, all things staying the same (like the number of miners), fewer coins are being generated and it's harder to mine them. When you hear the term 'mining' coins, it just means people running computers that are hashing huge numbers within the BitCoin distributed protocol to verify these very complex mathematical proofs that are the basis for BitCoins. Whoever discovers the answer to the proof first is awarded BitCoins. There are issues with this theory that are purely time based, since the reward was halved in November and the rise is occurring now. I conjecture it's similar to the lag we see with monetary policy, where you see the effects of Fed funds rate 12-18 months later. See: http://bitcoinmagazine.com/block-reward-halving-a-guide/
Eurozone/Capital Controls - The stories I have read lately about the rise in value all seem to point to Cyprus' citizens buying coin like crazy, but the climb to $100 started in the middle of January way before Cyprus, albeit the move higher gained much more momentum since. Cyprus was a catalyst that sped up a process that was already in motion; specifically, the Troika's decision to float the idea that insured depositors' money could be used to fund bailing out insolvent banks and to completely disregard the traditional capital structure of a bank's liabilities. Then followed the capital controls (ATM withdrawl limits, suspension of bank transfers) to ensure that no bank runs would ensue. Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and a host of other European countries could still potentially need 100s of billions of Euros to recapitalize the respective banking sectors. The spectre of deposit appropriation by the state and capital controls looms on the horizon, and demand from Europe could be the source of this rise. There are some issues with this theory: not many basic goods can be procured by paying with BitCoins, a relatively steep learning curve, convertibility issues. Then again, people might just be buying them to protect their Euro holdings, however slow convertibility might be. I'm curious about the Media in Europe. An analysis of news stories and BitCoin references could prove very insightful here.
SatoshiDice/BitCoin gambling - People love to gamble. Strangely enough, this is considered a denial of service attack on the BitCoin protocol, since it's flooding. See: http://satoshidice.com/
Hedge Funds - Go figure. They could be either buying them or mining them. They have the technical know-how AND the money to setup a serious mining operation, however all mining would do is increase the difficulty of mining for everyone else.
Hoarding - People are hoarding BitCoins and the price is being bid up. This could end badly when one of the bigger prisoners decides to talk.
Silk Road - Anonymous marketplace on line where people can buy drugs using BitCoins. I doubt this is the reason, since it's been known about for a pretty long time and Gawker wrote about it like 18 months ago.
I know that's a lot to digest, but there are many moving parts and virtually zero transparency or analysis in the traditional sense.
Should I buy BitCoins right now? I wonder the same thing but I err on the side of caution, since one would be buying on the way up. I find it very disconcerting that there cannot be a bubble because we're talking about "BitCoin" and cryptocurrency. There have been other crashes in the value, most notable in 2 years ago. Since 3-3-13 there has been an increase in USD value of 263%. Annualized, that's 3199%! Tulip mania. It's going to pop; getting the timing right is the hard part.
I figure there are two options: speculate with the money in BitCoins, or invest the money in mining equipment, which has recently reached new levels of productivity. If you can stand losing the money (possibly overnight), then invest/speculate with it. Be aware Mt Gox has limits on deposits, withdrawals per day and per month, and there have been new developments on regulation and how exchanges need to track transactions, see: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130325/03034522451/feds-take-step-closer-to-trying-to-regulate-bitcoin.shtml
Mining is a different story, and a new realm of equipment is starting to hit the market with incredible power. The computational time needed these days to mine a block of coins is immense and the new specialty hardware hitting the market is amazing. Miners first used CPUs, then moved to GPUs (high end graphics cards) and clusters of GPUs, and then to field programmable gate arrays (a long winded way of saying specialty chip boards that use very little power and can crunch numbers insanely fast) and now we are into application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), which are engineered and designed specifically to mine BitCoins. They are the future of mining. See, http://www.butterflylabs.com/
. Mining is not a free lunch. It's requires a capital investment, power is not free, you need to cool these things, and you need a big internet pipe (for instance I don't think most consumer grade internet subscriptions would be maxed out and you'd be leaving computing power on the table), along with a bunch of other considerations, like what do you do if the custom equipment breaks. Also, there appears to be a severe shortage of ASIC stuff right now.
I like the mining idea better since your upfront costs are fixed and you can measure your electricity costs. Also, it just seems way cooler than being a speculator. You are a miner!
Below is a list of additional informative links I cobbled together:https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5486111
Hopefully that was somewhat helpful; I know it's a lot but we're out on the frontier of technology and society. Whatever you do, take the time to learn and perform your due diligence about how everything works, from the different types of wallets you can use to store BitCoins, to the block chain, to how transactions are verified, to the different methods of buying BitCoins, etc etc etc. It's a complicated and diverse eco-system.
Anyway breu, we gotta get up on things.
CC'd *** on this.