Once upon a time there was a guy named Bob.
He really should have lived thirty years earlier. His true calling – and I told him this several times – was to be a pimp running mid level hookers in Detroit or Cleveland. That’s where his taste for impressive champagnes and black cars and large powerboats rented by the hour would have found its natural home, its natural pasture.
Unfortunately for Bob, and unfortunately for a lot coins with teenage names like XCloud, XST, BitSwift, Halo, and BitBay, he came of age some thirty five years later in a time when fortunes were out there to be made, and young men in their mothers basements the world over were intent on making them.
This proved to also be unfortunate for a number of these young men who had recently made it out of their mothers’ basements and into the world of making crypto coins. They were brave dreamers, with teenage names like Miu, David, Lin, Paul, Salamander, and Steven – but to Bob, they were just players in the game.
Bob and these starry eyed boys did what starry eyed boys do. They hatched plans and they scammed people and used the money for hookers and blow and weed and mortgage payments. But it never seemed to lead to fairy tale endings. In fact, it led to train wrecks. Massive train wrecks.
This is a satisfying way for stories to end – everyone gets what they deserve. And in this situation, everyone seems to be getting what they deserve. Perfect moral structure in the story.
But to understand a train wreck, we need to understand who was driving the train, who was shoveling coal, who was the monkey, and who built the tracks. We have to go back to the beginning. We have to figure out how Bob and Steve and David and Paul and Lin and Salamander all know each other - if we want to understand why they now all hate each other, and are tearing each other apart in public. We have to choose a beginning for this story. Luckily that is easy. It begins with a strange thing happening to a coin called Liberty coin.
Part 2: Liberty Coin
Call me Ishmael. Many months ago, having lost a fair amount of BTC on a coin with the teenage name of Cloak I resolved to set off into the distant oceans of treachery to find for myself the source of my downfall.
The days of Cloak were heady – it was The Promised Coin. The lines on the chart seemed like they could only go up. In the bloodrush of my approaching wealth I remember the flushing feeling of reading these two lines in the forum from someone named Bob Surplus - “I really like this coin. I’m gonna crack open a cold wallet when I get home and buy some more.”
That night was like deep crypto Viagra. Cloak doubled in price, the rest of the world simply ceased to exist. But like all good things - sex, packets of cocaine, the Talking Heads - the ending came. And it was brutal. Not only did I not sell at the top, I doubled down in the 20’s, thinking, what a steal.
Everyone reading this knows what happened next. Turns out a teenaged boy barely out of his mother’s basement put one over on me and everyone like me. Except for one person it seems.
And lo and behold, just by chance the next day I happened upon a thread called “Winning Altcoin Picks” started by – you guessed it, gentle reader. Bob Surplus. Cracker of cold wallets. Former Eternal Lover of Cloak.
I resolved to meet my situation with fortitude. I mustered my sense of greed and rapaciousness and moral indifference and immediately sent a pm requesting a BTC address that I might follow the Master, and enter the Way.
What happened next happened very fast. Not being a young virgin innocent to the ways of the world, I can only use the young virgin metaphor in a literary sense but it will do. My violation was immediate and complete. I was immediately asked to post approving comments on his recruitment thread, this I did without hesitation. There were other young men gathering; it had the feeling of jihad. The smell of stacks was strong, like a Tunisian perfume.
We were ushered into a chat where talk of penises was routine. That and an immediate feeling of camaraderie. I do not know if these two things were connected. I suspect they were. I had no time to meditate on this; we were told that a play was about to happen; that we should get our coins onto two exchanges. What happened next happened so fast I will be able to cover it in two sentences. We were told the play was a coin called Xcloud, and to buy in slowly, up to 4 btc worth. Everyone did this, the coin exploded, and some few hours later I exited – coached by the group’s senior members - with 8 btc. Up 4 btc in a couple hours.
Now this was exhausting work – drinking beer, making penis jokes, and padding order books – so I went right to bed afterwards. When I woke up and looked at the charts, xCloud looked like a sad and deflated penis. I apologize gentle reader. It is a sleazy world I am leading you into. But truth is an unvarnished thing. Ask David, and Paul, and Bob, and Steve and …. Oh wait a minute. Nevermind.
Later that afternoon the chat was jovial. The talk of stacks and hookers and penises ran like a deep and powerful river. But then the mood changed. Our beloved lieutenants withdrew from the brotherly conversation. And when they returned, they had our marching orders. It seemed a coin had come to Bob’s restless attention. And it was time for us – Bob’s own Roman Crypto Legion – to gird our loins for battle again.
I realize I have committed the ultimate sin of storytelling: I have left you with less that a clear idea of where the narrative is going.
I will make amends.
One might ask, why talk of liberty coin? Is that not yesterday's news?
After all, six months is an eternity in crypto. And forgetfulness is the balm that we would all wish upon our deeds. Right David? Bob? Paul? Steve? Lin? Perhaps others who are listening closely?
But you see, this far back we must look. For it was it was in the belly of Liberty Coin that BitSwift was born.
That midwifery is what I shall weave the tale of next. Perhaps Bob Surplus's darkest moment. When his newly formed group, flush with victory from XCloud, nearly disintegrated on their very next play. But the newborn scream of the baby rescued the night.
I was just a foot soldier in Bob's legion. There are others angrier than I currently wandering the darkness of this forum, striking alliances of convenience, of revenge. You gentle brethren, you know the night I am talking about. When in that darkest moment, hammering furiously on the keyboard, Bob's words rolled across our screens. Guys. I have a plan.
Liberty Coin, part 2
People think the belly of the whale must be a place of darkness. One is swallowed from the world, never to return. But in reality it is not like this at all. It is a place of camaraderie and slowly built friendships bathed in cool keyboard lights and monitor glows in silent rooms across the world where girlfriends have gone to sleep, kids are off to bed, and men have drawn their chairs into a world of tabbed windows, darkened charts, multiple open threads, and blinking pencils moving endlessly across the screen.
The best of these nights are when everyone is there. The screen is crackling with the blustering joviality of International Rob. The long, neural wanderings of BitCoinada. The occasional and distant interjections from the Salamander, who seems to be communicating from a place deep in his psyche or perhaps from a different planet, it was always hard to tell which. Us foot soldiers all crowding in and clapping each hard on the shoulders and laughing loudly about who is smoking what, which bags are being held, who got hacked. It is all so convivial, deep in the belly of the whale.
Until the whale is slaughtered, and we are all dragged out into the light.
The word came down that Bob had made a pick. We were to accumulate a coin called Librex slowly, over the next four or five days. When this word came down from above, it was trading at just above 15 and Bob said do not buy above 20. Go slowly.
This, of course, fell on deaf ears. After all, we were young crypto jihadists waiting for our marching orders and making endless jokes about hookers and penises and here was a beautiful virgin suddenly laid before us, unaware of our intentions. Within a few hours the price was at 25 and rising. By the time the whole group found out about the pick it was over 30.
Conditions became chaotic. The late arrivals and newest recruits to the group did not know whether or not to buy. Was it too late? The young jihadists who were first on the girl ignored Bob’s instructions about dinner and flowers and were balls deep in the coin. Nor did they pull out as he had instructed. The orgy gained speed and within hours Librex was above 5.
In the few days after the Xcloud play the group had doubled in number. Now there were so many foot soldiers crowding into the chat that it was impossible to know who was who. The air was full of dust and confusion and people posting support levels and others arguing for suppression to let latecomers in and terse interjections from the Salamander and the din of endless giddy shouting from the young jihadists. Through it all like some connecting strand ran the endless ranting of Bob about letting his dogs out and be right back I gotta roll another joint and the moon baby the moon! all thickening into a heavy battle fog of pillage and victory covering the world around us as Librex pushed above 8.
And then - from somewhere deep in that thick, intoxicating cloud - the Salamander spoke three words: there’s a problem.
In any drunken bus crash, there are usually one or two who are the first to notice that the bus has suddenly gone through the guard rail and is in mid-air. This was the Salamander’s gift. He had an ability to see what others could not, or would not. I came to understand this about him.
In this case, the rabid frenzy that Bob’s pump had whipped up in the forums had suddenly taken a violent turn. It had suddenly been revealed? Fabricated? – gentle reader, it matters not – that this young virgin Librex was not the virgin she had pretended to be, but apparently a clone of Liberty Coin.
Librex began to fall, not some kind of graceful fall, but like a dead body on its way to some pavement far below. She plunged through the thick support walls that the foot soldiers had all built around 7, past where the latecomers had grudgingly entered at 6. And she kept falling.
Chaos reigned in the chat. No one knew if the fud was real. Bob was suddenly, suspiciously gone, something about how his computer had crashed. Foot soldiers who did not cancel their support fast enough suddenly owned massive amounts of Librex. The Salamander had also disappeared, after typing the mysterious words, hold on. I am talking to a guy.
And Librex continued her ugly fall.
By the time Bob retuned to the chat, Librex had lost 50% and was falling towards 4. He was met with a barrage of confused and angry questions from his young jihadists and it seemed he had no answers. His bluster was gone. Then, out from the army of angry pencils flying across the screen emerged a single sentence from the Salamander: I have been talking to my guy inside. The fud is real.
All the little pencils on the screen stopped. I was new and stupid to the game. I thought, everyone is letting the Salamander speak. But no. Half the group had immediately tabbed open their exchange windows and begun to sell. Librex gained speed towards the pavement, plunging through 30 and into the 20’s. Bobs pencil began to move across the screen.
Guys, I know this isn’t turning out like we planned.
It was clear Bob was off balance.
You gotta make your own decisions. I don’t know what’s really going on here.
His words were strange, full of uncertainty.
If you gotta sell you gotta sell. I can’t make that decision for you.
For someone so cocksure, so full of himself, it was a dark, unfamiliar moment.
His pencil began to move across the screen again.
Guys I know some of you have lost a lot of money here. imana make it up to you, i promise. I got a plan. i gotta new thing we are gonna do together, it’s not like this. imana get you guys in on it. we make a coin see? and it’s our coin, none of this bullshit. it’s our coin. you guys are gonna buy in and get all your money back.
it’s an ico.
Everyone has their fatal flaws.
In our story, gentle reader, Bob is of course the largest figure, and perhaps the most flawed. And flaws are what lead to those tragic falls from grace. Stay with me, gentle reader as the candle mutters low. We will see Bob fall. We will see others fall. Can you feel them here around us? Trying not to fall?
You are with me now on this journey, across the wine-dark sea that stretches from Cloak to Swift and BitBay. We have heard the scream in the darkness of little BitSwift being born. BitSwift’s ungodly sibling Bay lies still hidden in the womb. She will emerge in due course as our candle gutters low.
We spoke of flaws. And greatness, and how they are perhaps two sides of the same coin. The hustler Bob had one enormous greatness. He liked people. More than Bitcoin, more than rented powerboats and blow, he liked to talk with people, hear about their lives, draw out their stories. My former brothers-in-arms all know this. You, in Panama. You, in London. You who lived on pizza. It’s why we all liked Bob. He was our charismatic leader. And he genuinely liked us.
But charismatic leaders come in all different forms. In the darkest Greek tragedies, the best ones enter quietly, late in the second act. Unrecognized.
As darkness fell over the battlefield that night of Librex, little did we know who was about to enter our group, and change so much of what came next.
Part 3: Schizophrenia
You who read this are innocent in varying degrees. You are here in crypto because you are playing the game, some for noble reasons, some for reasons of profit. Some of you think crypto is going to change the world. Some of you have been to bed with her and had the night of your lives. And want that night again. Most of you feel both of these things to some degree – but not one of us is innocent. When you type in your 2fa there is always that special plugging-in sensation, isn’t there?
But into what?
What part of yourself? What is that heroin flow that begins?
If the newborn scream of BitSwift came in the darkest moment of Librex, it was also ultimately a fatal childbirth for Bob’s group.
The universe is fundamentally emergent. When deep conflicts exist, humans emerge to embody them and explore them, to play them out and resolve them on the human stage. This is how the universe discovers itself. This is why classic mythology is structured the way it is. Our world already had Bob. But to explore and ultimately resolve the inherent tension between profit and idealism in crypto – that same unresolved, unexamined tension within you, dear reader - Bob’s doppelganger would need to emerge.
None of us understood this at the time, awakening as we did to the smoldering ruins of Librex. We were young jihadists in a foul mood, ready to mutiny and doxx and do all the angry things that betrayed young men do. That a small, red Canadian maple leaf suddenly appearing in the group’s chat window could mean so much - well who could know that?
As Kierkegaard said, life can only be understood looking backwards, but it must be lived going forward.
The day after the Librex fiasco Bob’s team was in tatters. Someone had opened a second, hidden chat channel where only foot soldiers had access, and here the air was thick with paranoia and revolt. Had Bob’s computer really crashed in the middle of the play? He had said something about having to run down to his office – these were his exact words in the Cloak thread just before he had dumped everything the month before. And what about the Salamander? Did any of us actually know who he was? Was there any way to be certain he was not Bob?
Librex was gasping at just above 4. The sell pressure was massive and most of the group’s members had lost all their BTC in support the night before and needed at least 7 or 8 to get out alive. Bob had loaded support into the low twenties but it was going to take a massive push and some fat stacks to levitate the corpse of Librex and send her back towards 8. It was right about this time that the small red maple leaf appeared with the name Coinada and Bob’s words rolled across the screen, guys I want you to meet Paul. We go way back. He’s not really in the group but I want you to look on him like a leader, like me or the Salamander.
Paul exploded into the group. He did not seem to sleep; he had massive stacks of BTC and deployed them ruthlessly. Over the next 48 hrs he singlehandedly transformed both the group’s energy and the charts of Librex. The foot soldiers were drawn to him and followed his lead, jumping at the chance to eat whatever smaller walls their stacks would allow. Paul’s attitude was ruthless and manic. If some smaller group tried to dump into his support and stop his advance he would sight up the charts, find their five or ten btc encampment and attack it, saying fuck you man, you’re my bitch now. And Bob’s foot soldiers – now Paul’s foot soldiers - would pour through the breach after him, mopping up what was left from Paul’s assault. Within days Librex was comfortably in double digits, with Paul holding the fort seemingly without sleep.
This led into the best months the group would ever have. Coinada Paul and Bob working smoothly together, our leaders. The Salamander was always there in the background, strangely hidden. XST was played. NHZ was played. But this cannot be a story about every coin Bob’s group played the last six months. It is not that story.
There is a baby crying for our attention. Little BitSwift.
Though that was not yet her name.
The best Greek tragedies are the darkest ones. They take us deep into a world where we can see everything happen before it happens, and so our primary emotion as we watch the characters choose their actions is one of disbelief. Of horror. This is where the darkness comes from as we watch the tragedy unfold. We know it is completely unnecessary. That at each moment, any of the actors – so much larger than life as we watch them – could step back, choose differently, and avoid their fate.
In these tragedies the chorus is usually silent the first two acts. They are – like you gentle reader – facing the stage, watching things unfold. It is only when the protagonists start making inexplicable choices, the choices that will doom them, that one by one, the ragged and unkempt men of the chorus begin to turn towards the audience, raising their voices against the voices of the actors, bemoaning what is occurring, lashing out at hidden forces that the actors can apparently not see. As the third act thickens this becomes overwhelming, and the sea of voices from both stage and the chorus becomes a din of chaotic foreshadowing in real time as the actors plunge towards self-destruction.
This is where we are, isn’t it, dear reader?
Watching Bob, and David, and Paul, and the Salamander - and everyone they will drag with them - self-destruct, in real time?
And the riveting horror of it, that it does not need to be happening, but it is? Right before our eyes?
Gentle reader. I shall try to keep my voice low. But I have turned from the stage now. I am talking to you.
Part 3: Schizophrenia (continued)
From the start, Bob said over and over again, never fall in love with a coin. Sell a little every day he would say. 40% profit is good. 60% is good. In the days when our pumps were working like a well-tuned Detroit diesel he would greet us foot soldiers as we arrived in the chat, howya doin today man. you selling a little today? Don’t be greedy man. Put some small sells up there.
In the early days he was full of wisdom like this. He was genuinely trying to teach us how to make money. Bob was an old school pumper, this was what he did. Of course, his words mainly fell on deaf ears. Few of us were there to learn how to trade. We were young jihadists looking for stacks of BTC. How do you not fall in love with a coin who has drawn you in with her smooth legs, has her hand around your stack and is stroking it to a size it has never been before? How do you pull yourself away from something like that?
The problem was, if you didn’t pull out, you were guaranteed to end up holding bags at the top. And that started happening in the plays. During the XST pump everyone could have been out with 200% profit but guys were still pushing, building support at more than 300%, and when the music stopped (those endless days of waiting for Mintpal to launch V2) many in the group were left holding large bags at the top. The BitSwift pump. 400% gains. But again, bagholders at the top. During the four months between August and December, the one guy who made the most money in the group was the one guy who was never there. He simply entered and exited when Bob said so. When asked how much money he had made during those months, he responded with his laconic southern drawl, well, more money than most americans make in a year I suppose …
But we figured all of this out too late, didn’t we, my former brothers-in-arms?
I know you are listening to me. You are out there in the darkness of this forum, all of you. Outcast ronin. Striking up alliances of convenience and revenge.
You remember those times. 200% profit in a couple days seemed like nothing. We were after stacks. We wanted to be like Paul and Bob. We wanted to prove ourselves to be ballers, so we left 300% in our rear view mirrors and threw up high support walls and ate up bids to make new floors. We wanted that thumping, pulsing feeling in the chat of saying, i just put 2 btc right below you. i’ll take it to 890. gotta go out for a bit but I’m leaving support at 1750. ok, I’m ready to push. who’s with me?
We were not playing it like Bob, selling on the way up. We were not playing it like Paul, who would quickly arbitrage his pushes on a different exchange to reload his stacks. We wanted to be like them. But we were not doing it like them.
We grew angry. We felt like we were being team players, putting up high support, getting dumped into. And then it seemed like ‘the plan’ – whatever that was - would suddenly be over, and we were off to a new coin. And no one was telling us what ‘the plan’ was to get out of the last coin, how we were to get rid of those bags.
There was a schizophrenia growing in the group as well, and this was between the leadership styles of Bob and Paul. This – like everything else here – is only clear in hindsight. It started in XST, and ended in Amsterdam.
Paul was cerebral, and the group was taking on coins that had increasingly interesting tech possibilities behind them. Paul liked talking to the devs, meditating on the ideas and possibilities behind them. Bob on the other hand was only interested in the tech insofar as it gave us a marketing angle over other coins. Tech that could translate into stacks.
You dear reader – I know you. I know what just happened in your head. Paul is the good guy. And Jesus, that Bob, what a scumbag.
But are you so innocent, dear reader? You have never held a coin and were frustrated that the dev seemed unable or uninterested in communicating its tech to the world? A coin that could have, should have been worth two, three times as much?
You have, dear reader. I know you.
You are not Paul alone. You are Bob as well.
Our pumps would take a few weeks to plan, take positions, establish PR, then move the coin up the charts with all the normal tools - forum hype, tweets, everything that would set the magic merry-go -round of hope and dreams in motion. And what ended up happening was this: by that third or fourth week, in XST or Swift, when 200% and 300% were far below us, out of memory, like an ugly girl we once dated, Paul and Bob - our leaders – would be on completely different pages.
Psychologically, and financially, Bob would be on his way out of the coin. But Paul would be just getting started. He was, after all, a crypto idealist.
This proved to be fatal in BitSwift.
Paul fell in love with the coin.
Ahhh. Little Bitswift.
My apologies dear reader. I know you want to hear all about little BitSwift, and how she came to be. We are almost there.
But to understand how BitSwift was born, we had to first understand the world she was being born into. The bagholders. The growing schism within the group. The leaders. These are the people who created little BitSwift. These are the people who profited from her being born.
I must rest. I am not sure what the muses will speak of next, Amsterdam or little BitSwift. The death of the group. Or the glory of Paul.
Somewhere out there the ungodly, bastard child BitBay awaits her entrance. With Lin and David and Steve and Bob and the Salamander and Halo and thousands of fake BTC and Holly from Taiwan.
I must rest.
I must rest.
Her name was not BitSwift at the start. It was Timeshare Coin.
Gentle reader, when you have stopped laughing, I will continue.
We could not pull an ICO out of thin air. We had to have a coin. And that coin had to have a dev, and be crypto-certified and not launched yet. Once we found that coin - we could just rebrand it into anything we wanted for our ICO.
The Salamander found Timeshare Coin. It was a slam dunk. Ready to launch, a perfect coin for our ICO, but the name had to go. In fact, the whole timeshare concept had to go – it was too sleazy.
We started brainstorming a stronger concept. Paradise Coin (Condo Ownership). Real Estate Coin (Industrial property). We argued for a couple hours over what was a better investment, vacation property or commercial real estate. Half the conversation was about how much Bob hated condos. We decided that shit was too complicated. We had a great name from before - XWire. We could slap that onto the coin. But we didn’t know what XWire was. We just knew it was a cool name for a coin. Bob said arrright I gotta walk my dogs, you guys figure out what the coin’s gonna be. People started coming with ideas. XWire would let you transmit Bitcoin faster than the block chain. How? Well …. it would use dedicated satellite transmission. Satellites? Hmmm. Wait a minute. What about putting btc wallets in satellites? In case of like – typhoons and nuclear war and shit. Yea, that was a good idea. How much did renting hard disk space on a satellite cost anyhow? But what about EMP, wouldn’t satellites be vulnerable? (15 minute discussion of EMP. Some pretty good movies it had happened in.) Ok. So no prob. We’ll do backups at those, like, remote places on here on earth, you know what I’m talking about? where they are saving the two each of all the worlds’ seeds? That 10, 000 foot deep cave in Svalbard. Or Switzerland. Wait a minute. Wasn’t Richard Branson doing something like this already? Fuck it. Ok. Back to the start. XWire would let you get your money the fastest way possible from point A to point B. Money, or Bitcoin? Both. In fact, any coin. Yes, any coin. You know, Xwire should really have Bit in the name. Bit-this and Bit-that were no-brainers for a good coin name. BitWire. Nice. Wait a minute. Money moving, money transfer. What’s that thing called, y’know, when you send money overseas? The international bank wire system? Yea. SWIFT.
BitSwift was her name.
Part 4. Little BitSwift and the Glory of Paul
For a hustler, or a grifter, or a down-on-his-luck dev, for foot soldiers in a pump group, for the leaders of a pump group, an ICO is a brilliant play.
The same cannot be said for an exchange owner. The same profits are there, but the risk is exponentially higher. After all, you are getting in bed with – let’s see. Hustlers. Grifters. Pumpers. Future ronin. And down-on-their-luck Devs.
One must wonder. What was Lin thinking?
This is how a fake ICO works:
The foot soldiers commit to buying a certain amount the coin during the ICO. The leaders get 100% of the BTC generated from the ICO back, and refund the foot soldiers what they bought, without taking back the coins involved. This means the soldiers can sell these coins later at any price above 1 satoshi – and it is all pure profit, since they got their original BTC back already.
Of course fig leafs are needed for such a play. Large chunks of ICO are set aside for “marketing” and “development”. Conveniently, it is the ICO leaders who control these addresses.
One would think this sort of thing would eventually boomerang back on the leaders. And usually it does. But only for awhile. Because after the fud subsides, the only people left in the coin are those who are “investors” and “believers”. And for very different reasons, these stakeholders have no interest in seeing truth emerge.
Investors don’t want to demand truth and accountability. That would tank the price forever and they would never be able to realize any gain, or even get out alive.
The believers are a species unto themselves. They develop a cult like devotion to the coin and its supposed technology, blocking out all reasonable outside voices. They cultivate a devotion to the leader of the coin – usually the dev – and join with him in his messianic complex, which is defined roughly like this: CoinX is going to change the world, and the world doesn’t want that to happen. Paid forces are out to get the leader, and we must circle around him.
If it all gets too much, the leaders of the coin just remove it from the public eye. They retreat to a private forum or bb, where only the voices of the leader and followers can be heard.
That is how a fake ICO works. This is how little BitSwift came into this world.
Electronic pulses are a beautiful thing. Those flickers of pixels on the screen that convey a tight, definite chunk of information, an amount, a number. They exist for just a few seconds, then suddenly are gone forever.
We were all watching those numbers weren’t we, my former brothers-in-arms? The night the BitSwift spoils were divided amongst us? Each of us in our individual darkened rooms the world over.... The numbers came up on the screen, one by one. The chat silent, so silent. We knew each other only by nicks. And in that silence, every thirty seconds, another one of our nicks was spoken.
Seconds after each name was spoken, a large quantity of Swift would flicker on to the screen, safely high in the order book, then immediately disappear. Another nick would be spoken. Another pool of silence. Another large sell appearing, then immediately cancelled. We were proving our buy-in, that we had in fact bought what we said we bought during the ICO. Each of us in turn demonstrating allegiance, presenting blood - and few minutes later each of our wallets flickered with that lovely unconfimed transaction symbol - our foot-soldier's share of the BTC.
This was how little Bitswift was born.
In the days after the sold-out ICO we fell to work. There was a roadmap to write, whitepapers to be written, tweeting to be done. Everyone had a role to play. Our intention was to make Swift a real coin.
This was not entirely altruistic. We all held large amounts of Swift. The stronger the coin, the larger our reward. And almost to our surprise - little BitSwift was a scrappy little kid. She grew fast, like a puppy not spared the milk. And lucky for her, she had Paul.
Paul was a savant. There is no getting around that. It fell to Paul to define what Bitswift was because that was Paul’s forte – white papers, technology, and networks. And though none of us understood it at the time, this was a perfect match. BitSwift had no identity. It was a blank canvas, an uncarved chunk of marble. Paul could make anything he wanted of it.
These are renaissance metaphors, gentle reader, because only renaissance metaphors will suffice to convey what happened next. Michelangelo was given the Sistine Chapel. Paul was given little BitSwift. And just as the frescos soared across the vaulted ceilings of the Sistine, Paul’s savant, Hieronymic vision of all the block chain could ever be began to pour into BitSwift. BitSwift would be the glory of Paul.
Gentle reader, I am speaking to you.
My back is to the stage. Looking past me you can see -can’t you? - that the stage has gone empty and quiet.
Where is Bob? He has not shown his face in days.
Where is Steven? He was moderating the “new, official” Bay thread. But he has not been there in days.
Where is David? He posted a long, rambling manifesto about the world conspiring against him, and then went silent.
Where is Paul? He has locked the official BitSwift thread and told his followers to board his ship and sail with him into the future.
Where is Lin? Where is the Salamander?
Gentle reader. We are early in the fourth act. The gruesome bloodletting of the past days has taken pause. The dogs of war have been kenneled. We do not know what happens next. Or perhaps we do. It is a Tragedy, after all.
We must continue with the Story of Bob. The best of times is over now. There is only self-destruction, treachery and revenge to come. We will see bagholders become backstabbers. We will see his group fall upon each other like wolves in a month-long spasm of greed, mistrust and betrayal that ends in the chaos of BitBay.
And it all began with the mole.
Part 5: Everything Falls Apart
Part 1: Bob.
There was a mole in the group.
We figured this out about halfway through XST. We were getting dumped into every time we pushed.
The worst part about the mole was not the information they stole, or the BTC they cost us, it was what they did to the fabric of the group. We were unable to root out the mole, and this changed everything.
The group chat had up until then been a rowdy, raucous free for all where Bob and the footsoldiers rubbed shoulders and smoked weed every day. Plays were discussed, strategies analyzed. Bob would hold forth on how to trade, how to make stacks. He would greet everyone with delight as they arrived. Bro! How you doin? You selling some? Don’t be greedy man, put up some small sells every day. But most of the chat was way off topic. Real estate in South America. How to stop Isis. Profit margins in a pizza business. Nootropics. Tattoos. Every variety of sex known to or ever possibly performed by humans, including midget clowns. Especially midget clowns.
The chat was our dusty meeting place that we hurried to as soon as we switched on our computers each day. It was open all day on our phones at work. It was the last window closed before sleep at night. And upon awakening, we would scroll the hundreds of messages, hungry for everything we had missed out on while sleeping.
That all came to an end because of the mole. And because the chat was our very heart, it was the beginning of the end for the group.
Once we were aware there was a mole, strategy was rarely talked about in the chat. Group plays were no longer discussed among equals, they were passed down from on high, carefully filtered. Bob withdrew from the chat more and more.
This killed us. The foot soldiers missed Bob. We liked him a lot. We had gathered around closely whenever he was there. And now he was mostly gone.
We were increasingly without a leader. Paul’s cool, cerebral style attracted some of the soldiers, but that could not fill the vacuum of Bob. The Salamander was even less suited to step in and lead. He was not a social animal like Bob. He was a quiet man, a fixer, a behind the scenes specialist.
But Bob did not see these things and trusted that somehow the group was being led. His mind was elsewhere. He was getting ready to leave for nearly a month on a trip and would not be back until just before the BitBay ICO. The Salamander was leaving the same day for Asia, where he would be coordinating preparations for BitBay. Bob asked Paul to hold the fort while he was gone.
2) The Salamander
I knew the Salamander least of all. He rarely spoke in the chat unless directly addressed. It was clear Bob trusted him, and that he played a key role in the group. But it was unclear to almost all of us who he was, and what exactly he did.
What I will tell you of the Salamander I mainly found out later, after things had fallen apart. And that was this: he was the fixer. The briefcase guy. The one who would go where the job needed to get done, then leave. And no one would know he had been there.
He had found us the coin for BitSwift. He was quietly involved in a half a other dozen coins. He had open back channels to almost everyone in crypto. He was everything Bob was not: quiet, methodical, invisible.
As the group began to stumble, the Salamander on his way to Asia to coordinate the BitBay ICO with the Chinese partners and David Zimbeck. In a perfect world, this would have worked out well. After all, the Salamander was a fixer. A project organizer. But as you know, gentle reader, this was not to be.
3) The bag holders.
We were looking for a leader. We came to the chat every day as October wore on. Anyone seen Bob? became a standard phrase we would find sitting in the chat window. Rotting. Unanswered. Just a blinking cursor.
The Mintpal 2.0 launch delay had killed us. Of course we had stayed in XST too long. We could have been out with 200 – 300% profits. But the air had been thick with moon talk and the tech looked good and Bob didn’t actually tell us directly, get out. now. Bob never said, no more. So we stayed in, and got hammered by dumps.
It was decided that XST launching on Mintpal 2.0 was going to be our exit. But Mintpal went down in flames and soon after, weaknesses were uncovered in the Stealth anon. XST tanked. And we were truly screwed.
Less than a month later, Swift was at the top, up almost 400% since the ICO. And the same thing happened. Everyone – Bob included - was talking moon. So we did not exit. We foot soldiers wanted to be team players, so we set high support. And got dumped into again.
Around that time, about a dozen people from the crew had decided to do a meet up in Amsterdam. Bob changed his flights so he could be there. The Salamander was on his way to Asia, and he too rebooked. When chat started streaming in from the whole crew in the basement of the Bulldog in Amsterdam it sounded fucking legendary. One of us messaged back, what is Bob saying about Swift?
I can’t believe those guys haven’t gotten out. What, they are up 300% and that’s not enough? What have I said, over and over again. Don’t be greedy. Sell a little every day.
Bob was almost out of Swift. Paul was just getting started. We were holding bags of worthless XST, and had missed our exit from Swift. There was a mole in the group. We had no leader. The mood was turning foul.
Everything was falling apart.
The BitBay ICO was a different animal for Bob’s group. It was, in some ways, a risky move.
For the first time, Bob would not control the coin.
Bob’s involvement was fairly limited: the Chinese heavies who were starting BitBay had lined up a dev in Zimbeck. But they had no expertise in marketing a coin. This was to be the responsibility of Bob and his group, in return for their share of the ICO.
The problem was that Bob did not control the majority of the coin supply. Bob was an old school pumper: he knew that knowing where the coins were, and having control over what was happening with them was crucial for moving a market. With BitBay the Chinese would hold the majority of the coins. And they could shaft Bob at anytime.
The Salamander was sent to China to sign off on the deal for Bob. The Salamander was not supposed to be the fixer this time around: Steve was in charge of the project. And Zimbeck of Halo fame had signed on to be the dev.
But what the Salamander found happening in Cambodia needed fixing. And that’s where the trouble began.
Part 6. The Fall of the Salamander
Gentle readers. Look at the stage.
There is movement now. Different shades of darkness within the darkness.
You can see the ronin, my former brothers-in-arms, warming themselves around fires in the shadows of Paul and David. But they are fewer now. How many of you are left?
How many of you have laid down your weapons and withdrawn to your homes, your families?
You can see the darkness that has enveloped Bob. The darkness of a leader without followers, cut off from his greatness. Alone.
You can see the battle camps of Paul and David, ringed by the fires of their ronin. They have found each other in the darkness. War makes strange bedfellows. Now they are pegging their fortunes and trying desperately not to fall.
Deep in the backround you can see Lin. Unmoving. Invisible. Betting that everyone will finish each other off, leaving him unscathed.
You can see Steve. Tied to his sins, roped permanently to David. Sinking slowly in this wine dark sea.
But you cannot see the Salamander.
He was the first to fall.
When the Salamander saw what was happening in Cambodia he should have just walked away. He should have gotten on the plane and messaged Bob it’s a clusterfuck. Keep the fuck out.
But he didn’t.
The Salamander was a fixer. He was not supposed to be the fixer in BitBay though. He was supposed to be the briefcase man, the bridge between the Chinese and Bob. After all, months earlier, the Chinese had brought on the wunderkind Zimbeck; no one imagined that Zimbeck would become the one thing that needed fixing the most – but the one thing that could not be fixed.
For starters, Zimbeck was in Cambodia. The logic was that Zimbeck could hire and train a team of Cambodian devs for a fraction of what that might cost in the West. There was just one problem with this. There seemed to be no devs in Cambodia. And Zimbeck was having no luck training devs himself. He was even having problems getting the first Bay wallet to compile.
The Salamander looked at this situation, and looked at the BitBay roadmap. Smart contracts were supposed to be released in three weeks. A functioning decentralized market in less than two months. This was clearly a situation in need of fixing.
There was another problem. David began to tell the Salamander that of all the technology he was working on, only the pegging would be exclusive to Bay. Everything else – the multicoin wallet, the markets, the mesh technology - would be shared with Halo. He even told Salamander that the Halo Nighttrader and markets would be released about the same time as BitBay.
The Salamander knew this was a headshot for BitBay. BitBay’s whole identity was to be the first online decentralized marketplace. To have Halo offering essentially to license the same thing to anyone who came along made no sense at all. Again – here was a situation that needed fixing.
But there was a problem. Somewhere along the line, David had become a partner in BitBay. So no one could tell him what to do.
It is standard operating procedure in any corporation, even in politics – that when one takes on a partnership role, one must divest oneself of any asset that can lead to conflict of interest. But this had not happened here. David was full speed ahead on Halo. While being a partner in Bay. And since he was a partner, no one could exert any authority over him.
The situation could not possibly be fixed.
This was the Salamander’s fatal mistake. He should have turned around and messaged Bob, it’s a clusterfuck. Stay the fuck away.
But he didn’t. He set about trying to fix the situation.
Gentle reader. You all know what happened next. David and the Salamander fought each other to a bloody finish, first in private, and then in public.
The irony in David’s situation is this: he was a full partner in Bay. Bay was not yet tarnished – it had heavy backing, and a shot at being the first true decentralized marketplace in Asia. If he had just ported Halo into Bay and respected basic divestment procedures, he could have been rich beyond what Halo would ever make him.
Instead, there he is, gentle readers – before you on the stage. Encamped in the darkness. Exiled. Surrounded by rings of believers, and the fires of his ronin.
We will return to David. But first we must witness the rest of the Salamander’s fall.
My former brothers-in-arms.
There is nothing more dangerous than unpaid soldiers. All of you got your share of the BitSwift ICO. But many of you were paid nothing from Bay.
You now have two scores to settle. One for money, and one for revenge.
Some of you are now riding for Paul. He became your leader long ago. Your saddlebags are filled with Swift, and your fate is thrown in with his.
Some of you are now riding for Zimbeck. Bob did not pay you your share of the Bay ICO, and Zimbeck was right there when you turned. He wanted revenge on Bob and the Salamander. And so did you. And now, your bags heavy with Bay from the ICO, you must ride for Zimbeck if you hope to ever get out alive.
Some of you are still riding for Bob. You were paid from the BitBay ICO. Nothing has changed for you.
Oh my brothers, I see you. I see each of you. I recognize you in the torch light as you pass. On your way to strike a hidden blow for Bob. Or Paul. Or David.
I do not judge you. You are ronin. You are my brothers in arms.
Do not judge me for telling this tale. My dagger is not drawn for you.
The Salamander was falling apart.
By now, he was the only leader left in the group. Bob was AWOL, and Paul had left the group in late October, leaving only the Salamander to hold things together.
The Salamander was spectacularly unsuited for this role. He was quiet, prone to mood swings, and exhausted from weeks of trying to fix the BitBay situation. He felt like he was the only one in the group working hard. Bob was nowhere to be found, and without a leader, the group was coasting; except for the occasional tweet or forum post, no one seemed to be doing anything. Bay had gone briefly above 300 just after the ICO, fallen back to ICO price, and then began its steady decline.
The situation in Cambodia was going from bad to worse. Zimbeck was unable to compile the first Bay wallet, which the exchange would require to release the first ICO funds. The Salamander stepped in and fixed the situation, bringing in another dev who solved in a few hours the problem that had stumped Zimbeck for days. A fight then broke out in which Zimbeck berated the dev and called him a monkey, ending any chance of further help.
The development schedule fell more and more behind. Zimbeck spent increasing amounts of time and energy on the forums distancing himself from the Bay project. He was a partner in BitBay and had received his share of the ICO funds already - facts he was keeping hidden from public view - so nothing could be done to bring him into line. Even worse, a massive amount of free coins had been released to David. David refused to lock these coins up in escrow. This made any kind of pump from Bob’s side far too risky. Bob made it clear to the Chinese he would not risk a pump until David’s coins were safely locked away. David refused. The situation was at an impasse. There would be no pump.
It was now weeks after the ICO. Bitbay was steadily dropping in price. None of the elements needed for a marketing push were being delivered to the Salamander. The website could not be built, because there were no screenshots of smart wallets, or coherent written explanations from David as to exactly how any of the promised tech would work: hedging, pegging, the marketplace, smart contracts, or the mesh tech. And when the smart wallet was finally delivered a week overdue, it didn’t work.
Nothing to market with. A broken wallet. No pump machine. A dev who was answerable to no one.
He was trying to fix BitBay, and he was getting nowhere.
During the same weeks, the foot soldiers were looking to the Salamander for answers that were just not there. They had been told that they would have to ‘work hard’ this time to get an ICO cut – but it wasn’t really clear what that meant. And they had not gotten paid. They were waiting for the pump to begin, but with no marketing materials, a broken wallet, and no Bob – there was nothing to pump on.
They began to simply blame it on Bob. So few of the ICO’s dirty little secrets were known to them – the fake BTC at BTer, the problems behind the scenes with David, the immense number of free coins that were actually out there – that the foot soldiers simply could not understand why the coin wasn’t being pumped. They could not understand the simple sentence they kept hearing again and again. It’s not our coin. It’s not our coin.
The price of Bay kept falling. The foot soldiers bags grew heavier. The mood grew more foul. Everyone wanted answers from the Salamander. And he had none.
He grew sour and bitter in the group chat. He spoke openly against Bob. This went on for days until others began to tell him they were sick of his moaning, and that he should leave.
It was that very evening that Bob finally returned to the chat. Back from his trip, moved into a new apartment, internet finally hooked up. He was in a jovial mood and did not notice the mutinous atmosphere when first arrived. People began to question him about getting paid. It seemed as though Bob was not taking any of it seriously. He told the Salamander to lighten up.
And that was all it took.
The Salamander left the chat. His icon blinked once. And then it was gone.
The time has come to end this story.
I will tell you the fates of Bob and Steven and Lin and the Salamander. And Paul and David.
And I will finish with a word to the people I miss the most.
My brothers in arms.
Bob was outplayed by the Chinese. Played to a draw by David. Abandoned by his lieutenants. Cursed by his soldiers. And now he is nearly alone.
But I think I will take an extra moment here for Bob. After all, it is the Story of Bob.
People like to hate Bob. I saw his other side, so it's not so black and white for me. Twice in six months guys on the crew got hacked and lost all their coins. Got taken down to zero. Bob heard about it both times, and made it right, behind the scenes.
One strange thing about Bob I never quite figured out. He liked people who clearly hated him. Even after someone became his enemy, he still liked them a lot. Back when the mole was doing the most damage, I was on Mumble in the middle of the night with him one night. No one else around. We were smoking weed and speculating on who might be the mole in the group. About one guy in particular, a guy who was really, really smart. Bob said, yea.... it might be him. Your right. He paused. But you know what? Even if it is him? I still like him a lot.
But in the end, I can't say I feel sorry for Bob. The group falling apart was his fault. I saw it coming a mile away, and I made sure I got paid before I left. My brothers who didn’t collect? Bob will have ronin after him for months.
Perhaps you would have liked it if Bob had been put out of the Game for good. But he will be back. How could he not? There are too many coins that want pumping. Too many people who want profit. There will always be foot-soldiers. Look over in nearby threads. There will always be “believers”. There will always be “investors”. And there will always be messiahs to lead them.
Steven is still falling. He is tied to his sins, roped permanently to David. Sinking slowly in this wine dark sea.
Lin escapes. He lives to fight another day. His strategy worked. There is no moral outcry over his actions. No one has started a viral campaign against BTer.
So disappointing. Gentle reader, you would have liked to see him fall. But you left it up to Bob and Paul and Steven and the Salamander. Lin proved himself smarter than all of them. And you simply did not care.
The Salamander will eventually return. He is a fixer. A briefcase man. There is always be a need for him. We all hatch plans and set events in motion. We all are involved in larger movements. Salamanders move on a right angle plane to our movements, our events, our lives, unseen. They fix what needs fixing. And then they disappear.
What a disappointing ending so far. So ambiguous. All the bad guys are getting off easy.
We would like a sharper moral clarity to come out of this sad mess. We would like it if – at the end of this story – the world would appear a little different than when we started this tale.
But it doesn’t, does it?
In this story we have seen both Swift and BitBay get created out of thin air. We have watched both ICO’s get staged by Bob Surplus. Devs who have collaborated knowingly and willingly in his rigged ICO’s and reaped handsome rewards are still comfortably in their jobs, supported by their communities.
During the four days of this story, both BitBay dev and the BitSwift dev moved their coins to private forums. Away from the public eye. Their “investors” and “believers” applauded these moves.
During this time, the market price of BitSwift is relatively unchanged. The same is true of BitBay
So the altcoin market around us has spoken. It has shrugged. It is morally unimpressed.
You cannot expect your story teller to give you a better ending than the ending that is actually happening, can you?
An ending that includes both these devs coming to these very pages to sneer at Bob Surplus?
Proclaiming their own moral superiority to people of his type?
Now you know who my dagger is for.
You profited from your alliances with Bob. You were in on the ICO's. You dev the coins he midwifed. You cling tightly to the money he helped you make. All the while proclaiming that he is scum, that he should swing for his sins.
The Doxxers - on all sides
You fancy yourselves as heroes. As equalizers.
You give yourself a moral free card, because you are convinced of the righteousness of your cause.
You give yourself the right to be judge, jury, and executioner.
You are the worst kind of coward. And this is why:
You could act on your own information. You could get on that plane.
You could go knock on that door.
But you hope someone else will do your dirty work.
That someone else will settle your score.
That someone will ‘get what’s coming to them’
With you at a safe moral distance.
You say, but I am doing it for others.
No. You are not.
If "others" really want it done, they can do the research. They can get on that plane. They can go knock on that door.
Do you really believe it is ok to be judge, jury and executioner? You do?
My dagger is for you.
To my brothers in arms. You know who you are.
I would like to end on a serious note. Thank you for the discussion of penises. Weed. Midget clown sex. Calise. Especially Calise. Panamanian land prices. West coast pizza. The bitch who stole the money. East coast snowstorms. Weed. Anarchism. Nootropics. Bill Clinton. The Middle East. RG3. GTA. Weed. Taylor Swift. For each bro. Each lol. And everything in between.