Bitcoin and the blockchain weren’t Satoshi Nakamoto’s only lasting legacies. Another vibrant system left behind was the famous Bitcoin Forum, which has become not only a cornerstone of development and meeting place for like-minded intellect, but a vast ecosystem and launching pad for blockchain-related products. This week we cap our three part series on Satoshi’s Bitcoin Forum with interviews from two prominent forum members, Flying Hellfish and Phinnaeus Gage.

An Interview with Flying Hellfish, Politics & Society Moderator

Flying Hellfish (FH) has been a member of the Bitcoin Forum (Bitcointalk) since the beginning of 2013, rising to the rank of Moderator in 2018. Getting the job isn’t easy: it’s a highly competitive field that attracts a lot of candidates; chiefly, those who are interested in bitcoin and want to be able to work remotely from their computer, and for a decent wage, too.

With the position comes a significant amount of power and respect from the community, though sometimes it has to be wielded carefully. A significant portion of Bitcointalk forum members derive some or all of their income from the forum and for them it is an extremely serious place of business. Thus, the Bitcoin Forum isn’t just another electronic convention of hobbyists but a place where careers are made and shattered, sometimes dependent on the rulings of the administrator, staff and moderators.

It should be noted that the primary criteria used by the administrator (theymos) to make moderator hirings tend to involve a few factors, all of which FH has demonstrated himself to possess:

  1. A significant number of reports to the forum (reporting comments deemed to be off-topic, spam or generally unproductive), with the clear majority of those reports found to be good (resulting in the removal of the offending comment and potentially the banning of the member writing the comment).
  2. A clear dedication to enhancing the quality of the forum by removing spam and clutter without making it harder to use for average or sincere members who are truly trying to educate themselves about cryptocurrency).
  3. A propension for being consistent, reliable and available to perform their duties (which mainly include deleting reported posts that violate forum rules, moving off-topic posts to the correct topic when applicable, and occasionally reminding users of the rules or clarifying them when asked).

Before taking his position at the forum, FH had extensive experience as a miner, mining a few BTC before switching his gears to LTC. He was also one of the most prolific post reporters on the forum, in addition to being thoroughly fascinated with bitcoin. He agreed to do an interview with us to shed some light on the inner-workings of the forum and his personal experiences with it. Being Canadian born and bred, he turned out to be quite the amicable fellow, enthusiastic and open about sharing his responses.

In this interview, FH asked us the first question.

Flying Hellfish: Can I swear?

Coin Clarity: Sure, go for it. So, how did you first hear about bitcoin, and then how did you hear about the Bitcoin Forum (Bitcointalk)?

FH: In a sentence, online poker and the over reach of the US DOJ. I had been playing online poker at Full Tilt Poker, I got lucky one night and won a tournament. I managed a small 5 figure win! A couple of days later the US DOJ unsealed an indictment on FTP and PS (Poker Stars), locked out the .com domains and froze all assets from players around the world. I don’t live in the US and the poker site wasn’t located in the US. I wasn’t breaking any laws in my country nor was I breaking US law and FTP was not breaking any laws in my country but somehow the US had gotten a hold of my fucking winnings and I couldn’t withdrawal anything. After months of following the drama on two plus two forum I remember a post that was literally a single sentence: If the gambling sites had been using bitcoin the man couldn’t have ever gotten ahold of the money.

At the time the idea that there was a way to protect myself against this kind of thing in the future was extremely intriguing. I literally googled “bitcoin” and the first link was bitcointalk, so I dove in. After spending a few weeks trying to understand what the fuck I was reading I was ultimately attracted to mining, who doesn’t want free internet money?!

CC: Did you manage to do any mining yourself?

FH: Fuck ya, I mined an entire bitcoin on a $75 GPU. Bitcoins were probably worth about $10 at the time but it was fun, and I learned a lot. I also mined with and up to the S3 days, mostly used them as a cheap heat source in the winters. I then went back to GPU mining LTC and mined over 1000 of those back in the day!

CC: That’s quite a stash. When you say “mined an entire bitcoin” do you mean you were part of a pool or you mined an entire block?

FH: Pool mining, on Bitminter in fact. My payout over the life of the GPU was a little more than 1 BTC, I could have bought 7 or 8 BTC, but hey I was a newb! I did hit a few LTC blocks but it was pool mining as well, they were a lot easier to hit back then!

CC: How many post reports did you have under your belt when you became a moderator?

FH: I had around 1000 reports and about 900 of those were good.

CC: Did you specifically apply to be the Politics & Society moderator, or how did that come to be?

FH: I guess I applied, theymos made a thread in meta and posted the users with the most reports in the section. I was top of the list at that point and I offered to do my bit trying to help clean up the sub-board (I spend a fair bit of time in that board, I enjoy political debate). The idea of the thread I guess was to gauge everyone else’s feelings on prospective “applicants”.

CC: When did you first become a moderator?

FH: It’s been a little less than a year, I think early spring 2018 (maybe April)… I would have to check to be 100% sure.

CC: So not too long ago, but you were a member for around 5-6 years beforehand…

FH: Yah, I think my registration date is Jan 2013… I lurked for about six months before that, I was terrified to post there, it was a much more vicious environment than I was used to.. And in one of my first few posts Inaba at BFL unloaded on me LOL. [editor’s note: BFL is Butterfly Labs, an ex-miner manufacturer that was found to have scammed their customers by collecting massive amounts of revenue in pre orders and shipping out the miners only after they were on the verge of obsolescence, or sometimes not shipping them at all.]

CC: What were the mining scams? As in mining equipment scams or pool scams?

FH: Lots of chip scam, integrator scams, pre-order (I coined the phrase “investomer”) delays, manufacturers of mining components, hosting, and of course, the cloud [cloud mining]. There was a couple of high profile ones: BFL and Hash Fast come to mind (Hash Fast paid a forum user 3,000 BTC to promote their product on the forum)…

CC: How has the forum changed over the years?

FH: That’s a hard question to answer, the spam I guess is the biggest difference, the shift of mining from home miners to enterprise level mining I think had the biggest difference for me personally.

ICOs and sig campaigns also didn’t exist when I first joined the forum and so much of the forum is dedicated to those communities now days. One of things I think hasn’t changed is the troll factor, there have got to be more trolls and worse trolls now days then before!

The scams have changed as well, in 2012-2014 millions upon millions of dollars was scammed from miners, now days it’s ICO scams.

CC: Do you have any tips for people who want to become a moderator?

FH: I would say just be active in a section you enjoy. My understanding of theymos’ process is, when he sees a section that he feels needs a mod he will pull the report history for the last 30 days and the highest reporters in that section could get a look. I assume he reviews the persons posts, trust (merit now, not applicable in my case) and whatever other data he has (logged in time, etc.). I don’t think a Meta thread is automatically opened when he decides on adding someone. If I recall correctly, our last mod added was just PM’d an offer (he had over 30k reports IIRC).

I get the impression one of the key factors for theymos is being active in a section so I guess one could say the best way to becoming a mod is to be active in a section that theymos decides needs a mod.

CC: Is there anything about the forum you think needs to be changed? More specifically, what’s the one thing that you think needs to be changed the most?

FH: “Need” is a high bar to be honest, I don’t think there is an urgent need. I’m not a big fan of the Trust system (never have been) but I do understand the idea of having a way of warning users of potential nefarious actors, and since I don’t have an alternative, I live with it.

I would do one thing differently than theymos though: I would monetize the shit out of the site… Although I do think it’s somewhat altruistic that theymos doesn’t.. Is altruistic the right word? Noble?

CC: That works! Well, that’s probably a good note to go out on. OK thanks for your time man, I really appreciate it.

FH: Anytime buddy, later.

 

Interview With a Scam Busting Legend

Phinnaeus Gage, aka Gleb Gamow, aka YuTü.Co.in, aka Bruno Kucinskas, is an early adopter of Bitcointalk, having created his account in early/mid 2011, and with over 35,000 posts under his belt, easily its most prolific poster. His activity on the forum has rendered him one of its foremost “scam busters,” famous for interfering with less-than-ethical bitcoin-related operations and potentially saving would-be investors millions of dollars in the process. He also founded the first bitcoin-based charity, Bitcoin100, which attracted the attention of several prominent names in the space. In addition, Bruno’s antics have been a source of entertainment for long-time forum members over the years, making the list of famous forum scandals on more than on occasion.

Coin Clarity had the privilege of interviewing Bruno a few months back, and he was gracious enough to make a second appearance, sharing some of his wisdom and insight into the inner-workings of the Bitcoin Forum. He was true to his signature style of humor, and we thank him for that – no conversation with Bruno would be complete without swear words and accompanying illustrations. The contents of the interview in their un-edited entirety can be found in a secret post that Bruno edited from 2011.

Coin Clarity: How did you first hear about bitcoin, and then how did you hear about the Bitcoin forum (Bitcointalk)?

Phinnaeus Gage: It was June 13, 2011, a Monday morning, when I first learnt of Bitcoin and BitcoinTalk (BCT) at the same time. I was on my laptop while taking a long shit, exploring the feasibility of amassing copper US cents (pre 1983) as an investment opportunity. Due to certain keywords I was using on Google, the search results kept suggesting Bitcoin, of which I dismissed at first. Finally, curiosity got the best of me and found myself reading some post of some thread on BCT. Eight hours later I was still reading treads on Bitcoin’s only forum at the time. The next day I immediately went back to BCT and read threads for at least another eight hours. Same true for the following day. On the morning of June 16, 2011, I signed up on the forum under the moniker Phinnaeus Gage so to interact with what I believed at the time to be a well-educated group of posters.

CC: Would you mind talking a little bit about how/why you got “doxed”? Everybody (most people) on the forum knows who you are now, but it wasn’t always that way… What happened?

PG: Don’t mind at all. It was during a late spring morning a few years ago when I was taking a long shit… Seriously, one word – Inaba (aka Josh Zerlan of the now defunct Butterfly Labs) [editor’s note: this is the same Inaba mentioned in the FH interview above]. For some reason I gave Josh my vitals via PM on BCT, whereupon weeks later when I inevitably pissed him off one too many times, he opted to publicly release my vitals on BCT as payback.

CC: How did you become an acquaintance of Charles Hoskinson / Charlie Shrem / Roger Ver? (you can mention just one, two or all three if you want)?

PG: It was during a July morning when I was taking a long…

I first met all three on BCT, each of them all contributing to Bitcoin 100, crypto’s first crypto-accepting charity which I founded. Charles Hoskinson was the very first Bitcoiner I met in person at a conference hosted by BitPay in Atlanta, in front of BitPay’s office upon exiting the elevator. Quick aside, I’ll be speaking at Charles’ IOHK Summit in April and will be manning a booth representing YuTü.Co.in, also founded by me. I first met Charlie Shrem at the same conference in Atlanta. I’ve never met Roger in person cuz of all the conferences I’ve attended where he was scheduled to speak, he pulled a George Jones and didn’t show. #Sad!

CC: What/when was your greatest feeling of victory, like a moment you knew when you really nailed somebody or took down a scam project?

PG: There are so many, I truly can’t name one, looking at all of them as victories, though Black Arrow, BFL and EthTrade definitely come to mind. I do get a kick on how Leroy Fodor, Marshall Long and Nick Spanos ALL claim to have been mining and trading bitcoins in 2009 when BCT was the ONLY source of info in the space back them, it having ONLY 17 registered users (none them) and the first exchange had yet to be created, let alone envisioned (mostly via the Bitcoin White Paper). I’ll add that Nick is on record in not knowing who Satoshi is directly after claiming he knew everybody in the space, Leroy can’t rite good english in spite of earning a college deegre, and Marshall stinks like a pig perhaps cuz he has ablutophobia.

CC: I noticed you’re on the Default Trust list but don’t issue feedback. Why don’t you use the Trust system? Do you have any personal thoughts on it?

PG: Oddly, just opted from the get-go to not participate on the let’s-shit-on-people thingy (guess that answers the second question as well, eh?).

CC: You’ve been one to speak your mind, coming across often as quite anti-authoritarian. Do you have anything to stay about the current state of forum “politics”?

PG: Actually, I haven’t gotten caught up in the politics of BCT, albeit I may have been a victim of such given the comments left on my Trust thingy. As for BCT proper, I’d say that within five more years, theymos will have the new improved $1.5M forum up and running.

CC: Do you have any tips for people who want to become a scam buster? Like, any certain “do’s” or “do not’s” that you’re willing to share?

PG: 

[editor’s note: “Google Fu,” is a term applied to the process of researching somebody on Google for the sake of scam busting purposes, frequently used by PG]

 

CC: What’s it like being the most prolific poster on the forum? I mean, between Phinnaeus Gage and Gleb Gamow you’re about 12,000 posts ahead of the next closest member, philipma1957.

PG: 

CC: I currently live in Mindanao. Want me to go check out a certain ex-solar powered mining operation?

PG: Yeah, go and unplug Leroy Fodor’s solar array powering the Philippines largest bitcoin mining farm located in his sorry-ass 20′ X 20′ Sari Sari-cum-disco-cum-grocery-cum-internet cafe-cum-living quarters in the basement-cum-piggery… [editor’s note: here is a link to Bruno’s epic investigation of the matter]

CC: Will do. Thanks again for your time, Bruno, as always it’s been a pleasure.

Thus concludes our three part series on Satoshi’s Bitcoin Forum. Have any additional questions about the forum that we didn’t manage to answer? Feel free to leave us a comment below!