Tuesday, February 11, 2014

This Zany Newsman Is The Stephen Colbert Of Bitcoin (original text)

This Zany Newsman Is The Stephen Colbert Of Bitcoin

With a goofy hat and goggles, MadBitcoins delivers
cryptocurrency news in a daily six-minute digest.

By David Lumb

The world of Bitcoin is growing and traditional media can't make heads or tails of it. But Bitcoin's value continues to rise and new cryptocurrencies join the fold every day. A community of enthusiast bloggers, podcasters, and YouTube channels have emerged to tell Bitcoin's story--and the Mad Hatter of Bitcoin wants to make your education as zany as possible.

With a puffy top hat, bug-eyed goggles, and mesmerizing monotone, Thomas Hunt spouts the news from every corner of the Bitcoinverse in a daily video digest. Like the stage persona of his hero Stephen Colbert Hunt's MadBitcoiner gives the news an appropriately weird edge. And like Colbert, Hunt believes the zany edge makes his viewers absorb more news in between laughs.

In the nascent ecosystem of Bitcoin reporting, Hunt saw a lot of long coverage but no bitesized digest--and he found his niche. Lasting the length of two or three songs, each episode of MadBitcoins is less daunting than other cryptocurrency shows like the hour-long Let’s Talk Bitcoin podcast. While other shows debate the logistics and ethos of Bitcoin, MadBitcoins is content to deliver a bulleted list of cryptocurrency headlines.

Hunt is no economist. He doesn’t need to be. He takes his role as a silly newsman with more responsibility than reverence. After missing out on the spike last April that saw Bitcoin leap from $200 to $250 in a day, Hunt posted the first episode
of MadBitcoins to clue people in on the Bitcoin game.

And folks might keep missing out if they don’t start paying attention. Bitcoins are currently hovering around $650. Hunt sees his regret for missing Bitcoin’s early days mirrored in the public scramble for Bitcoin-inspired altcoins they hope will similarly spike in value. While he discusses his altcoin preferences and purchases in the show, Hunt refuses to endorse or tell his viewers to buy or sell. Bitcoin pundits who do recommend particular coins could be pumping and dumping, encouraging viewers to buy a certain altcoin so the pundit (and friends) can sell their stock at an artificial high.

The smaller and newer the altcoin, the easier it is to pump, Hunt says. And with names like Litecoin, Mastercoin, and Coino, it’s easy to mistake one coin for another. But even the flashy new coins with wildly uncertain futures have a leg over Bitcoin.

While individual computer CPUs mined Bitcoins in the early days, dedicated industrial-scale farms of ASIC and FPGA processors now rule the Bitcoin mining game. Many altcoins, including the recently released MaxCoin by financial journalist Max Keiser, have intentionally built their mining algorithms so ASIC and other scrypt-based mining rigs can’t mine them. This puts the power back in the hands of the lone miner chugging along with his computer's CPU.

All this uncertainty has perturbed traditional media. Hunt hopes to fill the gap for viewers who also take Bitcoin seriously. He started The Bitcoin Group, a weekly Friday videocast featuring Let’s Talk Bitcoin’s Adam B. Levine, technologist and entrepreneur Andreas M. Antonopoulos, Bitcoin Not Bombs’ M. K. Lords, and other enthusiasts for a roundtable Bitcoin talk.

Even if he leaves behind his hat and goggles for Friday’s serious discussion, Hunt maintains that his goofy MadBitcoins satire is one of the best ways to inform. Indeed, Pew Research has repeatedly found viewers of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to be the most informed. But like Stewart’s famous retort on Crossfire, Hunt says that the whole Mad Hatter getup is designed to keep viewers from taking him too seriously and accepting his words as gospel--a way to get them thinking for themselves.