Sep 202013

Bitcoin Wired Lies

“Never let the facts get in the way of a good story”, said Mark Twain. Or Hemingway. Or someone else. Apparently, it doesn’t matter, because I shouldn’t let facts get in the way of a good story anyway. Or at least, it seems, Wired runs by that motto. It all made a very good story and had all the ingredients of making it popular on the internet – Bitcoin, homelessness, money, government. There was one element missing though: honestly. And it seems like Wired doesn’t really care anyway.

Let me elaborate. If you didn’t read already, Wired ran a story Homeless, Unemployed, and Surviving on Bitcoins. The premise was tantalizing: Bitcoin is providing a way out for these poor homeless guys, even if they don’t make as much as a minimum wage job. The entire argument in the first half of the post was based on this: Guy gets food stamps, but that’s not enough. He makes about 60 cents watching 12 videos on BitcoinGet (and a couple of pennies on Bitcoin Tapper) that helps him get by. Notice how I said was and not is in the last statement? That’s because the actual worth of those videos is 6 cents and not 60 cents. Wired knew of this but preferred not to correct until after getting the sweet-spot-clicks-and-comments (more on this later). Because, you know, screw the facts. Now the whole premise looks silly. 6 cents a day isn’t really going to help you supplement your income.

There are other fishy things in the article. Consider this for example:

Since setting up a bitcoin wallet about three or four months ago, he has earned somewhere between four or five bitcoins — about $500 to $630 today — through YouTube videos, Bitcoin Tapper, and the occasional donation

(bold is mine)
Really? Lets do a reality check (I know how much you love Math)
I’ll use another direct quote from this article as it stands now (corrected version, live right now):

For every video he watches, Angle gets 0.00004 bitcoins, or about half a cent, thanks to a service, called BitcoinGet, that shamelessly drives artificial traffic to certain online clips. He can watch up to 12 videos a day, which gets him to about six cents. And he can beef up this daily take with Bitcoin Tapper, a mobile app that doles out about 0.000133 bitcoins a day — a couple of pennies — if he just taps on a digital icon over and over again.

Ok, so lets give them the benefit of the doubt (really, BitcoinGet doesn’t have 12 videos for you daily). Lets say they do this every single day without fail for 90 days straight. Lets check their earnings for 3 months:

From BitcoinGet: 0.00004BTC * 12 * 90 = 0.0432 Bitcoin
From Bitcoin Tapper: 0.000133 * 90 = 0.01197 Bitcoin
Total: 0.05517 Bitcoin
(Worth ~0.05517*125 = $6.9)

Where did the other, I don’t know, 4-5 Bitcoin come from? Donations in Bitcoin? There, that’s a reality check for you. If you did the above for 3 months straight, you’ll probably have enough money to buy a pizza.

Do you see how the truth is harmful to the narrative? An additional 60 cents a day for about 10 minutes of work is worth it especially if you’re homeless. An additional 6 cents for the same? Not so much. Why is this harmful? Because others might be tempted to do the same without going through the Math above and trusting a trusted “news” source. If it wasn’t obvious from the above, let me reiterate: You cannot make 4-5 Bitcoin from BitcoinGet and Bitcoin Tapper even if you used these every single day for the next 2 years.

Writing a story saying “Homeless guy earns $6.9 after working for 3 months online” doesn’t make a good story now, does it? The article has close to 300 comments. That’s what matters, apparently.

Also, don’t get me wrong. There are quite a few ways you can Earn Bitcoin online, but don’t expect that to replace your day job (if you’re homeless and reading this and really want to earn some Bitcoin online, consider the CrowdFlower section of BitcoinGet, for example, instead of the stupid videos).

I am all for homeless people using Bitcoin and getting paid in Bitcoin. Bitcoin is awesome. Bitcoin is beyond awesome. But I will never support sensationalist stories that distort facts. Deliberately. Now for the deliberate part.

See these two screenshots below. Notice the difference?

Wired Bitcoin Misleading

later changed to

Wired Bitcoin Misleading

The article changes the payment from BitcoinGet from 60 cents to 6 cents. The article was published at 6:30am. I emailed the writer at 7:04am about this glaring error. She wrote back to me at 7:15am claiming I wrote the same thing that she wrote. I emailed her back, with clarification, at 7:21am, telling her that this was wrong. Yes, she knew, for certain, that the facts in her story were wrong, within an hour of it being published. The article was finally corrected around 4pm after the article had ran its course in the crazy internet world where facts matter so little. Mission accomplished. Now, for the sake of “Journalistic Integrity”, we can revert back to facts.

So here it is. I am calling out Wired on their terrible job in correcting factual errors and providing a narrative that isn’t supported by facts as shown above. I know my post will not get a fraction of the views the original Wired article got, but the Bitcoin community needs to be aware of such sensationalism without merit. It’s a shame that Wired had to do resort to this – I know some of the articles in Wired are wonderfully researched. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of them.

Photo Credit: al shep

  12 Responses to “Wired Deliberately Misleads Readers on Bitcoin”

  1. Geez you’d think they would check their facts, but I guess facts aren’t as good as sensationalism!

    • Exactly! I am sad that a reputable journalistic source like the Wired would stoop to this level. I love Bitcoin as much as anyone else in the community, but promoting it shouldn’t be at the cost of facts.

  2. The article says 4 or 5 bitcoins over the course of 3 or 4 months. Use the middle of those figures and just say 4.5BTC over 105 days. I’m having a hard time getting an average btc price over that time period, but it looks like around $110. So that is earning $495 over 105 days or a grand total of $4.71 a day. I find it completely reasonable that those guys can hustle up an average of $5 a day. Especially when I have seen redditors donate over $50 in a single day. This article is talking about these guys earning about HALF the minimum wage per hour PER DAY. No one is saying “Look at this guy getting rich on BTC” or “You should quit your job and hustle bitcoins on the street.” This is a pittance of money. The mistake was pointed out and they corrected it the same day. And the total of BTC they said is accurate, they just should have focused more on “digital panhandling”. Obviously, I am biased here. No way around it. But I think the tone of this article is way, way out of proportion. The guys in it are still on the street. Bitcoin is helping them. It’s not fixing everything, But it’s better than nothing. Much better than nothing.

    • Jason, let me be the first person to mention that I am a big fan of Sean’s Outpost and am very happy about whatever you and Bitcoin is doing for the homeless. I strongly believe that the future is only brighter for both these. That is never my contention.

      Also, it is very much possible to hustle whatever was mentioned in the article as you mention, just not through Watching Youtube Videos and Bitcoin Tapper. I’ve shown my Math already. If donations did make up 90% of their earnings, that should be the focus, not the services around Bitcoin.

      Please don’t get me wrong – I am as much a Bitcoin fan as you and strongly believe in all the good Bitcoin can do to the world. That doesn’t mean I need to support bad journalism just because it is in support of Bitcoin. I have no contentions with your points about Bitcoin helping the homeless.

      • Hey, thanks for the goodwill man. I’m just pointing out that I disagree with your slant on it. Even if she is saying $.60 a day is possible in watching videos and tapping silly apps, the numbers she quote would still add up to them having to get “occasional donations” in the amount of $4.11 a day. They missed a zero in the math. So they have to hustle $4.641 since a day. You titled your article “YELLOW JOURNALISM” over 53 cents. 53 cents. What can you do in America with 53 cents? honestly. I think it’s awesome that you corrected the math. But she wasn’t saying you could make $60 a day and it’s actually 6 cents. I just think, in this case, it’s a lot more likely that she made an honest mistake about a minuscule amount of money. And that you pouncing on her, over this, is probably not called for. But this is coming from me, I always think the best of people and try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
        I think she was saying that look at this pathetic amount of money you can make doing this. And that it is assumed that the rest of the money made is from panhandling. That’s why there is the quote about how it’s easier to panhandle online because you don’t have to put yourself out their. Asking for $5 in a forum is WAY less stressful than asking for a fiver on the street.
        Hey. Will someone give me $5?
        I don’t read this article as talking about how awesome bitcoin tapper is. It is actually a very small part of the article. And she took your criticism. The same day. You usually can’t get a retraction for days or months.
        I don’t find this bad journalism. We all have opinions. And we are all human.
        Yellow Journalism over 53 cents I think is a bit sensationalist though. You saw your shot and you took it.

        • I presume you don’t see the utter irony in your statement when you say that 53 cents means nothing. There is no cheap shot to take – you shouldn’t distort facts to make your case, period. Do you know how many people visited an old blog post of mine searching for BitcoinGet today? Do you know how much it would be a waste of their time when they find out the truth about how much it pays?
          Also the title and always was “Wired Deliberately Misleads Readers on Bitcoin”

          • I believe it is a waste of their time. The big part is, which you have not addressed, is your whole premise is that this is deliberate misrepresentation and yellow journalism. It is the title of your article. I believe at best this is simple human error and worst this is “sloppy” journalism. But I’m sure that saying that a large news organization is deliberately misleading over fifty three cents a day makes for a better story. I’m not mad. Or upset, I just disagree with what you are saying. I generally love btcgeek’s stuff. Have a good one.

        • Only someone deluded would say that 10 times earnings doesn’t matter. I don’t even know how to begin to explain to you how misleading stating a 10x earnings is. Try that with a stock you own next time and you’ll know what it means.

          I know that the article was incredibly positive for you, so there is no way in the world that you’ll ever accept an error, even after you see the math above. Obviously, you believe what I have written and you know it is true but you never want to accept it. Also how many times do I have to tell you there is no reference to yellow journalism in the article. Try CTRL+F next time before accusing me of nonsense.

          it is really sad people like you are willing to do anything to get good press and even try to defend lies and inaccuracies meant to mislead. I am not taking this discussion any further. Read your comments with a cool head and you’ll see how little sense you make defending this. Ever heard or something called facts? That’s journalism. Exaggerating earnings 10 times and defending it isn’t. Your most amusing argument is that even after you inflate your earnings 10 times, the money is insignificant, so there is nothing wrong with them misstating it. Heights of ridiculousness.

  3. I totally agree with the theme of your article. However, there are many, many more bitcoin faucets than both you and and the Wired article mention. I agree they should have corrected the error much earlier, but I don’t think the earnings are completely inaccurate if you used every faucet every day. They should have said something to the extent, “here are a couple of bitcoin faucets for illustrative purposes, and there are many more. By using every faucet Jesse has been able to make 4 to 5 bitcoins…”

    I don’t think the Wired article is inaccurate, but that point should have been addressed differently.

    • I never said it isn’t possible to make 4-5 Bitcoin. I can make twice that amount starting from scratch. Read the article again if you need clarity.

  4. As a huge fan of Ol’ Ratbeard, I must point out that it’s spelled Hemingway (one M, not two) =p

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