‘Hands-on’ was the major theme of the Hashers United digital currency mining conference in Las Vegas this weekend.
Instead of the familiar seminar-style gathering, day two consisted of workshops, discussion-style workshops and more inclusive talks that focused on the nitty-gritty experienced by miners both great and small.
The day was split into two tracks: ‘Build’ and ‘Profit’. The Build workshops included discussions on rig and overall mine development, mining pool operation and long-term strategic planning.
Those who took part in some of the Profit sessions looked at the art of analyzing altcoins, delved into crypto business operation and wielded soldering irons in a bid to squeeze some extra efficiency out of mining ASICs.
As venture capitalist and conference keynote speaker Tim Draper told CoinDesk, Hashers United offered an in-depth look into a sector of the bitcoin economy that doesn’t receive much mainstream attention.
“I learned a lot at the conference. I now have a strong sense that mining will be here for years to come, and will continue to be an amazing industry as the value of bitcoin increases. The industry will be volatile, but like the 49ers, bitcoin miners will have their great days and their poor days.”
“Bitcoin mining is awesome,” he added.
Foundation for finding blocks
Many topics discussed during day two touched on the elements of being in the mining business. Anthony Brough, chief operating officer and chief financial officer for MegaBigPower franchisee Aquifer LLC, led a talk on the dynamics of the broader mining industry.
Brough told attendees that those in the space face a real danger of failure if they don’t recognize the key factor in their business: cost. Brough noted that this process is already playing out and that the simultaneous difficulty rise and bitcoin price decline is exacerbating the situation.
“I think what we’ll see is a bifurcation of the market, of the ecosystem of miners, where you’ve got really big players and small players, with very little in the middle. The name of the game is your cost, and we’re already seeing consolidation in the space – that’s why we’re pushing to become bigger.”
A key asset for any miner that envisions long-term expansion, he said, is a relationship with a quality manufacturer. Ultimately, miners may need to be prepared to incur higher costs if it means they won’t encounter problems acquiring equipment.
“The reality is that I would pay a little more to be with a partner I trust and know is going to deliver than someone else,” he said.
Michael Carter, the host of crypto-themed YouTube show Bits Be Trippin’, focused on the aspects of creating a profitable mining rig – primarily on GPU mining – and shared some insights into how miners can get the most out of their machines.
Much of Carter’s talk had to do with the technical considerations of building and maintaining a rig. Given the broad range of graphics cards available on the market, the session explored strategies for monitoring performance, temperature and overall integrity.
During a post-session discussion, Carter told miners that efficiency – and potential profit – can come from unexpected places, particularly in GPU mining.
Although the volatility of altcoins is something that must always be considered, as explored in earlier sessions led by unbreakablecoin creator Jim Blasko and cryptocurrency developer Dominic Williams, a savvy miner can find ways to give his or her rig a boost.
Carter used a small GPU that had a surprisingly high hash rate given its electrical consumption as just one example.
The art of mining coins
During a session led by Final Hash executive technical director Marshall Long, a group of miners learned how to squeeze some extra efficiency out of a Gridseed ASIC.
As Long explained, understanding the device means knowing how to optimize every joule possible. In the case of the Gridseeds, he advocated removing the fan given the unit’s low heat output.
Using soldering irons, those who took part in the session first removed the fan connector cables and later joined a new connection with solder on the Gridseed’s circuit board. Long offered a 0.5 BTC prize to the miner with the cleanest connection, resulting in a close contest after several miners turned in pristine-looking solder jobs.
Later, Final Hash executive director Valton Eason talked with miners about the ins and outs of running a cryptocurrency-centered business. The seminar looked at the legal and financial implications of operating a mine and selling digital currency for profit.
Other sessions that delved into both the conceptual and practical aspects of cryptocurrency business management, included one on mining pool creation and management, led by Final Hash senior developer and myriadcoin developer Ahmed Bodiwala.
Additionally, Jim Thompson, CEO of smart contract platform Pavillion.io, gave a presentation on using the block chain to create performance monitoring strategies, and Stephan de Haas, developer of the Haasbot cryptocurrency trading software, offered an introduction to high-frequency trading.
The future of mining
The final seminar of the convention was forward-looking, both for the industry itself and the individual miners that occupy it. The panel included vertcoin developer Poramin Insom, Final Hash’s Marshall Long, Mastercoin developer Phil Maher, GAW Miners CEO Josh Garza and ZoomHash founder Michael Cao.
Many of the topics discussed touched on the multiple risks that miners have to balance in order to stay profitable. This subject held particular weight for attendees given the simultaneous decline in the price of both bitcoin and many altcoins, including litecoin.
Long said that in order to avoid potential scams that lead to lost time and money, miners need to do their research into developers before offering their hashes.
“It really comes down is, how knowledgeable is the dev team? You have to double check and make sure [they] know what they’re doing.”
The panel also touched on the mining industry’s role in bringing new entrants into the market. Although mining isn’t often considered a public-friendly part of the ecosystem, the speakers said that miners and mining companies have an incentive to get more people involved.
“It’s easy to sell to the same customer base over and over again. The trick is, how do you get someone on Facebook? A friend? My mom, who knows nothing about technology? When [new people] get into the technology, they start using the coins [and] the ecosystem grows as a whole.”
He later told CoinDesk in an interview that conventions like Hashers United help spread the cryptocurrency message as it relates to both mining and the broader technology.
Vertcoin’s Insom was asked what developers of new block-chain projects, particularly altcoins, can do to help them succeed in what is an increasingly crowded ecosystem.
“First, you have to come up with a good intention first,” he said. “Once you have a good intention, you must have good execution – a good team for the execution.”
“That’s pretty broad,” he added, laughing.