Not sure where to mine next? The proliferation of alternative crypto-currencies - also known as 'altcoins' - can be confusing, even for experienced miners, who may not be sure where to point their GPUs. Should you mine Luckycoin, Devcoin, Nibble or PPCoin? Powercoin, Terracoin or Worldcoin? Sites are appearing to help you choose.
One of them is WhereToMine.com. Started by 35-year-old Kevin De Angelis, a senior software developer for deals website Zulily, the site is designed to help people choose which alt-currencies to mine for.
"I couldn't decide which coin I wanted to get interested in, and I had come across some websites that showed their value and difficulty," said De Angelis, who is new to cryptocurrencies. "I also found some sites that had mining calculators on them, but they were for specific coins." He wanted a site that listed all of the coins' statistics, alongside the calculations for mining them.
WhereToMine.com (WTM) mashes up data from a number of sources, including coinchoose.com, cryptsy.com and bitcoincharts.com. It includes data points such as difficulty, and the coin reward per block. But it has some other functions, including a sparkline showing the historical profitability of a particular coin compared to Bitcoin.
Of particular interest is the built-in calculator, which takes hash rate inputs for both the SHA–256 algorithm underpinning Bitcoin (and derivatives such as Freicoin), and the alternative Scrypt algorithm, used by Litecoin, Feathercoin and others. Entering your hash rate calculates the likely coins per day that you can expect for each alt-currency, along with the equivalent fiat currency value on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
Other calculation sites will often offer more detailed data, such as rates of return on hardware investments and offsets for power consumption. However, these are generally dedicated to particular coins. This aggregated site offers a quick and easy view across a range of alt-currencies, leaving users to make their own adjustments for extra environmental data.
At least one other mining ROI aggregator is building more inputs into its calculator. Dustcoin.com has a mining section that takes the power consumption (in watts) used by a rig, along with the local power cost, and spits out a set of calculations with that factored in. However, it offers just 24 coins in its analysis, compared to WhatToMine.com's 33.
How reliable are these aggregator sites? Calculating mining return is an imprecise art at the best of times. Early on, WhatToMine.com was predicting a $14 per day profit mining WorldCoin (WDC), said one poster on bitcointalk.org, arguing that this was wildly off.
To be fair, some have pointed out WDC fluctuations before. But De Angelis admits that variation among mining pools (which are more or less mandatory for any serious miner) can be a confounder when calculating the returns on investment, because each pool has its own characteristics. So the site comes with a disclaimer.
"I have found that this information depends on the pool and the miners involved in it," he said. Some have different rates of stale shares, which are redundant blocks, shared after they have already been solved. "I'd like to get this information together at some point so that I can work it into the calculations, but I have to pull from many sources to do so."
Given the potential for miscalculation, it's useful to compare aggregator sites where possible. Mining Litecoin at 290 Khash/sec (the projected rate for an AMD 5850 GPU) will earn you $1.42 in Litecoins, according to WTM. Dustcoin predicts $1.39 at the time of writing. The predicted coin yield per day is the same, meaning that the difference is down to the exchange rate.
There is currently no revenue model for WTM, although De Angelis is working on ideas. And he isn't much of a miner himself at the moment. "I'm in the process of building my first rig, but right now, I just use a laptop for some really pathetic CPU mining," he joked. The few Google ads that he currently places on the site are more profitable than his miner.
But others are throwing all the computing muscle that they can at different altcoins. Sites like this will become increasingly important as ASIC miners hit the scene and scoop up large proportions of the hashing share. They will leave other users out in the cold, looking for other coins with lower difficulties to mine.
"I have yet to own or see an ASIC miner," De Angelis said. "In theory, they will be very profitable for those that own them and that will make it unprofitable for those that don't. However, with all the altcoins, there are many other places to mine."