Reflecting on My First Month in the Gridcoin (and Crypto) Community
As my first month in the Gridcoin community has come to an end, I would like to take a look back at my first ever foray into the world of cryptocurrencies. Before June 2017, I was but a Biomedical PhD student with no knowledge of the world of crypto beyond the existence of Bitcoin. I am still learning every day, I am still making mistakes, but the cryptosphere is a place that will be a part of me for the rest of my time on this Earth. Speaking as a scientist, I feel crypto is still at the bleeding edge of science with so many unexplored possibilities. I am excited to see what comes next!
My journey began on a rainy Monday morning in my laboratory in late May, frustrated that the simulations I had set in motion on my research cluster on Friday night were still not completed. I needed these simulations to apply for funding, and this was far from the first time that run-rimes had been holding me back. So, like any sane soul in this day and age, I turned to Google to solve my compute needs.
Before anyone makes the assumption I am well funded, let me clarify - I am not. The funds our lab does receive are through industry sponsorship, which essentially equates to us selling out any IP we develop for money to develop that IP. The world of research is a lot more like a standard day job for a big firm than you might expect... In the wise words of The Upturned Microscope:
Having no money ruled out buying compute cycles from services such as Google Cloud and its competitors. Then, I stumbled across the BOINC platform again. I had been running this piece of software on and off on my home machine for many years, but forgotten about it. This is a distributed compute platform authored by Berkeley in the United States. It enables anyone to outsource their work to volunteer computers all over the globe, where everyday citizens donate their idle clock cycles to research. This was it. Projects involved research for cancer markers, curing Zika, mapping the Milky Way - my research on mapping neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's fit right in!
Through BOINC, I stumbled onto Gridcoin, a cryptocurrency that rewards users for completing work on the BOINC framework. I wanted to learn more, and where better to start than by signing up and getting involved?
By Monday afternoon, I had BOINC running on my workstation, spending its idle cycles on a range of medicine applications under the World Community Grid umbrella project. I was hooked again! There is something addicting about seeing your computer tick away completing work for the greater good. So much so, that I added a third screen to my workstation to keep an eye on the work from my peripheral - it is oddly satisfying!
Within 2 days, the Gridcoin wallet had successfully registered a beacon with the Gridcoin blockchain and staked its first block - the noobie block. From this point forward, the network would reward me for any compute carried out. How does this tie back to your research, you may ask? We will get there.
Since that Monday morning, I have set up my entire lab to donate any idle cycles to a BOINC project.
Not using that integrated Intel GPU? Search for aliens with [email protected]!
Simulation finished overnight? Use the extra cycles to map the Milky Way through [email protected]!
Redundant hardware destined for the scrap heap? Nope. Put it to work solving the remaining Enigma messages from WW2.
You get the idea. I am not compromising my work at all, yet I am able to help any field of my choice without having to do anything beyond setting up the infrastructure once.
Over the course of the last month, I have made 5559 GRC, which equates to around USD$330 for those more interested in the fiat world. But I don't plan to sell it - this is where things get REALLY exciting!
The Gridcoin wallet has a fantastic inbuilt feature called 'rain'. It allows any wallet to rain Gridcoin onto every user in a project of their choice, proportional to that user's contributions to the project. In the future, I hope to add my project to the BOINC network and use the Gridcoin my idle cycles have 'mined' to encourage people to solve my models. Currently, this requires a vetting process by the Gridcoin community, which is designed to prevent people from making fake projects to trick the network into awarding them Gridcoins. In future, I hope to see that requirement partially removed to allow even unvetted projects to be added - not for direct reward, but at least to allow the rain functionality to be utilised.
I have learned a lot about the world of crypto. I read more and more articles every day, keep up with the news, and eye up the prices on the markets. I have never invested in crypto, and I have never made any fiat gains from it. But in the space of one month and starting out as a total noob I have:Mined USD$330 worth of coins using only idle cycles Contributed real, tangible compute to many scientific fields Solved a longstanding problem facing Gridcoin and BOINC Signed up to Steemit along the way, met many new friends, and learned a great deal Have developed a drive to pushing the cryptosphere to aid research
Thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way. You are all fantastic people in your own right and the world of crypto is a better place with you in it.
Special thanks to all the volunteers all over the world donating their clock cycles to BOINC. As a researcher, you are making all the difference one could ask for. If you are not already involved, you can join BOINC here and Gridcoin here.