DEVTOME.COM HOSTING COSTS HAVE BEGUN TO EXCEED 115$ MONTHLY. THE ADMINISTRATION IS NO LONGER ABLE TO HANDLE THE COST WITHOUT ASSISTANCE DUE TO THE RISING COST. THIS HAS BEEN OCCURRING FOR ALMOST A YEAR, BUT WE HAVE BEEN HANDLING IT FROM OUR OWN POCKETS. HOWEVER, WITH LITERALLY NO DONATIONS FOR THE PAST 2+ YEARS IT HAS DEPLETED THE BUDGET IN SHORT ORDER WITH THE INCREASE IN ACTIVITY ON THE SITE IN THE PAST 6 MONTHS. OUR CPU USAGE HAS BECOME TOO HIGH TO REMAIN ON A REASONABLE COSTING PLAN THAT WE COULD MAINTAIN. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SUPPORT THE DEVTOME PROJECT AND KEEP THE SITE UP/ALIVE PLEASE DONATE (EVEN IF ITS A SATOSHI) TO OUR DEVCOIN 1M4PCuMXvpWX6LHPkBEf3LJ2z1boZv4EQa OR OUR BTC WALLET 16eqEcqfw4zHUh2znvMcmRzGVwCn7CJLxR TO ALLOW US TO AFFORD THE HOSTING.

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Bitcointalk Signature Campaigns - Are They Destructive?

One of the most popular ways to earn some extra coin on Bitcointalk is to put up a custom signature. Some websites and services will offer to pay in return for the signature space, as it helps bring them increased exposure and (hopefully) profit. This is in essence like running a banner campaign, with the difference being that they have to rely on the signatures instead of banners. As a result, they are text only advertisements. And instead of being posted on every page on the site (like a banner advertisement would likely be), they are only on the pages where people post at, assuming they have the signature changed. Through this article I want to take a look at how these programs work and what their effects are.

The Campaign Types

Different places use different rules on their campaigns. There are essentially three types that I have seen so far (although people are perfectly able to come up with new and exciting ways to offer benefits):

  • Flat rate. This is probably the most popular method, and it pays flat rate for keeping the advertisement up. Usually there are other rules on who can join programs like this, such as what someone's activity level must be or how many posts they must have already. Since the signature changes on every previous post someone has made as well as their new ones, this has the benefit of giving extra exposure elsewhere. It also has the great benefit of everyone knowing ahead of time how much is going to be paid out
  • Pay per post. This has been becoming a more popular method of handling signature campaigns. This one pays based on how many posts there are per month. The idea behind this is that it gives higher rewards to people that post and take active part in conversations, and less for those that are more casual or just do not post. These campaigns generally come with a minimum activity level and a certain number of posts that must be made for the month in order to be eligible. The number of posts required is usually around 50 per month
  • Drawings. The final method I have seen used is a type of drawing. This is where people will become eligible to win a prize after keeping an advertisement in their signature for a specified amount of time. This has a benefit for the host in that they only have to give out a finite amount of coin (or whatever else is being drawn for), and allows the signature users the chance to win bigger prizes. At the same time, it also means that a lot of people may get absolutely nothing, so these are not as popular as the other two methods

As you can see from the above, there are different signature advertisement methods and each has their own pros and cons. Each of them comes with their own values and requirements, and they are all good in their own ways. Picking one really just depends on the provider and each person's personal desires.

Introducing Spam

One of the worst parts about the signature campaigns is that they introduce spam. If you think about the fact that they pretty much all require a certain number of posts (existing) to get started, it makes sense that a lot of people are going to spam their way up to that minimum. On top of this, the ones that require on going posts are going to create new spam going in to the future. For example, some of the campaigns will pay for up to 200 posts per day. Consider how long it takes to make a legitimate post, and then consider the time it would take to make 200 of those a day. Every single day. It is just not feasible for most people, since they have to deal with other things as well, like work, sleeping, eating, school, etc. This ends up pushing people to where they want to maximize their income, but can only do it if they create a ton of posts. And the easiest way to do this is to simply throw up thousands of worthless posts designed to boost the post count. With the massive amount of spam that is already appearing on Bitcointalk, this is not good at all. All it does is reward people for doing what should be disallowed in the first place.

It is worth noting that some of the campaign runners explicitly state that people can not spam, and that spamming is grounds for lower payments (as these posts will be ignored). The fact, though, is that so far none of them appear to be following through with this, and instead just pay for anything and everything since they are still getting the exposure they are wanting.

Update 06-01-2014

Some campaigns are starting to claim that they will only pay for “constructive” posts (which are those that actually add something to the conversation). Even these are not doing too well at curbing spam, though, as it is just too difficult for the campaign runners to evaluate each and every post. If they have 100 members and each of them is doing 200 posts a month, that is 20k posts they have to sift through. Instead, they just go through a few random posts and use those to determine whether or not the rest of them are spam. As you might guess, this is a pretty bad way of handling it. This essentially means people can do a lot of spamming all at once, then mix in some legitimate posts and the campaign runners will never even notice it and will pay for the spam ones as well. So while this change may seem like a good idea in theory, unless it is actually followed through on it does pretty much nothing. The sponsors need to start either actually verifying every post, or just accept the fact that most people are going to spam because it does not seem to impact their earnings one way or another.

Update 08/20/2016

As time has gone on, the campaign runners that claim that they are looking at quality have been proven to be lying. So far, there are no campaigns at all that actually follow through with their promises in regards to chasing down spammers and banning them. Those that act as if they do are only looking at a very small fraction of their users and posts, so the vast majority of spam is getting past them. And many others appear as if they do not really understand what the spam even means – there are some that are classifying spam as real posts, without looking at the context. For example, a lot of users that want to spam and not get caught will make posts that are not even on the topic at hand. They may look legitimate at first glance, but if you actually read what they are posting, it either does not make sense or is in the completely wrong area. Things like this are leading to the system being degraded more than it already was, and spammers are essentially being rewarded for doing so. It is a clearly broken system that needs to be changed. As it is, there is no real incentive for anyone that is in a signature campaign to even try. After all, other people that are spamming are treated the same way and earn the same amount, so why even try to be a more quality poster?

What the system needs is for more campaign runners to either be more in depth when they are looking at posts or for more campaigns to just use a flat rate system. The issue behind this is that in the former’s case, time is money and it takes a lot of time to watch over all the users and ensure they are quality posters. In the latter’s case, it is hard to give a value to someone if you do not know how many posts they are going to make (since the number of posts usually directly correlates to how many others are going to see the signature, which is effectively the method of advertising). But for the sake of the forums and everyone who uses them, finding a way to balance between the two is essential. There are many new forums that have been opening up that are more strict on the spam than BCT, and as it is, the forums could easily end up being overtaken by a more conscious group of people. After all, the forums do nobody any good as long as they continue to not only allow their users to spam, but to end up condoning it as well, through the allowance of spammy sig campaigns. At the end of the day, something has to change, or everyone is going to end up jumping ship for the next best thing. And this is not just a theory, it is a proven fact – and as of right now, it has already started happening.

What makes this situation even worse is that there is absolutely no value in signature space that is on a spammer’s account. The entire point of the campaigns is for the runners to get some advertising value and have others see whatever it is that they have to offer the world, but most people are smart enough to know that you should not trust someone who is spamming, and therefore their signatures are ignored altogether. In other words, the people paying them for spamming are getting zero value out of it, and are just wasting their money. So the campaign runner loses, the forums as a whole lose, the quality is degraded, and the only person that ends up walking out ahead is the spammer themselves. And that is not even the worst part… this effect seems to be missed by the majority of the forum’s users. The number of new campaigns coming out that fall into the same rut is ridiculous. It has been a fairly constant thing over the years, and more and more spammers are coming on board because it is a new safe haven for getting free money. In fact, now there are even markets solely for people to buy and sell their forum accounts. Why would someone want to do this? For one of two things: so that they can scam others by using their built up reputation or so they can spam the forums and make money. In both cases, again, everyone is losing but that one person. And to make matters worse, there is zero attempt at stopping either of these things from happening. Users that have been around for years and have built up great reputations are now doing exit scams or selling their accounts so that others can scam people out of money and other things. And those of us who have been around for a long time, have built up reputations, and have worked to make the forums a better place are screwed over by these situations as well, because it directly affects the amount of trust other people have in us. Because of the number of accounts being sold as of late, you never really know who you are dealing with anymore. It is no longer possible to chat with someone, strike up some sort of deal, and trust them because they have a long term reputation for being honest and dependable. Now, you have to question whether or not the other party you are dealing with is even who you think they are. This is yet another situation that simply should not be occurring, especially with a system like cryptos, where the only trust you have is what you have built up. When you are in an anonymous economy and people are able to sell their reputation for others to do with as they please, it degrades the experience for absolutely everyone, and leads to what we are not seeing across the forums – nonstop scamming from long term users.

Are They Worth Joining?

In most cases, this is going to be a yes. Even if you just join one of them that does not require any posts and pays lower, that is still some free Bitcoin. And when you consider the fact that Bitcoin is a deflationary currency (that is designed to continue going up in value over time), it makes sense that gaining more is better. As such, joining one of the signature campaigns is definitely worth doing; the one you want, though, depends on how you use the forums and which one you are going to be the most comfortable with. Do keep in mind that the campaigns can change or end at any time. This has happened in the past, where a campaign would change half way through and people would get paid less or be otherwise penalized in different ways. What you agree to in the beginning is not what you are necessarily going to get in the end. In most cases, though, this is going to be how it works, since the reputation of the services being advertised depend on them doing what they agreed to.

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