The Transition to Light Hotspots – What Happened?

TL;DR Despite a massive change to the Network, at a macro level we’re more or less where we were (up 3%) with the number of Hotspots getting rewarded for beaconing, and down 4% for number of Hotspots getting rewarded for witnessing. The rewards themselves are lower, but that’s always the long term trend of any crypto mining network.

Now, I know some of you will howl about this and talk about flatlines and earning tanking, but remember, we’re not looking at YOUR Hotspot, we’re looking at the Network. I had some Hotspots go down. Some stayed up. The key thing to do in the month of May was something other than worry over your Hotspot. Very few people did that. While you were worrying, here’s what actually happened.

Dave Akers over at HeliumAnaltyics.io has written an in depth report about the statistics behind the transition, which I have shamelessly borrowed graphs and numbers from for this article. Yes, he approved my borrowance.

The amount of HNT minted dropped temporarily and was spiky enough to freak out thousands of Hotspots owners. The trend line (red dots) is better to watch than day-to-day (blue line), but most people gnaw their knuckles whilst staring at the blue. In any event, it is now approaching normal.

The number of Hotspots beaconing dropped sharply on May 11th and hasn’t recovered fully yet.

The devs (that’s the cool way of saying “Developers”, we used to call them “Programmers” but apparently that is well out of vogue) tried to ramp up the PoC rate early on, but that didn’t work. What it DID do was uncover some old bugs that had been undiscovered and were causing Hotspots in rural areas to earn less.

When the number of beacons dropped, it appeared to many owners that their Hotspots were dead. No beacons means no witnesses, so if no one in your area beaconed, there was…nothing to do. This nothingness triggered the Great Freak Out, and for a good 10+ days almost no one was happy. I was, but Mom says I’m special.

Ok, so what actually happened? We (and by we I mean the Nova & Helium Foundation team, I personally did nothing, see above) changed a Network from relying on 800k+ relatively weak (computer-weak) nodes to test each other (“construct Challenges”) and shifted that burden over to 3k+ much stronger computers (the Validators).

In doing so, we lost about 5% of our earnings. You may see the 0.9% figure bandied about, and that is also correct in terms of the overall Network, but in terms of the portion that we Hotspot owners get (the PoC, or Proof of Coverage earnings), we lost 5%.

How much HNT is 5%? About 800 a day. So, instead of that 800 HNT being split between 800k+ Hotspots, it now gets split between 3k+ Validators.

What did we get in exchange for giving up 5%? Well, we don’t quite have it yet, but we’re going to get a much more stable Network.

Think of it this way: Helium relying on all the Hotspots to construct Challenges was kind of like a train hurtling toward a cliff where the tracks ended. Sure, it was working, but we were about to go off said cliff.

Switching the responsibility to construct Challenges was like having that train fly off one side of the cliff, go totally off the rails and be uncomfortably airborne, then land perfectly on the other side, where the rails continue into Validator-land. It was never going to happen smoothly, but we’re still on the rails and the wobbling will soon subside.

One truly amazing thing is that during the whole transition time, the Network has almost continuously kept up with passing the data from sensors on to integrations. That is analogous to the waiters on the train in the image above constantly pouring tea into cups and not spilling a drop.

That is a major win, though for most of you with more Hotspots than sensors you probably (to be completely honest) don’t give a rat’s ass about sensors.

You want your HNT. I get it. Let me give you the hard truth about HNT: The “good old days” of 1 or 10 or 100 HNT a day per miner are gone. They will never come back. Those aren’t my rules, those are solely a function of more and more miners splitting the same size pie.

If you want to know what to expect, I would *predict* (NOT FINANCIAL ADVICE!) that an average Hotspot will earn 1 or less HNT/month.

So, where does that leave you? Ya got three options, it’s up to you to decide:

  1. You can unplug. That is the “cut off your nose to spite your face” option. Maybe you can “sew your nose back on” by selling the miner?
  2. You can keep mining and hope I’m wrong and that your earnings will go back up. I think that’s stupid, but I’ve been wrong before.
  3. You can learn to use the Network we’ve built. This is the path I’m taking.

I can’t help you with options 1 or 2. I can definitely help you with option 3. It’s the most difficult and potentially most profitable path for the long term.

For those of you willing to take that path, you can follow along for free on this blog and my Discord server or YouTube channel, or you can sign up for the Gristle Crüe and for $49/month join a group of enthusiastic and competent people who are willing to work and learn and help each other take advantage of all the opportunities and options coming down the pipe.

Whatever you do, I hope it works out well for ya. I’ll be here kicking ass and taking names, learning and sharing in the pursuit of excellence.

The transitions to Light Hotspots isn’t complete, and I wouldn’t be caught dead saying “It’s in the can” (sorry Joey, couldn’t resist), but we’re close, and much of the worst is behind us. Onward!

Rock ‘n roll.

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