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Possible citogenesis concerning whether MtGox ever hosted an MtG trading site (wikipedia.org)
75 points by dsirijus 954 days ago | hide | past | web | 42 comments | favorite



There's a nice explanation by bunderbunder in a previous discussion too:

> Interestingly, if you go back and look through the Wikipedia page's history, you can see what appears to be exactly that process happening.

> Before the Wired article, the Wiki article implies that the site was an operating Magic card exchange, but the citation is a link to the Internet Archive's copy of the stub page, with absolutely nothing there to substantiate the idea that it was actually an online exchange. The Wired article appeared later and is unsourced, but could plausibly have taken the Wiki article's unsupported statement at face value. Then just the other day (February 9) the Wiki page was edited by a user named Agyle to use the Wired article instead of the Wayback Machine reference.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7220414


Note that there's another equally-simple explanation that fits all the facts gwern posits here:

1. The MtG app was hosted on a subdomain (CNAME record, no A record) that sometimes had an accompanying apex-record lead-gen website to "sell" it, but usually didn't. (When you're an engineer making a webapp, writing the lead-gen copy is usually the last thing on your mind.)

2. The app subdomain served a robots.txt that prevented the Internet Archive from indexing it--as is usual practice with app subdomains.

3. McCaleb doesn't generally want to talk about how his site used to host an MtG exchange, because that'd make people less willing to take BitCoin seriously. He doesn't deny it, though, nor use the misapprehension as a source of humor in interviews. He just clams up.

I'm not saying gwern is wrong, but he hasn't inviolably proven his hypothesis yet, either. I look forward to a comment from McCaleb, if there ever is one. (My own hypothesis would support McCaleb never responding to gwern's query.)


> The MtG app was hosted on a subdomain (CNAME record, no A record) that sometimes had an accompanying apex-record lead-gen website to "sell" it, but usually didn't.

There's no links to, references about, or any other evidence to suggest that this happened. I too did roughly the same searches of Magic the Gathering forums and websites for any reference of mtgox and found absolutely nothing, not even people mentioning a beta site or that they'd heard about it.

> The app subdomain served a robots.txt that prevented the Internet Archive from indexing it--as is usual practice with app subdomains.

That's not possible. If you deny the IA bot with a robots.txt, it removes all prior records as well. The "coming soon" would not have been indexed and visible if this occurred.

> McCaleb doesn't generally want to talk about how his site used to host an MtG exchange, because that'd make people less willing to take BitCoin seriously. He doesn't deny it, though, nor use the misapprehension as a source of humor in interviews. He just clams up.

He hasn't denied being a flying spaghetti monster either.

Occam's razor. The site never sold Magic the Gathering cards.


A minor point- My understanding has always been that the intent of the original site was that it would provide a way to exchange virtual cards for the game Magic The Gathering Online, and not the (related) physical game.

That is, "Online" was part of the name of the game, not a descriptor of where the exchange was.

I don't know enough about MTGO to know if a third party exchange was even possible, but it would be worth looking into if someone was trying to establish if the site ever actually did anything.


The original source was MagicalTux in [edit <s>#mtgox</s> #bitcoin-otc], when he was asked "what does mtgox stand for?" The answer was that it stood for "Magic The Gathering Online eXchange", but he never said whether or not it was operational under that name.

[edit] Here's the IRC log of the original source: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=7015.0


People have never accused him to his face of being a flying spaghetti monster, though. I'm sure he's heard the wild speculations of how exactly his MtG exchange operated: on Reddit, years ago, there was an entire discussion about how the MtGox trading engine for bitcoins was crap precisely because it was originally built to trade in unique artifacts (MtG cards), not quantitative commodities. He must see a lot more of that than anyone who just happens to be reading about MtGox, to the point where you'd think he'd say something about it one way or another.

Also,

> That's not possible. If you deny the IA bot with a robots.txt, it removes all prior records as well. The "coming soon" would not have been indexed and visible if this occurred.

It would have removed the records of the app subdomain, not the apex domain. Which the evidence supports--we see no record left of an app subdomain.


> People have never accused him to his face of being a flying spaghetti monster, though.

Simply not denying some claim is not evidence that the claim is true, regardless of whether the claim has been presented to you face to face.


> Simply not denying some claim is not evidence that the claim is true, regardless of whether the claim has been presented to you face to face.

No, in general it is evidence to that effect, though depending on the circumstances it may be weak or very weak evidence.


> (My own hypothesis would support McCaleb never responding to gwern's query.)

He has, incidentally. (Unfortunately I think he misunderstood the question and I'm still waiting on a reply to my clarification, so I haven't edited the page again.)


He's replied again: it seems Mtgox did sell cards at some point. I've asked him about the details, but that would seem to be that.


because that'd make people less willing to take BitCoin seriously

Speaking as someone who's heavily involved in (as a hobby) running professional and semiprofessional Magic events, I'd like to point out that professional Magic players seem, on average, much more likely to end up working in finance and doing quite well there.

So maybe the implied sneers at the game's lack of seriousness or lack of financial seriousness (that's way off as well, for the record) are... more telling of the average Bitcoin aficionado's mis-grasp of economics and reality than anything else.


Except: it's more common that such sneers come from Bitcoin-mockers than Bitcoin-aficionados.

(You were making such a nice point about superficial, unfair generalizations of Magic players... which was then undone by a superficial, unfair generalization about Bitcoin-aficionados.)


Wait no longer! At the bottom of the linked post:

More importantly, McCaleb replied to my email. In response to my question "Did anyone ever actually trade card for card or money for card on Mtgox.com?", he replied "yeah they did".


> While your Mt. Gox theory sounds plausible, unless a reliable source challenges the claim or provides an alternate history, I think all we can do is treat the now-established history as an uncontroversial fact.

Translation: Although there is no evidence for X, let's assume X because it is repeated often.

This is so stupid that it bothers me that someone who edits Wikipedia (which, yes, could be anyone) said it.


I agree so much it hurts. In a parallel, more intelligent, universe, that same person said "I think all we can do now is remove the unsupported claims."

Shaking my head.


That's how wikipedia works. They explicitly won't accept edits that are simply true; the goal of wikipedia is to be an accurate summary of what other secondary sources say.


That makes sense, but this person was advocating assuming something to be true without secondary sources other than hearsay.


It's going to be hilarious if it turns out that this never happened. So many people have used the MtG origins of the site to criticize it.

(I'm one of those people. I guess this is a lesson in not repeating something just because you saw a bunch of comments discussing it.)


As I pointed out in another comment: maybe this could also be a lesson in how little you actually know -- if you're using involvement in Magic as grounds for criticism (when the various marketplaces for Magic are many times more reliable than for Bitcoin, and when hedge funds are a common career destination for pro-level players), you may be far more ignorant than you realize.


I'd agree for people who are seriously saying that its origins as a Magic exchange implies that it must be bad now, but most of what I've seen (including my own) has been doing it jokingly.


Doesn't really matter people don't say that because they actually care about the origins it's just a succinct way of communicating their displeasure w/o having to run down the litany of reasons why it is demonstrably untrustworthy.


I care about accuracy even when it's not important to the point I'm making.


> While your Mt. Gox theory sounds plausible, unless a reliable source challenges the claim or provides an alternate history, I think all we can do is treat the now-established history ad an uncontroversial fact.

Nice, Wikipedians actually believe that citogenesis creates real information.

This is difference between "citation" and "scholarship".

When a wikipedia article cites a non-primary source, if that source doesn't care its own sources, it is not a valid source for its claim, it is just hearsay.


We don't actually know the 2 Wired writers were relying on Wikipedia or the version floating around the Internet. They might've gotten it straight from Karpels or McCaleb or a Mtgox staffer or someone, and just not given the source for it in their article. If going to McCaleb didn't work, my next step would be contacting them to learn their source: if they said they got it from Wikipedia or didn't know, then it'd discredit the article as a source for that particular assertion and the claim could at least be deleted & doubt cast on any other RSes asserting the claim without clear rationale.


I am not a Wikipedia rules lawyer, but my understanding is that Wikipedia forbids original research. So even if you contact McCaleb and get the true answer from him, Wired's statement still stands because your research isn't admissible.

The question has come up before in historical articles where someones secondary source is directly contradicted by some editor with direct access to the archive files.


For statements by involved people, AFAIK we already have procedures for handling correspondence; I can forward the emails to OTRS and we cite the ticket as our ref. Same way as we handle copyright grants.


There's a bit of a sliding scale depending on the available sources. For a lot of contemporary stuff, newspaper articles are cited as sources, because there's not much better available. And newspaper articles don't always cite their sources well, which makes it a bit hard to know where they got their information.

When better sources are available, they're preferred. For example, an article on WW2 should not cite random newspapers, but should substantiate any significant claims with a citation to a respectable history book or journal article, because there are enough of them available that there's no excuse for citing less-reliable sources. If a claim about WW2 can only be found in Wired, it probably shouldn't be in Wikipedia.

There are some people who'd prefer applying that more broadly: if a claim can only be found in Wired (or any other newspaper/magazine) Wikipedia should not include it. This, however, would cause a whole different kind of controversy: when material is removed or articles are deleted due to lack of good-enough sources, some people get very angry and start attacking "deletionism". So there's a bit of an in-flux balance between only covering a relatively narrow range of impeccably-sourced topics, versus covering anything at all cited to any source at all.


I think (s)he was being sarcastic...


Wayback machine (far from conclusive) has this:

   * 2007: A landing page saying it's coming soon
   * 2009: A blog (about Magic?), with nothing about trading
   * 2011: Bitcoins
Source: http://web.archive.org/web/*/mtgox.com

Seems to be the domain was bought with the intention of trading Magic cards, but an actual exchange never launched. Now, it's possible they had started developing it and just repurposed code, but I see no evidence that it was ever launched as a Magic trading site.

Most likely, though -- they just had an unused domain laying around, and "Mt. Gox" sounded cool. I've repurposed domains before; I have a ton.


That's exactly what the Wikipedia talk page discusses.


Relevant xkcd

https://xkcd.com/978/


What would MtGox gain from making that up? Also, maybe the original site never launched but he reused the code, that was originally intended to be used for the MtG card exchange and repurposed it for Bitcoin.


Maybe. Is there any evidence of that?


Nope, just speculating.


You know, regardless of whether MtGox is built on trading-card code, it's still pretty mockworthy that a supposedly serious monetary exchange chose to open and operate under an initialism whose only meaning is "Magic: The Gathering Online Exchange." Domain names are not expensive, at least not if you're already willing to settle for something like "mtgox.com."


Who should be mocked? Site owners or users? While you decide, let me get my mocking stick warmed up.


I was thinking the owners, but you know what, go ahead and mock the users too. It's like a party!


Does it really matter whether there was a running MtG trading site with actual trades? I think it's established that that guy wanted to make a magic the gathering online exchange, then discovered bitcoins, and started MtGox, before selling it to the current owners. He may or may have not facilitated trading playing cards on that domain, a subdomain, or somewhere else - it doesn't really matter. The fact is that the MtG online exchange idea was put online first - so you can say MtGox started as an MtG trading site. Whether the site was actually open to the public, or a closed beta, or just on some guy's laptop is just a detail.

Funny how self-referential (no pun intended) Wikipedia has become. Instead of just changing "was a site for trading MtG cards" to "was a planned site for trading MtG cards", or the more ambigous and certainly true "the original idea was a MtG trading site", they spawn endless threads on the discussion page.


All people really want to know is where the name came from. It would actually be kind of absurd to take a working MtG trading site and convert it to bitcoin trading.


How difficult should it be to get the founder on record?


> Fortunately, this is not some distant historical problem. All the people involved are still alive. I've emailed McCaleb for a comment on this question: after all, he should know. --Gwern


But in wiki-land, that won't be acceptable, because it wasn't published anywhere else first.




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