How to buy in the blockchain of future journalism (in only 44 steps) »Nieman Journalism Lab


I'm pretty sure I bought the Civil tokens yesterday, literally buying an experiment to strengthen journalism by putting a little bit on the blockchain.

After passing two tests, loading my passport and driver's license on unfamiliar websites, and throwing down a large sum (for me) for a cryptocurrency, I was allowed to take off the token. When the sale started at 10, I indicated how many Civilian tokens I wanted and I sent that precious cryptocurrency to pay for them.

And I did not get anything.

No tokens appeared in my digital wallet. No comfort email "your tokens are sent". Not even a "Share your purchase with a friend!" Button. The "purchased" area in my account was empty.

But in reality I'm at peace with that. I think it will work and I'm on this trip.

My motivation

At the beginning of this year, my friends Manoush Zomorodi and Jen Poyant left their public radio works to join to this new journalism … thing named Civil. I had heard of Civil, and I was honestly rather confused. Even all the intelligent people I spoke to seemed confused.

The pod pod of Manoush and Jen ZigZag tries to explain it, and I think I can do a stab now: Civil is a system designed to promote and reward quality journalism in a decentralized way, unlike platforms like Facebook and Google. The system backbone is the blockchain-based Civil token, abbreviated CVL. Token holders can initiate news organizations into the system, challenge membership of other news organizations in the system and / or cast votes when such challenges arise.

I have no idea if it will work. But I'm interested, and I'd rather participate rather than watch it from the sidelines. So I was willing to give it a whirlwind – and it was fine losing a bit of money in the process. (In addition, my employer, Quartz, has just launched a new cryptocurrency newsletter called Private Key that I read.)

So time seemed right to jump in. I just needed to buy a CVL … even if it turns out that there is not only .

The ingredients

Here's what actually I needed to participate:

The recipe

Quick note: I'm talking about real money here and there was a time when technically I've lost $ 100. So please, do not take my experience as a gospel, or even 100 percent accurate – I'm a beginner in this, I expected to be imperfect along the way, and even Civil's instructions changed last days.

said, about a week ago, I followed the path described in this PDF. Here are my steps.

Get an account Foundry Token

The first stop was at Token Foundry, the site from which I purchased my CVL tokens. At this point, I:

  • The registration process has started.
  • He studied this PDF about how it works, what the risks are and how I should not play with much of my net worth.
  • I did a quiz to make sure I actually understood all these things.
  • He passed the quiz!
  • I uploaded a photo of my passport to prove it's me. This was not my favorite step, but I knew it would come and also that it was necessary.
  • I took a selfie with my portable camera.
  • I was waiting for the email saying I was legit and verified like me. [19659019] I received e-mail and it was useful.

Register to sell Civil tokens

To get CVL, I needed to register for sale at Token Foundry.

  • Read the constitution
  • Read the white paper
  • Read the four uses of the CVL token
  • Read all other material on the site (some of which I knew from the ZigZag podcast).
  • Click on "register."
  • I took another specific quiz for Civil, which included the contract I enter into by purchasing the CVL tokens. This was an important key, because here I learned that I can not sell my tokens to anyone; must be approved by the Civil. Also, I can not sell CVL unless I actively participate in the civil system, for example, by voting.
  • Exceeded the quiz!
  • I declared the intention to purchase a specific dollar sum of CVL tokens.
  • the conclusion is that CVL is not designed as a way to get rich quickly. Fortunately, that was not my goal. Furthermore, they are always so bad.

    Get a cryptocurrency account

    I would soon need to convert real dollars into blockchain-based cryptocurrency – in this case, Ethereum token, which is abbreviated to ETH. I needed ETH to buy CVL.

    Two things have changed since I did it. First of all, Civil announced that, starting October 2nd, they would allow people to buy CVLs directly with dollars – so there is no need to buy ETH first. Secondly, the recommended website to buy ETH went from Coinbase to Gemini.

    I used Coinbase and on that site I:

    • Registered for a Coinbase account.
    • Setting up two-factor authentication.
    • Provided an image of my driver license, front and back, using my laptop's camera.
    • I checked out like me, which took about a minute.
    • Linked a debit card to the account.
    • I looked in my bank account to find two small "held" withdrawals and returned them to Coinbase to confirm my account.

    At this point, I was ready to inject real dollars into the process.

    Configure Metamask

    But neither Coinbase nor Token Foundry is where I would actually buy, sell or exchange tokens. This happens in Metamask.

    Metamask is a browser extension that adds a small fox icon to the toolbar of my browser.

    Clicking on the fox opens a window where I can buy Ethereum and, later, exchange Ethereum for CVL tokens. It is also the temporary "hot wallet" in which I can store my Ethereum and CVL tokens. (For long-term archiving, I will use a "cold" hardware portfolio.)

    Here's how I set up and used Metamask:

    • Metamask installed from the Chrome Web Store.
    • Create a Metamask account. [19659019] Read all about how to avoid being scammed by fake windows of Metamask. 😬
    • I got a list of 12 words that make up the passphrase for my Metamask portfolio – and, according to the instructions of the Token Foundry, I definitely did not photograph or store electronically anywhere. I put pen and paper in a safe
    • So, inside the Metamask window, I clicked "buy" and I asked Metamask to use my Coinbase account (and the debit card stored there ) to buy some of Ethereum.

    And it did not work.


    I discovered that I was trying to buy too much. I knew the Coinbase limit for debit cards was $ 300, so I entered $ 300. But it failed.

    I tried $ 299. Also failed.

    I realized that there were some transaction fees that were putting me over the limit. So I tried $ 250.

    At this point, my bank was in alarm and refused the transaction. (Later I confirmed when I asked my bank to unlock my card.)

    So I gave Coinbase another debit card, which was promptly refused. I was clearly triggering alarms everywhere. (Again, confirmed).

    Finally, I tried to link a bank account directly to Coinbase. The instructions said it could take up to seven days, which was fine because I was still more than a week away from selling CVL tokens. But since my bank was on the list of Coinbase banks that you can easily talk to, it worked right away.

    I went back to the Metamask window and tried again to buy Ethereum, this time using my bank account.

    And … did it work?

    The sale was successful, he said. But there was no deduction on my bank account and no Ethereum in my Metamask portfolio. Was he gone?

    Then I discovered that there was Ethereum in my Coinbase account. Perhaps this was the seven-day wait?

    We are in the Aether

    The next morning, the Ethereum was sitting in my Metamask wallet.

    And … it had already fallen $ 25. It would drop a whole $ 100 – and then recover – before I could use it to buy CVL. As the excellent quartz titers point out, the cryptocurrency markets have undergone a "sudden and severe treatment".

    But I was ready for sale.

    Time to buy

    At 9:59 am on Tuesday, I open my laptop. The sale of Civil tokens was opened a minute later.

    I went to the Civil site on Token Foundry and clicked on "buy."

    For my payment method, I chose "Metamask", the browser plugin and the cryptocurrency portfolio that holds my Ethereum. I confirmed the purchase amount, I waited a minute and I saw this:


    I also got a link that took me to the digital details of the blockchain transaction, clearly showing my ETH gone to Token Foundry.

    But there was no record that once there, those tokens had become CVL tokens, or even that they will do it at some point in the future. The only receipt I had of a CVL token transaction was the "success" screen above I happened to shoot because I was planning to write about my experience.

    After reading so much about the immutability of blockchains and keeping the cryptocurrency safe, the lack of even a "pending" transaction record was a bit strange.

    Looking good

    But I was not worried. One thing I learned in this process is that civilized people have thought a lot about this system and this sale. Also, I had both the screenshot and a blockchain transaction that showed I sent a group of Ethereums to Token Foundry.

    Then, around 18:00. Tuesday evening, eight hours after clicking on "buy", I received a comfort "your purchase is his way" known by Token Foundry:

    Of greater concern could be that the & # 39; entire sale will not go through entirely if Civil will not sell more than $ 8 million in tokens by October 15th.

    After exactly 12 hours, the CVL count was sold for $ 98.984. At that rate, assuming people buy 24 hours a day, I think Civil will be a couple of million dollars. [Editor’s note: After 24 hours, at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday, the total was at $116,655.]

    I hope I'm wrong. I would like to see how this experiment takes place – and I have a small participation in it.

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