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How to Tip Your Favorite Authors with Cryptocurrency on Popula!

Using crypto to tip on Popula is a cool and fun, low-stakes way to learn to use cryptocurrency and blockchain technology—and it directly benefits the writers and artists whose work you enjoy. This guide will help you get started.

To tip on Popula you’ll need some ETH, or Ether, which is the cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain network. You can buy ETH in various places; reliable exchanges include Coinbase, Kraken and Gemini.

OR! Perhaps you are a Popula reader with a paid Popula Reader or Galaxy Brain subscription (if not, please subscribe here!) If so, we’re offering a free chance to join the wild world of space jewels. It’s fun! Just send us your MetaMask wallet address to receive $2 worth of Ethereum cryptocurrency (ETH)! MetaMask is a crypto wallet that fits in your browser, and takes only a minute to install via metamask.io.

Ethereum can be described as a more sophisticated version of Bitcoin, with which it shares some features. We already use ETH at Popula to archive our work permanently on the Ethereum blockchain. We believe that blockchain technology offers journalism many potential benefits, aside from its power as an archiving tool. It’s a new way to make direct and valuable connections between publications, journalists and readers, as we’ll be demonstrating over the coming months. You can now fund work you enjoy directly, using our simple system for tipping.

What is cryptocurrency?
What is Ethereum?
What is MetaMask?
How does Popula use cryptocurrency?
How little, or how much, can I tip a Popula author?
How does the Popula author get my tip?
Are there transaction fees for this service?

What is cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency, or crypto tokens, often called just “crypto,” are media for conducting transactions on a blockchain. Bitcoin, the first true cryptocurrency, was launched in January 2009; it has had an interesting (and at times harrowing) history. Since then, blockchain technology has exploded in many directions; though it’s still too new to have many practical applications for the average person, blockchain is already in wide use in banking and industry. Popula is lucky to be one of the very first journalism projects to use this technology for the benefit of individual readers and journalists.

A simpler way to think of crypto, as readers can use it on Popula, is like airline miles, or cell phone minutes: a form of scrip, but one that is especially designed for you to use in information-related transactions.

What is Ethereum?

Ethereum is a public blockchain, like Bitcoin, but it’s designed to operate more complex systems than Bitcoin can. The token generated on the Ethereum network (just as bitcoins are generated by the Bitcoin network) is called Ether, or ETH. Popula uses ETH for creating permanent archives, and for facilitating small tips to our authors, even tips as small as a few cents; we have many additional benefits for journalists and readers planned using ETH.

ETH has features that are a bit like ordinary money, though again, unlike ordinary money, ETH exists on a peer-to-peer network of many thousands of computers—the Ethereum network—rather than in a bank account or as physical cash. The Ethereum network generates ETH, and all ETH transactions are permanently recorded on the network’s blockchain.

When you buy ETH, which you can do with a debit card at an exchange such as Coinbase, Gemini or Kraken, it will be put in a wallet for you. You’ll hear a lot about wallets of various kinds in the crypto world: there are hot wallets, cold wallets, paper wallets and hardware wallets. For tipping authors at Popula you’ll be using a super simple MetaMask wallet that goes right in your browser.

Each crypto wallet comes with a unique “public address,” which you could think of like a P.O. box; a specific storage spot to which you have private access. In other words, anybody can know the box number, and send things to you there, but you alone have the key to get inside.

To put ETH in or take it out, you use the wallet’s public address, which will look something like this:

0xC2D7CF95645D12004210B745459035C7c9061d3F9

You can generate as many wallets as you want, and it’s easy to transfer ETH between them.

Your “private key” is like a private mailbox key. You don’t need it for putting stuff in, but to get anything out, you must have the key. This is the part where you need to be careful, because nobody (including you!) can get into your crypto wallet without that key, which is a random-looking string of characters, like this:

3a1076bf45ab87712ad64TGG3b11245575f7faacbf2872e88fdd9a537d8fe282

Note that each wallet has its own private key. Be extremely careful with your private keys and the “seed phrases” you’ll also be using to secure your crypto accounts. Don’t ever store these private keys or seed phrases on a computer or email them anywhere, not even to yourself.

Best practice: don’t ever even type or copy or duplicate private keys or seed phrases onto a keyboard, scanner or printer. DO write them down on a piece of paper and keep the paper in a safe, memorable place. Lots of people store an extra copy of their private keys in bank safe deposit boxes.

Even if you’re starting out with a trivial amount of crypto, it’s not a bad idea to get into safe habits.

What is MetaMask?

MetaMask is an easy to use, elegant, and just generally terrific browser-based wallet system that we use at Popula for pretty much everything crypto-related.

Download and install MetaMask in a matter of seconds at https://metamask.io/. After installing it on your browser, start MetaMask by clicking the wee fox icon in the top right corner of your browser.

Once you have your MetaMask account, you can send some ETH to it from your exchange account at Gemini, Coinbase, Kraken or other exchange account.

Now you can tip!

So how does Popula use cryptocurrency?

So far, Popula has used cryptocurrency for making permanent archives of our stories on the Ethereum blockchain. To our knowledge we are the first publication in the world to achieve this, through technology provided by our colleagues and benefactors at the Civil Media Company.

Now you can directly compensate Popula writers and artists whose work you like using crypto. At the end of every Popula story, you’ll see a box for leaving tips. It takes a matter of seconds, once you’re set up. Amazing! Your ETH tip will go right into the writer’s or artist’s private crypto wallet. Popula will take a small fee of five percent to help cover our system overhead.

The tipping box looks like this:

How little, or how much, can I tip an author?

You can tip the crypto equivalent of just a few cents, if you’d like. There’s almost no limit to how large or how small your tip can be. You’ll see the USD equivalent of your ETH tip amount, and the transaction fee, in your MetaMask window before you confirm your transaction.

How does the author get my tip?

Popula’s writers and artists register their own private wallets in their Popula author profiles. This system allows our authors secure, immediate access to their tips. If an author doesn’t pick up a tip within 60 days, or if the author declines to participate in the Popula tipping system, your tip will be refunded to your wallet in full.

We’re encouraging all Popula writers and artists to set wallets up, because we’re designing this system so that anyone who publishes work at Popula will be eligible to receive cryptocurrency tips from readers for as long as the site is online.

Are there transaction fees for this service?

You’ll pay a very small network transaction cost for sending Ethereum out of your wallet, usually a matter of a few cents; these fees go to the Ethereum miners who maintain the network’s computers. Separately, Popula takes five percent of author-accepted tips to help with the overhead of running the tipping system.

Author participation in the Popula tipping system is optional; if an author declines to participate in the tipping system, your tip will be refunded to you in full.