- High-concept Economics
I was very impressed that in addition to all the tech talk there was a spotlight on the ‘why are we doing this’ (I think I resonated with this more due to my non-technical background) 2 fascinating examples presented were: 1. Radical markets and the idea of ‘competitive common ownership’ introduced by Glen Rey https://www.economist.com/books-and-arts/2018/05/10/dont-shrink-the-role-of-markets-expand-it — i’m still trying to get my head around this but sounds promising especially in regards to freeer flows of immigration at a time in history when we seem to be getting more insular even though the Internet has shrunk the world. Closer to home, Simon de la Rouviere followed up with a great medium post on how this could apply to media which I’m still digesting. 2. The second high concept talk was Sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow talking about how the blockchain community should be active in influencing government tech policy just as he has been with the Electronic Frontier Foundation since the 90s. https://craphound.com/news/2018/11/05/my-keynote-for-ethereum-devcon-without-the-rule-of-law-crypto-fails/ He presented this chart showing the widening income disparity that he hopes decentralisation will help address. There are definitely many examples of crypto wealth being concentrated in a small number of hands but the goals are noble.
- Buidl-ing not ICO-ing
I wasn’t at Devcon 3 but apparently there were a lot of people trying to schill their ICO and hype prices up for their coin. Now that bubble has burst this Devcon was definitely about building or “Buid-ling” with a conscious effort to focus on products and services that will grow the ecosystem with real world benefits. As I write that I realise how absurd it sounds to think that there was ever a time when we were not trying to build and add value. This said, I suppose there are parallels with the first dot-com boom when revenue, profits and business model were often an after-thought.
3. It’s about the UX stupid!
Devcon featured free UX/UI consultations for builders to make their apps and protocols more user-friendly. Makes complete sense. I recently added a JD for a UX/UI designer to our hiring needs and am absolutely convinced that cracking good UX/UI design will be key to adoption.
4. ETH 2.0 Serenity
I wrote about Vitalik’s talk on the 2018 road ahead being about scaling. At this Devcon we saw many talks around bringing that roadmap to life. Plasma is now a reality. Apparently Plasma Prime will get us to 100,000+ transactions per second. Apparently Casper POS is coming within next 2 years. With the current low prices of ETH it also made me wonder if we should invest in ETH and be a staker ourselves. Without fully understanding the technical intricacies my personal lament is that the naming conventions are getting more boring. We have gone from the wonderful ‘Casper the Friendly Finality Gadget’ to the boring ‘Serenity’ which sounds like a new version of Windows or MacOS. Boring, boring, boring, yawn zzz.
5. Reputation and Curation
I am currently trying to get my head around p2p reputation and curation markets for content. The idea of a permissionless community of quality journalism is enticing. There were a number of projects at Devcon such as Relevant proposing solutions that involve staking and voting on what content is considered quality. At BlockPunk we built a simple internal beta around the concept of token-curated registries to experiment with this concept but I still haven’t figured out how to explain the benefits in a simple way to entertainment fans. We haven’t given up on this yet however and will continue working on it.
6. Security Tokens (STOs)
I don’t spend much time in the ICO hype communities but it seems that many people who were excited about ICOs and now realise they can’t raise money for their project are turning to STOs as the ‘next big thing’ STOs were debated at Devcon and it seems everyone is agreed that it’s not just a question of porting traditional financial securities to blockchain and more about creating something native to crypto with clear benefits. At its worst, offering equity stakes as tokens could just be another way of dressing up a crap investment. At its best it could be a way to bring investment in assets at a lower cost with wider access and additional membership benefits. In the entertainment field, I personally love the idea of a fan-owned studio similar to what Legion M has built. We will continue examining this at BlockPunk.
Many people seem to be integrating DAI (developed by Maker DAO) into their apps. 1 DAI token = 1 $USD. It maintains this pegging to the dollar by having the holders of MKR (the Maker Dao token) collateralise or back the DAI currency. A16Z recently bought 6% of MKR tokens for $15 Million giving the currency some decent credibility. Given how ETH prices have crashed we are also interested in locking in prices at constant dollar rates to avoid currency losses in treasury. At the ETH Singapore hackathon the team built a widget that allows any crypto collectibles vendor to integrate DAI or any other ERC20 token as a payment method through the KyberSwap API from Kyber Network (a decentralised token exchange) using an auction mechanism. We will be looking to integrate this into BlockPunk in the near future.
8. Serendipity and Anime
Serendipitous encounters at conferences. Don’t you just love them? So while walking to the official Devcon closing party on a random street in Prague I bumped into a lovely fella who was a blockchain developer and a passionate anime fan! He showed me a google sheet he put together where he personally ranked and reviewed all his favourite titles :) It seems that every conference I go to either tech or biz I bump into an anime fan. When I was speaking at Apostech I met a games industry exec who said that he always interviews candidates with the question ‘who is the best One Piece character?’ (Hint in case you’re going for a game dev job: Answer is Franky)
9. Utopia in the desert
Moment that most made me think that we were at the height of a bubble. By far the most lavish Devcon party was by Blockchains LLC. 2 American lawyers, brothers, building a city in the Nevada desert aiming to be a utopia for blockchain and next-gen tech developers. In addition to offices, research facilities there will be houses and schools. Imagine the birth of Las Vegas in that scene from the movie Bugsy combined with the founder story of Robert Noyce. Your view of the project will depend in part on how naturally cynical you are. Some people say ‘go for it’ why be negative about people who want to give back and are willing to put their money where their mouth is. Others are saying this is completely nuts and obviously doomed to failure. I certainly can’t convince my missus to move to Nevada but I’m keeping an open mind.
10. Metamask goes mobile!
Metamask is the de facto standard for billing Ethereum Dapps (including our own). The Consensys digital wallet for Ether currency has until now only supported PC browsers from Chrome, Firefox and Brave. BUT, at the conference there was an announcement from the dev team that mobile browsers would be supported! Unfortunately, a bit like when Casper was announced it is still unclear when it will be available. Compared to successful web 2.0 applications, forcing a consumer to transact with your app using a separate 3rd party plug-in that places multiple steps between interest and purchase is a sub-optimal experience that crypto-heads have been enduring until now. Adding the constraint of a PC-only experience limits your addressable market further. This is why support for mobile is a very welcome step forward to increasing engagement and access. We still have a fundamental UX gap with Web 2.0 apps however. Support from Opera browsers will help. Another interesting project at Devcon trying to solve UX is Universal Login where users create a unique username in the form of a ETH address that can be used across multiple dapps. If every Dapp adopts it that would certainly make login easier but getting to that network effect will be the challenge.
12. What happened to 11?
11. There it is.
Originally published at medium.com on December 17, 2018.