My journey from WordPress to MongoDB, and now Smart Contracts, but why…???
TLDR; during the Christmas holidays I launched the bloq.press website, which will home my third and hopefully final CMS. This time; instead of using databases and relying upon servers, I decided to have it run entirely by smart contracts in plain HTML. To learn why, I’ve laid-out my full story below …
The first time I truly tinkered with code was when I pulled apart WordPress and discovered a backend PHP foundational framework known as BackPress. It was with this that I generated my first software fork when I began working on a CMS specifically designed for geo-locational product development, which I quite rightly named GeoPress. By the time WordPress introduced custom post types, GeoPress became irrelevant. It was around this same time that I started to grow both tired and wary of SQL based data processes.
As a geo-location freak on a mission to develop a platform for augmenting social experiences, I was introduced to the exceptionally talented founder of Travel Blog; where we started working together on some interesting side projects. Above all else, we shared a huge dispassion towards SQL databases, which upon further investigation turned out to be the biggest bottleneck we’d eventually face with each new idea that we had. This led us to start working on the world’s first NoSQL based CMS; something we unimaginatively named MongoPress due to its use of the MongoDB database. There was something liberating about being able to define and structure data from within the application itself, rather than relying upon defining it at a server-level, which in some cases could even involve communicating with a whole other team! Nonetheless, despite the benefits of early NoSQL technology, there was no secure way of escaping the need for a server. This made some of our projects, such as self-sovereign identity little more than a pipe-dream.
However, MongoPress was at least my first attempt at building a CMS from scratch and was something that I even won an award for. This led to the formation of R1 DOT MY, which is a company that is registered in Malaysia and is now known best for its blockchain infrastructure brand; Neuroware.
With R1 setup and ready to compete against WordPress in a way that Ghost does today, something profound happened. I stumbled upon a new technology that would change everything. It was called Bitcoin and it’s “potential” practically brought me to tears. Not because it provided a digital currency controlled by no one person or entity, but more importantly because of the properties that were displayed by its underlying data structure, yet were only possible due to the economic incentives of the digital currency it was designed for. Namely, it did not rely upon a central service and could allow for applications to continue running regardless of whether or not the project owners continued to pay for and maintain the data streams themselves.
In addition, applications and processes that utilized these networks could function in a way that was free from unnoticed tampering, allowing for integrity to be independently verified whilst also enabling self-owned data to be securely shared with others. For the first time in 15 years, I could trust my own data. More importantly, there was now a technology that had the potential to enable more transparent forms of accountability within public institutions and government agencies. This was something that I had previously thought would never be possible and had in-turn rendered my interest in politics to the point of it being non-existent.
However, with that said; in the decade that’s passed since Bitcoin launched, the “blockchain” ecosystem has become a very complicated space; to the extent of even including some ledgers and networks without blocks that still call themselves blockchains in order to capitalize upon its marketing juice …
If blockchain “technology” really does have the potential to make a meaningful impact to society, it will be because of the technicalities of the economic properties and socially driven monetary policies that were introduced by networks such as Bitcoin, Dogecoin and Ethereum. It will not be because of the centrally issued or internally profit driven economic models introduced by various networks and the myriad of unregulated schemes and token sales taking place upon them both.
When government agencies and public institutions start taking lessons from organizations and businesses that create or manage their own economic networks, there is an inherent tendency to in-turn be taught a single type or brand of ledger technology. When those that are meant to protect us fall short of understanding or acknowledging that different ledgers work in different ways, it becomes clear that the motives of everyone involved are obviously misaligned.
As a result, it’s been several years since R1 released any OpenSource work; as we’ve not only had to spend a lot of time providing training and workshops to institutions throughout the region, but have also been working with those same organizations to help develop application specific protocols and private networks for prototyping and testing various forms of research.
The most recent of these initiatives was with the Securities Commission of Malaysia, Our work with Project Castor was predominantly focused on smart contracts, which we had deployed in order to govern the automated issuance and exchange between fungible tokens and non-fungible assets. It was whilst developing the underlying data structure for updating these contracts that we realized that similar technology could be applied to more generic use cases.
With the release of BloqPress; which we believe is the world’s first smart contract based CMS, R1 will once again be embarking on the development of a new OpenSource project. We will be working towards creating a platform that can run from any internet enabled device without requiring its own server or relying on any one particular service to function.
Although we have a VERY long way left to go, we do at least already have a working prototype that is being used by projects. The current pre-alpha version features the following functionality:
- 100% HTML; no server or database required for anything
- 100% Censorship Resistant; allows for tamper proof hosting of data
- 100% Keyless; no private keys or sensitive data stored or transmitted
- Digital Self-Sovereign-Enabled Identities, which you control
- Extendable Post Types; with titles, text, category tags and author meta
- Commenting; moderate or monetize interaction in ways you decide
The next iterations will focus upon the following much needed improvements:
- Protocol Integration, official support for BlockAuth and DN-Key
- Distributed Static Media Files, switching media storage to IPFS
- Documentation, documentation and lots more documentation!
On this occasion, we are not setting out to replace WordPress; far from it. The use cases for something such as BloqPress are quite specific. In fact, we even have a WordPress plugin that we have developed and will be releasing soon that allows for BloqPress to be integrated with WordPress. This is useful when all you need is to store a daily hash of your centralized dataset onto the blockchains in some easily indexable or openly accessible form.
Over the next month or two we’ll be releasing more and better documented examples of the various projects that are utilizing BloqPress. In the meantime, we welcome any feedback and wish anyone brave enough to tinker with the current pre-alpha the very best of luck! If we learn that this is something people want or need, we will continue pouring additional time and resources into properly documenting everything for other developers to use.
To see the current release in action, visit www.bloq.press …