Devcon4 from a Technical Lurker

TL:DR: The Ethereum community is growing, maturing, and merging. Vitalik and Joe’s job of getting enough smart people interested to tip the scale has been accomplished, it’s now the communities job to tip the scale for mass adoption for non-technical users of the Ethereum blockchain.

Before flying into Prague, I started to have my doubts. I changed career role from Technical Director to Advisor in March 2018 at an incredible broker-dealer startup called Bumped to travel the world and focus 95% on blockchain. I was now living the dream. Seven months later in September, I had built over thirty small decentralized projects, playing with Plasma, Swarm, IPFS, Dai, Web3, and any other buzzword I could muster up. All of my projects ended up at a dead end due to limitations to the Ethereum ecosystem and I began to grow anxious of my decision. I had the uneasy impression that if Vitalik Buterin left, the house of cards would fold. Below addresses exactly this.

Have you ever tried to build a fire the cold and rain with only a lighter? It’s hard, but not impossible. So picture Vitalik Buterin, Joe Lubin, and a few others huddled together stacking small fresh cut slivers of dryish wood shavings to get some sort of foundation going. Once a sliver burns enough, you begin to delicately place the correct size of wood over the tiny flame, focusing on how not to suffocate it, increasing the size of wood bit-by-bit exorcising extreme patience.

Devcon4 was big, really big. The number of tickets sold was 2,764, which sold out in eighteen minutes of posting, each ticket costing of $1,024. I was lucky enough to get an early “builder” first wave ticket described as:

“We’re reserving the majority of tickets for recipients of the Builder Discount, and will carefully review each application to ensure we’re curating an inclusive and diverse group of builders from our community.”

This concept paid out in spades. I couldn’t turn around with out having some in-the-weeds conversation about the ecosystem. The words “ICO” and “price” was virtually nonexistent. My scam meter only started to tick when heading to the Blockchains LLC launch, but that aside, these conversations were aha factories.

Here is me (left) Evgeny Shavkunov (middle) and Brendan Nagelin (right) met at Devcon4

The house of cards vision moment that I wanted to disprove occurred during the vyper talk, given by Jacues Wagener, who works for Status. The room was packed like much of the other rooms, with folks sitting on the ground, leaning on walls, or occupying a much-desired seat. Vitalik himself was on the ground as you can see in the below image, quietly listening to the talk. At this point there are over 2,700 people all over the Prague Congress Center running around, either networking in the lobbies, pitching to the Ethereum Grant Team, chilling out in the much needed beautiful meditation room, programming in bean bags overlooking the Prague landscape, or attending other equally as important talks in some other overpacked room on various floors. It wasn't just Consensys or the Ethereum Foundation that people were looking up to, but the seemingly endless new groups all building up the ecosystem.

Two hour STARKS talk packed by Eli Ben-Sasson

Vitalik made it clear on stage he thought the name for Ethereum 2.0 “Shasper” was a terrible name by saying it “will never be called Shasper” (Casper + Sharding) and will be called Serenity. It’s this kind of leadership I that I was looking for, the respect he has from the community has weight, but at the end of the day the community is taking control ( I disliked the name as well).

Vitalik said in his keynote

“There is always going to be an incentive to run things built by the wonderful folks at Prismatic, Whitehouse, Status, and Pegasys and all the other teams that are seemingly popping up every month.”

all of which are building new tooling to solve their own problems, which to me is the flag of the status of our metaphorical fire. The talk by Eli Ben-Sasson, the founding scientist of Zcash was another flag of the maturing nature of the Ethereum blockchain and how we are beginning to merge fascinating technologies like STARKS (I understood 35% of this math heavy talk) that will speed up transactions and increase privacy.

Back to our fire; initially this fire in the rain can only be delicately touched by a few talented fire starters, but now it’s feeling as if anyone can start throwing wet wood on top, and would needs some horrific event to kill it.

As for me, after buying my first Bitcoin in 2014 and Ether at $1.14, my lurking days are done. After my first blockchain conference at Trufflecon in Portland, Oregon and attending Devcon4, I’m ready to help keep the fire going. I am now an active participant, even winning the #cryptolife Hackathon at Devcon4 first prize for Marketplace. Let me tell you, if you want to get know more people in the community, do a hackathon. I would have been a complete outsider had I not developed some friendships at 3am hacking away. Keep an eye for the my project to come to life, All the Things, an NFT creation and distribution engine.

Yes those are bags under my eyes, think I slept five hours in three days, hacking away, plus jet lag the night before it started.

I’ve been traveling the world for the last nine months meeting with anyone interested in blockchain including Singapore, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Bali, Lisbon, Prague, and now Budapest, soon Berlin. Feel free to travel along with me and start participating too.

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