Interview with Shaun Chong, Head of Bitcoin.com Pool Mining Operations on the Past, The Future, and Stress Test Day!
During a recent dinner with the Bitcoin Cash Association and members of the Bitcoin.com team, we ended on the topic of block sizes, the scaling debate, and what we can expect to happen on the Stress Test Day. Will we hit a 32MB block on September 1st? Will Bitcoin Cash still be usable despite all of the low fee transactions? This lead to a great Q&A via Telegram with the Head of Pool Mining Operations for Bitcoin.com, Shaun Chong. He seemed like the logical person to help answer some of these questions as he’s been in the space for ages and truly understands what mining pools are likely to do.
I first met Shaun in December 2017, he struck me as the quiet thinking type. He’s not afraid to voice his opinion when it counts, and he’s one of the most knowledgeable guys in the space. He literally grew up around Bitcoin mining equipment, and like all of us at Bitcoin.com, he lives and breathes for Bitcoin Cash. So without further ado, let’s get to the Q&A!
Who are you and why are you into Bitcoin?
I’m Shaun Chong, Bitcoin.com Head of Mining Operations. I manage Bitcoin.com Pool and cloud mining services.
I love Bitcoin because it is one of the most powerful technologies to bring more economic freedom to the world.
When did you get involved in Bitcoin?
I started mining Bitcoin in 2011 with GPUs while I was in high school and university.
Bitcoin excited me at first because it allows for permission innovation in developing software that deals with money. To develop any kind of online business prior to Bitcoin, you’re required to cooperate with banks, credit card companies, etc. If they didn’t like you or what you do, you can’t do business online.
I was able to send, receive, and mine Bitcoin even before I was old enough to get a credit card. That’s unprecedented.
** Prefer to listen than read? Check out This Week In Bitcoin Podcast Special all about Mining! **
How did you get brought into bitcoin.com?
Shortly after I graduated from university in Australia, I moved to Japan in search of a more exciting life. I met Roger Ver (CEO) and Emil Oldenburg (CTO) at one of the weekly Bitcoin meetups. They were looking for a software developer to build a mining pool, so I enthusiastically joined.
I was especially excited because I knew we were going to be the very first mining pool in Bitcoin history to promote bigger blocks and mine with alternative full node software. We were the first pool to mine blocks with Bitcoin Unlimited instead of Bitcoin Core.
What were your thoughts during the scaling debate? How did you get to Bitcoin Cash?
I’ve been following the scaling debate on Reddit since the beginning. I felt disheartened that the mining pools of that time weren’t responding to such an urgent issue. We needed a mining pool to take the lead on scaling. That’s what Bitcoin.com Pool was and still all about.
I saw the first announcement of Bitcoin Cash during the Future of Bitcoin conference in the Netherlands. Shortly after the conference, I was tasked with adding Bitcoin Cash support to our mining pool (only three weeks before the hard fork. Core supporters said it would take years to prepare for a hard fork. We showed it can be done in three weeks, although you’ll have very exhausted developer(s) by the end of it…
Along with ViaBTC, we were one of the first mining pools to support mining Bitcoin Cash.
What are the real scaling problems pools face today?
The risk of bigger blocks are longer propagation and processing times for blocks. If it takes too long then blocks are more likely to be orphaned (rejected) by other pools. This occurs when other pools mine a new block during the time it took to download/validate the block.
Although the block size limit is currently 32MB, almost all mining pools (including ours) are configured to generate blocks only up to 8MB. This is because we want to reduce the risk of our block getting orphaned. The fees are not worth it from a 32MB block compared to the increased orphan risk. The bottleneck is the use of HTTP RPC protocol to transfer data between the full node software and pool software.
However, this is a software problem that can be solved. Bitcoin Unlimited has a beta feature on their software that should resolve this bottleneck. Our pool plans to try it out on testnet before increasing our generate limit.
How will this effect Stress Test Day? What can users expect?
As far as I know, all mining pools won’t generate blocks bigger than 8MB due to the reasons I described earlier. Don’t expect a 32MB block on Stress Test Day just because that is the consensus enforced limit. Miners are free to set their own max block size smaller than the consensus rules.
Do you have any advice for beginners interested in getting into Bitcoin Mining, or Bitcoin in general?
Read the whitepaper and watch this video, then dive right in!