In Crypto, Don’t Follow the Developers, Follow the Hackers
You have heard the saying “Follow the developers” it is usually a truism said about why you should mindlessly follow the bulk of developers on a crypto project, and particularly repeated over and over regarding the bitcoin and ethereum communities, the idea implies that if a majority of developers are bundled up on a project, then that project is automatically good or important and going to the moon. I agree to an extent with the saying, a blockchain that atracts many voluntary developers and has many dapps could certainly produce some notable products, however I think we are missing the forest while being fixated on the trees.
It is not about quantity, it is about quality, let me just point out some solid examples of this:
- Satoshi Nakamoto, regardless if he/she was just one person or a team, came up with the insight for bitcoin with the help of relatively few people (all of whom are cited in the bitcoin white paper), and also a few that collaborated with him/her in the initial stages, such as Hal Finey, with the point being that it was not a thousand person project.
- Jamie Zawinski had a very important and active role in the early days of the mozilla browser, coding a ton of the early codebase.
Multitude of other examples could be added, is not about quantity, but about quality.
Same thing here, is not about developers, but about hackers.
But first, let’s define the word hacker, what is a hacker?
“An expert at programming and solving problems with a computer”
This video snippet (from 1:52–4:08) goes more into detail about the three levels of skill a person can achieve in cybersecurity, which could be generally applied in other areas of technical development, such as blockchain development, a hacker in my conception would be the third and highest category.
One hacker can turn up the work that 300 developers might not be able to finish, this is not an exaggeration, many projects have had millions of dollars to dispose of and still fail to deliver, silicon valley is filled with examples of apps who had a budget of millions of dollars and somehow still manage to produce buggy and disfunctional apps, same thing ocurred with crypto during the ICO fever, with many teams getting millions and barely able to setup a domain name on wordpress or a rudimentary copy pasted smart contract.
Same with DEFI, billions of dollars poured into one week old projects and even though the code base is mostly forked (sometimes) they still manage to get hacked just because they don’t even keep up with the security patches released by the project they copied from, meaning, that even as average developers they were not that great.
Similarly with Andre Cronje, the creator of yearn.finance, who has one of the most tragicomic bios in crypto twitter: “I test in prod” meaning, I test in production, which means that he experiments with the core of the projects he is involved with, in which an error could cause real money to be lost or be locked up forever, which has actually happened to other projects.
Andre Cronje can churn up the first coin to nominally surpass bitcoin in USD value per unit and still do more projects on the side, which puts him in the genius coder category.
Do you see it now? your hiper hyped coin can have an entire building build full of developers like apple does, and still be out witted by the George Hotzes of the world.
The case of George Hotz is particularly thrilling, a modern day technical polymath, he was also involved with writing a compiler to scale ethereum, as noted here:
Jing, part of the team of non-genius programmers who received help from George Hotz chronicled the experience in a now famous twitter thread that is worth replicating here:
[Beginning of Twitter Thread of Jing]
Story time! Highly requested: Once upon a time we were working on an EVM to OVM transpiler. After weeks of intense EVM debugging we realized this level of abstraction could easily get us 90% of the way there, but the last 10% would be monumental. We needed a different approach.
Unfortunately, this realization came as we were coming up against a high pressure deadline, and we weren’t sure how to allocate our dev firepower. We asked around for help within the Solidity community but most people had their plates full already.
I suggested broadening our search and going harder on finding someone who could help but @ben_chain cautioned me that it would be near impossible — very few people were EVM *and* compiler experts. To make it even more impossible, we had very little time.
Stressed and exhausted, we tried to cheer up at an outdoor restaurant. It was the first time we’d eaten out since COVID started, and as I looked around in awe, a familiar figure caught my eye. I poked @kevinjho_ and whispered, “Hey doesn’t that guy look like Geohot?”
Kevin looked up at the man walking past our table & agreed,
“Yeah he kinda does!”
Before he could walk out of sight, I puffed out my chest and bellowed
He turned. The entire restaurant turned too. My teammates cringed, embarrassed for me.
Lo and behold, it *really was* none other than @realGeorgeHotz We raised a plate of truffle fries to him and pulled up a chair. We introduced ourselves and our company, to which he responded:
“Oh you’re scaling Ethereum? Like with plasma and all that?”
We were shocked!
We explained our new scaling design to him and he was intrigued. He proceeded to ask questions that displayed an intimate knowledge of Ethereum and the EVM. In a long shot, we asked him if he had any suggestions on how we might get our Solidity to OVM compiler done on time.
He looked at us pensively for a moment, and then smirked,
“Well. How bad do you want it?”
In this moment we realized the Universe is a simulation. George was driving autonomously through this game of Life and we now offered him a side quest.
His first day in the office, he simply sat in front of the computer and stared for hours. We hovered doubtfully around him. Then, three days later he handed over a stunningly elegant compiler. A 280 line diff to solc: https://github.com/ethereum-optimism/solidity/pull/1/files
We asked him how he was able to pull it off, hoping his juju would rub off on us. “Well,”
“You just gotta think. And then do it right.”
With his help, we hit our wildly ambitious deadlines.
Those days in the office were electric. After the 1st day of “thinking”, George moved at superhuman speed. Every few hours he surpassed milestones that would take most skilled people days.
“I like proving things to myself”
He’d say on occasion when we stared at him in disbelief
He reduced our stress tenfold. Gave us an injection of morale when it was low and we were overworked. Most importantly, he reminded us that we were solving interesting problems and to have FUN doing it. And that… is the story of how George Hotz saved our as*es!
[End of Twitter Thread from Jing]
What does this means for you? this means that you need to find coins that attract genius-level hackers, brilliant minds, who also have a bullet proof work ethic.
Few projects achieve this, but the amazing thing is that if you go by this metric your whole investing outlook changes.
- Instead of following the herd and the hype, you investigate and research github branch repositories belonging to crypto projects.
- Instead of consuming mind numbing youtube content like “5 coins to 5 million” pumped by unscrupulous shills who will sell their own mothers for a bybit affiliate click, you will check coding reputations within crypto developers.
Remember, one single brilliant developer can create (essentially from nothing) the next billion dollar coin, quality, not quantity, drill that into your head.
The best thing is that brilliant developers who work alone are almost always specialized, meaning that is not as if they would do brilliant marketing and build up hype effortlesly through viral tweets, which means that for at least some months to a year (or years) that theoretical project will be almost unknown.
Which means that you can buying the coin by the truck load while is dirt cheap.
Now, having stablished the principle to look for the genius and almost as a rule avoid the herd and the hype (unless some notable genius are behing the hyped project) the next problem is as follows, how can you recognize a coin that is created by a genius hacker? how to recognize it when one project started by a normal (average) but skilled developer, attracted hackers later on? How to distinguish that?
Here are some pointers:
- Read the white paper.
- Check the github repository of the project: Even if you are a non-techie, looking at github repositories can still help you to get some basic data, such as the work ethic of the developer or how many unresolved bugs the project has.
- Investigate their technical reputation: Brilliant coders usually don’t pass unnoticed, some have news stories written about them when they were teenagers, like in the case of Jack Robison, LBRY founder and protocol engineer of the LBRY blockchain, similar stories usually are attached to other hackers, possible examples could include breaking into CIA servers before knowing that was a federal crime, accidentally activate the kill switch of one of the worst computer virus in history, or solving a mathematical mystery back in highschool.
- Genius hackers don’t live in a vacuum, google their name and you might find something.
Projects that currently have attracted genius hackers
The following crypto projects are known hubs for hackers, you can see if the more well known hackers in this project have other coins or projects and go from there, and remember, hackers and geniuses are rare, some of these projects might only have one or two geniuses working on the project but still are worth considering.
- Bitcoin: Satoshi Nakamoto, Hal Finney.
- Ethereum: Vitalik Buterin, George Hotz (a brief involvement with scaling solution)
- Polkadot: Dr. Gaving Wood
- “When Bitcoin was launched in 2009, Dr. Gavin James Wood, the co-founder of Bitcoin’s biggest rival Ethereum, was knee-deep in the computer visualization of music and wholly uninterested in the hype around cryptocurrency. By the end of 2013, the British programmer had 15 years of open-source coding experience (and had been coding for 25 years of his 33), and came across Jonny Bitcoin and Vitalik Buterin. Jonny hoped Wood’s coding experience would help Buterin transform Ethereum from a white paper to a fully functional blockchain. His hope bore fruit and within weeks Wood joined Buterin in Miami to write the PoC-1 of Ethereum and present it in the North American Bitcoin Conference in January 2014.”
- Yearn.Finance: Andre Cronje
- Monero: Not even the IRS has been able to hack the encryption in it, it is that good, and they have legitimally contributed to advancing the academic field of cryptography
- In this case almost all the team has pseudonyms in true monero fashion:
- Fluffypony, who was the longest lead maintainer of the Monero repository and made a lot of companies based around Monero
- ArticMine, who designed the Monero dynamic fee structure and tail emission
- othe, this guy is quiet but I think he did a lot of development work
- smooth, this guy was one of the most recognized forces behind Monero at the start and could very well be the whole reason we’re here today
- binaryFate, I’m not too sure about his history but he does a lot of stuff (runs XMR.to, for instance)
- luigi1111, he’s the new lead maintainer of the repositories. He’s a smart guy and verifies a lot of the code relating to our key cryptography
- NoodleDoodle, I think he was a researcher and I’m not sure what else he does
- moneromoo, who has contributed the most to the main repositories
- anonimal, who is the leading force behind Kovri
- dEBRUYNE_1, who has been here since the start with smooth
- sgp, who started the Monero community initiatives
- The Noether brothers, who collectively made up like half our research team
- LBRY: Academically published a white paper on the highly respected IEEE: (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9126007
- Despite the critical need of publishing and consuming content online, a centralized content platform such as Amazon or YouTube may not always have their policy and practice aligned with the interest of their users and could be rent-seeking, censorious, and frequently exploitative, whereas a peer-to-peer solution such as BitTorrent may suffer from issues of content discovery, legitimacy, monetization, verifiable publisher identity, and poor user experience. In this paper, to improve significantly over both options, we propose a new approach called LBRY that enables a decentralized online content marketplace. In particular, it uses a blockchain to build a decentralized content platform controlled by the community, and allows its users to publish, host, find, access, download, and pay for content with ease. LBRY introduces a new naming scheme that gives users the full control of the names of their content, and uses a blockchain to not only support a digital currency (LBC) and transparent decentralized ledger, but also allow every user to access a synchronized name space and a global index of content metadata, thus supporting a new paradigm of digital content distribution. We detail how LBRY works in this paper, including how it designs its data structures for content, content metadata, and a novel content naming space; how it uses the blockchain to manage and synchronize the name space and implement an index for content metadata in order to support content sharing and purchase; and how it handles several issues in running LBRY.”
- But that’s not all with LBRY, the product works and I use it almost everyday, the team has provided elegant solutions to big problems like domain name registration, control and dispute resolution, and I am personally extremlly bullish on the LBC and the LBRY project in general.
Since many of the hackers involved with these projects have twitter and github accounts, you can research potential great projects through them, just look at what projects they find interesting or mesmerizing, what people they admire? as an example, Jeremy Kauffman, CEO of LBRY inc says that the most interesting project in crypto is the creation of information markets where people can bet on any type of information, with the obvious use case being elections and sporting events, but that it could be used for philosophy, epistemology and who knows, perhaps to build a case to find the flaws in religious cults and toxic political movements.
He bases his hopes in the work of Robin Hanson, an Associate Professor of Economics, in George Mason University, and a Research Associate in the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, so if a hacker suddenly “hacks” its way to open the first functional and intuitive idea/information market, were you can find the most probable truth to philosophical problems through betting, then you can that that coin would be on the top ten easy.
“ The Idea Our policy-makers and media rely too much on the “expert” advice of a self-interested insider’s club of pundits and big-shot academics. These pundits are rewarded too much for telling good stories, and for supporting each other, rather than for being “right”. Instead, let us create betting markets on most controversial questions, and treat the current market odds as our best expert consensus. The real experts (maybe you), would then be rewarded for their contributions, while clueless pundits would learn to stay away. You should have a free-speech right to bet on political questions in policy markets, and we could even base a new form of government on idea futures.
One can subsidize a market on a question, offering extra rewards to those who bet right on this question. This subsidy is an “information prize”, offered to those who first provide information on a question, in contrast to an “accomplishment prize”, given to those who first accomplish some task. Instead of patronizing academic basic research via proposal peer-review, we should use prizes more.”
See what I did here? I took the admiring monologue of the hacker/CEO of LBRY and took that to see quickly how big this idea could be if developed properly.
Wait, what about (insert your favorite coin here)
This list of projects is not final nor is complete, just a list of projects that have (in my present knowledge) at least one most-likely genius working on it, this doesn’t mean other projects don’t have them, just that I don’t have positive knowledge of that being the case, it also don’t mean that some coins could not acquire the participation of a coding genius in the future, either via voluntary participation or as part of a hiring program.
However, I do have some ideas on how to spot projects that are being controlled by average developers, meaning that they might be good coders and intelligent, but don’t rise to the genius category.
- Project delays: This signals two things, the coder set too ambitious goals (biting more than what he can chew) which reveals lack of awareness and lack of technical ability to deliver in the best case scenario, and in the worst case scenario, the dunning-kruger effect into action:
- Non-functional products: Is the mainnet not launched yet? is the dapp crashing in your desktop constantly?
- Project is unimpressive to known hackers: What does Vitalik Buterin thinks of the coin you are researching, is he nice but neutral? excited about it, indifferent? is he impressed or just acknowledges their existence? These details are crucial.
- Criticized by known hackers: If Andre Cronje criticizes on technical and objective grounds a coin or project, better listen to that criticism, do not shrugg it off as irrelevant, since that usually means that the fundamental infraestructure is flawed or absurd.
What do you think about these points? Would you start to look for hackers and take them into account when buying and holding crypto coins? let me know in the comments down below!
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My favorite, I can upload PDF’s, audio and video, and is decentralized, follow me there, and you also will get some free crypto.
Originally published at https://read.cash.