A crypto-trader’s diary — week 10; Stellar

David Gilbertson
Jun 3, 2018 · 10 min read

This week, I fall in love with Stellar, do the opposite with OKEx, and make a spreadsheet.

The profit check-in

Check out that bottom right number which is more than zero!

I’m mildly pleased seeing an actual profit, but super pleased (with myself) for writing a custom Google Excel function that gets the current price of a cryptoasset.

So I can just do =GETCRYPTOPRICE("BTC") in a cell and it will display the current value.

This screenshot is in case you didn’t believe me

I can also do =GETCRYPTOPRICE('BTC') with single quotes and scream at the computer for 10 minutes because I can’t tell why it’s not working.

If you’re interested, the function is made with a Google Apps Script.

It defaults to AUD, so, maybe you wanna change that

You too can have such magic at your fingertips, just follow these steps:

  1. Open your Google Excel sheet
  2. Click Tools > Script Editor
  3. Paste the above script, wherever there’s room on the page
  4. Save and refresh a lot

Ya done.

God only knows what Google are using to parse this JavaScript. Whatever it is, it doesn’t understand template literals or default parameter syntax so you’ll have to write code like the olden days.

Google parsing my JavaScript. The guy on the left holds the tape still while UrlFetchApp.fetch() is waiting for a response.

I’m interested, who else out there has done a spreadsheet of their trades? Have you come up with something that works well for you? I’d love to see how other people manage this.

Now, on to the main event…

All about Stellar

Not related to Stellar, I just like foxes, and think Stella would be a nice fox name.

Stellar is the first cryptocurrency I’ve read about that has made me think, yeah, these guys are going to do well.

Some things that I think are great:

The team

I’ve only read about/seen a video of two of the team. Jed McCaleb (you may have seen him in Co-Founding Ripple, Making Mt Gox, and Satoshi’s Shoes) and David Mazières (the genius burger and good explainer behind the Stellar Consensus Protocol).

I like that neither of these two spend most of their days arguing with people on Twitter. Call me old fashioned, but I like my people boring and my tech exciting.

(It was only after typing ‘boring’ that I saw David’s LinkedIn profile picture.)

I also like that there is a Stellar.org to oversee things. Someone to promote the use of Stellar, to organise the Stellar Build Challenges (the 7th one just opened), and generally keep the project moving in the intended direction.

(I don’t think all cryptocurrencies should have aspects of centralisation, but I do think it’s apt for those with specific goals such as Stellar’s. Maybe Tezos will change my thinking on this.)

The tech

The headline metrics: transactions take under 5 seconds. Fees are tiny (one dollar will buy you 60 million transactions).

Stellar doesn’t have a ‘blockchain’. No miners, no proof-of-work, no proof-of-stake (and no 51% attacks, high fees, the electricity use of Slovenia, or multi-minute transactions).

Instead, at the heart of Stellar is the ‘Stellar Consensus Protocol’ (SCP) — the brains that decide how and which transactions are added to the network.

If you know DAGs and Blockchains, SCP is more like a DAG. I like to think of a correct transaction sort of spreading throughout the nodes all around the planet, until eventually (5 seconds later) all the distributed ledgers report the same thing.

But wait, there’s more.

You can also establish ‘trustlines’ that allow you to trade other, real world, assets with someone that you trust to fulfil those transactions. For example gold, or oranges, or your own made-up cryptocurrency.

Fulfil is a funny word.

You execute transactions via HTTP requests, and Stellar maintains client libraries for JavaScript, Java and Go. But because they’re all just wrappers around the REST endpoints, there’s plenty of community-maintained libraries as well. I think that’s pretty cool.

Now, I’m no technical visionary, (twelve years ago I thought YouTube was a crap idea because my internet wasn’t fast enough to load videos) but having read about the Stellar Consensus Protocol, it seems to me that there’s a decent chance that blockchains won’t be around forever.

We’re not far into the whole ‘distributed ledger’ era, and already there are some pretty solid alternatives that fix the problems becoming evident in blockchains. I’ve just realised that 30% of the top 10 cryptoassets don’t even use a blockchain, I guess I hadn’t stopped to think about that before.

It’s great, there’s so much more cool stuff to come in this space, I think the few different technologies we have at the moment (blockchain, tangle, SCP, whatever Ripple does) are just the beginning — maybe none of them will be around in another 10 years.

I do feel sorry for the poor general public who are like “oh c’mon, I just learned what a blockchain is, now you’re telling me there’s others?”


I’m not going to go on summarising the technical aspects of the Stellar network, because it’s been done so well already. So, I’m going to cop out and say if you want to know more, I recommend the ‘basics’ page on stellar.org, then the explainers page, then move on to this 20 minute talk by Jed McCaleb.

The “concepts” section of the developer documentation provided a good explanation of some core concepts, without going too much into the code (I might offer the suggestion to Stellar that some of this content be moved to somewhere more discoverable to non-developers, particularly things like trustlines and the decentralised exchange — which seem far too important to be relegated to the developer docs).

If you’ve read all that and are still itching for more, move on to David Mazieres’ hour-long Google talk. This talk follows the flow of the whitepaper, so I’d suggest watching the video before (or instead of) reading the whitepaper.

Nitty gritty, nuts and bolts, brass tacks, etc

I get turned on by people being specific, so there’s something very pleasing about the way Stellar quite quickly get down to the reality of how you actually do it.

The site explains plainly things like the typical amount of time it takes to write the code to integrate with the network (120–200 hours) and there are enormously detailed and well written developer guides, as mentioned above.

I think making this clear and easy is a super-important aspect to developer adoption, and also shows a confidence in the tech and tools they’ve written.

In fact I think Stellar will serve as the yardstick for my assessment of all other cryptoassets. If the purveyors of a particular coin don’t have a section on their site detailing how one would go about implementing the use of said coin, I’ll look for a good reason why not, or consider it a bad sign.

Negatives

As usual, I went looking for negatives, searching for “the problem with Stellar” and similar terms. The top result is an article from 2014 saying that Stellar isn’t decentralised because they have a central node while the network is stabilising.

Meh.

Second result is from May 2018 entitled “Stellar (XLM) has a problem and something needs to be done quickly”. I don’t know why but I chuckled at the title “what do we want?” “for something to be done about XLM” “when do we want it?” “quickly”.

The problem? Low volume. The article points out that Stellar’s 24h volume of $58m is the lowest in the top 10. True, but Monero (ranked 12th) is only $40m and NEM (ranked 15th) only $14m. So I don’t think they’re such an outlier

Once more, to this I say “meh”.

Anyway, if Stellar ‘suffers’ from not enough hype (an accusation which the article appears to put forward with a straight face) then I’m quite pleased with that. The price rose by 800% last year, let’s see what it does as the hype grows.

The third result points out something that had been weighing on my mind: XLM doesn’t need to have much value in order for the system to work.

Since XLM only needs to be tied up for a few seconds when making a transaction, one XLM can be reused 17,000 times a day, and there’s 18 billion of them out there. So if they’re trading for $1 each, the network can handle a theoretical max of $321,052,662,495,360. That’s 300 trillion clams per day.

Of course, not all 18 billion XLM are sitting there waiting to be transferred (although there there will eventually be 100 billion of them). For now, let’s imagine 1/3 of all XLM are available for use, and call it $100 trillion. And the price isn’t at a dollar, it’s at 30 cents, so lets call it $30 trillion.

For perspective, the global FX markets move something like $5 trill a day (I don’t have time to say ‘trillion’ every time). FedWire shuffles about two trill a day, SWIFT does 5, CHIPS does one or two trill.

So the current supply of XLM, at the current price, could handle 100% of the traffic for all of those ginormous institutions with room left over for a $15 trillion desert each day.

With my rudimentary — and probably wrong — calculations, it seems that real-world demand isn’t going to push the price up any time soon. But then again, Bitcoin isn’t being pushed up by it’s real-world use either, and its price increase has averaged 300% year-on-year for 8 years.

So I’m comfortable with this downside.


While I’m on negatives, one very nit-picky thing: the stellar.org site was at times difficult to navigate, especially on mobile. I didn’t feel that it was simple to read everything — I kept landing on pages and not being able to see what section I was currently in. I’d love a sitemap so that I can just read every single page.

Oh and do you remember the days when links changed colour after you’d visited them? They were simpler times.

The decision

Drum roll … as though it’s not obvious … I will be grabbing $500 worth of Stellar, if stupid OKEx lets me.

Side note: the sideways internet

A few years back, I built a mockup of an online newspaper that scrolled sideways. It’s actually much easier to read, in my indisputable opinion. Columns of text are a reasonable width, and you read left to right, column-by-column, much as you do in a real newspaper. Then, the Wikipedia for Windows app came out and it scrolled sideways. Both stealing my idea and eventually showing demonstrating no one really wants this.

Since then, I haven’t seen this sideways-scrolling approach again, and that saddens me. Well, my permanent frown was turned upside down when I discovered Stellar’s cute graphic novel, Adventures in Galactic Consensus, which scrolls sideways!

I love it, a lot.

I wish designers spent more time having fun with quirky designs like this, and less time making hyperlinks not blue, and not underlined, and not a different colour once visited.

Reflecting on a week with the OKEx Exchange

These people are driving me crazy.

I have now reset my passwords (there’s two) about seventeen times. It seems to just periodically think that my password is not my password.

Actually most of the time, the first password works, but the second password (that must be entered when making a trade) hasn’t worked for days, even after resetting it.

This does not bode well if I want to get my money out of some particular coin in a hurry.

A quick Google of “okex password incorrect” tells me that I am not alone. I can’t even fathom how messed up your setup would have to be for your site to sometimes report that a password is wrong.

And what’s the point in having two passwords? Someone who has only stolen my first password can completely empty my account of all funds, leaving me penniless, but they can’t convert my BTC to ETH without my second password?

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this is the most idiotic password system in the history of idiotic password systems.

The biggest concern here is that someone making security decisions at OKEx is ignoring best practices, making weird security decisions, then implementing those weird decisions poorly, resulting in bugs that prevent me from moving my money.

Seriously OKEx, I would have thought that if you’re handling a billion bucks a day, in an industry that is famous for being hacked and having millions of dollars stolen, one thing you should be pretty good at is security.

And, you guessed it, support is nonexistent.

OKEx customer support HQ
Dedicated shuttle service for OKEx customer support HQ

So, I’ll give it one week but if I continue to intermittently be told my password is wrong, I’ll take all my coins out (which I can do without the second password!) and take a look at Huobi and Binance (Coinbase and Kraken don’t have IOTA).

I’m so mad it’s funny!

Edit: right after publishing this, I gave OKEx another go and discovered, in my account settings, that I can turn off the requirement to enter the second password when making a trade. Would you expect that to turn off the setting that requires the second password, I should have to enter the password? Surely otherwise there is exactly zero point in having the password, right?

Well … no, I didn’t. I had to enter my Google Authenticator code, which is what the security should be when making a trade, not the stupid second password.

Next week

Next week I’m going to look at something that I might actually use in real life: storage coins. I know nothing about this area, so to get a broad view, I’m going to look at Storj, Sia, Filecoin, and Maidsafe, then pick one.


Also, I think I might write a Chrome extension that adds a little ‘notes’ section to the table on coinmarketcap.com.

Expressions of interest?

Hey, thanks for reading! Have a lovely day.

Oh and don’t forget to tell me about your nice spreadsheet in the comments.

Here’s week 11.

HackerNoon.com

how hackers start their afternoons.

David Gilbertson

Written by

I like web stuff.

HackerNoon.com

how hackers start their afternoons.

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