Bcoin Hackathon: Bitcoin For Your Thoughts?

Buck Perley in his MBGA hat assisting an attendee

When a group of proud alumni from HackReactor reached out to Purse, it was the beginning of something truly beautiful. They’d reached out because they were planning to host a bitcoin-centric hackathon; users of bitcoin for awhile, they wanted to work with us to expand its exposure amongst the local developer community.

We graciously accepted.

The Event

The code complexity present in the reference implementation of bitcoin, originally created by Satoshi Nakamoto himself, makes for a very steep learning curve for new developers; especially ones in college, coding bootcamps, or new graduates.

Bcoin was created to reduce complexity, be more “hackable”, and allow for developers to quickly jump into bitcoin development with less barrier to mental entry. This made bcoin the perfect technology to introduce to budding/senior developers over the course of a 2-day hackathon.

Along with our excellent organizers/sponsors (thanks Buck Perley, Dylan Tran, GenLife, PrivateInternetAccess, Ledger, Boyma Fahnbulleh from Chain, and Darren Mills for assisting with the BcoinHackathon.com landing site); we were also grateful to have been joined by our judges in the trenches over the weekend, Christopher Jeffrey (JJ) CTO of Purse.io, Olaoluwa Osuntokun (Roasbeef) Co-Founder of Lightning and Mason Borda of GenLife.

Bitcoin is hard, but we’re looking to fix that. And, sometimes you have to just get 50 developers in a room and lock them up with sugar and burritos (🌯) until it all clicks. If you’re a developer, hackathons are a great way to break into a new industry/field of study, or discover a new passion. So, we helped this bunch journey down the rabbit hole, one that we had passionately jumped down ourselves long ago :).

Olaoluwa, JJ, and Mckie assisting with the Hackathon Kick-off presentations

The Talent

The developer aptitude ranged from novice/young developers (some of our attendees were still in High School/College, others students/graduates of HackReactor), to senior level engineers already working at prominent bitcoin companies in the industry. It was a diverse mix of male and female developers, one that made for an excellent test case to gauge how simple it is to hack an idea on bcoin in a weekend; a true test of its hackability.

When we went around the event to poll the competitors as to why they attended, the general consensus became obvious — they were eager to wrap their heads around what bitcoin could do. Many of the attendees had heard of the event on Reddit, Twitter, through local Bay Area universities or had just simply stumbled across the event — excited for an opportunity to build on bitcoin.

Lisa Li demoing their TradeTerminal project, built on bcoin to judges Olaoluwa/JJ/Mason
Blockchain Music Label hard at work on their project to empower artists using bitcoin.
Boyma and Olaoluwa joined in on the hacking. Pictured here assisting Guilerme Sa and Yao Meng.
Arjun, Ishan, and Rishi — 3 local highschoolers who competed
Picture of a few of the hackers hard at work over the weekend.

The Winners

But, with 50 participants and so many teams, everyone couldn’t be a winner. Luckily, the gift of knowledge is a gift in itself ;). And, there were lots of laughs shared over the weekend, and valuable friendships/connections made.

Those that did win, were very deserving of their prizes. Top prize was: 1 bitcoin, 1 yr of PrivateInternetAccess VPN service, a signed copy of The Internet of Money by Andreas Antonopoulos, and a Ledger Nano S.

First place winners were Michael Folkson (he also wrote a personal recap of the event, here), Alex Bosworth, and Nathan Basanese for their Monetizing Fullnodes project. They showed a PoC that would allow fullnode operators to receive an income for running their own individual nodes, that utilized Lightning and bcoin.

Winning second place was team Blocksy Bay. Their project demonstrated storing torrent magnet links on the blockchain, in order to be archived and searchable via a front-end interface. Their completed vision would allow individuals to spin up their own version of the Pirate Bay at a whim; with the magnet links stored immutably on your blockchain of choice.

Finally, our third place winner was bStream. Their application would enable you to stream music, in real-time, by paying from a bcoin wallet to maintain your continuous stream. We we’re really impressed by their frontend interface, and the idea was one that many saw a lot of potential in.

1st Place: Michael, Alex, and Nathan for their Monetizing Fullnodes Project
2nd Place: Junxiang, Joshua, and Garrett of Blocksy Bay
3rd Place: Soravis, Sang, and Eduardo of bStream

Lessons Learned

Building on bitcoin has a steep learning curve, that we knew. But, what we didn’t know was if novice developers could easily plug into bcoin, and get to work without much hassle. Turns out they can.

However, one of the most obvious barriers that we saw developers new to bitcoin struggling with, was the concept of interpreting bitcoin inputs/outputs scripts, and wrapping their head around the processes of funding transactions. More thorough documentation about how to jump headfirst into that would have been useful in lessening the initial confusion. Baby-steps, we’re all learning here.

There was also the issue of testnet/simnet. Developers have to wrap their heads around how to actually get test tokens to be used to pilot their applications. Simnet ultimately worked out best, and Olaoluwa’s simnet was hard at work all weekend processing blocks every minute.

Fortunately, we also had a very thorough React/jQuery boilerplate, created by Bcoin Hackathon organizer Buck Perley (check it out: https://github.com/Bucko13/bcoin-boilerplate). The boilerplate alleviated a lot of headaches for participants, and we would recommend doing similar if you had plans to host your own bcoin hackathon.

All-in-all we believe the event itself was a huge success. We had a blast interacting with attendees over the weekend and learning best how to appeal and educate bright developers who are passionate about this great technology.

Ultimately, we remain steadfast, convinced that the future of Bitcoin remains bright, and teeming for more innovation.

If you’re interested in learning more about some the projects, the winners and a few of the participants were kind enough to leave their awesome projects up on public repos. Fork them, play around with them. And, maybe try out the hackathon boilerplate yourself and see what you can build in a weekend?

Projects & Links

React/jQuery Boilerplate made by Bcoin Hackathon Organizer Buck Perley: https://github.com/Bucko13/bcoin-boilerplate

1st Place Winners (Monetizing Fullnodes): https://github.com/michaelfolkson/bcoin-hackathon https://github.com/alexbosworth/ln-service/ https://github.com/alexbosworth/lnd-gui/

2nd Place Winners(Blocksy Bay): https://github.com/malignantz/bcoin-boilerplate

3rd Place Winners(bStream): https://github.com/bitcoin-records

Other Teams w/ Public Repos:

Laso: https://github.com/NomadScience/Iaso https://github.com/NomadScience/Iaso-Server

TradeTerminal: http://tradeterminal.io/

Pss: Wanna help develop cool applications on bcoin at Purse? Send a resume to andrew@Purse.io.