How to get started with Polkadot/Kusama

J Leon Yeoh
Dec 2, 2019 · 6 min read

Polkadot, is a name that most people in the cryptocurrency space would have heard before due to their famous co-found Gavin Wood, who is also Ethereum co-founder (he wrote the Ethereum’s technical yellow paper). They had a successful fund raise back in October 2017 for more than 140 million USD. But most people do not have time to take a deeper look due to how complex the Polkadot platform is.

This post will guide you on how to get started by creating accounts and nominate to start earning on Substrate based blockchain network like Testnet Alexander, Kusama, and soon on Polkadot and Edgeware.

Go to https://polkadot.js.org/apps this is the web app that we will be using for interacting with Substrate based blockchains.

The explorer view of https://polkadot.js.org/apps

On the top left of the screen capture above, we can see that we can use this polkadot.js.org to connect to a different substrate-based network likes Kusama, Testnet Alexander, Edgeware and etc.

By taking a quick look on the left menu, you can see that there are many things we can do from this web app. From staking, we can nominate our DOTs to some validators and earn the rewards. Democracy, Council and Treasury are related to the on-chain Governance model. In this guide, we shall start with the simplest thing, Accounts and Staking.

Accounts

Before you can start interacting with any blockchain network, you should get an account first. We can generate accounts with https://polkadot.js.org/apps/#/account, Polkadot{.js} extension or subkey CLI (not going to be shown here).

*It is recommended to create/store your account externally and securely from the app. So we will be using Polkadot{.js} extension instead of creating the account directly in https://polkadot.js.org/apps/#/account

Creating Account with Polkadot{.js}

Install the extension by visiting the extension link for either Chrome (You can use Chrome extension for your brave browser) or Firebox in https://github.com/polkadot-js/extension

This screen capture shows the Polkadot{.js} extension for Firebox, to install it, click “+ Add to Firefox”
Click “Add” to add it to your browser

After it has been added to your browser, you can see the yellow Polkadot logo as in below.

Click “Understood, let me continue” to proceed
You can create or import an account

To create an account, click on “I want to create a new account with a new seed” button as in above.

Give it a descriptive name, then set up a password for the account, then click “Add the account with the generated seed”. After the account is created, when you access https://polkadot.js.org/apps/#/accounts you will be prompt to allow polkadot.js.org to access your account created in the extension, click “Yes, allow this application access”. Once you have done that, you can use your account in polkadot.js.org to send or initialize transaction.

If you want to claim your KSM with your DOT in your Ethereum account, do check out our guide on how to claim your KSM.

Staking (Nominating)

When we nominating, we are staking our tokens to a group of validators to earn rewards. But if the validators that we nominate to, commit misbehaviour, a slashing can happen.

When a validator produces 2 blocks at the same slot, signs conflicting chains (Equivocation), the slashing can be up to 100% when 1/3 of the validators have committed the same fault. If a validator is not responding, the slashing can be up to 5% when 1/3 +1 are offline, but 0% if only one validator is offline.

Bond your coins

To start nominating, we have to go “Staking” on the left menu, then click on “Account actions” (Picture shown below are taken from Test Alexander)

From the screen above, I already have an active nomination (nominating 4 validators). To create a new nomination, click on “+New stake” on the far right. Then you will see the screen as below.

The first step is to bond your coin, type the amount of coin you want to bond inside “value bonded” text box. As you can see from above, two accounts are being used to nominate. One is stash on top, and another is controller below it.

Stash = cold storage, long term storage of your coins. The account that has your actual bonded balance.

Controller = Control validating/nominating and etc. Basically control the bonded coins in your stash account.

You could use the same account for both stash and controller role. But it is not advisable. However for now, in Kusama Network, people are using the same account for both Stash and Controller because the transfer is not yet enabled.

From the screen above, Alex1 and Testnet Validator Controller are the local name I give to my accounts. We can also set nickname for our accounts in the network, which we are not going to touch on here.

Also, we can set where our staking rewards should go to in the “payment destination” drop down box. After setting everything as what you wanted, you can click “Bond” button.

Click on “Sign and Submit” after you have input the password of your controller account in “unlock account with password” text box.

Nominate your validators

After you have done the previous step, you should see the screen as below in the “Staking” menu, and under “Account actions” tab. (Note that the screen below was taken from the local network, not Alexander testnet as above, so ignore the currency symbol DEV, it would be DOT for Testnet Alexander). The next step would be nominating validators

Click on the “Nominate” button. (“Set Session Key” is for running a validator, which we would not discuss here).

Under the “nominate the following addresses” drop-down box, you can nominate the validators that you want to stake your coins to. In Kusama/Polkadot, you can nominate up to 16 validators.

In this case, as above, we only nominate to one validator, Alice Stash. Click “Sign and Submit” to initiate the transaction.

Congratulations, you have done your nomination.

You should see as above, in your “Staking” -> “Account actions” tab. You can stop it, by clicking “Stop Nominating”

Beside from stop nominating, you can also perform other tasks like Bond more funds, Unbond funds, Change nominee(s) and etc. as shown.

Please do note that on Kusama network, the unbonding period is 7 days. On Polkadot, the planned unbonding period is 28 days.

To read more about how NPOS and Phragmen method works. Check out this from Web3 foundation and also this medium article.

Other than https://polkadot.js.org/apps, we can also check out https://polkascan.io/ and https://polkastats.io/ to find out more information about validators, accounts and etc.

You have successfully created an account in the network, and able to do staking by nominating validators! We still have a lot more to learn.

Validators.Online

Validators.Online is founded and driven by a South East Asian community of blockchain enthusiasts, technologists and investors.

J Leon Yeoh

Written by

Blockchain/Cryptocurrency and Poker enthusiast. Enjoy going to gym to stay fit and healthy. Working as DevOps engineer, and learning Golang.

Validators.Online

Validators.Online is founded and driven by a South East Asian community of blockchain enthusiasts, technologists and investors.

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