Twitter’s #Bitter Blockchain Blast
Another Story from the Near Future, by ConsenSys
I’m always wishing I could save a moment for posterity, but I’ve never found an app I use often enough to remember opening when the moment’s ripe.
So I use my camera all the time. That has become my living memory. And really, it’s fine for most days.
Some of those memories, of course, I want to share. Those go up on Twitter, Facebook, etc. etc. etc.
And then there are memories I want to be sure are absolutely tamper-proof, censor-resistant, permanent, time-stamped, notarized and only under my control…ready for future reference.
Like the video I shot of a police officer beating up my friend. Or the disgusting picture my boss sent me last week.
These moments don’t come along very often, so it’s no use having an app for them — I’d never remember to use it. But, like so many other people, my Twitter is always at the ready, positioned on my phone right where my thumb can get to it.
Now, thanks to a clever — and pretty simple — blockchain service, I can just type #Bitter into any tweet, and the contents are time-stamped, hashed, notarized on the public blockchain and on the way to my personal self-sovereign data vault.
Here’s how it works:
The service is always watching Twitter for tweets with that hashtag. When it sees one, it looks up whether the account that posted the tweet is registered with the service. This is clever, because it means there can be tons of Twitter-spam on the #bitter hashtag but it doesn’t clog up the Bitter system, because only the registered accounts trigger an action.
So I just tweeted my video with the #bitter tag (twitter -> bitter…pretty easy to remember), and…yep…there’s an email asking me:
- Do I really want to notarize the tweet and the video on the Ethereum mainnet, so that the contents and the timestamp can be verified as authentic in the future?
- Do I want to store the contents in my self-sovereign data vault (which I set up when I signed up for #bitter).
If I respond “yes” to either or both of these questions, I go to a web page that tells me how much each option will cost in Eth/gas. Each tweet, right now, costs a little gas to store its hash on the mainnet. But Bitter says soon, plasma sidechains will allow this to be more-or-less free — but still backed by the mainnet’s powerful role as global notary, making my data proof against accusations of tampering after-the-fact.
But I find myself using the second option more. I don’t know why, but really I just want a way to store key memories in something that isn’t Google or Facebook. If Twitter deletes my tweet or I lose track of it any time in the future, no worries. I have it in my personal vault. Bitter gives me the option of paying annually or just once for permanent cold storage.
Another handy feature lets me just tweet #bitter with some keywords and whatever I want to remember about a photo, video or file I have on my phone, then NOT attach it to the tweet. The confirmation mail asks if I want to encrypt the file and then send it to my data vault. That’s great for stuff I don’t want to put out on Twitter, but want to remember to get into my vault.
What’s this Self-Sovereign Data Vault All About?
Bitter is just one of many services and applications that are starting to offer a self-sovereign data vault.
It’s a way for you to be in total control of your information without worrying that the company you trusted with your information can’t be trusted.
If you’ve set up any other applications that use the Ethereum Vault specification, then all you need to do with Bitter is connect to your existing self-sovereign (blockchain) identity. I use uPort. After you connect Bitter, your Vault is ready to store the tweets and attachments in a way that makes it close to impossible for anyone other than the key holder to access.
Bitter was my first experience with having my own personal data vault. It took a little bit of setting up, but now I have it for any new dApp that comes along. Pretty cool. If other Twitter users are like me, soon there will be a lot of people with their own vaults on their own slices of the blockchain-Internet.
What I Wish Bitter Did
There is one thing I wish Bitter did for me. I don’t want to just hold on to some of these pictures and videos. And I don’t just want them on Twitter. I’d like to be able to grab stuff in my vault and post it to different communities that take advantage of the notarized content…like a site that collects and publicizes verified footage of police and government corruption.
And while I’m not likely to be in need of this myself, I could also see how one could rig a “dead-man’s switch” on some of the content in a vault. Like a reporter or an activist in an area where you need to worry about disappearing. If people knew that you had verified data that would automatically spray onto the Internet if you went missing…maybe you wouldn’t go missing?
Good old Twitter. Not exactly a dApp, but with Bitter, I could see it becoming the blockchain and self-sovereign identity on-ramp for millions.
Our team of designers, developers and writers at ConsenSys in Durham, NC writes user experiences “from the near future” as a way to explore novel and (we hope) unexpected ways of using web3 technologies to change how people live and how businesses organize themselves. Some of these stories we build into beautiful open source (apache2) developer kits, with functional modules that you can use to build your own offerings… ‘lego kits’ for web3. Will soon have our own publication, but until then, find our stories on ConsenSys Media, and on John Wolpert’s Medium page.