Blockwatch: A Week in Berlin Blockchain
Blockwatch: A Week in Berlin Blockchain
In the past week, Berlin has hosted two high-profile blockchain conferences: DAppCon and the Blockchain Visionaries Summit. Click here for some of the highlights.
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Berlin’s enthusiasm for blockchain continues with two high-profile events squashed into the past week to appeal to coders and non-coders alike.
DAppCon for the Builders
While there are dozens of high-profile events attempting to convince you of the worth of blockchain, there are fewer events on how you implement blockchain. They tend to be lower-key affairs — not large, two-day events in the style of more ‘traditional’ developer conferences. The inaugural DAppCon is aimed to fix this deficit by creating a two-day event that brought together key people and teams from developer-focused blockchain projects around the world, demonstrating how you can use what they’ve been working on.
Aside from the typical Berlin conference chaos, here are some of the highlights.
As is typical with projects that are the first to set a new paradigm, many people criticize Solidity for being too complicated and hard to understand. While alternatives for writing smart contracts are emerging, Solidity remains the most widely used. The core team behind the project has been working hard to address criticisms with the benefit of hindsight, extensive usage, and a bigger team. You can track progress on the release here.
Scalability and Layer 2
One of the largest ongoing efforts in the blockchain community has been addressing the scalability, performance, and cost issues associated with some older projects. A lot of these take the form of ‘Layer 2’ solutions that sit on top of networks, and a handful of the projects were in attendance explaining their ideas. These were overwhelming, off-chain solutions that included:
- Raiden Network is aimed at payments (commonly referred to as "payment channels") and handles transactions off-chain. Find out more here.
- Begun by one of the Ethereum founders, Plasma borrows some concepts from traditional distributed databases —not the first or last — to offer an alternative way of taking transactions off-chain.
- Magmo have an intriguingly titled Force-Move Games implementation that is based on a cursory-read gaming paradigms to resolvethe consensus between on and off chain transactions.
- However, Cosmos takes a different approach, instead, creating a network of blockchains that can exchange transactions between them. It’s very ambitious and has been in development for a while. Ethan Buchmann’s talk on "A History of Distributed State" was a rip-roaring-whirl history trip, bringing awareness of history, in short, to the blockchain community.
The promise of blockchain was distributing and decentralizing power and access, and, for some projects, that never quite worked out. I previously wrote about decentralized exchanges here, but other projects were at DAppCon, attempting to decentralize other systems, too. This included:
- The fascinating Golem and DAppnode that are kind of like an decentralized, incentivized AWS. There are a few blockchain projects in this space that I will cover in the future.
- Livepeer for video streaming and their stream of the conference ran better than the YouTube one.
- Fluence for data storage!
The DApp Stack
I am starting to discover the libraries, components, and tools that can be used to create an application that runs on a blockchain. There were numerous projects also trying to help you at the conference. These included:
- A handful of talks on UX design and on-boarding for DApps, a topic that a growing amount of the community is starting to worry about.
- uPort for identity management in your DApps.
- OpenZeppelin for security testing your smart contracts.
Blockchain Visionaries Summit
This one-day event attempted to tackle important blockchain topics from multiple angles, covering:
How Do Projects Increase Mass Adoption?
This panel included one of my favorite quotes about how mass adoption often happens with a technology that people don’t know they’re using.
How to Evaluate Blockchain Companies and Teams?
Hundreds of ICOs and projects claim that they can solve the world’s biggest problems with blockchain. But, how do you evaluate if they will ever deliver on that promise? Combined with the back-to-front ICO funding model, this makes it hard to know if companies are genuinely struggling or if this is just a rip-off.
My favorite panel, and a topic I covered recently, is blockchain marketing. The panel comprised of a diverse selection of people with wildly differing opinions on how best to market yourself, focusing on moving from questionable to cautious. It was also the most heated panel, which surprised many people, because it took place at 4 pm, when most were starting to lose enthusiasm.
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