I am with my tribe at DEVCON3

I have just landed in beautiful Cancun, Mexico, for the DEVCON3 conference which starts on Wednesday.

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DEVCON is the crowd jewel of the Ethereum community, where developers, business people and enthusiasts of all stripes gather in one place to hear the latest news about this fantastic platform which we are building together.  Right from the mouths of the developers who are at doing that every day.

Unlike many other blockchain events, DEVCON is always about the technology and the people – never about money.   It is a developer conference, with many deeply technical sessions.  It is a delight.

These are my people.   I will be with my tribe this week.   I can’t wait.

Bob’s Next Adventure

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My active Ethereum journey has been underway for well over two years now, starting in the months leading up to Frontier launch in July 2015 when the mainnet went live.   I had been lucky enough to meet Vitalik even earlier than that, back in June 2014, when my friend David Lowy hosted a dinner for Vitalik and various interested Vancouver locals as he was in town for the day.

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Left-to-right: Manie Eager (Chairman, Blockchain Association of Canada), Alex Alexandrov (CEO, CoinPayments), MaRi Eager (Co-Founder, Digital Futures), Lauren Richer, Vitalik Buterin, Ward Stirrat (CMO, Coinpayments), Bob Summerwill, David Lowy.

David was one of the first customers at the world’s first Bitcoin ATM, right here in Vancouver in October 2013, and was heavily involved in Bitcoin for many years before that.  His first Bitcoin trades were at 5 cents.  in 2010 he sought out and acquired the domain name Bitcoin.com, later selling it for a substantial profit.

David has been quiet for the last few years, but will soon be launching a very exciting project which has been in gestation for many years.   Keep your eyes on this man.  He is the reason that I am in this space, and I was very lucky to meet and become friends with him when I did!   He is a visionary.

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By 2015 I was living in Toronto and took advantage of their great crypto Meetup scene.   Techno Crypto with Jeff Coleman at Decentral, Ethereum Toronto Meetup with Paul Paschos, DEC_TECH at the Mars Discovery Centre with Anthony Di Iorio.

This photo was from a special session of the Ethereum Toronto meetup just prior to the Frontier launch, showing some other familiar faces 🙂

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Left-to-right:  Paul Paschos, Ethan Wilding (Co-Founder, L4 Ventures), Vitalik Buterin, Nick Dodson (ConsenSys, GovernX), William Mougayar (many hats) Michael Perklin (CISO, ShapeShift)

I started doublethink.co and hired Anthony Cros to start working on cpp-ethereum-cross while my days were full at TD Securities.

Later that year on my return to Vancouver, I was able to get hands-on with that project, seeking to get an Ethereum light client working on a Gear S2 smartwatch.   That work morphed into helping out the cpp-ethereum project which morphed into a part-time job on Christian Reitwiessner’s team, which then morphed into a full-time role.  On we went through Homestead, major build system and DevOps work and the repository restoration of cpp-ethereum-1.3.0 (“Homecoming”), the DAO fork, the failed Apache 2.0 relicensing attempt and on to the amazing DEVCON2 conference in Shanghai.

I had real hope there with the arrival of Brian Behlendorf as Executive Director at Hyperledger (who I met at OSCON in Austin that April) that we could forge a shared future which could see both public-chain and private/consortium chain systems built on top of a common kernel, a la Linux, and bring all these communities together.  Alas, it was not to be.

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With Ethereum/Hyperledger grand unification off the table, I was delighted to have the opportunity to work towards the goal of Ethereum Everywhere again as Joe Lubin hired me to work to help form the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance at ConsenSys.  The EEA launched earlier this year in New York and is now the largest blockchain consortium in the world with over 200 member companies.

The photo below was taken at the JP Morgan offices in Brooklyn during our second round of face-to-face meetings in the run-up to the EEA launch, with Shahan talking Vitalik through our technical vision.

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Left-to-right:  Bob Summerwill, Kirk Dameron (ConsenSys), Shahan Khatchadourian (ConsenSys), Joseph Chow (ConsenSys), Vitalik Buterin, Amber Baldet (JP Morgan).

Joe is one of the most inspirational and enlightened leaders who I have ever met, and ConsenSys is one of the most unique places that I have ever had the pleasure of working at.   This is going to be a world-renowned company in the very near future.  It is already getting there and can now hire the cream of the crop.

Gather smart people.   Empower them.  Go!  Just magic.

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[From Can Ethereum Restore Online Freedom & Transform the Internet?]

After a year of mainly organizational work at the EEA, it is time for a new challenge – back in a hands-on development role.   In all of this time within the Ethereum ecosystem, I have never built a decentralized application at really large scale.   It is time for me to do just that at Sweetbridge.   Their ambitious and transformational goals have inspired me.  I could not resist the challenge!   I will be joining their protocol team as Principal Developer.

Sweetbridge is also building an alliance to work towards a liquid supply chain on blockchain technology.   Scott Nelson, their fantastic CEO, can explain The Vision much better than I, but the starting point is solving structural inequalities related to access to capital within global supply chains, which form two-thirds of the world economy or $54 trillion in annual trade

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What’s really unique and special about Sweetbridge and what attracted me to them is their team and it’s depth of invaluable industry experience (many 20-30 year veterans). Scott had the vision to build this platform for more than a decade, recognizing the blockchain is the technical innovation that unlocks the potential to turn this dream into a reality.

These are good people.   How many companies have you seen who lead off with a series of Medium posts on their Core Beliefs?   This is just fabulous to see.

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One of the primary advisors to Sweetbridge is Vinay Gupta, an Ethereum community and cypherpunk old-timer and hugely prescient thinker who I have been following and engaging with for several years, but still never met in person.    I really look forward to collaborating with Vinay more closely as part of my work at Sweetbridge.

Block off some time to watch this awesome video where Scott and Vinay deconstruct the problem-space:
The Ultimate Gupta vs. Nelson Blockchain + Supply Chain Throwdown.

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In addition to my work at Sweetbridge, I will also be advising Frontier Foundry, who are based right here in my home town of Vancouver.   They also have a great leader in the form of Boris Mann, whom I have known since 2015.  Our paths crossed in a wearables/blockchain context.    Boris has been involved in the startup scene, angel investing, advising, open source ecosystem building and more for many, many years and is now bringing those talents to bear full-time in the blockchain world.  Frontier is building a global investment platform for blockchain based capital pools.  Check them out!

I am also getting more involved in the Vancouver crypto-business community, which is growing in leaps and bounds in 2017.   We had the ADI Summit in September which I spoke at, and have had the inaugural meetings of Blockchain for Product Developers and BC Blockchain Forum meetups in the past couple of weeks.   We have Blockchain @ UBC, and we have active discussions ongoing with the BC regulators.   It is all great to see, and Frontier are primary drivers of this change.

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Boris Mann (Frontier Foundry)

So that’s what I will be up to next.   It should be a lot of fun.    I wish all my former colleagues at ConsenSys and the EEA the best of luck for the future as we continue to build this new ecosystem together.   As Joe recently said at ETHWaterloo, we are still in the “first minute”, and have years of collaboration and building ahead of us.   Our paths will cross many times again in the future.

For anybody thinking, “You have a lot of photos of people in this article, Bob,” well, yes, I do.  Because it is always about the people.   They are what make the technology work.

I hope to be face-to-face with many of the fabulous people in this community very soon.  See you in Cancun for DEVCON3.

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What’s been happening in the EEA?

I’ve had a number of people asking me recently what has been happening on the technical side of things within the EEA over the last month or so.   The answer to that question is “lots”, but it has mostly been churning under the surface.

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[Churning Water by Indi Samarajiva]

The mundane reality of setting up a new organization on the scale of the EEA is that you need a lot of structure, defined operational processes, rules and bureaucracy.   Without that you have lots of talk and nothing much being achieved.

There is also plenty of administrative work to be done, which Virtual, Inc. have recently come on board to help with.   We don’t have an Executive Director.   We don’t have any permanent staff (yet).

In retrospect, our initial efforts at a Technical Working Group were pretty ineffective, so we’ve taken a step back and looked at the broader goals of the EEA.   What are we trying to achieve as an organization?   How are we going to tackle that?  What is a Committee?   What is a Working Group?   How can we decompose the problem space?  What is a rational scope for each of these groups to consider?    Where and how can EEA members best get involved?   How do we avoid stepping on each others toes?   What should happen inside EEA and what is best left to the members outside of the EEA?

We didn’t have good answers on some of these matters.   We’re getting to much better answers now, I think, between the board, Virtual, the governance committee, Alex Batlin and myself.   These new documents are still under review, but should be in a state to be shared with the membership very soon.   They should give us a solid basis on which to proceed, and if they still aren’t feeling quite right then they can be revised further.

The break in momentum for the last few weeks has been quite painful, but was very necessary, I think.   The EEA was brought to life in record time, and the level of interest has been astonishing.   Going from nothing to having a 100+ company organization within a few months is really hard.

The aim of this downtime and seeming inaction has been to ensure that we have the structure in place such that all EEA members can get involved and productive moving forward.   If you have felt unsure, or excluded, or confused by the EEA to this point, I would like to extend my apologies to you.   I will try to blog regularly from this point onwards.

The Technical Steering Committee should be rebooted within a week or two.   We should also have more Working Groups in an active state, and have clear processes for our members to get involved and help driving this cruise-liner towards our mutual goals.

The Technical Mailing List is the best way to communicate between ourselves.    I would still encourage members to introduce themselves and their interests there.   Even in the absence of organizational clarity, please don’t stop talking!

The following technical working groups exist in an early form and will soon be relaunched with clear charters and defined goals:

  • Consensus Algorithms WG
  • Identity WG
  • geth and Quorum WG
  • Python Client WG
  • Integration and Tools WG

We have also identified that we will need to launch working groups on at least the following additional topics:

  • Data Privacy WG
  • Access Controls WG
  • Documentation and Specifications WG

There are plenty of other working group proposals floating around too – though many of them related to specific industry verticals or problem spaces, so I won’t list them all here.

I am always happy to talk to anybody, so if you are an EEA member (or EEA prospective member) with questions, please feel free to contact me at bob@summerwill.net, or https://twitter.com/bobsummerwill or https://linkedin.com/in/bobsummerwill.

Here are links to our Confluence site and to the main website.

EEA Technical Working Groups Need YOU!

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The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) has a number of technical working groups (WGs) already in motion:

Self-organizing working groups are intended as the primary mechanism for members to contribute to the EEA.    There were 30 member companies at launch, and it appears likely that number will grow rapidly in the coming months.   It is impractical for every company to be represented on the primary committees without those bodies becoming unwieldy and ineffective.

HOWEVER, there are numerous topics where coordination within working groups would be very beneficial, and much of this work can happen in parallel.  This breadth of effort should allow us to take advantage of the scale of talent and resourcing available across our collective membership without getting bottlenecked.

If you haven’t got involved in any of the working groups yet, the best place to start is by joining the Technical Mailing List, which is acting as the “lobby” for the working groups.

Please introduce yourself and share your interests.   Better yet, offer to create and lead new working groups where you see a need.    We don’t have heavyweight process.   The most important thing is for the conversation to get started.   There is a suggested template to help clarify scope.  There are Confluence pages for each group here.    You do not need anybody’s permission to create a new sub-group.

The intention of the EEA is not to dictate any kind of top-down structure, but for members to self-organize around their key requirements and needs, and for those groups to make concrete proposals which then filter upwards to define our standards and best practices.    With that caveat in mind, here are some possible Working Group ideas which have been raised in the past and might make sense:

  • Benchmarking
  • Testing
  • Architecture
  • Security
  • Cryptography
  • IoT
  • Best practices
  • Interoperability
  • Requirements and use-cases
  • [Bring your own suggestions]

So please do jump in and help!   Many thanks.

New Granville Island Office

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I had been working from a coffee shop every day for the best part of the year.   That was just fine in most respects, but it has meant that I never completed the setup of my hardware test farm for cpp-ethereum-cross.   It was time for me to look at rented desk space again.

I found a real beauty of a spot which was newly available on Granville Island, right by the water, in a converted houseboat, by The Profile.    I am already finding lots of common interests with my coworkers.   There is an old TV, and my Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 are definitely going to get hooked up 🙂

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C++ re-licensing plan

Overview

This is a proposal to re-license the C++ implementation of the Ethereum client runtime (cpp-ethereum) from the copyleft GPLv3 license to the permissive Apache 2.0 license, to enable Ethereum to be used as broadly as possible.

NB:  If you would like to discuss this plan, please let’s all do so on cpp-ethereum Gitter channel.   Thanks!

Moving to permissive licensing has been the “plan of record” for a year or so, which we are belatedly executing on.   Gavin Wood actually started the process of relicensing to MIT last year, but it was never completed.    So we’re going through the process again now.

There is another long-form article talking about the rationale for the change and the history leading up to this proposed change of licensing, so I won’t duplicate that content here.

This post talks through the expected operational steps for making this change.   These steps aren’t entirely sequential, and we will be doing overlapping steps in parallel wherever we can, to try to get through the tedious process as quickly as we can.

Ultimately the contributors to the C++ codebase will make the decision on whether or not we relicense, and there is no intention from the Ethereum Foundation to “force” the process.

 

 

Steps to be followed

  • Creation of a Github issue to start the ball rolling                       [started May 25th]
  • Start to gather contributor details (Piratepad, then Wiki)         [completed July 7th]
  • Mention in the last few releases that we are contacting contributors  [May, June, July]
  • Ad-hoc conversations with contributors on the issue, Gitter, email   [Ongoing]
  • Talk to an IP lawyer to verify what we need to do, in rough strokes   [June 22nd]
  • Publicize “the plan” and work through any disagreements      [July 12th onwards]
  • Distribute paperwork to all contributors     [August 18th to August 24th]
  • Complete the process and change the license
  • Announce that change to the world

 

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What is the paperwork?

Everybody who has contributed to the code in question (see below) will be sent a letter, probably both as a PDF and physically, which essentially attests to the fact that they were the author of that code, and giving their approval for that contribution to be used under the Apache 2.0 license.

Future contributors will be required to make a similar declaration.    The one page document just ensures that there is no ambiguity for any party in the case of future disagreement or legal action.

Here is a template for the paperwork, which is legal boilerplate from the Linux Foundation adjusted to our project.

This is not final paperwork.   Discussion ongoing.

 

Content to be relicensed

The following repositories are in the process of being reorganized into a restored cpp-ethereum repository, which will be relicensed as Apache 2.0:

That will include the following applications:

  • Ethereum VM:
    • eth
    • ethvm
  • Unit-testing:
    • testeth
    • testweb3
    • testweb3core
  • Support tools:
    • bench
    • ethkey
    • ethminer
    • rlp

The following standalone repositories will also be relicensed to Apache 2.0:

The following repositories, containing the Solidity compiler and the deprecated C++ GUI applications will remain under GPLv3:

The following repository, containing the new “Remix” debugging components will remain under MIT, though we might want to consider whether that should be Apache 2.0 as well?