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One of our blockchain goals before summer started was developing a pilot that could be used internally and brought to market. We also wanted to create some buzz both within and outside of the Emakina Group. And we accepted the mission of coming up the mission with a fun and feasible concept.
One use case of blockchain that really stood out to us was the ability to do conditional value transfers (programming money). This led us to a concept we define as ‘Programmable Incentives’. It is quite a broad concept ranging from bug bounties to sustainable living. We have some use cases that we derived from this concept and eventually we set out to build a marketplace that relies on humans to solve problems. Internally, the goal of the platform is to promote collaboration, atmosphere and team spirit by rewarding employees for their effort.
The purpose of the application is quite simple and similar to a website like StackExchange, with the addition of tasks rather than purely Q&A. Employees or the organisation can post problems/challenges they would like some help with. This can be organising a lunch session or helping colleagues with some coding work.
Anyone within Design is Dead can create an inquiry for a task, they will set a deadline for completion and add the necessary requirements. All of this is defined in a smart contract, the reward for the task is kept in escrow in the smart contract and will be released once the conditions are met. This is not a new concept but using blockchain allows us to do some things that weren’t possible before. Traditionally platforms like this would rely on a trusted third party (TTP) to do the communications between the entities, hold the escrows and resolve disputes. Examples of this are Hackerone.com or Amazon Mturk. The problem is that we’re relying on a central operator to maintain the platform which results in fees of 10–20% when rewards are given, due to the high fees platforms like Amazon Mturk are not used at all.
We built a decentralized (or rather distributed, for now) application, or dApp, using a private implementation of the Ethereum blockchain with a smart contract layer, a peer-to-peer content distribution protocol called Swarm and a decentralized messaging protocol we plan to use for chatting. Our dApp is very robust because we developed our application with a public-chain-first mentality. Additionally, we recognize that blockchain is not a very efficient database, thus we only use blockchain when it’s necessary. It would be absurd to put for example comments onto the blockchain as it is not a condition required for contract settlement. Similarly, most of the data associated with bounties is not stored on the blockchain but on our P2P content-distribution layer and only a KECCAK256 hash-checksum is stored on the blockchain, this hash can then be used to look up and download the content. In the very near future we will release an electron app that runs on all platforms, which will run a blockchain “light client” and swarm node from within the application. We are really excited about this feature as it abstracts away the technical details of running nodes next to a local app. It also enables our infrastructure to scale better and the app to be faster, as queries can happen locally now instead of using remote nodes on AWS. One caveat is that the light nodes will still need to be connected to a full “archiving” node.
We deployed a private blockchain cluster on AWS using Kubernetes. We’ve deployed a total of three sealers and two transaction nodes. The job of the sealers is to uphold the consensus on the blockchain, the purpose of the transaction nodes is being a remote relay to send transaction to the blockchain. Additionally, the Kubernetes cluster comes with a network monitor and blockchain explorer.
Decentralized trustless protocols like Ethereum and Swarm are still in its infancy and heavily subject to change. Nonetheless they are very interesting topics that serve as solutions to real world problems. We encourage you to do some reading as we can use all the talent we can get if we are going to build the web 3.0. If you’d like to read more about the technology and ethereum, please check out following resources:
- Ethereum Vision: Building the decentralized web
- Ethereum white paper
- Swarm orange paper
- Postal Services over Swarm
- Trusted third parties are security risks (Nick Szabo)