Devcon 4 report: Day 4

Previous days:

Today is a shorter update. I spent a lot of time in meetings with different tools teams (Truffle, Zeppelin, EthPM) about how to better do contract upgrades in a DevOps manner. Expect more from me once I get it working and write it up πŸ˜‰

Internet archive

Brewster Kahle

Distributed web version of IA
https://dweb.archive.org

Told a story where back in the day they started taking Bitcoin, so they had some young guy come in and help them set up their initial wallets. It was Vitalik πŸ™‚

Instead of the world wide web where we have lots of blogs, everything has collapsed into Facebook and Twitter. People are building castles. The web is being turned into a global surveillance tool
Internet Archive is getting involved in the decentralised world to help try and affect change.
The goal is: Universal access to all knowledge. Want to be the library of Alexandria version 2.

He loaded up https://dweb.archive.org
Showed that the first HTML page is a bootloader. Loads up the JS libraries to access IPFS, torrets.
Browsed around the site, loaded videos. It all just worked.

Benefits:
More privacy. Reader privacy, and no third party storing of data.
People being rounded up based on what they’ve read, has always led to bad things.

13 challenges (I missed some)

  • Naming of decentralised websites
  • Permissions, auth and key management
  • Identity & reputation
  • How do you manage & name mutable data at scale?
  • The web beyond advertising: who will pay for what and how.
  • How do we make the decentralised web work in browsers today
  • Storage in the DWeb
  • Governance in the DWeb
  • Defining D-terms
  • Rethinking UI and UX for a decentralised web

Money is the killer Ðapp: crypto in Venezuela

Venezuela has issues with their currency and government controls and corruption.
Bitcoin is the most liquid in Venezuala, about $1m being traded a day.
Crypto is being used for:
Earning across borders.
Storing value (safer than banks)
Defeating extortion, when crossing boarders.
Providing aid to families in different locations.
Open money initiative. They have a wiki for Venezuelans to use and learn how to use crypto
https://www.omipedia.org/

Self-Sovereign Sexuality

Ameen Soleimani, Chelsea Palmer

Will talk about how the Ethereum community, and the sex worker community are aligned. It was easier to just take a photo of each slide for this talk, as they have written down for each aspect how they are alike.
Where is blockchain adoption going to happen first? He realised that this community that has been ostrasied from traditional financial system was a great place to start.

Ameen:
About a year ago, he was feeling pretty depressed. Wasn’t spending time on Tinder because he was working a lot. He wasn’t having luck talking with girls and was getting more and more nervous over it. He had a lot of money and was lonely, so started looking up sex workers in his local area. Made a meeting with a local escort. But when he went to get cash out, he was at his daily ATM cash out limit. He couldn’t get enough money out and had to change his 2 hour apointment down to 1 hour. He met the escort, talked about crypto, got her on board, and paid her by cypto.
Morality does not equal legality.

Chelsea:
Was a sex worker. Wish she had crypto back when she was working. Now she is a crypto educator.

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Needing to trust and verify.
Vetting a new client for first time, need to get a referral from another escort. Difficult for 1st time customers.
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Sex workers are cypherpunks. They use proton mail, loads of crypto currencies.
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Sex workers can be immediately blocked by most traditional financial systems.
Sex work criminalisation, currently stops sex workers from calling local police if they have things to report. As it is more likely that they will just be arrested than helped.
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Devcon 4 report: Day 3

Previous days:

 

Building the Ecosystem for the Next Wave of Users

Cryptokitties

Creating a story and personality for what you build
They found that adding a background and story behind the cats helped with the adoption. The breeding concept gave a good anchor point.

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Users were burning gas without realising. Were sending 10x more gas price than required.
User education and guidance was required quickly after launch to help teach.
Adding more feedback after a transaction to the user to make them more comfortable. Sending emails when things happened and what will happen next after breeding cats.
-Users need guidance when they’re in unknown territory.

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Teaching a user that is interested in the service, that they need something called a wallet, they need cryptocurrency. Bit of a learning curve.
People came to the service because they wanted to buy cats. But now they’ve got a PhD in cryptoeconomics, which is not what they were after. Created a massive drop off rate of new users through the signup process.
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Making the Web Distributed Despite Itself

Dietrich Ayala, Mozilla

“We are committed to an internet that promotes civil discourse, human dignity, and individual expression”
What does it take to be a 100 year organization.
The web is ~25 years old, and its not going to well. Being used a misinformation platform, fueling hate.

There is WAY more information and web apps available online via web browsers, than there are available via apps on iPhone & Android (~5 billion pages).
URLs are what made the web powerful and universally accessible. Urls are understood by technology people, but “normal people” don’t really know what a web browser is, or where things are stored. Same with domain names.

What does re-decentralizing the web look like?
Current web is centralised. Browser request, response. Easy to censor.
All the power resides on one side, on the server. The browser doesn’t have any say.
While we have that centralisation chokepoint, we won’t be able to get away from centralised services like Facebook.
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How do we go about creating a decentralised browser to give control back to users?
Need to think how to build things for century long longevity. Whatever we build now will need to be supported.
Start with protocol primitives that can be built up on.
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How do we get those lower primitives prototyped and built, so others can start building higher level primitivies
As a browser vendor they could do it as part of the browser engine, or JS APIs, or extensions. Makes sense for them to do it via extensions, to give everyone a bit more flexibility while experimenting

Announcing libdweb extension
https://github.com/mozilla/libdweb

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IPFS team took it, got IPFS running in it. Got IPFS running completely within a browser.
But now they have a bunch of new things they need to think about. What is the origin of a website loaded by a IPFS hash. This has an impact on local storage, cookies, certs, etc. What is the threat modelling for this.
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Use what you make, if you don’t use it why would others. Build for the long web. The web was (originally) built with redundancy built in. Are there multiple implementations of your software.
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Privacy for Everyone, Recent advances in privacy

Zookoo Wilcox, Zcash

Released Zcash 2.0, 4 days ago. “Sapling”
They reduced the time complexity required to generate a ZK proof down dramatically. Should enable them to be generated on a mobile phone now.
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They did this by replacing the hash function that is used when creating a ZK circuit.
This reduced the time required by 75%. Took it from ~40secs to 10secs. But still too much time. So replaced some of the ECC functions used to reduce to 5 secs. Then did split circuit design to half it to 2.3 seconds.
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One of the troubles they have had, is ZK-SNARKS required the “toxic waste” which was the secret string to provision the system. They went through an elaborate ceremony to create it to try and ensure that it could never be created by any 1 person at any time. But still has a cloud over it as you can’t convince everyone of it.
ZK-STARKS doesn’t have any “toxic waste”. But the proof size is orders of magnitude too big to be used in a blockchain in every single transaction.
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They could try changing their Blockchain away from Bitcoin software based, to make it higher bandwidth so they could put in STARKS.
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Regulatory
Common thoughts are “regulators are scared of privacy” and don’t like things like zcash. But the regulators in USA have been fine with it.
New York requires cryptocurrency companies to register for a “Bit license”. Zcash is the 7th cryptocurrency that has been explicitly approved to be used and traded, and they called out the privacy preserving aspects.

Previously SSL encryption was scary and governments were worried that it could be used by criminals, but is now required by governments. Blockchain encryption will probably be the same thing.
The regulators even told them “We don’t want the pocketbooks of our children and family open to everyone on the internet”
It is not okay for our society to go down the path where everyone’s privacy is read by 2 or 3 centralised services, it is wrong and dangerous.

 

Lex cryptographica : the legal challenges of new blockchain-based lifeforms

Primavera De Filippi

Properties of Blockchain:

  • Blockchain is a decentralised database
  • Networks are global and transnational
  • Blockchain is resilient
  • Tamper resistant
  • Transparent
  • Non-repudiable (need to use private key, can’t deny it later)
  • Pseudonymous
  • Guarantee of execution

Blockchain code can be written to include traditional law, it only cares about what the code says.
Code is trustless and allows disintermation and autonomy.
Conflict between the rule of code, and the rule of law
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Governments use the law to put pressure on centralised companies via regulators to say what the code can do.
Can the new wave of crypto-anarchist effect change in the new decentralised web.
Traditional property rights. Are defined by law, and can be taken away by the law.
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It is now possible to deploy Autonomous Agents. They can hold property, and can execute smart contracts.
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Created blockchain based “Plantoids”. They can’t breed by themselves and need others help.
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1. capitalisation. Collecting cryptocurrency to repoduce. It tries to loook pretty to encourage people to donate ether to it.
2. if it has funds, then it can ask people to vote on the new artist to create its child
3. it will use a smart contract to hire the artist to create the new plant model.

Artist gets royalties from how much the plant earns as an incentive to make good ones, and for them to breed.
Now instead of sending money to artists, you send money to the art pieces. A different funding model.

The plantoids can have requirements put upon them. Its children need to be based on its rules (requirements for decorative elements) and artists can put new requirements on the ones they create. Will make different species emerge.
Requires “Holographic consensus”
COALA (Coalition of Automated Legal Applications) is a global research initiative.

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Decentralize, Democratize, or Die

Cory Doctorow, EFF

EFF origin stories from 25 years ago.
The original “crypto wars”. NSA put restrictions on civilian use of cryptography.
Gov tried to lock everything down to just DES-50 encryption. EFF tried to show that DES was insufficient and built hardware that could crack the entire DES space in 2 hours.
But govs said ‘well, we need it otherwise criminals will go dark’
The technical arguments didn’t work. So EFF posted the source code for stronger encryption online on usenet, then argued under free speech that it was fine. Was the way EFF allowed people to use encryption higher than DES-50.

Showing that there are more tactics in your toolchest than just “deploying code”.
Main ways:
Deploying code and hardware.
Markets. Getting partners to go in and argue.
Norms. What is socially acceptable. Moving encryption from just nerds, to making it mainstream.
Law. Whats legal.

You can’t make everyone you communicate with use crypto, something will leak
You can’t audit all of your hardware.
You can’t verify every cypher algorithm is solid and sound.
OPSEC is not going to save you. Security favours attackers. Defenders need to be perfect all of the times, attackers only need to find a mistake once.

Crypto and privacy tools can help protect and shelter you for short periods of time. Can help protect you while you have discussions that you aren’t ready to have public.
There are many things that used to be illeagal which are now embraced and considered normal (being gay, interraccial marriage, weed).
They happened because people could have secret communities that they could whisper and have secrets with people. Social progress was able to continue.

DMCA was used to stop people reversing engineering DRM.
So anyone what didn’t want you to modify hardware, would just put a tiny layer of DRM on top of the hardware. To make it impossible to modify without “breaking DRM”.
Insulin machines using cartridges that have DRM, so it is illegal to bypass the DRM to use alternatives.
Now that everything has a DRM chip in it, make it really difficult for researchers to do anything without it being illegal.
DRM in browsers. No browser vendor promised to not use DRM to prevent security researchers from disclosing vulnerabilities.

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Attacking. You want to make it so that the cost of attacking a system, costs more than the expected economic return.
This works, until the value of the thing you are protecting suddenly goes up (such as a cryptocurrency suddenly spiking).
For crypto people, it means the cost you should put in to protecting your computer is going up, because the vaule of what you’re holding is going up.
This means new 0-days for attacking machines are becoming more valuable, as the expected return is going up as there is more chance you could find private keys.
The rule of law is the best way to get things changed. We love code, but need to find ways to help the law change towards how we want it seen.

 

P2P Networking in Ethereum 2.0

Jannik Luhn, Kevin Mai-Hsuan Chia

Very short session
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Validators are a new class of node. Similar to a shard node but only downloads recent history, and switch between shards regularly and randomly.

Networking protocol requires 3 things. Discovery protocol for discovery. Gossip protocol to distribute data. And RPC calls to sync data history.
Gossip will pass things out to a few neighbours to help it get diseminated throughout the network.

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They used GossipSub by libp2p (rather than devp2p).
Did simulations for 1,000 nodes to see how things would work. Found that nodes didn’t go over 60% capacity. None hit 100% which meant that things weren’t being bottlenecked.
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Cranked it up to 10,000 nodes
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P2P implementation
They are using libp2p. Allows them to switch out the protocols like TCP, etc
Requirement for the networking layer was that clients should be able to subscribe to one or more shards. And the client should only receive data for shards it has subscribed to, and not others.
They have implemented the essential funcions like joining sharding network, subscribing to multiple shards, etc.
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Managing upgradeability and EVM packages with ZeppelinOS

Facundo Spagnuolo, Open Zeppelin

Tutorial blogs are online
https://blog.zeppelinos.org/zeppelinos-2-0/
https://blog.zeppelinos.org/getting-started-with-zeppelinos/

ZeppelinOS. Open source platform to help you build smart contract systems.

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How to do upgradeability
npm install -g zos
zos init my-project

Write the smart contract (MyWallet contract)
zos add MyWallet
zos push -n ropsten
zos create MyWallet -n ropsten
> 0x23abba13

Later find there is a bug in the wallet.
Update the source code.
zos add MyWallet
zos push -n ropsten
zos update MyWallet -n ropsten
> 0xccab2314

This is all done using proxies
ZeppelinOS provides a standard way to fix bugs, and add new functionality.
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EVM Packages
EVM packages are upgradeable on-chain packages of smart contract code
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Can have your code depend on other packages and link to them. Later they can be upgraded.
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How do we know these packages online are correct? ZeppelinOS Vouching system.
Will allow users to back the quality of an EVM package. Signal your support. First step towards a curated on chain packages system.
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Unscrambling an Egg: Decentralization and the Zcash Foundation

Josh Cincinnati

Are we decentralised yet
https://arewedecentralizedyet.com/

What is the goal, what are we really after?
Zcash want to be used for the public good. The foundation is there to help guide and make sure the zcash company are on the right path.
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CBC Casper Design Philosophy

Vlad Zamfir

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“Correct by Construction” protocol design is a process of protocol specification which guarantees that the resulting protocol definitions satisfy desired properties.
As opposed to a process of iterated trial and error.
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He spent 5 minutes talking about defining undefined, and how you can define the most undefindness you can have. I just got lost (a common theme throughout this talk)

“Bottom times bottom, is more defined than bottom”
“bottom times empty set is more defined than bottom times bottom”
(you can see why I’m getting lost here)
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CBC protocol design, goes from defining the most simple things, and then define things on top of the previous definitions.
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“sometimes CBC design isn’t quite straight forward”

The beauty of using CBC, is that the protocol is defined by the definition. Means there can’t be ambiguity, it just does exactly what it says it should do. Makes it easy to prototype and test, and things just work.
Thinks like not needing to worry about consensus protocols as much, as it all just work out. Showed an example prototype where shards can just keep becoming the new root that others build off, and them continuously rotating around with new roots.
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Ethereum 2.0 randomness

Justin Drake

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They use randomness in 2 places.
One in sampling to select validators.
Can also be used to expose randomness to EVM apps.
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Goals for randomness is to make it unpredictable, unbiasable, and unstoppable
In RANDAO proposers are given slots. And they can reveal a secret to seed the randomness.
Gives the last revealer 2 numbers to pick from, the current random seed, or what they would add.
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Verifiable Delay Functions. Takes an input, difficulty, and outputs the value and proof.
Can chain them to make it harder to bias
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Need to make sure that good actors can calculate it within a threshold of attackers. They are thinking of creating VDF ASICs that can do it, and then handing them out to many people.
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To create the initial random seed that will be used for the VDFs, they will use a RSA creation ceremony with 1024 participants. Just need 1 party to be honest to be successful.
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VDF ASIC hardware
Doing it in partnership with Filecoin!
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LibSubmarine – Temporarily hide transactions on Ethereum

https://libsubmarine.org/

Prevent reordering attacks. Keeps data private temporarily, can’t see who or what is being committed
Can add it into contracts fairly easily. Can modify ERC721 to add a “sealed bids”

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Off chain you generate a submarine address and generate a merkle-patricia proof. Then on chain execute a transaction to commit the submarine tx, and then later reveal the proof.

 

The Entire History of You Is Being Sold

Jesse Leimgruber
https://bloom.co

In the USA there are 10,000+ companies currently pooling and selling your data. And it isn’t even being kept securely as Equifax showed. Data leaks are becoming more common occurrences.

Users need to own their data (Bloom app stores the data on your phone)
Limiting access (user is responsible in selecting how it gets shared)
Data reusability. Good UX to allow many apps be able to reuse the data.
They just partnered with BMW to use Bloom for BMW loans.
Also announced partnership with American Express to use bloom for their loans.

Devcon 4 report: day 2 – Ethereum 2.0 keynote

Other days:

Today had less sessions and was less intense. Apart from the keynote by Vitalik and SpankChain sessions there isn’t much to report on.

Opening

The MC wrote a song (I tried to take a video but was too far back to get anything good, I’m sure there are videos online).

He is tokenising his songs and putting online https://www.jonathanmann.net/devcon

Welcome to Devcon 4

Aya Miyaguchi, Ethereum foundation

Ran through her history of learning about blockchain & Ethereum.
Ethereum has a chance to empower society with it’s decentralisation, but we need to protect against it being used to restrict people by centralised powers (traditional companies and gov). Important for Ethereum community to keep these values as we scale.
Ethereum foundation keeps on making sure it minimises power in individual people. It wants to see itself as helping connect and foster collaboration in the community and connecting dots. But its goal is to grow the Ethereum community, not itself. Is why it didn’t structure itself in the way of a traditional startup or corporate.

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She has invited a number of special guest speaker for the week. Like the internet archive
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Ethereum 2.0

Vitalik Buterin

It is the 10 year anniverary of Satoshi’s Bitcoin whitepaper.
Ethereum 2.0 is a collection of research projects that have been ongoing over the last number of years.
Back in 2014 he wrote a paper on how slashing could be used in a “proof of stake algorithm”.
There was a bunch of aborted research in 2014 around different scaling mechanisms. Poof of proof of work, Hub & spoke chains, hypercubes.
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During 2015-16 was a bunch of quiet research.
Resarch on “consensus by bet”. Some people would bet, which influence others to bet on those blocks, until one of the blocks have enough backing.
Wrote a scalability paper in 2015.
Wrote about the “data availability problem”. Could allow malicious parties to not publish data, which is required in sharding.
Everything got stopped in 2016 after the DAO attack, and the Shanghai DOS attacks.
But still quite worki happening on ewasm.
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First Casper FFG paper came out.
At Devcon last year he showed the new sharding design.
Vlad released Casper CBC paper.
End of 2017 they released a Casper FFG proof of concept of a hybrid proof of stake system. Would allow gradual upgrade and migration. This research got very far.
But meanwhile there was a lot of working happening on Sharding. During a retreat in March they had a lot more details solidify. But they realised that there were teams trying to implement hybrid proof of stake inside existing blockchain, then a separate group that is trying to make a sharding system and a validating contract. The 2 groups weren’t really talking to each other. Realised they could reduce a lot of work if they just integrated them better.

It did mean that they lost a bunch of work that had already been done. But it meant that it would be simpler, and be better integrated, and the final state would be much better. (I think they did a great thing being able to step back, not worry about the sunk cost, and made the better overall decision).
Meanwhile LOTS more research happening on things like cross shard transactions and contracts.
Development happening on beacon chain implementations.

Ethereum 2.0’s real name is “Serenity”.
Gets us closer to it being “the world’s computer”

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Phase 0 will be part way between main net and test net. The beacon chain will be there and running, but can’t really do anything with it directly.
Phase 1 will do sharding of data. NOT sharding of state. Could do decentralised twitter on the blockchain. But no smart contract applications.
Phase 2: enabling state transitions (smart contracts)

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Track overview

Scalability
Layer 1 (sharding, casper), Layer 2 (state channels, plasma, sidechains), ZK-SNARKS, light clients, etc.
Suggested sessions:
Making sense of layer 2 – Josh Stark
Snarks for mixing signalling – Barry whitehat

Ethereum 2.0 sessions

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Designing robust systems

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Privacy
Lots of centralised companies are harvesting our data. We need to take the web back.
Suggested talks:
LibSubmarine – Temporarily hide transactions on Ethereum – Stephane Gosselin https://guidebook.com/guide/117233/event/21956198/ 
Plugging the metadata leaks in the ethereum ecosystem – Peter szilagyi https://guidebook.com/guide/117233/event/21956182/

Developer Experience
Suggested session on EthPM https://guidebook.com/guide/117233/event/21956118/

UX design
She just flicked through many session names. Nothing jumped out.

Society & systems
Technology changes society. And society can influence tech.

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Events around Prague
http://Guides.pragueBlockchainWeek.cz 
http://Events.pragueBlockchainweek.cz 

Decentralized development, what does that even mean?

Amber from Clovyr
https://clovyr.io/

Web 3.0 is about trying to keep data close to where it resides, decentralisation, data portability,

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Development of blockchain clients (Bitcoin, Ethereu, zcash). Funnily enough the core code contributors of those clients are centralised in just a few developers hands. But if you look at something like kubernetes they have sooo many more people contributing.
How about code hosting, 90%+ of projects are all hosted on Github.
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Browser 3.0

Mist team.
Current browsers are owned by centralised companies who track (Chrome, Safari, setting default search engine, etc).
Metamask extension was removed from Chrome store for a while. Chrome apps all got killed off.

Lets build our own. Lets start by using Electron.
Current web3 clients on the desktop are Metamask, Brave, Ethereum Mist, Parity. 3 of those 4 were built on Electron. But electron has a lot of security issues which is a bad thing for crypto private keys
Electron keeps lagging far behind the latest versions of chromium, meaning it is vulnerable to known exploits for long periods of time. Mist team don’t want this so they are building their own electron alternative called Tau.

SpankChain: Payment Channels in Production

https://spankchain.com/ 
https://beta.spankchain.com NSFW!

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Their “pegged” stable token is called Booty.
It all goes into the “spank bank”.

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Took 4 attempts at payment channels.
2nd, the MVP. Was a unidirectional ether only. Issues they had was that querying infura was non-deterministic, and Truffle timeout was 240 seconds which meant things failed in production.
3rd they launched. They got hacked when they unlocked their geth node for the deployment. Was only unlocked for 140 seconds and lost all the funds in that wallet.
4th they upgraded it. Had p2p virtual channels, ERC-20. The contract got hacked “they got spanked”. Worked with the hacker to fix the bugs.

The rewrote the smart contract and the UX. There were issues with the original version trying to get adult performers to join payment channels, as they’d need Eth to pay the gas to run the transaction. So Spankchain would need to send the performers enough gas before the show starts, to open the channel. And then do the same again when they close.

Announcing “ComeSwap” to cash out your booty for Ether
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