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Ethereum Industry Summit

I attended the Ethereum Industry Summit in Hong Kong yesterday. Left the event with mixed feelings and a few new friends, but three random thoughts to start:

  • The calibre of discussion was high compared to other public crypto events and I think this reflects well on the progress that Ethereum is making. The team succeeded in communicating what issues they were concerned with, what their solutions are, and how those solutions are being implemented. With that said, the best presentations were the least polished and most technical in part because they were the least propagandistic. I particularly enjoyed the speeches by Hsiao-Wei Wang and Xiaozhou Li. Vitalik was great too, but we all take him for granted now.
  • In the afternoon I stepped away from the presentations and spent most of my time outside chatting with other attendees. This was probably the most useful part of the event for us, and it’s a pity that the conference didn’t build-in opportunities for chatting and networking. The people with whom I chatted seemed genuinely interested in Saito, and there were a few who actually got into the substantive details. Some are people we genuinely want to follow-up with and who we will hopefully see in Beijing at some time.
  • I left the conference unsure of how we engage with the Ethereum community. It’s an unqualified good that the Ethereum team seems practical instead of ideological and I’m confident they will eventually realize what we are doing. With that said, they seem to be fully-committed to sharding and plasma chains and don’t have avenues for outsiders to approach them. When I asked Jake Lang (who gave an excellent presentation on eWASM) who would be a good contact for figuring out state channels, he couldn’t suggest anything more than posting on the ETHResearch site, which we will try….

In general, I came away with more confidence in Ethereum than I had going in, which is nice to say at a time when the price is tanking. The only thing I am genuinely concerned about is that there does not seem to be an easy way to engage with the devs. I suspect that the underlying cause of this is that the development team has crystallized around its plan and distractions are intentionally muted. At various times, I heard multiple developers quote Vitalik in suggesting that there may be a trade-off between decentralization, scalability, and security in blockchain design. While it is probably good that people can use Vitalik as a shield in order to just focus on implementation details, it is also worth remembering that Vitalik originally framed that suggestion far more as a question than a statement of fact (and he is also wrong — the limits that exist on the blockchain layer lie not in the blockchain itself so much as in proof-of-work and proof-of-stake).
Anyway, I am hoping we made a few contacts that will be helpful for us in making friends with Ethereum. We could use assistance getting payment channels / state channels setup. How long that will if we need to do it ourselves is an open question. Dealing with Ganache and Truffle and Web3 and Solidity and Infura and more just to have a simple contract online is a good reminder of how easy Saito applications are to build and deploy, at least. So we have that.

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