How Constellation Is Utilizing Distributed Technology

 

In this piece, we’re going to explore the world of distributed tech—breaking down what it is, how it’s currently being used in the tech landscape at large, why the blockchain space as a whole isn’t utilizing certain proven distributed tech frameworks, and how we intend on using them. We’re also going to break down what inspired Constellation’s approach to “Consensus as a service.” I sat down with several key members of our engineering team to discuss all of this in depth, so without further ado, let’s dive in.

From a higher level perspective, what does a distributed system entail? To put it simply, it’s the idea of splitting up computation and data across computers to solve scalability issues. Cloud computing can be seen as an example of distributed technology, where data and applications are served to millions of users over the internet. In terms of cryptocurrency, Bitcoin and cryptos approached distributed systems in a different way, as they weren’t focused on solving data processing problems or really trying to improve anything. As our CTO Wyatt Meldman-Floch puts it, “They were trying to add some notion of cryptographic security by mixing in economics. It all started with scalability, and crypto sort of became this other thing.”

What The Heck Is Distributed Tech?

To take a more macro-level view on what some of the most popular distributed tech platforms are, let’s turn it over to our VP of Engineering, Ryle Goehausen: “I would say really the basis for most of our involvement comes from Apache’s Spark, which is the big data distribution platform.” To put it another way, Spark is essentially a general-purpose data processing engine, which can rapidly analyze data at scale.

Ryle also mentioned the Scala programming language ecosystem as being a big influence within Constellation. Scala, which stands for “scalable language”, is already used by major companies such as Twitter and LinkedIn. Ryle also mentioned several other major distributed tech influences, in Akka, Algebird, and Hadoop. Akka is a toolkit for building highly distributed applications on Java, while Algebird provides abstractions for algebra within the Scala programming language. Apache’s Hadoop is a software library that allows for the distributed processing of large amounts of data and is used by the likes of Twitter, Spotify, and Facebook to store and process mass quantities of data in real time. At the heart of Hadoop lies MapReduce, which is a programming paradigm that allows for this massive amount of scalability to occur! For a quick laymen’s term breakdown of how that works, check this out. If you’re wondering how all of this ties into what we’re doing at Constellation and the blockchain space in general, hang in there, we’ll get there.

In terms of how all of the aforementioned distributed tech paradigms influence Constellation, here’s what Ryle had to say: “We’re primarily trying to use a lot of the techniques and the same libraries that other distributed systems are built with, and that’s all sort of oriented around Scala, Akka, Algebird and some of the other like standard tooling.”

What We Learned From Twitter

To take this a step further and explore how these tools are being used in the greater tech landscape at large, let’s take a look at how Twitter leverages MapReduce and Hadoop. In terms of processing massive quantities of data, Twitter relies on MapReduce to “literally do reputation calculations on individual tweets to figure out whether or not this show on your newsfeed.” Essentially, what Twitter does is leverage MapReduce and other streaming libraries and “mix these two tools in order to aggregate data and serve it very quickly and in such a way that is horizontally scalable. That’s how Twitter can strain billions of data points per second,” according to Wyatt.

Ryle backed this up by sharing some further details on how Twitter uses Hadoop and Spark:

Twitter primarily lies on Hadoop, and they’re migrating Spark in a lot of places. They have separate things that are done for real-time aggregation, but a lot of it is unified under a common language. That’s why they’re developing so much Scala code—because it integrates with older code. They don’t need to rewrite a bunch of things. They can use a lot of the same code for both real-time, batch processing and analytics, so they’ll have batch jobs that run every night, but also have real-time system stuff.”

Using Hadoop basically allows them to store and process billions of tweets, log files, and other forms of data across thousands of nodes.

Right about now, you might be thinking, “Great! There are all of these proven existing frameworks for scaling distributed tech—this sounds like a perfect, seamless integration for the blockchain and crypto space!” 

Well, not quite.

The main hold up is that the existing code stacks are not very friendly to a crypto stack, or in the case of Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Dash’s stack— “it would not plug in very nicely and it wouldn’t have a lot of code reusability,” said Ryle. To extrapolate this point further, we can take a look at Ethereum, whose own messaging strongly plays up MapReduce (have a look at their Plasma whitepaper), but isn’t using any of the language libraries or common practices associated with MapReduce itself. Seems a bit backward, right? I asked Ryle why this is, and his response was quite illuminating:

The obvious answer is because they already have code and dependencies that are already written specifically for Ethereum, and they’re a slow moving boat. It would be difficult for them to adapt and change all of their existing stuff over [to MapReduce], so they’re viewing it as basically tacking it on to their system. There are other people trying to migrate MapReduce—except our strategy for the migration of MapReduce is to use libraries that are other actually used for developing MapReduce, instead of trying to develop MapReduce inside of crypto libraries.

In short, there are already existing standards for proven distributed tech frameworks such as MapReduce, and we want to reuse as much of that code as we can and forge the right path from the start. Ethereum is essentially ignoring the long-standing reasons for why people chose design patterns oriented around MapReduce in the first place, and are trying to recreate something that already works, but within their own sandbox. The same can be said of their approach with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). Ryle shared his take on this in the following quote:

“If you look at all the work that was done on EVM, it’s going to be scrapped because they went down a path that is now worthless because they chose to go against the standard. It’s better to go with common standards and to use tools that are already there. There’s no reason to try and reinvent the wheel for everything.”

Another example can be seen with IOTA, who are currently experiencing a crisis on their main network due to spammers creating a Side Tangle parasite chain, resulting in transactions not being confirmed. Wyatt shared his take on this by saying “this is the price of trying to customize too early.” IOTA has essentially tried to reinvent cryptography, which violates the underlying tenets of cryptography itself.

This isn’t meant to bash either Ethereum or IOTA—we’re merely trying to illustrate the importance of leveraging the existing proven tech and forging the proper path the first time, rather than trying to retroactively fit a lot of these tools in down the line.

Ryle sums it up quite succinctly:

If we go down the wrong path of attempting to prop up something that isn’t necessarily going to become the standard in the future, it’s a lot of wasted effort. And we’d like not to do that. These other tools have billions of dollars of aggregate industry value, and to ignore them is silly.

Forging the Right Path

With Constellation, we want to forge the right path from the outset. We want to develop libraries that bridge the gap between crypto and existing distributed tech, and that’s not really easy to do right now. While other projects are wasting their time trying to port existing distributed tech over into crypto, we want to leverage what already works, and focus on building the future.

“There are projects that are trying to adopt Bitcoin and Ethereum to Scala and Java, and they’re sort of in a weird state where they don’t really work all the way, and they don’t fully integrate. So we’re trying to focus on using languages and tools that make that problem go away,” shared Ryle.

While this is a difficult task, we aren’t the only ones in this space that are pursuing a similar path. As Ryle said, “Rchain are using a lot of the same functions same crypto code that we’re using. Waves is another example. When you look at a project like Rchain, they’ve essentially proven that it’s possible to do crypto on the Scala ecosystem.” But again, what distinguishes us from Rchain is we’re not trying to approach this as a language problem. While they’ve created Rholang, which is a new language for writing smart contracts that run on the RChain virtual machine, we’re more heavily focused on leveraging Scala for big data processing. Ryle went on to share how the success of Rchain has “proven that there is a demand for using the tooling of Scala and these other distributed systems within the crypto space.”

When I asked the team if it’d be fair to consider Constellation as one of the first blockchain companies intentionally building a bridge for mainstream developers to port over into the blockchain space, Ryle made it clear that Constellation isn’t unprecedented in the aspect of what toolkits we are trying to use, but rather, “we are unprecedented in the sense that we’re trying to solve a very narrowly scoped problem. We’re focusing heavily on the MapReduce aspect and using monads and other functional programming in Scala Concepts.”

Constellation – Consensus as a Service

During the interview, Wyatt shared the approach they took when dreaming up Constellation Labs, and how they leveraged their prior experience in creating scalable tech. “The approach we had was—we already build systems for the scalability side. We are also heavily into crypto, and we wanted to sort of take these things over and apply the stuff we learned for solving scalability problems and also use them for making scalable cryptocurrencies.” Wyatt went on to say that, “our approach to scalability was also a solution to that splitting protocols problem. That’s what we do. What we did was create this protocol for communicating across protocols.” By solving that, it allowed us to do MapReduce, and its like they were the same problem – one and the same. Tyler Prete, one of our Distributed Systems Engineers, added that by leveraging Java and Scala, “we can more easily integrate with these existing tools like Spark or Hadoop, because we can kind of be the connection point where blockchain needs MapReduce.”

At this point in the conversation, Ryle brought up the notion of focusing on Constellation as consensus as a service—“of trying to be that networking protocol layer between decentralized applications.” He went on to draw comparisons between us and Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service. “The same way that Amazon created S3 as its own service oriented around storage, we’re a service oriented around consensus network organization and reputation.”

To reiterate an earlier point, we’re not trying to focus on the contract language, because the contract language can be considered plug-and-play on top of a consensus player. As Ryle succinctly put it, “Our competitive edge is just focusing on consensus and reputation and big data at scale.”

The team made it clear throughout the interview that Constellation wants to integrate with as many other libraries as we can, and that they want it to be possible for code to be reused. “You should be able to run the same kind of code that does transaction processing in Spark, in Storm and even in Hadoop, and connect it to nodes also running off phones—that’s a very reasonable objective, but we can’t just do this in a vacuum,” said Ryle. By that, he means there are already standard ways of accomplishing this, and Constellation is trying to properly integrate with them.

While at the moment, you can’t really run Spark on a phone, Ryle admitted that “you can run a lot of the same libraries and code and have it very easy to connect to services that run Spark or Storm, or any of these other Hadoop-like services.” In closing, Ryle shared how the underlying problem that Constellation is tackling is very well stated:

We want these nodes running everywhere. We will also want them running on data centers. We want batch analytics to be possible on the data. We want to be able to run models to reputation and do analytics— all of that, the industry already has techniques for that, but they’re not being used.

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Constellation Update – Engineering, Airdrop 2 & Deep Dive into Testnet

Engineering Update

 

  1. Updated the Github readme with new instructions for building and running a constellation node. Going forward we’ll be supporting docker containers as our recommended way of running a node.
  2. Engineering spent several days planning roadmap for the next 6 months, and breaking down initiatives into sprint-sized tasks.

FAQ on upcoming Airdrop 2

 

Over 450,000 DAG were distributed in the last week of July during the first Orion Airdrop. If you registered for the KYC process, you’ve got tokens ready and waiting for you! Our next AirDrop is right around the corner. Registrants will receive an email on the 14th of August and will need to complete KYC by the 19th of August. In addition to the AirDrop 2 KYC email, we will be informing everyone of which AirDrop round they have been allocated.

To access your tokens, you’ll need to use the email address and wallet address you used to sign up for the Airdrop and KYC process.

If you’ve already got an Orion account registered with that email address, just log into Orion with that email address. You’ll see a new “Airdrop” tab in the sidebar where you can access your tokens.

If you’ve already got an Orion account but it’s registered with a different email than the one you used for the airdrop, you can still access your tokens. Just go to the “Settings” screen and change your email address to the one used in the Airdrop, and verify the email.

If you don’t have an Orion account, just sign up for a new account using that email address here. You’ll see the “Airdrop” tab appear at left.

Below, we’ve answered some common questions around the AirDrop process.

When will I see the new DAG appear in my wallet?

The tokens are currently in a six-month lockup period. At the end of the lockup period in early February, these tokens can be withdrawn to your wallet directly by going to the “Airdrop” tab in Orion and clicking the “withdraw DAG” button.

Can I use my airdropped DAG during the lockup period?

Yes! You can stake the airdropped tokens to register for an Orion account. Just go to the “Airdrop” tab and follow the instructions there to stake the airdropped DAG.

I already have a Developer or Community account, but I want to use my Airdropped DAG to register instead. How can I do this?

It’s easy. Just go to the “Settings” screen to downgrade your account to the free tier. Your originally-staked DAG will be returned to your original wallet. Now, go to the Airdrop tab and follow your instructions to stake your airdropped tokens.

Can I withdraw Airdropped tokens later, even if I use them to upgrade to a Developer account now?

Yes. Once the lockup period is complete, you can unstake the tokens and withdraw them.

Do I have to use the same wallet address I used when going through the KYC process?

Yes. Tokens have been airdropped against a specific wallet address

Testnet Overview

 

It’s been a week since we launched our code and Testnet. We recently sat down with the engineering team for a deeper dive into our code and visualization. Read the full story in our latest blog post, and watch the interview below:

Sincerely,

The Constellation Team

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Testnet Overview & Interview

This week, we’re celebrating our August 1st Testnet launch with a written overview and interview on the subject, featuring Brendan Playford (CEO), Wyatt Meldman-Floch (CTO), and Ryle Goehausen (VP of Engineering). Be sure to join the community on Telegram. Want even more from Constellation? Join our new Discord channel!

What is a testnet?

While we’ve witnessed a fair amount of cryptocurrencies that have either sloppily thrown together their testnet, or simply forked an existing technology, at Constellation we’re taking a more refined approach to actually testing our own technology. In the words of our VP of Engineering, Ryle Goehausen:

“We’re not just going to throw together a demo and something that minimally works. What we’re interested in is verifying that our code is actually correct, and that means fleshing out and defining what it means for our chain to be working properly.”

What can a developer expect from the Constellation Testnet?

The first release of the Constellation testnet can be likened to a pre-alpha, open source software release that runs on a variable release cycle. This means that it contains incremental iterations of testable code that can be used by technically-advanced users only. In regards to the testnet launch, here’s what our CTO Wyatt Meldman-Floch had to say: “We’re officially releasing all of our code, and everybody can finally see what we’ve cooked up! Through the actual testnet program that we’re doing with Orion, people who are interested in staking some DAG can start hosting the initial nodes.”

Our v0.1 testnet release (codenamed Spider after the first manned Apollo 9 mission), will allow skilled developers to review the core codebase, submit issues and pull requests, and start evaluating the codebase for future releases. In addition, developers will have the opportunity to earn DAG rewards for merged pull requests, squashing bugs, and solving other issues that will benefit future iterations of Constellation. This will only be available to members of the Developer tier in the Orion portal, who can apply to become initial node operators.

(If you’re an interested developer or Constellation fanatic, be sure to check out our recently launched Discord channel, where lots of deep dive conversations are happening. In addition, our codebase is now live on Github, so check it out!)

Ryle had this to add around how developers will be encouraged to dive into the testnet, and how Constellation wants to foster community adoption:

We’re going to have extensive documentation explaining how to do the most basic operations—sending transactions, starting a node, getting familiar with Constellation’s core development practices and life cycle. We really want to encourage and foster community adoption and ensure that developers can get their applications and code integrated from the very beginning with our APIs.”

You mentioned a visualization of the network. What do you mean by that?

Our network visualization is now live! Click here to witness our DAG transactions in action.

With this visualization, our goal is to break down a very abstract and technical concept with the idea of a DAG and make it simple to grasp. In the words of our CEO, Brendan Playford:

“I think this is really important from two aspects—one for the broader community, because it breaks down a very technical part of our architecture into something that’s easy to visualize and understand—and two, we want to prominently feature this notion of a block explorer for a DAG.”

What you’re looking at in the above graphic is essentially a visual demonstration of how the transactions were observed and how they were merged together with other transactions on Constellation. Another living example of DAG being sent and received can be seen below, which includes the corollary DAG wallet addresses and locations of the transacting parties.

Whereas other DAG companies don’t really show or explain how each piece of data is tied together, we wanted to demonstrate this visually because, in the words of Brendan, “once you see it, it makes sense intuitively as an understanding of why we’re trying to promote these sort of democratic principles of a network.”

Three Main Goals of the Testnet

Brendan breaks down the three main goals of the testnet as follows:

  1. Social Proof  “With the launch of our testnet, we’re really excited to provide our community with social proof of what we’ve been talking about for some time. The community has been really enthusiastic and engaged with what we’re building, and this is our chance to reciprocate the trust our community has instilled in our vision.” 

  2. Engage The Community Visually – “Once you’ve seen our network visualized, it becomes a lot more intuitive to see how these things work—the flow of transactions, the kind of ordering and topology that comes out of these different environments, and to understand how our network sort of dynamically responds when we’re doing simulated attacks—so being able to actually see all that happen live is going to be really critical.”

  3. Developer Engagement – We really want to start off with a few core outside developers that can run a permissioned node and start giving us feedback and getting to know the core team. We want to build that developer community around us, and start to get people to build in parallel, understanding what the underlying data structure is and how our API’s work. While it may not all be there to start with, getting people early access to that and opening up to the community is vital for the success of the project.”

Lastly, why should developers be excited about the testnet and the eventual launch of the mainnet?

One of the main reasons we feel that developers will be excited about working on Constellation is the simple fact that they should feel right at home, in terms of encountering familiar coding languages and programs that are typically missing in the Blockchain space.

Ryle echoed some of the positive sentiment from his developer peers who are thrilled to see Constellation building with tried and true tools: “I’ve told so many people who are in the Blockchain and Scala space [about Constellation] and they’re like “you’re using Akka and Cats and Algebird, this is exciting!” It’s really hard to encapsulate all that and find people working in these interesting libraries.”

Scala has become incredibly popular among functional programming and people trying to do higher-order mathematics and translate math research into actual code. Ryle also shared how one of the biggest selling points for developers is that “we’re utilizing Algebird and a lot of the libraries from Twitter and the MapReduce and SPARC and Scala community. I’ve worked with these libraries professionally in the past, and the opportunity to work on this in the crypto space is just very, very exciting.”

Wyatt went on to share his secret recipe for Blockchain success, which has been hiding in plain programming sight all along: “It’s pretty cool how the recipe to creating a clean code base and a legit blockchain was actually just functional programming principles.”

Ryle also shared his confusion around Ethereum’s intention to scale by integrating MapReduce, without actually utilizing any of MapReduce’s underlying frameworks. “It really surprises me how Ethereum has jumped all over this MapReduce train, yet Ethereum and others are trying to adopt techniques from MapReduce without actually using any of the languages, the libraries, the conventions or the common practices associated with MapReduce.”

While others are busy reinventing two things at the same time, we’re trying to reuse industry standard tools, libraries, and common conventions, making us much more appealing to mainstream developers. 

To close this out, Wyatt had this message to share with the community:

“It really means more than the world that there’s a lot of people out there who believe in this dream. As we’re finally opening things up with our testnet, honestly the greatest gift that we can ask for is for people to try and get involved. The most exciting thing on my horizon is to see the kind of people who come out from the developer community and try to submit some legit code and try to build their own chains using Constellation. I’m just really excited to see you guys step on out into action – welcome to the team.”

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Constellation Update – NY Fintech Week, Product, AirDrop & Testnet News

The community reaction to the launch of our codebase has been phenomenal. We’ve been flooded with questions, requests and offers to review our code across all our channels. We’re delighted with the response to the Engineering teams tireless work, and it’s been a highly satisfying few days post-launch. The debut of our code was coupled with the release of our testnet visualization, which has generated a wave of press and industry interest in only a matter of days. Keep those questions and ideas coming! Keep in mind that during this busy period it may take a bit more time for us to respond, but our dedicated team of community managers will get back to you. For AirDrop, press, event, and product news, read on….

Brion Product Update – Brion Hickey VP of Product

Aug 1st, 2018

This small push helped polish the end user experience across various funnels. We also added enhancements to the invite feature.

  • Added support email address on reset password screen to help surface issues.
  • Enabled end user to invite by email.  
  • Disable Unlink when signed up with a social account to enhance signup flow.

July 31st, 2018

We are thrilled to announce the initial AirDrop launched successfully. This is the 1st AirDrop of 6, and we found parts of the end user experience we can improve upon. This week, we focused on streamlining this experience to provide value to the end user.

  • We added front end validation for airdrop users to avoid invalid address.
  • There were many misspellings found. We fixed various typos to give additional clarity to visitors.
  • As we leverage MetaMask for various aspects of Orion, we changed the copy of the cancel Metamask transaction to match the Metamask UI.
  • We updated a few social auth designs. We did this for linking and unlinking of profile info and also on the settings page.

AirDrop Update:

Constellation’s 2nd AirDrop is approaching on August 14th.  Prior to this AirDrop, all registered members will receive an email notifying them which of the five remaining AirDrops they will be placed into, as well as a detailed FAQ on how to access your tokens and stake them on Orion. For further information on the AirDrop schedule, check out our blog post here.

Constellation at FinTech Week NY

The team was in New York for Fintech Week. Our COO Ben Jorgensen sat on a panel alongside Jack J. Bensimon of the Blockchain Exchange Commission, Dan Drees of AvidXchange, and AI and Blockchain Advisor, Yannis Kalfoglou,  speaking about “The Future of Financial Institutions”.

The panel touched on where financial institutions have implemented blockchain, AI, and payment tech successfully, but also where they need to improve. Panelists weighed in on the benefits of blockchain adoption—citing reduced costs, improved efficiency, increased liquidity, and enhanced security—as well as the obstacles of blockchain adoption, including technical hurdles, legal issues, the need for regulatory approval and managing a trade-off between short-term investments vs. long-term potential gains.

We’ll be releasing video content from the event in the near future, so be sure to keep an eye on our channels.

Media Mentions

This week, Altif Brown (CCO) and Emily Arth (VP of Operations) weighed in on Silicon Valley’s persisting diversity issues.

Emily quoted in NullTX

Altif in OurWeekly

Altif article on Blavity

Look out for more AirDrop news later this week. Until then, be sure to follow us on the following channels! 

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Sincerely,

The Constellation Team

Constellation Update – Testnet & More

Constellation is releasing its V1 base code next week. After a 5 month period of intensive development, we’re excited to share the engineering teams ground-breaking work, and we’re extremely proud of what they’ve achieved. That being said, the real work starts now as we iterate our next release and respond to the community feedback. We’d also like to thank the community for supporting us over these past few months, and in the words of our CTO Wyatt, “everybody can now see what we’ve been cooking up.” We can’t wait to hear your feedback, as we adapt and respond to your suggestions for V2.  

This code release begins the process which will lead up to a small network of nodes communicating with each other. The focus will be on extensively testing the core system functionality and handling potential node failure conditions/recovery logic. Basic transaction handling and validation is the primary goal, along with demonstrating some of the fundamental data structures, system architecture, and infrastructure. Core functional testing is paramount, along with stabilizing the release with regression tests. We encourage developers to dive into the code and set up local nodes, however, these initially will not be part of the Constellation network.

“With the launch of our testnet, we’re really excited to provide our community with social proof of what we’ve been talking about for some time. The community has been really enthusiastic and engaged with what we’re building, and this is our chance to reciprocate the trust our community has instilled in our vision.” – Brendan Playford, CEO

Alongside the debut of our code, the second aspect of the release is a basic visualization and UI of the network functioning. The idea is to breakdown the very technical architecture of our protocol in a clear and approachable way. This will consist of a map view of where nodes are functioning, a simple output for a permission node to see how they’re working within the network answering, where were the block/transaction was formed and how it was bundled with other transactions and data. We feel that current DAG projects do a poor job of visualizing the tech and explaining how each piece of data is tied to together. Over time, will be expanding the functionality of the visualization. We want to showcase the underlying democratic principles of the network, self-organizing, and constructed to reveal data which is representative of how nodes are behaving.

Engineering Update – Ryle Goehausen (VP of Engineering)

Below is a bullet point overview the engineerings team main focus for the week:

  • Progress on speeding up the downloader.
  • Substantial refactoring and code cleanup before release.
  • Fixed several crash conditions and node failure edge cases.
  • Finalized V2 schema for upcoming transition from directly representing graph sub-partitions to raw graph edges.
  • More work on isolating processing logic to more granular actor handlers.
  • Fix edge case on ancestry resolver causing stall condition.
  • Updated file handling library and pruned unnecessary dependencies.
  • Optimized cell handler to remove the redundant group by operations and added more sanity checks around data resolver and cleanup.
  • Added docker internal health check to the container.
  • Updated API client to scalaj instead of akka-http. More work on internal authentication around endpoints.
  • Added memoization of several calls including metrics rendering for dashboard.
  • Fixed memory issue around excessive bundle data. Updated bundle scoring functions to discourage stray chain formation.
  • Added JMX and debug ports for JVM profiling. Ran numerous performance tests and collected data for debugging purposes.
  • Parameter tuning around gossip, mempool handler, and cleanup functions.

Orion Update – Brion Hickey (VP of Product)

This week we focused on connecting 3rd party services to enhance registration, login, future rewards and more. There was also a concentration of work to support the Constellation Airdrop where end users can stake their tokens on the Orion portal. 
  • Github Login: Developers are now able to login/register via Github and link their account for future developer bounties.
  • LinkedIn and Twitter social account linkage. Users are able to add their accounts to participate in future rewards for twitting and sharing on LinkedIn topics regarding Constellation
  • Airdrop participants will be able to stake their tokens to participate on Orion and earn points that can be exchanged for DAG.
  • Discourse point rewards have been released. Get points for participating on our forum.

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Overview of the Orion Portal

This week, we’re diving into the Orion Portal with a brief introductory video and written overview, featuring Brion Hickey, our V.P of Product at Constellation Labs.  Make sure to join the community on Telegram.

So, what exactly is Orion?

The main function and value of the Orion Portal is to serve as a foundational source of information for all things Constellation Labs. Whether its support, marketing material, bounty campaigns, or developer documentation, it will all be living within Orion. We wanted to create a platform where the Constellation team can interact and share with developers and community members alike, while also giving our users a chance to be rewarded for their time and expertise.

In the words of Brion:

“This base enables a quick federation of content across all existing and emerging social streams and the ability for our end users to collaborate with each other. By providing a central but engaging base of information, the portal is useful in addressing various inquiries and allowing champions of our technology to earn DAG.”

When it comes to the types of content you can expect inside the Orion portal, essentially anything related to Constellation will live here –  be it advanced questions regarding our upcoming testnet launch, press and social media buzz, developer documentation, or app ideas. Our goal is to provide the tools and framework for the future of the decentralized internet, but the true power to shape and build it lies within the hands of the community at large. With the Orion portal, we’re inviting you to let us know what apps you want to see prioritized, or what AMA topic you’d like to see addressed next. Have some suggestions or feedback for our base code? Well, drop us a line! With Orion, our digital doors are always open.

Can you explain the tiered system for Orion?

Within the Orion Portal, we have three major tiers to address based on the number of tokens staked – Free, Community, and Developer. We realize that different users will have different needs, as someone who is an engineer will require a different subset of tools than a community member. The graphic below outlines the three tiers, as well as the main features of each.

By engaging with the Orion portal, end users will be able to earn $DAG tokens. One example of this is how we’re enabling users to earn $DAG is when they invite friends to join Orion. This is merely one example of many!

Brion had this to share on why Constellation choose this gated, three-tiered approach to membership:

“A tiered system allows our team to manage requests and app projects effectively. Gating enables us to build a successful and fully supported community.”

The portal features a simple reward scheme, whereby users will earn points by engaging on the platform, boosting their standing/clout in the community. These points can then be exchanged for $DAG tokens. Brion shared his thoughts on this, saying “this basic reward structure will create an organic hierarchy of moderators and encourage positive community behavior.”

How will Orion support the upcoming testnet launch?

With the launch of our testnet nearing, Orion will serve as the focal point for all information and documentation surrounding its launch. Our first major bounty campaign is currently live, and we’re on the hunt for our initial testnet node operators! If you have a technical, software developer backgroundfeel free to apply here to become a Constellation pioneer. The testnet node bounty post will be continually updated as we approach the launch.

In the words of Brion, “with the upcoming launch of our testnet, we’re already getting a lot of curiosity from our users. You can anticipate that as we get closer to launching our testnet, that most of the real-time information and updates about it will quickly be federated into the Orion portal.”

The ‘Developer Docs’ section will be updated with our base code once the testnet is fully live, which will allow the community to dive in and review, critique and add to our base code. We’re also very excited to reveal a graphic visualization of our testnet in operation, and once again, Orion will be the platform we’ll announce this on.

As we want the Orion Portal to be shaped by our community members, we also built in a “feature request” option. Brion breaks this all down below, and outlines how this will work:

“Ultimately, we realize that we have to really understand what the community is hungry for. We do have a “feature request” within the Orion portal that allows them to express to us what they’re curious about, and that gives us an opportunity where we can invent on their behalf. Instead of creating features off-the-cuff, we’re really inventing features that are going to be useful for our users.”

If you haven’t signed up for the Orion Portal yet, click here to take the leap and help shape the future of not only Constellation Labs, but the decentralized web itself.

 

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Why Developers Will Feel Right At Home When Building on Constellation

Let’s Face It — The Current Blockchain Landscape Simply Isn’t Friendly Enough For Developers.

Sign Up to the Orion Portal, Join us on Telegram and read on…

Before we dive into why we believe Constellation Labs will make your average developer feel warm and cozy inside when building on our platform, let’s take a look at some of the main obstacles currently existing in the blockchain development space.

Heavy criticism has been lobbied against blockchain developers and projects by those in the wider technology industry at large, mainly due to fundamental engineering issues not being addressed in the space, and not simply a result of cryptocurrencies inherent volatility.

Major enterprises are hesitant to jump in as well, with one of the contributing factors being a vast computer science language barrier. Ethereum’s Solidity doesn’t easily integrate with the existing industry standard protocols, and Bitcoin’s scripting language is highly restricted and isn’t scalable. We’ve also seen the limitations of Bitcoin’s once novel Proof-of-Work mechanism, which gobbles up vast quantities of energy, whereas Proof-of-Stake coins such as NEO and DASH can be seen as utilizing a protocol that just assigns money to trust, allowing the system to essentially be bought and controlled (EOS, cough, cough).

Ethereum and Solidity wanted to secure the Virtual Machine layer, but we already have powerful VM tools in Amazon Web Services and other Cloud Providers all going unused, while the blockchain heavyweights are busy porting over this and essentially creating an inferior copy that they can control, a term in the engineering space called the Inner Platform effect”. This is essentially a predatory approach to creating an eco-system, and is the opposite of what we’re building at Constellation.

In short, very sophisticated distributed system tools that we can take advantage of already exist, so we don’t need to change the game in that sense. The blockchain industry should stop trying to overcomplicate things, and we should utilize the functional distributed systems that already work. Let’s use the existing framework! Other protocols are trying to replicate them in their sandboxes, and are simply messing them up.

To some in the wider tech space, Bitcoin is viewed as nothing more than a linked list with some hash and a nonce, and not some beacon of technological ingenuity. This isn’t to bash either of these projects, as they’ve both gotten us this far — the point is to illustrate how much of a closed sandbox (especially from a developers perspective) that these projects truly are, and to highlight the main advantages for developers that can build on Constellations protocol, without any of the restrictions and bottlenecks of existing blockchain infrastructure.

To further illustrate this point, let’s take a look at a popular example that most will be familiar with — Apple. Steve Jobs, in all his genius, had a specific vision that he wanted to see out with his Apple products, which eventually resulted in the Apple landscape becoming an utterly closed system. Want to upgrade the RAM or hard drive space on your new MacBook, or customize it in any way similar to a PC? Good luck with that. Want to develop an app for their app store? Gotta get it past Apple first. Ethereum’s smart contracts operate in a similar manner, as potential developers are pigeonholed into using and learning Solidity and playing in the sandbox that Ethereum has set out for you.

Now that we’ve laid out some of the main issues developers face when trying to port over to the blockchain space, let’s dive into the three major advantages of building with our protocol.


Three Main Advantages of Building on Constellation

 

Familiarity — If you’re already a regular application developer, you’ve more than likely deployed an AWS, and you have all of these habits and routine usages from using programming languages like Python and JVM. At Constellation Labs, we’re focused on being language agnostic and are building our protocol with a set of existing programming languages and tools that your average developer is already familiar with. Among them, are JVM, Python, Akka, MapReduce, Algebird and Scala, as well as Spark. Each one of these are essentially applications of math in the machine learning and distributed systems space.

Instead of forcing you to learn an entirely new program like Solidity, we want blockchain to come to application developers. We recognize that there are existing standards in the developer space, so we’re creating this system in a way that developers would expect to use it.

Virtually any other protocol or coin out there requires an entirely new set of coding and developer skills in order to build upon it. We’ve had enough of this coding catastrophe. Constellation is giving developers the flexibility to essentially copy and paste existing code for their new blockchain applications utilizing our protocol. In addition, when you develop with us, you’re not just getting an ERC-20 token — you’re getting your own blockchain. We’re setting out to be the tool for building you’re own blockchain that will be interoperable within a greater ecosystem.

Freedom — Customers on Constellation have essentially complete freedom, as they aren’t locked into our platform in order to foster their development like they might be with Ethereum or Bitcoin’s specific coding languages (Solidity and Ivey, respectively). In our eyes, this approach is antithetical to creating a truly democratic platform. We recognize the fact that developers have spent years using a certain set of coding languages, and most won’t want to take the time to learn yet another. To reiterate this point, here’s what our VP of Engineering, Ryle Goehausen, had to share:

“It’s much easier to deal with developers working in the same codebase and platform, so we’re targeting JVM at first, and then Python developers. From the beginning, we’re trying to make things agnostic as possible, and the most features [on Constellation] will be available on these languages.”

We want people to be able to use and integrate blockchain technology without having to rewrite their entire project specific to some particular blockchain. Developers will have the freedom to move their code around, and leverage their existing knowledge base and apply it to the blockchain landscape.

In addition, we’re not afraid of people trying to fork our code, and in fact, if people fork our code and create their own project, we’d be excited about that! We want modularity and new development. It’s not about locking people down. We want people to build on top of this and build nearly whatever they want.

Scalability and Reputation — As we touched upon earlier, POS is a reputation model that just assigns money to trust, and we want reputation to be one of the big focuses of our project. We believe that there is a better way to do consensus that doesn’t have these vulnerabilities, and so people can’t just buy into and rig the system. Let’s take a look at a quick example that shows the limitations of this approach:

  • Say you’re a small application blockchain developer and building a POS coin. Theoretically, a competitor can come in with more money, buy up your stakes and in the process, sink your coin and destroy all of your work.

If you have POS coins, you’re essentially saying it has to be the most centralized coin possible, and in order to foster development, you have this competitive aspect where people are basically betting money against each other.

With Constellation, we’re not about just having one singular DAG- based blockchain that’s stable, but we’re going to be supporting thousands of independent blockchains and blockchain developers. We’re creating a safe and secure environment for both the little guys and enterprises alike to come and build. To summarize this all in the words of our CTO, Wyatt Meldman-Floch:


We want to allow for people to create a true internet of blockchains by proposing a new way of doing consensus/scaling and interoperating between chains. We’re tailor-made for those who really want to build an application and own their own chain, and create a utility token that solves an actual purpose. So, are you ready to build?  Dive into the Orion Portal, which will allow developers and community members to earn tokens for contributing to our community in a wide variety of ways. You can also register to host a Testnet Node here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this piece, so feel free to leave a comment below, or reach out to us on any of the following social channels.

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Constellation Update – Recent Press, Content, AMA & Orion Updates

Hi Constellation Community,

With our recent KuCoin listing and Testnet announcement, we’ve experienced a flood of international press across CCN, Bitcoinist, Cointelegraph among many others.  If you haven’t kept a close eye on our social channels, we’ve collated some of the highlights below alongside an opinion piece by our very own Ryle on China’s mining crisis and a recent AMA with Brendan, Wyatt, and Ryle. This weeks press momentum coincided with our first of six community AirDrops and updates to our developer portal Orion. Read on for more…

What to expect from the Constellation Testnet

 

 

 

 

 

With the term ‘testnet’ being used to mean a plethora of things in the blockchain space, we felt it was very important to set clear expectations of what to expect in our upcoming first release of the Constellation testnet in  August, 2018. So, without further ado, here is the lowdown.