Constellation Partners with The Blockchain University

Constellation Labs is excited to announce our partnership with The Blockchain University. With over 1,500 certified developers, they boast one of the worlds largest certified blockchain communities in the world. Here’s what The Blockchain University’s CEO and Co-Founder, Sahil Parekh, had to say on the partnership: “Building the Web 3.0 starts with quality blockchain education working alongside quality partners, and we’re excited to work with Constellation on this initiative to grow and educate the community on their up and coming distributed security protocol.”

Biomimicry in Blockchain: How Constellation’s Design Is Based On Natural Systems

This piece is largely based off an interview I had with our CTO, Wyatt Meldman-Floch, where we took a deep dive into what inspired him to create Constellation, and more specifically, what fuels his underlying engineering ethos based around integrating natural law. Enjoy!

In our interview, we covered everything from thermoeconomics and dendrograms, the origins of Constellation and the universe, to DaVinci and Dutch string theorists and everything in between, so please forgive me while I attempt to properly formulate a jump off point for this quantum roller-coaster ride inside the mind of Wyatt.

The bulk of this piece is meant to illustrate how Constellation’s network can be compared to existing complex structures in nature. Wyatt breaks down how he approaches Constellation’s architecture by taking inspiration from and in some cases, mimicking, natural orders. Read on to find out how this approach is revolutionary and unlike any other approach in the blockchain space.

Constellation’s Inspiration

 

Constellation was spawned in part from many deep talks that Wyatt and Ryle would have after a days work during their time together at Radius, hanging out around the E-Trade building in downtown San Francisco. They were working in the midst of the big data boom, and they’d spend a lot of time discussing how they’d ideally envision things being done differently in the big data space.

Wyatt had also created a program called Big Fish, Little Fish, where nodes would host data and merge data like a little fish getting eaten by a big fish, whereby the big fish would represent increasingly trusted data points which had a greater idea of the network’s state. The creation of this program served as a sign of things to come:

“We spent a lot of time looking at patterns within primitives. If you’re looking at planet earth, it would be chemicals. If you’re looking on the internet, it would be points of data (the chemicals and data being the primitives) and looking at patterns in between them. That’s sort of how we started forming the ideas that would later become Constellation.”

Fields Medal winner Stephen Smale

Wyatt cited many mathematical geniuses as sources of inspiration for Constellation. From Fields Medal winners (which is essentially the Nobel Prize equivalent for Mathematicians) Stephan Smale, who did pioneering work in the 60’s tying Partial Differential Equations (PDEs) to economic markets and Alexander Grothendieck, to Dutch String Theorist and Nobel Prize winner Gerard’t Hooft. Maurice Herily, a Professor Emeritus at Brown, was also cited as a significant influence for Wyatt. “Herily analytically modeled distributed systems and proposed that we treat distributed systems in the same way we treat particle systems,” said Wyatt. All of these theorists, thinkers, and academics influenced Wyatt and the engineering team’s approach regarding the structure of Constellation.

If Herily could be seen as putting the “math on paper,” the creators of Twitter’s Algebird library for creating data models based on abstract algebra could be seen as turning that “math on paper” into “math on code.” Wyatt cited them as his modern-day engineering inspirations, saying “I’m really inspired by algebraic data types and projects like Cats and Algebird which extend the use of abstract algebra to create data structures that allow data processing to be reasoned about like a math problem.”

Taking all the influences into account, with Constellation, Wyatt and Ryle wanted to do things a bit differently than what was happening in the big data space.

Taking Cues From Nature – Entropy, Biomimicry & Thermoeconomics

 

Reverse engineering at it’s finest

Before we dive into the technicalities of how natural law is built intoConstellations tech, I asked Wyatt what inspired him to turn to nature for inspiration in the first place. “Often, it’s easier to try and reverse engineer a solution to a problemthan to start from scratch. We do this in programming every day. Fortunately, in many situations, we can see anomalies in nature, be it biochemistry or physics, which give us clues to the underlying structures that make solutions work.  The inspiration for most people who come up with new paradigms of understanding, like pure mathematicians, often comes from reasoning about natural phenomenon independent of existing frameworks.”

One aspect of natural law that is heavily featured in Constellation’s approach is thermoeconomics. For those who aren’t familiar (don’t worry, I wasn’t either) with this field, it’s a school of thought that maintains that human economic systems can be modeled as thermodynamic systems. Wyatt primarily integrated this in regards to thinking about the underlying utility of our utility token, $DAG. “I spent a lot of time thinking about what the ‘utility’ of a ‘utility token’ was, and it seemed to me that the utility of a token was actually the quantization of a good or service that the token represented. If that were the case then what is the underlying value of any cryptocurrency? It certainly has something to do with ensuring the validity of data.”

How can you communicate an exchange of value without an intermediary? In our society, that intermediary typically comes in the form of money, but in nature and physics, that unit is typically entropy. Wyatt thinks entropy (as it is a topologically invariant measure) is indicative of an underlying homotopy type hierarchy that the universe follows with regards to scaling. This notion is codified into Constellation as the underlying connective thread that ultimately normalizes the network’s data, allowing all processes to speak the same language. Speaking to this point, he described how this plays out in the network itself:

“Let’s model the actual dynamics of our distributed system based upon these physical and economic laws. It allows us to directly connect every operation that a network does directly to a unit of value. Every operation of a network, not just every unit of data, can be stored and maintained. People who care about the validity of their data, who care about encryption and privacy and using a blockchain, who want that provenance over their data… they care about whether it is true or not, and how we achieved that conclusion. If every bit of data that leads up to that conclusion is based on entropy, then you can build a model on that. You can normalize the data, and then you have all different processes speaking the same language. The same way an ecosystem or an economy communicates.”

Davinci’s flying machine sketch

In Wyatt’s presentation at De:Centralize 2018 (linked below), he said: “If you want to solve a problem, the smartest thing you can do is just copy what nature did.” The popularized term for this notion is biomimicry,  which is defined as the “imitation of the models, systems, and elements of nature for the purpose of solving complex human problems.” A famous example of biomimicry can be seen in Davinci’s early sketches of a flying machine (as seen above), based upon his observations of birds. I asked Wyatt to follow up with some other examples of how this is evident in the architecture of Constellation, and he shared several other fascinating parallels.

“Constellation’s network topology resembles a scale-free network. This structure pops up in the natural ecosystem or the cosmos (correlation does not imply causation, but the universe looks like a dendrogram, so does a neuron and a tree, etc.) because they are systems that are continuously applying some sort of optimization rule, typically based in the reduction of entropy. It’s an optimization problem that acts effectively like a balancing act. In the same way that plants and animals die, are reborn and transmuted into different forms of energy, our network needs to autonomously reorganize itself, like an ecosystem adapting to climate change.”

We see this same resilient autonomous pattern play out in modern day economics, as major corporations die out, get bought up or get swallowed whole by a different entity. “That’s why people model economics after thermodynamics, because it’s just like nature,” said Wyatt. In regards to Constellation’s Proof of Reputable Observation protocol, which assigns a reputation-based score to nodes based on prior accuracy, validity, and trust, Wyatt once again looked at nature for inspiration. “If you’re creating disorder within the greater system, the system will self- correct you and put you in your place to find its equilibrium.”

In Wyatt’s eyes, each blockchain protocol can be viewed as a different species, and with Constellation, he envisions the network serving as a baseline “pollinator” for any potential use case. “Bitcoin is like the crocodile, that has existed since the time of dinosaurs. We want to be like a pigeon—the most common, adaptable species that flourishes and finds utility in any ecosystem. Alternatively, we want to be the bees, something that helps to pollinate all potential use cases and be that underlying infrastructure.”

Fractal-ly Speaking…

 

In Wyatt’s presentation mentioned above, two notions popped up a fair amount — Homotopy Types and the dendrogram structure of a hierarchical DAG, which minimizes entropy in a system. I asked Wyatt for a layman’s breakdown of how these concepts appear in nature, and how they each factor into the design of Constellation.

John von Neumann, AZ Quotes

He started by sharing the work of the foremost mathematician of the early 20th century, von Neumann, who essentially came up with the basis for Constellation’s dynamic partitioning scheme a long time ago. Wyatt, take it away:

“What that question asks is ‘how can we model higher dimensional spaces that generates something abstract like a fractal?’ Without getting too into it, the methods used in fractal geometry (what pure mathematicians use to understand recursive, self-similar structures [like a hylo/metamorphism]) are primarily focused on something called measure theory, which is important, but they don’t translate explicitly to non-linear structures in programming like the f-algebra of a recursion scheme.”

What Wyatt and the engineering team did was extend that idea to something called Homotopy Type theory, which is how they think about the structure of data and processes in functional programming. In Wyatt’s words, “there’s this thing called the Curry-Howard Correspondence which ensures that a ‘Typed’ program is actually a proof. In this regard, by implementing these ideas with functional methods, we can assume that our code implements a model like something from continuous geometry.”

Illustration of the close-packing of equal spheres in both hcp (left) and fcc (right) lattices via Wikipedia

Why on earth would we want to have a fractal structure like this? According to Wyatt, “it’s because fractals have special space preserving properties which help us embed (store) information efficiently, and storing information efficiently is at the root of how we approach scalability.” A 2D fractal is a way to infinitely put information in a space and pack it in there, and this fractal structure is what allows Constellation to create an infinitely unbounded space to pack data into.

Constellation’s logo itself echoes this notion as the solution of closest packing of spheres (a hexagon) represents what we’re trying to do, which is “expand the closest packing of all information in all dimensions.”

I followed this up by asking Wyatt about the fractal nature of Constellation’s DAG, and if any other existing DAG based protocols, such as IOTA, are designed with a similarly fractal nature in mind. “Holochain is close, but Holochain is built for API level servers, nothing more, nothing less. Constellation is built for everything. We want to be the glue to connect the bottom line with something as slow and store-valuey as Bitcoin.” For a more thorough breakdown of how Constellation’s hylochain differs from the likes of a typical blockchain or other DAG protocols, check out the infographic below.

Constellation (via SpecRationality)

Conclusion

 

Hopefully, you’ve just gleaned a telescopic look inside the mind of Wyatt and the origins of Constellation, and how much of its underlying architecture is inspired by biomimicry. I hope this piece fully conveys how unique Constellation’s architecture truly is while giving you some further insight into Wyatt’s inspiration for creating Constellation.

Until next time,

Anthony

 

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Trends from the Trenches

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…

That famous intro from the Tale of Two Cities feels like quite a fitting metaphor for the up and down nature of the blockchain space. While I’ve only been riding this roller coaster and working in the industry for just over a year (which automatically certifies me as a blockchain expert), I’ve witnessed many fluctuations and trends both rise and fall in the space.  For this piece, I thought it’d be interesting to sum up the major trends I’ve seen develop throughout 2018 while observing how Constellation fits into some of them. I’ll be drawing from both personal experiences and citing online resources along the way. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

The Emergence of Blockchain Consortiums

 

Over the past year, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of blockchain consortiums in existence. I think the space as a whole has realized that the only way we’re going to solve the lingering issues of scalability and widespread adoption is by working together (as cheesy as that may sound), and stepping outside of our individual blockchain boxes or silos. Per a recent article on this trend by Deloitte, A recent study counted some 61 blockchain consortia across a dozen industries globally—significant growth versus the prior year.” Blockchain consortia are groups of companies that come together with the joint purpose of advancing shared objectives, which might include “defining use cases, setting standards, developing infrastructure and applications, and operating a blockchain network.”

To take a moment to toot our own horn, Constellation has been extremely active on this front as of late, as we’ve become members of both the HyperLedger and MOBI consortiums. To further cite the relevance of consortiums, HyperLedger, and the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, just announced their collaboration last week, with the goal of “accelerating the adoption of blockchain technologies for businesses.” With the rise of blockchain focused consortiums has also come an increased level of accountability and professionalism. Here’s what our CMO Zac Russell had to say on the subject: 

teamOver the past few months, the rise of consortiums and collaborative groups signals the realization that protocols and projects can’t work in isolation.  It’s early days, and weneed to share knowledge, resources and ultimately create integrations across platforms. This is the only way the industry will be able to scale and deliver on the promises and hype of 2017.

 

VC Investment Up, ICO Funding Down

 

2018 has seen a drastic rise in VC funding, while traditional ICO funding has plummeted 90% since the start of the year. Per a report from the blockchain research group Diar, VC investment in blockchain and crypto through the first three quarters of the year totals at $3.9 billion — up a staggering 280% from 2017. On the flip side, traditional ICO fundraising has been on a steady decline since raising $2.4 billion in the month of January, with only $300 million raised in all of September.

VC investment in blockchain/crypto (Source: Diar/Pitchbook)

What’s the reason for this sudden flip-flop in funding models?

Diar points to the overall market correction that plummeted token values, and left companies seeking an alternative model of fundraising, one that is also much more regulatorily compliant.

“Non-equity ICOs are not only scrutinized by the regulators but the founders also have very misaligned incentives as there is no contractual obligation to deliver a product – a reality that to date seems to be the case with few launches, and even less adoption. The amount that was raised through ICOs, as well as the number of projects successfully completing an ICO, is now approaching a one year low.”

Our COO Ben Jorgensen penned a recent article that echoed a similar sentiment, calling for a more mature and balanced fundraising approach that embraces both the VC and traditional cryptocurrency investor worlds:

A new era in cryptocurrency is upon us, and it will include participation and insight by both institutional and cryptocurrency investors, while ultimately requiring blockchain technology companies and the applications built on existing technologies to behave like mini-IPO’s being accountable to a myriad of personas from tech enthusiasts, crypto communities, users and enterprise organizations, and investors.”

Regulation Flirtation

 

Regulation has been another hot topic item throughout the past year. In comparison with more progressive countries such as Malta and Gibraltar, I think it’s fair to say that the U.S regulatory efforts have been quite lackluster up until this point. While we’ve seen a handful of states take some slightly progressive stances (hooray, you can pay your taxes in Bitcoin in a few years!), on the whole, it’s been a muddled and confusing effort from Uncle Sam. All the alphabet agencies seem to have differing opinions on how to classify cryptocurrencies, as the SEC, the CFTC, the FEDs, and the IRS can’t come to a consensus on crypto. Here’s what the billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper had to say on the matter:

“I did not anticipate that the regulators would put a dark cloud over all this innovation. I had hoped that there would be some clear simple rules and we could then get on with it. But I guess there are a lot of old-school banking lobbyists trying to cling to the status quo. Years from now, governments will be judged by how well they manage this transition from fiat to crypto.”

To avoid picking on just the U.S here, they aren’t the only ones who can’t make up their minds. China, Korea, Russia, and the EU all have varying and dizzying takes on crypto regulation. I would love to see the U.S be a bit more proactive and become regulatory trailblazers, but time will tell.

In regards to governments who are managing this transition in a more pro-crypto way, let’s take a look at the tiny nations making big moves, Gibraltar and Malta. On July 5th, the Maltese Parliment passed 3 bills into law and became the first country in the world to provide clear and official regulations for those working in the blockchain and DLT space. Shortly before these laws were passed, Binance announced that they were moving their entire headquarters to Malta, prompting the birth of the nickname “The Blockchain Island” for Malta.

Why are these relatively tiny island nations paving the way for progressive crypto regulation? One Maltese official for Digital Economy Innovation, Silvio Schembri, made a great point to this regard. While the major nations are busy worrying about how to regulate the financial gains from cryptocurrencies, he outlined how Malta is more focused on the long-term development of the underlying technologies:

“We are not looking at short-term gains here, but rather at the long-term evolution of blockchain and DLT technology. For example, if we think about an issuance of an ICO, operators typically present a white paper with the ICO details. While other jurisdictions are looking at the white paper to see if it’s certified, it’s the technology behind that white paper that implements what is written. Currently, no one is looking at the technology. That is something that we are doing differently,” said Schembri.

This isn’t to say that there is no hope for the U.S to make haste and come to some sort of consensus on how to regulate the industry. Just as recently as September 25th, over 50 industry leaders convened in Congress for a roundtable discussion to address many of the unsolved regulatory issues. One of the chief complaints echoed by various participants was the notion that the 72-year-old Howey Test should not be the measuring stick to determine whether or not a cryptocurrency is a security. The SEC has already declared that they don’t intend on changing security laws to cater to crypto, so it remains to be seen what actually shakes out from all of this. To sum this all up, here’s what Coinbase’s Chief Policy Officer Mike Lempres had to say on the subject: We all want a fair and orderly market, we want all the same things regulators do. It doesn’t have to be done in the same way it was done in the past, and we need to be open to that.” Amen, brother.


Hungry Bears and the Year of (f)Utility

 

Let’s start off by killing two birds with one token (see what I did there?) and get the crypto markets price decline out of the way first, along with the hyped up notion of 2018 being the “Year of Utility”. As Coindesk and others optimistically declared towards the end of 2017, 2018 was to be the year when we’d “see tokens that provide true utility float to the top.The general hope was that all the upward momentum and hype that the industry generated would roll over into the following year, and businesses and consumers alike would actually be utilizing dApps and integrating these blockchain projects into reality, while we’d simultaneously shift out of the speculative money-hungry nature of the crypto craze. This hasn’t exactly played out.

doge-laden market cap guide to 2018

As illustrated by the handy Doge-laden graph I’ve made above, we’ve been ensnared in a nearly 10-month long bear market ever since the bulls went running wild last through last Fall and Winter. Ethereum and other big name tokens are all currently sitting around their lowest valuations of the year, and it’s anyone’s guess as to where things go from here. While this sharp drop-off probably lost a lot of new investors some hard-earned dinero and shook out a lot of shitcoins, I don’t think this decline in the total market cap is all that worrisome.

graph via Chris McCann

Many have correlated these early days of crypto-adoption to the early days of the internet, and I think that’s a fair assessment. As seen in the above graph, we’re right on track with the early days of the internet in terms of user growth and adoption, and I expect that trend to continue to follow suit. When I first stumbled down the crypto rabbit hole around a year ago, I was quite high on the notion that all of these new and disruptive (don’t you just love that word?), world-changing projects would be usable within the comings months of the year. I thought my life would be more decentralized by now, and that my brain would be uploaded on to the blockchain and I’d be eating bitcoin for breakfast. Fast forward to the present, and I’ve come to realize how nascent this tech still is, and how long it actually takes to frickin’ code the future.

This year hasn’t exactly seen the predicted rise of utility-driven companies and tokens either. It’s been more of a year of futility rather than utility. A year of failing ICO’s and floundering shitcoins,  and confusing regulatory guidelines. Personally, I see the bear market as a sign of maturity, not just in the sense of shaking out those who dreamed of riding ICO’s and random token investments to the moon and beyond — but in the sense that it’s forced those within the industry to focus more on the things that actually matter — which is driving adoption, building usable and scalable tech, while letting the market figure itself out. Despite the bear market, companies and enterprises alike have started to band together in order to hasten the development and adoption of DLT tech (namely in the form of the aforementioned rise of consortiums).

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Our Vision for Distributed Ledger Technology

In this piece, we’re going to dive into the overarching vision fueling Constellation, while using our CTO Wyatt Meldman-Floch and our V.P of Engineering Ryle Goehausen’s rousing talk from TechCrunch as source material. We’ll address the current limitations existing in the distributed ledger space, and how our approach differs. If you haven’t had a chance to check out their presentation from the event, give it a watch below.

First off, what are the current limitations?

Let’s start at the beginning with a quick breakdown of DAG technology and a recap of the origins of blockchain technology. Blockchain technology, as it currently stands, allows you to secure digital transactions on a ledger (Bitcoin) and then moved into securing digital contracts (ETH). Now, we’re finally trying to solve the problem of applications, which not many of the existing technologies can do. One of the main issues with existing blockchain infrastructure is that they just don’t work at scale, and aren’t ready to handle the massive scaling demands at the enterprise level. The issue of scalability is another that we’re strongly focused on solving.

Alongside the likes of HyperLedger (who we recently partnered up with), InterLedger, Cosmos, and Parity, Constellation shares a similar complaint regarding how Ethereum is skewing more towards an excessive amount of centrality. “Plenty of people have talked about Ethereum moving towards too much centrality, and this is probably due in part with how much money and attention they have raised, they’re trying to push the bar past what Bitcoin can actually offer,” said Ryle.

Ethereum and other protocols lock you into their “centralized sandbox,” where different networks cannot connect, and you’re forced into using their coding language. Some other common blockchain limitations are resource waste, redundant work, and running application code over and over. Ryle went on to share how, as it currently stands, “you can’t really host a modern application on Ethereum. You can serve a website, but you couldn’t really serve a scalable database. It wouldn’t work. These networks can’t connect. You’re locked into that abstraction… there is no throughput to speak of.”

Enterprises already expect this level of functionality and fluidity in the computing infrastructure space, and it would make sense for them to expect to see a similar shift happen in the blockchain space before diving in head first. “Everybody is coming into [blockchain] expecting it to be like it developing on AWS, and it’s just not – it doesn’t work that way right now,” said Ryle.

“You can’t have competing VMs. You can’t have competing execution providers. You can’t deal with people who don’t want to run code from other people, as every node needs to run all of the applications,” said Ryle. In addition, what incentive do you really have to build an application on one of these protocols, when all you’re ultimately doing is enriching the creators of that protocol?

“This is unfair, and it avoids all of the issues of integrating properly and building a community if all of the value is driven into the protocol.”

Ryle went on to mention how with double spend attacks, “any miner who has enough power can instantly destroy” a smaller network. “Anyone with enough stake can manipulate their markets and the consensus models don’t reinforce one another.” These types of consensus models are also highly anti-entrepreneurial. “You can’t start your own network. You have to go to a large provider. If you have a new idea, you have to do what they say. You can’t just create a network and try and integrate it with something, because they don’t trade resources fairly. There is nothing that allows these networks to trade security with one another, and reinforce each other fairly,” per Ryle.

To reiterate, the issue with these larger protocols is that they have to run all of the applications inside of them. They lack application separations and boundaries between them, which also creates data management concerns. How do we solve this issue? It all comes down to the notion of consensus as a service. “The way to abstract over this is to focus on isolating out consensus in and of itself as a service, and focusing on the performance of that because that happens anyways in the regular ecosystem.”

Constellation’s Solution

 

While Constellation ’s solution is based around the use of DAGs (directed acyclic graphs), we would slightly rephrase this argument as it being nonlinear.  “If you’re talking about consensus across networks, there are not necessarily linear relationships. It’s coarse, it’s granular. It’s graph-like in nature, and they’re globally distributed networks. Each application has its own unique access pattern for data dependencies and all these other issues. The huge thing here that doesn’t get talked about is if you create a small network, it’s not going to be secure.”

“Consensus as a service” underpins Constellation’s approach. As Ryle puts it, “there should be a proper boundary created so that you could use varying VM’S or contract languages that might be suited to different platforms — like running on a cell phone, running in the cloud, running on a home computer — these are all different heterogeneous environments.”

Ryle went on to add some further context as to how Constellation is taking a unique “open-sandbox” approach, especially in comparison to Ethereum:

“In simplest terms possible, Ethereum does not support forks of itself. We want to have people re-use our code to build their application-specific networks and then integrate with ours, which is a different model. Under Ethereum, they set the rules for you to play in a sandbox. You don’t get to mess with Ethereum’s core code. With us, we allow you to extend your application as a ‘custom version of Ethereum’ and provide a mechanism for integrating it with our core network.”

While a number of other protocols have taken on so much ground and make such lofty claims that they can’t solve anything practical at all, we want to avoid that trap altogether. Rather than promising to “revolutionize and disrupt” all the worlds issues, we’d rather focus on solving consensus at scale.

As Ryle succinctly puts it, “if you can solve consensus at scale, there are any number of plug-and-play components that you can incorporate from other projects which is far more interesting from a decentralization perspective. We’re interested in networks reinforcing one another rather than dictating what you have to do.”

When you pare down what blockchain is, it’s a way of securing updates to a global database. When it comes to enterprise-grade adoption, the space as a whole isn’t ready for that leap, but in the meantime, we can look towards AWS as an ideal role model in terms of having an enterprise-grade security standard. Ryle went on to say how AWS’s security model doesn’t enforce security to the degree that it forces you into only using specific solutions, but rather, it’s designed to empower all sorts of different solutions. “AWS does not have a completely unified platform where you have to do everything a particular way – they offer plugins and customizations to developers”.

Ryle went on to share how he’s noticed a considerable problem in platformization, and by that he means how there is an underlying centralization trend among decentralized networks, saying “as they become larger, they become more centralized – this is crazy.” In our view, it’s more important to focus on disparate networks and to integrate different types of networks and microservices as an approach. Also, when more nodes and actors join our network, we become more decentralized as opposed to more centralized, simply by the inherent nature of our DAG infrastructure and our reputation based consensus model.

PoW vs. PoS vs. Constellation’s reputation model

 

Lastly, let’s examine some of the fundamental differences between the two main consensus models being utilized in blockchain right now – Proof of Work (PoW) and Proof of Stake (PoS). With PoW, the origins of this can be found in anti-spam for email. “It would be the death by a thousand cuts, where if you sent out a large amount of computation – it becomes cost prohibitive to spam a large number of people,” said Ryle. PoW was originally intended only to be used in a small, rate limiting capacity, and double-spend attacks regularly occur on smaller networks. “These double spends are in the news all the time on smaller networks. It doesn’t work. It’s a known vulnerability.”

Proof of Stake, while it addressed the wastefulness issue, it still has vulnerabilities. Smaller networks can still be easily attacked, and in terms of governance, it’s fundamentally anti-democratic. “We don’t run the world by trusting people just because they have money, right? That’s not Democratic. That’s not a governance solution. And this goes beyond just invalidating individual transactions and having penalties. It’s more about the governance of the entire protocol itself. You can’t rely solely on buying votes, that would be considered absurd in the real world,” said Ryle.

Regarding Constellation’s novel reputation based consensus approach, trust and reputation scoring is already conventional throughout society. “This is credit scores. This is auditing, this is accounting, finance – this is considered normal.” Although this notion is prevalent throughout society at large, there has yet to be a strong evolution in this and it hasn’t been codified properly into digital form. Our approach allows for an enormous amount of machine learning that can be done, that enables truly democratic governance. “Who are the people involved in these things? Where are their IPs coming from, all sorts of off- chain data that can be integrated very very quickly and easily – so far that really hasn’t happened,” per Ryle.

As it stands, there is still a massive level of ignorance about what happens in the code publishing process and who actually governs the project itself. “All of these steps require trust and they just they just ignore it completely. We need to go towards Democratic governance, not buying votes,” according to Ryle.

To sum it all up, the current blockchain solutions just aren’t ready to scale, and their underlying consensus models are vulnerable to attacks and are anti-democratic in nature. With Constellation, we’re aiming to create this notion of consensus as a service, while also solving the main issues of scaling for enterprise use and creating a truly democratic governance model. We’re excited to bring this vision to life, so be sure to continue to follow our journey at any of the links below!

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Ambassador Program Overview

For this piece, I sat down with our VP of Business Development, Benjamin Diggles. He provided a thorough overview of Constellation’s recently launched Ambassador Program – from why we started it, how to get involved, the overarching goals of the program, and who some of our notable ambassadors are currently.

While our engineering team is hard at work building out our 3rd generation DLT tech, we recognized a void in the space — namely, a clear understanding of the underlying technology itself, alongside definitions of real-world use-cases are often sparse and misleading. Rather than idly sitting on the sidelines or waiting for the next “bull-run,” or for someone else to carry the proverbial torch, we saw an opportunity to step up and become educational leaders in the space, especially when it comes to bridging the ever-widening gap between existing industries and enterprises that are looking at the blockchain realm with a hefty dose of skepticism and confusion. We feel that many sectors will lean on their advisors and core collectives to guide them through this new paradigm, and we aim to play a vital role in that discussion.

By launching and scaling our Global Ambassador Network, Constellation will be able to extend its reach into core industries to capture the minds of those looking to assimilate blockchain into their solution workflows. Our goal is to position, promote and strengthen the Constellation solution with flagship partners in industries that will accelerate positive net new node growth. 

Without further ado, let’s dive into the interview! Everything that follows in quotations will be the wise words of the sage Benjamin Diggles. 

Benjamin Diggles (right) hosting a Constellation Labs MeetUp in Portland, OR.

First off, what is the Ambassador Program all about?

“So the reason we created the Ambassador Program is that a company of our size cannot currently scale into specific markets. So for us to foster ambassadors within a particular region or market, it gives us the ability to tap into those different regions and market opportunities with an expertise that is outside of our core competency. 

A good example would be: I am not a mobility or automotive specialist by any means, but that’s a robust industry that we want to get into. We have an ambassador based out of Germany (Sebastian Spitzer) that provides us with a lens to get into those types of conversations and be able to help us with our knowledge in addressing those sectors. 

The point of that is by getting into those types of projects and opportunities; those groups get exposure to what we’re doing as a technology, where otherwise they would likely be ignorant.”

Below is a more detailed list of some of the Program Objectives :

  • Establish world-class positioning and representation through strategic partners in regions and industries aligned with our core vision 
  • Grow and strengthen the value of the Constellation token by building confidence in the market through the quality and focus of our partnership projects
  • Nurture a partner program of consistency that rewards those involved in scaling Constellation’s impact on the market 

What do we aim to accomplish with this program? What are some of the primary industries or sectors that we’re targeting regarding our ambassadors? 

“The real goal is scale. We don’t want to have 5,000 employees across the globe. It just doesn’t make any sense. So our goal is to scale the Constellation solution into the minds and markets around various parts of the world that we currently would not be able to access.

What we’re looking to accomplish is very simple — find people who are really passionate and very excited about what’s happening in distributed ledger technology and the blockchain space and crypto — anything that kind of touches this ecosystem that we’re playing with. Then, to take that excitement and move it over into introductions for either enterprise projects, consortiums or foundations that are looking for that same level of excitement around this space. From there, we can get involved in discussions that will accelerate not only our technology, but will give us visibility into use cases to better help us tune our approach to the market.”

Who would be an ideal ambassador? 

“What’s great about the program is that it’s not just exclusive for those that are highly senior in distributed ledger technology. We can work with people who are rather junior or new to it. I feel that excitement and the ability to have a vision of possibility and some aptitude within blockchain is the perfect type of person we’re looking for. So I have people who are fully on board that are teaching curriculums on distributed ledger technology. Clearly, that’s a very senior and poignant type of ambassador. 

Also, we have others that are maybe just focused on retail distribution in China, for example, so they’re very industry focused with a small understanding of distributed ledger technology, but they have a lot of excitement, and so they’re willing to learn and wanting to promote it.

So those that are looking for a way to get involved in a project early are those that we’re aiming for. Or those that have that calling inside of them saying, “I’m really passionate about what’s happening and curious about blockchain technology, and I think I can contribute and want to get involved.” Those are the types. So naturally, the goal is to identify the strategic type of ambassadors — the ones that become almost core to the team, that we’re communicating with on a weekly basis and having strong initiatives to see through that we can measure.”

Who are some of our notable early Ambassadors?

Sebastian Spitzer

“Our program just launched (check out our site for more info on how to join)so a lot of these were early adopters if you will. Sebastian Spitzer, (whom I mentioned earlier), is based out of Germany and is focused on the automotive and mobility sectors. He already secured us a membership with the MOBI distributed Ledger technology consortium, which also involves the World Economic Forum, Bosch, GM, the Linux Foundation – some of those truly great brands. So having him as a proxy to shepherd us into that consortium is quite powerful.  

List of partners in MOBI consortia
(left) Ray Hatoyama, Ben Jorgenson (right)

Another good example would be Ray Hatoyama, who is based out of Japan. He’s the former CEO of Hello Kitty. To have somebody of that caliber who sees the promise of our vision and raises their hand up and says, “I want to carry the torch, and I’m going to get behind you guys,” is a tremendous validation for us. It shows that somebody with that sort of prowess can see the promise of what we’re doing. He has tons of experience in the cross-section of the I.T and entertainment industry. So he’s going to actively help us with that global corporate governance and innovation aspect. 

Ratul Saha

Ratul Saha is another main ambassador, who is based out of India, and he also covers relationships within Singapore. He has a Ph.D. in computer science from NUS in Singapore and has a full background a distributed system technology. Having somebody like him that is at the tip of the spear of this sort of technology movement, but also has a strong connection to the education system and the education peer review people within Singapore and India is a massive win for us. So it shows that somebody of that caliber is kind of is hard to come by, so we’re really fortunate to have him.

Jacob Mullins
Julian Jung

On the more crypto influence or venture/investment side, we have Julian Jung, who is focusing on being a crypto ambassador for us based out of Boston, as well as Jacob Mullins, who’s based out of San Francisco and is a Partner with Shasta Ventures. So having these guys help us navigate the markets and how we position ourselves from kind of that crypto go-to-market and governance perspective is crucial. 

Then the last one I’ll mention here is Sunil Daluvoy, and he’s a business development ambassador based out San Francisco. He has deep roots with the SaaS industry, and he’s already gotten us partnerships with brands such as Hyperledger.

So I hope this helps paint the picture of how individuals with real excitement who understand this space and see the opportunity are, in a way, helping us pro bono to open up doors because they believe in what we’re doing and they want to be a part of the story.”

Sunil Daluvoy

What does success look like from the Ambassador Program?

“I think success would be for us to be revered in the market as a trusted partner that is consistently contributing value to the space. And so that might look like us being an open door for validating use cases, finding out what the market viability of those use cases may be, and attaching you to the right solutions and different partners that want to build on us or others. Ideally, maybe find funding or guidance on their approach. That to me is the success — can we look at projects that have gone from early inception all the way to deployment? If we’re rich in that aspect, then the Ambassador Program is doing well. If we’re just spinning our wheels talking about possibility, then we’re just like everyone else in my opinion.”

What inspired Constellation to create this Ambassador Program and take this more novel approach? 

I don’t think it’s that we wanted to do things our way because things weren’t getting done [in the space as a whole], but we’re just going to do things our way because that’s who we are as a company. We’re actually going to do it the way we think is the right way and what that means is true, real enterprise adoption — that to me is what makes us different. I just think about how do we make this real? That’s it. And I think the Ambassador Program can accelerate us into making this real in the market in a significant way.”

What can people expect to see in the coming months?

“So we just launched our Ambassador Program as far as the intake is concerned, and we’re open for applicants between now and next coming weeks. From there, I’ll start to reach out to those applicants, and I’m working on a certification process which will help them truly understand our technology in the context of the broader marketplace. This will ensure that we feel confident that when they’re going out and spreading our message (or hopefully attaching us to new opportunities), they’ll be in alignment with who we are, and I want them to have pride in that.

So the certification process will be rolling out in the comings months. We’re going to be doing monthly webinar talks, which will feature all of our ambassadors and give us an opportunity to further flesh out our use cases. We’ll also have an in-person ambassador meet up. I want to spend as much time with these people in person as possible because we want to treat them as if they’re our own, and we want to make them rock stars. We highly value our ambassadors, and we want them to feel genuinely valued. It’s all about, how do we collaborate, how do we build trust? And how do we have a cadence that everybody feels like they’re not overwhelmed by, but instead feel fulfilled.”

How can people learn more, and whats the best way to become a strategic piece of the Constellation team?

“The first step is merely going to our website and signing up for the Ambassador Program, staying on top of our Telegram, and generally staying in the loop. 

Outside of that, my main encouragement to people (and this is just general advice outside of even Constellation) is to start to think about where does distributed ledger technology really fit and is it viable? What are the use cases? What’s the possibility? I feel like this market is really focused on high-level stuff — such as, we’re going to “revolutionize autonomous cars” and all this [abstract] stuff that’s years away. The question is, what’s going to be impacted tomorrow, and what does that look like? 

So that to me is something I want to foster within this group. If somebody can get their brain thinking in that process before starting certification or getting involved in the ambassador program, then they’re already going to have a leg up because that’s in the theme of what we’ll be doing on a consistent basis.”

Any last words?

“I guess the only other thing is that I’m a fun guy and I want to have fun. I want to make it fun. I want people to feel like this is a celebration, versus this looming need to scatter and figure stuff out. I want this to be creative and freeing, and I really want to celebrate the people that bring great value to the table. I want to make them rock stars, and kind of allow Constellation to be the hidden giant behind the scene. Let us work on our technology, and let’s make everybody else shine.

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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 layer. 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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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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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.

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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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