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Dispatch Labs CTO Zane Witherspoon Explains How His Platform Created an Innovative Incubator Model

Dispatch is a platform promising zero transaction fees and a speed of tens of thousands of transactions per second (TPS). Is this platform a theoretical pipedream or worth a look? Find out more in this exclusive Merkle interview with Zane Witherspoon, co-founder and CTO of Dispatch Labs.

The Merkle: Can you tell us briefly about Dispatch Labs and how you got involved?

Zane Witherspoon: Dispatch Labs is a new chain built as a platform for data-driven DApps.

I was organizing the San Francisco Ethereum meetups when I met Matt McGraw and Patrick Wickstrom for the first time. We started talking about an idea of theirs for royalty leakage tracking using blockchain. It was probably the most boring thing you could do with such a new and exciting technology. We kept in touch, and started thinking about music. I’m a musician and Matt and I both have many artist friends, making us very familiar with the problems of artists and distribution costs.

We set out to make a content marketplace built on the blockchain, empowering artists to distribute their own music without middlemen taking a cut [of] their profits and bringing music to consumers for less. When we looked at platforms, we realized no blockchain could handle this quantity of data. That’s when we started working on building an underlying protocol and [it’s] how Dispatch Labs was born. A platform with speeds robust enough to support streaming music also had many other possible uses: AI, IoT, machine learning, streaming video, health records and data transfer, and more.

Both Matt and Patrick saw the bigger picture faster than I did, and as we built the platform, they brought up the idea of a consultancy. Patrick had spent years as a consultant at [PricewaterhouseCoopers] and Matt had helped many startups find major success, and [they] wanted to bring in people we could support as a consultancy and also introduce to our platform. I was so against it at first, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. We ended up forming a governing organization called The Bureau with Constellation Labs, a DAG protocol based on reusable smart contracts.

The Bureau became our innovation hub and governing organization, and our underlying protocols, Dispatch Labs and Constellation became the spokes. The Bureau lets us work with interesting blockchain projects, [supporting] their success as startups. In this structure, the Bureau builds out our connections, Constellation’s DAG works well at data intake, and Dispatch powers data collection and processing.

The Bureau at work inside Dispatch Labs’ San Francisco office

The Merkle: What kinds of partnerships does Dispatch have for getting new users and businesses on its platform? I saw you recently partnered with Utopi, offering a streaming video service.

Witherspoon: While we’re pretty blockchain-agnostic as far as how our Bureau clients develop their projects, many of them are excited to build on Dispatch because of the resources we can provide them and the influence they can have in the development of the protocol.

Nanovision is putting open medical data on the blockchain. This shared data would help to bring faster FDA approval for new prescription drugs. Nanovision also partnered with ARM processors to offer nanochip devices that could store your personal molecular health data on Dispatch.

Bucket seeks to remove coins from the fiat economy. Metal change like coins create a wasteful transportation cycle for companies to cash out at banks, and coin counter machines take a huge cut of consumers’ money for their service. 

The Merkle: You came up with a unique protocol known as Delegated Asynchronous Proof of Stake. How is this different from traditional Proof of Stake, and why was it necessary?

Witherspoon: Traditional blockchains have a hard cap [on the number of] transactions per second. This means the number of transactions is always limited by the number of blocks per second and the number of transactions per block. DAGs are one solution, but they are hindered by the shared quantity of data needed to be stored. DAGs like Nano and IOTA require you to keep a copy of the chain, meaning each individual has their own chain and keeps track of everyone else’s transaction.

Our solution was to apply a hybrid decentralized solution like Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS), with a smaller quorum of elected validators, to a DAG structure to prevent bottlenecking like we see on traditional blockchains. We DAG-ized DPoS, removing the TPS bottleneck. In Delegated Asynchronous Proof of Stake (DAPoS), the bottleneck becomes the validators themselves. So as validator algorithms and hardware get better, the TPS of the network can scale up with them.

The Merkle: What kind of security auditing are you doing to make sure the Dispatch platform works as intended?

Witherspoon: One of the markers of [the] immaturity of [the] crypto space is there’s virtually no Quality Assurance (QA) on any crypto project. We have a dedicated QA team in our engineering department focused on testing our product. We hired a team of brothers, Dennis and Dimitri Molchanenko, who invented Redwood HQ, one of the most popular QA frameworks used by the US Department of Defense and others. We’re working on our own QA, and trying to encourage the rest of the crypto community to start thinking about it early on in projects as well. We’re also planning on [having] outside code auditing closer to launch.

The Merkle: What’s the most exciting thing about working on new protocols and projects in crypto right now?

Witherspoon: I get to talk about technology and business a lot, but one of the things I’ve learned as a 21 year old CTO [is that] the tech is one thing, but so much of the time it’s the energy of people that’s the magic behind something. I know my career is young, and I constantly feel amazed and blessed to be on the founding team I am, and that Matt and Patrick have taken me under their wing. I love these guys.

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Technical

Search and Trade Directly with AirSwap: A Merkle Exclusive with Co-Founder Don Mosites

AirSwap launched last week, enabling more than a million dollars in trades on day one. Offering a way for buyers and sellers to find each other and trade directly, AirSwap isn’t like traditional or decentralized exchanges. Find out more about AirSwap in our exclusive interview with co-founder Don Mosites.

The Merkle: Hi Don, thanks for speaking with us. I first reached out to you when I was writing a piece on eBits (DEXs), and you told me that AirSwap isn’t a DEX because it’s more of a discovery service for peer-to-peer trading. How would you describe AirSwap?

Don Mosites: Thanks for having me. Yes, we don’t see AirSwap as a DEX. We believe the concept of “exchange” itself is already decentralized on the blockchain between peers. Our system lets those peers find each other and make trades directly. So technically, we’re more of a marketplace, and our platform is powered by search.

The Merkle: Could you give some background on why AirSwap is set up differently from DEXs and traditional order book setups?

Don Mosites: When my friend and co-founder Michael Oved first connected to the Ethereum community, he began to apply his experience in algorithmic trading and electronic markets to figure out decentralized trading designs. His early research revealed some limitations of decentralized order books.

Order books evolved as fast and predictable systems that prioritize and execute orders. Decentralizing this process creates a difficult coordination problem. Last year, 0x created a protocol for “relayers” to decentralize order books, which still faced race conditions, front running, and having to pay for cancels, which is a non-starter for market makers.

Seeing this, we opted to instead focus on peer-to-peer, in the spirit of the original Bitcoin white paper. With AirSwap, all three components of trade are decentralized: custody, execution, and settlement. We simply provide a peer discovery service called an Indexer, which looks and feels like a bulletin board with a search engine.

The Merkle: What are the advantages of this setup?

Don Mosites: First, AirSwap can scale with the growing token economy as market makers come online and trade more and more assets, and because trades are peer-to-peer, there are no fees on those transactions. As for pricing, given that we’re built for market makers, spreads will be tighter and you’ll see pricing comparable to centralized systems as more makers come online.

The Merkle: There are so many DEXs and centralized exchanges available today, where do you see AirSwap in all this? How do you stack up against competitors like 0x OTC and Radar Relay?

Don Mosites: We bring security, efficiency, and better pricing to decentralized trade. Just opening the platform last week, over $1 million of trades were made through the marketplace, and we had an incredibly positive community response. AirSwap offers more efficient trading and does not suffer the limitations of decentralized order books as mentioned before. Users are always in control of their assets and make trades directly, peer to peer. Because trades are direct between peers, there’s less friction, and pricing will be better than alternatives, even comparable to centralized systems.

The Merkle: What are some of the security measures you’ve taken to ensure that AirSwap is reliable for users? Are you doing any outside code auditing or other forms of security measures?

Don Mosites: We had two independent auditors look at our smart contracts available on our GitHub. We’re also confident in our security posture because we don’t handle users’ funds or settle trades. That all happens on-chain, between individuals, using smart contracts.

The Merkle: What’s the number one piece of advice you’d offer to new investors in the space?

Don Mosites: Pick up a hardware wallet, because dealing in keystore files and private keys on your own is dangerous. Decentralization means security is in your hands, so you need to be very careful about how you control your assets.

The Merkle: Where do you see blockchain technology heading in the long term? What do you think will be the effects?

Don Mosites: This is a huge question, but where we can have an impact is in the reduction of expensive and fragile trust systems of exchange, replacing them with new ways for people around the world to safely transact without intermediaries.

The Merkle: What motivates the AirSwap team to create projects in this emerging market?

Don Mosites: So much about what we’re doing is powerful in how it makes us feel. As technologists, it’s incredible to put these tools to work and see a positive impact. There’s a real chance to make the world a safer and more efficient place to trade, and we think the power of that is yet to be seen.

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Technical

Hollywood Producer Andrea Iervolino Launches TaTaTu, a Blockchain-Powered Social Entertainment Platform

Since music and film became digitized, both the RPAA and Hollywood have fallen victim to a multitude of platforms that have come into existence, making content freely available and accessible to people across the world, driving down profits and revenue streams.

But, with blockchain technology, there may finally be a means by which to harmonize the digital age with the entertainment space, ensuring that content creators are protected and that brands and companies receive a fair distribution of revenues from production and content distribution.

In the hopes of balancing the equation, Hollywood producer Andrea Iervolino is launching a new blockchain-based platform, TaTaTu, that intertwines social media activity with entertainment viewing. TaTaTu is a global and social entertainment platform through which users receive rewards for watching movies, sports, gaming, and other forms of content, as well as from their friends’ viewing.

Recognized for films like End of Watch, ApocalyptoThe Merchant of Venice, and Machete, Iervolino hopes to bring Hollywood to the blockchain by integrating a 360-degree entertainment platform that ensures secure digital rights records, as well as the fair distribution of advertising revenue between users and content providers.

As the co-founder of AMBI Media Group, a multinational consortium of vertically integrated film development, production, finance and distribution companies, Iervolino’s vision is to develop a nurturing community of dedicated and engaged users who watch and create videos that can then be shared with friends and members of the community.

Harmonizing The Scale

Users

Thanks to blockchain technology, users will finally be rewarded for their social entertainment activity in an open and decentralized way – earning tokens to watch movies and other content for free, and receiving additional tokens from the movies and the content consumed by their friends.

Users can engage with their friends and be rewarded for their social media relationships by receiving digital tokens for views generated by both themselves and their friends. Token holders will also take active part in shaping the future of the platform, with the ability to vote on which content the platform should provide in a fully transparent and decentralized way.

Content Owners

The industry is no stranger to piracy and illegal downloading. Well, finally, content creators no longer have to worry about not being compensated fairly – or at all – for their work, because platforms like TaTaTu will monetize every piece of content based on effective user consumption and real-time views, providing for transparency and real-time financial reporting.

“Social networks and entertainment platforms are making huge profits by gathering data from their users and selling it to other corporations without rewarding their users,” says Iervolino. “There is a need for a platform that provides higher levels of transparency to their users, brands, and rights holders about the revenues generated and monetization of users. Audiences need free, legal and quality content with a simple user experience.”

Most content-based platform business models are centered around the idea that users need to pay for their content, which encourages users to find alternative, more cost-effective routes, ending up in the illegal marketplace (e.g., torrents and the dark web). “Well, no more, because TaTaTu is listening to the marketplace and adapting—giving free access to content and taking it one step further by rewarding users with an automatic monetization system,” says the Hollywood producer.

Brands

Advertisers can target specific audiences by placing their ads on a reliable platform with premium content. Brands get access to very detailed information about their audience. All user profiles are verified, and all the views and engagement metrics are accurate.

Encryption and Transparency

Thanks to its blockchain, TaTaTu can record each transaction in an open and incorruptible distributed ledger, ensuring that users and content providers get rewarded. A digital rights management platform will ensure that all talent, distributors, and studios have an accurate record of their work recorded and secured on the blockchain, reducing the percentage of piracy throughout the industry.

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The Blockchain Economy Is the Result of Political and Social Realities: An Interview with James Haft of CryptoOracle

There’s a strong sense of community in crypto, whether it’s troubleshooting wallet setup, collaborating on GitHub, or answering the questions of interested and skeptical friends. All of these daily interactions happen on a micro level and are mostly about making money. James Haft, co-founder of New York-based CryptoOracle, is a modern-day Rousseau, focused on blockchain technology’s role in reshaping economies and society. In this exclusive interview, we’ll get into the philosophical motivations behind decentralization and its impact.

The Merkle: Hi James, can you tell us a little bit about CryptoOracle?

James Haft: In October 2017, Lou Kerner and I formed CryptoOracle, building on our shared belief that crypto will have a huge impact on mankind. When I say crypto, I’m really talking about distributed ledger technology (DLT) and the decentralization of communications. The new crypto economy will change the world’s social and political landscape for the better.

CryptoOracle is a three-pronged business: fund management, community building, and strategic advisory. Our fund is raising $100 million to focus on the platforms, protocols and exchanges needed to support the decentralized economy. Communities are how we stay in touch with the best and brightest people, gain access to ideas and opportunities, drive interest in this fund, and promote learning. For example, we founded Crypto Mondays as a weekly Meetup event in NYC in the second week of 2018. Now, CryptoMondays has grown into a weekly event in 15+ cities around the world. We recently launched CryptoTuesdays for the Social Good, held on the first Tuesday of each month in NYC, and we’ve hosted conferences including BlockFin at LendIt to an audience of over 4,000 people in San Francisco this April. Lastly, we have a high-level advisory business for founders and stakeholders looking to leverage projects in the crypto economy. Many – not all – of these clients are doing ICOs, and we help them form the teams and communities necessary to execute their mission[s] on a large scale.

The Merkle: Your mission statement brings up “the largest accumulation and redistribution of wealth the world has ever seen.” Where do you see this wealth redistributing, and what do you think the effects will be?

James Haft: We see crypto as a political and social movement driving economic opportunity. While many people come to the space asking about bitcoin pricing and what cryptocurrencies to buy, to us that’s the tail of the dog.

Our society is overly centralized. Everything we do flows through third parties who are “trusted”. The government, banks, Facebook, Equifax, et cetera guard their own interests over the interests of paying consumers. We have become their product and do not have control over our own information.

The reality of our loss of control over our own data and identity affects the way we treat each other as human beings, and that’s evidenced by the political realm in the US and other countries. The people causing the divisiveness aren’t the problem, but rather a symptom.

The validity of media is now questionable, and it has become more apparent that politicians aren’t protecting our interests. There’s an obvious incongruity between what we’re being told and what must be true. The challenge here is to learn to discern the hidden agenda delivered as “facts” and to re-train ourselves to support systems which encourage veracity and accountability.

Media tell us information to affect the way we think rather than provid[e] facts to allow us to come to our own conclusion. The pendulum has shifted so far, we feel bombarded by a lack of truth and feel a need to protect ourselves. Once you realize information isn’t given to you as “facts” but as someone else’s purpose, it becomes obvious we need to learn and take action.

Decentralization, as represented by blockchain technology and the decentralized ledger, is all about the reversal of the pendulum, changing from a system where we have a “trusted party” in the middle treating us like products, to maintaining our own data and communication. What we need is a society where people can trust each other directly and no longer have to rely on middlemen who filter truth and knowledge through black box filters.

The community building around decentralization comes from our need as humans to return to peer-to-peer relationships. We are at an important crossroad. There’s never been an asset or accumulation of wealth that’s grown in 12 months at the rate or size that cryptocurrency represents. We have created over $400 billion in value, distributed globally over an 18 month period. This has never happened before in the history of mankind. It is not surprising that existing governments and economic institutions are not sure how to respond.

The Merkle: It sounds like some of your big goals around blockchain would lend themselves to a decentralized governance model. What do you think about those types of projects?

James Haft: I’m an advisor to democracy.earth, and I believe their vision will help decentralize and create peer-to-peer relationships. Having an “identity” is one concept needed in a decentralized economy as a way of having a voice and being counted in voting rather than surrendering it to a machine. I believe in the decentralization and democratization of the vote, and this is a big work in progress. Governments need to fulfill the needs of their population[s] over time, and blockchain gives the people a way [to] make their voices heard.

The Merkle: Despite crypto’s ability to unite people around the world, there’s still hacks, phishing scams, and massive amounts of energy waste as part of the blockchain ecosystem today. These problems put people’s livelihoods at risk as well as pollute. What do you say to this?

James Haft: I view the world as fractals; everything represents everything else. The crypto world is just like all the other marketplaces where we communicate and transact business. When you talk about fraud and bad actors, the common element between activities is that humans all participate and there will always be some people who cut corners or don’t respect the social contract. DLT may offer us a better platform for dealing with this by using open-source code and relying on the wisdom of the crowd.

We’ve been desensitized and taught that centralized methods are the only way to safely do things, and that banks, lawyers, and intermediate companies are protecting our best interests. The reality is these institutions have their own agendas and have been proven not to be trustworthy, either through fraud, intent, or just negligence. Historically, we deal one on one with these monoliths, and either sign their agreements or go away. Decentralization and open-source knowledge sharing allow for crowd-sourced intelligence to identify and correct bad actors and errors, putting the power back in our hands.

The Merkle: Sounds like you’re a big advocate for open source, but what about patented algorithms?

James Haft: I think right now there’s some need for all types of platforms. We are in a transitory period where we need some compromises as we move from centralized to decentralized platforms. In the long run, the open-sourced, crowd-sourced concept will pervade the market as people exercise their power to decide what platforms to use, and there will always be some niche need for patented and centralized platforms and protocols.

The Merkle: What advice do you have for early investors when considering ICOs and new crypto investments?

James Haft: First, buy a small position of something – start with an amount of money you’re willing to lose. Get a wallet and learn how to change fiat cash into cryptocurrency. You’re likely to start with some Bitcoin or Ether, and trade it into a token that’s interesting to you with social or political upside. By investing money, whether you make gains or losses, you’ll get your first taste of investing in crypto and can figure out from there if this environment suits you.

I advise everyone to go through this process, as a basis for gaining an understanding. Most of us don’t have time to manage crypto trades all day, so if you’re making a decision to invest a serious amount of money and will still have another occupation, I advise you [to] buy into an index fund of top coins. This gives direct exposure to the market and fund in equity and early stage opportunities, taking advantage of the structures coming to market that afford liquidity through tokenization.

The Merkle: In general, where do you see crypto evolving?

James Haft: I see the evolution both in terms of liquidity and technology. A big issue today is that the US government’s views and plans for cryptocurrencies is unclear. I see this market developing outside of the US, leaving us behind, if securities and liquidity regulations don’t get figured out. Our government needs to be true to their word and show us they want the capital here by clearly defining the rules and regulations they require and opening trading to maintain our leadership in the capital markets; otherwise, the innovation and growth will take place elsewhere. As of today, the higher-quality opportunities are being exclusively offered outside the US because of our regulations.  

The Merkle: What are some innovations in the space or projects you’re excited about?

James Haft: It’s still really early. As humans, we overestimate the short-run impact of technology and underestimate the long-run impact. This is known as Amara’s law. People think they missed the boat on Bitcoin or think crypto isn’t going to last because of the current volatility. Long-term, I think Bitcoin will be remembered as the first example of a distributed ledger which worked and gained critical mass, and, possibly, not something financially or technologically important. We need faster, more flexible forms of consensus building. Even Ethereum, [despite being] a brilliant step in the right direction, may still be just a footnote.

There’s already technologies that form consensus on smaller blocks of data with more reliability, and zero-knowledge proof platforms that allow consensus without sharing private information. I’m also interested in the concept of identity and personality for how we transact using decentralized modalities as an innovation that leads to opportunities.

The Merkle: How have the new SAFT frameworks affected your decision-making? What will their impact be on the industry over time?

James Haft: The SAFT is a temporary band-aid for an artificial problem that will go away within the next 12 months. The SEC is choked up about the differences between security and utility tokens and how to place and trade them. These issues are based upon the government’s paralysis in understanding how tokens actually work. We’re not big fans of SAFTs, but CryptoOracle is participating in some of these offerings, as it’s the only way we can participate in some of the new projects.

The Merkle: What’s the question you wish someone would ask you in an interview but hasn’t? What would your answer be?

James Haft: Actually you asked it, and you gave me the opportunity to cover what’s important to me. Can we discuss the questions I do not enjoy instead? “Is it a bubble?” “How much will Bitcoin or Ethereum be worth?” These questions confuse cause and effect and distract from the complex societal issues we need to discuss more openly, such as the causes of, and opportunities generated by, the political and social impact of decentralization.

*

PHOTO: CryptoOracle founders Lou Kerner (left) and James Haft (right).

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