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Author Topic: Innovation in the alt chains  (Read 5503 times)
DeathAndTaxes
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Gerald Davis


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December 30, 2011, 04:59:38 PM
 #61

While I generally agree with your sentiment, I take issue with a few of the details. Satoshi is an interesting case in that he clearly thought out many of the advanced use cases of bitcoin, and took baby steps toward implementing/enabling them before releasing the client into the wild. As an example, all of the contracts/scripting code was not necessary for bitcoin to do what bitcoin did at launch, and indeed some features were clearly untested as they did not work as advertised. However Satoshi was either very rushed or not a very competent programmer by industry standards, and that shows up in his code. Much of the work Gavin and others have done is just in cleaning up that mess.

What does "not a very competent programmer by industry standards" mean?
Tight coupling between UI and core (somewhat reduced with 0.5), Horrible OO design in parts, data members being public in lots of places instead of having accessors, sometimes outright WTF-worthy approaches to doing things. I wouldn't say incompetent, just lazy/messy.

The tight coupling is "bad" but acceptable for a proof of concept.  However IMHO today the daemon and client should be two completely different projects.  Sadly the legacy of that tight coupling is w/ us today and it increases the innovation and development cost.

I was working on a high security smartcard key manager (private keys would never exist outside of smart card).  The tight coupling between the satoshi client and the daemon would have required massive rewrites to accommodate a wallet w/o private keys.  Far more than I was capable of willing to do.  Not only the work now but any breaking change to the daemon or wallet would require never ending modification.  No thanks.

I have recently revived the idea using electrum.  Since the "server" (essentially just a remote copy of daemon) can be completely decoupled from the client I can write a custom client which talks to electrum server.  This server could be running locally to provide "fat client" functionality.  It is a step in the right direction but results in a lot of work duplication.
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December 30, 2011, 06:14:24 PM
 #62

The tight coupling is "bad" but acceptable for a proof of concept.  However IMHO today the daemon and client should be two completely different projects.  Sadly the legacy of that tight coupling is w/ us today and it increases the innovation and development cost.
Indeed, I understand it can be troublesome later, but at least it prevents BTC from being headless like NMC...

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December 31, 2011, 04:59:33 AM
 #63

ArtForz hits my main complaints. As I said, either very rushed or not very competent. Given that we don't know the facts I'll be polite and assume it was the former. Maybe he really rushed to meet that new years deadline three years ago.

It'd be more fun if you'd assume the latter so that I can ask this question: if an incompetent programmer writes a piece of software in which "entire classes of security bugs are missing" (according to Kaminsky) then what does that say about your conception of programming competency?  Or, is it the case that Gavin et al crushed whole classes of security bugs that were in Satoshi's early clients?
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December 31, 2011, 05:49:01 AM
 #64

... once we we saw that bitcoin solved our problem we wondered what else it could do. And lo and behold, just about everywhere we look, in every industry (even--especially--outside of tech and finance) there are low hanging fruit ready to be optimized or made obsolete by the introduction of products based on bitcoin P2P technology.

... I am convinced that without exaggeration bitcoin is the most disruptive technology to emerge since the World Wide Web. Just not for the reasons most on this forum probably think.

This, in spades.

Blockchains seem as if they ought to be just the kind of thing that robust distributed storage systems should be good media for. Like GNUnet, Freenet, stuff like that. Systems that let the data reside in a decentralised cloud...

I don't mean a berkely-DB version of a blockchain though, I mean the blocks, retrievable by hash, height, addresses and so on.

-MarkM-

That sounds like an arbitrary size payload for a decentralized wallet. The data volume would probably be unwieldy, though.

What I've noticed so far is a singular focus on monetary and technical aspects. That's all well and good, just somewhat limiting in regard to applicability of the whole concept.

The Bitcoin community seems to have finally come down from its honeymoon high and is regaining credibility. Awareness is the first hurdle, then a thorough understanding of what the blockchain is. Finally, the ideas start flying as to how it can be applied elsewhere. The real power, when abstracted to the blockchain's raw potential, is the system's capability of self-management.

I think innovation will come when either academia takes notice and/or when private, commercial interests pick up the ball and run with it (which seems to be the situation with maaku). That does seem to be picking up, two-guys-in-a-garage style, but still mostly focused on financial aspects. The concept can be made general, like the wheel - it just has to build up that gradually-accelerating adoption cycle.

Namecoin appears to be the most innovative so far, although there are plenty of applications involving resource management that could be handled by a blockchain system. I've been pushing the potential for blockchains effectively being applied as decision machines, similar to the threshold trigger of an action potential. That could form the foundation of a machine memory/intelligence at a larger scale and in a completely different class than existing paradigms. Difficulties in starting that lie with incentive for participation and logistic overhead - feasible at experimental scales but not workable in the global setting that Bitcoin can support yet (due to financial incentive).

The more freedoms and privacy are eradicated by central authorities, the greater the incentive to explore other options. It's only a matter of time before further dots are connected - 2012 will be more impressive than the last couple of years, I'm sure.
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January 06, 2012, 04:14:01 PM
 #65

It looks like it is premature to waste time "innovating", we should first just clone as many identical chains as merged mining can practically handle, get them all up to difficulty matching bitcoin's and only *then* worry about which ones to make which changes to to develop various innovations or changes.

Until we actually have a whole string of secure chains to innovate with, speculation as to what innovations might prove good is kind of moot. First lets actually secure some chains. If we can do that, fine, we can look into varying them from each other. If we can't its a doomed route anyway.

Most of the people who were looking forward to merged mining as a proof that innovation might have some chance of having a point or usefulness are seeing so far that, sorry, merged mining is no help, any attempt to innovate is going to have to wait until some other way of solving the terrorist / religious fanatic / mad bomber attack scenarios before there is any point wasting thought on it.

-MarkM-

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January 06, 2012, 04:51:17 PM
 #66

It looks like it is premature to waste time "innovating", we should first just clone as many identical chains as merged mining can practically handle, get them all up to difficulty matching bitcoin's and only *then* worry about which ones to make which changes to to develop various innovations or changes.

Until we actually have a whole strign of secure chains to innovate with, speculation as to what innovations might prove good is kind of moot. First lets actually secure some chains. If we can do that, fine, we can look into varying them from each other. If we can't its a doomed route anyway.

Most of the people who were looking forward to merged mining as a proof that innovation might have some chance of having a point or usefulness are seeing so far that, sorry, merged mining is no help, any attempt to innovate is going to have to wait until some other way of solving the terrorist / religious fanatic / mad bomber attack scenarios before there is any point wasting thought on it.

People who didn't do their work in secret have been told that simply going merged had these kinds of risks.  It is not everyone elses fault that you didn't talk to people or realize this for yourself.

Merged mining namecoin has worked out really well, because namecoin already had value— the economics were different.

You could achieve acceptable security in a new merged mining chain at its valuless birth in quite a few ways... off the top of my head:

* Pre-announce it and build excitement well in advance, convince people of its values, make sure it scratches their itches— and then when it switches on there will be a lot of people supporting it and it will be well decentralized.  (Litecoin did a bit of this, but it could be better done than that)

— but doing this will require some real value from the start.  Beating the bitcoin developers out of the gate in deploying new functionality they invented and coded probably won't cut it.

* Start with an initially high difficulty, so that the system doesn't do much (and thus can't be attacked much) until it has a reasonable amount of decentralization.   (bitcoin itself did this, though it could have done more of it— while diff 1 sounds low today, computers and esp. software of _a lot_ faster, though the big MMed hash concentrations make this harder)

* Reduce decentralization initially— program it require frequent signed checkpoints (or something like SC2's alternative blocks) _until_ the system has a high enough difficulty to stand on its own (enough is easy to figure out for a merged chain, since you know how much hash power is out there), or until a certain number of blocks pass.

or

* Raise some BTC and pay existing miners on the merged chain to cooperate, until your chain is big enough and worthwhile enough to survive on its own merits—  setting up a new merged chain has a cost, a fairly high one right now because the support is not well integrated. Your own system didn't work with a lot of popular software. You can't expect disinterested parties to just mine your coin because its easy to do so, — hell, for most pools mining it requires writing new code. So you get only the interested parties and with that comes good and bad.

The last is probably the most interesting, simply because for any decenteralized system which doesn't claim to be a deflationary (or at least effectively deflationary for early adopters in the short-medium term) currency, externally paying miners to support it is probably the only way to bootstrap.

Though, you may note that all of these tactics reduce the ability to pump and dump new clone-coins.  I consider this a ecological feature, rather than a bug.

(To be clear— I don't have reason to think _you_ were trying to build a pump and dump altcoin scam, I don't know what you thought you were doing— but _other_ people in the altcoin community were super eager to participate in one, and I think the evidence is basically clear enough on that. It just turns out that they care so little about doing so, or are so greedy about it, that they won't put in the resources to undo the attack against coiledcoin)
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January 06, 2012, 05:04:11 PM
 #67

I don't like the pump-and-dump actually. One of the key problems of creating value in blockchains is the mining of coins by miners problem, which is what leads to the dumping. It puts the thing you are hoping to use as value in the hands of those who basically seem to do their best to devalue it, which is kind of counter-productive.

-MarkM-

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January 06, 2012, 05:16:10 PM
 #68

I think _making_merged_mining_possible is much easier than innovation.

Do _merged_mining firstly !

markm
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January 06, 2012, 05:20:18 PM
 #69

I think _making_merged_mining_possible is much easier than innovation.

Do _merged_mining firstly !

That has been the plan of many groups. If and only if merged mining does prove to work as a way of securing additional chains is there any point in exploring the potential of such secured chains. It is all pie in the sky if in fact merged mining is not an effective approach. Some other method, possibly such as sticking to a centralised system until transaction volumes generate enough fees to make the huge expense of mining start to seem budgetable, will have to be found if merged mining cannot do the job.

-MarkM-

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