DAppHack Berlin 2016

On the last November weekend in 2016 the first DappHack Berlin took place. The event was focused on decentralized technologies. While the name suggests a hackathon, the actual event turned out to be more like an unconference. Johannes, one of the organizers, said that when the name was settled, the idea was to host a hackathon, but as more and more speakers came on board the event evolved into an unconference.

The line-up of speakers was pretty phenomenal for an admission free event. Core-devs of IPFS, the ethereum foundation and ethcore were present as well as many other very knowledgeable people. Among the recurring themes of the conference were distributed storage, distributed application (dapp) development and serverless pub/sub systems.

Fortunately there is no need to regurgitate here what has been presented, since you can watch all talks on Adjy Leak’s Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxfh-2aOR5hZUjxJLQ2CIHw, but I would like to point out some highlights:

Dapp Development Tools

David Roon @ DappHack Berlin

David Roon @ DappHack Berlin

On Saturday David Roon kicked off the event by introducing a java library for smart contracts. His talk was followed by Thomas Bertani’s presentation of Oraclize, a service that solves a very urgent problem that concerns almost all dapp developers: how to access external data from the context of a smart contract. A third talk that featured development tools was Tomasz Drwięga’s workshop about how to build an app with Parity. I

personally benefitted a lot from this session.

Distributed Storage

With IPFS and Swarm two of the big projects that promise distributed storage were present. Unfortunatly the IPFS talk was overshadowed by some technical problems. Those caused some interruptions which stretched the talk to almost 2 hours. The talk about Swarm (ethereum’s native distributed storage system) by Viktor Tron on the contrary is only snappy 16 min long. I got the impression from this event that Swarm differentiates itself from the already relatively widley deployed IPFS by it’s focus on incentivization of data storage.

A third project, that I had not heard about before is Datproject. Dat has the goal to become the “Better bittorent”. It makes it possible to not only share files but also folders and streams of data, which can make distributed live TV possible. Last but not least in this category was the presentation of the Alexandria project. It is a project that uses IPFS as backend to permanently provide content on the net. It has a well developed integration of bitcoin payments. A curious detail about this project is that they use the rather obscure blockchain Florincoin to publish metadata for the content.

David Dias IPFS @ DappHack Berlin

David Dias IPFS @ DappHack Berlin

Distributed Pub/Sub systems

There were two talks at DappHack that I would put in this category. OrbitDB, that is a sister-project to IPFS. (I have previously writte about OrbitDB here) and Secure Scuttlebutt. The demo of Secure Scuttlebutt made a deep impression on me, because they already realized several working applications including a Twitter-like social network and an app very similar to Soundcloud.

All in all this was a very interesting event. Kudos to the organizers Ksenia, Johannes and Sven (and Andreas who sponsored the beer!). Also a big thank you to the hosts of Agora Co-working, which was a wonderful venue for this event.

Openbazaar at Hackers Congress Paralelní Polis 2016

On the first October weekend 2016 the 3rd Hackers Congress Paralelní Polis was held in Prague. This year the conference which focuses on digital freedom and decentralization had two sessions dedicated to the decentralized marketplace Openbazaar. Sam Patterson, the co-founder and Operations Lead of OB1 talked about the protocol’s past, present and future and Justin Drake (founder of DuoSearch) presented ways of “Building on Openbazaar”.

Both talks took place on the third day of the conference in the big room (Slevarna) which I would guess seats 200-300 people. Most of the seats were taken when the Sam Pattersons talk started. After the introduction early on in the presentation he conducted a poll that showed that the Paralelní Polis audience was already well acquainted with the project. When he asked who had already heard about the marketplace, virtually everybody raised his hand. When he asked who in the audience had already tried it out, installed the software or conducted a trade an estimated third to half of the audience showed their hands.

Pattersons talk started with an overview of the current state of e-commerce, described Openbazaar’s mission and history. Particularily intersting to me was what the developers had learned since the launch of the first version in April 2016. The most common problems that users have with the current iteration of the marketplace software are:

  • the node must be constantly online
  • the search (or more broadly: product discovery) is not good enough
  • the software lacks common ecommerce features such as inventory management
  • it is no anonymous (since it cannot be used together with TOR)
  • bitcoin only
  • requires some technical knowledge

Patterson explained that all these criticisms will be addressed in version 2.0 of the market for which a release in early 2017 is tentatively planned. Version 2 will bring the switch to IPFS (interplanetary filesystem) and thus eliminate the need to be constantly online with one’s node. The search will integrate third party providers into the client directly to facility a better (and less gamable) search experience. More ecommerce features are planned and the long-awaited TOR integration is already working on an experimental level. He also announced an integrated bitcoin wallet and more usability and user experience improvements.

Right afterwards Justin Drake from DuoSearch took the stage. The title of his talk was “Building on Openbazaar”, which is what his company DuoSearch is doing. He stated in his presentation that he believes that many business opportunities exist around OpenBazaar. These consist of specialized services that are not addressed by the core protocol of OB itself. He gave a few examples of such opportunities that he discoverd in dialog with users of the software:

  • search / how do I find stuff on Openbazaar?
  • categorization / how do I navigate in Openbazaar?
  • trust / what vendors are trustworthy?
  • usability / how can I use Openbazaar in a normal browser without having to install separate software?
Justin Drake of DuoSearch at HCPP 2016

Justin Drake of DuoSearch at HCPP 2016


Drake gave a lot of tips on how to build a business around one of these specialized needs and shared his personal experience with building DuoSearch. After investing one year in trying to build DuoMoney, a service that would have allowed conducting purchases with fiat money on Openbazaar, his banking partner withdrew in April 2016. Instead of starting again from square one, Drake shelfed the DuoMoney idea and pivoted the buisness to start DuoSearch. Within 19 days he and his co-founder build the first Openbazaar discovery tool.

Drake was encouraging others to start a business around the decentralized market protocol and even to begin competing with his own company DeoSearch. That goes to show the deep community spirit that is currently present in the OpenBazaar space and Drake’s firm believe that competition will strengthen business and benefit everybody. He closed his speech with an oberservation and a recommendation: With the launch of Openbazaar 2.0 approxiamately 6 months away, this is enough time to build a product and launch it together with the next version of OB. So start building your Openbazaar company now and make use of the first-mover-advantage.

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