Author: Dug Campbell

Marketing and Community Engagement @ MaidSafe

The Power of Stories to Build Networks

Over the last year, we’ve watched with interest as the tech industry press published various articles inspired by HBO’s hugely popular ‘Silicon Valley’ TV show. Although the show is one of those rare beasts – one that’s both funny and accurate about the industry it’s parodying – it was the story of an attempt by a wacky startup to pivot and build a decentralised internet that really captured their attention.

As the articles point out, the startup’s idea is not quite as crazy as it first sounds, with each one explaining that this type of work is actually taking place in the real world. For the most part, these articles then focused on a few specific companies who’ve recently been working in a similar area. But there was little, if any, mention of MaidSafe or the SAFE Network (something that was pointed out in various places by our community on the Safenet Forum amongst other places).

So for those who watched the series premiere of Season 5 of ‘Silicon Valley’ earlier this week, the eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed a few familiar names at the end of the show…

Silicon Valley Credits

Credits from Season 5 of ‘Silicon Valley’

Yes, that’s right – David, Nick and Viv have had a number of conversations behind the scenes with the team behind Silicon Valley. We were delighted to provide advice to the production team of Silicon Valley (including a face to face meeting at the studios in Hollywood). Mind you, we’re not holding out for that trip in kilts to the Emmys quite yet….  

You might ask why, with so many other things going on, we got involved. The answer’s quite straightforward really. As one of the most established ‘groups’ in this area, we’ve been working away at building a new decentralised internet since 2006. We understand both the crucial importance and the complexity of pulling off such an audacious goal – and we’ll continue to do all that we can to support the awareness of what a decentralised web means for the world.

Significant changes in society are the culmination of many different factors. And it’s important to remember that every great societal change is preceded by the stories that first get created, shared and adopted by individuals. Stories bring people together, creating natural networks of individuals. They create the foundations that allow networks to grow and ultimately enable us to pursue goals collectively that are far greater than any one person can achieve alone. The pattern has been repeated time and again throughout history. And it’s a sign of the times that we live in that the focus of our obsession with the SAFE Network has now become the subject of a top-ranked TV show.

It’s hard to imagine the same thing happening even a couple of years ago. But today every one of us can now see different flavours of the same basic stories around data security becoming increasingly popular as conversation themes across many different groups. And as these stories spread, so do the numbers of concerned people who engage publicly with issues that we all must ultimately resolve around topics such as Facebook and Cambridge Analytica (amongst so many others). 

Admittedly, we’re sensitive to the fact that these stories are building – because we are utterly committed to the goals of the decentralised web. Today’s internet is broken. It’s not just affecting the privacy of individual consumers. It is now leading to censorship, fake news and attempts (often successful as we now discover) to interfere in the democratic process. We passionately believe that we have to take a stand to defend what we believe to be the fundamental values of the internet: openness, privacy and freedom of expression.

It’s great to see such a high profile award-winning show take on these all-too-prescient topics. But it’s about far more than that. For us, it’s fantastic to watch as these goals become shared by ever greater numbers of people and collectively we can sense the pent-up demand for action before it’s too late. So please now, more than ever, help us to spread the word that a change is needed. The decentralised internet is coming. We can’t guarantee the SAFE Network will be live by the end of Season 5…..but we can guarantee that we won’t stop until we’ve delivered it.

New Team Members at MaidSafe!

We’ve had a few new starts here at MaidSafe this week. So, as is traditional around here, we’ll let them introduce themselves. Welcome to Pierre, Lionel and Kayley!

PIERRE CHEVALIER

One more ant joins the colony. And that particular ant can’t wait to be an active part of this ambitious project. Let’s rebuild the internet the way it should have been built in the first place: decentralized, resilient, safe, for everyone.

Hi, I’m Pierre, French Londoner, Rust programmer, open-source enthusiast, SAFE Network advocate in pubs.

I’ve been a Londoner since 2012, when I started my career as a C++ programmer. For the first 5 years, I worked on the numerical engine behind gPROMS™, a chemical plant simulation/optimization platform. I learnt C++ on the job as I was coming from a chemical engineering background. During my time there, I wrote NLPSQP, a gradient based optimizer, made the MAXLKHD parameter estimation solver faster by distributing the load across CPU cores and performed large scale code cleanups on the ~500,000 lines of code. I also started being really interested in Linux and the Open-Source world around that time.

In 2013, there was a pretty consistent buzz in the Open-Source community about Bitcoin. Pretty sure the buzz started earlier, but that’s when it started registering on my radar. I read the White Paper and was very impressed at how such a simple algorithm could have such groundbreaking implications in the world. There could now be a democratic, trustless peer-to-peer currency and this was all made possible by the blockchain: an elegant algorithm that could be explained in a 9-page White Paper.

At the time, the entire internet was bubbling with ideas on how to use the blockchain or more generally crypto technologies for solving an array of technical problems that never had an adequate solution before. Many projects started: alt-coins, smart contracts, layers on top of the Bitcoin blockchain itself, decentralized data storage, you name it. Some of these solutions were truly innovative and many of them were a mix of vaporware and scams.

Somewhere in 2014, while looking into this exciting world of possibilities, I learnt about the SAFE network. In this crowded space of crypto solutions, MaidSafe stood head and shoulders above its peers.

Instead of focusing on a specific problem like decentralized encrypted file storage and throwing a blockchain at it, MaidSafe was trying to rethink the foundations of our internet so that solving such a specific problem would be made trivial for any app developer on the SAFE network. The white papers and the few talks from David that I could find made complete sense and even though all the fine details weren’t fleshed out, I could see that this architecture ought to deliver on its promises if executed right. So I started following the project and enthusiastically sharing it with my friends.

A bit later, in 2015 the team decided to rewrite the network in Rust. I had barely heard of Rust back then, but it was supposed to be ‘that cool language by Mozilla’. It claimed to offer C++ speeds without the security pitfalls. I soon started learning Rust in my spare time. It delivered on all the expectations I had from it. For all of C++ faults, I had never really been onboard with more ergonomic languages as they generally sacrificed performance and control over one’s code for usability. With Rust, the language is concise and a pleasure to write in, but I have exact control of what happens to the memory. Oh! And also: no invalid memory access, no use after free, not even a race condition! All thanks to the compiler guiding the programmer towards writing correct code. Long story short, I’ve been working with Rust in my spare time for the last two years and I am completely sold on the language.

The decision for MaidSafe to switch to Rust exemplified an important aspect of the team: they’re in it for the long haul. In software, and especially in the startup world, it is common to favor the quickest path to a minimum viable product over any other solution. MaidSafe picks the solution that will make the network the most closely aligned with the vision. Rust was simply a better choice for security, so the team switched to it despite the costs and risks associated with it. When there is so much pressure to be the first to market, this engineering focus is rare. It is also the only viable way to deliver on the many promises of the network.

So here we are in 2018. I left the quantitative analytics team at a large bank with which I had been working for the last eight months, and decided to follow my passion. I am joining this crazy team of dreamers, ready to change the world one engineering decision at a time.

Watch out! The ants are coming 🙂

LIONEL FABER

Photo by Jefferson Santos on Unsplash

Hey guys! It’s really thrilling to be here and thank you for the warm welcome.

I’m a soon-to-be CS graduate from Anna University, Chennai, India. During my journey in Engineering, I’ve always had a thirst for new tech and how it can make everyday life better. Early on in this adventure, I came across the Open Source community and I was instantly inspired. They made a big deal of privacy and freedom and I realised how important both had to be in today’s data-populated internet world.

Among the various types of technology that I explored along the way, I had discovered that I loved building apps for Android. So many ideas could be implemented — and Android as a platform was so much fun to work with. By this stage, I’d ended up working as a web dev — but there was something missing:

Every night I lie in bed, the brightest colours fill my head, a million dreams are keeping me awake. — Hugh Jackman

This feeling was something I could relate to at that time. Being a part of something new has always given me extra drive but this was missing while I was working for a ‘corporate’ firm. Then, out of the blue, I came across MaidSafe. Browsing through videos about the SAFE Network, one phrase caught my attention.

Privacy, Security and Freedom. For everyone.

MIND == BLOWN

So many great ideas and such impressive work. All this and OPEN SOURCE!

That was it. I joined MaidSafe! 😀

I’m so excited to be here as an Android developer and being a part of this community has been a great experience so far. I look forward to working with you all. Cheers!

(Also posted on Medium)

KAYLEY SNADDON

keith-bremner-521872-unsplash

Photo by Keith Bremner on Unsplash

Hi Guys! Just a little intro to tell you a bit more about myself.

I am Ayrshire born and bred.  I grew up in Irvine and then moved to Ayr.  I do enjoy travelling Scotland and all of its beautiful scenery – but I’m a homebird so I never see myself leaving for any length of time!

At home, I have an amazing, supportive wife and two wonderful little boys, Caleb and Hayyden.

I spent my childhood and teenage years doing musical theatre and am still known to break into show tunes every now and then. I trained as a Hairdresser in 2009 and went on to train in Media Make Up in 2012; however I had to stop due to ill health during my training for Fashion Make Up so I unfortunately wasn’t able to pursue a career in that industry. When getting back on my feet, I found myself working in mainly Customer Service and Admin roles.

Having had all of the training that I could get from my previous employer, I’ve now moved onto work with MaidSafe as an Accounts Admin, where I feel that my strengths lie. I’m really excited to start my journey with you all and see what the future brings! 

MaidSafe enters into Licensing Agreement with Identillect

Here at MaidSafe, we’re building the world’s first and only autonomous data and communications network in which all data will be encrypted and secured by default. This is cutting-edge technology that will be open for anyone in the world to use. We’re passionate about what we’re building because we’re focused on solving so many of the problems that we all experience with the current internet.

With our focus on solving very real problems, we’re happy to announce a partnership today with Identillect Technologies Corp (you can read the press release here).

During our journey, we’ve seen increasing interest from a number of businesses that are keen to explore the benefits of using SAFE Network technology to help them with very real opportunities to help customers in their own markets. They are enthusiastic about a couple of things in particular. First, the fact that we’re constantly working on our technology with the help of a large community of testers. Secondly, the fact that we’re already at the stage with our current Alpha 2 release of being able to provide secure access to a network using the SAFE Browser, in addition to providing mobile platform support.

Identillect is a company based in California and the leading provider of the email encryption service Delivery Trust, which empowers businesses to protect their business and customers’ critical information.

The licensing agreement that we’ve signed with Indentillect enables them to use and distribute an enterprise version of MaidSafe’s decentralised network for clients that require this additional level of security. With the self-configuring decentralised SAFE Network, they will be able to offer increased security to their clients as the Network works by securing their data by automatically splitting it into chunks, carrying out self-encryption and then storing the data at random locations that are selected by the Network. In addition, the partnership will explore the implications for this improved network security in relation to the impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

We see this as a great match because Identillect is continually focused on developing the most comprehensive security products on the market through a variety of partnerships. It has already created innovative email security solutions and secure scanning technology which focus on enhancing audit verification and protection. Combine that with the SAFE Network which provides state-of-the-art levels of data security and privacy and it’s a natural fit.

We’re looking forward to seeing how this relationship with Identillect develops. And it’s yet more validation that what we’ve created to date already solves many of the problems faced by modern enterprises.

MAIDSAFE AND EXCHANGES

Yesterday we were informed that Bittrex are going to be delisting MaidSafeCoin. The suddenness of the news, which takes effect on the 9th of March, came as a surprise. The rapidly changing regulatory landscape in the US (where Bittrex are based) is evidenced with the SEC taking a greater interest and more proactive approach in cryptocurrencies. While we can’t say too much about the process that led to the decision (as we had been asked to sign NDAs) the reason provided was MaidSafeCoin’s current lack of utility on the SAFE Network.

What next

We appreciate liquidity is very important to MaidSafeCoin holders and moving forward we are currently having discussions with multiple exchanges and have already put plans in place to list with a large exchange outside the US. We will be working with them on promoting the new listing and we’ll make a joint announcement about this as soon as we can. MaidSafeCoin continues to be traded on Poloniex, HitBTC, Upbit, Cryptopia and CoinSpot.

For those who have coins listed on Bittrex they confirm on their website that they will give users “…up to 14 days to withdraw any delisted tokens, but in certain instances the withdrawal period may be shortened. Users should withdraw any tokens before the posted withdrawal deadline.”

Focus remains on product

This announcement comes at a time when things are going well within the company and the community. Our team has continued to grow with quite a few new recruits being hired in recent weeks. The company is also well funded and there is more than sufficient resources to facilitate Network beta launch and market the network.

We’re also looking forward to hosting SAFE DevCon 2018 on the 23rd of April 2018 in Ayr, Scotland as it represents a fantastic opportunity to spend some time with part of our 7,500 strong community who are actively developing a number of apps that include decentralised content management systems (SAFE CMS), a decentralized music player (JAMS), file storage (SAFE FS), mail applications and many more. Many of these apps are already designed to support the SAFE Networks new bespoke web browser which is currently being community tested.

This continued focus on ‘the product’ is where we believe we provide real value, both to the world at large and to holders of MaidSafeCoin.

So despite this setback, there is much to be optimistic about in the near future. We will update you with additional exchange listings in collaboration with our partners and keep you updated with development updates weekly via the forum.

Announcing SAFE DevCon 2018

 

SAFE DevCon 2018

We’re happy to announce that we’re running our second DevCon in Ayr!

On Monday 23rd April 2018, the global MaidSafe team will be descending on Ayr Racecourse for an event that’s focused primarily on developers who are currently working (or wanting to work) on SAFE Network apps.

Whilst we’ve held various events previously (not least the conference in Asia in 2017) and the community has been running meetups around the world for the past few years, it’s the first time that we’ll have all the team in one location for a day solely dedicated to the SAFE Network.

The full agenda will be published in a couple of weeks – but you can assume that we’ll have a wide range of speakers from across the different areas of the protocol running through the existing state of the SAFE Network, laying out the plans for the year ahead and highlighting a few of the many apps that are flourishing independently from developers around the world.

For 2018, we’ve decided to keep the numbers small. For developers that can make their way to Ayr, we’ll be covering the costs of two night’s accommodation around the Conference. If we have too many applicants, we’ll choose by drawing names from a hat and get back to each applicant (hopefully by Thursday 22nd February) to confirm whether they’ve been successful in securing a ticket.

And those of you within the Community who live around the world and won’t be able to travel, don’t worry – we plan to stream the whole event live and share the videos afterwards.

So if you’d like to come along, take the unique opportunity to meet the full MaidSafe team and hear the very latest about all things SAFE Network, please email us directly at outreach@maidsafe.net (including your safenetforum handle).

 

MaidSafe New Team Member: Dug Campbell

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Photo by NASA on Unsplash

As we hurtle towards the end of 2017, it’s time to take stock. And the verdict’s in: it’s been a crazy year in the world of cryptocurrency. But thankfully, in most cases, that’s crazy-good, as opposed to crazy-bad. That’s certainly the case for me personally at least. And this is why…

Back in January 2014, I organised the first Bitcoin Meetup in Scotland. As I wrote at the time, it felt like a bit of a leap of faith. Not in terms of the organisation (thanks to Meetup). But because the prevailing view amongst those few who’d actually heard of this ‘magic internet money’ was that the whole thing was a scam and destined to end in tears.

Whether real or perceived, it crossed my mind that there might be a reputational risk in becoming so deeply involved as an organiser. I don’t consider myself risk-averse in any way. But as someone who had enjoyed/endured a legal career of more than a decade, I’m hardly the best person to judge. After all, the risk of loss-aversion has well-known effects on decision-making.

But try as I might, I couldn’t get past one simple fact. I’d spent many months by that stage falling deeper down the proverbial Bitcoin rabbit hole. Late nights wrestling with explanations about the technology, engaging with the economic implications, debating the future potential and limitations. To me, it was clear that change – at a fundamental, disruptive level that would resonate across multiple areas of everyday life – was coming. And yet, as far as I could make out, no-one in Scotland had got together in a room  to discuss what was going on. The decision was made. I might be left sitting alone in that pub one evening – but surely there had to be others out there.  

The story of how the scene in Scotland developed after that first meetup (for which, to be clear, I claim no credit!) is an interesting one. But it’s not the focus here. Nor is the purpose of this post a chance for me to say ‘I told you so’ when we look at Bitcoin in 2017. I believe Bitcoin remains a technology in evolution with an indeterminate end state that has plenty of room left to run. The key thing here is the paradigm shift that’s taking place.

But that very first night in Edinburgh was important for another reason. I’m still in contact with many of the people that I met for the first time that night. But undoubtedly one of the most impactful conversations I’ve had was with someone who’d been one of the first to sign up for that meetup – a guy called David Irvine, who travelled all the way across from the West Coast of Scotland, from an outfit that went by the name of MaidSafe.  

I’d tried to research everyone who’d signed up before the meetup. Not in a creepy ‘let’s-track-you’ kind of way. But in a ‘let’s-build-the-community’ kind of way. I wanted to help people to keep the conversations going after the event. And I have to admit, my feeble brain had struggled to understand what MaidSafe did before the Meetup. But that changed when I spoke to David on that evening. And I was dumbfounded by the fact that a project with such huge ambitions and such far-reaching implications was taking place pretty much under my nose in Scotland.

Since that time, I’ve been heavily involved in the Bitcoin/blockchain scene, particularly in Scotland. But I’ve always been convinced that something big was happening in the mythical shed in Troon. Throughout my travels, I kept pointing people in the direction of the SAFE Network and discussing what it represents. That included asking Nick (Lambert, COO) to give a talk when I put on the Scottish Bitcoin Conference in 2014, running a Maidsafe-focused meetup and also sharing in the rollercoaster excitement of the MaidSafe fundraising in April 2014.

Fast forward four years and I’m delighted to say that I’ve now joined MaidSafe full-time as Marketing and Outreach Coordinator. Most people who start at a new company talk platitudes about their new employers. But you’ll have to take my word for it in this case. I’d continue to sing the praises of the SAFE Network even if I wasn’t working here.

This is why.

MaidSafe’s mission is no less significant than building a new secure network that will revolutionise the way that every one of us uses the internet. Many years ago, David had worked out that we collectively needed a better solution. And MaidSafe is in good company, with none other than the inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, sharing similar concerns. In fact, Tim is working on addressing the same sort of issues with his Solid project at MIT

Over the past couple of years, the problems of data storage and security have only worsened. The concerns so presciently raised by MaidSafe eleven years ago have intensified in the collective awareness of society. We now see daily examples of sensitive personal information and data being hacked or misplaced by third parties. Arguments over privacy and net neutrality dominate the news. And new concerns over the excessive power wielded by giant internet companies are raised daily.  

In short, as the internet has increased in importance to our daily lives, so has the visibility of its major flaws. And crucially – these aren’t issues that will simply solve themselves. We can’t sit back and expect things to improve. Technologies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum have helped to bring the benefits of decentralisation to the forefront of discussion. And even amongst those who remain cynical, few still believe our current architecture remains fit-for-purpose when it comes to the next few decades of human evolution.

In addition to playing a small part in helping to build a solution to a problem that increases with each passing day, there’s another big motivating factor at play for me here. With the emergence of MaidSafe so early in the chronology of recent events, I believe that many over the past few years have simply not had the opportunity to spend  the time to find out what the ultimate success of this project represents. I’ve been a member of MaidSafe’s forum (https://safenetforum.org/) since it was set up (not by the company but by enthusiasts around the world, it should be noted) a few years ago – and I’m constantly bowled over by just how engaged, respectful, intelligent and enthusiastic this community is.

Over the past few years, I’ve given many talks on Bitcoin and the blockchain scene in general. But the reality is that my advocacy has always been a response to the level of community engagement out there. The more people that found out about the subject, the keener they were to explore further. The similarities to me are striking. Today, I don’t think most people are aware that the SAFE Network project has been active for eleven years. Just let that sink in for a moment. Pre-Bitcoin. The project even had a prototype crypto-currency before Satoshi’s White Paper. As I said at the start, in the context of 2017, the SAFE Network is so far from being a hyped product it’s not funny. But it’s clear to me what the SAFE Network is: an open-source project that’s open to all that invokes a passion and belief in a community who are all driving in the same direction.

Remind you of something?

As I start working with the team on a unique project, I can’t wait to get out and do my bit. I remember a comment David made years ago. It was along the lines of “It doesn’t matter who achieves our goal in the end – but it does matter that someone does”. Joining a team that have been toiling away at some of the hardest technical challenges out there for over a decade – for the most part entirely unheralded and under the radar – there’s no doubt in my mind that that’s going to change soon. And I can’t wait to get started.  

If you want to get in touch and have a chat, please reach out. I’m pretty active on Twitter (@dugcampbell) or you can sign up and speak to thousands more via the forum (https://safenetforum.org/). In the meantime, we’re looking for some more people to join us at MaidSafe – so if you’re a UX/UI Designer, Software Support Analyst or Testing & Release Manager and fancy joining the team, please get in touch!