About This Site
As with most new technologies, blockchains are surrounded by a cloud of misunderstanding which incorrectly represents them as a panacea, solving every problem from communication between driverless cars to video streaming. In an attempt to quell the misinformation and encourage useful applications of the technology, I intend to provide a variety of resources related to building, deploying, and maintaining blockchain technologies, as well as offer what I believe to be common-sense evaluations of existing and proposed technologies. While this site is primarily aimed at a technical audience, much of the material (especially the introductions of ideas) is relatively accessible to a general audience.
This site does not suggest making (or not making) any particular investment in cryptocurrency, nor does it make any market predictions or provide any market analysis. However, the information here may be of interest to investors who want to understand the viability and potential of the technologies underlying the projects they are considering investing in.
I’m Maxwell Sanchez, and I’ve been involved in the blockchain space since 2011, developing software related to it since 2012. I wrote the first (embarrassingly limited) GUI for Peercoin, created programs like cgEasy which made configuration of GPU miners for Litecoin/Scrypt mining incredibly simple and cgScryptPanel which enabled remote management of instances of cgminer, ran a mining rig building service and Burstcoin cloud mining platform, and developed new and optimized existing GPU miners for projects like Siacoin (Blake2b) and Pascalcoin (a variant of SHA256D which didn’t use an 80-byte input). I’m also one of the lead developers of the Curecoin project, which is a blockchain that has for nearly 3 years rewarded individuals for contributing computational resources to Stanford’s Folding@Home research project. Most recently, I co-founded VeriBlock Inc., a blockchain technology firm where I’m developing a few technologies I’m incredibly excited about including PoP (a consensus protocol for inheriting PoW from Bitcoin), Grand Central (a blockchain architecture and specification for hybrid-trust payment channels across multiple mutually-blind blockchains) and Blockchain of Custody (a project focused on using blockchains to ensure the integrity of digital evidence collected by law enforcement).
Outside of the blockchain world, I ran a small VPS renting company for several years, and produced YouTube programming tutorials. I occasionally play CS:GO, enjoy hiking, and recently adopted an adorable border collie + blue heeler mix.
A Quick Introduction to Blockchains
In their most distilled form, blockchains are a way for multiple parties to agree on the current state of a state machine (and they are actually useful when some or all of those parties don’t trust each other). They solve a very specific set of problems related to trust incredibly well, and do nothing else that we couldn’t already do with other more efficient, simpler technologies. I always suggest the following litmus test for deciding if a blockchain may be applicable to whatever problem someone is attempting to solve:
The state machine that a blockchain synchronizes can contain all sorts of things: a ledger of financial transactions, a collection of public identities, ownerships of intellectual property, provenances of art and other unique goods, pieces of encrypted sensitive information (so you can unlock the data for particular parties and they know you gave them the real data), and even fingerprints of other state machines from other blockchains.
Some of the general solutions blockchains provide:
- Mediating between mutually-exclusive events to ensure only one occurs
- A property is only owned by one party
- There is only one Mona Lisa, and the owner is known
- The same money wasn’t simultaneously spent at two stores
- Proving to multiple parties that they all received the same information
- Lottery results
- Medical history
- Stock predictions
- Executing contracts automatically and without counterparty risk
- Hedging against currency volatility
- Payouts of lottery winnings and bets
- Guaranteed payment of dividends or payroll on a certain schedule
- Trustlessly engaging in trade
- Incentive-compatible escrow
- Trading blockchain tokens between distrustful parties
- Irrefutable proof that a payment was (or was not) sent
- Synchronizing identity
- Man-in-the-middle resistance
- Decentralized domain registration and update
- Irrefutable association between existing identity and additional information (a new public key, a new email address, etc.)
- Protecting identity
- Logging in without sending (or having) a password
- Selectively providing probably-correct information
- No need for many services to store private information
- Resisting censorship
- Provably-fair voting
- Proving membership of a group without revealing which member you are
- Publishing small pieces of a data in a way no government agency can remove
- Proving something happened before a certain time
- Invention of a new idea
- Completion of a particular task
- Taking a photo or video of a crime scene
- Proving something happened at or after a certain time
- Goods were fresh when delivered
- Funds or property weren’t prematurely transferred
- Proving that data has been unaltered since a certain time
- Evidence wasn’t manipulated
- Software wasn’t tampered with
- Providing publicly-verifiable, unmanipulatable random numbers
- Provably-fair gambling
- Nothing-up-my-sleeve numbers to protect against backdoors in cryptography
- Preventing certain activities (or proving to what extent they occurred and who performed them)
- Pyramid schemes
- Naked short selling
- Anonymous currency exchange
- Fractional reserve and currency mintage
As the above list of potential uses for blockchains suggests, blockchains are no more a weapon for anarchists as they are for dictatorships, and can create both freedom and captivity.
Blockchains are weaponized mathematics/cryptography: the development and adoption of blockchain technologies in the next few years have the potential to drastically shape the landscape of human rights for the forseeable future, particularly with regards to financial freedom and privacy. How much control will governments have over the store and transfer of value/property of its citizens? Will voting systems which make manipulation and intimidation impossible be adopted? Will provably-secure cryptography be created and standardized? Will the ability to participate in the economy require citizenship which can be revoked with a keystroke?
It’s also important to note that the need for a blockchain doesn’t necessitate that a new blockchain be created. Most of the potential uses listed above could be implemented in a system using existing blockchains available today, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. For example, an online casino doesn’t need to build a new blockchain (and may not even need to publish any information to any blockchain), but instead simply use an existing blockchain as a provable source of random numbers they don’t control. Furthermore, blockchains are often a component of a solution, rather than a solution in its entirety.