Developing on Orbs: Interview with UN Hackathon Winners

Nate Simantov
Nate Simantov

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2 years ago

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Last month in New York, the Global Business Blockchain Council hosted a hackathon event to demonstrate and discover the ways blockchain technology can be used to advance the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Several leading blockchain networks including Microsoft, Bitfury, JPMorgan’s Quorum, and Orbs were made available to participants by providing them with the tools and resources to build their proposed solutions. You can read more about Orbs’ experience with the event in the afterthought blog post by Jonathan Levison. The hackathon’s winning solution was eventually built on the Orbs Network. In an effort to learn lessons for the platform from a developer’s outsider perspective, I set out to question David Acton of the winning team Dynamic Digital Cooperatives about his experience building an app on the Orbs network.

How did you learn about Orbs?

We’ve received an email from the organizers (GBBC) listing the different technology providers. Since I have heard of the others but never of Orbs before, I decided to check you out. I think you were the only people actually holding a tech introduction before the event. So I looked at it and it seemed very easy and straightforward to use, as much of the technology was very familiar.

What made your team choose the Orbs blockchain? How would you describe your experience building on the network (toolset, documentation)

Ease of use for sure, as well as the writing of smart contracts in Golang, which is a great idea. I've done Golang development in the past; one of the problems with other platforms using proprietary languages is the learning curve of the blockchain itself, atop of the learning curve of the language used. I’ve seen even expert developers make very serious security mistakes. If you’ve got a language you’re familiar with, you can be more productive more quickly in my opinion.

Then there are, on the other side, the client javascript tools as well were very flexible and I could easily adapt them to my use case.

Were there any surprises?

In terms of the library, I would have liked to see more explanation but it was fairly standard. What I like about what you’ve done is that how things work seemed obvious. So that was really good. Building on the platform, there were good test tools that I could use to test locally and that was really useful For me testing is particularly important especially in a blockchain where you write once and cannot change it. Nobody has perfect first-time coding, so having ways to test it vigorously beforehand was huge for me.

Nothing came out of left-field, but what surprised me is how productive I could be so quickly. Genuinely. We had less than 24 hours so that is key. I think that those using other platforms did struggle at points. Another thing we liked was the support of the (team). Jonathan and Ren offered their assistance for the entire duration of the hackathon, while it is my understanding that other platforms did not provide the same throughout the whole event.

Going forward, do you have any intentions with the winning project?

I’ve been working with Claire (Claire Rhodes, hackathon partner and member of Dynamic Digital Cooperatives), she runs a charity for smallholder farmers representing about a million of them and working on their behalf on something similar to a co-op. An idea we had was solving a challenge they encounter often, transparency problems between the farmers to the salespeople. We have been looking into progressing this project further using the tool we created.

What recommendations or tips would you have for a first-time developer using Orbs?

In my experience, it’s all very straightforward. Just start.

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This concluded the Q&A portion of the call I had with David, after which I asked how Orbs might be able to help DDC in their efforts. Finally, I felt he may be feeling TOO complimentary on the call and pressed for come constructive critisism; surely there must be something the project could put more emphasis on.

He replied with this: The one thing I would mention in terms of potential 'improvement' (for developing on Orbs) is making clearer why Orbs exists, i.e what makes it different from the multiple other platforms out there. I'm talking about more than just the tech features, but why there was the need to create another platform, as well as the philosophy around it.

I believe that we build communities around the ‘why’ we do things and not just the ‘what’, and in this regard the messaging could be clearer.

[pdf-embedder url="https://orbs.site.strattic.io/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Dynamic-Digital-Cooperatives-Orbs-SDG-2.pdf" title="Dynamic Digital Cooperatives, Orbs, SDG 2"]

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