Notes from EthDenver 2023

I spent most of last week in Denver attending EthDenver 2023, one of the biggest Ethereum-centric conferences in North America. This was my first EthDenver event (first of many I hope) and I wasn’t sure what to expect given the roller coaster that almost seems a constant in this domain. That said, the five days I spent there were a great way to get a glimpse into various projects and themes in play in that ecosystem. This post covers some of the projects and ideas I saw there.

A multi-chain future

I attended Axelar’s mini-summit on interoperability which was very interesting. The tl;dr of various panel discussions was that while we might have our L1 or L2 chains of choice, we are living in a multi-chain world, and interesting applications will appear in a lot of different chains. That said, at least so far, Ethereum remains the main chain of choice acting as a hub with spokes out to various other chains. There were also some interesting discussions on the safety of bridges that connect various chains and which have been in the news a number of times for getting hacked. I am not sure knowledgable about a lot of the chains that were mentioned but found the discussions fascinating and would like some time to explore Axelar, Polkadot and Cosmos.

The Social Web3

I ended up attending various sessions on Web3 based social platforms, and there were a lot of those around. The ones I did find most interesting included Huddle01 (Web3 based Zoom), (Web3 based Discord), and Dispatch, a company building NFT based shopping tools as well as “engagement NFTs” that encode interactive experiences like polls etc. More interesting though was learning about a number of emerging protocols for Web3 based communication like DMTP, XMTP and Lens. I am really curious about Lens as it comes from the company behind the successful Aave protocol and has some very interesting primitives, like using NFTs to define user connections which I do think is kinda interesting.

Incentive Design and Economics

Thanks to my friend Mike Mccoy at the CryptoEconLab, I was able to attend their day long mini-summit on cryptoeconomics. I’d say I understood maybe 40% of the ideas shared here, but the talks were very good. I specially enjoyed the session on Protocol Gas Dynamics and MEV, Quadratic Funding by GitCoin and on NFT Auction Design by Tarun Chitra. You can find all the talks at the event on their YouTube channel

Miscellaneous Thoughts

  • There were a lot of sessions on privacy and zero-knowledge proofs. Not surprising since privacy is a big deal these days and ZK technology seems a promising space.
  • There were more new wallet startups I saw at the event than I was expecting. MetaMask remains the big name there and their announcement about Snaps, their extension framework, was awesome, but it was interesting to see a number of wallet providers focusing on user experience.
  • Unity’s announcement about their partnerships with a number of major Web3 platforms happened around EthDenver. Hopefully this results in some compelling Web3 games and not just standard games with Web3 bolted on
  • Filecoin’s Virtual Machine is interesting
  • Everything runs on Telegram. My Telegram friend list went from a dozen or so contacts to a whole lot more.

All in all, EthDenver was intense but very educational. Definitely looking forward to the next one ūüĎč

Verbs as NFTs

One of my most memorable/educational meetups was one by Philly.rb on audit logging. Audit logs record the occurrence of an event, the time at which it occurred, and any other useful data. The insight I remember from that talk was that audit logs are generated by creating a record for every change event in a new table. For example, your project may have a model User and a model ChangeOperation (usually generated by some library) and every time any data on the user model is changed, a new ChangeOperation instance is created and persisted in the database. You can later view all the ChangeOperation s the User model has gone through.

I am at EthDenver this week and it’s been great. There are some really interesting new projects using NFTs in a number of new ways. A typical NFT is such a simple idea that it is very amenable to representing different properties of a product. The Lens Protocol is one such interesting project that wants to represent social graphs on the blockchain. Like a few other social-network-on-the-chain projects, Lens uses NFTs to represent user identities.

Where Lens does something interesting though is representing verbs like “following” as an NFT. From their documentation:

Profile NFTs contain a FollowModule. This module contains the logic that allows different accounts to be issued Follow NFTs to record their relationship to the main profile on-chain.

Extracting the follow action to its own smart contract is an interesting move and allows you to create all sorts of various kinds of follows like “create a follow NFT only if the user has this other NFT” or “create a follow NFT if they pay a certain amount” (basically premium follows).

Definitely an interesting idea and something I need to dive into a bit more.

On the panel for Philly Blockchain Breakfast

Photo of panel at the Blockchain breakfast

Last week, I was on the panel at the Web3 / Blockchain breakfast event organized by Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs and Philly Startup Leaders.

It was great to hear a lot of probing questions from both the audience and the moderator. I have been exploring this space since 2012 and it still feels like the early days with so much still left to figure out. Every year feels closer to the kind of ideas I hoped to see sprout from this space but we are not there yet, and the space feels ripe with opportunity.

I really enjoyed listening to the the rest of the panel offer so much insight into the current state of the Web3 ecosystem from their own individual points of view. Thanks, Mark Wheeler for moderating the panel expertly, as well as fellow panelists Karla Ballard, Kelly Gallagher, Mike Ghen and David Barrick, and of course everyone who attended.