In this Evangelist Spotlight, I’m excited to introduce you to Jason (or reintroduce, if you’ve already had the pleasure).
Originally, Jason’s journey started because he was fed up with proprietary applications and their predatory business practices. His personal mission is to encourage, promote, use, and contribute to open-source software, which eventually led him to Blockstack, albeit in a random way!
Though he just joined the community in February (2020), he has already made a huge impact. From leading Working Groups to writing up a helpful series about the Stacks 2 Testnet, Jason is a key contributor and advocate for a user owned internet.
Please take a few minutes to learn more about him and be sure to say hello or thank you when you cross paths on Discord!
How did you discover Blockstack?
Blockstack was a truly random discovery for me. I was searching for an open source solution for accounting software and came across DArray. After signing up for my Blockstack ID to test it out, I started reading about the technology, chatting with the community, and testing out other dapps. From there, I was hooked!
What is it about the mission that makes you want to contribute as an Evangelist?
I agree that the Internet is broken, and the idea of a user-owned decentralized alternative fascinates me.
When selecting software or even just interacting with technology, there is a common practice of sacrificing privacy for convenience. As somebody who has supported numerous configurations over the years, I have done my best to highlight these pitfalls for end users, yet still face heavy resistance to operating outside of “the norm”.
This is where Blockstack provides a unique opportunity. By giving the end user a way to generate a self-sovereign identity that can be used across multiple applications, and by leveraging encryption to secure the user’s data by default, this platform introduces a toolkit that can transform the Internet as we know it.
Also, the fundamental idea that applications cannot access user data without consent is a concept that I believe will drive innovation in a new direction. I have always been a fan of opt-in over opt-out, and in a time where privacy is never guaranteed and often violated, this is paramount to building a new vision for the world wide web.
Tell me more about your work with open source software and how it crosses over with your interest in Blockstack?
Someone once told me, “be the software you want to see in the world”. While it’s a bit cheesy, it represents a concept that I think is important:
if you want to advocate for others to use something, the first step is using it yourself.
My adventures with Linux started in 2009, and from that point forward, I was challenged to find cross-platform software alternatives to complete my day-to-day business tasks. This led to the discovery of several open source applications that provided near the same functionality as proprietary versions I had used before, with the added benefit of openly sharing their code. In addition, the culture of open source communities seems more inclusive than their proprietary counterparts. The process of contacting the development team, filing issues, and suggesting features feels more transparent and interactive. By keeping this type of conversation out in the open, there is a level of connection and accountability with the software, rather than relying on a company or entity to manage the experience.
I love open source software. ♥
Blockstack’s commitment to open source and the plan laid out in A Path to Decentralization represents a very sustainable approach to developing a community initiative. While Blockstack PBC is often viewed as the custodian of the technology, a closer evaluation shows that they intend to “give it away” – at which point the community will take over by adopting it, using it, and supporting it in any part of its life cycle. I think this quote from the blog post sums it up best:
The path to decentralization will be a long journey, but it’s an essential one if Blockstack is to grow to its potential as a new network that preserves digital rights. The journey can have some entities coordinating early on as leaders, but it will be completed when leaders are no longer needed.
The community around Blockstack has been amazing to work with as well. They are a very knowledgeable group from around the world with various backgrounds, and I see a lot of cooperation, teamwork, and camaraderie in the Discord chat and on the working group calls. A large part of the community have published open source code for their projects, and it has been fun to contribute and be a part of different opportunities as we all evolve in this ecosystem together.
It makes a lot of sense that you’re part of the Business Model working group! What’s next in your work in bringing these two worlds together?
To me, this is how we get to the next level. We have Stacks 2.0 rapidly coming to life in front of us. We have the testnet, we have a new smart contract language, and with features like app chains in the future, Blockstack is truly building web 3.0 on Bitcoin.
My goal is to take the experience of working with end users, small businesses, medium-sized corporations, open source software, and proprietary vendors, and channeling that into new ways to generate wealth using Blockstack. To me, this means taking advantage of the features in Proof of Transfer (PoX) while adhering to and advocating for my own core values that are closely aligned with the Can’t Be Evil principles. I am a teacher at heart, and I enjoy organizing and consolidating information for others as I learn.
This is our opportunity to get in on the ground floor and break free from the common, often predatory practices that exist today to build something new and exciting. Following the “first step” mentioned before, I started converting my business operations to Blockstack dapps where possible, and look forward to developing solutions for myself or others as time goes on.
How do you define success for this movement?
The goal for the Business Model working group is to develop an economy around the Stacks token (STX), and while there will always be room for and the use of traditional business models, I am interested to see the variations and new possibilities that Blockstack unlocks.
As end users, developers, and service providers continue their efforts to connect devices, data, and applications, Blockstack offers a huge opportunity to generate new ideas in the context of a user-owned Internet backed by the security of Bitcoin, and some new approaches are beginning to emerge. The things that interest me the most so far include:
- user staking models and creating a new relationship between the software and the user, giving the user the power to be involved
- “thinking outside the dapp”, and abstracting development to create open standards or frameworks in the spirit of collaboration
- opportunities to redefine how contributors, developers, and projects are tracked, funded, and sustained
- stacking and delegation, especially in the context of a guild or aligned group
- continued collaboration on core tools, resources, and educational materials
In short, success is to just keep buidling.
What is most exciting about decentralization/blockchain/etc.?
Decentralization is important because a single point of failure is a scary thing. We do not experience this often, but in today’s world when a service provider goes down, we are often left helpless with no way to access our data. If they did not come back online, that data could be lost forever.
What if instead of using a service, I had an easy way to spin up my own copy? How can I verify then trust, instead of the opposite? What if instead of being a subscriber, I was being a supporter, participating with others to keep an app/standard/concept/idea alive? Through abstract questions like these is where I see my own vision of a new Internet, which is really just a new way of storing, accessing, and exchanging data. We need to ask ourselves, how can we do this better?
In a time where data breaches are an ever-present reality and the amount of data harvested by service providers is alarming, I believe Blockstack is one piece to solving this puzzle. As we continue to scratch the surface of smart contracts and further explore proof of transfer on this platform, the possibilities will only continue to multiply.
Quite often my verbiage veers most verbose, so if you’ve made it this far – thank you!
Also, I want to thank the open source communities and projects that inspired me to rethink the way I work with software.
Finally, thank you to the team at Blockstack PBC and to the Blockstack community for making me feel welcome from day one. There are some amazing people involved in all parts of this adventure, and I am happy to contribute where I can.