London: JS Monthly Meetup 2017-02-28


#1

I was honored to have the opportunity to speak at the JS Monthly Meetup to group of JavaScript developers on 28 February, 2017, at the Net-A-Porter offices in London. Photos follow the overview and notes. Video will be posted when it is available in a couple weeks.

Overview

I delivered a 30 minute talk about why we might want to decentralize our JavaScript apps and walked through two specific code examples:

  1. Adding decentralized payments to an app by creating a bitcoin wallet using bitcoinjs-lib
  2. Adding decentralized authentication and identity to apps using blockstack.js.

I also gave a overview of Blockstack, how it functions and our community.

You can download the slides from my presentation here:
2016-02-28-javascript-lon.pdf (3.9 MB)

After the talk, about half the group moved to the pub. I spent about talking with the organizer and a small group of developers working in London from Italy, Australia and the UK.


Meetup notes

Problems with the internet

I asked the audience at the beginning of the talk if they saw any problems with the internet. Almost everyone raised their hands. I called on people to share specific problems. A couple of the problems the audience came up with on their own are among the problems we cite as ones that Blockstack can solve.

Empowering front-end developers

One developer commented:

“We don’t usually get such interesting talks at front-end meetups - usually they are about the latest JavaScript web framework.”

My response was that we are essentially trying to make the front-end the new backend. Blockstack empowers front-end JavaScript developers by giving the tools that they need to build full-fledged decentralized applications with the skill set they have today.

Bitcoin & blockchain

Most developers had heard of Bitcoin, but only 3 or 4 of the group had used it. There seemed to be some confusion among some about the defining characteristics of a blockchain (unsurprising giving the marketing use of the term).

There were questions about the scalability of Bitcoin and limits the underlying blockchain imposes on Blockstack.

Developer origin

The majority of the developers seemed to be from outside of the UK - mostly other places in Europe.

Brexit and an expression of unhappiness about how they no longer feel welcome in the country came up pretty quickly in our pub discussions.

One of the developers was leaving the UK and returning to his home country because of this. Another who had worked in London for over a decade and was now eligible for British citizenship felt pressured to apply for it despite not really wanting it to remove the uncertainty over her right to work in London as an EU citizen.

Censorship

A couple developers had strong views against the censorship resistant characteristics of Blockstack. They feel that systems need to be built so that governments can censorship undesirable speech.

This is the first time I’ve really encountered this when talking about Blockstack, and it caught me a bit off guard in that it is so diametrically opposed to my world view.

My personal view is that societies are better off when law enforcement is conducted at the edges. If you have a problem with me, come to me, don’t go to Facebook, Google or my bank. Blockstack enables businesses to build apps where they can avoid putting themselves in the position of holding sensitive customer potentially making a target of law enforcement requests (or hackers).

Follow up

A couple developers reached out after by email for slides. (Will send them a link to this post)

This was a really great meetup. The organizer, Guy, will be moving back to Israel next month and is looking to pass it off to someone else or merge it with another JavaScript meetup in London.

Photos

Video

I’ll post a link to the video when it is available in 2-3 weeks.


#2

Love the “problems with the internet” positioning in the slides!


#3

Nicely laid out presentation @larry. Let me know if you ever want me to do a final touch on future presentations. I’m here to help. :slight_smile: