Hackathon Review

A. Overview

I had my first hackathon on July 14–15th, 2018 as a part of a team named Teckle. Apart from how much fun I had with the team, I thought it was a great experience for me to work with competent developers. I believe a success of an organization depends on how tasks are assigned and how each member fulfills those task. The most important challenge of all is to ensure that everyone is minding their own business and doing what they are good at, yet the team, as a whole, is working towards the same goal. I think I had just that experience during the hackathon which made me feel like I can implement this again later.

For the sake of learning, since it was such a great experience, I am trying to recollect the hackathon, focusing more on the shortcomings. It is purely experiential and personal anecdote that contains subjective judgement. However, I believe this self-assessment will be helpful towards my way of working later on.

B. What we built

I am very interested in building a decentralized community where people interact with each other based on mutual interest. The activity itself can be anything as long a group agree on a certain rule. The rule is very important because it provides a mission. Whether one fulfilled this mission or not can determines his or her contribution to the network. As long as contribution can be proven, it can be measured. And the measurement can serve as the record of one’s value within that community. Even further, I believe this value within a community can be considered outside the community. The most primitive form of this example is reputation in social network such as Facebook Like button. However, I want more formal and reliable system that can measure one’s effort and is fungible throughout the different networks.

Conquest was built as a prototype of honor system based community that realized what I wanted to build. Summary of Conquest is a follows:
a. Purpose: Conquest is motivational platform that contest one’s will. It facilitates motivating culture, where more people finish what they started.
b. How is works: Each person stake willingness cost in order to become a part of the group. Once you participate in a group, you have to fulfill the given mission. Otherwise, your willingness cost will be slashed.
c. Mission example: Workout an hour a day for a month and submit photo of your workout. What this The photo will be further verified amongst the participants and other audiences.
d. Victory: Victory is the honor system within Conquest. One can receive Victory through correct validation and the success of mission. (See reference on the bottom for more details on our product)

C. Personal shortcoming

I am very sorry to my team mates because I think I showed some lack of competency during the competition. I think there are a lot of things to improve for the next time.

  1. Coffee:
    I had way too much coffee. It was to keep me focused but I could not properly rest in between and my stomach was sick afterwards. I need to find a better way to keep myself focused.
  2. Presentation Skill:
    My roles during hackathon were the main ideation planner, script writer, and the main presenter. In other words, I needed to understand what we are trying to make and explain that to other people. I do not think I did a great job. The most critical mistake made was that I did not make a thorough slides for presentation. I thought that I will be okay with pictures from the page design slides as long as I have a good script. However, I often forgot where I was going. I needed some text to refer me back to what I was saying.
  3. Technical understanding:
    When I studied blockchain, I had a goal to communicate technical concepts with others who know more about it than I do. I thought that I reached some conceptual level of understanding where I can converse technical terms at least on conceptual level.
    During the hackathon, this thought turned out to be naive. It seems that I had been blessed to meet good people who could explain very difficult concept in simple terminology. They were able to explain so well that it made me feel that I am good at understanding. In short, it is not because I was able to understand; people made me understand it.
    I am studying the code and I cannot understand how it operates. If I do not understand this myself, how would I be able to explain it to others?

D. Questions From Panels

During our final presentation, there were three questions asked from panels. They were all very good questions and gave me a lot of thoughts.

  1. What is your business model?:
    The first question was about how to monetize Conquest. I answered the panels with the following:
    a. Slashed pot: When no one complete the mission, since all money in the pot is slashed, the fund can automatically be sent to Conquest.
    b. Fee: For instance, we can set that 5% of the total pot as fee to be payed to Conquest for operation purposes.
    I added that we did not mention fee so much during the presentation because we wanted to focus more heavily on user adoptability. I believe, however, these solutions are not sufficient. If Conquest intends to motivate people, monetization should support that purpose and instigate people. There are two unrealized ideas:
    a. Certification model: People can purchase certification of completion like in MOOC. Yet, it is not apparent to me how to tie this with Victory.
    b. Subscription services: If there can be services to motivate people to continue their mission, like how gym coach push people to go harder, it can be sold as premium service.
    These ideas, and perhaps more, need further development.
  2. Why decentralized?
    The second question was about why this service needs to be developed on top of decentralized ENS. There are two reasons for decentralization.
    a. Community based participation: Anyone can participate and anyone can motivate. It is not within our intention to control people’s activity.
    b. Victory as honor: If Conquest control the allocation of Victory, there is no difference between Victory and Facebook Like. The purpose of Victory is to ensure credibility. This requires decentralization.
  3. How does one picture a day become a proof?
    The third question was about validation. Namely, how can a picture prove that one actually worked out? Even if one fulfills the task, there are ways to tamper the proof. For instance, one might take one picture on the same day and post it over and over again. There are validators who verify the picture but would it be sufficient to prove the authenticity?
    To generalize the question, it touches on the problem of decentralized Oracle. Namely, whether off-chain data, a picture of workout, can be validated on-chain. I stated a few models that are addressing this issue including Augur, Gnosis, Aragon, and Kleros. However, it is not yet apparent whether those models can be directly applied for our purpose. P2P validation system in Conquest requires much more research.

E. Further Questions

There are additional questions that should be addressed.

  1. Immoral activity:
    The website is built on web3 which can beome a darknet. In addition, it is censorship resistant, permissionless, and, depending on how it is operated, psudo-anonymous. In this case, it is easy for people to form a group around immoral or illegal activity including assassination, drug consumption, suicide, or what not.
    I do not think that all darknet necessarily turns into an illegal dark web. Considering how Criagslist was once at the center of all kinds of scams and prostitution, just because it is exposed and run by centralized server cannot guarantee freedom from illicit activity. However, it is true that decentralized web could be more exposed to these dangers depending on authority allocation and data structure.
    I think this issue is not entirely resolved. I actually doubt whether it can be resolved entirely through technology. It sounds to me as the same question as how to stop people from acting irrationally. I would rather try to solve it through the culture within the site. Still, it is a problem that needs to be addressed.
  2. Victory issuance system:
    For an ICO, Token economics is there to ensure whether incentive aligns with the system and the price of token. Victory, as honor system, require something akin to this to ensure scarcity, time-effort relations, utility, and psychological value that affects the supply-and-demand. However, at the moment, there is no limitation to Victory issuance without enough consideration on the fair value.
    There is one interesting aspect we added to incentivize people to cooperate. That is, each person receive more Victory if more people reach the finish line. For instance, one person receive 10 Victory if he or she is the only winner whereas each person receive 20 Victory if there are two winners. I think the general idea is okay but there need to be more research on the proportion based to consider inflation.
  3. Coercion attack:
    People may try to form a group and receive Victory by constantly doing the same thing. Some of it would be outright invalid but others may be more tricky. For instance, a group of friends who are native Chinese speaker may open Chinese 101 class repeatedly just to receive Victory. This is tricky because it is not outright immoral but only sounds a bit like cheating.
    I think some of this problem can be addressed systematically. For instance, if Victory level can store data involving one’s skill set and track one’s record of completion, it is possible to determine whether the person is pushing himself harder or is just doing things repetitiously. From this, it is possible to determine how much Victory should be issued based on time-effort metrics. However, it is still a question for those who have no initial data in the system.

F. Conclusion

Hackathon was very exhausting. To stay up all night and finish the project on time was not easy. However, I had such a great time. I truly thank my team and the team who organized this event for this great experience.

I found many points to improve upon; from personal level to the product idea itself. I think I should participate in more hackathon for my personal improvement. Hopefully, I will meet a good team next time as well.

References:
IPFS File: https://drive.google.com/file/d/19GFXbPQx228tLyiOL-dE7fhT2fbe0y65/view?usp=sharing
Code file: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1rOWOkQbYUW5DYpgeHz2BmkDxIjq6KJGB
Key Note Slide: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JyTvK4rUwyDBC_nGK_BbdLADwAT-HO4w/view?usp=sharing
Script for Presentation: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SNseH2GzFImE49b4GjsnEVl02GI4M2f9edoVPOKiLHw/edit?usp=sharing
Tech-Demo Video: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pNEwiaQnplp7CHGgN4SHyCIcIQdMTw1u/view?usp=sharing

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