Whiteblock at Devcon 5

Just last week, Whiteblock attended Ethereum’s premier community event, Devcon 5. This year saw over 3,000 crypto folks descend on Osaka, Japan for a week of technical talks and workshops largely aimed at developers. Antoine, Rene and Trent represented the rest of the Whiteblock team, who have been heads down working on Genesis, our distributed systems testing platform.

Read on for Antoine’s retelling of what he took away from the event.

Monday — before it happened

We decided to meet and work and visit Osaka together. First stop was the fish market, where we ate at small stands all sorts of local delicacies: unagi, shrimp, salmon sashimi, tempura, tokoyaki — just hot enough to burn your mouth on. We then walked to a Hawaiian-themed cafe in the Dontonburi district. There we worked on slides and discussed the agenda. Later on, Oskar and Dean from Status joined us and we worked there until we were kicked out by the Japanese staff — probably for being too loud.

We proceeded to ramble down the busy street lined up with restaurants, taking a second to visit an arcade where we witnessed how staking works in real life.

Dean saw a Gucci hat, but could not bring himself to buy it. Later during the conference, he would convert to a pink Andrew Yang hat, and a fancy cap from the Solana cycling team. We eventually went to a Yakiniku place where we all ate delicious meats and filled up on curry and rice. In the afternoon, we walked among the streets up to a Starbucks, where we worked some more, before heading to our respective hotels. Trent pushed to the venue and scoped out a few interesting elements.

Day 1

We showed up bright and early, and just a little jetlagged to a large labyrinthian conference hall. After multiple false starts, we found our way to a large hall where we found no coffee. We had been contacted the week prior to participate to a P2P summit, so we headed to B10. We sat down on the 3rd row. Little did we know that we’d be seated there, our mouths agape, for the next 4 hours.

We’re network geeks, and we saw some of the best projects out there presenting in lightning talk format. It kept on piling on. We gave our own version — available here — that we modified to give a nod to the previous talk by Matt Slipper on SecureScuttlebutt. The last half hour was interesting as it showed a lot of convergence with all the actors in the space.

In the afternoon, we started collecting stickers in the sponsor hall. We have quotas to respect and insatiable coworkers who need their fix. We met a lot of friends along the way. Rene and Trent also sat in on the ETH Magician’s Roadmap session for a few of the topics.

Day 2

Wednesday was keynote day. A combination of fervor, crowd size and loud drum noises drove me out to safety and gave me the satisfaction of enjoying plenty of coffee right outside the doors. From there, meetings piled on, but I managed to squeeze some time to get into Raul’s excellent talk and showcase of libp2p documentation on gossipsub.

I left the conference with the distinct impression that I’d lost a bone in my foot, which doubled as a stone in my shoe.

Day 3

We set out to be present for the ETH 2.0 client summit. where each of the clients would go one by one and explain their particulars. We particularly enjoyed the talks from Joe Delong and Preston.

The one thing I asked during Q&A: are we ready for the multi-client testnet? Can Whiteblock get started? We’ve been pushing hard on our gossipsub testing framework, and it’s about time we offer a proper CI/CD pipeline. We’ll talk more about this soon.

The afternoon was spent in countless meetings and demos, along with a few intriguing discussions along the way.

Day 4

Started the day listening to Alistair talk about Polkadot, which was awesome. Unfortunately, I had to exit the room and message Rene, as she was reporting her tram was blocked due to the typhoon preparations. It turned out to be a dud in the end. I then spent some time with Dmitryi trying to drink a weird beverage closed by a marble — a Ramune. 3/10 I need drinks to not pull pranks on me.

We then went to a nice room with 40 wonderful folks here to learn about Ethereum 2.0 networking. Part of this is related to our grant work supported by the Ethereum Foundation and Consensys. We delivered a 20-minute presentation available here, followed by insightful questions from the audience. How has networking in ETH 2.0 came to be — maybe worth a story of its own. We also learned Trinity has a discv5 solution we can start testing!

I ran for the fifth time to the sponsor hall, grabbed a libp2p T-shirt (thanks Raul!) and an Infura hoodie (yay Dani!). At the same time, I received a notification that my flight had been canceled. I therefore bought a set of tickets to SFO:

  • KIX>HND>SFO (changing my return flight)
  • KIX>TAO>SFO (through Eastern China Airlines)
  • KIX>TPE>CDG (wrong direction, but I have to get to Paris soon anyway)

While cooling my credit card on a pack of soba, I listened to the panel discussing the state of P2P.

Our last event during the venue’s closing hours was a workshop for the DevCon scholars (or like Coogan couldn’t stop himself saying, the kids).

My hat’s off to the organizers, the “kids” were energized and eager to learn. I bashed their brains with 40 minutes of content on our testing methods. Given the poor Wifi, we’ll need to follow up and give them access to our environment so they can run tests from there. We were excited to see them get it right away and ask insightful questions.

On the steps of the venue, under a menacing sky, we bid adieu to each other.

Rene joined a techno parade of Louis Vuitton models, Trent disappeared in the bowels of the crypto community, and I ran off to the station. From there, I took a Shinkanzen to Fukuoka, mostly standing for 4 hours. Fukuoka was just right outside the mess. The next day, I flew to Seoul, slept in the airport almost comfortably, and flew home after using my baggage allowance for duty free.

Thanks for reading along to the end! Our team had an amazing experience making new connections within the community, we’re already looking forward to Devcon 2020!

For more recaps on the event, read this summary from Lefteris of Raiden. Or perhaps, a more light-hearted take.

Originally published at https://whiteblock.io on October 16, 2019.



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