Ethereum Contributors Series // Issue #05 Evan Van Ness
In our last interview, Brian Lawson discussed the world of VR in blockchains and the fall of TheDAO in Ethereum Contributors Series, Issue #04. That and all of the previous issues of Ethereum Contributors Series as well as our other series Ethereum DApp Creators can be found at https://blog.status.im/
This issue will feature Evan Van Ness who runs the weekly Ethereum newsletter and the website WeekInEthereum.com, where he shares the top news of the Ethereum space to the community. We’re also happy to announce as of this week, we’ll be helping to support the continuance of Evan’s work moving forward.
This interview series is about the people who are actively involved with projects in the Ethereum ecosystem, and also includes some of our very own contributors to Status.
Evan Van Ness
Hello Evan, tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from, how did you discover Ethereum, what’s your favourite ice cream?
I’m a native Texan. We’re an irascible bunch and often don’t like the decisions that come from the federal government. So from a relatively early age, I’ve wanted Washington DC politicians and bureaucrats to make less decisions and instead leave them to the states. One size fits all does not work in a big, diverse country — what’s good for Connecticut is not necessarily the right policy for Texas.
So I suppose I’ve been pro-decentralization for a long time.
Way back in the beginning of Bitcoin I heard about it and wrote it off as another digital currency project. I kept hearing about it over the years, and eventually I became interested in it as a technology. Thus, when Vitalik first started talking about Ethereum, I immediately felt like this was the project that I had been waiting for.
As for ice cream, all Texans will tell you that it is some flavor of Blue Bell.
Not too long ago my wife and I looked in the freezer and counted 10 different flavors of ice cream. I have been known to tell people that my secret to staying thin is eating ice cream for breakfast.
How did Week In Ethereum start?
I found I was having some of the same conversations with a few friends, but I was tired of repeating myself because I was spending more time on it than they were. The first issue was just a few of my friends. But as I started putting words on the page, I also realized that there might be a market for a curated weekly newsletter, so I sent the first issue using Mailchimp.
Then it got put on Reddit and 110 people signed up. The number of subscribers keeps growing, so that makes it tough to quit!
And where do you spend your time getting all the updates for the newsletter?
No secrets here. Just lots of time combing through Reddit, Twitter, blogs, etc. Someone joked to me that the tagline should be, “I spend time on Reddit so that you don’t have to.”
That’s a big part of my goal: the newsletter lets developers focus on their project instead of checking Reddit.
Which projects in the Ethereum space are you most excited about, and why?
I remember back in 2003 when Hillary Clinton’s demagoguery killed the DARPA prediction market. It made me sad that a clueless politician could kill a project before it even had a chance to get running. Ever since then I’ve been waiting for a prediction market that couldn’t be shut down because a politician/bureaucrat got up on the wrong side of the bed.
After that it’s Status. This is the plan for spreading Ethereum outside of our small circles that makes the most sense to me. I’ve never been to China, but I’ve been fascinated by reading Ben Evans (and the FastCompany article) on how China’s messaging apps have done so well and innovated in amazing ways that Western companies could learn from.
Among many others, I’m also interested in the poker dapps like Virtue Poker. I believe poker clients have a chance to be Ethereum’s breakout dapp.
I’m also very excited about crowdfunding, and the possibility of tokens become an emerging asset class. Recently, I gave a talk to the Houston Ethereum Meetup about how Ethereum is democratizing (1) who gets to be a VC and (2) access to capital. Token sales mean that anyone can act like a VC. Because of that, entrepreneurs across the world can better access funding regardless of geography, sex, and race.
By the snap of your fingers, you could have any DApp live and fully functional, which would it be?
An Augur that is so big and liquid that it has revolutionized finance and insurance. I’d argue the possibilities are under appreciated because liquid prediction markets allow for all the world’s knowledge to be put to good use: http://www.evanvanness.com/post/130187978661/augur-uber-for-knowledge
Note that I said liquid. A big part of “fully functional” means that the UX and marketing is nailed down so the products can grow to their full potential.
Our space has the tendency to treat tech as the only thing that matters. A famous angel investor even tweeted recently that in crypto the
I completely disagree. It’s easy for developers to build a “great” product that never gains any traction in the real world. That’s even more true in crypto where the barriers to adoption are higher!
Ticketing is a great case in point. I work for Ticketleap, and we’ve helped democratize online ticketing so that event organizers can start selling tickets online quickly and cheaply for events of all sizes.
The Ethereum ticketing projects I’ve seen clearly have no experience in ticketing. They don’t understand who their customer is, and often seem to understand things entirely backward. So at the risk of being repetitive: it’s possible to build a great technical solution, but if you didn’t understand the problem, your “solution” will go nowhere.
If I were advising those projects, I would tell them to stop coding and instead start selling. Find an event organizer with a burning problem and get that person to sign a contract that funds product development.
Evan works for Ticketleap
What do you think it is about Ethereum that makes it unique and different from the other blockchains?
Ethereum is focused on the technology, instead of the price. After Frontier launched, people (including me) used to kid Alex van de Sande for being such a stickler on the “no price talk” rule on r/ethereum, but I think it’s turned out to be a key point in our community.
Ethereum attracts people who are interested in the technology. That’s crucial, because this is still nascent technology. Last August, Vlad Zamfir quite colorfully described it to Wired as “****ty technology”. Just like the internet once upon a time, blockchains are hard to use. But things are being built that get the tech ready for mainstream.
What is it about Ethereum that attracts you?
Centralization is power. I’m with Lord Acton: power corrupts. So if we can decentralize things, we’ll have less corruption.
I’m not saying that decentralization is a panacea. Much of human history is “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” but I believe that Ethereum can make society more efficient and fair.
As you said, Ethereum is very focused on the technology, what can those people do to help Ethereum that aren’t as technically savvy?
User testing. Every time a project releases something, download it and play with it. Try to do stuff. Try to break it. If you find errors, report them. If you don’t find errors, tell the developers what was confusing or what could’ve been better for you.
Beyond that, just do something. If it fails, quit and try something else.
Do you see that Ethereum will disrupt any existing fields in the future?
The interesting thing about Ethereum is that some of the lowest hanging fruit is: finance/insurance, law, real estate, and gambling. All of those are very politically connected.
Will Web 3.0 surpass Web 2.0 in the future?
It’s up to those of us in the Ethereum community to make that happen. I’m optimistic!
Blockchain, Swarm, Whisper — which should get the most attention during 2017 in your opinion and why?
I’m not sure I have a good answer. If pressed, I’d say whisper because it has gotten the least attention (and funding!) so far.
And what are you personally looking forward to from the year 2017?
Seeing dapps in production. Doing my small bit to help build the future.
Thanks Evan, it was a pleasure to interview you, keep up the good work! Readers who would like to receive Evan’s weekly updates can subscribe from here.
Disclosure: Status is helping to support Evan’s newsletter, with no editorial control over it and Evan will be contributing weekly updates to the Status blog in the future. This interview was agreed upon before any commitments regarding the newsletter were made.
Thanks to Evan Van Ness.
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