Oliver and I discussed how he got started with Ethereum, how he came to work at Aragon and where he sees the project going
We have a new addition to our Dev Team! Past team interviews were Luis’ Interview | Jorge’s Interview | Tatu’s interview | Harsh’s interview | María’s interview and Tim’s interview. Today we’re introducing Oliver as a new team member. He expresses his views on Ethereum, his favourite projects and how we can all make Aragon better together.
Hello Oliver, welcome to the team! Could you start by telling us about yourself, who are you and what is it that you do at Aragon?
I’m Oliver, and informally my position is being the glue at Aragon, but formally I’m the Senior Full Stack Web3 Engineer — I create the interface between our user experience and our contracts. My work will mostly be seen in the Ðapp itself, but under the hood. I also try be active on Slack and answer questions, especially from potential contributors.
I’ve been a lurker in the Ethereum community almost since it’s inception, mostly on Reddit, Twitter and various Slack communities. I’ve tinkered with Solidity early on, but it quickly became obvious to me that it’s a bit of a hassle to make sure your contracts were secure, so I never went for a career in that. I still read and write Solidity as a hobby to prototype things, and I do try to participate in bug bounties whenever I can.
I’ve been passionate about technology and cryptography since I can remember — I started coding when I was about 11 and I’ve done this professionally since I was 13. Cryptography came naturally to me, since I’ve always been sort of politically invested, especially in politics on privacy and the right to be pseudonymous. I’ve previously been a member of the Danish Pirate Party, but the party was set up to fail from the beginning, so it never went anywhere, unfortunately. Today, I still have my fair share of opinions, but I’m not really politically active.
You started young, so what kind of education do you have?
I’ve actually only finished elementary school. I dropped out of high school or “college prep” — the Danish term is a bit hard to translate, but I hope you get the idea — because I in one part found it really boring, even though I got good grades, and in one part because I was given the opportunity to move across the country to start my own freelance business with one of my friends, who already had a big-ish client. So I did.
When I say I find it boring, it isn’t because I want people to drop out of school obviously, but I think a failure of the educational system we have right now is that it is a one-size-fits-all sort of scheme. If one person in the class is really ahead or one is really behind, but the rest of the class is on the same page, there’s no saving either of them, because there’s just not enough time. It’s kind of a shame.
What was it that got you interested in the blockchain technology to begin with?
I don’t remember how young I was, but I was pretty young when I started being active in the Danish Pirate Party. I started going to their meetings and such, and I met some interesting individuals there, one in particular. He introduced me to Bitcoin, and also Ethereum, actually. I was already very interested in cryptography and economics as separate topics, but this was the best of both worlds.
Blockchain technology is applicable to things other than currencies, and Vitalik Buterin et al. realized that, which is why Ethereum has an entirely different layer on top of it, which is why I think it is the most interesting currencies of them all. And now we’re here.
What do you think about the Ethereum community and is there one that you like the most?
The Ethereum community is amazing, and I feel it is too hard to pick just one that I like the most. I would say that the recent multisig vulnerability highlighted this well; people came together and fixed it in the best way possible, acting swiftly and professionally. Whenever the community needs to get together, it isn’t just the community of one particular project, it is all communities of all projects that come together — and I think that’s beautiful, and it makes me proud to work in this space.
Why do you think makes Aragon relevant for the society?
In a lot of countries middlemen aren’t just that; they’re these huge malicious censorship machines who wage war for the good of a few people. I think Aragon is relevant in this, because a quality of unstoppable organisations is being without specific geography, and because they are built on a system that is censorship resistant in itself. The blockchain is immutable, and no amount of violence is going to change that.
This is also relevant for society, in the sense that we aim for Aragon to be a solution to the insane amounts of bureaucracy one has to go through to open their own business. I’ve tried it myself, and the piles of paperwork you have to deal with feel like wasted effort.
We’re automating away a lot of the boring stuff in every day business operations as well, which I think is on it’s own enough to be attractive to businesses.
There’s a lot of work to be done, we’re just closing in on launching version 0.4. What are the things you cannot wait to work on?
3rd party modules and the Aragon Network! Seriously, the last part has got me excited every day I wake up, because it isn’t just pertinent to Aragon, it could be applied to so many different things. Governance in every aspect is one of the most interesting problems to solve, and it is fundamentally what cryptocurrencies are about — building trustless systems. I probably won’t be writing much of the code, but I feel fortunate to be on the same team, and I will try to contribute to the system in every way I can.
The modules developed by external entities are going to be essential for Aragon as well, and I can’t wait to work with Harsh and the rest of the team to make them work, both for developers and the end users. It’s going to be great.
Other than that, Aragon in itself has so many different parts that each could be great on their own, so I’m looking forward to giving the different parts some love.
So which programming languages are you familiar with? How did you learn them?
Oh man, a lot of different ones. Some of them I don’t use anymore, and some of them I use sometimes. I’ll try to list some of them, but I am obviously not fully proficient in each one.
I started with C# because I wanted to make games when I was younger. That’s how I got started in programming. I then discovered Linux, and at that time C# was not cross-platform, so I moved to C and C++. I never figured out how C++ worked entirely. I then started programming websites, so I chose the most popular language at the time: PHP. Then I moved to Python, did a bit of stuff in Ruby, but Ruby never caught on. Now I mostly work with Node.js and Go.
Programming languages are a lot like “normal” languages, in the regard that learning a few from the same family makes it easier to learn more. They are also similar in the aspect that you can learn to read and write a language, but the entire culture around them and the idioms each language have are still something you are only going to learn by using them a lot.
Where do you see Aragon 5 years from now?
This is a tough one, because I unfortunately haven’t been granted with the ability to foresee the future. Hopefully, everything went according to the development plan, and we’ve reached some level of adoption.
I’d like to see Aragon as the go-to platform for building DAOs. Not doing your own smart contracts is both cost-efficient and more secure, in the sense that our smart contracts are audited — a process that is very expensive at the moment.
Also i would love to see some “real-world” use-cases, i.e. businesses that deal with physical products, such as a humble coffee shop or similar. It would also be cool to see a DAO that is dealing with some sort of machine economy, but I think that’s further than 5 years away.
I believe that we are going to build a great product with the help of the community.
What are the key points you think that the Aragon team needs to keep in mind when moving forward?
Communication is key, both internally and with the community. Being clear in your communication and expressing concerns when you have them are very important to be on the same page. If you keep concerns and ideas to yourself, no one is going to have a chance to understand where you are coming from or what you want.
Expressing wants and needs both internally and externally opens up the chance for dialogue — the outcome might not be as you want it to be, but it was discussed and hopefully everyone reached a consensus.
I’ve been in Aragon for a short amount of time, but I can tell that the team is very motivated and we’re all striving to build a great product. The culture is absolutely great and the communication is crisp without being intrusive.
What features of Ethereum are you most looking forward to?
I’d like to see Swarm in an initial stable version, because storage on-chain is (rightfully so) very expensive. Right now most projects are storing IPFS hashes for larger blobs of data and using that as a reference, but I’d like to see a solution that is built with Ethereum in mind.
More tooling would be great, too, but I think the community has this one covered. By tooling I mean great tools for quickly building both Ðapps and smart contracts, and tools for making sure they are secure and efficient.
Other than that, I’d like to see Raiden in a stable version too, because off-chain payments are crucial to Ethereum’s scalability, but I also think that there are some extremely interesting use-cases for off-chain micropayments (*cough* machine economies *cough*).
Which projects in the Ethereum space are you most excited about?
Aragon: This one is a bit obvious, and also why I joined the team. I think removing middlemen and bureaucracy is very important to making business attractive and accessible for everyone, and this is in a nutshell what we are doing. Making operating and creating businesses easy, accessible and censorship-resistant. Then there’s the entire layer of the Aragon Network which is an entire topic unto itself, but I’ll leave that for some other time.
Golem: I think it makes sense to make infrastructure cheaper and decentralized in the same swoop. If Golem is successful in implementing what they want to implement, there are also some very interesting use cases both for amateur and enterprise scientists (in that they can run large computations cheap-ish without a dedicated supercomputer), but also in their theoretical “hyperbrick” model where developers can make software in a manner that is “plug-n-play” and rent that out — if you’re interested in this model, you can read about it here: https://blog.golemproject.net/golem-microservices-%EF%B8%8F-part-1-1f1ef7b9af29 (next part when?!)
Status: The Status team is amazing, and what they’re building might seem simple and a bit silly at first, but it’s a very important corner-stone of Web 3.0 in my opinion. Having a messaging app act as a portal to all of Ethereum and the Ðapps that run on Ethereum is nothing short of genius, and I think it’s going to be an amazing tool for getting bringing everyday people onto Ethereum.
Mesh networks: This one feels like it is up for grabs, but if it’s not, then I’d love to hear from the community if there is anyone working on it. Basically, we have an issue with the way the Internet fundamentally works right now, where large parts of our infrastructure is centralised around a few actors, such as ISPs. This is also why we have debates on net neutrality almost every year. I think mesh networks will solve this, but until recently there has not been a feasible way to incentivize common people to adopt mesh networks — a token could do that.
Can you tell us a little bit about your hobbies?
My hobbies are what some might call boring, but each to their own 😀
I love mathematics and programming, so I spend a lot of time on those two things, even when I’m not working.
I also love movies, especially Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino’s work. Other than that, I do the occasional gaming, but not as much as I used to. Beer is also a passion of mine, but I think that’s mostly because I am Danish.
Thanks for the interview Oliver, looking forward to working with you!
This was Oliver, Senior Full Stack Web3 Engineer at Aragon, you can also follow Oliver on Twitter.
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Team Interviews: Oliver, Aragon’s Senior Full Stack Web3 Engineer was originally published in Aragon on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.