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Running the 1st Corda Code Club

The world of blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology is a world of non-standard technologies; “Solidity”, “Chaincode”, Byzantine Generals lurking behind every corner and a SHA256 sausage machine for every Bitcoin… it’s kind of no mystery why so many programmers have spent far more time reading about it than they have on coding anything.

Even Corda, the enterprise blockchain platform that’s written in Java (or its cousin Kotlin), and whose creators’ mantra is that a Corda app (or CorDapp) can be built by “3 developers, 3 companies, 3 days”, has a relatively low level of penetration in terms of the total Java population.

The reason why of course, is everyone’s busy.

Which was one of the reasons why we set up the Corda Code Club. We think if you can compartmentalise your learning into a Monday night activity which is something you just “do” every week, we can lower the barrier to entry. At the Corda Code Club you can learn a new skill, build your own CorDapp alongside fellow beginners, and benefit from expert Corda tuition.

We thought we’d put the “3 devs 3 days” concept to the test, and worked with the R3 Developer Relations team to set up an introductory course-come-hackathon where a group of developers with little or no Corda experience would have 10 hours over 6 weeks to learn the platform and build their own CorDapps.

On the first night after an initial introductory talk to the platform, the group then divided up into teams (via the type of pizza they happened to pick a slice of!) and then sat down together to decide what use-case to design their CorDapp around.

The next 5 weeks were all about coding. Each team had its own mentor assigned to them who was on hand to teach the team how Corda works in practice and guide them on what can be done with the platform.

 

On the final night we invited Richard Crook (then Head of Emerging Technology at RBS, now CTO of Chorum), Barry Childe (Head of Blockchain and Cryptocurrency at HSBC) and Richard Brown (CTO of R3) in to judge the final presentations. And for the prizes, we made sure to chose something suitable, that reflected the prestige of winning a hackathon and would be rare enough to be something that you can’t just pick up anywhere. Nothing less than a Computer Programmer Limited Edition “Lego Minifig” would do:

It’s fair to say we learnt a lot of lessons from that first hackathon, although I do think the results speak for themselves. We had 27 participants, 24 of whom turned up to every night and by the end of the hackathon there were 19 developers who’d gone from next to no Corda experience to having built their own working CorDapp. And we had a lot of fun in the process.

I think the most valuable lesson we learnt is how important the mentors are.

No matter how technically able a team is, without a mentor present every night, its easy for the team to lose their way.

In the first few weeks the mentors act as teachers and guides to the platform, explaining what can be done and how to achieve, then once they get going their role changes into something closer to a delivery manager, ensuring the guys stay on track and being there to advise when they hit sticky problems they just can’t solve. We also didn’t anticipate that some of the mentors, due to how comparatively easy they find it to solve problems in Corda, would “go above and beyond the call of duty” and take on large chunks of the actual coding.

The other big lesson we learnt was not to the change the venue one of the evenings… actually it was more of a lesson about properly announcing and publishing the venue locations. Which really is “event management 101”, so pretty unforgivable really. It kind of didn’t help that the one evening that we changed the venue turned out to the be hottest day of the year, so the 3 or 4 guys who didn’t get the message either ended up walking across town at the height of the day’s humidity, or just didn’t make it after arriving at the wrong venue and couldn’t bear the thought of getting back on the underground. That was an important lesson.

These were ideas that the teams turned into working CorDapps:

The other big lesson we learnt was not to the change the venue one of the evenings… actually it was more of a lesson about properly announcing and publishing the venue locations. Which really is “event management 101”, so pretty unforgivable really. It kind of didn’t help that the one evening that we changed the venue turned out to the be hottest day of the year, so the 3 or 4 guys who didn’t get the message either ended up walking across town at the height of the day’s humidity, or just didn’t make it after arriving at the wrong venue and couldn’t bear the thought of getting back on the underground. That was an important lesson.

These were ideas that the teams turned into working CorDapps:

1) Private Health Insurance Management App

Team Marge built the winning entry, a private health insurance CorDapp that had 1 node for the hospital, a node each for 2 insurers and 1 node for the bank (for patients account). The hospital doing the treatment would request a quote from the insurers, each insurer responds with their quote, the hospital selects the best quote and then they sign the transaction, then the hospital carries out the treatment and sends the insurer the bill, the insurer pays and the patient pays the rest. As each transaction occurs, only nodes that need to know are informed what has happened.

This CorDapp used Corda’s “frictionless commerce” and the Cordite tool to ensure the financial balances of each account are updated immediately, as well as the selective privacy you get with Corda’s node permissioning.

Here’s a link to the Source Code: https://github.com/corda-codeclub/marge

2) A Decentralised Credit Scoring App

Team Peppa’s CorDapp provided a credit scoring service where the user would invite the retail banks they bank with to share their transactional data via a Corda network, from which a credit report would be produced.

This CorDapp made full use of way Corda creates networks of “known identities” and the core distributed ledger element of the network to remove the need to create a new 3rd party to store the users data for the specific task of producing a Credit Report.

Here’s a link to the Source Code: https://github.com/rafaelazeredo/creditbank

3) Sustainable Fishing Rights

Team Olive Oyl built a CorDapp that created a system for managing the issuance of fishing rights in the form of digital assets and then allow them to be resold by owners in a way that would automatically inform the regulator. It had 5 nodes, a notary node, a node for the regulatory body issuing the Digital Fishing Rights certificates, a node each for 2 fishermen and a node for the purchaser of the caught.

This CorDapp utilised the “selective privacy” element of a Corda network allowing the regulator to have complete oversight on who has which quotas without revealing which fisherman has which fishing licences to the whole market.

Here’s a link to the Source Code: https://github.com/joeldudleyr3/olive-oyl

4) A Secondary Market for Property Conveyancing

Team “Sloppy Joes” built a CorDapp that would allow people to buy and then resell a property survey they’d paid for. Their app had the first property buyer node requesting a property survey from a conveyancer node, which would then issue an encrypted “digital asset survey” in return and simultaneously send the key to an Oracle. Once the conveyancer confirmed they had received payment from the property buyer, the Oracle would release the key to the property buyer node. This process could then be repeated when the property buyer wanted to resell the survey.

Amazingly this CorDapp utilised pretty much every key element of the Corda framework, from Smart contracts to manage the release of encrypted keys, to made-for-purpose-Oracles to act as 3rd parties, to regulating what each node had access to in the ledger via node permissioning and the Doorman — they got a special mention by the judges for this alone!!

5) Commercial Property Investment

Team Vegan’s Commercial Property Investment Management CorDapp created a network of nodes representing the Land Registry, Property Owners, Property Fund Managers and Property Investors. The shared ledger would allow each of the parties to manage information and have access to a real time picture of what properties they owned and what their status was.

This CorDapp made full use of the asset portability that Corda provides through “Object Serialization”. Each house / property has a unique serial number and because Corda provides a set of Standards for Object Serialization it means that two independently created Property Investment networks could transfer assets between each other without having to rewrite any of the entities in their property databases.

Based in London and want to take on the challenge? Checkout our website Corda Code Club or get in touch with me at martin@oxenburypartners.com

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Enjoy Guy Fawkes day

Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot

This picture is of the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ conspirators: Thomas Bates, Robert Wintour, Christopher Wright, John Wright, Thomas Percy, Guy Fawkes, Robert Catesby and Thomas Wintour.

Guy Fawkes is also referred to Guido Fawkes, which is the name of a blog I like to read on a regular basis. Guido calls himself “the only man to ever enter Parliament with honest intentions”!

Just signed up for the Blenheim Triathalon

Will be raising money for Leukemia, Lymphoma and blood cancers which, as those of you who know me, will know is a cause very close to my heart.

Just got to get fit now.

Superficiality and the Liberating Aesthetics of Dancesport

I wrote this article when I was at University, in 2005. The Inter Varsity Dance Association has had it up on their website ever since:
Men in dancesport: take a closer look
Martin Jee, of Exeter, speaks out about men and superficiality in the dance world. Superficiality and the Liberating Aesthetics of Dancesport

The clothes we wear, our hair-styles, the things we say and do are the defining factors of our identities. We are judged everyday, every hour, and every minute by “everyone else”, and we judge them in turn. Our society’s superficial assessment system can find us friends and lovers, but also kill the sensitive among us. It is the most efficient way of summing someone up, but also the worst way to know somebody for who they are. So we create ourselves identities by which we hope other people will make the most favourable judgement.

With the majority of guys, there’s a brick wall of prejudice up against dancing. They think dancing is girly and that’s that. They say “dancing is for girls, and I am a man and I am far too manly to dance around like a girl; so I won’t be going ballroom dancing, my son.” In this statement they are asking you to judge them on their projected identity of positive manliness, on their aesthetic value. They betray their true motivation for wanting to be seen to be ‘manly’- their natural abhorrence of being negatively judged.

In actual fact these guys just want to be judged positively. They want to escape the hurtful consequences of being ‘mis-judged’. The way to do this is to judge each other on something deeper than the superficial, something deeper than the way we look, or the things we do. And if we can do this, if we can exchange superficiality for the personality, falsity for truth, our friendships will be stronger and our lives happier. We must extend carte blanche with our handshakes.

More and more it seems to me that our time at university is one of the few times in our lives where we will be able to escape the unhappiness of superficial mis-judgement. School was a cut-throat den of appearance and once we leave university, we will be jettisoned back into the world of superficiality: a world of value judgements based upon the CV we have, the jobs we get and the cars we buy. So wouldn’t everyone at uni be better off enjoying this environment where we judge each other on something deeper, and leaving the superficial judgements aside?

But these guys who think dancing is too ‘girly’ for their fragile identities to cope with are judging Dancesport on exactly the same thing they don’t want to be judged by: aesthetics.

Dancesport is an activity that combines the physical demands of a sport with the aesthetics of art. Every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday night we transform ourselves into living art. It has a purely aesthetic purpose. But that’s not why dancing is so good. Its so good because of the way it makes you feel. It is active, dynamic, new, challenging, self-expressive. It transports you away from the grey world of studying into a world of elegance and style. We dance holding on to members of the opposite sex. A way of dancing which can create intimacy between complete strangers. This ultimately makes friendship easier to establish, and then harder to break. Dancesport is the quintessential social society. Asking somebody to dance with you risks embarrassment because on the face of it you are asking someone to judge you not on what you look like, but upon what you do. In this way, it is a leap of trust. When you reach out for their hand you trust them not to turn you down. When you dance both partners share a risk of failure, a risk of messing things up and looking a little silly. This creates a temporary bond of necessity which leaves a residue that lasts beyond a three and a half minute dance. So although Dancesport appears superficial because it is an art form, in reality the social context in which it places you facilitates the creation of bonds of friendship and prompts social judgement based upon something other than the purely aesthetic.

So if you are a guy and you choose Dancesport, you choose value-judgements over aesthetic. You choose to ask others to look at you and think about who you are, not what you seem. I challenge all those guys wrapped up in ‘manly cotton-wool’ to come along to Dancesport on a Tuesday night and give it a go, it could be your first step to social liberation.

Cruizin’ for a boozin’

I also wrote this article at University for our student paper, Exeposé, in response to a succession of what I saw as alarmist anti-binge-drinking articles. I’m not sure I agree with everything I said in those days but I think the overall sentiment still stands. They printed it and it was nice when a couple people congratulated me on it over the next week.

 

 

Cruizin’ for a boozin’

Martin Jee, drink-sodden-popinjay-in-chief, laments the decline of alcoholism in this fair and pleasant land

 

THE lack of rationale and sincerity in the last Exeposé was a little disconcerting. We, as university students are literally the cream of British intelligence, and our behaviour (both academic and social) is not without logic. The recent Exeposé arguments on binge-drinking however, have been. As far as I can tell their case against binge-drinking goes as follows: “Binge-drinking is bad for your health and social life, and therefore it is bad, de facto.” If they would look at these articles again, with fresh eyes; they might realise that their argument is entirely fallacious and go off and write something sensible or funny for us to read. They might even realise their argument actually produces an effect that is counter-productive for their holier-than-thou crusade. Sorry? What’s this, you mean binge-drinking is good for me? Surely not! Have you not heard of the tragic and lethal consequences of drinking more alcohol than your body can take? No you condescending pinko-lefty, drinking is much deeper than that.

 

OK then, let me take the ignorant and naïve through the counter-argument: Number one: drinking intoxicating beverages is actually an integral part of European culture, certainly youth culture. This is because drinking is never about drinking for the sake of getting drunk (even when the drinker purports otherwise) but it is for the purpose of getting to know ourselves and each other better. If drinking was simply about getting pissed, would there be any need for tables in pubs? Or music? Tables turn uncomfortably empty rooms into cosy cluttered ones, they provide a simple structure for the arrangement of conversation and they allow one to pace oneself by providing a resting place for drinks to be placed upon. Music played in pubs fills in the gaps between our conversations, provides conversational points, and cultural of points of reference around which we can identify each other with. Pubs are the true centres of British culture, so much more important than churches or town halls. I have no scientific evidence for this, but I believe drinking relaxes people and the social situations in which they find themselves. It loosens the tongue and tightens the wit. This makes drinking attractive for freshers, or anyone for that matter who finds themselves in the daunting social situation of having to make friends. In short: alcohol is the oil of lubrication that allows the youthful to overcome their own social inexperience.

 

Number two: experimentation with the body is entirely natural. In this day where vibrators are freely available on the high street, no-one could doubt it. So what is wrong with experimentation with alcohol? Contrary to what the nanny-state fascists would tell you, every Briton knows that drinking too much alcohol will get you drunk. That doesn’t stop us, not because we don’t appreciate the physical dangers of too much alcohol, but because as young people we are inexperienced with our bodies and want to know just how far they can be pushed. I would like to point out that amazingly after the first year the desire to binge-drink is abated; not simply because our finances run out, but because as students of life (as well as history / biology / economics) we slowly learn the social skills that enable ourselves to make and maintain friendships without the aid of intoxication.

 

Finally, in this nanny-state in which we are bound in swaddling clothes from our birth until the coffin is nailed shut; we have but few freedoms remaining. The freedom to do with our bodies as we wish is the natural freedom of man, but now New Labour want to constrict even this freedom. Not by laws, but by propaganda, sustained and insidious. This is a government of fads, its new hobbyhorse just happens to be the terror of binge-drinking; but binge-drinking is actually an ancient cultural phenomenon, to which every British generation is veteran. New Labour has chosen fear, not reason, as the means by which to change our culture: we now drive in fear of speeding fines, go to work in fear of terrorists, and now we must fear our own bodies, fear our ability to make our own choices, fear the very act of socialisation that helps us to settle in to a new university. And now I find that Exeposé partakes in this propaganda assault as well? Has begun to write patronising tosh about fictionary characters called “Juliet” in copy-cat attempts to scare us into modifying our drinking habits? Pathetic.

 

So in conclusion: binge-drinking stems from our own cultural heritage, exists primarily in young adults due to their physical and social inexperience, and has been exacerbated by the attempts of the powers-that-be to constrain our freedoms. We as young adults hereby defend our right to drink as much as we damn well please and shout boisterously in one true voice: “CHEERS!”

Hello world!

A friend of mine recently suggested that I put some of my old articles onto a blog, and write something new.

The first part should be easy, but I’m not so sure about the next.