From the Better Late Than Never dept. comes our third yearly status letter. It covers all news-worthy updates since our previous letter.
Inside This Year's Letter:
- Blog Silence
- Group Income
- July 2017 hackathon development
- Anikó Fejes and Sandrina Pereira join Group Income! development
- BlockCon Basic Income Q&A With Scott Santens (Los Angeles) education
- The DCS Theorem
- DPKI: Decentralized Public-key Infrastructure
- Miscellaneous Decentralization Related
What's this? Not a single blog post this year? Not even a newsletter? Have we been asleep?
Heavens no! On the contrary, we've been too busy to blog! Our focus has been on Getting Things Done — in terms of code, research, publication, talks and lectures, administrativia, and the fact that 2017 became the Year Of Decentralization!
The call to Decentralize All The Things! did not need our help, while other items did.
This post will cover the highlights.
July 2017 hackathon
In July of 2017, seven totally OK turtles gathered in a remote farming area for what's becoming a yearly Group Income hackathon.
It was a smash success! You can see photos and read all about it on Group Income's blog:
👉 Read more: Group Income July Progress Update
Anikó Fejes and Sandrina Pereira join Group Income!
Two talented developers have joined the Group Income team to help us bring the prototype to a usable state:
👉 Read more: Anikó Fejes and Sandrina Pereira join Group Income!
BlockCon Basic Income Q&A With Scott Santens
The DCS Theorem
In the paper, we give a proof that says blockchains (and similar decentralized consensus systems) centralize as they scale. We also describe methods to "get around" this fundamental limitation.
While our stated goal was to "put an end" to the "blocksize debate", the implications of the work extends beyond blockchains to all consensus processes, humans included.
The paper was covered by CoinDesk, and most (but not all) reactions have been positive:
"Great paper about blockchain scalability issues [..] truly recommended" — Federico
"I have seen hundreds - if not thousands - of tweets trying to summarise these processes, now all in one place and the confusion deciphered." — Theo
"Like the CAP Theorem, it’s a simple, yet powerful tool to understanding the challenges faced when scaling blockchains." — Sam
"That paper is a joke. The idea it PROVES anything... The assumption are poorly defined and erroneous and it goes downhill from there" — Craig
👉 Paper: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1801.04335.pdf
Presentation at Block2TheFuture
Not everyone enjoys reading papers, so a talk was given at Block2TheFuture in San Francisco:
We'd like to thank our supporters for helping make this work possible.
Working with folks at Rebooting Web-of-Trust, this time in Boston, we continued collaborating on aspects of DPKI (see below), and some of the work on the DCS Theorem paper also happened there. That paper was published alongside other documents produced by the working group:
👉 RWOT Boston: final documents
DPKI: Decentralized Public-key Infrastructure
For those who aren't familiar, here is a quick refresher:
- DPKI stands for Decentralized Public-key Infrastructure
- DPKI seeks to serve as an improved alternative/replacement for X.509 (that thing securing today's Internet)
- DPKI changes the web's security model from 1000s of single-points-of-failure to decentralized consensus groups that create namespaces (sorta like what blockchains do!)
- DPKI is not a blockchain — it's a protocol for securely accessing blockchains and similar decentralized consensus systems
- DPKI has Top-Level Domains (TLDs) representing different blockchains (e.g.
A lot of people often ask, "What are blockchains good for?"
And a lot of people complain that "blockchain" is a term overused and overextended.
We sympathize with these feelings, which is why we are quite surprised at the pace of innovation when it comes to this particular area, because while blockchains might not be a cure-all to all of society's woes, they are ideally suited to fixing the Internet's broken security system.
The good news is that although progress appears slow, it nevertheless continues, with each new year bringing new players into the fold.
However, no single blockchain can fix the Internet's security. To do so would be a clear violation of the DCS Theorem, and this is why we need DPKI.
To that end our modest contributions in the past year have been in the form of education and evangelism (see below), and if you would like to help us with this effort, please join us this September for RWOT 7 in Toronto.
Presentation at NLUUG
We were invited to present DPKI at the The Netherlands Local Unix User Group:
Presentation at BlockCon
We also gave a talk at BlockCon in Los Angeles on the same subject:
Slate article on Certificate Transparency
The Internet is a global, shared resource used by billions of people. So something is very amiss when any single company can dictate fundamental changes to how it works.
To that end, we released a series of articles in the past detailing problems with Google's plans for Certificate Transparency, and calling for more debate on how to solve the problem of certificate miss-issuance. There are, after all, many different approaches.
Joshua Oliver interviewed us and others for a Slate piece on this subject:
Miscellaneous Decentralization Related
This past year Net Neutrality became center of focus for many people, the turtles included.
Without Net Neutrality, the Internet turns into Cable TV, and much of the work that people are doing to decentralize the Internet's content providers becomes meaningless without a properly functioning Internet.
So the turtles took a break momentarily to "hit the streets" with our own advocacy efforts supporting those of others:
👉 Code: widget to break your website
Noteworthy Decentralization Tech
This year we gave shoutouts to several new ones and several oldies:
- LemonMail — abandoned?
- P2P gist via Dat
- Namecoin HPKP
- Lightning Desktop App
- Lightning Apps - LApps
- DIY EpiPencil
- STARKs:   
- WebSub + IndieAuth
- Schnorr Signatures
- The Lounge
- HiFive - RISC-V
- Decentralized Exchanges
- Mailu & Poste
Want to see yours here? Please share it with us in the comments or in a toot/tweet!
Besides all of our public facing activities, a lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into keeping the okTurtles Foundation running as an organization. Things like maintaining a functioning online presence, this website, logistics, accounting, fundraising, email, newsletters, contractors, status updates — the works!
And this past year, even more had to be done now that we're a 501(c)(3). Speaking of which...
We're a 501(c)(3)!
Many thanks go to Andrea Devers for her helping us go from state-recognized to federally-recognized tax-exempt public charity status.
We are officially a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) public charity!!— okTurtles Foundation (@okTurtles) November 29, 2017
Past donations are retroactively tax deductible! We’ll be posting details soon!
Retroactively deductible donations
The effective date of our 501(c)(3) status is June 17, 2014 (our date of incorporation), meaning that all donations we've ever received are tax-deductible. However, donations generally can only be deducted for the tax year when they were given. Donations for prior years can be claimed by filing an amended return.
We will be sending donation receipts to previous donors over the next few months. If you do not receive one by the end of 2018 please contact us.
Long-time okTurtles fans will note this website now loads over a
.org domain instead of a
.com. This isn't only related to the 501(c)(3) status, but it also represents a much-needed long-time-coming move to upgraded server infrastructure.
Running a website (correctly) is really hard! And this is a very big problem. It is why so many, even in the decentralization community, use centralized blog providers like Medium instead of self-hosting. And while things are improving thanks to technologies like Docker and Let's Encrypt, fundamental changes are needed to reverse the centralizing trend we're seeing today.
On the financial front, we've made several significant changes and improvements:
- We have a shiny new finances page!
- We've removed BitPay as a payment processor for cryptocurrency donations
As convenient as it was to use BitPay to process donations, it became clear that our mission to support beneficial decentralization technologies was in conflict with continued use of BitPay. So now cryptocurrency donations are processed simply as direct payments to our addresses. In the future, we may self-host a more convenient payment processor using software like Cashier-BTC or btcpayserver.
Finally, let's review the goals we set for ourselves and see how we did:
- Finally launch our experiments with the prototype of Group Income, a decentralized basic income system that works with any currency.
While we made significant progress on wrapping up the prototype, we were not able to launch our basic income experiments this year. We hope 2019 will be the year for that, and if you're interested in participating, please visit https://groupincome.org and sign up for the newsletter.
- Review (de)centralized systems, and list decentralized alternatives to centralized tools.
We reviewed both new centralized and decentralized systems and technologies, and although we weren't able to blog about them, we did tweet (and toot!) about various technologies (see the long list above).
- Continue our work on realizing an Internet protocol for a Decentralized Public-key Infrastructure.
We traveled to San Francisco, Boston, the Netherlands, and Los Angeles to collaborate, discuss, and present on DPKI. The term "DPKI" has now become an industry term of art in reference to using decentralized consensus ledgers to secure communication links online, and public awareness continues to grow about what DPKI is, why the Internet urgently needs it, and what steps are necessary to get there.
- Update our website to improve the public transparency and accountability of our finances, so that you know exactly how your dollars (or Bitcoins or whatever) are being spent.
Our director and secretary Andrea heroically sifted through emails, invoices, and travel and business receipts, so that we can be fully transparent on how we use your donations via our new finances page.
- Implement donation tiers ("gold supporter", "silver supporter", etc.) so that donors who wish to be publicly recognized can be if they so choose.
- Move our website and infrastructure from okturtles.com to okturtles.org.
Completed! We learned a lot about the challenges facing individuals and companies when it comes to maintaining their own self-sovereign online presence. Much work needs to be done in this area, and we are happy to collaborate with and promote folks who want to make this process simpler.
Phew! That's it for the third turtle status letter! Thanks for reading! 😀
Our work is made possible because of our supporters, to whom we are eternally grateful! If you'd like to help us, please make a tax-deductible donation today.
Donating = Loving!
Without our supporters, we can't do what we do.
Please take this moment to support our work.