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February 9, 2018

Ask an Expert: What You Need to Understand about Blockchain with GNOSIS (Part 1)

Meet GNOSIS, a blockchain startup building revolutionary market-driven forecasting technology.

GNOSIS provides an open platform for businesses to create their own prediction market applications on the Ethereum protocol, and they spent the last few months right here at betahaus. For Part 1 of this series, we sat down with Nadja, the Brand & Content Strategist for GNOSIS, to address some frequently asked questions in blockchain: what is blockchain, what are its advantages, and what does it mean to depend on third-parties? 

Here's what she had to share!

Hi Nadja. Let’s start with the basics: what is blockchain and what does it do?

"I like to describe blockchain as being something like a 'spreadsheet in the sky'. It's a shared, trusted, public ledger of transactions — a distributed database that maintains a continuously growing list of transaction data records, cryptographically secured from tampering and revision. This ledger runs on a peer-to-peer network of computers that all run the blockchain protocol and hold an identical copy of the ledger of transactions. Distributed consensus based on economic incentive mechanisms (game theory) combined with cryptography allows for secure peer-to-peer validation of transactions, and hence bypassing the need for traditional trusted third parties (like banks).

Imagine Google Docs. Each person has the latest version of the document, and everybody can inspect it. In order to change the contents of the doc, users need to reach a mutual agreement (consensus). As opposed to Google Docs, the file is not centrally stored, but each node of the network keeps a copy of the blockchain — the distributed ledger recording all transaction history."

So what do you see as the advantage of blockchain to users?

"The main advantage of blockchain is that users no longer have to trust a third party to validate transactions. With blockchain, a peer-to-peer network of computers validate transactions by majority vote (consensus). Everyone can inspect this public ledger of transactions, but no single user controls it. Blockchain, hence, provides an architecture for so called 'trustless trust' — it allows us to trust the outputs of the system without trusting any actor within it.

Imagine Anna is your best friend. She's traveling overseas and on the 3rd day of her vacation, she calls you and says: 'Girl, I need some money. I'm totally broke.' You, being a good friend and generally nice person, reply: 'I'll send some right away,' and hang up. You then call your account manager at your bank and tell him (of course you'd use N26 to do this, but let's look at the conservative way for illustration purposes): 'Please transfer 500€ from my account to Anna's account.' He opens up the register, checks your account balance to see if you have enough money to transfer 500€ to Anna. Because you have a lot of money, he makes an entry in the register like the following: Taylor sends Anna 500€ on February 8th, 2018. So, what just happened? You and Anna both trusted the bank to manage your money. There was no real movement of physical bills to transfer it. All that was needed was an entry in the register. Or more precisely, an entry in the register that neither you nor Anna controls or owns. And that is the problem with our current system: to establish trust between ourselves, we rely on individual third-parties."

Why is it a problem to depend on these third-parties, though?

"The problem is that if anything bad happens in society, all it requires is one person or organization to go corrupt, intentionally or unintentionally. What if that register in which the transaction was logged gets destroyed? What if, by mistake, your account manager had written 1000€ instead of 500€? What if he did that even on purpose? All this leads you to the question whether there's a way to maintain the register among ourselves instead of someone else doing it for us. You may have guessed it — blockchain is the answer. It is a method to maintain that register among ourselves instead of depending on someone else to do it for us."

Want to learn more about how secure blockchain is, bitcoin, or the future of blockchain? We had more questions for Nadja, so check out Part 2 of this blockchain overview!

Learn more about becoming a betahaus member or the other startups in-house!

Toni: Currently, we’ve somehow ended up in this niche of building a lot of internal tools for startups and teams. But this is not the only thing we want to do. What I like about it is that we’re starting projects from scratch and we have full control over them. 

Martin: The first project we worked on was a tool for a large scale real estate development company. What they needed was a tool for their Sales people - to be able to mark their different spots and locations at different stages of the sales funnel. So we created a tool that helps them in this process.

Toni: And this one actually served as a starting point for the tool we’ve developed for  betahaus, which aims to allow the Sales and Management team to see which team rooms are occupied right now, which ones are free or will be occupied in a few weeks or months, so no double bookings appear. 

Alex: These two projects were more focused on real estate, let’s say, but we’ve also done more design-heavy projects like the one we did for Artique which is an online artists agency. For them, we built a whole website and an online system to present their artists starting only from their logo. It had to be very flexible, because the artists needed to be able to edit their own profiles, putting their resume, changing colours.



Toni: Honestly, we have skillsets that you don’t usually find in developers. Because we've had lives that were not just about computer science. I think to some extent this is what makes us different. 

Martin: I believe one of the reasons why people pick us over other studios is because it can be very hard working with developers. If you’re not understanding their work, if the communication is not flowing, you, as a client can feel lost. We're easy to communicate with and we’re always open to feedback and we're open to discuss anything. In the end, after all iterations, if you say we need to start the website from scratch and that you don’t like the idea, we won’t take it personally. 

Alex: Also, I think, since we all work as coding teachers, we are officially qualified to explain what coding is to people who don't code, which is actually really rare because a lot of developers, as Martin says, don't want to, or literally just don't know how to articulate what they're doing. Whereas we are trained in articulating what it is that we're doing, why it's meaningful and why it takes a certain amount of time.

Photo by Lea GK


Alex: Zimt & Mehl - the Turkish bakery around the corner. It’s just soo good.

Martin: Oh, there is this Italian restaurant called Ristorante del Arte

Tony: Oh, my God, this place is so funny. It looks like a pretty average Italian restaurant, but the whole interior design inside is just decorated in such a weird way. The entire place is covered in frescoes. They have crystal chandeliers and Easter bunnies. Some Greek columns. It has a different name on the menu, on the side and on the Internet. And it was an ex-shoe-store.

Want to get in touch with Obst Digital? Come around betahaus | Neukölln and meet them here or send them an email to contact@obst.digital !

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