New Year, New Internets

5 minute read

Bumblefudge here, clearing his throat and mind before hitting reset on various expectations for myself and the world.

2023 Year in Review

2023 was wild: my first child was born, I took the longest sabbatical I’ve taken since my professor days, I made some drastic moves professionally and geographically:

  • I started on a long road with Protocol Labs to try my hand at the ecosystem steering game, figuring out how multiformats could go from “some repo on github” to an IETF working group (god, and IETF’s membership, willing!), which only has a chance at working if I concomitantly get my hands dirty throughout the greater protocol labs interplanetary archipelago, working on conformance this and specifications that as that archipelago nucleates out into something even more anarchic. For as corny as it sounds, it has truly been a joy to get to know both the immediate collaborators in my core team and also the whole ipfs-loving community of collaborators, contributors, and even loving defectors and re-implementers, from whom I have learned so much in 2023 that I should probably write another, longer piece just to fail at doing justice to their intellectual generosity. Lucky is the researcher who gets paid on the job, even when the job is not this novel and bizarre and ambitious and world-building.
  • CASA and Wallet Connect continue to work in the largely greenfield space of blockchain standards and multichain baselines, continuing next-gen work on UCANs and varsigs and other collaborations between members while pushing forward the ever-widening profile work on The first Wallet UnConference at DevConnect Istanbul was a ton of work (particularly for Fission, Kyle and ligi!) but I think it was justified by the immense energy poured out by applicants and participants, who validated out hypothesis that the industry is ready for this kind of non-commercial collaboration and dialogue. In parallel, conversations across the Ethereum Foundation, the EIP editors and catherders, EIP authors, the Fellowship of Ethereum Magicians, and Consensys yielded medium- and short-term plans for bringing the CAIP and EIP processes closer together (as well as bringing the EIP community into closer interaction with IP processes throughout the greater EVM space), which I look forward to executing in 2024.
  • The Decentralized Identity space is retooling and shifting substantially as the VC working group at W3C goes to CR status with version 2 of their specification, and the SPICE working group spins up at IETF to continue an opinionated subset of that work with the promise of faster iteration cycles and integration with SCITT and other fast-moving items moving through fellow-traveler WGs at IETF. While consortia and megafauna plan their rollouts of subsets of this tech, the purer research and design work continues apace, even here at learningProof, where long-time core member and specification powerhouse Dmitri Zagudulin started drafting did:webhash as an upgrade and extension to did:web to support new architectures and projects across the education space but also the decentralization and alternative publication spaces.
  • Bumbling around the ActivityPub space has been a humbling and eye-opening experience, which has made me realize time and again how limited and biased my approach to software and its particular sociology has been despite my decades of thinking myself wise. The Fediverse is truly an alternate social web where our industry’s common sense fails and our stutters. I’ll follow up with a separate post just about how these standards are evolving and learning proof’s role in driving them forward, but suffice it to say that ActivityPub occupied as much brainspace and dreamspace as decentralized identity, blockchain standards, and content-addressed interplanetary data in the second half of 2023, and will again for at least 2 quarters more, if not the rest of this decade.

On a more banal, personal note:

  • I went to my Chaos Communications Camp, my first in-person TPAC (W3C annual conference), and also my first in-person IETF (triannual conference). At all three, I talked to new faces and familiar faces about all four of the above multi-year projects. All three were a rejuvenating jolt of new ideas and new insights into histories I thought I knew better than I did. At and as a consequence of all three, I met a number of new “standards people” and veterans of the sort of work learningProof was established to support and drive forward.
  • One of those new faces lobbed this little grenade over the wall to push forward the conversation about IETF’s role in a changing world and it’s starting to feel like the ground is shifting beneath us, radicalizing and politicizing the average tech worker ever so slightly. The Summer of Protocols, in which I didn’t participate at all despite living in Berlin, lasted well into the winter and feels a little like the decentralization world’s equivalent, wondering and wandering towards SDOs and the formalization of protocols (and governance) as an inevitable next steps. There’s something in the air, and it suddenly feels a lot easier to explain to people what all this has been working towards!
  • I am having a harder and harder time differentiating my professional life from my personal life, as my core team on all these projects are as much friends as colleagues. At this point I don’t really need much extrinsic motivation to keep doing the work I do–I’m mostly powered by peer pressure at this point.

2024 #squadGoals

Going forward, 2024 might just be the year where learningProof’s blogs are written in the first-person plural, since all my goals for this year are really goals for various uss.

  • in 2024, I want multiformats and CIDv1 and all of the shared tooling that sits on top of them to evolve from being interplanetary™️ technologies to being community technologies, finding some more public and credibly neutral position as shared resources and foundations across more independent stakeholders and developer communities.
  • in 2024, I want CAIPs and EIPs and IPIPs and RIPs and all kinds of other IPs to stop reinventing wheels and develop their own kind of educational/onboarding flywheels, bringing each other’s authors and implementers into a closer sense of intelligibility and “horizontal review.” I don’t think it matters too much whether this community congeals into some kind of “organization” with officers who Speak For it, but I do measure success here by how the average author of an _IP document feels like they got enough support of both fair, neutral helpers (editors, catherders, janitors, cross-org scrummers), but also that there was a community chiming in and giving constructive feedback. I thought a lot in Q4 about what an SDO for the decentralized world (or any subset of it) could look, and I don’t have answers yet, but it feels like various things are cooking in various groupchats I’m in, so with or without the “org” part at least some groundswell of SD is happening.
  • in 2024, I am hoping to keep bringing my daughter onto calls and normalizing taking zoom calls from my bike, moving trains, daycare pickups, parks, dogwalks, restaurants, and beyond. life/work balance is for the weak!

oh and we need a new internet, this should be the year we actually make one.

lfg, –bumble