Today we are talking with Tron Black who is the lead developer of Ravencoin, and principal software developer at Medici Ventures.
- Ravencoin is an opensource peer-to-peer blockchain designed to handle the efficient creation and transfer of assets from one party to another, and notably never had an ICO, no premine, and has no overarching control structure.
We’d like to kick things off by asking you a couple of questions regarding your formative years.
1) Firstly, can you tell us the things which interested you the most throughout your childhood and teenage years, and what brought you the most happiness?
I had the chance to play with computers when I was a kid, and at the very beginning of the PC revolution. My very first experience was typing my name into TRS-80 as the computer "lesson" said to do. It was supposed to kick back a SYNTAX error, but it didn't. It turns out that my name was a command. TRON is TRacer ON on the TRS-80. I was hooked.
For Christmas I got an Atari 800 and my dad paid extra to upgrade from 16K to 24K of memory. I spent my nights typing code from computer magazines into the computer to make games.
When I was 13, I wrote software that simulated industrial water treatment equipment, and my dad's company offered me a future scholarship or a computer (~$200). Guess which I chose? Yep, I paid for college myself while working as a lifeguard, then helping a steel mill with their computers.
At 16 I was still programming computers, but also experimenting with cars. I'd cut the tops off of them to make convertibles. I had 8 cars and two motorcycles when I was between 16 and 19 years old. Most of the cars didn't survive. I made up for it by driving my last car, a real hard-top convertible, for 21 years. I hated to sell it.
2) Who were your biggest influences growing up, and why did they have such a profound effect on you?
My parents had the largest influence on how I grew up. That's a good thing. I have great parents.
I didn't have a TV growing up, and I think that helped shape me. I read a lot.
3) Teenage years are often a turbulent time for many, so on this note, can you name a time which was tough for you, and how you managed to overcome it?
The thing that I remember most was that the friends I had were largely influenced by the classes I took. When I took woodshop and metal shop, because I thought it was pretty great to be able to build stuff during school time, I hung out with a group of troublemakers. I got in less trouble my senior year taking AP Calc, and AP Physics.
4) If there was some advice you could give young aspiring individuals, advice which you would really have liked to have heard yourself as a young person, what would it be?
Try to break out of the standardised school track. Find something you love and pursue it. Our education system is creating a bunch of people with nearly identical skills, at the expense of allowing rock-stars to shine. We have different passions and talents. Find yours. If you're doing what you love and you're the best at it, you'll break out of the pack and the market will probably reward you for it.
We are now going to ask you some questions which will hopefully give our readers something to go on regarding you as a person.
5) Firstly, what are the particular strengths that you feel have made you successful in your field (don’t hold back)?
I have a unique set of skills that have combined together nicely.
I consider myself an entrepreneur. I have a Computer Science degree from the University of Utah and I have an MBA. My MBA wasn't taught by academics, but by working people in their respective fields. And the students in the MBA program were also required to have jobs. This gave me a broad perspective as doctors, marketing professionals, engineers and others came together to learn about organisational behaviour, incentivization, business processes, etc.
I also believe strongly in market solutions to problems. If a market solution isn't working, it's usually pretty easy to identify the market distortion preventing it from working well. This is especially true with the US heath-care system.
Having gone from a we're-all-in-this-together startup to working in corporate hierarchy after my company was acquired, I saw the vast differences between the two. This was a wake up call early in my career. After the required stint in the corporate environment, I went back to being an entrepreneur which fits my personality better.
One of my strengths is solving hard problems that haven't been solved before. I work backwards from the goal, collect information for any areas that seem hard or impossible, and then sleep on it. Most of the solutions come to me while I'm sleeping. This has led to some patent filings.
6) What would you say is your most controversial opinion as regards to blockchain or the crypto space?
I generally try to steer clear of overly controversial topics in the crypto space. Divergent opinions tend to divide communities, and often times those divisions will lead to a split in the actual blockchain. This rarely helps anyone.
One strongly held opinion that isn't popular with those that think Bitcoin will be the only crypto-currency to survive, is that I think there will be many more crypto-currencies and tokens. I liken it to websites. You COULD have one large website, and it would even be more efficient, but it is better and more likely that there will always be many more websites with new ones appearing every day. I think crypto-currencies will follow a similar path. I also think it's much safer, for crypto-currencies, that there are many of them sharing the load, and tradable amongst themselves.
7) In the course of your day you can become under the most ridiculous pressures and stresses, what is your particular way of dealing with this?
I'm pretty level and it's pretty hard to get me too stressed. I recognize that most of my problems are first world problems. Soaking in a hot tub with a view of the Rocky Mountains is pretty good therapy.
8) Outside of crypto/blockchain, what is your favorite thing to do?
Travel and experience the world.
Expanding perceived time is a high priority for me now. A talk by John K. Coyle made a big impact on me and so I try to get out of my comfort zone.
We are now going to ask you some creative and humorous questions, and we are sure people will love to see you what you can come up with.
9) What is the most humorous thing you have seen or experienced during your time in the crypto/blockchain space?
I like this video. It pokes fun at us. Hopefully we don't take ourselves too seriously.
10) If you somehow managed to meet Satoshi Nakamoto (that is he is a male person in this scenario) on his deathbed, but only had time to ask him one question, what would it be? Bear in mind you don’t have much time at all, so make it a good one.
Do you know Craig Wright?
11) Can you give three policies you'd enact if you became the president of a country tomorrow?
1. Money and financial inclusion/exclusion may not be used as a weapon.
2. We will not police the world.
3. Twitter is not the right place for foreign policy announcements which are difficult, complex and nuanced. Use Snapchat.
Communities are often an important backbone for many crypto/blockchain projects, so we’d now like to get some personal thoughts on the community side of things.
12) What do you feel makes the Ravencoin community unique compared to others?
Our community is unlike any other that I'm aware of. It is community driven. The originators of the project do not run the Discord, or Telegram. We had some bumpy roads and lost a Discord server containing early discussions, but we have a stronger community because of the decentralized nature of the community and the volunteer admins.
13) Project aside, what are some other crypto/blockchain communities that you admire and why (this is not an endorsement)?
I like Dash. I think there's a benefit from some of the block reward being voted to support the development of the technology.
Before Ravencoin, I was giving Dash to everyone I met. Now I give them Ravencoin.
14) What social-media platform do you like most and why, and are there any improvements which you feel can be made to these platforms for an even better community user-experience?
They all have different strengths and weaknesses.
Twitter forces you to make your thoughts concise to fit in their 280 characters.
Telegram is like a huge group text. Miss something and maybe the topic will come up again later, because scrolling back and reading it all it just too time consuming. Our Telegram is very active.
Discord at least lets you have group texts by topic. Not interesting in mining, then ignore the #mining channel.
Reddit is nice because it seems more persistent, searchable, and can be organized by topic.
SynQ UP is one that's being worked on that is most similar to Discord, or Slack, but with specific crypto-specific features.
I would like all of the social media sites to add crypto tipping. I liked ChangeTip which closed down when AirBNB aqui-hired the team. ChangeTip should've added a 4% withdrawal fee to make ChangeTip profitable.
Other options I'd like to see are tools to cut down on the bot spam. Because there's money involved, there are scammers that want to pitch their scam to every community. Captchas and other tools to prevent spam are needed to keep the humans in and the bots out.
15) With the endgame being mainstream adoption, do you think crypto/blockchain communities will still have an important role to play in a post-adoption environment?
Yes, communities will always have a role, although the community may be more about the use-case that the crypto-currency supports than the crypto-currency itself. For example, maybe the local golf league uses a token to represent wins and tokens get redeemed for drinks at the 19th hole. This made-up niche use is just an example and would have its own community. In my view, there will continue to be thousands, or maybe millions of different crypto-currencies. Much in the same way there are millions of blogs. Some will be large and have high liquidity, and others are on the long-tail and have limited redemption options.
In our penultimate section we are going to ask you a question regarding Ravencoin.
16) What do you feel sets Ravencoin apart from your competitors (that is if you have any)?
Ravencoin Asset protocol is a platform. Anyone can build on top of Ravencoin assets. There's a DevKit which adds API support.
Another difference between Ravencoin and all the ICO projects that launched in 2017 is that we have no regulatory overhang. Most of the 2017 ICOs were done without registering with the SEC or operating under an exemption. That puts many projects in legal peril. While I may not agree with many of the SEC rules that were put in place 80 years ago and aren't very compatible with new crypto technology, I do understand that the rule violations put lots of competing projects in legal jeopardy.
The Ravencoin project did not raise any money, do an ICO, pre-mine, or developer set-aside. That has made some things more difficult for us, but it was a very fairly launched project.
Well that just about does it, but before we end this interview we’d like to ask you for something which we believe will say a lot about your belief in the industry, and which may inspire those who are reading.
17) Can you come up with a short argument for our readers on why you feel cryptocurrency and blockchain (or just one) has a bright future?
This one seems so obvious to me. As soon as bitcoin gained a value, which meant that value not only moves as easily as e-mail, but is also censorship resistant, the only conclusion is a complete re-shaping of the financial industry.
Bitcoin started on January 3, 2009, but the key tipping point was it gaining a value, no matter how small. That might have been the famous pizza purchase, or even the first bitcoin exchange transaction, but once bitcoin had a market price, then value could move instantly anywhere in the world.
Now it's just scale. We have a global currency (or multiple) that can be exchanged in just about any country in the world for the local currency. It has been growing at around 302% per year from that first transaction, and shows no signs of stopping.
I have a presentation that I gave at the EU Ravencoin Meetup in Amsterdam that draws comparisons between the hubris of the legacy financial industry with the hubris shown by BlockBuster in its heyday with 9,000 stores. Then I draw parallels between the adaptability of Netflix and the adaptability of the crypto ecosystem. We know how the story ends. There is one BlockBuster remaining in Bend, Oregon while Netflix is producing original content for its streaming service.
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