Earlier this year I was invited to be a speaker and present OpenBazaar at this year’s Hacker’s Congress at Paralelní Polis (HCPP16) in Prague. I’ve never been to Prague, and hadn’t visited Paralelní Polis yet, so I was excited to attend.
If you’re not familiar with Paralelní Polis, they’re an organization of hackers and artists in the Czech Republic who condemn authoritarian governments and use digital activism to make people more free. This year’s Hacker’s Congress described itself as having “hundreds of technology enthusiasts, tech-entrepreneurs, activists and cryptoanarchists to celebrate the age of digital freedom and decentralization!”
You can’t miss the Paralelní Polis building in Prague; it’s completely black. The bottom floor is a coffee shop that only accepts Bitcoin, and the other floors were turned into rooms for presentations over the weekend.
I spoke on the last day about OpenBazaar. Here’s the summary of my talk:
Existing commerce online is centralized by a handful of companies who monitor data, censor trade, and use tightly controlled payment systems. OpenBazaar is an open source software project which creates a decentralized network for trade, using Bitcoin. Because OpenBazaar removes the middleman, there are no fees, there is no censorship, and there is no mass collection of data. This talk explains the project’s history, how it works technically, and how future changes will further enhance decentralization and censorship-resistance.
I focused quite a bit on the improvements that are coming in the 2.0 version of OpenBazaar. The audience was great and asked lots of questions, and we ran out of time, but fortunately I was able to follow up a lot of conversations with people afterwards.
Immediately following my presentation was a talk by Justin Drake of Duo Money, the company behind the OpenBazaar search engine Duo Search. Justin’s talk was about being an entrepreneur on OpenBazaar:
OpenBazaar is an open-innovation decentralised protocol for trade. Unlike proprietary marketplaces like eBay or AirBnb it presents many opportunities for entrepreneurs to build upon. Justin will give an overview of the fledging OpenBazaar ecosystem, focusing on the opportunities and challenges for entrepreneurs.
He talked about his experience building Duo Money, which originally was meant to be a payment and HTTP gateway to the OpenBazaar network, but that plan was dashed when they lost their banking partner – only days before OB launched! They quickly pivoted to building a search engine, and only weeks later launched Duo Search. He made the point that relying on permissioned systems like banks stifles innovation, but building on an open system like OB or Bitcoin allows for permissionless innovation. Justin also gave tips for people looking to build in the OB ecosystem, as well as giving business ideas for aspiring entrepreneurs as well, both of which he turned into blog posts.
HCPP16 was a great place to meet with people and talk about all different types of new decentralization technologies, and quite a few people had ideas on how their project and OpenBazaar could compliment each other. I highly recommend that anyone who is interested in decentralization technology, and using new tech in order to make people more free, should learn more about Paralelní Polis and attend next year’s Hacker’s Congress.
After the conference I was able to do some Prague sightseeing. It’s a beautiful city. I enjoyed my trip to HCPP16 and Prague, and hope to attend next year.