Validation. A powerful word. Is that not what we all want in some form or another? Thankfully we are talking about Chainflip nodes, not the endless pursuit of self-acceptance.
It’s been a huge week at Chainflip HQ with the first official public release from the team, in the form of an incentivised testnet dubbed Soundcheck. The purpose of this update is to get those who haven’t been following closely up to speed with where we are at and to give a bit of insight into what it’s been like in the office and around the Chainflip globe this week.
First things first - if the release of Soundcheck has looked a bit ad hoc or disorderly at times, it’s because it has been. The original plan was to release the validator installation guide on the 15th of December to every single Soundcheck participant (~500) at the same time - and monitor the shit storm from a safe distance.
In the weeks leading up to the deadline, and even this week on Monday the 13th, we were having serious discussions about postponing the launch of the network until the new year. Known problems were being resolved but the lack of testing time meant that dice were being rolled. A delay seemed like the safe choice, as we thought most people wouldn’t really give a shit about this thing until after their Christmas break. Plus, a few key people from our side had booked in some well earned R&R, which would have made providing support and bug fixes that much harder. What’s a couple of weeks in the big scheme of things anyway?
Tom Nash was having absolutely none of it. Overhearing the slightest murmur of a January date would earn the disseminator a quick trip to the naughty corner. Come hell or high water, something was going to be released. It wasn’t completely clear what that thing would be, what it would do, or how many people could use it - but I wasn’t brave enough to ask those questions.
After some very long days and a scramble to the finish line, on Wednesday morning, I arrived at Chainflip HQ and was given a link to the validator documents. Having never before seen a terminal on my computer in my life, Simon and Tom told me to give it a go in a room full of developers on a hardcore grind. The most technically inept person in the group was about to try and install a Chainflip validator without any help or guidance. "If Hitch can install a validator, any idiot capable of operating metamask should be okay" whispered the guys - thinking I was out of earshot... which is strange because I was only 1 meter away, and we have no walls in our office. Who knows. I lost count of the number of eye rolls and deep sighs that were sent my way over the next few hours. I took it on the chin, and as a sign of affection. I was being hazed. I had crossed the void into technical territory, and it was time to earn the respect of my fellow devs.
At the beginning of the day, I didn’t know what a VPS provider did, and I thought SSH was some kind of yubikey. At the end of the day, I was the 4th peer in the official Soundcheck testnet network. Does this mean I am actually a technical savant? That is one possibility - but there are some suggestions it might be more to do with the simplicity of the documentation and the amazing product the guys have built.
It started to look more and more likely that we were going to hit the deadline and we would have something to release. We made the decision to select 20 users and give them access to the documents. We figured it would be far easier to iron out any issues that arise with 20 semi-known users vs. a hungry horde of 500 strangers - if we needed to run any upgrades it would be simple enough to do with a small group.
On Wednesday night - we opened the gates, and the first official Chainflip Validator Testnet Network was born. It was a huge milestone for the team, and things were quite emotional. We only had 3 cold beers in the office which was a real shame - and it’s probably fair enough that I didn’t do enough to deserve one.
Now - why am I telling you any of this? Am I just writing complete nonsense to distract you from the fact our testnet crashed this morning? 99% of Chainflip users, holders, investors and participants will never run a validator - or need to know how the validators work. If you trade on a centralised exchange, do you really need to know what language their matching engine is written in, or their internal security monitoring or withdrawal processes? Probably not. You just need liquidity and an understandable interface or API.
We are hoping to convey to the people, to our supporters and community members - that ANYONE can join the Chainflip network and become a validator. Credible and verifiable decentralisation is our battle cry, and we will not shut up about it any time soon. You will soon be sick of these words, but it is important. Credible. Decentralisation.
This might sound unexciting for your average crypto people - in basically any big-name network - Bitcoin, Eth, AVAX, SOL - it’s not hard to spin up a node and join a network. However, this isn’t exactly the experience when you stumble into the cross-chain corner of the metaverse. Things are a little murkier over here.
It can be extremely difficult to figure out what is happening behind the scenes of most of the popular cross-chain bridges or wormholes. Is this a centralised network? How many validators are there in this network? Where can I download the validator documents? Are these guys wrapping my assets? What is the tail risk here? Is this permissionless entry or do I need to whisper a secret password in some secret discord group? - Most of the time the answer is nowhere to be found, and it’s probably safe to assume the project is being intentionally nebulous about the whole thing in the hopes that you don’t ask questions and just buy the token or use the DEX. The other times the project has started as a centralised solution and is working towards decentralisation.
This is totally fine - we aren’t here to judge or throw shade at different approaches to go to market - but we hope things will become a little more transparent. Our testnet may currently be in disarray, but we are tackling the hardest part of a decentralised cross-chain product first - the decentralisation. Is that the right thing to do? Who really knows, time will tell. We are officially in the fight.
The boys expect to be able to resolve most of our critical issues just after new years. It is looking extremely likely that we will be extending the program past Jan 19th to make sure everyone gets a chance to be a validator. If you have been accepted into the Soundcheck program - relax. You will get your shot at earning FLIP. You will be notified of updates. It is not first come first served, and it is not a race to complete the objectives.
We might even open up applications again once things become stable. All that I know for sure is that the community of testers we have seen so far have been incredibly competent, super helpful and extremely patient. The memes from the general population are also improving.
Have a good weekend and take it easy.