Project Catalyst blasts off into 2021

New fund will commit $500k in ada to find groundbreaking ideas which accelerate Cardano development

6 January 2021 Eric Czuleger 5 mins read

 Project Catalyst blasts off into 2021

Project Catalyst is the first stage in our Voltaire roadmap, created to bring best-in-class governance to Cardano. Effective governance is vital to Cardano because it gives the power to shape the blockchain to its users. Anyone who signs up to Catalyst will be able to propose ideas, and then registered ada holders will vote on funding proposals focused on the continued evolution of Cardano as a platform and a community. This will not only accelerate development but also sustain the Cardano ecosystem in the long term. 

This journey began with two test funds, and then Catalyst swung into action for real with Fund2 in September. With it we saw a very early – and remarkable – example of decentralized collaboration. Thousands of people came together – proposing teams, community advisers and ada-holding voters – to generate, refine and prioritize funding for proposals to drive Cardano forward.

Voting on Fund2 has just concluded and tallying of the votes is under way. Soon, the winning teams will receive funding to help make their proposals a reality. Join our dedicated Telegram channel for Catalyst and stay tuned to our social channels for updates on this.

Challenge accepted

Meanwhile, with barely a beat, we’re moving forward with even greater purpose by harnessing the community momentum integral to Catalyst. Fund3 launches today and we want to expand the Catalyst community with every fund, encouraging ever more people to get involved.

If you’re not familiar with Project Catalyst, this is how it works. Every funding round begins with a defined set of challenges. Each challenge represents an ‘intention’ by the Cardano community, a collective goal we’d like to achieve – we like to talk of return on intention as the way of measuring progress for the project! Each challenge is designed to be broad enough to inspire both technical and general ideas, while being specific enough to provide focus. As long as an idea addresses a challenge and makes a strong case for meeting the intended outcome, it will be considered. So we welcome all proposals, from marketing initiatives and infrastructure development, to content production and product enhancement. 

Project Catalyst relies on the ingenuity of a global network of participants so all ideas are encouraged and can always be ‘re-entered’ for future funds if they do not meet the challenge criteria at hand.

Fund2 contained a pool of ada worth $250,000 and Fund3 doubles that, distributing $500,000 in ada between proposers, voters, and community advisers. Fund3 has three challenges:

  1. Developer ecosystem challenge: How can we encourage developers to build on Cardano in the next six months?
  2. DApp creation challenge: What decentralized applications (DApps) should be funded to drive user adoption in the next six months?
  3. ‘Community choice’ challenge: This new category is where we ask the community itself to set one or more challenges, which will have their own funding round in Fund5. An additional $500,000 pool will be available to cover any goal the community wishes to set, whether it’s about executing the community roadmap, funding content or podcasts, encouraging non-profit work or whatever else is determined to be a priority.

So how do you participate in Project Catalyst?

From sharing insights to submitting ideas 

First of all, anyone wishing to get involved with the project, whether as a proposer, adviser or simply a voter, should sign up to our collaboration platform. You do not have to be an ada holder to propose an idea or take part in the discussion phase. 

Fund3 begins with an insight-sharing phase in which people can give their perspectives on the challenge before proposals are launched. Think of this phase as a community brainstorming forum to inspire proposers.

After the discussion of the challenge, participants with proposals will publicly submit an initial draft.

Refining ideas, finalizing proposals and review

Community members will be invited to provide constructive criticism, offer suggestions, give positive affirmations in the form of ‘kudos’, and even offer to form partnerships and collaborations with proposing teams. The goal is to pool community knowledge and expertise – and Catalyst members are a diverse crew with valuable life and professional experience to offer. The following graph shows the makeup of people who signed up for Fund2:

After community feedback is given, proposers are afforded the opportunity to revise and finalize their plans.

Once proposals are ready, a group of expert reviewers, recruited as community advisers, will give a rating for how well each one addresses the challenge. After this, ada holders can register and then cast their vote. The votes, which are weighted according to the size of each voter’s holding, are then counted and requested funds distributed to the winning proposals.

Looking forward

Fund2 generated incredible creativity and strong proposals, some of which will soon be funded into reality. We expect even greater things from Fund3 as we start building a thriving DApp ecosystem on Cardano. We call Project Catalyst an ‘experiment’ – and we intend to encourage this spirit for some time to come. But our intent is very real and very determined. Every week that goes by presents opportunities to improve and refine this groundbreaking program for, and with, the Cardano community.

Join us in developing Cardano’s on-chain governance by signing up to our IdeaScale collaboration platform and our dedicated Catalyst Telegram channel.

The final days of Christmas

The past, present, and future of Cardano in the spirit of an olde English counting song

4 January 2021 Anthony Quinn 3 mins read

The final days of Christmas

These are our final two thoughts about the past, present and future of Cardano in the spirit of an olde English counting song. There's one for each of The Twelve Days of Christmas, from December 25 to January 5, published in four batches. You can look back to the first batch, which went out on Christmas Eve.

Day 11. Charles Morgan, head of cybersecurity

My brief takes in a wide range of activities, from the obvious aspects of securing our websites, to advising staff on their physical safety on their travels (such as putting a wedge under a hotel bedroom door!), and enforcing two-factor authentication for almost 250 people around the world (Yubikeys are brilliant for this). And we’re having to deal with an awful lot more than Santa coming down the chimney, as you can see from these security statistics over the past year. Can you believe that one in five of the billions of files online are completely open for global access? Scary stuff if that’s your health records or financial information.

I have three interesting items I am working on the moment. The first is theft detection, tracing and anti-money-laundering strategies for Cardano using machine cognition. Then, there’s the automation of security audits and anomaly detection. And, on a more personal level, I’m working towards my Ethical Hacker v11 certification.

As for 2021, I am looking forward to having more team members in cybersecurity. This is going to allow us to be far more proactive in our security posture, in running dynamic and static audits of our products, and it will allow us to pursue ISO/IEC 27001 certification and compliance. This work is critical to Input Output becoming recognised globally as a technologically-stable company, which, thereby, will bolster confidence in Cardano and our products based on the blockchain platform.

Day 12. Rob Moore, digital deliveries manager

The Shelley launch and the start of decentralization for Cardano was a monumental event for the project. The whole of the web team was on call in case anything unforeseen happened, but, of course, all we ended up doing was watching the transition take place. However, even playing that bit part in helping to make Shelley happen is something I won't forget in a hurry. 

Setting ourselves up to deliver quality creative work has been absorbing much of my time recently. December’s Mantis launch of a new client for developers working with Ethereum Classic is a taste of things to come.

Live music, seeing friends and family, having plans, meeting work colleagues in real life, going abroad. All the things we used to take for granted. These are the things I’ve been missing and hope to get back to in 2021.

That completes our Twelve Days of Christmas. We hope some of them – whether on Daedalus, Japanese poetry, decentralized identity or the thoughts of a dreaming octopus – have struck a chord with you. The rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas by the choir of Clare College Cambridge has certainly raised plenty of laughs. Here's to an exciting 2021!

Three more thoughts for the day

The past, present, and future of Cardano in the spirit of an olde English counting song

31 December 2020 Anthony Quinn 5 mins read

Three more thoughts for the day

We're putting out some thoughts about the past, present and future in the spirit of an olde English counting song. There's one for each of The Twelve Days of Christmas, from December 25 to January 5, and they are being published in batches. Here are three for the next few days.

Day 8. Gerard Moroney, operations director

In the past year, we’ve changed the way we write software for Cardano. Our development philosophy has gone from trying to plan very accurately huge releases to a much more agile process where we release small increments often. We’ve taken a very incremental, step-by-step approach and that has helped build up confidence in our people, in our company, and in the community at large. I think that has been evidenced in the fact that the hard fork release was within two weeks of when we predicted it would happen. We’re all very pleased with that.

As one year ends, I’m busy planning for that next. Now, though, we are pragmatic about the fact that we can predict well things in the short term, but things that are further away and are not so easy to predict. So we’ve been setting expectations with all of our stakeholders about what we can do and when.

I’m looking forward to these changes really bedding in and leading to more benefits for the team. I think we have a happier team right now, managers can trust the figures we’re giving them, and our community knows what to expect and when. On a personal note, I live in Cork near the superb Ballymaloe House, and it will be great to be able to celebrate a big event there once again.

Day 9. Eric Czuleger, senior content editor

After working with IOHK for a year and a half now, the most exciting thing that I witness daily is theory becoming reality. I remember hearing about the challenges of building on-chain governance in the office of our chief science officer Aggelos Kiayias. Attempting to understand the complexity of decision-making on a distributed network was enough to keep me awake at night. I comforted myself with the knowledge that I was content editor and not a researcher. Yet, low and behold, months later Project Catalyst is making governance a reality. 

At the moment, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as Cardano evolves around the world. I’m from the US but I’ve spent a good portion of my time living and working in developing countries, such as Iraq, Lebanon, Albania, and Somalia. Most of these places have been done no favors by the global economic system. I can’t wait to see the results of our first forays into Ethiopia, the Republic of Georgia, and Mongolia. Working with legacy financial institutions seems to be the highest priority for some blockchain projects. I’m glad that giving Ethiopian farmers a leg-up is our measure of success.

I’m about to head out on a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. In fact, this is the last blog I will have to write for a couple of weeks. Climbing to Uhuru Peak in December might be ill-advised, but I am looking forward to being unreachable by phone or email for nine days.

Day 10. Polina Vinogradova, software engineer

I haven’t had any chance this year to see how ‘UTXO𝗆𝖺: UTXO with multi-asset support’ goes down at dinner parties, but I did get the exciting chance to present the paper I helped to write at a formal methods conference in October. There’s an online ‘pre-print’ of the full paper available, and the ISoLA 2021 proceedings – most of the conference was postponed by a year – are published by Springer. The research described how a UTXO ledger model like Cardano could be adapted to support several native assets. Not only did I get to present the paper, but it was nice to see the research transformed into a formal specification – and then an implementation in the Cardano system over the past few months.

Right now, I am looking forward to finding out how the native tokens testnet goes, and getting feedback, especially about the ledger design. This design, implemented in Haskell via a formal specification, is based on the paper I presented. It’s going to be very satisfying to see it in action!

After all that, the excitement continues as I return to my work on implementing full Plutus smart contract integration into the ledger for the next hard fork. While most of the ledger team has been focused on Shelley, I’ve been working on the formal specification for Plutus integration. Developers can see on GitHub the open-source code IOHK’s engineers have been producing. Now, I can’t wait until we put all the pieces in place and watch the ledger really interface with the Plutus script interpreter.

The final pair of posts in this Twelve Days of Christmas will be published on January 4.

Three more thoughts for the 12 days

The past, present, and future of Cardano in the spirit of an olde English counting song

29 December 2020 Anthony Quinn 4 mins read

Three more thoughts for the 12 days

We're putting out some thoughts about the past, present and future in the spirit of an olde English counting song. There's one for each of The Twelve Days of Christmas, from December 25 to January 5. The first four went out together and here are three for the next few days.

Day 5. Romain Pellerin, technology chief

It’s been a really satisfying year after delivering so much. There was the Byron reboot, then Shelley, and we have just released Allegra for token locking and are preparing Mary for native tokens. We have been digesting years of research and science with strong engineering – and creating a community with the stake pool operators for example. It’s been a very intense year. I am extremely proud of the team and the way they were able to digest all this. Delivering such complexity, steadily and on schedule all along this year was definitely a big achievement. 

Now, we’re absorbing what we’ve learned and we continue to improve the company in terms of structure, organization, and processes. IO definitely grew up!

In 2021, we will deliver Goguen and Voltaire – smart contracts and decentralized governance – alongside growing our communities of developers and operators. This will empower users to participate in the governance of the system itself. It is definitely a time that will be interesting to go through, so keep your heads high because 2021 will be amazing!

Day 6. Junko Oda, translator

Japan is an important part of the Cardano community and my job is to translate many of the blog posts into Japanese as quickly as possible. I was particularly pleased with how this post about the hard fork combinator read once translated. I am not a technical person at all, but that is a virtue in my job because we want these posts to be understood by as many people as possible. I’m often the one asking the really basic questions! To translate such articles is tough, but it is also fascinating to learn about such cutting-edge technologies – and to be part of the company making them happen.

Right now, I’m about to click on the purchase button of an e-book website. When I’m off work, I prefer reading Japanese books. I’m also fond of Japanese poetry and my husband publishes The Haibun Journal. What I am buying is a novel by Takahiro Ueda called Nimrod, which won the 2019 Acutagawa award sponsored by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Literature. The Acutagawa prize started in 1935 and is given twice a year. According to the blurb for Nimrod, the story relates somehow to cryptocurrency. A novel using cryptocurrency as a motif won such a prestigious award! Wow!

After Christmas, I’m looking forward to some quiet time reading Nimrod before the year starts to get going. The Basho development phase of Cardano is coming near. It is named after Matsuo Basho, the 17th century Japanese poet who specialized in the haiku and haibun forms, renowned for their intellectual and artistic discipline. If 2021 is anything like the past year for work, it’s going to be a busy one. I hope you will enjoy reading our blog posts – in English or Japanese – while I am enjoying my book! In the meantime, here’s a Basho poem I particularly like:

summer grasses –
all that remains,
of warriors’ dreams

(trans. Sean O’Connor)

Day 7. Darko Mijić, product manager

We had 40 releases for the Daedalus wallet this year – more than in all the previous years combined! Among the many new features and improvements that I’m most proud of are the Byron reboot, which meant a big reduction in connection issues and faster blockchain synchronization. Then, Shelley was a big-bang release with a Daedelus update bringing enhanced cryptography, as well as stake pool delegation and rewards.

Right now, we’re analysing the responses to our recent survey – 5,000 from Daedalus users, and more than 100 from stake pool operators. These will help us put the community at the heart of our development plans.

Going into 2021, we are keen for the technically-minded members of the Cardano community to continue with the Daedalus Flight testing program. Wallet improvements will include decentralized identity using Atala Prism – something that will unlock Western-style financial services for developing countries – and native tokens for use in Goguen smart contracts. Furthermore, paper wallets will combine PGP encryption with the convenience of QR codes.

The next batch of 12 Days thoughts will be published on December 31

Some thoughts for the next 12 days

The past, present, and future in the spirit of an olde English counting song

24 December 2020 Anthony Quinn 6 mins read

Some thoughts for the next 12 days

‘May you live in interesting times’ is a saying that seems apt for these turbulent days. The talk in the past few years has been of disruptive technologies – then along comes the coronavirus to show the human race what disruption really means. And 2020 feels like a watershed time; what happens afterwards will not be the same as what has gone before. As the year ends, though, we turn to the future and want to look to brighter things and new horizons.

So, in the spirit of ye olde English counting song The Twelve Days of Christmas, we asked 12 of our people to tell us what had excited them in the past year, what they were doing now, and what they were looking forward to in the next year. They’re a hard-working bunch, so expect plenty about Cardano, but they like to take time off too! Strangely, unlike in The Twelve Days, no-one talked about a partridge in a pear tree, five gold rings, or even 10 lords a-leaping. But you will find an octopus, security tips, and a classic piece of poetry. 

We hope the idea encourages you to look for the good things happening in your lives.

However, we didn’t want our content and web teams being dragged out of bed every day over Christmas, so we’re publishing the pieces in four chunks to cover the 12 days, from December 25 to January 5. Here are the first four.

Day 1. Duncan Coutts, technical architect

The great thing for me was getting Shelley out the door and demonstrating that we had done what we set out to do. We took a radically different approach to everyone else in blockchain with our high-assurance software engineering. A lot of that was partly on my head if it went wrong – so it was very satisfying to see that it really did work! There has just been one bug in the consensus code since the Shelley hard fork, and we knew about that from testing and had planned for it. This result has vindicated the formal-methods, Haskell testing approach. 

We’ve had two smooth hard forks and shown that we can do changes to the ledger rules – and only change the ledger rules. Everything else stays the same. The modular approach we took in rewriting the Byron code means that altering things is not a whole system change, as would have been the case previously. 

The support for native assets that we’re bringing in at the moment is a big deal. It gives users most of the capabilities of ERC-20 and some other things besides. Looking ahead, adding Plutus will be the change that people really notice next year with the advent of smart contracts on Cardano.

Day 2. Simon Thompson, senior research fellow

I keep on going back to this video on Wired magazine’s Facebook page. And I’m not alone – three million people have liked the page. Is it really an octopus dreaming? 

Right now, I’m planning the work we’ll be doing in the first part of 2021, implementing Marlowe on Cardano, and building the user-facing components to make it all usable. 

After that, I’m looking forward to the launch of Marlowe, giving everyone the chance to run financial contracts on a third-generation blockchain. In the meantime, chill out and watch that octopus – it is truly cool! 

Day 3. Dynal Patel, senior product manager

Look at this blog piece predicting that Cardano could one day scale to one million transactions a second. That’s an amazing figure in the context of a blockchain – well in excess of global payment systems such as Visa and Mastercard. Credit cards have been around since the 1950s and it’s as long ago as 1997 that nCipher implemented cryptography on Arm chips for Visa and British Telecom to drive the online commerce we’re so familiar with today. Of course, we’re a way off the 1m tps figure yet, but coupling Cardano technology for microtransactions with Atala Prism, our decentralized identity platform, will open up a wave of applications. These will include secure devices for the internet of things, data for smart cities, and social-sharing networks that empower users to own, control and make money from their own data. For example, in Mongolia we are looking at ways of monitoring pollution. Here, service providers who need such data could pay local people to run sensors for collecting data.

Right now I’m reading Blockchain Revolution by Don and Alex Tapscott. They discuss eight core functions ripe for disruption in the financial sector with the first being ‘authenticating identity and value’ – just what Atala Prism aims to do. 

I’m looking forward to Atala deployments with our first clients. Prism enables peers to establish an identity that is verifiable, robust and cryptographically secure – and we expect each implementation to have the potential to bring a million users into the Cardano ecosystem. On a personal note, I've recently stepped up to become the chair of Bringing Smiles, a children's charity. In 2021, we aim to expand our activities by raising funds to support selected children's charities across the world.

Day 4. Aikaterini-Panagiota Stouka, researcher

2020 started with the exciting news that ‘Reward sharing schemes for stake pools’, a paper I wrote with IOHK’s education director Lars Brünjes, Professor Aggelos Kiayias at the University of Edinburgh and chief scientist at IOHK, and Professor Elias Koutsoupias at the University of Oxford, had been accepted for the IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy. This is one of the top peer-reviewed cyber security conferences and has an emphasis on building real systems, which is what we’re helping to do with Cardano. Because of the coronavirus, however, it became an online-only event. This paper introduces the scheme on which Cardano’s incentives are based and a preprint had been available on arXiv since 2018. It was a great feeling to see our work accepted after years of research, many late nights, and lots of back and forth between theory and experiments trying to discover the most appropriate reward mechanism for decentralization.

Right now, I am waiting for my examination after submitting my PhD thesis at Edinburgh. I’ve continued working with the same team on the reward mechanism. One problem we are investigating is incentivizing the pool operators to include in their blocks the registration certificates issued by other people who want to create a pool, even if these are likely to become competitors.

I am certainly looking forward to completing my PhD. I also plan to continue collaborating with my co-authors and other members of IOHK as well, and to carry on exploring reward-sharing mechanisms for various types of collaborative projects. A relevant blog post written by Prof Kiayias categorizes reward mechanisms and gives an insight into this research. In terms of Cardano, I’m watching the increase in the k parameter, which relates to the number of pools we expect to have, in an ideal scenario, in a stable state called the Nash equilibrium. This increase will give more pools the opportunity to become competitive and will enhance decentralization. 

The next batch of 12 Days thoughts will be published on December 29