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How Philosophie Builds for the Blockchain

by Emerson Taymor

How Philosophie Builds for the Blockchain

Oct 11, 2018

Often times, when a new exciting technology comes out, we quickly start to think of all of the amazing things we can build with the new tool. Entrepreneurs come out of the woodwork and race to build new solutions to problems that may or may not exist yet.

Blockchain is an exciting technology revolution that will transform how we do business forever. However, it is just that, a technology, and technologies alone are not a product. Philosophie has been active in the blockchain ecosystem for the past 5+ years. We started designing and building products that use blockchain for more than two years ago. And, while the underlying technology is transformative, it will only be adopted widely if more thought is given to the products build on top of it.

When we tackle blockchain solutions we:

Drop the buzzwords and solve real problems - When someone opens up their Gmail account they don’t care how it works. They don’t know what TCP is or POP or IMAP is. People only care about the benefit it provides to them, not the technology that enables it. In the last year thousands of companies raised billions of dollars on the back of buzzwords, the vast majority of which had no reason to exist as they didn’t solve real problems. And the vast majority of those companies are now extinct. Splashing around cool sounding technology might help a company get their project greenlit and get a couple geeky early adopters to try it out, but it certainly isn’t going to result in a product that stands the test of time. We help companies:

  • Organize your business model and value proposition to understand and test if we are solving a real problem with business and user value
  • Complete customer development and value prop testing to determine if people care about what we are building
  • Rapidly create and evaluate design prototypes before touching any smart contract code to validate make sure our ideas are desirable and viable
  • Infuse our clients with a culture of experimentation to understand what bets we should place and how

Take advantage of what makes the blockchain unique - Many companies who have experimented with blockchain and have solved real problems didn’t need to use the blockchain at all. Frankly, the blockchain is in its infancy and in the vast majority of cases it functions significantly worse than other persistent data store, e.g. traditional relational databases, key-value stores, etc. However, the blockchain has a few incredibly powerful and unique attributes such as decentralized authority; immutability; personal key ownership; and the ability for tiny micropayments. Companies should only focus their blockchain efforts on ideas that have massive benefit from trustless, decentralized systems. We help organizations:

  • Understand how their product vision takes advantage of the most unique aspects of the blockchain
  • Complete tech audits and deep dives to validate whether our proposed solution could be built using non-blockchain technologies without sacrificing the value

Build elegant solutions - As with any new technology, there is a tremendous learning curve on the path to adoption. With all due respect to the many builders in the blockchain space (and half of Philosophie’s engineers), many companies focus on solving technical problems, and give no thought to the end user experience. This results in very low adoption rates across dAPPs and even lower engagement with return users. This is exacerbated by many of the principles of blockchain that are antithetical to how people use technology today. At the end of the day, no one is going to memorize at 32 digit set of random alphanumeric characters and QR codes have not reached mainstream adoption in the US. While we may nerd out on the security of it, we need to craft solutions that are easy to use for the middle market and non tech savvy folks. Having a great blockchain tech team is important, but it is equally as important to have a team of thoughtful designers that can strip away the technical jargon and implement easy-to-use solutions. We help companies:

  • Design and prototype solutions as quickly as possible to experiment and learn about the interfaces separate from the engineering build
  • Test our designs every week with 3-5 users to make sure what we are building is easy to use and the users trust our inherently trustless system
  • Run one and two-week design sprints on core flows to creatively solve our riskiest problems without worrying about the technology that will power it

Scaling - Balancing On and Off Chain - The blockchain and smart contract ecosystem is in the early days of its existence and still faces many scaling challenges. dAPPs that don’t give rigorous thought on how they will scale will inevitably fail. One of the most important things that we can do is to understand what has to be stored on chain and what can occur off chain. This not only helps scalability, but also helps with security as smart contracts exist on the blockchain forever and pose a real security threat if sensitive data is ever accidentally published without proper encryption (or if the current types of encryption are able to be hacked in the future - a likely scenario with quantum competing). Connecting the off chain and on chain systems is challenging, but possible with oracles and becoming more simple. We help organizations devise an on chain and off chain strategy through:

  • Creating user journeys and service blueprints to find the touch points that make sense to exist on chain and those that can live off chain
  • Running technical workshops and architecture planning sessions to map out what should exist on and off chain
  • Spiking critical technical challenges using Ethereum’s Truffle framework and building oracles
  • Building solutions and testing them thoroughly on the testnet
  • Partnering with security experts and auditors to provide a third party perspective on our smart contracts to ensure scalability and security
  • Testing smart contracts and applications for scalability

Philosophie has worked with a number of blockchain companies to help them design, test and build their blockchain experiences. We have prototyped and built solutions for Consensys companies- like Omega One and uPort amongst others-, other blockchain startups and built internal solutions. We are a pioneer in the design-for-blockchain space and host numerous blockchain meetups in our LA office.

In addition to the services offered above, we have experience developing blockchain applications using Solidity (we typically use Truffle for faster execution). We have experience developing on IPFS and launching testnet as well as mainnet solutions.

We’d love to chat if you are exploring leveraging the blockchain. Let us help you break through the buzzwords and build products that matter for real people. We’ll design and build your decentralized vision, while making technology work for us.

You can read more about our views on blockchain here: Understanding the What & Why of the Blockchain and It’s Deja Vu All Over Again: Three challenges on the way to a decentralized world.

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Emerson Taymor is Philosophie's Cofounder and the Managing Director of our New York office. Emerson is passionate about working with clients to create products that drive business results. Outside of work, he teaches front-end web development at General Assembly.

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