Last week, we had the pleasure of attending and sponsoring Devcon4 in Prague. The annual Ethereum developer event brought over 3000 of the top industry technologists, data scientists, engineers, and leaders from around the globe to share their insights, experiences, and educate the Ethereum community.
This year’s Devcon marked the ShapeShift team’s first trip to Prague, and it proved to be an energetic mix of learning, meeting like-minded people, and culture. Along with our enthusiastic crew of engineers, members of our marketing and business development teams were in attendance, as well as our COO Jon and CEO Erik Voorhees.
Over four days, we had the opportunity to learn from and meet leaders in the crypto space, and we shared technical challenges, brainstormed creative solutions, and talked about what the future holds for this ever-evolving, exciting industry.
Surrounded by Ethereum and blockchain tech enthusiasts and builders, no chatter of Lambos was uttered during this tech-heavy conference — there were more important things to be discussed. Many of the event sessions focused on how the industry goes from talking about the Ethereum blockchain usability to actually building and executing on products. Here are some of our Devcon4 Highlights:
The Tech and Advances
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin’s Keynote reviewed the ups and downs that the smart contract-based blockchain protocol has faced over the course of its existence. He wasn’t shy to point out the pain points and learning experiences that the community’s top engineers have experienced since its launch in July 2015. Watch Buterin’s full keynote below:
If You Build It, They Will Come…Er, Maybe?
Another theme thoughtfully incorporated into the conference was how we take the tech and back-end building and apply it to usable product design. With a conference track completely dedicated to user experience (UX) and design, we found it exciting to see so many people thinking and talking about the importance of intuitive product design.
At the first annual Dapp awards on Thursday, we gathered at the Czech Museum of Music to honor the pioneers of the Dapp ecosystem. ShapeShift CEO Erik Voorhees was joined by Coinbase Design Director Connie Yang, and MyCrypto CEO Taylor Monahan, to discuss UX and design within the crypto space.
“The crypto movement is ultimately about people, not technology. The most incredible technology in the universe will stand silently alone if it is not usable, useful, and attractive to humans. For all the attention paid to protocols and cryptography since Bitcoin’s founding, far less has been paid to UI and UX. Finally, as the ecosystem has attracted enough capital and talent, we are starting to see companies invest in the human experience of crypto. Through this, we can expect far greater adoption in the years ahead. UX is not more important than the underlying tech, but it is arguably as important, and the industry is finally recognizing this.” – Erik Voorhees, CEO, ShapeShift
After the crazy “year of ICOs”  the community reflected on the explosive growth and the current bear market while asking, “what’s next? How do we move towards widespread adoption?”
“It seems that these next couple of years will be significant for both the deployment as well as the adoption of the first generation of decentralized applications (Dapps) beyond CryptoKitties Moreover, the winning teams will be those that can figure out how to not only build disruptive technologies, but also package them up in a highly usable, friendly, and accessible interface – and market them to the masses.” – Willy, Project Manager, ShapeShift
Devcon served as a reminder that it’s important to create environments for open dialogue and collaboration among blockchain engineers. On the final day, Morgan, one of our engineers, spoke on the panel “Integrating Ethereum at Scale.”
“It was really encouraging to find that everybody is having a lot of the same problems, and we’re all solving them in similar ways. One of Ethereum’s biggest advantages has always been a low barrier to entry for new developers.” –Morgan, Engineer, ShapeShift
Morgan pointed out that as Ethereum continues to grow and become more complicated, it’s up to its community of developers to continue to openly communicate lessons learned and best practices to keep the barrier to entry low for new developers.
A Year of Progress and Poised for the Future
It’s evident that a lot of progress has been made also this past year. Many of the Dapps are now live or in beta and all of them have seen growth in some form or another. It was cool to test out some of the products and get live demos from the people that have poured their hearts and minds into building them.
Our time in Prague solidified what we already knew: that the Ethereum community has grown better, stronger, and larger. We might have roadblocks ahead, but we believe that there’s great power in the community that’s forming — and we’re certain that its this community that can overcome them.