The hype around Blockchain has hit fever pitch over the past 18 months, with the current trend in articles focusing on whether your business has the requisite talent to take advantage of this new technology. I’m sure there are many guys out there sitting down to work out if they are behind the curve, and if Blockchain really is something they need to be ahead of their competitors on or not.
My advice is this; Blockchain is a relatively new technology, but it’s also not something that should hit your developers from completely left-field. If they’re already aware of basic cryptography, I’d argue that most ‘lead developers’ can get up and running (with the level of expertise required as a ‘user’ of a system – within hours). On the Ethereum stack, lots of good effort has been put into creating a developer toolkit that allows anyone with a little bit of experience to get up to speed and playing around with the code.
Of course, what’s becoming far more apparent is that knowing how to functionally code shouldn’t be the only prerequisite to how or who should be let loose on developing functionality. With Blockchain and it’s associated technologies, one of the new properties of the systems being developed by your enthusiastic amateurs will be ‘immutability’ – basically an inability to delete. If you think that you can stand up a project by passing it over to the tech team, then you really should be considering your future.
Blockchain technology is likely to be incredibly disruptive, and may also inadvertently cause completely new paradigms of ‘ethical issue’ with online, or digitised products. In order to leverage the advantages of the immutable properties of Blockchain will have to be a better understanding of behavioural economics. Fundamentally, Blockchain is not a technology solution, but an economic one, enabled by technology. If you’re not prepared to invest the time to understand that further, then you probably shouldn’t be experimenting in this space.
Finally, there’s also the issue of on-chain and off-chain data stores, the related encryption, and the very legislation being passed by governments today which could undermine the security profile of any application attached to a Blockchain. I’d urge any developer, manager, designer or product owner to really consider any attempt at obfuscation on the Blockchain is likely to be temporary; and unless the same level of diligence is given to Blockchain applications as has been given to applications such as GnuPG, OpenSSL, and other encryption libraries, then they should be considered fundamentally insecure.
It’s why I’m proud that all the work that I’ve done on Blockchain so far, both personally and professionally, has ended up being published under an Open Source Licence – and why the future of Blockchain should continue to be done out in the open. From a talent perspective, the opportunity to get your development teams to collaborate in the open with these guys is a good first step.