Aaron Russell

Aaron Russell: It’s important that BSV has toolset and infrastructure richer than just JavaScript

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Aaron Russell (a.k.a. Libs) has developed many useful tools for Bitcoin development including Paypresto, TxForge and the newly released Univrse.

Aaron also recently launched a slick sponsorship website where those who want to sponsor his open-source development can do so in exchange for some awesome looking NFT trading cards. I had the opportunity to catch up with Aaron and ask some questions regarding these recent developments.

How did you come up with the idea to generate revenue via sponsorships?

Aaron Russell: Sponsorship is a relatively common funding model in the broader open-source world. Many independent developers are able to sustain their work though sponsorship, and many high-profile frameworks and tools are entirely funded by the businesses that depend on them through sponsorship.

​I’ve been toying with the idea of sponsorships and giving sponsors some kind of digital collectible NFT since the end of last year, but it’s only in the last few weeks we’ve seen a few platforms pop up that are making it easy to mint, transfer and trade tokens. The time felt right to press ahead with the idea.

How do you think this sponsorship model with tokens can change how open-source developers can monetize going forward?

Aaron Russell: I was interested in packaging the sponsorship in a way that didn’t feel like a donation. I think giving something in return—in this case a limited-edition piece of digital artwork—makes the sponsorship a more compelling proposition to individual sponsors.

Developers could take this further. The tokens could be made exchangeable for consultation or development services. Tokens could be tied to specific pieces of work and used to crowd-fund specific open-source projects.

Which token protocol will you use to mint your NFT cards and why?

Aaron Russell: I’m agnostic about the underlying protocol. Ultimately, I just want a quick and easy user experience. I don’t want to figure out my own smart contract or write code if I can avoid it—I just want a nice UI with a simple form, a platform that does justice to the artwork, and the ability to cryptographically prove that we minted the tokens.

The cards look amazing—will there be physical cards to go along with the NFTs?

Aaron Russell: I’ve gone back and forth on this idea, but let me make a pledge and give you a CoinGeek exclusive…

If by July 1st 2021 we have raised GBP £7,500 in sponsorship, we WILL print high quality physical cards and post them to token holders globally.

​I’ll update the sponsorship site to confirm the details of this pledge and show progress.

Did you personally create the logos for your various libraries (ex. Tx Forge, Shapeshifter)?

Aaron Russell: Yes. I always put a few hours aside to think of a name and create some artwork for each open-source project I release. For me it’s just a fun thing to do, but it also turns a boring GitHub repo into something with a bit of character, and something that fits in to an over-arching brand.

Why have you chosen to implement various libraries in Elixir (Txbox, Manic, curvy, Shapeshifter, etc.)?

Aaron Russell: I think it’s important that BSV has a toolset and infrastructure that is richer than just JavaScript. JavaScript is important due to its popularity and accessibility, but there are many scenarios where it may be advisable to look a little further afield than JavaScript.

The TonicPow team have done great work building out a Golang toolset and I’ve been trying to do the same with Elixir. This puts BSV in a far healthier position and makes it attractive to a broader range of developers.

What was the primary motivation for creating Univrse?

Aaron Russell: I’m interested in exploring how Bitcoin can be used to create interoperable apps and services. I think we’ve failed to deliver much on this so far, but if apps can be consistent with how they serialise and secure data, we can go a lot further and make it easy to create some great experiences for users.

That’s my goal anyway. Launching Univrse is the first step, but in the coming weeks and months I’m going to demonstrate with my own apps exactly how Univrse can be used to create the kind of experiences I imagine.

Which pain points do you hope Univrse solves for developers?

Aaron Russell: Univrse makes it simple to serialize any arbitrary data payload, and secure that data with digital signatures and encryption. These aren’t things we can’t do already, but by packaging this up in a single library with sensible conventions, developers don’t need to implement the same Bitcom protocols over and over, they don’t need to implement cryptographic algorithms and keep their fingers crossed they are doing it consistently to everyone else.

It just works, saving man hours so more time can be spent building the parts of your app that actually matter. And as said above, this leads us to a place where we can create truly interoperable apps and experiences.

Upon releasing Univrse, you had an interesting response on Twitter to the idea of working with another organization on developing standards vs. innovating on your own—can you elaborate why you feel this way?

Aaron Russell: LOL. That tweet was actually in response to someone who seemed to be insinuating that because the TSC are working on an Envelope “standard” that creating Univrse was a waste of time. I obviously don’t agree with that.

For the record I think standards are a positive thing to work towards and I accept the role of a central body to shepherd that process, but that’s not something I’m interested in being involved in. Ultimately the developers and businesses on the ground building apps and services will determine the conventions and standards we adopt.

Thank you, Aaron, for taking the time to answer my questions. I look forward to how developers can leverage the tools Aaron has produced, and how his unique sponsorship approach plays out. I hope the readers enjoy this written interview.

This article was lightly edited for clarity purposes.

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