A Brief History of Blockchain Name Systems

This past weekend I attended the Aaron Swartz Day Hackathon at the Internet Archive in San Francisco. This event, which celebrates the life and work of Aaron Swartz, is organized in multiple cities around the world every year around the time of Aaron’s birthday (November 8). Since 2015, I have been attending the SF event and giving variations of a talk about blockchain name systems.

Here’s the description of this year’s talk:

Aaron Swartz once published a blog post entitled “Squaring the Triangle“, hypothesizing that a blockchain could be used to create a name system that had secure, decentralized, and human-readable names, thus “squaring” Zooko’s Triangle.

Since that post was published, numerous blockchain name systems have been developed, putting Aaron’s idea into practice. This talk will give a brief overview of the most popular blockchain name systems in production and show some of their applications.

Systems covered include Namecoin (the OG BNS), Blockstack, and the Ethereum Name System. Without further adieu, here’s a video of my talk from Aaron Swartz Day 2017 Day 2, A Brief History of Blockchain Name Systems.

Aaron was an incredibly inspiring individual, and it was a great honor to be invited to speak at this special event celebrating and building on his legacy. If you have a chance to attend one of these events in a city near you, I encourage you to go and participate!

RIP Aaron Swartz, you are gone but not forgotten.

Email is probably the most popular decentralized messaging protocol. Add yourself to my email contacts if you would like to stay in touch!

Ringing in the New Year

Welcome to 2017! I hope you and yours had a good time celebrating the arrival of the new year – I know I did! In keeping with the age-old tradition of using this arbitrary landmark as an excuse to institute new changes, I’m putting in writing here a few changes that I plan to make in 2017. I’ve read that when you tell others about the changes you want to make, you’re more likely to follow through, so we’ll see how this holds up at the end of 2017.


First, I’m planning to experiment further with IndieWeb technologies so that I can maintain control over the content I create. I already POSSE my blog by posting here first and syndicating out to Medium. But I haven’t yet taken time to figure out how to keep control of content on Twitter, a platform that I spend more time on than perhaps any other online. I want to figure out a way of not only preserving my own posts on Twitter, but also those of others that I’ve retweeted or liked, in a way that preserves both the original content and context/ aesthetic of the content. Twitter provides a way to export user data, but I haven’t figured out how to display that data in a well-structured way. So I plan to spend time figuring that out this year. Please share any ideas you have in the comment section below!

A related thing that I plan to do is to start posting regularly on one or more of the decentralized social media platforms that are out there. I’ve experimented with Diaspora and Mastodon before, but neither of those platforms “stuck” for me. I might give those a try again, or I might give others like ZeroNet or Blockstack more attention. Stay tuned to see what ends up working best for me.

Daily posts

This is pretty ambitious, but I’d like to start posting at least once daily to this blog. Hat tip to Fred Wilson for the inspiration. Right now, most of my posting is done on Twitter. On a good day, I probably generate enough content on Twitter to write a proper blog post. So expect to see more posts on this blog. The content will be similar to what I’ve already been posting here and on Twitter: bitcoin, crypto, decentralized web + p2p tech, radical abundance / sustainability, futurism, book highlights, some art and music, some politics, some startup insights, and whatever else I find interesting. If you are interested in reading Bitcoin content exclusively, you should subscribe to the blog for my book, Bitcoin: Be Your Own Bank, here. I plan on updating that at least monthly, if not weekly or even more frequently depending on how the Bitcoin landscape evolves this year.

To make this change more realistic, I’m only going to post on weekdays at first. Maybe I’ll step it up to weekends too, maybe not. We’ll see how it goes!

New job

This is a change that I actually already made, so it’s kind of cheating, but I’m going to be starting a new job. I’ll share more about it soon in a “new job FAQ”. This is going to require a slight shifting of priorities, but is all for the better. I’m really excited about what I’m going to be working on and can’t wait to tell you more about it 🙂

That’s it for today. Once again, happy new year – I’ll see you back here tomorrow!

Email is probably the most popular decentralized messaging protocol. Add yourself to my email contacts if you would like to stay in touch!