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The Future of DeFi & NFT with NEM CTO Kristy-Leigh Minehan

This is an excerpt from Coin Crunch India’s interview with Kristy-Leigh Minehan, the CTO of NEM software, also known as @OhGodAGirl (Twitter Handle). Kristy-Leigh has been working for a decade in proof-of-work consensus infrastructure and novel consensus algorithms.  The primary agenda of this interview was Symbol, which is a new launch from NEM software focusing on NFT and DeFI.

Excerpts have been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Q: Please tell us more about yourself and a bit of @OhGodAGirl, your Twitter handle.

A: I fell into this space by luck. In 2010, I got roped into it by a few friends, and we got obsessed with software development for Bitcoin mining at the time.  It started with, “Hey, we want to figure out how we can keep optimizing the mining software,” and then it just spiraled from there. What I like about the cryptocurrency ecosystem, specifically proof-of-work at the time, is that it’s a feedback loop.

The proof of work feedback loop for developers eventually started translating into real money.There was a pretty large group of people in 2010. In 2011, a few people left the ecosystem. It was just a different world around the time when exchanges started to slowly roll out. When Bitcoin launched, many more infrastructure was being put up, focused on buying and selling the coin. Today, mining is still a huge part of the broader blockchain ecosystem. We’ve got the fire space, the NFT space, where creators can get involved. Even if you don’t have any development skills, you can get involved with cryptocurrency. 

NEM, NIS1 and Symbol

Q: NEM is an open-source, decentralized network, but now, there are two blockchains. The NIS one is the initial version of NEM, and now we also have the other new launch, which is Symbol?

A: No, not the initial version. They are two different blockchain protocols. NEM stands for the New Economy Movement, and it was the mission and the vision that this protocol or coin was designed around. In 2013, XEM or NEM was first designed when Bitcoin was a little centralized. It was going to use cutting-edge technology, including proof of stake, and the community loved it. In 2015, it officially launched.

Its real innovation, proof of importance, is very similar to a traditional page ranking system. A social media platform in Japan was built on it, and the bank of Lithuania used it to issue their digital tokens that were redeemable for collectible coins. Symbol is all about mosaics. Mosaics are our form of tokens, and they combine aggregate transactions, i.e., workflow logic around how you send money.

We use GRANDPA finality algorithm, which is geared towards enabling everyone in the world to digitize assets around them and tokenize and extract value from those assets.

Q: What is done with the Symbol? 

We combine the token and the storage, that is, the metadata layer. We’re working on extending it this year, on supporting the encoding and decoding of not just image files but also video files and music audio files. It’s technically a digital pointer to an NFT that belongs to you. When it goes to other networks like Ethereum, it’s still on a centralized system, and the transaction is proof that you technically own it. 

There are storage services like TheWeave or Skynet, created by the sea of coin developers – that are decentralized storage. It’s a bunch of servers where the files are sharded, but the problem lies in that infrastructure link. If somehow that link breaks your token is now not worth anything, and you can update your smart contract, then kind of update the token and issue a new one.

Having the digital token representing the art isn’t really what NFT is about. NFTs are about the royalties, so the thing that makes them so unique is you can have a royalty structure baked in where, say the creator gets 2.5 as a number it’s customizable but 2.5 percent of the initial sale, but as it makes its way through the landscape through the DeFi ecosystem. 

Through the platform, they can also keep getting a cut of those further sales. So every way, they’re getting monetization straight into their pocket for their creations, and that is the real innovation there.

Scope of Symbol

Q: How far are you guys with Symbol solving this problem wherein it’s decentralized storage, and it’s an actual NFT that travels to the blockchain?

A: Pretty close. We’re still in the development phase on this. We’ve just launched, so we’ve got ways to go. The important thing to understand with blockchain protocols is you don’t continuously roll out updates like you would in traditional software development. You have to schedule network upgrades, and most importantly, you have to crowdsource support, i.e., anyone who is currently participating in the staking and harvesting of Symbol.

Harvesting is where you harvest new blocks, so if you’re involved in the symbol ecosystem meaning that you have a voice in what goes into the protocol and what doesn’t, what new features are added and what isn’t, what isn’t adopted, and so it’s up to the community to vote on what changes they want to see in. 

We’re targeting to have an initial alpha version ready to test this year. We’re quite excited. I think last year was especially hard for everyone around the world. It, for some of us, gave us the necessary time we needed to kind of focus on ourselves, recharge, and then come out stronger than ever . and so being able to work on a proof-of-stake ecosystem, learning all the nuances, learning how to scale that and optimize that that’s a whole new set of challenges. It’s great that it stimulates me intellectually.

And then we’ve got a fantastic team behind NEM.


Q: So what do you think about the bureaucracy around blockchain, decentralization and how governments are looking at it now, versus how they were looking at it in 2018 or 2017?

A: I think that a lot of governments still have these processes that have been put in place and haven’t been adapted or updated for the new way of doing things we live in a digital age. We live in an age where most of our infrastructure is automated.

We live in an age that is increasingly getting punished for lack of optimization, and so I think what blockchain has enabled people to do more than just the decentralized piece is automate things. it started very subtly with smart contracts and ethereum, but then it grew much much larger with a wave of blockchain protocols all focusing on this looping logic

I think that’s the real part -the untapped power of blockchain technologies.

Q: What if you could automate the world so that it continued to execute independently of the people? 

A: That is true power.

Here in the US, we have a company called blockchains LLC. They’re quite famous for an absolute ton of land up in Las Vegas, right next to Tesla’s Gigafactory, and they have a vision of building a blockchain-based smart city where the entire city runs on blockchain. Everything from the traffic lights to the passport issuance to medical records- it is all blockchain-powered. 

In your use case, he was bottlenecked by the fact that the government did not have the technology to succeed, and I’m not sure that blockchain could have helped there in that specific scenario.It’s broader applications and more that if it can automate everything, it becomes a tool that rapidly also accelerates our Government right. I think in 2018, we were still in that bubble piece because we had no major.

It had just come after the big ICO craze where blockchain protocols could get away with a marketing team and nothing else. 2018 was incredibly punishing for coins that exhibited that behavior – if you did not have a mission or a vision that benefited the world, and most importantly, if you had no substance behind your mission and vision, meaning code, then you got punished heavily, and you never recovered from it.

That made room for in 2020 – the investors and the guys that were willing to drop 100 million dollars plus. MicroStrategy kicked off that whole movement so we can thank Mr. Sailor for his sacrifice, but after his movement, after what he did, all of a sudden you have other companies going it’s okay to speak up about this

Now you have Elon making NFTs of custom art, and so it’s all about just taking and owning that adoption and seeing. It’s exciting what the world would look like if it was entirely automated blockchain protocols where it made sense, inefficiencies were removed. We had this new form of money that had no barriers, no borders.

I mean, if I close my eyes right now, that’s like the dream right? To have to live in a city wherein everything is automated, and everything is rewarding as well. You are empowering people to be part of a network because it is rewarding you. The network is incentivizing you to be part of it. I always see blockchain from that perspective. I would admit that I’m not as tech-savvy as you, so that’s my only motivation to be part of the ecosystem.


Q: Let’s talk about the strategy towards increasing adoption. You said that in a year or so, you’d have this Symbol launching the NFT platform. What about adoption once it’s out there? Where can you issue an NF2 symbol today?

A: You can do that today.  Our metadata standard supports rudimentary data. I’m talking about extending it for the encoding of video files and audio files. 


How do we tell people on Openc to use the Symbol?

Openc is a smart contract, and it’s a marketplace specifically designed for Ethereum. There are 57 different marketplaces for NFTs. You don’t need to funnel all of it into one. Instead, a better approach is going the DeFi route, where you link them all up so that they can share liquidity instead.

That is the right approach versus hey here’s Openc; it is the marketplace. So the correct way to go about this by building a bridge, a common language where blockchain protocols can share and swap the new data standards for these new tokens.

And then you can take advantage of the entire liquidity of the collective blockchain ecosystem, and we currently have this amazing ecosystem around NFT which is being built, but we don’t have a display ecosystem.

By display, I don’t have a device that I can hang on the wall that will show my digital art over there, right the one that I purchased.

Q: What do you think about the Indian ecosystem on the blockchain? Are you familiar with it where we are going?

A: During my time at core scientific I worked on a project that would enable IoT devices and smart devices to mine cryptocurrency, and in a place like America, it’s not going to take off. But in India where you could make two to three cents per day on things like your thermostat, that’s pretty powerful if you think about all the different connected devices in your home today, and very familiar with it love the development teams in India 

It’s promising to see the adoption that’s starting to happen. There was a wave of interest and excitement, especially in India’s proof of work ecosystem in about 2016. Then around crypto winter, it’s stagnated again, and it’s exciting to now see it rise in the development space and the application and DApp space.

Q: Let’s talk about your handle, @OhGodAGirl. What is the history behind it?

A: Yeah, we have employees that all have handled things like OhGodABox, etc.

This was before 2015 before I got my first grown-up real-world job which was working for a fantastic German company that was a leader in the cryptocurrency space at the time.

I was very much an anonymous player in the space. Online, I did not use my real identity, did not do any kind of voice calls, all text.

In 2015 when I started having to meet with suppliers and clients, I had to put myself out there a little bit more to have not just a brand because for girls, in particular, it’s hard for us to be taken seriously.

There is no better time than right now to own your future and build the future that you want to see. So just get involved. Get started in crypto today. 

NEM is one of the oldest blockchains. It’s interesting to see that they are channelizing their energy into the new.

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