We need to talk about smart contracts and recordkeeping

D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin (seated) and Douglas Fairbanks at the signing of the contract establishing United Artists motion picture studio (LOC)

D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin (seated) and Douglas Fairbanks at the signing of the contract establishing United Artists motion picture studio (LOC)

Blockchain technology offer us a revolutionary new way to do business using the same database — a shared ledger, in effect, that is available to anyone who knows how to use it and has access to the tools. A ‘world database’ (as suggested recently by Vinay Gupta in his highly recommended piece on Medium, ‘Programmable blockchains in context’) that is owned by everyone participating, and controlled by no-one. This is trust through computation. Nothing is ‘entered’ in this environment unless it is agreed by the many thousands of computers that make up the network. Once coded, the transactions are uncorruptible and immutable.

Blockchain technology also enables us to build smart contracts on a platform like Ethereum. What are smart contracts? Essentially they are programs that execute “if this happens then do that”, that are run and verified by all the participants in the blockchain network. The blockchain stores the data, but the smart contract plans, executes and records the business. Continue reading

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Decentralization and DAOs: Opportunities for recordkeepers

Attending the Decentralized Web Summit at the Internet Archive wasn’t a bad way to spend my first week living in San Francisco. Big thanks to Peter Van Garderen and Courtney Mumma for encouraging me to go.

Decentralized Web Summit, June 8 2016. Photo by Brad Shirakawa

Decentralized Web Summit, June 8 2016. Photo by Brad Shirakawa

It was an exciting, challenging and inspiring few days. There are some excellent reports on the overall programme out there; including Brewster Kahle’s, Mouse Reeve’s or Maira Sutton’s. There’s also a slew of media reporting from Wired, NYtimes, Fortune, Boing Boing and more. So rather than reviewing the event as a whole I’d like to try to highlight some of the technologies, projects and ideas that struck me as important for recordkeepers to know about. I’ll also (tentatively) make some suggestions about how our professional practices might fit into this emerging world.

Continue reading

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Report on Blockchain: Applications and implications

Last month we held a session exploring blockchain technology, featuring speakers discussing the technology itself, key applications like smart contracts, legal and governance issues and the management of identity using blockchain technology. Our great thanks to Peter van Garderen, Payal Kapur and Hugo O’Connor for their fascinating and insightful talks.
SONY DSC
Ledger book, by edinburghcityofprint on Flickr
We opened the session with some reflections on the relevance of blockchain technology to recordkeeping professionals.
Recordkeeping is all about trust. Trusted records mean trusted transactions, and therefore the ability to do business, provide services, support or object to our governments and understand the world around us. Recordkeepers seek to design systems to ensure that trustworthy evidence may be relied upon by the communities we serve. However current recordkeeping implementations are flawed, and permit imperfect recordkeeping, inequitable access to records and records loss. The emergence of decentralised trust through computation as seen with blockchain technology allows us to imagine new models for recordkeeping that can also bring greater assurance of longevity and availability for records users, and offer new opportunities for the disempowered to interact with and benefit from recordkeeping systems.

What we learned about the blockchain

Through the talks we learned that a definition of the blockchain is ‘a network of distributed public databases that leverage cryptography and peer to peer technology to group data into blocks and store as an immutable chain of transactions’.

Continue reading

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Blockchain: Applications and implications. The slides!

Thanks so much to our fantastic panel of speakers at this week’s session on blockchain. We have slides to share:

Peter Van Garderen: Introduction to blockchain and recordkeeping (Slideshare)

Payal Kapur: Smart Contracts: A deconstruction (PPTX)

To discover more about the cool stuff Hugo O’Connor does, visit http://bittradelabs.com/ 

We hope to do a proper write up and offer some ‘Roundie reflections’ on the fascinating issues raised on the day very soon.

 

 

 

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Blockchain technology: Applications and implications

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Christopher Watrous Ledger Book, Durham, February 3, 1812 (Vedder Library)

We are pleased to announce that the next Recordkeeping Roundtable event will be an exploration of blockchain technology, its applications and its implications for recordkeeping and archives.

When:
9.30am for a 10am start – 12.30pm
Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Where: 
Seminar Room
ATP Innovations
Ground Floor, National Innovation Centre
Australian Technology Park
Redfern

Register now

About the event

Many people regard bitcoin and its foundational technology blockchain as the most exciting online innovations we have seen since the invention World Wide Web. Banks, governments and others are clamouring to use it as a basis for new, simple and low cost ways of doing business. Others see its potential for breaking down barriers of entry to marketplaces and the commons, bringing about a potentially fairer society in which value can be exchanged without the need for intermediaries. Continue reading

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Redefine, reinvent and disrupt: the Sydney Blockchain Workshops

This week I was lucky enough to attend the Sydney Blockchain Workshops, organised by the formidable women of COALA and held at the Powerhouse Museum. Before going on, I should say I will not be attempting here to explain the detail of how blockchain technology works and what its features are. Others are much better at this. Try this article from ex banker Antony Lewis A gentle introduction to blockchain technology if you would like to understand the basics.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are some of the things I saw and learned.

This wasn’t a tech conference. It was a conference about possibility and change – on almost every level of society, and across so many disciplines. Yes, banking and finance (there’s a reason the banks were falling over themselves to grab the blockchain experts who were in town this week, find out more here), but so much more. This technology has the potential to change the way we assign value, and transact with each other in almost every way. Continue reading

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Report on Trust Networks and Tigers: New models for archives and journalism

Last night the Recordkeeping Roundtable’s Cassie Findlay did a reprise of her ARANZ Wellington talk ‘Trust Networks and Tigers: New models for archives and journalism’. Thanks to all the tweeters in attendance – most of whom used #RkRoundtable. Here’s a sample:

 

 

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Trust Networks and Tigers: New models for journalism and archives

Come and join us for fascinating discussion on issues fundamentally impacting the future of our profession.

When: Wednesday 14 October, 5:30 – 7pm

Where: Seminar Room, ATP Innovations – Ground Floor, National Innovation Centre, Australian Technology Park, Redfern (directions)

Cost: $5 (snacks and beverages provided)LEGO-Blockchain

To register: Go to the online booking form

Cassie’s lecture, Trust Networks and Tigers – New models for journalism and archives, was first delivered on 26 August as the ARANZ Wellington Branch annual lecture.

Presented again for Sydney-based colleagues, Cassie’s lecture will argue that both the archival/recordkeeping and journalistic professions are going through fundamental change and risk extinction without significant and rapid evolution. Both are losing their grip on the forms of control that once gave them a monopoly; online, anyone can disseminate a story or construct an archive. Both are operating in the midst of the political forces that come into play around information access, and both are struggling to find ways to continue to fulfill their missions as a result. Questions of trust, power, authenticity and connectedness are central to understanding and responding to these changes, for both professions.

In this lecture Cassie will examine the rise of new models for journalism, including the world of leaks publishing, civic hacking and information activism, and consider the potential of emerging technologies such as the crypto-currency bitcoin and its underlying infrastructure, the blockchain. She will explain how for those of us in recordkeeping and archives, understanding and engaging with these movements can help us to challenge some of our assumptions and reimagine our methods to better meet the needs of a connected world.

Image: http://www.intelligenthq.com

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Trust Networks and Tigers: New models for journalism and archives

Roundies are on the road! Cassie Findlay will be presenting the ARANZ Wellington Branch annual lecture on August 26.

When: Wednesday August 26, 2015. 6.15pm. Light refreshments will be available from 5.45pm

Where: National Library building, ground floor. Corner of Molesworth and Aitken St

ARANZ_Lecture2015Please RSVP by Friday August 21 to aranz.wellingtonbranch@gmail.com

Both the archival/recordkeeping and journalistic professions are going through fundamental change and risk extinction without significant and rapid evolution. Both are losing their grip on the forms of control that once gave them a monopoly; online, anyone can disseminate a story or construct an archive. Both are operating in the midst of the political forces that come into play around information access, and both are struggling to find ways to continue to fulfill their missions as a result. Questions of trust, power, authenticity and connectedness are central to understanding and responding to these changes, for both professions. In this lecture Cassie Findlay will examine the rise of new models for journalism, including the world of leaks publishing, civic hacking and information activism, and consider the potential of emerging technologies such as the crypto-currency bitcoin and its underlying infrastructure, the blockchain. She will explain how for those of us in recordkeeping and archives, understanding and engaging with these movements can help us to challenge some of our assumptions and reimagine our methods to better meet the needs of a connected world.

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Rising to the challenge: Are records professionals up to the task?

TigerSome of us Roundtablers were honoured to be speakers at a conference at Beijing’s Renmin University in early June. Keynoting at that event was distinguished archivist and Roundie friend Hans Hofman.

Hans’s talk was on a subject many of us have been concerned about for a while. As many of our methods, assumptions and attitudes become increasingly out of touch with the realities of the world we are working in, are we recordkeeping professionals ever going to truly rise to the challenge? Hans examined the evidence and drew some of his own conclusions in this sobering, but critically important contribution to the conversation.Hofman_Rising to the challenge- Beijing June 2015-1 (PPT, 10.6 MB)

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