Interchain Foundation: Q&A Session — Three Cosmos Validators Share Their Experience

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Becoming a Cosmos Validator is a unique opportunity to be a part of a revolutionary project aimed at solving today’s blockchain scalability and interoperability issues. The maintenance and security of the Cosmos Network rely on a community of validators to perform certain operations. Their role is critical to the system’s success by relaying transactions and proposing, verifying and finalizing blocks. Validators are additionally responsible for the development and evolution of the network by using their “stake” to vote on governance proposals.

In preparation for upcoming launch, Cosmos and its community of validators have been iterating through testnets to assess and improve the current system. The latest testnet iteration, Gaia 7000, is launching this week with some new and highly anticipated features. Now is the time for those interested in declaring validator candidacy to participate in this new testnet by getting your nodes up and running.

The Cosmos Validator community is growing quickly, in part thanks to veteran validators helping and guiding newcomers. The propagation of such a supportive environment is inspiring. In this vein, several validators offered to share their recommendations and experience for launching a validator system.

Let’s hear from our validators.

Kwun Yeung is the Cofounder & Conductor of Forbole. He started his digital entrepreneur life in 2005 when he co-founded Creativeworks Group Limited, a digital agency in Hong Kong. Kwun is also an Adjunct Lecturer at The Hong Kong University. In 2017, he co-founded Forbole Limited focusing on developing a business social network using blockchain technology.

Aurel is CTO at Dokia Capital. He is a Cosmos Validator, ꜩ-Baker, ex PoW miner, Ethereum enthusiast, Mobotiq co-founder, and Blockchain consultant at Blockchain Industries.

Chris got the blockchain brain virus a few years ago and subsequently started his Cosmos Validator project. He is the Founder of Chainflow for companies wanting to apply efficient and effective project management methods to their blockchain projects, empower humanity to build unstoppable organizations at Aragon, and help make Ethereum more accessible at the Ethereum Name Service (ENS).

How did you hear about the Cosmos Validator community?

Aurel: I have been a blockchain enthusiast since 2013, with a background in IT and hardware. I have been a Cosmos fan from the moment I finished reading the whitepaper “A Network of Distributed Ledgers” in 2014. I also heard nice things about Ethan and Jae — being pretty cool guys and devoted to their work. Last year, I participated in the Cosmos Fundraiser.

Kwun: I first heard about Cosmos Validators, having been familiar with Tendermint, when researching technology to build my own blockchain business. I read through the website and Cosmos blog for months to decide whether to develop my project with the Cosmos-SDK. Now, I have built my business, Forbole, on Cosmos.

Chris: I got the ‘blockchain brain virus’ a few years back. I have been interested in Proof-of-Stake (PoS) for a while and was looking for ways to get involved in a PoS project as a validator. When Cosmos’ Riot and Medium channels announced the Validator Working Group , I jumped in at its inception.

How did you build your business model?

Aurel: Our Crypto-investment fund, Dokia Capital, is running a public validation service. We are involved for the long-term and are committed to supporting the network to keep it up and running. As a business, one of the things we have to consider is a competitive fee structure, we want to make our service is attractive to everyone.

Kwun: Actually, we have been focused on setting up our validator system first and will follow with our business model. We first wanted to understand the technology and I have spent my time initially learning how the infrastructure works, especially as the validator community develops.

Chris: For me the business is two-fold — Chainflow, my project management consulting arm and my validation service for Cosmos. The link connecting them is my desire to help build a lasting and sustainable infrastructure for decentralized innovation to flourish. My goal is to run Cosmos Community Validators. These will be validators open, welcoming and available to everyone and anyone, whether you hold 1 atom or many more that that.

Why did you want to become a Cosmos Validator?

Aurel: Being a part of the Ethereum community since the beginning has been helpful in building my reputation as a validator in the blockchain space. I learned a lot of things but now, the Cosmos validator community seems to be a perfect playground to start entering the PoS world and get out of PoW landscape.

Kwun: I liked the concept of Cosmos. I wanted to be a part of the universe and grow the community, being a validator is helping make this happen. Understanding how Cosmos Validators operate helps us even more as we build a business on top of Cosmos. The validators are involved in the governance structure to participate in building the foundation of the ecosystem.

Chris: Following a career and life reboot, I discovered blockchain and got hooked. I began trying to understand how my experience could fit into and benefit this ecosystem. I saw a lot of really cool stuff being built by technical people, but realized now is the time to help people figure out how to use blockchain. Plus, the need to leverage and attract different skill sets in the product development phase became apparent. I wanted to connect what people will use with what people are building. Over time, I identified the need for project and product management tailored for companies in the blockchain industry. Chainflow is intended to fill that gap. The validator is a separate, yet related, business offering.

What benefits do you perceive in being one?

Aurel: I am glad that myself and my business are part of such an ambitious and innovative project, which I’m sure will be mentioned in history books. Frankly, there are not too many people that can brag about their 21st century aligned business. I can’t ignore the potential profit! Of course, we’re hoping to make a profit and, at the same time, to contribute to something great. Economic incentives keep blockchain/p2p networks up and running, but really they keep most things in our society functioning.

Kwun: Of course we can earn Atoms by being a validator. A validator can actively contribute to Cosmos, which I think is an asset to my own project. The experience working with validators all over the world during the testnets is priceless. Each of us in the community comes from different backgrounds with their own expertise. Exchanging experience throughout the process has strengthen my knowledge on different areas.

Chris: My experience as a datacenter system administrator helped me get up to speed on Cosmos pretty quickly. A background running and architecting big and mission-critical data center infrastructures, combined, with a passion for blockchain spurred my interest in decentralization as a potential way to fix some of the world’s worst problems. I found PoS in particular to be an equitable way for people to participate in the infrastructure. PoW is beginning to re-centralize. Cosmos is trying to solve some of the hard problems at the infrastructure level of the cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem. I know from telecoms and IT exactly how crucial the right infrastructure layer is for a successful system. I see validators as a critical piece of the Cosmos infrastructure layer and I am excited to be building the foundation from the start.

How did you set up your validator system?

Kwun: Aside from the reading and research, here was my process for getting my validator up and running:

  • Create a full node based on the official testnet documentation
  • Join the validator chat
  • Ask for testnet tokens on the validator chat
  • Declare my candidacy as a Cosmos validator
  • Discuss and ask questions on the validator chat
  • Create sentry nodes which are full Gaia nodes
  • Test the sentry nodes with other validators in the chat room
  • Try different sentry setups including setting up more public and private sentry nodes
  • Build tools to monitor the status of the nodes and automate some node creation

Aurel: I have been involved with the Cosmos testnet deployments since Gaia-4000 and I am nearing the final stages of completing my architecture with 95% done. My experience getting my validator up can be summarized with hardware configurations, trial, and error and debugging. I first reached out to a local data centers to host my setup. For me, this is a business, so I had a lawyer draft up a contract. For example, in the event I get slashed, I know exactly what is contractual. I read about cloud infrastructure and various services to see what would be the best fit for hosting Cosmos sentry nodes. Something I learned, a sentry node in Cosmos is a layer of public nodes which only talk privately to another validator node. The main idea is to lower your chances of being offline/attacked/DDoSed or having your stake at risk by exposing your Validator node publicly (in the wild).

Here are some bullet points on how I configured my system and set up my nodes:

  • Learn the basics of Golang, Docker containers and cloud infrastructure.
  • Be a part of the testnet deployments to experience stuff on your own.
  • See what others use; don’t get all crowded on AWS, we need a resilient network. If your validator friend is using AWS/Google/Azure, you should use other service/cloud provider. Be creative, build your own stuff.
  • Building cloud infrastructure (mix hardware/cloud) and automation stuff. I used to work with GPUs and everything was easier — very different because everything is virtualized.
  • Learn about Sentry nodes, Seed nodes, Public nodes, Private nodes, buy a YubiHSM2 or a Ledger Nano, maybe both or maybe other HSMs.
  • Researching about node redundancy/denial of service protection
  • Use a high availability data center to host your dedicated physical server.

Chris: Understanding the basics of how Cosmos and validators run and function was my very first step, which was followed by setting up a server. I basically taught myself Linux. I taught myself Unix a long time ago. This made formatting my questions to other validators easier for them to understand and answer. In my experience to-date, Cosmos Validators are a sharing and helpful environment for people who are serious about the program. I am using cloud infrastructure right now, to get a feel for it and the system. Going the cloud route got me up and running right away. However, the goal is to move to bare-metal servers I own, operate and control with an integrated HSM. Cloud probably isn’t a sustainable long-term solution, from a security perspective. It took me about six months to become very comfortable running the validator software., It seems easier now for new participants, since there are more validators sharing their experience, knowledge and tools. My initial setup phase is done. Now I can focus on improving security and reliability, as well as adding automation to my validator architecture, e.g. logging and monitoring. This is what I and other validators are working towards — multiple validator infrastructures, a combination of sentry nodes and validator nodes run in a way to maximize uptime and minimize security vulnerabilities, in order to reducing slashing risk, while optimizing the overall infrastructure.

What did you learn from your experience with Cosmos? And what recommendations would you give new validators?

Chris: For me, if it wasn’t for the years of system admin/devops experience, this would have been a lot more difficult. I believe in it enough to devote time to it and the community. Like I said earlier, I think the more the community grows and helps one another — the amount of time needed to set up will decrease. Running a validator is definitely not a passive income generating activity. It takes persistence, resilience and patience. We’re all learning as we go and learning from each other, hopefully, things stay that way, especially once real money begins flowing.

Kwun: It has been a bit harder than I expected. Most validators should spend the time understanding Cosmos’ architecture, which was the hardest part for me. It was a pretty large investment in terms of learning. I recommend anticipating a little over a week to understand the Cosmos Network, obviously, it will differ based on your technical expertise. I was already familiar with some aspects, having evaluated Cosmos for our business project outside of the validator community. I spent roughly about a week setting up my first validator system. The Tendermint Core team has been great and their responsiveness provides me confidence in the system for a validator business and for Forbole. I also recommend you take becoming a validator seriously. Many people may focus on the profits and benefits of being a validator but validators are those who have a lot of responsibility to make the network run while securing their own or their delegators’ stakes (Atoms). Cosmos Validators are the keepers of the network and they will face a lot of attacks. So be prepared! To make a network like Cosmos successful, it has to be done through a community. It can’t be done on the first day and we have to keep sharing, testing and tackling problems every day. We have seen some critical issues during different versions of the testnet, the network has stopped, validators were asking to start a new testnet, etc. I see a lot of the validators thinking positively and reacting quickly to come up with solutions together. I think this attitude is very important for engineers like us to make a better future in different aspects.

Aurel:

  • It isn’t easy, but it is rewarding — so be patient.
  • Be friendly, other validators might reach out for help.
  • When you enjoy what you are doing it isn’t difficult.
  • Take this seriously — a validator is a job, not a hobby, so if you don’t have time for it — don’t do it. A must is first reading the documentation.

What do you envision for the Cosmos Validator community in the future?

Kwun: I would like the community to have more people — a group of active newcomers. The current validator community is getting up to speed and helping newcomers by distributing information. People are helping people to grow the community. I would also like to see more validators from different cultures, time zones, backgrounds, helps with ideas, think about things differently, etc. I noticed some newcomers don’t understand what is happening, which is why I wrote the Medium post.

Chris: I’d like to see it remain supportive and collaborative, especially once the money starts flowing. Inclusive, open to new entrants and not limited to those with first-mover advantage.

As you get started, check out some of the tools from Kwun, Aurel and Chris:

Kwun’s shared validator tools:

(Chris) I’m mainly providing access to the knowledge gained through the time I’ve invested in learning how to run validators by:

  • Answering questions in the chats
  • Editing and suggesting updates to available documentation
  • Making suggestions that benefit the community as a whole, to improve communication and workflow, e.g. AMA sessions, more user-friendly chat tool, etc.

*Validator candidates benefit by demonstrating leadership and sharing knowledge to advance the overall efforts of the community. This helps you build a reputation, which is an important quality when attracting delegators. To share, submit your tools on the Cosmos Forum.

Social

Telegram: t.me/CosmosProject

Reddit: reddit.com/r/CosmosNetwork

YouTube: youtu.be/CosmosNetwork

Twitter: twitter.com/cosmos

Discord: forum.cosmos.network

Riot: riot.cosmos.network

Q&A Session — Three Cosmos Validators Share Their Experience was originally published in Cosmos Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original article was created by: Interchain Foundation at blog.cosmos.network

Disclaimer: This article should not be taken as, and is not intended to provide, investment advice. Please conduct your own thorough research before investing in any cryptocurrency or ICO.

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