In this episode of Know Your Validator, we speak to SwitcheOG Secure Staking. The European team has significant experience working with blockchain networks, running RPC nodes for Neo and Phantasma, and a consensus node for APEX Network. Aldo, one half of the S3 team, completed his Bachelor thesis on blockchain-based access rights management and also built the first Docker deployment for TradeHub nodes.
S3 claims to place an emphasis on empowering their delegators, encouraging them to use their own voice instead of defaulting to S3’s proxy vote. It also set up its own Telegram community to allow delegators to bring up questions or concerns, and attempts to address them all in a transparent manner.
NNT hopes its Know Your Validator series can provide the Switcheo community useful insights on TradeHub validators and validator candidates, so they can vote in an informed manner.
The full interview can be found below.
Validator: SwitcheOG Secure Staking
What are the names of the SwitcheOG Secure Staking team members and where are you based?
SwitcheOG is run by myself, Jay, and my partner Aldo. We are both based in Europe, with Jay all the way up top in Norway, and Aldo in Switzerland, the neutral centre of the continent.
Can you tell us about about the S3 team’s background and what do you think qualifies you to be a TradeHub validator?
Aldo and I have known each other for years, and have developed a level of trust that is very rare in this space, but crucial when operating a consensus node where not just your own, but also other people’s actual funds are on the line.
Personally I have been embedded in the blockchain space for the past three years, and am deeply involved with multiple projects – incidentally mostly the same projects as Vincent who runs the Neoeconomy validator, and I have had the pleasure of working with him a lot. I am a Phantasma Phantom Force member and run a Phantasma RPC node, I am a part of the Neo community management and run a Neo RPC node, and I have been running a consensus node for APEX Network for more than a year.
These experiences have taught me a lot about how to properly set up and maintain nodes in a secure fashion. I have been a vocal member of the Switcheo community since before the ICO in 2018, and it’s a privilege to be able to support the TradeHub ecosystem as a validator.
Aldo is the professional developer on our team, and works as a tech lead in a Swiss IT company where he, among other things, researches possible blockchain integrations for a variety of use cases. He wrote his Bachelor’s thesis on “Blockchain-based access rights management for sensitive data in decentralized cloud storage systems” focused on IPFS and Tendermint which TradeHub is built on (https://github.com/yuomii/TenderFile/blob/master/Bachelorarbeit_Abgabe.pdf).
Deeply fascinated with all things Tendermint, he quickly saw the potential in Switcheo’s TradeHub implementation and wanted to be a part of its evolution. He has previously built a node manager GUI utilizing Docker for easy deployment, upgrades and maintenance of consensus nodes for another project, and his expertise enabled him to code the first Docker deployment for TradeHub nodes which our setup is based on.
At the time of writing, you currently have around 7% voting power. Why do you think people chose to stake with S3?
As we launched our validator shortly after the initial 11 validators that TradeHub launched with, we were fully aware that we would need to be able to properly communicate that we had something unique that would be appreciated by prospective delegators and make it attractive to stake with us. Core characteristics for our validator operations are security and stability (more on our setup later), and solid experience in the field and transparent communications.
Having followed Switcheo’s every move and been present since its inception makes us familiar and recognizable, while launching our validator with a significantly lower commission rate than others at the time gave us an additional competitive edge with those who feel that this aspect is of high importance.
What do you consider to be the most important responsibilities of an elected validator?
Maintaining supremely stable performance and maximum uptime with a Fort Knox-like level of security should be the number one priority for any validator. If either of those factors are lacking, delegators and the ecosystem will suffer. However, that should ideally be a given for any validator. Another important responsibility is to take an active part in the evolution of Switcheo’s TradeHub, particularly with regards to the on-chain governance.
If validators did not voice opinions during proposal discussions or even refrained from voting at all, we would risk gradually devolving into a scenario where a minority maintained an outsized influence over the future of TradeHub. A part of this governance responsibility includes community empowerment through starting discussions and encouraging delegators to voice their opinions, and to vote instead of sitting back to let their validator proxy vote for them.
How will S3 use its voting power to help the Switcheo platform?
We have been quite vocal in every proposal discussion that has taken place so far on TradeHub, and our focus is and always will be the health and wellbeing of the TradeHub ecosystem. We embarked on this adventure with open eyes and a long term perspective, and will always prioritize long term sustainability and growth over any measures seemingly aimed at providing instant or short term gratification. We will always speak up for the silent delegators through voting our conscience on any proposal that is submitted.
Are there any core principles that will guide S3’s voting decisions?
A validator does not exist to further its own interests or capitalize on the misfortune or ignorance of others. To the contrary, the core objective of a validator is to serve the wider ecosystem of delegators and to further their interests. Therefore, a validator should always have the long term best interests of the team and community in mind when going to the command line interface ballot box.
This perspective will guide all of S3’s voting decisions. It is important to keep in mind that a validator can only ever submit a proxy vote for its delegators, while a delegator’s own submitted vote will always override that proxy vote. S3 wants our delegators to override us as often and to as large an extent as possible, whether our delegators agree with our position or not, as that would signal that we have a healthy TradeHub democracy.
What does your setup look like? How do you ensure you provide optimum uptime?
To ensure that our setup was as solid and failsafe as possible, we spent several weeks running a multitude of tests including every possible kind of server failure and datacentre disaster scenario over and over. Only when we were completely confident in our setup and failsafe mechanisms did we venture onto the MainNet.
Running a validator means that you expose your delegators to risks, the most obvious being the risk of so-called slashing where every delegator loses a portion of their funds if the validator is penalized for bad performance. This is not a responsibility that should be taken lightly, and we have taken every step possible to ensure that our delegators (and ourselves) can sleep peacefully knowing that their funds are secure.
Our setup is comprised of a series of significantly overpowered dedicated servers spread across several datacentres in different geographical locations, set up in a sentry architecture with multiple closed off sentries protecting dual primary/secondary validators that are completely isolated. Both sentries and validators are utilizing our custom made, open source Docker based setup (https://github.com/yuomii/tradehub-docker-setup) which allows for easy management, backup, data migration, recovery and redeployment.
Automatic failsafes and alerts combined with active monitoring ensure maximum uptime, and our diverse geographical setup ensures that we keep blocking even if a whole datacentre burns to the ground – Switcheo TradeHub is unstoppable.
What are you most optimistic about in regards to Switcheo’s future?
While most decentralized exchanges were struggling with the limitations of the blockchain they built on, Switcheo was already focused on building a cross-chain decentralized exchange that would be free of such limitations. Having built their initial exchange on Neo they started out with a fast chain, low fees, but also struggled with adoption. Through migrating to TradeHub and the collaboration with Neo and others to build Poly Network however, Switcheo has positioned themselves perfectly to become a leading actor in cross-chain decentralized trading.
Not only do they allow for low cost cross-chain assets trading in a decentralized manner, but they break free of the limitations normally imposed by blockchains such as Ethereum by doing it all through TradeHub. Adding advanced order types, margin trading options and more through the upcoming DemEx launch will see Switcheo redefining decentralized finance and paving the way for massive growth in users and trading volume.
What do you think are Switcheo’s biggest challenges moving forward?
Switcheo is aiming for radical decentralization where the core team will gradually give up control of the entire platform and its source code to a growing number of validators and delegators. There will be unavoidable growing pains during this process, and we believe the biggest challenge will be to ensure a steady evolution of the underlying technology in a scenario where the team no longer controls what happens and has power to force through changes they believe to be necessary. However, we are confident that these challenges can be mitigated through educational efforts and through the Switcheo Development Fund what was recently proposed and implemented.
As a Validator, how do you gauge/value community sentiment for their wants and needs?
SwitcheOG Secure Staking was the first validator to set up our own Telegram community and Telegram announcements channel. We actively encourage community members to bring up questions or concerns, and answer them all in a transparent manner. Through constructive discussion we gain new perspectives and are able to ascertain what the most important priorities are for the community. In addition, we absorb every single opinion expressed in Switcheo’s official Telegram and Discord communities.
Do you have any ideas for future TIPs? What kinds of proposals would you like to see?
During a previous proposal discussion Ivan Poon mentioned that they were considering a TIP to expedite new token listings through automatic approval and implementation of such proposals upon reaching a certain voting threshold. This would significantly reduce the risk of being front run by CEXes or other DEXes when new and popular markets become available, and is something we very much look forward to.
A TIP establishing the Switcheo Development Fund just passed, meaning that 10% of block rewards will be taxed moving forward and put towards incentivising new development. Two part question: Firstly, did you vote in favour of, or against this TIP? Secondly, now that it has passed, what will you be looking for in SDF proposals that hope to receive a yes vote from you?
This was a TIP that caused a heated debate in the community between those that were concerned about a reduction in rewards earned and those who believed the proposal was an absolute necessity to secure the future of TradeHub. We were quite vocal from the beginning of this debate, and voiced our strong support for the SDF which naturally was reflected in our strong YES vote. In our opinion, being in a position to build a large and sustainable decentralized development fund this early in TradeHub’s history is a virtual godsend and will be a core driver in the future evolution of TradeHub.
While there are numerous different fields of development that could potentially receive S3’s support, there are certain requirements that need to be met for an SDF proposal to warrant serious consideration. First of all, the proposal simply needs to be thought through and thorough enough to show that the proposer actually means business and is likely to be capable of bringing the proposed product to life.
Secondly, the milestones for the proposal need to be properly considered and logical, so that the community is protected from the risk of wasting significant development funds for a low effort proposal that is abandoned halfway. This also serves to ensure that fluffy proposals reminiscent of the ICO era’s “pretty whitepapers” cannot possibly bleed the fund dry, as the community can shut down funding at any step in the process.
As for particular areas of interest, we would love to see a fully featured mobile trading app, desktop and mobile wallets and additional TradeHub SDKs to expand programming language support. We need good tools for a variety of user categories, from the so-called “normies” to crypto daytraders and algorithmic traders – this will play a crucial role in Switcheo’s path to major adoption, and the Switcheo Development Fund provides the necessary incentive to bring such ideas from concept to finished product.
Other existing or aspiring validators interested in participating in the Know Your Validator series should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.