Alex Guba (known as @gubanotorious on the NEO Discord) is a City of Zion (CoZ) software engineer who began his journey over 20 years ago through an internship with Microsoft. Over the years he has worked on a range of disciplines and technologies, though he has spent most of his career building disruptive products and leading high performance teams in systems architecture, security, and compliance for the healthcare and government spaces in the US.
Alex is now heavily involved with the NEO ecosystem. He integrated NEO based functionality into Treatail, a retail marketplace and negotiation platform, which won first place in the second City of Zion dApp competition, and second place in the NEO / Microsoft development competition. Treatail allows for buyers, both consumer and business, to make offers and receive personalized deals on goods and services listed for sale on any site doing commerce on the Internet. Transactions are facilitated by the Treatail Token (TTL) and smart contracts.
Alex also worked on a NEO-based secure messaging protocol called Veiled.io, and in May 2018 was hired as the Chief Systems Architect for Bridge Protocol, a blockchain based digital identity provider.
Through all of his efforts building applications on top of NEO, Alex has also made significant contributions to City of Zion core projects. These contributions, along with his solid knowledge of Microsoft-based languages, led Alex to be promoted to the role of maintainer of neo-sharp, City of Zion’s “flagship” project.
Neo-sharp is a big play from City of Zion in its efforts to help NEO achieve its goal of 100,000 transactions per second by 2020. The project was initially created in secret by City of Zion council member @ashant (Ashley Rolleston). Ashley put out a call to action to C# developers in City of Zion to assist in building out the initial architecture and framework of the project, and later opened up the project to public contributions.
The goal of neo-sharp is to create a modular core and node implementation for better maintainability, testability, and performance of the NEO blockchain. Alex explains the importance of the project:
“You might wonder, ‘Why does another C# implementation of NEO matter? Don’t we already have that?’. The key difference and entire focus of this project is modular design. With a fully modular design, we will be capable of ‘plug and play’ implementations for Consensus (different algorithms and patterns), Virtual Machine (optimized implementations), Persistence (different databases and in-memory storage providers), and Network Protocol (compression, etc). This model will allow for deep R&D on new optimizations in NEO to move closer to its potential and 100k tp/s goals. We will be able to create nodes and clients for NEO with optimized configuration for the environment context it is running under and purpose for which it is intended.”
This modular approach is emblematic of what Alex considers to be good design philosophy.
“When you implement good code and follow best practices and design patterns, the overall testability, quality and flexibility increases drastically. I have always liked the quote ‘… with proper design, the features come cheaply. This approach is arduous, but continues to succeed.’ – Dennis Ritchie.”
Neo-sharp is so highly regarded as a key to unlocking NEO’s potential, that City of Zion and NEO Global Development (NGD) will hold their first joint development sprint in July. City of Zion developers from all over the world will fly into Shanghai to work alongside NGD, to align resources and move the project forward.
Neo-sharp has already made great progress. Since its first commit in March of 2018, all the groundwork necessary to start connecting modules, getting peer-to-peer (P2P) nodes up and synchronizing blocks has been laid. “Once this is achieved and tested, it will enable the project to move into implementation of the full Virtual Machine (supporting a new VM by CoZ called HyperVM), Wallets, and rounding out the feature set to be on par with the NEO core today.” Alex notes.
As with all City of Zion projects, neo-sharp is a community led effort and currently has around 8 active contributors. New contributors are always welcome to join the project by jumping on the City of Zion GitHub and creating pull requests. Alex outlines the ideal skillset of someone who would like to be involved with neo-sharp: “I would say the first prerequisite for contributing is to have a deep interest in the NEO blockchain and a passion for writing good code. Developers with experience in distributed systems and/or deep C# .NET architecture and development experience can benefit the project greatly.”
Alex was invited to join City of Zion in March 2018 after making many contributions to NEO toolsets, and writing documentation and tutorials to help others with issues he encountered during his own NEO development journey. Like many current City of Zion developers, his path to invitation began on the NEO Discord.
“I was an active miner and trader of crypto for a good while in 2017, and ended up as a mod in a Discord server with over 1,000 active members / traders. It was in this time I became intimately familiar with the various blockchain related initiatives and learned of NEO. I generally went to the Discord channels of any coin / token I had deep interest in, so I ended up finding the City of Zion Discord server to keep on the pulse of the NEO community.”
It was around this same time Alex was working on the Treatail project. Alex realized that blockchain was a logical fit for many of the challenges that Treatail faced, such as: users being able to control their own data when used for analytics, authenticity verification around high counterfeit risk goods, and physical ownership transfer proof.
After evaluating available public blockchain platforms, it became clear to Alex that NEO was the best fit. However, Alex met some resistance from project investors:
“Our existing investors were not fully behind the vision to take Treatail to the blockchain space, so I needed to figure out how we would acquire the 500 GAS needed to be able to actually launch on the MainNet (which at that time was around $50,000 USD if I recall).”
Through the NEO Discord, Alex became connected with existing City of Zion members who informed him of the CoZ dApp competition, which would award winners enough GAS to deploy two smart contracts.
From there Alex began working relentlessly on integrating Treatail with NEO and getting it ready by the submission deadline. Over the course of development, Alex realized how crucial City of Zion is to the progression of NEO and was moved to contribute.
“Although the NEO community had come a long way, I saw that City of Zion was shouldering an unreasonable amount of responsibility in supporting the NEO community. These were some super talented and genuinely great guys, and it was clear to me they needed as much help as they could get, so I wanted to find a place where I could help.”
Alex focused his efforts on helping clear the way on issues he encountered when first developing on NEO, in the hope reducing the learning curve for developers that followed.
“I spent a lot of time working with Sergio Flores (@relfos) to refactor the debugger and improve usability, and I began writing tutorials on some of the less formally explained processes like differences in private network, test network and MainNet testing and GAS allocation, things that you would absolutely have to do to get moving on NEO. Basically, if something was a hurdle in my pursuit to get my project running on the NEO blockchain, I either helped work on the code to make that aspect of the toolset better, or I wrote articles and documentation about a process I personally found challenging that I thought others might as well. ”
These efforts were noticed by City of Zion, and Alex was formally asked to join the group in March. He has quickly become a valuable member of the open-source community, and speaks highly of the people within the organization.
“CoZ is a great group of developers (and people) from around the world committed to helping each other and helping the NEO blockchain achieve its maximum potential. As a member of CoZ you have access to some of the best development resources and talent in the NEO blockchain space.”
For any developers who are interested in joining City of Zion, Alex recommends following a similar path to his own, encouraging potential candidates to join the Discord and just start working.
“To get involved with CoZ come find us on the NEO Discord server, and the first step is to get involved with the community. Once you are up to speed on the community and NEO, simply seek out a CoZ project to contribute to. If you find a project of interest that you are able to contribute to, jump in and create some pull requests and start contributing! We are always watching the contributions to determine those developers that are good candidates to be nominated to be part of CoZ.”
The NEO Discord can be found at this link.
More information on neo-sharp can be found on its GitHub.
Click here to read about neo-go and its creator and project maintainer, Anthony De Meulemeester (known as @anthdm on the NEO Discord).
More information on City of Zion can be found at the links below.
About The Author: Dean Jeffs
Dean is a digital project manager who has worked extensively with start ups and agencies in the marketing space. Fascinated by the potential applications of blockchain technology, Dean has a passion for realising the new smart economy.
More posts by Dean Jeffs