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On September 8th, 2019, NEO Global Development (NGD) Shanghai concluded its inaugural NEO Community Assembly; a gathering of developers, researchers, and other NEO community members from around the world for a week of discussion on the direction of NEO.

Before the event officially began, the early arrivals joined NGD for an evening welcome drink on September 1st, hosted at a local coffee shop a short walk from the Shanghai office. Following an introductory speech from NEO co-founder Da Hongfei, attendees had the opportunity to become familiar with each other in preparation for an intense week of collaboration.

NEO3 Presentations

The first full day of the Assembly occurred on September 2nd, with the first of three days of presentations dedicated to the design and direction of NEO3. NEO core developers provided the first introduction to NEO3, showcasing key changes to be expected in the upcoming Preview1 release.

NEO3 Preview1 will be the first public NEO3 build to release, allowing NEO developers to experiment and begin familiarizing themselves with the architectural changes. To accompany the release, a NEO3 TestNet will be launched that will be updated incrementally as new preview releases are made available.

New feature discussions followed the NEO3 Preview1 presentation, led by NGD researchers who shared their insights into relevant topics such as increasing the TPS of NEO3, providing a fair voting mechanism, and the current approach in designing a secure cross-chain protocol for asset transfer or contract calls.

Migration and Customer Focus

Discussion revolving around the cross-chain protocol proved particularly popular, with the proposed solution providing a potential avenue for users to transition their assets between NEO 2.x and NEO3. The cross-chain protocol will likely take the form of relay contracts, which would potentially allow assets to be transferred between any public blockchains that elect to support the protocol.

On the topic of migration, founder of the new NEO development community Alienworks (and ex-NGD team member) Peter Lin noted:

“Right now, we’ll focus on lowering the barrier of blockchain technology and initiate more efforts and attempts of developers to achieve their goals by developing on NEO without worrying about NEO 3 migrations.”

Peng Huang of NGD Seattle also gave a presentation focused on migration, drawing on his experiences at Microsoft in preparing the ecosystem for a transition between Windows Vista and 8.1. Huang highlighted the coordination between key groups and strategies employed, hoping to set an example for which NEO could follow for its own migration.

A particular focus was placed on ensuring end users—whether product teams, independent developers, or consumers—had access to infrastructure to guide them through the process. This customer-focused approach resonated in particular with Ricardo Prado, NEO core developer and product manager, who offered his own presentation at the Assembly on the importance of placing a priority on the needs of the customer.

Brainstorming Sessions

In addition to the presentation topics, numerous brainstorming sessions were held by participants. These sessions typically began with an outline of an issue at hand, and encouraged the debate of different solutions or proposals designed to solve the issue under discussion.

Tyler Adams, attending on behalf of the COZ development community and NEO-based decentralized workforce application Moonlight, commented:

“I’ve been to over twenty large NEO events covering a broad range of topics and I am confident that this was the best. The ecosystem team and core developers are aligned with NGD to deliver an excellent platform.”

Arguably the most successful of the brainstorming sessions was focused on the native oracle implementation for NEO; a way for NEO contracts to retrieve data from sources external to the blockchain, such as the Internet. Oracles are required for numerous use cases, a common example being the use of an oracle to gather up-to-date pricing information for an asset.

While brainstorming the ideal oracle solution for NEO, various security concerns and project requirements needed to be addressed. Session leaders Shargon and Belane, co-founders of cybersecurity firm Red4Sec, concluded the discussion with a complete oracle proposal. The proposal is expected to be shared on the NEO GitHub for further refinement and optimization in the near future. Fellow core developer Ricardo Prado observed:

“I think that Shargon and Belane shined a lot in this assembly. They worked really hard all days, proposing real and factual implementation designs.”

Another popular discussion revolved around the governance of NEO, tying together the need for a provably fair on-chain voting system and increased decentralization. Multiple potential avenues were explored, including a new proposal for a backup consensus node model that could be used to increase the fault tolerance of the NEO network.

Conversations also addressed the possibility of including an off-chain voting mechanism, which could allow consensus nodes to be adjusted in the event that no new blocks are being created, preventing new votes from being processed. This potential “lightning voting” approach could allow validators to be adjusted during a voting process occurring within the mempool.

Community Sentiment

Consensus from the community about the Assembly highlighted its productive nature, with some proposals indicating an eagerness to hold further Community Assemblies on a regular basis in the future. Guil, founder of the Neow3j project, offered his assessment of the Assembly to NEO News Today:

“It was simply awesome! We have highly motivated and skilled teams willing to build world-class blockchain dev tools. We had a lot of fun! Thankfully I was part of it, presenting what’s next with neow3j and raising the flag of how developer experience is important in the NEO ecosystem.”

Online conversations that have followed the Assembly have been chiefly concerned with how the collaborative energy built up over the previous week can be maintained moving forward. In this manner, the Assembly proved itself to be a powerful motivational tool for coordinating different groups in the ecosystem and encouraging constant progress.

Following the conclusion of the event, NGD Seattle’s John deVadoss offered his perspective on what is to follow:

“NEO3 is coming, and Da Hongfei’s vision for the Smart Economy is more real than ever. NEO3 will enable millions of developers across the world to realize the benefits of the Smart Economy across a spectrum of industries.”