This is the third in a series of Q&A’s with the City of Zion Council through which we hope the NEO community will gain deeper understanding into the members and the various projects under development. By highlighting specific projects, we hope that open-source developers will be attracted to join the community and accelerate development of these City of Zion initiatives, that aim to enable the long-term success of the NEO platform.

This week we spoke with localhuman, who has made an enormous contribution to the NEO platform with his Python implementation of the NEO core protocol. He shared with us a little bit about his background, explained what neo-Python offers developers, and spoke about his vision for NEO’s future.

Dean – NEO News Today: Thanks for giving NEO News Today readers a chance to learn a little bit about you and what you’ve been working on. Can you tell us about your background as a developer and how you first came to work on blockchain technology?

localhuman: First off, thanks for maintaining NEO News Today, and I’m honored to be interviewed! My educational background is in Philosophy, so I don’t have much formal training in software. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of jobs for philosophers, so I ended up writing software.

I’ve now been a developer for around 10 years, starting off doing a lot of front end animations and interactive work and slowly growing into a more full stack developer. My current position is in the College of Education at the University of Minnesota helping researchers in the college bring their research to digital fruition.

Around a year ago I became interested in Ethereum and also ZCash and did a little bit of exploration on those platforms. For some reason or another I didn’t engage much deeper than writing a Hello World Smart Contract in Solidity and starting up a giant AWS cluster of ZCash miners that I ran for a week or two. That was it, until I met AntShares…

Dean NNT: What was it about NEO that motivated you to dedicate yourself to this project, and how did you end up becoming a City of Zion Council member?

localhuman: A lot of my interest in NEO came from the youth of the project and the challenge of figuring out a new platform, especially given that when we first started working with the codebase there was essentially no English documentation. Also, I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that I really fell for the old AntShares logo! My interest may have ended there, but it was great working together with the folks that eventually became City of Zion. I can’t recall exactly how the Council formed, but it was to my recollection an organic formation of the most active developers on the Slack channel at the time.

Dean NNT: Your big projects thus far have been neo-python and neo-boa. Do you want to explain a little bit about what neo-python and neo-boa are, how they’re related, and how they’re going to benefit developers?

localhuman: neo-python is an implementation of the core NEO protocol that aims to be as feature complete as the current C# implementation, and bring other features to the table as well. Neo-boa is a compiler, written in python, to compile python files to the ‘.avm’ format for usage in the NEO Virtual Machine.

One of the main goals of both of these projects is to make it easier for non-windows users (or unix people like me) to develop for and use the NEO platform. The other goal is to make developing Smart Contracts easier, and that is where neo-boa comes in. Working side by side, the two libraries can be used to compile, deploy, invoke, test, and generally interact with Smart Contracts on the blockchain in a way that is as developer friendly as possible.

Dean NNT: Python is probably the worlds fastest growing major programming language (according to articles like this), but I don’t know that there are many other major blockchain platforms that allow developers to write smart contracts in Python. Do you think this could be a real point of difference for NEO, and can you see it having a big effect on bringing new developers into the ecosystem?

localhuman: I certainly hope so! I think any technology needs to meet developers where they are most comfortable to produce the best results. For example, I can write Ruby or Solidity or Javascript for a project if I need to, but I don’t feel… like I’m speaking my native tongue. My best code is almost always going to be written in Python, and if a technology supports Python I’ll usually choose that over another. The same could be said for any language people are comfortable with, so it really is a competitive advantage for NEO that it aims to support so many languages.

Dean NNT: A lot of general NEO enthusiasts read about projects like neo-boa or neo-python and understand that they’re important, but they’ll never have a reason to interact with them directly. However, you’re really laying the foundations for the future and opening up the door for thousands of new developers to come and build applications on NEO that regular people will use every day. What excites you most about laying this groundwork?

localhuman: Blockchain technology is really in its infancy — we don’t really know where this is going and what it will grow into. I’ve got this general sense that this technology will be pretty important in the future, but how will it really change the world? I don’t know. It is exciting to work with others to figure out how to make tools and systems to make that unknown future, and the hundreds of tiny discoveries made with others along the way.

Dean NNT: I know some of the council members are transitioning to working on CoZ full time. Up until recently though, most of you have been working regular day jobs along with taking on all the additional NEO projects. That’s quite a labour of love! Does that leave you with much free time, and what do you do with it when you have the chance?

localhuman: It has been tough to balance my regular job, work on the NEO platform, and keep a healthy personal routine, and in that balance I’ve lost time for other passions of mine. But when I do have free time I enjoy working with my hands in the garage, whether it be a welding project, woodwork, or something automotive. I spent last winter restoring a 1968 BMW from the ground up, as well as rebuilding the engine on a 2008 Audi. The Audi runs great, but the BMW is still half complete. I’m looking forward to the day when I can finish that project, or in general have more time to work with my hands. It is a similar problem solving challenge to software development, but when you can make something mechanical or out of wood that is actually a real thing that you can see and show to others, it is rewarding in a different way.

Dean NNT: What is your personal vision for the development and adoption of the NEO ecosystem in five years?

localhuman: 5 years is a long time, so it is really hard to say. Within a year it is easy to see the technology fully implemented and easily usable in not only Python, but also Javascript, Go, Ruby, and other popular languages, and from there the sky is the limit. Why do we need complex legal mechanisms surrounding contracts when we could have a ‘Mortgage’ smart contract that auto-withdraws payment from my NEO wallet to the bank? Why do I have to go to the DMV and wait in line to get the title to my vehicle when this transaction could be a multi signature transaction between the buyer and seller, and the state can track the asset (my vehicle) on the NEO blockchain? There’s tons of everyday paperwork and bureaucracy that could be fixed by blockchain technology, and I believe NEO is well positioned to be that technology. But my imagination in this realm is probably insufficient… what it ends up being is probably something I couldn’t even comprehend right now.

Dean NNT: The City of Zion dApp competition is running at the moment, and it currently has around 20 registered participants. What do you most hope to see come out of this event, and what should developers be focusing on if they want to win one of your votes?

localhuman: What I’ve hoped to see the most has already happened. There’s contest participants in Slack that are pushing the boundaries of the tech, finding holes, making fixes in NEO core (and neo-python), all so that they can get their Smart Contract finished for the contest. It has been wonderful to see the trailblazing the participants have done, and those who have pushed the technology the furthest will be getting my votes.

Dean NNT: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to leave with our readers?

localhuman: I would say that the most important thing that has kept me involved in NEO has been the community surrounding it, specifically City of Zion and Slack, but also the community on Reddit and your followers here. You could have the best technology on earth, but if the people using it are jerks or the community isn’t growing organically, then in my view a technology isn’t going to get very far. So get involved if you can, be nice to others, have some patience and enjoy the ride!

Dean NNT: Thank you so much for your time and all your contributions to the NEO project!

Click here to read our Q&A with Canesin, and here to read our Q&A with lllwvlvwlll.