DECENT - a torrent blockchain presale

Recently, I was contacted by a fellow Bitcoiner and informed about some possible shady goings-on on the DECENT platform. Reportedly, the platform has raised 5352BTC (3.2M USD equivalent) in its token presale, but the product appears to be on some shaky grounds. Lets have a look at what we can find out about the platform, the presale and have a look at whether there is something shady going on...

The Whitepaper

Any self-respecting blockchain project styles itself after Bitcoin and releases a whitepaper early on. Decent is no exception (#liberateyourself on every page...).

The paper starts with criticising Bitcoin for BOTH its low transaction throughput, and its large blocksize. Wouldn't it be nice if one could have a higher transaction throughput with a lower data footprint? Unless you start pruning old data, it won't happen. But that's apparently "some childhood diseases" Bitcoin has.

"Unfortunately, in spite of more than 6 years of its existence [Bitcoin] did not reach a position it could have attained mainly due to the imperfections in its architecture and design."

In comes Decent. Saving freedom of speech, solving the issue of authors having to figure out how to monetise their content, drive traffic to their sites, deal with Amazon's pay cut, etc. You can use it to publish "any text, picture, video or music content" (and even software) and "no third parties can control or influence the content".

The platform is characterised by being:
  • Independent - owned by the users and "will never be affiliated with any economic, media, or political party"
  • Borderless
  • Stable - not dependent on any single server
  • Fair - everyone starts at the same level and build up their reputation
  • Profitable - users can buy content directly from the authors and there is no cut taken by Decent
  • Spam Free - content publishing is expensive for spammers
  • Secure & Anonymous - authors can publish the content anonymously
  • Recommendations-enabled - readers that purchased the content can embed their feedback into the blockchain

While describing how the protocol works, we also learn that the application will be using the bittorent protocol with a distributed tracker to distribute its content. The torrent is downloaded by the "publishers" that charge a fee for storage and bandwidth. For encrypted content, the decryption keys are also distributed to the publishers.

Upon hearing what kind of content the platform will support, the cynic in me instantly reached two conclusions - a lot of the content, especially the movies and music, will be pirated like on current torrent websites, and a lot of the software content will contain malware. I somehow doubt I will be proven wrong...

So all in all, it looks like the system will use a blockchain to keep track of who paid for what content, while the actual content will be distributed over torrents. All in all, it looks like a poor man's version of MaidSafe or Storj, also somewhat similar to the Alexandria project. While those platforms focused on creating their own storage solutions paired with the blockchain, Decent appears to just mash Bitcoin and torrent technologies and produce something that's less than a sum of its parts.

A somewhat more usable solution would just focus on augmenting the torrent architecture without burdening it with a proprietary blockchain. You could use Factom or Ethereum to publish the magnet links, have some proof-of-payment solution to request the torrent data for paid content, or even just rely on donations from people that consume your content. Building one's own blockchain just to manage new tokens proves once again, a solution looking for a problem.

The token presale

Like a lot of projects in the crypto space, Decent is raising money through a token presale. To buy the tokens, you need to register an account on Decent's portal and pay bitcoins into a provided address. The tokens are distributed into the account and will later be available for withdrawal on the network proper. At the moment there doesn't appear to be an option of transferring the balance between accounts, so one is unlikely to be able to trade or sell the tokens before the network goes live.

Since it looks like Decent is handling all of the balances and not acting as a client-side wallet provider like Blockchain.info (that is, Decent probably handles all of the balances themselves), this can get really hairy for them from the regulators' perspective. Were they located in the USA, I would stay away from the service after what happened to Ripple Labs. Since the service does not seem to gather KYC information, it might be in a legal grey zone. Not being able to send the tokens around might actually be a benefit for the company - the token appears as a less of a security this way.

At any rate, the gathered bitcoins end up in 2-of-3 escrow with Coinbase. The three people responsible for handling the funds are:

  • Matej Michalko, the founder and director of Decent. Also, a co-founder of five different Bitcoin conferences (I suppose that is a new, fancy term for "organizer" nowadays), and a co-founder of two other crypto-related companies
  • Tibor Tarabek, reported to be the "Founder of Microsoft Slovakia", although his LinkedIn profile lists him only as a General Manager in years 1995-2000 (and also a "General Manager" of some "bitcoin, s.r.o." company between years 1992-1994, 16 years before Bitcoin was released!)
  • Vasylchenko Alexander, former director of Mycelium in years 2012-2014

It is a bit strange that the founder of Decent is a co-signer of the escrow if you want to show that you can deliver on the project's promises. Find a few reputable Bitcoin people and use them for the entire escrow to show the release of funds is unbiased. Currently, all you need is one of the two extra people to co-conspire and you have full access to the 3.2M USD. While I might not know the reputation of mr Tarabek in the Slovakian Bitcoin space, his apparent lack of involvement with Bitcoin-related projects doesn't speak well to his ability to objectively judge a project like this.

Lastly, storing token presale funds in Coinbase, a company known for helping US authorities shut down torrent-related websites, doesn't bode well for the security of the funds. No KYC, token presales and US don't mix well...

All in all, I'm very dubious about how well the presale is handled. While it's not completely shady, I would not be surprised if the tokens get released before the project is finished or worse. To anyone that has purchased the tokens so far - hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

The Team

All in all, what makes or breaks a project is often the team. Let's look at who the Decent team is compromised of...

The Founders consist of:

  • Matej Boda, who seems to be rather fresh out of university without much prior experience
  • Matej Michalko, the aforementioned co-founder of a lot of crypto-related projects. He appears to be business-focused
  • Wayman Kwan, a venture capitalist
So mostly business-focused founders. Let's look at the developers in the team:

  • Josef Sevcik, with background in Business Administration, Informatics and telecommunication
  • Bohdan Skriabin, a cryptographer still studying at a university
  • Lubos Novotný, an UX / designer
  • Stanislav Cherviakov, "a tech expert with a mathematical background" with experience in fintech, etc.
  • Vladimir Dubinin, a mathematician with a computer science degree
  • Anatoly Ressin, a programmer

And a lot of other advisers, ambassadors, etc. All in all, the development team is a bit mixed, having a few people that appear to have a lot of relevant experience, and some that are just starting out. The company also appears to be looking for a senior developer and a junior developer, both with a negotiable compensation payable in "other".

It looks like there are about 13 people making up the company proper. That can give the company a pretty high burn rate before any technical prototypes have been developed, but the costs may be rather low if the majority of the team is located in Slovakia.


So far, Decent doesn't appear to be publicly owning up to any publicly available repositories on their website. However, the bitcoiner that prompted me to investigate the company pointed me in a direction of a github repository posted by Josef Sevcik, one of the developers on the Decent Team. It looks like a possible prototype of the Decent platform. The codebase appears to be based on Peershares with a small amount of changes (a few file diffs: 1, 2, 3).

Basing the codebase on proof-of-stakes based currency informs a lot of new things about the project that haven't really been mentioned on the project's website - the initial allocation of tokens (how much is being kept by the company and developers) can be really important when it comes to earning block rewards for example.


All in all, the Decent looks like an underwhelming solution looking for a problem. It is very unlikely the platform will solve all of the problems it sets out to fix - nobody will want to switch over to a new platform, use a new currency to get a glorified paywall. Focus on presaling the tokens doesn't seem to be improving the solution, as is often the case. Raising 3.2M USD before anyone has seen a prototype of the platform is similarly ludicrous. The tokens have little to no value during the presale - you can't trade them for speculation, you will only be able to use them once the platform launches, and there doesn't appear to be any special use for the tokens in the final system other than paying for things. I somehow doubt the platform will have 3.2M USD worth of content on it for years to come, so pre-purchasing a token now to be able to pay a movie for a few dollars or a blog article for a few cents a year down the line sounds like an awful proposition.

The escrow holing the coins doesn't appear to be following the industry's standards. It is not completely shady, but it could inspire more confidence.

The team behind the project looks fine - no "blockchain rockstar" stands out, but it seems to have everything needed. It is good that the company advertises its contact information, including physical addresses.

From the rumours I heard from a few fellow bitcoiners closer to the project, the company seems to be aggressively pushing for its presale with just a forked open source repo to back it up.

So in conclusion, the project doesn't look like it can live up to its own hype. The approach is rather naive, even if it can be fully realised. I see no reason to back it financially, and for anyone that has - I would like to know why? The token can't be traded, sold, speculated on until the project launches, which makes it a rather risky proposition.

The Bitcoin Bullshit List

Your Crypto Idea Will Not Work

Your post advocates a new:
(x) Altcoin
(x) Wallet
(x) Distributed data storage

Your idea will not work.  Here is why it won't work.

(x) Your target audience is too small to support the project
(x) There is already a product on the market that does exactly what you’re doing, but ( ) faster / (x) cheaper / (x) better / (x) is more established / ( ) ______________
(x) Your project will not be compliant with the current (x) KYC / ( ) AML / ( ) gambling / (x) DMCA regulations
(x) Your solution is worse than general-purpose computing hardware / software
(x) Your presale tokens have no economic value

Specifically, your plan fails to account for:
(x) The existing regulations
(x) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
(x) The known security exploits of the existing Internet services
(x) The human factor
(x) The problem of distinguishing between a human and a bot

and the following philosophical objections may also apply:
(x) Nobody likes DRM
(x) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical
(x) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
(x) I don’t trust YOU with the money

Furthermore, this is what I think about you:
(x) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.

Bitcoin Bullshit Tier

You are advertising a new Bitcoin / crypto related project. Based on the information provided, you have reached the Bullshit Tier of 3 for the following reasons:

Bitcoin Bullshit Tier 1 - marketing babble, technology misunderstanding
(x) “Blockchain”
(x) “As good as / better than Bitcoin”

Bitcoin Bullshit Tier 2 - willful misinformation, bait and switch
(x) Claiming your project can accomplish something hard without a clear explanation of how to do so

Bitcoin Bullshit Tier 3 - Many red flags
(x) Token IPO


Global Reserve Currency - Special Drawing Rights vs Bitcoin

Earlier this month, the G20 summit was held in China. One of the more interesting topics discussed, was the addition of Chinese yuan to the SDR - Special Drawing Rights. The topic of SDRs is rather important, but it doesn't seem to be discussed all that widely in the crypto community, so I figured I would cover it today.

Special Drawing Rights

Special Drawing Rights, or SDRs, are supplementary foreign exchange reserve assets defined and maintained by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). They were created in 1969. SDRs are allocated to countries by the IMF, and private parties do not hold or use them. The value of SDRs is based on a weighted basket of currencies (currently, 41% USD, 31% EUR, 11% CNY, 8% JPY and 8% GBP, worth about 1.39USD/SDR).

Special Drawing Rights are posed to replace the dollar as the world reserve currency. They serve well as a unit of account (due to lower volatility), can work well in international law (to have an objective measurement of value across multiple countries), and some countries even started pegging their currency to the SDR (due to increased transparency).

While the IMF and SDRs might not be an entirely ideal solution to creating a new, global currency (with US having a veto power and failing to ratify some reforms for example), it might be a step in the right direction.

Where SDRs fall short

While the Special Drawing Rights are an interesting idea, they fall short in a one key area - they appear to be inaccessible for anyone short of a government. This can limit how useful the currency can be for say, creating international settlement, or using it as a measurement of value for corporations or even individuals.

If SDRs were a publicly available and tradable currency, it would be really interesting to see it used for pricing items, wages, etc. to counter currency wars. If your wage is pegged at 3000USD/month, whether USD goes up or down, you're paid the same amount of dollars. But if your wage was instead set at 3000SDR/month, you would receive the same value each month, no matter if it meant you got 2500USD when the dollar is strong, or 3500USD when it was weak. This could give anyone a protection from the government's meddling.

Crypto SDRs

Creating a currency based on a basket of other currencies is also not an entirely new idea in the crypto space either. Paul Grignon (author of Money as Debt) has described his take on the idea as Digital Coin back in 2009. A part of the system, called Perpetual Coin, would initially be issued based on a value of a basket of currencies. Unfortunately, the project never left the conceptual phase, and the website is down now, so it is unlikely we will see it ever implemented...

Other than that, there doesn't appear to be an SDR-pegged cryptocurrency out there. This might perhaps be due to the fact that we already have a better alternative to the Special Drawing Rights - Bitcoin. What it lacks in stable value at times, it more than makes up in terms of being all-inclusive and, at least so far, immune from government influence.

It wouldn't be hard, however, to create an SDR-Coin - it could function like Tether, or perhaps more accurately, like BitUSD since you couldn't exactly withdraw the coin. The main problem for a centralised issuer would be keeping the valuation of the currency stable, especially in periods where the basket of currencies is adjusted. Other than that, once the currency itself is created (and I would almost bet we would see someone make the currency after the article is published - 700+ cryptos is not enough after all), it would be interesting to see it start being used internationally. Perhaps we would finally see what is the real demand for SDRs for corporations and real people, rather than just governments. With any luck, this might just hurry the demise of the USD or "petrodollar" hegemony.


Special Drawing Rights are an interesting take on creating a new global reserve currency. While it is currently only accessible to governments, it could be very useful for corporations and end-users. For the time being, Bitcoin is the most accessible alternative for the rest of us.


Smart guns and BlockSafe

DISCLAIMER: I work for Factom, which is mentioned in several examples in this article. While I work for Factom, the opinions expressed in this piece are, as always, my own.

Recently, I came across a token sale from the BlockSafe project. After a brief chat with the project's founder, I think this might be an interesting example of a blockchain solution looking for a problem and cashing in on some buzzwords. But let's start from the beginning...

Smart gun technology

A concept of a smart gun is nothing new - it's been around for at least 14 years. The premise is simple - it is a firearm that includes some technology only allowing for the gun to be used by an authorized user. It can be used to prevent "misuse, accidental shootings, gun thefts, use of the weapon against the owner, and self-harm". There are many approaches for user authentication - RFID chips, proximity tokens, fingerprints and biometrics, magnetic rings, mechanical locks, etc.

However, since most guns are inherently simple tools, and a lot of people would rather not have their defensive firearms "rely upon any technology more advanced than Newtonian physics" - batteries go dead, electronics malfunction, software bugs out, etc. Waiting for a blockchain transaction to confirm before your gun is unlocked is the last thing you want to be doing in a hurry.

Moreover, even if the technology was reliable, it would not be able to prevent every situation the society would want to avoid dealing with. Most gun deaths are suicides in the US, you wouldn't really be able to stop most mass shootings or other homicides without some major restrictions (like location-locking guns to one's home for example). Best it could do is restrict the use of stolen guns by people that wouldn't know how to crack or circumvent the DRM - a very small part of the issue.

The smarter the guns would become, the more concerns would be raised by people being paranoid the government would install a kill switch in their weapons to disable them remotely to "take away their freedom" and so on.

Lastly, it is very unlikely requiring any such technology would ever pass the NRA's lobbying in US's current political system. At very best it would be sold as an extra feature, but I somehow doubt there would be many end-user buyers for a gun with limited firing capabilities:

Blockchain for smart guns - good and bad ideas

There are many ways blockchains could be used in conjunction with smart guns, some more useful than the others. As the BlockSafe Foundation website (or their other, non-functional website, #gunsafety #liberty?) doesn't go into too much details on the specifics, let's explore a few options by ourselves.

Solution for the manufacturers - If the project is working up to manufacturer's spec, even if it was ultimately misinformed or using "the blockchain" as a buzzword, you can't really blame the developers for it. Even if using traditional solutions would've been better, they would be paid to deliver the solution in its current shape.

Data logging - If the gun would not be locked by the blockchain, but the solution was only used to log any discharges, or possibly even photos or other data, the blockchain might be used to ensure no data is lost or altered after the fact. This would be similar to how DHS uses Factom - to prove integrity of data. This approach would be especially useful for police and similar civil servants.

Ownership tracking - Instead of doing anything directly with the gun itself, the blockchain could be used to track the ownership of the guns themselves. This would work for both smart and traditional guns to establish an unalterable record of history if a firearm was to be used in a crime in the future. This would be a similar approach to Factom's land title record project. While this might be a good solution for the blockchain, it is very unlikely to pass through NRA as explained here.

Gun locks - possibly coupled with Ownership Tracking, the gun would essentially become a smart property. The gun would keep track of which private key owns it, and would only unlock itself if authorised by the proper private key - through RFID chip, smartphone app, etc. If the ownership would change, proper, new keys would be uploaded and so on. While it might sound like an interesting idea, allowing people to remotely disable their stolen property, etc., this approach would negatively effect the firearm's functionality as described in the previous section of the article.

All in all, it looks like most of the applications for blockchain-powered smart guns could basically be implemented in some straightforward smart contract on Ethereum or the like. Most of the complexity in the technology would come from everything that would be built on top of the blockchain. Now, with that in mind, let's look at how BlockSafe is selling itself...

Claims and buzzwords

Looking at BlockSafe's promotional video, we can list a number of claims, stated or implied, of what the project can do:
  • Prevent
    • Tragic amount of human suffering
    • Mass shootings
    • Unnecessary deadly force from police officers
    • Terrorist attacks
    • Gang violence
    • Citizens being killed by their own guns
  • Save lives
  • Secure one's firearms
  • Manage who can use their firearms
  • Locate and disable stolen weapons
  • Maintain a decentralised database

All powered by Trigger token. Other than the slew of buzzwords intended to appeal to emotions, it looks like the BlockSafe is designed to remotely control and track the guns. Looking at one of their infographics, the system also looks designed to be logging when the gun is used and notify emergency personel. This seems to be hitting on all of the major blockchain applications listed in the previous section, for better or worse.

Even if the project was to succeed, it is very unlikely it would accomplish all of its claims. A terrorist, a gang member, or a mass shooter would not choose a smart gun for their actions. You might get some chance of preventing people getting killed by someone taking their gun, but that's a slim percentage overall, about 0.02% of the gun owners would be killed by their own gun, which includes suicides. As for police officers using deadly force, it might have some dampening effect, but I somehow doubt it would make a significant impact if any.

So what would the Trigger token be likely used for? Well, if you would pay to place logs of the gun into the blockchain, then that's defeating the point - you want every log to go into the chain and not allow people to withdraw their funds to prevent logs from happening. You would need some sort of transactional currency for that, or a centralised solution maintained and paid for by the manufacturer (in which case, you don't need much of a blockchain). Using triggers to transfer gun ownership might be possible, but it might not occur often enough to maintain the network. Using the tokens to unlock the gun would be outright malicious.


All in all, the BlockSafe project looks like a solution looking for a problem and wanting to use a public blockchain to boot. The token presale looks like pure speculation - the project itself doesn't look like it needs the tokens, nor is there a clear explanation of what the tokens would be used for.

The smart gun technology as hinted by their video doesn't look useful. While that might not matter if the project already has industry partners committed to using the project, it might be an important thing to keep in mind for the token speculators - if nobody wants to use the technology, the tokens will ultimately be worthless. If the industry partners are paying for the technology, why sell the tokens at all?

All in all, most of the goals smart guns wish to accomplish could be accomplished easier with a physical lock on the gun, or putting the gun in a safe.

Ultimately, if you are focused on saving lives and reducing gun-related deaths, ban the guns like Australia did, don't run a token presale for some blockchain project...

The Bitcoin Bullshit List

Your Crypto Idea Will Not Work

Your post advocates a new:
(x) Altcoin
(x) Permissioned blockchain

Your idea will not work.  Here is why it won't work.

(x) Your target audience is too small to support the project
(x) The proposed security model is (x) flawed / ( ) not enough / ( ) completely wrong and therefore you will be ( ) scammed / ( ) hacked / ( ) stolen from / (x) circumvented quickly
(x) There is already a product on the market that does exactly what you’re doing, but (x) faster / (x) cheaper / (x) better / ( ) is more established / ( ) ______________
(x) You rely on proprietary (x) hardware / (x) software / ( ) intellectual property / ( ) _________
(x) The solution would work better as a (x) centralised / (x) decentralised / ( ) distributed solution
(x) Your solution is worse than general-purpose computing hardware / software
(x) Your solution will make the current hardware / software perform significantly worse
(x) Your presale tokens have no economic value

Specifically, your plan fails to account for:
(x) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
(x) The human factor
(x) The problems computers have with interacting with the real world
(x) Strong lobby groups opposed to solutions like yours

and the following philosophical objections may also apply:
(x) Nobody likes DRM
(x) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical
(x) Whitelists suck
(x) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem

Furthermore, this is what I think about you:
(x) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.

Bitcoin Bullshit Tier

You are advertising a new Bitcoin / crypto related project. Based on the information provided, you have reached the Bullshit Tier of 3 for the following reasons:

Bitcoin Bullshit Tier 1 - marketing babble, technology misunderstanding
(x) “Blockchain”

Bitcoin Bullshit Tier 2 - willful misinformation, bait and switch
(x) Claiming your project can accomplish something hard without a clear explanation of how to do so

Bitcoin Bullshit Tier 3 - Many red flags
(x) Token IPO
(x) Logical fallacy: ( ) false equivalence / ( ) false dichotomy / (x) appeal to emotion
(x) Providing no company contact information