We recently learned about technology evangelism in our Technology Adoption piece. The takeaway from that article was some of the biggest brands in the world were built with the aid of brilliant evangelists. Seeing the importance of evangelism and grass roots development, it should be comforting to know that the IOTA community long ago took it upon itself to spread IOTA to the masses. That's what the IOTA Evangelist Network was developed to do.
Kevin Chen first started the IEN in 2017 New York City. Crypto markets were booming, meetups were rampant, and life was great. IOTA-the-protocol was still in such early stages of ideation and development that industry-IOTA connections seemed exciting, if not a bit fanciful.
Rumors swirled about a German Foundation being in the works ... something that might eventually be called an IOTA Foundation. IOTA's first graphical wallet had only been written a few months before.
Financial pundits were on television everyday spouting their crypto portfolios. "Blockchain", "ledger", and "mining" were the buzzwords at dinner parties. A common refrain rang out in the City: "we'll self-regulate!" Investing in the "new internet" was all the rage. So, crypto twitter became a thing and BTT went mainstream.
Society was apparently ready for cryptocurrency, but cryptocurrency was clearly not even close to being ready for society.
When rationality returned, unsurprisingly, the traveling circus decided to move on. Crypto portfolios on television and blockchain dinner parties disappeared as fast as they had arrived. According to the financial types, the space entered into a "crypto winter", but to those actually involved with the technology it was clear that the purge had allowed the handful of real projects to get back to work.
A perfect time to separate the wheat from the chaff.
IOTA was one of those real projects, and this community had some of those real technology people. So the IEN went into hibernation, only to re-emerge after winter passed.
But the IEN can be confusing. What does "spreading awareness" actually look like? "Am I the kind of person who could do this"? "Can I meet someone at this mysterious organization"?
All valid questions. We know, because we've asked those same questions before. To clear up some confusion and to help spread awareness about spreading awareness (i.e. giving the IEN a platform to expand their platform), we have the honor of bringing you, our delightful HelloIOTA readership, the head of IEN and an IOTA human of great renown: Carpincho
HelloIOTA Question #1
You’re one of the most well known IOTA community members! You go by the nickname “Carpincho Dem” on discord, @carpclash on twitter, and Daniel irl. What’s the backstory on the various different names?
When I was born I had thick hair, and the first thing my mother said when she saw me was “oh, he looks like a carpincho”. Since that first day of life, everyone calls me by that name. Carpinchos (capybaras) are one of the most common rodents in the world, and they're really nice fellas. You will see all kinds of other species on top of carpinchos and enjoying the sun. The personal nickname is not a strategy of any kind (it wasn't premeditated). I just go by Carpincho and might have changed to Daniel De Michele in cases in which I thought having a giant rodent could be confusing for people. The “clash” on some usernames obeys to my fanaticism for the band The Clash. I don’t give any thought to these usernames though. Back in the day I used to be Raskolnikov (my BTT username, for example) or Coltrane.
HelloIOTA Question #2
You’ve been around IOTA for so long, but before we get to the IOTA epoch of your life, let’s get a feel for where you’re from and what your influences have been. What were your early interests during school, did you enjoy school/what did you study, what field did you go into for your career? Your hobbies these days obviously consist of management and organization of IEN and IOTA-related activities, but what else interests you. What would we find you doing in your free time?
I am from Concepciòn del Uruguay (70,000 person population), Entre Rios Argentina. Entre Rios (Between Rivers) is a state surrounded by the Parana and Uruguay rivers. I grew really close to the water and as a kid spent lots of time on sailboats. I really feel at home when I am on structures floating over the water.
Regarding school, I had always thought that it was pretty boring and non-motivating. I went to public schools, so my teachers didn't have room to treat the “curious” students differently. Despite never having problems at school, I can’t say I learned that much at these institutions. From 10 years old and on I began approaching two of my life passions: computers and music. I still remember the day my father brought our first personal computer home (i486) and also the day I got my first drum kit.
My mother always wanted me to practice a sport. I did try a bunch of sports, but clearly that wasn't for me. I just spent countless hours playing Blockout or designing things with Coreldraw.
I was 17 years old when the time came to go to University, and I didn't have a profession in my blood. So, I just traveled to Buenos Aires and started studying Advertisement. In the years that followed I switched careers many times to study philosophy, communication, and finally labour relations.
As soon as I got to Buenos Aires, the dot com boom caught my attention. I started learning how to build and program websites. It has always been very easy for me to learn things by myself, so I was already doing HTML/PHP jobs and earning good money in less than a year of learning how to program. My university studies were not related to this self-taught profession, so I put them on hold for a while to continue diving into that amazing world of technology.
What do I do in my free time? Music, computers and books. If I am not working I am playing with one of those three.
HelloIOTA Question #3
How did you first become acquainted with cryptocurrencies? What year is your first memory of finding this space? From there, what led to finding IOTA, and what specifically first appealed to you about the Tangle? Did IOTA mesh with your professional work at the time (developer + XDK?)?
I started using Linux in 1998 and exploring the cyber security world. I always enjoyed doing pentesting and loved exploring the world of hacking. I used to spend many hours seeking out system vulnerabilities. My first introduction to cryptocurrency was back in 2012. I was exploring the Deep Web and discovered this e-cash system called Bitcoin. Unfortunately, I only bought my first Bitcoins in 2013.
Once Bitcoin got my attention, I started studying its code. Some years later I actually ended up cloning Litecoin to create Argencoin that was mined poorly and ended up being abandoned. It was a great project and I learned a lot of things about how Bitcoin code works (Litecoin code was Satoshi’s code with some minor changes back then).
When I first found out about IOTA, I was holding several cryptos and mining Ethereum. I still recall the day I saw it listed on CMC and reading the whitepaper thinking, “this is a very elegant solution to deal with miners, fees and scalability at once!” That same day I got some MIOTA at Bitfinex and started learning more about IOTA. I strongly think that there is no better way to learn something than having to explain it. When I realized there was a lack of IOTA news in Spanish, I decided to start IOTA Hispano, a news and interview site that generated lots of valuable content. That was a one way ticket into the amazing world of IoT and IOTA.
HelloIOTA Question #4
Before jumping into the IEN portion of this interview, let’s get a good understanding of how you broadly view IOTA. How do you envision IOTA, the protocol, playing a role in the future of society? What sorts of problems will it solve, and what sort of use cases is it particularly good at fulfilling in the short to medium term?Long term, what does a century with IOTA look like?
Nowadays we seem to find consensus in that DLTs are the safest way to transact and store data. The big problem, as everyone knows, is the poor performance and high costs of the majority of distributed systems when the time to handle big data comes. Blockchain is a great idea but, unfortunately, it does not fit with the world we are entering into, characterized by a massive production of information. The ability to retain all of blockchain's benefits but without its limitations is what made me understand that IOTA might be the solution.
The Tangle as a data structure simply doesn't have the limitations of blockchain. It only really has two limitations in total: bandwidth and throughput limitations. On top of this, because of the partition tolerant nature of The Tangle, sharding data will be much more feasible for IOTA than blockchain.
I see all this as the perfect solution for the data era, in which we will handle massive volumes of information through a protocol that allows secure transaction of data and value. To many people, this is too abstract, and they fail to grasp how such a system could work in their daily lives. I like to think that this common viewpoint is due to most people using a centralized way of understanding technology. We are used to having our data controlled by centralized agents and, therefore, cannot imagine how it would be to own what has been in third parties' hands since information systems came to be.
Despite the massive data centers built by the biggest IT companies around the world, the centralized storage of data still doesn't make it possible to deal with our granular data in a granular way. We need to allow each individual their own sovereignty over all the information they produce, and give them the ability to decide who they securely share that data with.
The continuous advance of devices in measuring data reveals the gap: the IoT is moving slow because the data infrastructure just can't handle a faster rate of growth. Most data is being produced and literally wasted. When you start thinking about the impact all that information could have on improving the way we do things and make decisions, it’s just crazy.
This is precisely where I see IOTA playing a major role. DLTs will allow what centralization cannot: distributed data and the possibility of using all that wasted information. The craziest thing is that incentives are so big that nodes will be run by the companies willing to allow data producers to share information with them. The IOTA network won’t be made of huge data centers, but of little computer clusters run on companies' premises.
Once you understand the benefits of having a granular understanding of how your customer and products behave, you really start to see data as the new oil. IOTA will be the communication layer allowing all of this to happen.
HelloIOTA Question #5
Now we’ve got an idea of how you see IOTA, how you think about technology, and what direction you see the future potentially going. That gives us context with which to wrap your IEN journey. You’ve been a super long-time member of the IEN. Were you a founding member? Maybe you have a good story about the early days of IEN during the crypto rush of 2017? More recently, what led to your decision to commit more effort to the IEN when you chose to step up and lead the organization?
Sadly I was not part of the founding members and do not have stories about the 2017 craziness related to IOTA.
I joined IEN in March of 2018. Kevin Chen started asking me to join by the end of 2017 when I was launching IOTA Hispano. I must confess that my first thoughts on joining were that it would take part of the time I could use to keep studying IOTA and developing IOTA Hispano content.
I still remember my first Saturday IEN call. Peter showed us his latest success integrating the Nano Ledger with IOTA and the amount of enthusiasm there was just stunning. Shortly after I got an XDK110 and started talking to Daniel Trauth who I knew was using that same device at the Aachen Lab. Seeing all those IEN members starting different projects on top of the IOTA protocol was contagious and, as a result, I ended up making XDK2MAM - my own project linking Bosch and IOTA. I was driven by the amazing support of the amazing IEN community.
To this day, it’s amazing to think how that network of talented professionals took a newcomer with endless enthusiasm but lot to learn, and eventually crafted him into a project manager. In my experience, having enthusiasm and curiosity is all that's needed to build important things - and when I combined that with IEN I found that they got the best out of me. I am really grateful for all the help and brilliant ideas I got from other members.
From the end of 2018 to the beginning of 2020, the IEN slowly became inactive. I guess some members lost interest and others (as was my case) had to deal with their own jobs and projects. In July of 2019 I went to visit Daniel Trauth, and met his amazing lab and team. We briefly discussed the idea of bringing IEN back to life that day. We both agreed that IOTA was going through its most important phase: a journey to deliver a Coo-less consensus. This was the time in which IEN would be most needed. So, after much consideration, and after talking to every single member of the steering committee, we decided to bring IEN back to life. I put my personal life aside and felt compelled to direct the IEN resurrection. I've been dedicating as much time as I can find toward advancing the IEN mission ever since.
HelloIOTA Question #6
Having witnessed some of the confusion stemming from the inclusion of “evangelism” in the name of “IEN”, I can say that many people don’t understand the history or importance of what’s formally referred to as “technology evangelism”. It’s often been confused with religious connotations, and I can say first hand that I’ve sat in more than one IEN meeting where the name was hotly debated for this reason. Hopefully our article earlier in the week provides context for people regarding that confusion - but I do think that the confusion is at least partly warranted. Newcomers have a tough time understanding what it is exactly that IEN strives to do. Can you walk us through what your vision is for the IEN? What sort of metrics do you look at in order to assess progress? What role do you see the IEN playing five years from now (i.e. if IEN is successful, what does it look like?)?
When I originally joined the IOTA Evangelist Network, my mother got a Linkedin notification and called me to see if I was part of a religious group. For those that have been in software development for a while, the term "evangelism" is normal for us but creates confusion for people who have only heard it in a religious context. We have seen Microsoft Evangelists, Linux Evangelists, etc. in many support forums and throughout industries.
Back in 2018 we voted on possible new names, and a majority chose to stick with the brand. I've got to confess that I voted for one of the alternatives. To me, IEN needs to interact with sectors that are not familiar with the tech use of the word "evangelist", so it might make connections more difficult than they otherwise would have to be. But when we democratically determine a choice, we stick to it. We've moved on to dealing with more low-level things, and progress is happening. Maybe we can even use the "evangelist" moniker as a feather in our cap for future developments.
After these years of experience, I've evolved a very clear image of what IEN is and what its role is. We are an elite network of professionals located across the world, all working on different verticals with the IOTA Protocol. We collaborate with each other to help achieve our members' goals. The different angles from which members are working with the protocol make the IEN a perfect point for IoT companies willing to innovate with IOTA to address questions or doubts.
This brings us to our mission: Act as a connection layer between the IOTA Foundation and the wider IoT ecosystem.
The IOTA Foundation is busy building a protocol that could revolutionize the way data is used. They don't have the time to maintain a presence across the world, or to engage with numerous companies or governments who need basic lessons about IOTA before moving on to understanding how IOTA can solve their problems.
With our presence in 41 countries, IEN does have the time. We have time, resources, ability, and are driven by our mission. Our tight relationship with the Foundation allows us to interact with companies world wide and help them to be brought up to speed as quickly and easily as possible.
Regarding metrics, the most important right now is the level of interaction that we have with the IoT ecosystem. We approach medium and large companies such as Bosch, STMicroellectronics, Libelium, EDAG, Lidbot and others. After the IEN reboot, we're doing a great job of setting a high bar in how we interact with companies. Based on our many interactions with enterprises, we're doing a great job at being the bridge between industry and IOTA.
HelloIOTA Question #7
Now that readers have some clarity on where the IEN fits into the IOTA ecosystem, the vision, and the broad path forward, tell us what type of people IEN is looking for. To accomplish its goals, it’ll presumably take all sorts of different skill sets. What are some characteristics of currently successful IEN members? What should people expect once they become members? How large is the organization right now, and how large do we need it to be?
When the IEN started to become inactive a couple of years ago, we had 160 members. During the reboot we did some analysis, and found out that 60% of them were completely inactive and/or totally unreachable. Our first goal was to start with a clean slate. We pared membership down to the most serious people who had a track record of being productive. That's enabled us to foster a wonderful membership roster of 60 IEN members who are responsible for a whopping 20 projects. A 33% member-project activity rate is off-the-charts good when you consider that many projects are being built by multiple members! I think our current membership roster is elite. Everyone is highly productive, highly active, and hard working. But most of all, they're all kind people who love helping each other.
We haven't advertised, so we're probably difficult to stumble across - but anyone out there who is enthusiastic about building a better future, and who craves learning new things - we would love to have you. We're especially looking to expand our footprint on the continent of Africa.
Once we complete the last bits of our reorganization process, we will formally resume admissions.
Success within the IEN is a relative thing. One might tend to see guys as Dennis Schouten or Daniel Trauth as successful because they run amazing tech projects over IOTA. Those guys do outstanding work, but the IEN is also made of members working on difficult everyday things that sometimes invisible to the external observer. To my eyes, successful members are those that are passionate about IOTA, and who prove it by helping others and the network as a whole. Those who come with novel ideas, an unrelenting passion for building, or a network of fresh contacts are amazing. We're here to enable you!
HelloIOTA Question #8
This interview is being done in conjunction with your appointment as Director of Active Learning at IOT1 Academy. Firstly, congratulations on the new role! Secondly, for our readers who aren’t familiar with the academy, it’s an industry 4.0/internet of things online education platform aimed at corporations. Walk us through what your new role entails and how IOT1 Academy can advance the IOTA mission.
IOT1 Academy is the official partner of the IOTA Foundation for administering IOTA courses. My role there will be to help perfect existing course content, create new material, and to be ensure the learning experience is as good as it can get. As with everything I do, I'll put all my passion into it so that we produce the best IOTA courses in the market. Hopefully we'll become the de facto standard when it comes to new technologists diving into the amazing world of IOTA for the first time. That’s what I aim for.
Education is one of the IEN verticals, so we had already spent some time over the summer thinking about how to create a few IOTA courses before IOT1 Academy came into the picture. So this is a great opportunity to expand the IEN reach even further! High quality educational material is fundamental for the adoption of IOTA.
I encourage you to visit our website and follow us on twitter. Getting involved in IOTA is easy and fun, no matter what capacity it's in.
Whether you're well-connected in the technology industry and want to join IEN, are a student who tinkers with cryptocurrencies, or are a hobbyist who loves learning new things, there's something for you in the IOTA ecosystem. Come link up with us at the IEN, or contribute to an IOTA github repo, or even just spin up a node on your old laptop. Telling your best friend about IOTA is something everyone can do. Together, we'll change the world. Join the movement