The Witness Files - Issue 4 with @jesta

last year

Welcome to Issue 4 of the Witness Files with @jesta.

In this series, I will be interviewing some of our top witnesses, to get an insight into who they are and what they do.

@jesta was kind enough to join me for today’s interview. He is the developer behind Steemdb and Steemstats. He has also launched a new project called Reprint, with his business partner @paxmagnus, as part of @greymass.

You can find the previous issues of the Witness Files below: Issue 1 with @complexring Issue 2 with @riverheadIssue 3 with @picokernel


Thank you for taking the time to chat with me.

Not a problem, thanks for reaching out!

Tell me a bit about yourself. Who is @jesta?

My name is Aaron, but I’ve been known as @jesta across various platforms/games for many years now. I am originally from the US mid-west, and moved out to the west coast in search of new challenges a few years ago.

I would describe myself simply as a tinkerer - I have been deconstructing things and figuring out how they work my entire life. I started my career in computers doing systems administration in the late 90’s, and moved to more development-centric roles in the 2000’s. Most recently I’ve been a web developer in the video game industry helping build online platforms for gaming communities.

When you’re not on Steemit, what do you enjoy doing?

I haven’t had a lot of downtime recently, but when I managed to find it, I’ll generally pick something that doesn’t require a lot of brain power. Cooking is one of my go-to activities - there’s something nice working on a task that takes less than an hour and has a delicious final product!

My go to form of entertainment lately has been TV shows, far more so than movies or books. I really enjoy discovering a new series with a strong universe that lets me immerse myself for a couple weeks in the fantasy they create. Lately I’ve been focused on all the Marvel TV shows that have come out over the past few years, since I hadn’t really watched any of them.

Video games are also one of my great escapes, though I haven’t been playing anything much lately.

Now how did you first find out about Steemit, and when did you first get involved?

I found Steemit a week after the 4th of July update. I happened to be scanning crypto prices when I noticed “steem”, which I hadn’t heard of before. So I started to do some research, created my account, and started exploring what Steemit had to offer.

After seeing a few developers building really cool websites around the Steem blockchain, I decided try my hand at it.

How did you first become a witness?

Around mid-august I was looking for features to build on steemstats.com. Some of the features the community was suggesting at the time were related to witnesses. At that time I had a vague understanding of what a witness was, but I didn’t understand the mechanics behind it. So I decided to learn how I learn best: by doing it myself.

As someone who came into Steemit not knowing anyone else here, I had no expectations or goals - except learning and contributing. I researched as much as I could on Steemit for what was involved in being a witness, the “politics”, and watched what other witnesses were doing. To some degree I mimicked the activities of other witnesses, but always brought my own personality and structure into it.

After learning the basics of how to run a witness, and starting to build tools for it, I decided to keep at it. After about a month of regular updates and contributions I managed to reach the top 19 and I am humbled by the support I’ve received thus far.

For non-tech-savvy people like myself, can you explain in layman’s terms what is your role as a witness, and what does a typical day look like?

At a very high level, the technical role of a witness is to help maintain the Steem network. Each witness maintains servers that keep the blockchain moving along and secure. Maintaining this requires a certain amount of technical expertise to accomplish.

That’s really only the first level of being a witness though - as anyone technical can fill this need. As you look higher up on the list of witnesses, you will start finding people who contribute a lot more to their role. Witnesses at the highest levels should be engaged in many different ways: bringing additional resources, contacts, skills and ideas to the table.

As a witness, my typical day includes:

  • Participating in discussions with other witnesses about proposed changes or new ideas.
  • Monitoring/maintaining the 8 servers that make up my contribution to the steem network.
  • Trying to be active in discussions and curation on Steemit and steemit.chat.
  • Developing software I believe benefits the users of the Steem ecosystem.
  • Encouraging others to contribute their talent and helping them when they get stuck.

For the most part, being a witness is really what you decide to make of it. The above is a general sense of what I do day to day, and it’s flexible enough to adapt and change to what the project needs tomorrow.

I read that you recently moved to focus on Steem-related projects fulltime. How’s that going?

Pretty well! My business partner (@paxmagnus) and I have been at it for a little over two weeks with our work on @greymass. We are working to determine the viability of a business within this space while building/releasing our first open source project for Steem.

It’s been nice to have a pure focus on Steem-related projects, I really do think we have something unique and revolutionary here. On top of my efforts with @greymass/Reprint, I have also had a lot more time to think about the other various projects I run, as well as devoting more attention to my duties as a witness.

You are responsible for the Steemdb, Steemstats, and newly begun Greymass projects. Tell me a bit more about your goals and vision for each of these projects, and is there anything you would like to share with the Steemit community about your plans for the future of these projects?

My first project was steemstats.com, and it’s goal has always been to serve as a real-time dashboard for your account. It was the first application I build on top of the Steem blockchain and helped me learn how everything works. Steemstats at the moment is in a holding pattern while I wait and see what sort of account dashboard ends up here on Steemit.

steemdb.com’s goal is to let you view data like steemstats - except instead of just your account, it’s everything on the blockchain. Many of the features people have asked for on steemstats weren’t possible in a live dashboard view. So I built steemdb to access the data in ways the blockchain couldn’t provide (yet). The vision behind steemdb is a historical one, and giving insights into the past as well as the present.

At some point I hope to merge these two projects somehow - though that is still very much in the concept/idea stage.

The @greymass project we just announced is Reprint, and its goal is to make it easier to build websites that involve Steem content.

We are currently working on building the Greymass website using the first version of Reprint. That site will showcase the software’s ability to combine Steem and non-Steem related content/systems into a custom designed website. This type of hybrid approach should offer an incredible number of possibilities for website creators to create a new type of website, which can be rewarded through Steem’s unique reward mechanisms, as well as traditional website monetization tactics (like banners).

How do you see the Steem ecosystem evolving over the next year or two? And what new features and projects would you like to see implemented?

That’s a big question, and there are a number of different ways I could answer this. But I’ll focus on one aspect I think is important: content types.

Over the next few years I think (and hope) we start seeing multiple new types of content. I am not sure if these are sub/side-chains, new blockchains using Graphene, or on the Steem blockchain itself - but I think it’s a logical next step.

A simple way to illustrate this is with reddit. On reddit you have two types of posts, a link and a text post. Both of these content types require different inputs, but both output similar types of entities into their system together with comments. Right now on Steemit all we have is text post. There are a number of people working on various different types of content that could benefit from a system like Steem, and I think we will see them start popping up over the next year.

I can’t wait to see all these new content types being developed over the next year or two. And I’m really looking forward to learning more about your Reprint project and maybe using it one day.

Thank you for your time

You’re very welcome!


Hope you enjoyed this interview with @jesta.

For more interviews with our witnesses, please follow me @nextgen622.

And to vote for a witness, you can go here: https://steemit.com/~witnesses

Jimmy

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Cool stuff! It's encouraging to see how invested witnesses are on various levels of growing, promoting steemit.

I certainly appreciate steem stats and it's nice to know a little more about @jesta.

Thanks for the great interview.

steemstats is FANTASTIC! Thanks so much for contributing to the community. You've got my vote, sir. Keep up the good work!

Thanks for all you do, @jesta.

Thanks, Jesta and ng622, ya'lls work is indispensable to the platform.

Pretty good interview! I always like learning about the witnesses since they appear very mysterious indeed.

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Thanks for the encouragement @stellabelle. Yeah, I agree, there are some witnesses I know nothing about. Hopefully this series will allow us to all get to know our witnesses better.

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Are you the same as NextGen/Berniesanders?

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Nope I'm not. You'll see from my intro and memoir series that I'm a Chinese person living in Australia.