Adam Soffer Livepeer Developer The Graph GRT Indexer Delegator

GRTiQ Podcast: 14 Adam Soffer

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Episode 14: Today I’m speaking with Adam Soffer, a Solutions Engineer and Designer, at Livepeer, a decentralized video streaming network built on the Ethereum blockchain. As you may already know, Livepeer was one of the first 10 subgraphs to recently migrate from the hosted service to the mainnet. 

My interview with Adam is a GRTiQ Podcast first: Livepeer is the first consumer of The Graph that I’ve had the opportunity to interview.   

Our conversations covers many topics, including Adam’s professional and educational background, what Livepeer is and how it uses The Graph, the similarities between Livepeer and The Graph, and a very engaging discussion about subgraphs.

The GRTiQ Podcast owns the copyright in and to all content, including transcripts and images, of the GRTiQ Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well our right of publicity. You are free to share and/or reference the information contained herein, including show transcripts (500-word maximum) in any media articles, personal websites, in other non-commercial articles or blog posts, or on a on-commercial personal social media account, so long as you include proper attribution (i.e., “The GRTiQ Podcast”) and link back to the appropriate URL (i.e., GRTiQ.com/podcast[episode]). We do not authorized anyone to copy any portion of the podcast content or to use the GRTiQ or GRTiQ Podcast name, image, or likeness, for any commercial purpose or use, including without limitation inclusion in any books, e-books or audiobooks, book summaries or synopses, or on any commercial websites or social media sites that either offers or promotes your products or services, or anyone else’s products or services. The content of GRTiQ Podcasts are for informational purposes only and do not constitute tax, legal, or investment advice.

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We use software and some light editing to transcribe podcast episodes.  Any errors, typos, or other mistakes in the show transcripts are the responsibility of GRTiQ Podcast and not our guest(s). We review and update show notes regularly, and we appreciate suggested edits – email: iQ at GRTiQ dot COM). The GRTiQ Podcast owns the copyright in and to all content, including transcripts and images, of the GRTiQ Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well our right of publicity. You are free to share and/or reference the information contained herein, including show transcripts (500-word maximum) in any media articles, personal websites, in other non-commercial articles or blog posts, or on a on-commercial personal social media account, so long as you include proper attribution (i.e., “The GRTiQ Podcast”) and link back to the appropriate URL (i.e., GRTiQ.com/podcast[episode]).

00:01
The following podcast is for informational purposes only the contents of this podcast do not constitute tax legal or investment advice, take responsibility for your own decisions, consult with the proper professionals and do your own research.

00:23
Yeah, I think The Graph will continue to serve as the de facto correlate layer for all these Web3 protocols, including Livepeer. I think over time as they support more and more protocols. It’s only going to…Yeah, it’s only going to grow and become more and more important, and kind of an indispensable part of the Web3 toolkit.

01:14
Welcome to the GRTiQ podcast. Today I’m speaking with Adam Soffer, a software engineer and designer in Livepeer, a decentralized video streaming network built on the Ethereum blockchain. As you may have already recognized Livepeer was one of the first 10 subgraphs to migrate from the hosted service to the mainnet. My interview with Adam is a GRTiQ podcast first Livepeer is the first consumer of The Graph that I’ve had the opportunity to interview. Our conversation covers many topics, including Adams entry into crypto, what Livepeer is, and how it uses The Graph. Some interesting similarities between Livepeer and The Graph, and a very engaging conversation about subgraphs. We started the conversation talking about Adams educational and professional background.

02:08
I studied Computer Science, I did a master’s in Computer Science, that’s my educational background, specifically was Distributed Computing. But after grad school, I started working with a design and development firm, where I basically helped lead digital transformations for companies that ranged from startups and, you know, fortune 50 companies and got to work with a lot of cool companies and build a lot of cool stuff. And I did that for about seven years before discovering Ethereum and falling down the crypto rabbit hole.

02:44
Alright, I’m gonna ask a follow up question here. So before I do, do I have it right, you got a master’s degree in computer science?

02:51
Yeah, it was a master’s in computer science. And there was like a concentration on Distributed Computing.

02:58
Alright, so did you cover anything about crypto in any of the textbooks you read or any of the lectures the professor’s gave?

03:04
So I, I should be clear that I was done with grad school and my master’s in like 2012. So this what No, actually, this wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Then. I probably like a few years later, people started writing papers on this on this stuff. But it was, interestingly, one of my professors did a lot of research on protocols that some of these Peer to Peer networks actually use, like, you know, Gossip protocol and stuff like that. But now in 2012, no one was really teaching this stuff.

03:39
I didn’t realize it was that long ago. But that makes sense. So let’s turn our attention to how you got into crypto. Can you describe to us how that all happened?

03:46
Yeah. So you know, my first exposure to crypto was Bitcoin in 2011 or 12. And, you know, I thought it was really interesting. And but Ethereum just captured my imagination as, as a developer, as someone who’s just likes building stuff and all the different things that you can build with Ethereum. Like it was, it really did kind of it was a light bulb moment when I first heard about Ethereum. And I think like he talking to other people, they kind of experienced the same thing. Literally within like 30 seconds of… one of my friends describing the project to me, I was just totally enraptured by the idea. I think the fact that it’s open and permissionless is probably the thing that gets most people really interested in it. But yeah, as a builder, if the idea of Ethereum resonated more immediately than then Bitcoin, but yeah, I think both are cool.

04:43
Well, it seems to me a guy like you with your education, you probably had a lot of different career paths you’ve could have taken. So how would you explain why it is you chose a career path in crypto?

04:53
In my old company at this design and development firm I mentioned we like every month or so like a bunch of us would kind of get together and for drinks and kind of just share cool stuff that we discovered throughout the past month and someone shared Ethereum. And it immediately captured my interest. And I kind of just, it was kind of this was 2016. And like, after I learned about it, I couldn’t really think about anything else. So I took to learning, solidity and writing smart contracts and building dApps. And this was just kind of all on my free time. But I didn’t pursue it professionally until I discovered Livepeer. And I want to say 2017, I wanted to build a live streaming application. And I wanted to see if there was a way to leverage decentralization and blockchain technology in Ethereum because I had read about the crazy costs associated with building a live streaming app. And in my research, I stumbled upon the Livepeer white paper. And they had a beta at the time. And so I basically started experimenting with building application on top of Livepeer. And that’s kind of when I, as I was building this, this application on top of Livepeer, I became more and more interested in the life protocol itself, and shortly thereafter decided to pursue building Livepeer full time.

06:27
So the reason why we’re speaking and you know, how we met is because Livepeer is one of the 10 subgraphs that recently migrated to the mainnet from the hosted service. So Livepeer uses The Graph protocol. So what can you tell us about what Livepeer is?

06:44
So Livepeer is a live video streaming protocol, and it’s built on the Ethereum blockchain. Our mission that Livepeer is to build the world’s open video infrastructure. So what does that mean? Basically, if you’re a video developer, and you want to add some sort of live video streaming functionality to your app, this isn’t like a very, very expensive thing to do. The reason it’s really expensive is because there’s a thing called transcoding, which basically, when you’re live streaming, you have to convert a live video stream to all the different formats, so that it can be played on all the different devices. And that’s a very expensive thing, because there’s every video segment has to be transcoded. And if you’re a startup, this can cost you like millions of dollars, depending on how many users are using your app. And so Livepeer, basically, through decentralization is able to drive down these costs by creating an open marketplace where anyone around the world can run the Livepeer software, and contribute their compute in service of transcoding live video for app developers. And Livepeer has proven to reduce the cost of transcoding by 10x and can potentially even reduce the cost by up to 50x.

08:04
Obviously, reducing the cost is a big deal. How would you frame the additional benefits of a permissionless? And open source solution like Livepeer?

08:14
Yeah, definitely, I think, because it’s permissionless and open source. You don’t need permission to contribute your GPU to the Livepeer network in service of transcoding like anyone can do it. And similarly, if you want to build an application on top of Livepeer, and use this service that the network provides, you don’t need any permission, right? You don’t need like permission from the Apple App Store. The network is public as you can get started within a crypto wallet and Ethereum. Because these people running Livepeer all over the world get paid in ETH, in service of transcoding.

08:53
So what examples can you give of people using Livepeer?

08:57
Sure. So there is a protocol Explorer, actually that uses The Graph. And on this Explorer, you can actually see an overview of the usage. So we just recently broke 2 million minutes of video transcoding per week. So that’s a video that I think that’s like years’ worth of video every week. That’s being transcoded. And some of the applications that are using Livepeer are startups that built an application. But like I said, they were hit by these streaming costs at the end of month and had to basically, in one case, a developer has actually paused their business operations because they couldn’t afford the streaming bill at the end of the month. So they discovered Livepeer and we’re able to reduce the cost and resume their business operation. So there’s a few applications you can check out. They’re using Livepeer, there’s one called PlayDJ:TV, which is kind of like a Twitch but for DJs. There’s an application called CoreCuma And then there’s Vin.TV and a host of others. But yeah, like I said, there’s about 2 million minutes of video every week being transcode on a Livepeer network.

10:11
What can you tell us about your role at Livepeer?

10:14
So I do Software Engineering and design, and I focus on the user facing products. So, for example, the protocol Explorer, I helped lead the design and build for that some of the commercial products that we’re building on top of Livepeer, sort of induced demand into the network. But yeah, I would say anything that you anytime you’re interfacing with Livepeer as a user, that’s something I would touch.

10:40
So this seems like the most important question I can ask you, I think there’s gonna be a lot of interest in this. How would you describe how Livepeer uses The Graph?

10:49
Sure. So Livepeer has a protocol explorer, where much like The Graph network Explorer, where you can view all the node operators, the prices, they’re charging, their Reward Cut, their Fee Cut, and you can basically anything on the protocol at the protocol level, you can use this application to, to view. And so we use The Graph to basically power that protocol explorer. So all that data that you view on the Livepeer Explorer, is indexed and served by The Graph. So yeah, that’s basically how we use it. We wrote our own subgraph, and it powers the Livepeer Explorer.

11:31
Do you remember when you first became aware of The Graph and what you thought at the time?

11:35
I mentioned, I did. You know, I worked at a design development firm. And I worked a lot with GraphQL, and React and a lot of like User Interface engineering. And so I was familiar with GraphQL. And I was, you know, familiar with Ethereum, and building dApps, and writing smart contracts and all that. And The Graph, I think I just discovered it when they first launched their website, on my Twitter feed or something and the value proposition on their landing pages like made immediately clear to me, because I had like, kind of felt the pain of building a dApp, and querying raw blockchain data. And so at Livepeer I mentioned, we have this Protocol Explorer, which is a dApp. And at the time, was querying data directly from the Ethereum blockchain. And it was noticeably slow. And there’s also just kind of certain data that was just inaccessible in the absence of running our own Indexer. So yeah, I immediately kind of checked out their beta software and started running our own Graph node to test the software out and was just like, so delighted by the developer experience and the help that the founding team was providing right off the bat and solved an immediate need for Livepeer, which was improving the performance of Livepeer protocol explorer and surfacing data that was previously inaccessible.

13:01
A lot of members of The Graph community myself included, when we think about consumers of The Graph, we think in terms of dApps. So is Livepeer a dApp? Is that the right way to think about that?

13:11
There’s a lot of different names being thrown out there how to characterize the type of service life provides, but I would actually categorize Livepeer, the same as I would categorize The Graph, which is it’s a distributed work protocol. Some people call it like a service protocol. Its infrastructure. It’s not it’s not a dApp. There is a dApp the Livepeer Explorer, where you can view data, like protocol data on the Livepeer network, but Livepeer itself is infrastructure, much like The Graph.

13:44
Well, let’s, let’s build on that. So help me understand what a protocol is.

13:49
A protocol is a, basically a set of rules that a bunch of people agree on. So in the case of Livepeer and The Graph, there are these rules that are enforced by smart contracts, that anyone running the Livepeer software or The Graph software, basically, ops into this by using the software. And so that’s what is meant by protocol, just basically a set of rules that people agree on, and are enforced by these Ethereum smart contract.

14:25
Let’s keep building on this. Tell me how you define what a smart contract is.

14:28
A smart contract is code on the blockchain that computers all over the world execute. There’s like an analogy is like a vending machine. So when you use a vending machine, you put money in and you get something out. Similarly, when you submit a transaction on the Ethereum blockchain, you’re submitting a transaction fee in the form of ETH. And that function gets executed in a smart contract and it changes the state of the blockchain. So you put something in, you get something out, essentially.

15:03
So I don’t really know how Livepeer works in terms of its community and you know, structure. But was there a personal draw or a personal interest of your own, that kind of pushed you towards wanting to work on The Graph?

15:14
There was an interest to use The Graph because it was helpful to Livepeer. And I think The Graph and Livepeer are both part of this. Like I mentioned, they’re both distributed work protocols. So they’re, they’re both part of this kind of Web3 movement. And both projects really want to see it succeed. And so I think both projects are kind of learning from each other and helping each other because we really want to see this Web3 movement succeed. So yeah, like, you know, if I just like early on, if I discovered like a weird bug, as I was building a subgraph, you know, I reported and, and help strengthen the software in the in the early days. Yeah, I would call myself an open source contributor and a consumer of The Graph.

16:06
Well, that’s such an interesting way to put it, because you are a consumer of The Graph. But the way you frame that, I mean, you’re also really an important member of The Graph community.

16:17
I like to think so um, you know, I’ve always been a huge cheerleader for The Graph since the early days. And as someone who’s, I was also like an early proponent of GraphQL. And so like someone who’s really passionate about all the technologies that The Graph is moving forward, like to community that I really enjoy being a part of.

16:35
So how important is The Graph to Livepeer?

16:38
It’s really important for our supply side. As indicated by supply side, I’m referring to all the network participants responsible for providing the service to developers, which are and developers are the ones that are building live streaming applications. So if you’re a developer or you’re a node operator, we call them Orchestrators in Livepeer, the Explorer is really important because it allows you to view network health and see who’s getting paid and like it gives you like a really good picture of the network, you know, the absence of The Graph would make surfacing all that data, which is really valuable, too. Like I said, the supply side, participants make it really hard to surface all that data. And they rely on it to, you know, adjust their prices, their Reward cut, you know, if someone else changes their Reward cut, like, people want to see that, and all that data is indexed by The Graph. So it’s really important for our supply side that Livepeer

17:38
The GRTiQ Podcast is made possible by a generous grant from The Graph Foundation. The Graph Grants’ program provides support for protocol infrastructure, tooling, dApps, subgraphs, and community building efforts. Learn more at TheGraph.foundation – that’s TheGraph.foundation.

18:59
I’d like to get your perspective on something that I’ve heard on the podcast before. It’s this idea that it would be too expensive or too cumbersome to try to do what The Graph is doing inside, you know your own business internally. How should we think about that?

19:19
Oh, yeah, like running your own Indexer. Yeah. And the absence of the service that The Graph provides, which is like it would just take so much so much engineering resources and time. And, yeah, it just it would be hard to pull off and you would be on the hook for making sure that your Indexer is constantly running. And because if it’s not, then your application will can’t go down. And so yeah, like no one wants to run their own Indexer. This definitely needs to be a, like a public network like Web3 needs a query layer, like there’s no question about it’s kind of like, imagine web 2.0 with no Google or search engine. Having to like if everyone had to run their own, their own Indexer to search HTTP resources like web pages and images and stuff. We take Google for granted. But that’s the service that provides and so like, the absence of a query layer, and Web3 is just like a nonstarter. It’s like really critical infrastructure.

20:20
Yeah, that makes sense. So are there other options or solutions available to you? If you didn’t want to use The Graph? Could you go out and find or use something else?

20:29
To my knowledge, I don’t know of any other query layer. It’s an immense undertaking, what The Graph built like everything from its crypto economics to its execution, the client software, and I think most importantly, like the community, like the community is huge. And like, that’s a huge amount. Like, that’s what they built over the past few years is pretty monumental. I don’t know of any competitors, I don’t. But I think if someone did want to build a competitor to The Graph, yeah, good luck.

21:02
Well, as I’ve mentioned, Livepeer is one of the first 10 subgraphs to move from the hosted service to the mainnet, I’d be really curious to know what your perspective or what your experience of that migration was.

21:14
It was pretty smooth edge. And node really helped with the migration process, where, you know, they helped with, I mentioned that query fees are paid for in GRT. So you know, they helped with setting up our wallet so that we can pay for these query fees. And, yeah, it was pretty like, it was a pretty smooth process. Like from a developer standpoint, I literally had to change one line of code in the Explorer, so that instead of pointing to the hosted service, it points to this gateway into the decentralized network. So now instead of querying data from the hosted service, which is subsidized by Edge & Node, you know that it’s pointing to this, like I said, this gateway service which routes requests to the actual Indexers on the network in exchange for query fees. So yeah, it’s a pretty, like, from Livepeers perspective was a pretty easy process, you know, Edge & Node was a massive undertaking is it’s like, you know, I love that their branding is, you know, astronauts and outer space, because it is a huge endeavor, what they’re what they’re building out.

22:22
I appreciate you sharing that, because it’s true that The Graph brand is really reflective of The Graph mission. So you were involved with The Graph early on, I’d love to just kind of hear any summary points or final observations about the subgraph migration, and the journey it took to get there.

22:41
I have an interesting, I think, experience with The Graph, because I started experimenting with it early on, my first experience with The Graph was actually running… At Livepeer, we initially ran our own Graph node, and we were indexing our own data, we weren’t even using the hosted service, because it definitely didn’t exist yet. And that they launched the hosted service, which was awesome, and super helpful. Because we didn’t, we didn’t have to run our own Graph node anymore. And, and so you know, that saved us a lot of time and resources. And then now it’s we’re using this decentralized network, we’re using a gateway that they built, which is really exciting. I mean, it’s really powerful to think that when you’re browsing the Livepeer Explorer, and the, you know, the web server, it’s serving up data, that data is being paid for, right in micro payments to all these node operators around the world that are running Indexers. And I think it’s just such a, it’s such a powerful paradigm, right? And Livepeer, we have the same thing, where if you go to one of these apps that are running on Livepeer, the video is being transcoded and paid for per pixel in ETH. Right? Like, that’s crazy to think about. And it’s getting paid to node operators all over the world. And they didn’t have to ask any permission to contribute their resources and do this work. It’s, yeah, it’s pretty neat. I think that’s one of like, I think service protocols are kind of underrated right now. But they’re going to be over the next year, I think more and more people are going to realize how powerful they are.

24:22
Do you think there’s anything to this idea that maybe people like you who are using the hosted service for free, won’t want to pay query fees, once you make the migration over to the mainnet?

24:33
I don’t think that will be the case. I mean, the network is set up in a way where you have like, Indexers are competing with each other on price. So like, it’s, as a developer, like you’re going to, you know, you’re not going to be charged an exorbitant amount of query fees, especially compared with like web 2.0 counterparts, right? So they won’t be free, but it’ll be they’ll certainly be very affordable and it will be more affordable than, like Web 2.0 services. Right? So yeah, I think, you know, a lot of companies probably got used to the free service. But it was communicated very early on that the plan was to migrate over to this decentralized network. And I think everyone, everyone was aware and supportive of this migration. Because the hosted service, as more and more subgraphs get deployed, it becomes more and more difficult for a single company and a single infrastructure provider to serve all those subgraphs. I don’t even think it’s, it might not even be sustainable. I think the only way you can really move forward is a decentralized network. So I don’t see any tension or anyone currently using the hosted service, I don’t think they’ll have any problems or issues migrating over.

25:50
I want to talk a little bit more about Livepeer, how would you say Livepeer is different from centralized solutions that listeners may be more familiar with?

25:58
Sure. So like a traditional cloud provider that you would use today is something like in AWS or Google Cloud, compared with Livepeer, those are centralized providers where you have to provide an identity, you’re reliant on their infrastructure maintained by like a central authority, compared with Livepeer, which is run by network participants all over the world, where you don’t have to actually ask anyone for permission to use the network, right? So it’s permissionless. It’s more cost effective, because these node operators that are running the Livepeer software, they’re all competing with each other on price. And it’s more reliable, right? If one node operator goes down to the network, the video is automatically rerouted to another. And it’s highly scalable. So yeah, I would say, you know, if you’re sort of weighing the options of going with something with like a public network, like Livepeer, or AWS, you know, I think the value props of the Livepeer network are, yeah, reliability, availability, price, permissionless. I think these are all properties, by the way that are not just seeming to Livepeer, but Web3 infrastructure, in general,

27:15
Well add them as you know, you know, myself and a lot the listeners, we’re very excited about the fact that Livepeer is a partner at The Graph, and recently made the move to the mainnet. But I know there’s other exciting things happening over for the Livepeer community. What can you share about some of the exciting things happening over Livepeer?

27:32
I think the most exciting thing about life right now is we’re seeing like a major uptick in usage. You know, the last few years, we’ve been building out the supply side and making sure that it’s usable by developers. And now we’re actually now that, you know, we have this working protocol. And we’ve proven the affordability, the reliability, scalability, where we can, you know, confidently go to developers and say, look, you should use Livepeer. It’s a superpower if you want to build a live streaming application. And it’s really exciting to see companies discover Livepeer. Now, what’s really interesting about Livepeer is these are these aren’t necessarily like blockchain companies like yes, there are some blockchain companies or projects that are building on Livepeer. But these are just developers that want to build cool apps that have some sort of live or on demand video streaming component. And they’re coming to Livepeer because of all those value propositions I mentioned. And so it’s just really exciting seeing a Web3 protocol, with like, a real use case. And the proof is in the pudding. Like, if you look at the usage on the Livepeer Protocol Explorer, powered by The Graph, it’s really, if you look at the usage Graph, it tells a really amazing story. It’s just like the growth is, you know, up into the right, it’s very clear that there’s a lot of adoption. And I think that’s really good for not only last year, but just Web3 in general. Because I think it’s one of the first protocols that is proving that you can use blockchain to do other stuff besides payment, right? You can drive down costs, and create protocols that make it possible to build things that in the Web 2.0 paradigm weren’t possible. Or maybe they were possible, but just not attainable for a startup, right. In the past, if you wanted to build a Twitch like application, you got to have really deep pockets. Like you have to basically be a FANG company, right? If you look at all the live streaming apps out there, right, YouTube, Instagram, live Twitch, there’s a reason why they’re all owned by these FANG companies is because it’s just like, you have to have like billions of dollars in your bank account to maintain these types of live streaming applications. Livepeer through the power of blockchain and Web3 and decentralization in crypto economics for the first time is allowing anyone to build that type of application affordably and at scale. That’s just really exciting to me. As a builder, and I would just like encourage anyone that wants to build a live streaming application to check out Livepeer, because it’s really a superpower.

30:08
Well I agree with you, Adam. That is very exciting stuff. So thank you for sharing. I’d like to know what your long term vision for Livepeer is.

30:15
I really do believe Livepeer will become the de facto open video infrastructure. Our mission is to become the world’s video infrastructure. And so what does that look like? Livepeer right now offers video transcoding, which is like the most expensive part of the video stack. But there’s other things that you need as a video developer, there’s like CDN solution. One of the things I’m really excited about that Livepeer is we’re building an AI service on the Livepeer network. So you could do things like scene classification and object recognition. You know, if you’re building like a live streaming app for kids, and you’re an app developer, and you want to sensor like adult content, for instance, you can opt into that scene classification service and build something like that. So I’m just really excited to continue to build out the video stack and become this open video infrastructure. And I’m really excited to see what people will build on this.

31:13
What’s your advice to listeners that want to learn more about Livepeer and get involved in the community?

31:18
Sure, the first thing I would recommend you check out is a Livepeer primer. It’s a 10 minute primer to just give you a really good overview of Livepeer, how it works and what it does. And you can check that out at Livepeer.org/primer. And if you want to get involved in the community if you want to get involved video mining or staking or contributing to the open source, join our Discord. You can find the Discord on the life your website at Livepeer.org. And make sure to follow live if you’re on Twitter. The Twitter handle is livepeerorg

32:23
How would you describe The Graph? And what it does to somebody with a non-technical background? Or doesn’t really understand crypto?

32:32
Yeah, good question. To dumb it down. It’s an indexing protocol, right. So like, much like when you go into a library, libraries index books to make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for. So they can walk into a library, and really quickly find exactly what it is they’re looking for. Likewise, The Graph makes it really easy for developers to query data because it provides this indexing layer. So I made the analogy to Google. Like Imagine if there was no Google, and you want to like search for some topic on the web. If there’s no query layer, if there’s no one indexing that data to make it readily available for you to search, you’re going to have a really hard time finding what it is you’re looking for. So yeah, The Graph basically makes it really easy for developers to store and serve data in a way that their applications can consume.

33:32
What about a subgraph? How would you describe a subgraph to that same person?

33:36
A subgraph, is an instruction set. And it basically, it’s written by the developer and instructs Indexer exactly how data should be organized. So I made this analogy with Google and Web 2.0. You can kind of think of like the Google algorithm, the way that they index all the, all the data on the web as a subgraph, right? Like someone had to write the instruction set that basically informs Google how and what to store this data, right. Similarly, if you want to index data on Ethereum, you can write a subgraph, deploy it. And when you deploy it, an Indexer will basically fetch data from a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain in real time. So as events come in, the Indexer will grab the data associated with that event and store it. And basically, that what data gets indexed and stored is defined in a subgraph. So it’s the total order it’s an instruction set for an Indexer.

34:46
So it’s the subgraph. I mean, it’s the way to think about the subgraph is its retrieving data from the smart contracts stored on blockchains. Is that the right way to think about it?

34:57
Yeah, so it’s constantly crawling like and watching for events being emitted by smart contracts. So anytime you submit a transaction on the Ethereum blockchain, an event gets emitted. And the smart contract actually is what holds that data. And a subgraph, basically, is the instruction set for the Indexer. And the Indexer is basically watching for these events, and extracting that data and storing it on The Graph network that easily accessible by developers.

35:26
A subgraph needs to be written, right? It needs to be created, somebody had to bring it into existence. Have I Got that? Right?

35:32
Yeah, some Graphs are written by a developer. So there are… At Livepeer, we record a Livepeer subgraph Uniswap, that the Uniswap team wrote a Uniswap subgraph. And each of these subgraphs are watching like the Livepeer subgraph is watching Livepeer smart contracts. And they’re watching events as it pertains to the Livepeer protocol. The Uniswap said Graph is watching all the Uniswap subgraphs and indexing Uniswap data. If you want to get Meta, like The Graph actually has its own subgraph, and is watching for events being emitted by The Graph smart contracts. And that’s actually what powers The Graphs network page. And so as a developer, now you have like, you’re able to query data from any one of these subgraphs. And you get kind of like a web of, of subgraphs. And it’s like it becomes as more and more subgraphs get deployed, and you have this like, really rich Graph of data. And that’s why it’s called The Graph because all the subgraphs combined gives you like, this singular Graph of data.

36:36
I love that idea. I hadn’t ever thought of it that way. And it’s brilliant. So thank you for sharing that, Adam. So are the subgraphs typically written by you know, the developer or the user? Or is that a service that The Graph provides? How should we think about whose taking the lead on writing subgraphs?

36:54
Yeah, so it’s like Livepeer, The Graph is open and permissionless. And anyone can write a subgraph and deploy a subgraph. In the case of Livepeer, I wrote the Livepeer subgraph that powers the Livepeer protocol. Someone on the Uniswap team wrote their own, there are even, you know, firms that provide I’m sure provide writing subgraphs as a service. Right? It’s, it’s kind of like a whole, you can kind of imagine that becoming a whole industry where people actually like, provide subgraph services where people just write subgraphs. But yeah, it’s up to the developer that’s interested in a certain data set to write this Graph.

37:31
Well, like every interview, I do, you know, I learned something new each time. Today I I’m learning new things about subgraphs. And another learning is, I didn’t know that I could use somebody else’s subgraph. So for example, if you wrote the subgraph for Livepeer, I could go on The Graph. And I could use that data. For my own purposes, my own dApp, or whatever it might be.

37:53
Yeah, that’s right, anyone, it’s open yet anyone can build an application powered by the subgraphs, and then query them directly. In the case of the hosted service, you know, that’s a free service. But in with the decentralized network, all you’ll need is an Ethereum wallet to pay for the query fees.

38:11
Adam, two more questions about subgraphs. And again, this has been so illuminating. I really appreciate you taking the time on this particular topic. So as someone who’s written a subgraph, as you said, you wrote the subgraph for Livepeer, what can you tell us about that experience? And then what advice would you have for any listener to also want to get involved in writing subgraphs?

38:30
Sure, it’s, so The Graph team Edge & Node created, like a really awesome developer experience. So it’s, if you’re comfortable writing, JavaScript, TypeScript, you know, and you’re familiar with the Ethereum blockchain, like you’ll have a pretty easy time writing a subgraph. But basically, that’s the process is, you know, you first have to identify, okay, like, what, what data do I need to power this application that I want to build? So we can use the Livepeer explorer as an example, the Livepeer Explorer, we want to show we want to display all the Orchestrators which are the node operators in my pyramid, we want to be able to show all the all the Delegators and display all the Delegator data. And so like, okay, we know we want to display all that data, what are the smart contracts that are emitting this data? So you identify the smart contracts, which are basically represented by a string. And in your subgraph, you basically, you write down those smart contract addresses. And then you have these things that are called like mappings, which are basically anytime an event gets triggered in the smart contract. You want to tell the subgraph exactly what function to run, so that it can grab the data emitted by that smart contract and store it somewhere. And that gets written in what’s called assembly script, which is like a flavor of JavaScript. So yeah, it’s just like its writing code, right? But like I said, if you’re comfortable with JavaScript, and you know what smart contracts are, then, you know, it’s pretty accessible, I would say.

40:06
And then last question on this topic of subgraphs. So you wrote the subgraph for Livepeer, the subgraph migrated to the mainnet. How… like, what’s the state of affairs now? Are you paying Indexers for data from your own subgraph? Like, how should we think through how that’s all working?

40:26
Yeah, so Livepeer was one of the migration partners. So it’s one of the subgraph that’s actually being indexed on the decentralized network. So, yeah, Indexers on The Graph network, are actually indexing the subgraph that we wrote. And they’re incentivized to, because they can earn fees, by doing so right? As long as there’s people that are interested in that data. You don’t have to, by the way, you don’t have to do as an Indexer. You don’t have to index every subgraph out there, right. It’s up to you what you want to index. And you can even index what you feel will bring you the most query fees and rewards. But there are Indexers that are indexing the Livepeer subgraph and getting paid query fees. But yeah, they’re basically the ones that are running the Livepeer subgraph. They’re watching for the events that are being emitted by the Livepeer smart contracts. And those events are basically specified in the Livepeer. subgraph, which is, like I said, it’s basically just an instruction set.

41:26
Yeah, to hear you say it that way. It’s almost like each Indexer is its own search engine.

41:32
Exactly. Yeah, you know, a lot of people like, refer to The Graph as like the Google of blockchains, you can kind of make the case that like a single Indexer is like its own Google, right. And there’s like a bunch of like, Google’s competing with each other. And the sum of its parts are basically what makes The Graph so special and awesome.

41:55
Based on your knowledge of The Graph, and you know, your familiarity with the community, what’s your advice to Delegators? When it comes to selecting an Indexer to work with?

42:04
Yeah, I can give my perspective also, as someone who like works for delegated Proof of Stake protocols. And like, you have to do your research, but like, the things to look for, are generally performance, like, are they actually doing a good job on the network. And usually, like, the amount of fees that they’re earning is good proxy for this, if they’re earning a lot of fees, that means they’re retaining, they’re getting a lot of work, and they’re retaining and like, the only way you can get work and retain work is if you’re like, high performing. So look at how many query fees, it’s bringing in the amount of stake and node operator has, you know, definitely use that as a signal, because it’s kind of like social proof, right? If there’s, other people say, CUDA must be good. But it’s, it’s not telling the full story. So don’t just blindly like stake with a node operator that just has a lot of stake and don’t make that assumption. Look into the if the Indexer has a lot of information about their setup, and what they stand for, you know, I would research into the organization or individual that’s running it, do they have good values, they have high integrity, you know, you don’t want someone that’s just gonna, like change the reward, cut or fee cut on you, without communicating ahead of time, right? Stuff like that. So those are all things to look for and Discord is definitely a good place to ask questions. And obviously, the nice Protocol Explorers. So The Graphs, Protocol Explorer, is definitely also an invaluable tool.

43:35
I appreciate those insights. And I’m sure listeners will as well. We’ve referenced the similarities between Livepeer and The Graph several times. How would you contrast the role of Delegator in the Livepeer network versus The Graph network?

43:50
Both protocols have a lot of similarities, I think, I would say they’re pretty much like the same thing. Their role is to help strengthen the network. So in the case of Livepeer as Delegator, you’re incentivized to stake with a node provider that is doing good, good work and like providing high quality of service, because that means more feeds for you. Likewise, as a Delegator, on The Graph network, you want to stake with a Delegator that’s performing well, because you’ll get a percentage of those query fees. So yeah, they both kind of perform this like quality assurance role where, you know, the more stake by node operator has, the more work it’s going to it’s going to get and you want, you want the best performing nodes to get the most work, right, because that’s good for the demand side, right. So yeah, I would say they both kind of play that role of quality assurance and strengthening the network and security the network.

44:48
Adam, you’ve been so gracious with your time, really enjoyed this conversation. Maybe one last question, and it’s this. What’s your long-term vision for The Graph?

44:58
Yeah, I think The Graph will continue to serve as the de facto correlate layer for all these Web3 protocols, including Livepeer, I think the need for a query layer is only going to grow stronger over time. And I think what’s really cool about The Graph and Livepeer as well is that the service protocols is that their secured by the Ethereum blockchain, like both projects use Ethereum as a sort of marketplace. But you don’t have to build an application on Ethereum to use The Graph or Livepeer. And I think that’s really powerful, like The Graph is serving lots of different blockchains and protocols, right? It supports IPFS, Ethereum, and a host of other Layer 1 and Layer 2 blockchain protocols as well. And so I think over time, as they support more and more protocols, it’s only going to…Yeah, it’s only going to grow and become more and more important, and kind of an indispensable part of the Web3 toolkit.

46:07
Adam, I love the vision there. Thank you for sharing that for the listeners that want to follow your work and keep in touch. What’s the best way to do it?

46:13
I can be found on Twitter. My handle is Adam Soffer. It’s just my name. And I’m very active on the Livepeer Discord, you can find me on there as well. And if you’re a video application developer, or you’re just a developer and you’re interested in building a video app, I would encourage you to check out Livepeer and get in touch with me I’d be glad to help you get set up.

 

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DISCLOSURE: GRTIQ is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any other way connected with The Graph, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates.  This material has been prepared for information purposes only, and it is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, tax, legal, financial, or investment advice. The content for this material is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The Graph token holders should do their own research regarding individual Indexers and the risks, including objectives, charges, and expenses, associated with the purchase of GRT or the delegation of GRT.

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