Today I’m speaking with Derek Meyer (Data Nexus). Ever since joining The Graph community, Derek has become a highly engaged and thoughtful contributor. Derek is one of the unique participants within The Graph whose been able to participate in various stakeholder roles effectively – Delegator, Curator, Subgraph Developer, and now with an Indexer, with the recent launch Data Nexus. He also helped launch Curation Station, a highly active Telegram group dedicated to Curation, for which he was previously featured on this podcast (Episode 29).
A lot of Derek’s background was covered during our prior interview (Ep. 29), so today we spend most of our time talking about Derek’s journey from an entrepreneurial subgraph developer to Indexer. We explored a lot of interesting themes during the interview, including how Derek approached the decision to become an Indexer, his advice to those who want to do the same thing, his experience at Graph Day, and his participation in Graph Advocates and Graph AdvocatesDAO.
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Derek Meyer (00:00:20):
And so I feel like technology, it’s there to help, it’s there to be a positive, but there’s obvious things that can be harmful about it. And so I want to be part of the team that is building that positive nature or that positive aspect to technology to ensure that we are empowering individuals.
Welcome to the GRTiQ Podcast. Today, I’m speaking with Derek Meyer with DataNexus, a name you probably already recognize. Ever since joining The Graph community, Derek’s been a highly engaged and thoughtful contributor. As you will hear, Derek is one of the unique participants within the ecosystem who’s been able to effectively participate in various stakeholder roles, including Curator, Delegator, subgraph developer, and with the recent launch of DataNexus, now an Indexer. He also helped launch Curation Station, a highly active Telegram group dedicated to the work of Curators, for which he was previously featured on this podcast during episode 29.
A lot of Derek’s background is covered in our prior interview, so today we spent most of our time talking about Derek’s journey from entrepreneurial subgraph developer to Indexer. We explore a lot of interesting themes throughout the interview, including how Derek approached the decision to become an Indexer, his advice for those who may want to do the same thing, his experiences at Graph Day, and his participation in Graph Advocates and Graph AdvocatesDAO. I started the discussion by asking Derek to remind us a little bit about his background and how he first became aware of The Graph and got active in the community.
Derek Meyer (00:02:27):
Yeah, it’s a great question. So before working in The Graph, I was previously working as a database developer and database administrator. So I was always in a data-centric position. And I’ve been around or tiptoeing around the blockchain industry for quite some time, but I never really found a place that I could add value back into a protocol. I wasn’t a solidity developer, so I’m not going to go build smart contracts and that type of stuff. And so when The Graph did a Coinbase learn and earn, I watched a little clip and it said The Graph indexes the blockchain. I was like, oh hey, this is something I know something about. This is great. I can add value to this thing, which is… It’s very important to me to be able to participate and add value to something that I’m spending a lot of time on.
So I ran into that Coinbase learn and earn. That was back in probably May or so of last year, just before the launch of the main net. And so then I started looking through the different protocol participants, Delegator, Curator, Indexer. Said Indexers would be pretty technical, pretty difficult, requires a lot of DevOps knowledge, and some of which I definitely had. There’s other things with running an in Indexer that I definitely did not have. And so I was like, okay, well, maybe I’d start with a more gradual role and just kind of dip my toe into the water. So the first thing I wanted to do was become a Curator because it was the Curator’s job to identify valuable information, be able to see what is needed info, what subgraphs might not have necessary information, and help the protocol assess the importance of various subgraphs.
And so my job, or my previous job as a database developer and database administrator, that was something that I was very good at, and being able to just see, okay, well, what is useful? What’s not useful? This was May, so it was a month before Curation’s launched. So I was like, great, I’m going to become a Curator, started watching a bunch of testnet videos with Curators and all that stuff, not yet knowing that Curation actually hadn’t yet been launched. And so it wasn’t until a week before the launch of the main net. At that point, I was like, okay, great. I’ve done my research. I understand how this works. I learned all about the bonding curve and different aspects of Curator fundamentals, and then I went to go try to add signal to a subgraph, and I was like, where do I go? And then I found out that it wasn’t yet launched.
And so I was like, okay, I guess I should start looking into delegation. And I talked to a couple of people from Edge & Node. I talked to Pranav and Yaniv Tal, and they said, “Well, just kind of stay tuned, be ready,” type of thing. I was like, “Okay.” So then the launch of the main net. Curation was finally live. I didn’t have to wait all that long. I think it was seven or eight days. So that was pretty ideal. And then immediately, there was the whole wave of interest into Curation. And at that point, I was like, okay, I really, really enjoy analyzing this stuff and digging into some of the information. And so I was looking at subgraphs, and it was a very unique experience to be able to assess this and make my own decisions and try to feel or get a feel for what would be healthy for the network.
And at that time, with the Curation program being as new as it was, it was the Wild West. And so from a community member, I felt a lot of responsibility in the sense of, hey, this is something that I’m starting to care about. I want to see this succeed. And so we jumped into… We have a Telegram channel, a Curation station, and we started to share work and start to educate people. Because if Curation worked today the same way it did the first week of Curation, it would be totally different. So we started to get some organization in there, and that was a lot of fun. And then as I started to get more proficient with Curation, that then started to interest me in learning how to build subgraphs. I was going through these things, going through the different repos for subgraphs on GitHub and starting to assess what information’s in there and how are they filling their database, all that type of stuff.
And so I was like, okay, well, I want to build one of these, purely out of interest of I feel like I should be able to build one of these. I want to start. I want to do that. So I was reaching out to a couple protocols that didn’t yet have a subgraph, and I was like, “Hey, do you guys want to subgraph?” And that’s where I encountered some of the folks at Rocket Pool. And they were like, “Yeah, we actually do want one of these. Do you want to help co-create this?” And so I jumped on with another developer, and the two of us, we put together the Rocket Pool subgraph. And this was right before the launch of their contracts. Rocket Pool is a… It’s a Ethereum validating pool, where if you don’t have 32 ether and you want to contribute to the validation of the consensus layer, you can add your funds with other people, and then you create a mini pool, and that has a validator that runs, and you’re not contributing and getting the benefit of earning the rewards for validating.
So this other developer and I, we jumped in and we started to build out the subgraph to index the various events that occur. And all of that started to drive different metrics pages. So in The Graph ecosystem, we’re very, very familiar with graph scan and some of the different pages that we have. This subgraph drives The Graph scan of Rocket Pool. And one thing that was very cool is that they utilized this metrics page as part of their launch. So sometime between August and October, that whole time period was a bit of a blur. That’s when they launched their protocol, and they had the live stream videos. And in their live stream, one of the windows was dedicated to the metrics page so that we could see new validators coming online, people adding to mini pools and all that type of stuff.
So it was very cool to participate in that. And the whole thing was done anonymously. I was a profile picture of a cartoon astronaut. They don’t know who I am or what my name is even, and I completed work and I was paid for that work. And I was like, this is just fascinating.
I appreciate that overview and background, Derek. And as listeners will find out today, we’re meeting because there’s a next evolution in your story as how you became more and more involved within The Graph community. And for listeners who want to hear more of your backstory and some of the details related to how you first became a Curator and moved into subgraph development, there’s a prior episode that you and I recorded on the topic of curation station that they can tune into for some of that background, I do want to ask a couple follow up questions based on your background here, and then we’ll head into what you’re doing presently. The first thing is, what is it about blockchain and web3 that attracts people like you? You’re already working and developing expertise and a career in web2, you’re a database developer and administrator, you’re probably on a career track of some kind, and yet you find out about web3, you become educated or learn more about blockchain, and all suddenly you’re changing your career and you’re doing things like spending your nights and weekends working in The Graph protocol.
Why? What is it about this space that draws people in?
Derek Meyer (00:10:03):
Yeah, it’s a great question, and I think it’s definitely true. I had a career trajectory that most would consider to be very successful. I had no problem supporting my family and all of that. I would say the thing that is most interesting to me about the blockchain is just what it unlocks, the whole concept of being able to be a participant in a protocol and have some ownership in that protocol, have some say into the direction that it goes, and do so without the necessary identity attached to it, I think is a very fascinating concept. I think there’s a lot of innovation that blockchain can spur that can help the way that our world kind of forms. The concept of being able to work in that and help direct the path that things go was something that definitely attracted me. For the company that I was working at previously, I was doing database work in the energy industry. And it’s not particularly, for lack of a better term, it’s not sexy work.
It’s very dry. You’re dealing with kilowatt hours and decatherm, and all this stuff that most people just don’t care about. And so I wanted to work on something that I was very passionate about. And so seeing that the freedoms that the blockchain has the potential to enable is something that I think is very relevant to me.
When I talk to friends and family about what I’m working on and the people like you that I get to interview, and I talk about web3, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies all as three separate threads, but it’s kind of playing in the same sandbox. When it comes to blockchain, I always take the position of, look, this isn’t going anywhere, so there is no future in which blockchain is not used in a lot of industries. It’s going to be a disruptive thing, and it’s probably already happening in many industries. And what’s your position on that? Do you think blockchain is in an inevitable evolution in the way databases and data is stored and shared?
Derek Meyer (00:12:13):
Absolutely. And I would say to that point, there’s certain attributes that the blockchain contains that… And this is just my personal opinion, but I think some of those attributes oftentimes get overlooked because a lot of people initially think blockchain equals cryptocurrency, and I do or I don’t want to buy Bitcoin. And they kind of overlook the attributes that the blockchain can provide to various technologies. One thing that I would love to see, and this was my first thought when I initially encountered Ethereum back in 2016, is that the whole system of public records, and I’m not talking about public records as in the blockchain, although we frequently call the blockchain a public record, but I’m talking at a county level with your county clerk, when you go and you buy a house, they record that in public record, which that needs to have all the same attributes that the blockchain already has.
And there’s a lot of difficulties currently. And of course you’re dealing with the government, so they move very slow in general, and they’re not quick to innovate. But as a basic example, we’ve heard about what Messari’s doing with standardization of subgraphs. If you could do a similar standardization of public record across different counties, it makes it to where your public record in your country is just very easy to obtain, things like if you were to buy a house, you have to do a title search on a property. And typically you pay a couple hundred dollars to some company to go search for it just because it’s such a pain in the rear. And that’s because there’s no standardization, it’s very old technology and it’s not easy to obtain. And the blockchain is the literal perfect solution to something like that. If we can kind of decouple blockchain technology from the volatility of investing in cryptocurrencies, because I don’t think the government’s going to want to jump into buying a bunch of Bitcoin type of thing. I think they have a stance on that.
But if we can start looking at the capabilities that blockchain technology offers, I think there’s a lot of implementations that would just benefit everyone, whether the general user ends up knowing that they’re using blockchain or not. It’s one of those things where if you interact with… If you go to a website, your first thought is not, oh, well, what language this developed in? What’s their technology stack? You’re just a user and you want the technology to work quickly so that you can do what you went there to do. And the same needs to be true for other industries. And this public records example is just one example, but I do think that that’s an immediate area that the blockchain could just revolutionize, and not even as a disruptive technology, but just as a benefit to everyone.
We’re going to talk a lot more about curation later in the interview, but I want to go back all also to something you said about subgraph development. Now, this is an interesting thing because you mentioned Messari. They’ve just come on board in The Graph community as core subgraph developers, and they’re going to build a community and deploy subgraphs. And so it’s a lot of exciting news. But you, early on, when curation was just getting started and people are still learning about subgraphs, you became, in essence, a first generation, maybe a second generation subgraph developer. And then you took this unusual step of learning it and then reaching out to people in web3 and saying, do you want a subgraphs?
So I think a lot of listeners will benefit from this because some want to be a subgraph developer, but they don’t understand that approach or how to execute on something like that. So take us back in time to that moment when you decided, “I’ve learned how to develop subgraphs. Now, I’m going to go out and ask people if I can build one for them or partner with them on it,” and what that experience was like for you.
Derek Meyer (00:15:59):
I know Slim Chance has probably lost a lot of hours of sleep just with me constantly pinging him and all of that. But the whole experience, it ended with me being able to understand all aspects of how graph is comprised, how to put it together, what things to check for. And not that I’ve run into all possible scenarios, but I’ve definitely learned enough to where I feel comfortable building a subgraph from here out. And so it was definitely an interesting time period. But I would say more than anything, I really enjoyed it. I was working probably 60 hours a week with my other job, coming home to my family and all of that, doing family time. And then after they all went to sleep, I started working on this because it was enjoyable. I got to watch data start to become organized. And something that used to be a big hodgepodge, trying to find the information that you’re looking for, it was like a needle in a haystack.
And so watching this compartmentalize into the ways that you want it to, every time, it’s like it’s a magical feeling, seeing it do the things that you want it to do.
What did you learn about the utility of subgraphs, and also The Graph itself during this time period when you’re acting as a subgraph developer?
Derek Meyer (00:20:51):
In talking to the guys with Rocket Pool, they had some means with obtaining information, but it was very low level. It was all done through the terminal, that little black box on your screen. So some of the people who are building various aspects of Rocket Pool, they could get access to that information, but they would then have to get access and relay it to other people because there is no available means to get that. And so the fact that we built the subgraph that anyone can plug into. If any wallet wants to understand what the returns are for the Rocket Pool protocol, they can plug into this subgraph. It’s built in a beautiful format where it just feeds directly into your website. And then you can add whatever user experience you want around that data. But it then enables… Well, it enables a user experience. The previous user experience consisted of you asking someone, and then posting in Discord the response to whatever was output on the terminal. And that’s not really a user experience.
I appreciate you going back through all this, Derek. And before we leave this topic and turn our attention to why we’re talking again today, what advice do you have for listeners that want to pursue something similar to that, they want to become a subgraph developer, get more involved in that, and maybe even reach out to projects and see if they need a subgraph built?
Derek Meyer (00:22:15):
Yeah. Yeah, a couple couple of things that I would recommend. Especially because we all come from slightly varying backgrounds, we interact with slightly different protocols. Anyone that’s wanting to learn subgraph development, take a look at the protocols that you use. Do they have a subgraph? If not, you should build one for them. And that was essentially what I was doing. I was looking through the protocols that I’ve interacted with and I have passion for, and I was trying to see do they have a subgraphs? So I went to the hosted service and I started typing in names of different protocols that I interact with. And I was like, oh, hey, these guys don’t…” Hopped in the Discord. And I was like, “Hey guys, I want to build something like this. Do you guys want something like this? Would you use it?” And so that’s how I initially came about Rocket Pool, is I went to the hosted service and I saw that Lido or Lido, I’d never get the pronunciation right on that one.
They had a subgraph. And I was like, okay, cool. So that exists. And oh, I wonder if Rocket Pool has one. And I didn’t see anything. And so then I jumped onto their Discord and I was like, “Hey guys, looks like you guys need one of these.” The whole concept of decentralizing Ethereum two validation, you guys should probably have decentralized data. And total agreement with that. And so that’s kind of the way that I found my first project, was just looking at what I was interested in. Then as you network, you start to get people reaching out to you that ask questions. And I’ve had tons of projects reach out to me that want help building out their subgraph. And so once you get your first one done, then it’s all downhill from there.
Derek, when I’ve had the opportunity to explain what a subgraph is to people I’ve met, or again, friends or family that are curious, this is how I explain it and I’m going to explain it to you and give you the opportunity to edit back to me or suggest ways that I might be wrong. Because I want to understand it better, but I also think it’ll be educational for listeners that are also thinking through these things, especially those with a non-technical background like myself. So what I say is blockchains are a technology upon which people can throughout the whole world, can transact with one another. And subgraphs are ways for developers that want to build apps, extract data, show data, present data to users to go in and extract only the information that they want because the data held on blockchains is vast, it’s recording all sorts of things.
And if I want to create, for example, a weather app, I don’t need to know a ton of this information. I just need to go out, and in this silly example, just pull the daily record of what the weather was the day before and so forth into the past. And so the subgraph allows me as a developer just to say, “Hey, go out to the blockchain and extract just this one piece of information. Keep it current and always feed it to my app so that my users can see this important information.” Of course, that was a contrived example. A more specific example would be people that are presenting the historical price of crypto. What it traded at the day before and all the way back into the future. So I’ll pause there. How did I do? Where am I right? Where am I wrong? And in what ways would you improve that?
Derek Meyer (00:25:20):
A couple of points that I would make. So as you’re indexing a subgraph, the Indexer will start at a specific block, and then it’ll move forward for every consecutive block on the blockchain. And every time that, like in your example, the weather was updated or it started raining, or various things, the Indexer will then record that to the database based off of whatever logic is defined in the subgraph. So the subgraph might say, all right, keep track of what the weather is, and let’s see how many days that it rained this year. And so a new transaction is submitted to the blockchain saying, “Hey, it rained today, and the temperature was 50 degrees Fahrenheit.” And so then the Indexer would then record that and say, “Okay, great. It rained today. And I’ve got a counter in my database saying how many days it rained. Go ahead and increment that by one.
And the magic that happens there is that rather than having to go through the blockchain and aggregate that data or add up all that data together every time someone loads your weather app is it can just quickly pull that number. How many times did it rain this year? 42 times. And so it already stores that 42 ready rather than having to look through all these transactions and compute it as you’re loading the page. So it goes through each of the transactions consecutively until it’s at the chain head, and then it listens to any new transactions that comes in and says, “Okay. Hey, weather was updated today. The temperature is now 60 degrees and it’s sunny out,” so let’s update the temperature to 60 degrees. And we don’t need to increment that raining number because it’s sunny, it’s not rain.
Well, thank you for that, Derek. And I now want to turn our attention to the point at hand, why we’re talking again, which is in the evolution of your story, your involvement in The Graph community, again, recapping here, got interested in curation, fell into subgraph development, did some really great things there. And now you’ve used that branding that you used early on. You’ve transformed that into an Indexer. And you recently launched DataNexus as an Indexer at The Graph. So an incredible evolution of somebody that’s learned about The Graph and moved all the way up to becoming an Indexer. Let’s talk about that for a minute here. What went into your thinking there? Why did you decide, hey, I now want to become an Indexer? And what were some of the ways you framed that decision and explored the possibility?
Derek Meyer (00:27:43):
As I was going through subgraph development, I was really enjoying it. And the product of publishing the Rocket Pool subgraph, I was like, okay, this is something that I enjoy doing a lot more than I enjoy calculating what a specific person’s electricity load is like. That industry, it’s not something that I have the same passion for. And so I was like, this would be a fun career. But at that point, I didn’t yet know if it was something that could be a career. And shortly after, when I started to have other people ask me to build things, I started to run into the problem where I couldn’t accept the work there because I had too many people reaching out. And my wife and I were preparing for our new daughter who’s now seven months old. And that whole time period was kind of a rocket ride.
But at that point, I started to see, okay, there’s definitely a demand here that is career worthy. And I’m coming from being in a very stable position, huge company, very stable salary, very comfy living, and potentially giving up all of that to go into this wild ride of web3 and blockchain and stuff like that. And I think a lot of people who are data oriented tend to be conservative in nature and that they like knowing outcomes, and they think in very logical and analytical processes. And so it was an interesting shift of, okay, well how do I make this transition and make it something that’s very, very stable? Because that the obvious concern of, how do I make this leap but do it in a stable way? And so there’s an obvious need of people building subgraphs. That’s something that is compensated, and I’ve proven that to myself. That’s undeniable truth. And then looking at how do I add stability? That’s when I started to really start to flirt with the idea of running an Indexer. Because project-based work has its peaks and its valleys of income.
Sometimes you do a lot and you make a lot of money, and then sometimes you haven’t delivered a product and you’re not making that money. And so I wanted to mitigate peaks and valleys. And so I started to download the necessary applications, that way I could start indexing on the testnet. And that’s where Vincent and I really started to work together because he was helping me through some of the aspects of DevOps that I’m not familiar with. And so we were building together and getting that running. And I just wanted to have the certainty that we could do this. This is something that we could comfortably do.
So we started to go into the Indexer stack. And from a revenue model, if I were to think about how I want the company to be compensated and stuff like that, having the stable income from an Indexer, and then the peaks and valleys of subgraph development, those two kind of mesh into a great synergy. But the thing that I really liked about that model is that with subgraph development, you’re enabling potential demand, or you’re enabling query domain. And on the Indexer side, you’re serving query demand. And the analogy that I gave to my wife is I said, “It’d be like if you were a construction worker and you also were a property manager.” So I’m building houses, and then I’m also serving the need of getting the rented out or building apartment complexes. And so there’s the initial compensation of building, and then there’s the longstanding compensation of serving queries. And so that as a model, it made a lot of sense to me because the two benefit each other great.
So subgraph development is project based. I understand that part. The Indexer, however, is more of an enterprise, a business that you need to serve queries. And you’re really going into business with yourself and trying to become a validator, as it’s known more widely in web3, but an Indexer within The Graph community. When you’re thinking about this as a total career change, are you creating a marketing plan? Are you opening up an Excel spreadsheet and crunching numbers? Are you reaching out to potential investors. Or did you save up the money over that seven months and say, “No, when I do this, I want to do it all on my own? Take us through the machinery of that type of thinking as you’re framing the decision.
Derek Meyer (00:32:12):
Yeah, 100%. And I spent more time in Excel than I would like to admit. The thing that I was having to compare is, okay, what is the income that I’m making currently? What does my family need? And I wanted to ensure that this transition was going to be an increase rather than a decrease, or an increase in stability rather than a decrease in stability. And the other thing, it’s very stable. So it was an interesting calculation to figure out, okay, well, how do we achieve that? And so I did a little bit of math to figure out, okay, if I’m making X, how much of a self stake do I need to produce at least X for myself by indexing? And then that’s where the company aspect comes in because it’s not just producing a like amount. Because with a company, you incur costs.
We have our server costs, which that, luckily we purchased our servers, but we have to store them somewhere. And we have different software needs and other costs that come along to running this operation. And so I didn’t need to just produce X, which was my previous income. I needed to produce X plus costs, et cetera. And so I started to figure out, okay, so if I’m operating at this level of stake and producing this much for the protocol and driving this much query business, and then I’ll have Y income… And at Y income, do I want to run this by myself? No, I don’t. I want to have a team, ideally a lean team. I don’t necessarily want 200 employees or some massive operation, but I do want a team of very intelligent and very capable people that we can just run a very strong outfit.
Obviously my first choice was looking within the community at what shining stars exist, what rock stars are there. And immediately, Vincent was my first choice. Also, he’s been helping me with the testnet. He knows his stuff. And if you’ve interacted with him in Discord, you know that this guy knows his stuff. And so I was very fortunate to have that relationship already building with him. And so when it came time to start to establish the team, well, now I needed to consider, okay, well, what do I need to make in order to not only support myself, but to support a couple other employees for DataNexus? And so I had to map out, okay, if I were to jump into this, I would need at least this much in self stake in order to produce enough income to support my operation, support myself, support my employees, and to have a stable business.
So we figured out what that number was. That’s not something that I had in my savings account. And my wife and I didn’t necessarily want to go and sell some of our real estate or anything like that in order to produce it. So I was like, okay, well, let’s start talking to some of our friends and family and see if we can get someone to invest in it. And we’re lucky enough that we had a mutual relationship with someone who was very interested in investing into blockchain technology, but didn’t necessarily want to invest into a specific cryptocurrency and cross their fingers. And so through our talks with that person… That person runs a fairly large company and all of that, and he decided that he wanted to invest in DataNexus. And so we got that investment money, which then meant, great, now we can buy our servers as opposed to renting things and we can strategically locate them on the planet so that it’s not close to other Indexers.
And yeah, that’s kind of how we got up and running. And I would say one of the big downsides on something like this, which is actually working in our favor right now is I started all of that. We deployed Rocket Pool. I got really excited about graph development. That was all in probably around October. Conversations with this guy started following month, probably November. And so from November up until in May, it’s just been a lot of figuring out, okay, how are we going to structure this? How are we going to handle this from a tax perspective? What is our business entity going to be? Are we going to do an S-corp, a C corp, LLC? All the different things that go into running a business and ensuring that it’s structurally sound. Getting the legal counsel and talking with the CPA in terms of how should we set things up, it took a while. But from my perspective, it was all very worthwhile to ensure that we can now focus 100% on running our Indexer and on subgraph development and expanding The Graph protocol, because that’s all we do now, is we focus on this.
During that process as well. Did you consider delegations marketing data nexus to attract Delegators?
Derek Meyer (00:37:14):
Yeah, absolutely. So we put a lot of thought into that. In terms of the point of your question on how to attract delegation, we’ve had the lucky history of being fairly known throughout various aspects within the protocol. We’re very active in the [inaudible 00:37:31] and Curation Station, and on various calls within the community and all over Discord and stuff like that. So we’re pretty visible as a team. And so that works in terms of, I would say already in the protocol delegation. So that was definitely a big point, but also we’re working on obtaining delegation that is outside of the protocol and educating people on what The Graph is. Probably about half of our delegation so far is coming from funds that were never in The Graph ecosystem. It’s people that were newly buying The Graph token and starting to delegate it and all of that.
So there’s kind of a mix between making sure that we’re well known in the community, making sure that we’re well respected and that we’re doing good work and adding value to the community. And the delegation comes after that, when people see good work. But then also expanding the protocol beyond where it is today. That way, Indexers aren’t just moving delegation around amongst each other. We obviously we need to expand. We need to grow. And so that’s been a big focus of us. But that is one thing that I really wanted to position DataNexus to, is that with my experience in subgraph development, I really want DataNexus to be what I would call an outward facing Indexer, and that yes, we’re going to index subgraphs deployed on the main net, but we also want to work with protocols that don’t yet have subgraphs, help them build it, help them deploy it, make sure that they’re getting support and getting valuable and wonderful service so that we can help grow the main net beyond where it currently is.
And through my work as a subgraph developer, in touch with a lot of different other developers who are building and that type of thing. So that’s something that, as an Indexer, is definitely a tremendous value add to the protocol, and not only to ourselves, but to all Indexers. We all want more queries. We all want more traffic. And so I think that that’s something that benefits everyone.
I always want to figure out as well, when I get the opportunity to speak to an Indexer, how they come up with the rewards, the rewards cuts. A lot of Delegators within the community are aware of dashboards, you know, can analyze and review different Indexers to determine who you want to delegate with. And one of the default ways that Delegators sometimes go about this is sorting that list by rewards cut. How then, when you’re launching your index or operation, do you think through how to approach and what to set those reward cuts at?
Derek Meyer (00:40:30):
I think the Delegator mentality of how they go about deciding what Indexer to choose, I think that’s… It’s a very interesting topic. And we can touch some more on some of the other points as well that goes into that. But specifically with the rewards calculation, there’s some Indexers that ought to have a negative reward cut. And what that means is if I… Let’s say that I have a million GRT in self stake, and a million GRT and delegated stake. If I were to set my rewards cut to 50%, that means that I’m getting rewards on half of the total pool, and I put in half of the total pool. So I would essentially be just taking the rewards on my GRT and giving the Delegators 100% of the rewards on their GRT. Some Indexers, when they’re first launching, will it do something called a negative effective rewards cut, where if they put in a million, they have a million in delegated stake.
They’ll say, “All right, we’re going to take 40%,” even though they put in half. So now they’re getting 40% of the total rewards. The other 60% goes to Delegators, even though they only contributed 50% of that total pool. So now you’re getting rewarded on more than just your token. You’re also getting rewarded on some of the Indexers token that they put in, which as a promotional method of attracting new delegation. I feel like that can be effective, but I also don’t feel like that’s long lasting. And we kind of took the stance that we didn’t really want to try to blindside people into delegating it to something that they weren’t aware of what was happening because that gets to be kind of technical. And there’s definitely Delegators that will delegate, and then they let it sit. They don’t want to have to oversee a lot of that. And if they get caught into this idea of like, oh, wow, I can make insane rewards, but it’s really just because the Indexers running a promotion and that wasn’t well understood, it can give a negative experience to the Delegator.
So what we did is we took a look at what are competitive rates. People are a pretty common effective reward cut that we see right now. And I say effective reward cut. So that’s how much of the Delegator contribution is the index or taking as a fee. So in an example of I put in a million, my Delegators put in a million, maybe I take 55%, and that would be about a 10% effective rewards cut. And so when we were going through that thought process, we were like, okay, well, let’s do something that’s stable. On average, we’re seeing between 7% to 20%. It kind of fluctuates. Some people are a little bit higher, some people are lower, some people are tremendously low. And I don’t think that they’re keeping eyes on what they’re doing with that, or maybe they know exactly what they’re doing, which I would say is maybe a little bit more concerning.
But either way, we set kind of a higher average. We typically range between 13 and 15%. And it fluctuates a lot right now, just because as new delegation comes in, that number changes pretty dramatically as opposed to someone that already has a pretty well built pool. And so we’re a bit higher than average. But the way that we justify that is because we are so focused on the grant, you’ll consistent… Well, at least historically, we’ve been pretty consistent at being some of the top ad returning rewards to our Delegators because we’re constantly watching allocations, we’re constantly watching signal changes. I’m in touch with developers, and so I kind of know when a new… I don’t know all new subgraphs are being deployed, but I sometimes know when new subgraphs are being deployed. So I really try to keep my ear to the ground, and Vincent does as well. And we’re very, very quick to optimize our allocations.
Well, Derek, as you said there, and as it’s been mentioned many times on the podcast, Delegators should not rely solely on that return metric in scouting out and trying to analyze opportunities with Indexers in The Graph ecosystem. There’s a lot of different ways to go about that. What have you learned about that process. Now that you’re on the inside, you are an Indexer, you’ve built one, you’ve got Delegators, and you’re providing rewards, what’s your advice now, having seen the inside of an Indexer operation for how Delegators should go about selecting an Indexer?
Derek Meyer (00:44:51):
It’s a great question. Obviously this kind of changes person to person because different people have different values. But I would say the most important thing that I would want to instill with our Delegators is to consider that their token is essentially a vote for which Indexers are going to make it. And obviously we want every Indexer to make it, just through our good nature. And of course that’s what we want, but there will come a time where the indexing operations become so competitive that slight margins are going to determine who is going to win and who’s going to lose. And that’s just kind of a natural thing that will occur. And so as you are making your delegations, you are contributing to the overall decision process of who’s going to win and who might not make. So keeping in mind that today’s rewards might be attractive, you’ll also want to know, okay, well who do you want to stay in the network?
Who do you want to ensure that their attention is focused on The Graph and that they’re indexing and building on The Graph? And I would say that people who are supplying a benefit to the protocol, just even beyond just the index or operation that they run, people who are working on the testnet, people who are helping other Indexers people who are also developing subgraphs, contributing within the protocol and in various manners. I would say that those are definitely things that are very valuable. Now, that’s a pretty tricky thing for a Delegator who just got their GRT. Maybe they just downloaded [inaudible 00:46:30] necessarily going to know, okay, well who was the last person to submit a poll request on a certain repository? They’re not going to know that. Some tricks that I did when I was first starting to delegate, because I did some delegation kind of in conjunction when I was curating, is I would jump in the discord channels.
And this is not a perfect metric, but it at least gave me a general sense of which Indexers had community and involvement, as I would go into Discord, and I took a look at Jim from Wavefive, for example. And I said, okay, great. Let me search Jim from Wavefive. Okay, I found his username. Okay, how many messages has Jim posted in The Graph discord? Oh wow, okay, that’s a lot. What’s another person. So I started to look at some of the different Indexers and determine who I did or did not want to delegate to more surrounding their community involvement. And if you look at Payne from StakeSquid, he’s got 10X more than pretty much everyone else, which is… I feel like that is a pretty viable metric of that guy is literally everywhere. He is very involved in the community, and he is very deserving of delegation support.
And so as someone that’s new to the protocol, that’s a pretty easy way to not get an exact metric, because of course they could just be in discord and just posting memes or whatever and not necessarily adding value, but it gives you an easy way to see, okay, roughly how frequently does this person engage with the rest of it? And that, to me, was very important metric when I was first learning to delegate.
I’m a hundred percent certain that someone listening to this interview is an individual who wants to become you. They are either currently a Delegator or they’re learning how to build, all the background and history that you have, but they want to take that next step and become an Indexer. And so I want to give you the opportunity, having just recently done it, to give advice to them. What should they do? What are the things that you learned along this journey that you wish someone would’ve told you early on?
Derek Meyer (00:48:34):
Yeah, step one is definitely join The Graph discard if you’re not already. Go into the Indexer channels, the testnet channels, and start asking questions. Start playing around using the monopoly money of a test net and starting to see the Indexer stack. And you’re going to bang your head against a hundred different problems. And there’s kin of a coder joke of 99 bugs in the code, 99 bugs. Take one down, patch around, 107 bugs in the code, right? And that’s going to happen as you go through and you start to learn the technology stack and understand various aspects to it and just be willing to go through that. It starts to get exciting. Every time you conquer another one, now you have more knowledge about a specific piece of the overall step. So definitely jump in the discord. There’s tons of people that are willing to help over there.
So that’s kind of just on the technology side of things. In terms of the operations side, take a look at some of the revenue, incoming revenue and what you expect versus what you need to be making. Especially if you’re planning on going, you can do a reverse calculation of what you would make, and then derive the amount that you would need as a bare minimum in order to get started. And taxes just plays a very big factor into that equation, which is why I kind of highlighted that, is without a good plan, it can really eat away at your profits. So I would do all the due diligence of really penciling that out and making sure that you have a long vision plan.
When we launched DataNexus, it wasn’t like, okay, great, we’re doing it this month and we’ll see how it goes next month. It’s like, no, we are doing this for years, and that is our trajectory. And that’s how far we were thinking when we were establishing this. So we need to have… We’re fully prepared to endure a long [inaudible 00:50:23]. That’s totally fine, and we’re ready to build the entire way through that. And having some of the future foresight into that is definitely something that I would recommend.
I want to turn back now to curation. We talked about it early on in the interview that we would revisit this, but curation seems to be ramping up. Queries certainly are on the rise. What are your thoughts on the current environment related to queries and the role of curation?
Derek Meyer (00:50:46):
Yeah, it’s very interesting. I would say it’s very exciting to see all of this starting to play out. We’re finally at a point where we have a date for sunsetting the hosted service. We are very soon going to have a multi-chain main net. That’s targeted for this quarter, depending on when this airs. And so we’re getting ready for just a huge amount of migration over to the main net. And we’ve already started to see it, which is great. And so we’re starting to see more queries, and obviously query phase coming in. From the viewpoint of a Curator, we’ve been working a lot on being able to help predict and see query fees as they’re starting to occur. And we have tools within the Curator community to see when an address has added GRT to their billing account to kind of fund their API key and see when they start actually paying for query fees, meaning they are actively querying using that API key.
And this is all before the Indexer is actually closed in the allocation. So we can start to see, as people are paying, okay, this person is paying, and they also deployed X subgraph. That’s something that we should keep an eye on because it may or may not need more signal, depending on where it’s at. And so we’re starting to use more analytics to drive better signal for the rest of the protocol. And it’s very satisfying to see the query fees coming in and seeing the compensation coming to Curators, and people are starting to be rewarded for their signal.
And yeah, it’s very good to see. And I would say it’s very interesting going into everything to come. The next nine months, I feel like are going to be very exciting in terms of my migration and new queries and all of that coming to the main net. And so I feel like we’re… Although this is the exciting period, I feel like it’s also somewhat the calm before the storm, or at least I guess the last few months would’ve been the calm before the storm, and we’re just starting to see that ramp up now.
That Curator role then is going to become more prominent than it’s ever become before sometime during the next nine months as the hosted services sunset and we see a lot more activity pick up. Is that right?
Derek Meyer (00:53:07):
Yeah, absolutely. And I would really stress the skills of being a Curator is something that’s, I don’t want to say easy to learn because it’s not that it’s an easy role, but it’s very well laid out. We’ve tested a lot of things that didn’t work. We’ve gone through a lot of the headaches of that role to where if someone’s interested in learning more about curation, I definitely recommend that they pop into the servers and start chatting with us because we’ve gone through a lot of the things that don’t work. And we’re very, very willing to help new people learn because we’re going to need a lot more Curators vetting out subgraphs and identifying good information for the protocol, especially as we start getting a huge weights. I think Messari alone has a couple hundred that are going to be coming.
And we need to determine just because it’s posted by Messari, does that necessarily mean that that should have a ton of signal? Well, not necessarily because maybe they’re not using that one, but they deployed it in conjunction with a lot of the others. And so we need to be able to quickly sift through all of this information and help the protocol identify what needs a lot of support, what needs medium support, what needs very little support, and what doesn’t need any support. And so those skill sets are things that I really want to refine over the next six months before we see a title wave or anything.
Derek, just a few more questions, the first being, you and I last spoke backstage at day, you were on a panel at day of different community members. You did a great job, and I interviewed you backstage and released that in a recent episode. What announcements from day really made an impact on you? Something that made you super excited about the future of The Graph?
Derek Meyer (00:54:48):
Oh, the whole day was exciting. It was nonstop picking out what are my favorite things, I definitely think the host service sunsetting is exciting from my roles as a Curator and as a subgraph, developer, and as an Indexer. All three of those roles are very greatly affected by that. So I think that that’s very exciting and there’s going to be a lot of work to do on that, but it’s work that I enjoy doing. So on our end, we’re working on preparing for a multi-chain main net. And what does that mean in terms of the different nodes that we’re running and how we’re going to be indexing some of these other chains and making sure that we have the hardware necessary to do all of that, because some of these chains are a lot trickier than Ethereum main net.
So that, to me, is very exciting in that it spurs a lot of activity on my end. I would say one thing that I’m excited for in a different stance is obviously the Layer 2 migration, because that’s going to reduce costs to all members of the protocol. It’ll be easier for Indexers to close allocations, which means that Delegators are going to receive rewards quicker. That causes a natural auto compounding reward system for Delegators, which is always a great thing. Indexers are going to be more agile and they can reallocate to new subgraphs as they’re posting and not having to worry about, well, does this outweigh the gas costs of having to do it? The fact that gas costs is a factor in our decision process is… It’s an inefficiency. Really, our focus should be, okay, here’s a new subgraph. Does it have support? Does it need more support? How do we provide the best quality of service to our consumer? That should be our mentality. And so moving over to Layer 2 is going to help move us closer to that mentality, which I would say I’m also very excited for that.
And then on this topic of being involved in the community, you and I happen to both be GraphAdvocates and we’re also members of The GraphAdvocatesDAO. Would love to get your perspective on that experience GraphAdvocates launched early this year and the DAO shortly thereafter. How has that experience been for you, given everything that you’ve been working on? Now, you’re working as an Advocate within The Graph community.
Derek Meyer (00:57:02):
It’s been a wild ride. It’s a lot of fun. The thing that I’m most excited for about the AdvocatesDAO is kind of decentralizing a lot of aspects even further within our community. And we’re definitely a community that is very… We hold decentralization as a very core tenant to what we believe. And so decentralizing a big aspect of the community with community grants and all of that with the Advocates now, I think is very exciting. Also, being able to provide more training and more educational material to people that want to learn and kind of “spread the good word about The Graph.” I definitely want to make sure that people are very well educated about this. But the process has been phenomenal. Because if you look at the Advocates, they’re all people who are very passionate about what we do, very passionate about our technology, and very passionate about the things that we have to offer.
And so everyone that I’ve been interacting with are all just fantastic people. And at Graph Day, a bunch of us got a chance to finally meet in person and see what each other looks like in reality. And it was kind of this novel concept of walking into a room. And I knew that I everyone, but I didn’t recognize any. And the Advocates played a pretty key role in the success of Graph Day with the amount of assistance that we gave during Graph Hack and all of that. So being able to see this group of passionate individuals add value back into the community, it’s a really cool thing. And that I’m excited to see everything that is to come with them.
And then the last question I want to ask you before I ask you the GRTiQ 10 is, when you’re away from all of it, when you’re away from Graph Advocates and the DAO, when you’re away from being an Indexer and a subgraph developer and you just have time to think, you must think about the future a little bit here, because a lot of what you’re building is future oriented ways you want to contribute and add value in the world as a professional. What is it that makes you excited about that future? What is it that’s driving you to do all of this in the present?
Derek Meyer (00:59:15):
I think this is something that I got really in touch with more so when I started having kids. And I think about my daughters and what type of a world do I want them to live in? What do I want to build the world to be to ensure that they live wonderful lives of their own choosing? And it’s one of those interesting things where we kind of see what’s happened with big tech and what certain monoliths, the effects that certain monoliths can create. I was thinking, is that something that I want to still be there, or do I want to change it in some way? And not that Facebook is going to die or TikTok is going to die or anything like that. It’s more of like, okay, well, what ways can we adjust that so that it’s a better user experience and it’s just better for people.
And especially with my daughters, I’m thinking about, okay, well, what type of a world do I want them to be able to interact with? And it’s very interesting that the mindset coming from a parent, I think about the technology that we have nowadays and growing up with this technology, it’s totally different than compared to when I was a kid. And that was leaps and bounds beyond what my parents had access to. And so I feel like technology, it’s there to help, it’s there to be a positive, but there’s obvious things that can be harmful about it. And so I want to be part of the team that is building that positive nature, that positive aspect to technology to ensure that we are empowering individuals rather than trapping people into certain loops or certain predetermined tracks.
Well, Derek, I didn’t have the GRTiQ 10 the first time we spoke, but I’m excited to ask you the GRTiQ 10 now. These are 10 questions I ask each guest of the podcast every week to help listeners learn something new, try something different, or achieve more in their lives. So are you ready for the GRTiQ 10?
Derek Meyer (01:01:19):
I am ready.
Derek, what book or articles had the most impact on your life?
Derek Meyer (01:01:33):
I’ll give two on this. One of them is something that I read for fun. It was a book called Ender’s Game. And I read this back in probably ninth grade, and that was the first time that I read something because I wanted to read it. Going through school, you read books To Kill a Mocking Bird and things like that because you are forced to read it. But when I read Ender’s Game, I could not get pulled away from that book. And so that’s where I really started to find my love of knowledge and my love of reading and understanding. A second book… And this is a very small book. I think it’s maybe between 80 and a hundred pages, depending on the print that you get. It’s called The Richest Man in Babylon. And it’s kind of like a… And it’s funny, I actually read this around a similar time period, again, my own elective, but it’s almost like a rich dad, poor dad book that talks about investing and things like that.
But it’s done in kind of a story nature, and it’s something that I intend to have both of my children read as they come a little bit older. But it’s a very, very easy to understand book. And you can probably read through it in a couple of hours. It’s not hard at all.
Is there a movie or a TV show that you would recommend everybody should watch?
Derek Meyer (01:02:49):
I really enjoyed Sherlock. I really enjoyed that. Especially season was season two, the final scenes with Moriarty, I enjoyed that so much. So that would be one. Another one that I think about, and this is kind of an edgier response I guess, would be there’s an anime series called Death Note. And I don’t watch a ton of anime, but someone showed this one to me and I kind of got hooked on it. And it was very similar to Sherlock in that there was a lot of mental chess games going on between the antagonist and protagonist. And seeing that all play out, I thought was very interesting. So I would also recommend that. For someone who’s into anime, definitely check out Death Note.
If you could only listen to one music album for the rest of your life, which one would you choose?
Derek Meyer (01:03:44):
Let’s see. Well, I’ll give this one based off of my experience. There’s an album that I to over and over again in various moods, various settings, and it’s not one that’s very well known, but it’s from an artist called Blackmill, and the album name is Miracle. And it’s kind of a more laid back… I would not call it dev step because it’s not step, but it has more electronic synthesizer, but it’s… I think someone one time called it chillstep, which I was like, okay, maybe that. But this is an album that I listen to time and time again, and I just always go back to it in all kinds of different settings, whether I’m driving, working, doing various things. So I’d have to choose that one.
What’s the best advice someone’s ever given to you?
Derek Meyer (01:04:36):
Best advice. I remember my mother once told me that the common denominator of all your problems in your life is you. And luckily, this can also be the solution to all of them when you decide to let it be.
What’s one thing you’ve learned in your life that you don’t think most other people have learned or know yet?
Derek Meyer (01:04:59):
I’ve always been very mindful to the people that I try to surround myself with. That’s one of the reasons why I love working in The Graph ecosystem, is I’m constantly surrounding myself by very intelligent people, very thought-provoking people, and people that help me grow in ways or helped me build muscles that I didn’t realize were weak. And so rather than focusing on, okay, well, how am I going to have the most amount of fun this weekend, I’m constantly trying to surround myself by people that are going to force me to grow and become better, whether that’s business better in my developer skills, better with my family and better as a parent, better in anything in my life. That’s what I try to surround myself with.
What’s the best life hack you’ve discovered for yourself?
Derek Meyer (01:05:51):
I’d say the best life hack is probably, especially just because we work in such an abstract field, it’s not something that you can touch or hold or throw across the room, there is a certain value to balancing out the abstract or the significant portion of what we do with some type of mass or physical representation of it. And so I frequently, and people on Twitter might have seen this, I frequently will draw things in paint or try to get some type of visualization of what we’re doing. And I feel like that helps solidify understanding [inaudible 01:06:31]
Based on your own life experiences and observations, Derek, what’s the one habit or characteristic that you think best explains people finding success in life?
Derek Meyer (01:06:38):
I think one thing that a lot of people don’t look at quite as much is how far into the future a person is working on solving problems. Someone who’s trying to solve problems for tomorrow, the literal tomorrow, within the next 48 hours, they’re living in this neurotic sense of like, okay, well, how do I eat tomorrow? Type of thing. Someone who’s thinking a week from now has slightly more foresight, but still not a lot. But someone who’s looking into solving things in the future or working now to solve things that we’re going to benefit from a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, I’ve just noticed that is to be a pretty common theme of people achieving their own versions of success. If you look at some of the developers in the Ethereum community and all of that, they’re looking at, okay, well, what are the world’s problems? And how do we solve these very high level amounts of coordination between different people on a global scale?
And those are problems that are not what’s going to be on your dinner plate tomorrow. Those are those problems very far into the future. And so, yeah, I would just say looking into the future, and how far your imagination can stretch into the future is a big aspect of that.
And then the final three questions are complete the sentence type questions, the first one being, the thing that most excites me about web3 is…
Derek Meyer (01:08:14):
The chance to build the future that I want to participate with, and I want my family to be able to participate with.
And the second, if you’re on Twitter, then you should be following…
Derek Meyer (01:08:25):
Timbeiko. I always love his updates, and it’s a very cut and dry here’s what it is, this is what’s happening with the merge. He’s just someone that I definitely look up to.
And then lastly, complete the sentence. I’m happiest when…
Derek Meyer (01:08:42):
I’m happiest when I’m building something with my daughter. She’ll get various toys or things that need to be constructed and all that, and she’ll grab the screwdriver and she’ll start banging on the screws as though it were a hammer or something like that. And I find that really… I think it’s a lot of fun to just be able to see her imagination grow and build. And then she gets to see the finished product of the thing that we build. And we build her furniture together and all that type of stuff, and I always enjoy that.
Derek, with DataNexus. I really appreciate you taking the time. You’ve provide an incredible overview of not only how to become an Indexer, but a lot of the important lessons along the way. And of course, I want to thank you for coming back on the podcast and sharing your story. If listeners want to follow you or some of the things that you’re working on, what’s the best way for them to stay in touch?
Derek Meyer (01:09:42):
You can follow me on Twitter. It’s @data_nexus. I don’t like DMs on Twitter. Not that I am unaccepting of DMs on Twitter, but I have a very slow response time on those. If you want to get in touch with me, the best way is either through Discord or in some of the Telegram channels. But yeah, those would be the best ways.
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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.