Designing for Data [Interview w/ Tongtong Gong of Amberdata]

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The Art of Numbers

If you backtrack from the ever-multiplying strands of blockchain use cases, ICOs, and decentralized applications, you find at the root of everything a bundle of questions concerning data. How we set up new forms of data, how we transact it, how we incentivize its creation, and how we leverage and discover it. Whether you’re building a new DApp with a given crypto or interested in incorporating it into your new self-governing sculptural flower, you’re going to have to contend with a database. But data is difficult to access and manage, even with the transparency offered by blockchain systems. There is still a great chasm between this new data infrastructure and all the applications that are being nurtured on that foundation.

Amberdata straddles that divide, providing a more customizable resource to focus on aspects of a blockchain’s data subset. Usage, transactions costs, total volume, interoperability, node structure, consensus protocols, and many other factors are key decision-making qualities for anything built on a blockchain. We sat down with cofounder and COO of Amberdata, Tongtong Gong, the discuss her journey in establishing this platform and what her goals are.

The Creative Crypto (CC): Thank you for joining us Tongtong! Tell us about yourself and how you wound up in the blockchain space.

So I’m a cofounder and COO of Amberdata and we formed the company last August. What we’re pursuing is not something built on top of blockchain smart contracts, but instead an operational tool to help people build on top of it. When you’re talking about a normal operational engineering, you have all kinds of monitoring dashboards to survey and adjust according to data. When we talk about cloud infrastructure, computer people no longer have to push buttons and they have their dashboard systems help them run the programs.

My background has always been in engineering, big data analytics, and marketing, specifically data-driven marketing. I grew up in Beijing and I moved to the US when I was 17, went through school and work and then I got back to China to lead an engineering team in Shanghai. As I was coming back to work in the US again, I got an email from Bobby Lee who is a friend of mine. He introduced me to Bitcoin and tried to get me to look into it. I brushed it off due to my move at the time and wasn’t that initially interested in the hype.

I learned a bit more over time and after getting past the financial craze, I started to learn about how it was a decentralized storage system. That really resonated with me. I realized this is like removing the barrier to entry for anyone to deploy an application, instantly and anywhere. I reached out to Bobby again and he offered me a job, but at that point I wanted to create a specialized company for myself.

(CC): How have you designed and structured Amberdata? What are you trying to achieve with the platform?

So we set out to build a monitoring and analytics system where it’s possible to basically abstract away the complexity of the blossoming infrastructure and data structure and make it easier for developers and operators to use in the very beginning. And then we also launched support for a few applications and other blogs to utilize the data.

We believe the future is not just one blockchain. Instead, multiple blockchains will have some sort of interoperability and we need to be a third party to help everyone gain visibility and insight into all the blockchains and their transactions. Data is going to increasingly become the main decision-maker for how to operate on and across these different systems.

We’re going to continue to build out the website with more panels and dashboards, and the data we have now we plan to slice and dice to visualize in creative ways. The more advanced features, like dealing with asset data and new blockchains, are still in Beta and we’ll be releasing them over the next few months. Amberdata’s dashboards are already customizable to be able to hone in what exactly you want to work off of on either Ethereum or Aion.

(CC): Can you tell us about how you’ve decided to visualize data this way with these types of graphs and diagrams, and how you expect this information to be more digestible in the future?

Currently, the diagrams are simple charts built off a library of transactions and operations. The amount of data we’re sitting on is astounding. We are only showing a sliver of what we have insight into because as a small team, we just don’t have the bandwidth to pump out more and more visualizations, which we’re striving to do. The data is a pain point currently for developers and entrepreneurs – it’s difficult to access and it’s expensive. So we want to become a better provider so everybody else can build more use cases in the industry.

For example, say I’m a developer and I want to create a DApp. And there are three really awesome public blockchains that I can choose from to build off of. If I want to run a particular program and I’m expecting thousands of transactions everyday, I need to know my expected transaction costs. On Amberdata, I could create a dashboard that helps me make that decision by analyzing the last six months of blockchain use. Some blockchains have lower transaction fees, some have higher throughput, and some have consensus protocols that fit my application best.

These types of choices will affect the decisions developers, operators, and even entrepreneurs and artists make when working between blockchains. Much of the focus now is on investment potential, but there are many more considerations that are revealed through data analysis.

(CC): So to round it back to one of your earlier points, you said that you imagine in the future, multiple blockchains will be used for various reasons. Can you give me a snapshot of what you think the landscape is going to look like in a year or two right now?

I’m a huge fan of Amber Baldet, who spoke at the last Ethereal. I one-hundred percent agree with her is that there is no such thing as the blockchain, because there are different types of consensus mechanisms. There are blockchains for management and some care about privacy, so I believe there is going to be many used simultaneously. Each user can choose based on application usage and what’s important to them since each will have a tradeoff.

Upcoming options to track crypto-assets

I believe that building interoperability is absolutely necessary because I don’t think much can be done in the future without communication cross-chain. People will figure this out with the amount of capital in this space and disregard the hype. There’s enough intelligent people who are passionate about building these solutions.

Thank you Tongtong for joining us today! Be sure to follow Amberdata’s updates on their Twitter and Medium pages.

Name: Amberdata

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