August in review – Knowledge Identifiers

For August in Review, we’ve been quietly working on our next product, Knowledge Identifiers, a decentralized proof of ownership of scholarly works. Knowledge Identifiers work like similar systems such as Digital Object Identifiers or Handle.net, but are not controlled by a single authority. Instead, a combination of smart contracts, decentralized file storage and database systems as well as traditional web apps will power this new permanent identification solution.

We will be making our functional specification for the development of Knowledge Identifiers publicly available, and we will post the link to this document shortly. We welcome participation in developing this new solution.

You can also follow our technical progress on Gitlab.

Other Developments for August in Review

We continue to discuss the coming decentralization of archived information with key players in the industry. We seek their expertise on how legacy systems function and how they can be improved through the use of blockchain technologies.

July 2019 in review

July may have been light on news but there have been a lot of developments which will improve KnowledgeArc.Network’s technology moving forward.

Using ARCH for covering Ethereum network costs

We have been investigating the concept of zero gas charges for our upcoming smart contracts. This means that you will not have to hold Ether, the default currency for handling any transaction fees on the Ethereum blockchain, when dealing with our smart contracts. Instead, all fees will be handled using Archive (ARCH) tokens which should aid in onboarding new users to the decentralized archive.

OrbitDB CLI

One of our developers has been working with the OrbitDB community to develop another way to communicate with the decentralized database system. For developers and technical users, you can find out more at https://github.com/orbitdb/go-orbit-db/.

Knowledge Identifiers

We’re working on a decentralized digital asset identification system using Ethereum smart contracts and OrbitDB. Knowledge Identifiers will provide an alternative to existing, centralized solutions such as Handle.net and DOI.

Such a system will provide immutable, permanent identification of digital assets, collections and even users in a trustless way, which means users won’t be beholden to a single point of failure; instead they will be able to manage their identifiers on chain with no 3rd party dependency.

This opens up exciting new use cases; identifiers will no longer simply be permanent links to an item. Instead they could potentially open up licensing, citation and other opportunities.

June 2019 in review

June was an important month in the evolution of KnowledgeArc.Network. We review some of the highlights from the month.

Whitepaper

We released our whitepaper early in June. This was an important step; even though we had been developing features and software for over two years, the whitepaper captured the reason behind KnowledgeArc.Network and distilled what our ecosystem is all about at a higher level.

Deploying our whitepaper to IPFS also highlighted our commitment to distributed technologies.

Exchange Listings

We’re committed to decentralization, distribution and democracy. Therefore, we are excited to see our cryptocurrency, Archive (ARCH), listed on two decentralized exchanges; SwitchDex and Ethermium.

We hope this will make it easier for our community to obtain Archive for ongoing development in the KnowledgeArc.Network ecosystem.

OrbitDB

It’s important for decentralized applications to move forward, and to be actively developed and supported. However, with dApps and other distributed applications being nascent technologies, not all of the underlying architecture is ready for production. As is often the case, software is still going through active development and requires a lot of resources to get it to a stable, production-ready state. This can mean that projects look stagnant even though developers are hard at work on various, related projects.

KnowledgeArc.Network is using IPFS as the underlying storage mechanism. This includes OrbitDB, a decentralized, peer-to-peer database system, which uses IPFS for replication. OrbitDB is a powerful technology and will be one of the cornerstones of the new Web3, similar to what MySQL did for the Internet v1.

OrbitDB will be KnowledgeArc.Network’s decentralized storage layer, storing metadata and other supporting information. The ecosystem will be able to replicate these OrbitDB data stores as well as combine them to form larger databases.

OrbitDB is under active development. That is why we have contributed time and resources to assist with the success of this project. Some of our work includes co-contributing to the HTTP API and field manual as well as maintaining the Go implementation of OrbitDB.

The KnowledgeArc.Network Working Group

We have started a working group, a place for advisors and experts to discuss ways to decentralize archiving, peer review and journalling.

During June, we invited some project managers and librarians who work in the archiving space to join our working group and we welcome these new members. We hope to expand this group of experts and look forward to seeing what insights they can provide to this new ecosystem.

Archives on the chain

We have all heard about the blockchain, or at least we have heard about bitcoin and other digital currencies which experienced another cycle of hype a couple a years ago. As with the cycles before it, the hype died down, and some made profits while others were left with little (or even no) value after investing in poorly managed crypto projects. How can archives on the chain rise up out of this situation?

Archives on the chain - Photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash

At KnowledgeArc we believe that both cryptocurrency and the blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency, can be used for many purposes in the real world, for instance, opening up scientific research and discovery. One area where blockchain can make a difference is within the open archive area. The technology currently use to store, share and open up knowledge is not particularly robust and most archives are easily manipulated, making them neither immutable nor permanent. They are also not really as open as we would like them to be. By using new technology like blockchain to build our archive ecology, we believe we can change the archiving to be more open, distributed and democratized.

Making Archives Open and Secure

First of all we believe we can make the archives truly open. Today we are dependent on Google, Amazon or other proprietary actors to store the large amounts of data that we want to archive. As long as we depend on these actors, our archives are not be truly open because our information lies in the hands of a third, commercial party.

We believe that a the solution to this problem is to store the information using p2p (peer to peer) file sharing software. This is a distributed software similar to BitTorrent where files are spread over the network. This would make centralized third parties redundant, and our information will still be safe and available. By doing it this way we return to the beginnings of the internet where openness was the norm, only with new and powerful technology.

But this is not blockchain technology, so where does the blockchain fit into archives on the chain?

The blockchain is the next step in our archive solution, and the step that we mean would solve the safety issues that we are facing in today’s archive solutions. By referencing information about the storage of assets and metadata in an Ethereum smart contract it will stay safe, be impossible to change and will be permanent. This creates a new level of safety within our systems, providing true immutability and permanence; a major contrast to the unsafe archives we have today.

Examples of information that could be stored on chain include handle, DOI or other item identification information, unique author IDs and other data which is important to keep safe and immutable.

Saving Money?

Blockchain, cryptocurrencies and p2p technologies democratize the archiving space. Anyone, will be able to run a low cost archiving node on a desktop computer, laptop or even, possibly, their mobile phone. Archives on the chain will be able to “push” information to other archives, consolidating disparate data in easy-to-digest, federated databases.

In-house servers or cloud infrastructures are no longer needed for simple archiving. Instead, funding can be focussed on building better user experiences, making information easier to find, consume and share.

Decentralized marketplaces will provide competitively priced backup solutions, peer review, journaling and other archive-focussed solutions.

As centralized services become redundant, more democratized solutions will drive prices down. Many of today’s archiving requirements will become automated or will only require a one-off payment to store something permanently.

 Read more about the technical work we are doing on building an archive on the chain.

Taking back ownership of your data

The convenience of hosted solutions for digital assets and archiving can hide a major problem; do you control the data you own? KnowledgeArc.Network’s decentralized architecture ensures you are in full control of your data.

Do you really own your data?

Hosting digital assets in the cloud has become a popular and cost-effective solution. But what happens when you decide the host you are with is no longer providing the level of service you expect?

You may think migration is as simple as your existing host dumping the data out to a backup file and making it available for your new provider to restore. Unfortunately, the reality isn’t that simple; closed source applications often have proprietary formats which make them difficult or even impossible to import into other systems.

On the other hand, some open source systems are customized, but the customizations might not be publicly available, so backups only capture a subset of your data. For example, there are archive hosting providers who have built multi-tenant data storage on top of a single application. Databases in such a system cannot simply be lifted and re-implemented on other infrastructure. This results in broken features and crucial data being excluded from the system.

Even if migrating from one system to another runs smoothly, complex backups and time-consuming debugging are often required. Export/import tools need constant maintenance, but with niche products such as digital asset systems, maintenance of these ancillary tools can often be ignored.

A distributed solution

The KnowledgeArc.Network platform makes centralized storage obsolete. Data is replicated in multiple locations whilst still being owned of the original creator.

Replication allows application managers, developers and system administrators to build a variety of user experiences on top of the data. There is no need to set up complex data structures, import and export data, or work around missing data. Instead, the user simply replicates an existing database and works directly on top of it.

Data can also remain private even though it is stored in a public way. By encrypting data, the owner is the only one with access to this information and can grant other users varying degrees of control. For example, perhaps certain users might only be able to read data. Others might be able to update existing data but not delete it.

Centralized vs decentralized

Recently there has been a move to more centralized archiving solutions. Instead of disparate systems talking to one another or federated systems being established to support a “go-to” repository of information, a number of governments and bureaucracies are pushing for everything to be centralized. This results in a stagnation of innovation and, more importantly, a single point of failure.

Figure 1: Legacy Archives

KnowledgeArc.Network decentralized databases will capture the best of both worlds; every archive is unique but their records can easily be merged into a single, federated archive. This federated archive can then be replicated further so that multiple user interfaces can be created on top of the same data.

KnowledgeArc.Network captures the best of every model. Decentralized, independent databases provide institutions with full control and ownership of their data. Federated archives simply merge distributed databases into a single data store. And, finally, the entire community can build their own user experiences on top of any archived data by simply replicating an existing database.

Figure 2: Decentralized Archive

Decentralizing Attribution Using Po.et

Successful management of copyright is integral to an academic repository. Attribution, citation and licensing all depends on clear terms of use as outlined in an archived item’s metadata. Decentralizing attribution using po.et and blockchain technologies is an effective method to achieve this.

Current Implementations use centralized methods to store copyright and licensing terms and these terms can be easily changed or manipulated at any time. What is needed is an trusted, immutable ledger of timestamped items, stored in a way that is accessible to all.

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Decentralizing DSpace Backups using IPFS

With the Archive token (ARCH) deployed and https://knowledgearc.io live, the team is now focussed on implementing our decentralized archiving ecosystem.

In the beginning…

KnowledgeArc.Network is already under development. We have spent the past year tokenizing various academic material. Using a combination of ERC721 non-fungible tokens, IPFS and OrbitDB, we have been developing an open-source, distributed archiving ecosystem that can be implemented by anyone. Using our Archive token, community members will be incentivized to participate in the creation of a truly open, decentralized academic platform.

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