In our TSC member profile series, we introduce you to the members of the BSV Technical Standards Committee (TSC) – those who construct the processes and standards that allow the rest of us to build on a powerful platform and within a highly professional ecosystem.
In this edition of our series, we speak to committee member Andy Mee – Director of Product and Solutions Strategy at nChain and author of the Paymail standard.
|Industries: Financial Services, Transport, B2B Data Services, Telecommunications|
Roles: Solution Strategist, Solutions Architect, Technical Architect, Developer
Andy Mee participated in the two original Bitcoin SV Wallet workshops sponsored by Bitcoin Association. He was keen to contribute to a wide range of technical standards for BSV and discussed with Steve Shadders about creating a standards committee. This led to the introductory workshop, which was the birth of the TSC as it is today.
Mee is interested in the governance aspect within the TSC. He joined the TSC to gain the experience of setting up a professional standard organisation from scratch. He is also very interested in the creation of a library of existing standards.
He is an author for the Paymail Standard and original author of the protocol. He is also the Sponsor of the invoice-based payments protocol Working Group, which is currently in the drafting phase.
Founded in 2015, nChain initially focused purely on the research and development needed to drive enterprise application of nascent blockchain technology. Beginning in 2019, custom solutions and commercial applications were offered to clients to serve their data integrity needs.
Today, nChain offers a suite of commercial products and services, leveraged by its portfolio of over 250 patent-pending or granted inventions.
nChain’s technology platform Kensei provides seamless access to commercial blockchain infrastructure and applications, reducing the need for organisations to undertake complex development work or develop in-house blockchain expertise.
With experience in software development roles ranging from project management to pre-sales and systems architecture, Mee has tried his hand at hacking, hustling and operating. And yet, his technical nature settles the issue.
‘I identify with the hacker role, as that’s where my career started. I did a hybrid degree of computer science and electronic engineering and went into software development which I did for around a decade before I moved into a consultancy in London. Although my role at the consultancy included aspects of the ‘hustler’ and ‘operator’, I didn’t enjoy that as much.’
‘When I joined nChain, I took on the position of solutions architect before I became director of product and solutions strategy.’ As his current role is more about the high-level understanding of how nChain’s IP research and technology matches up with demand, it seems a natural progression of his career in technology.
After being in consultancy for eight or nine years, Mee reached the point where he wanted to move onto something new. ‘It was back in 2017 before BTC had activated SegWit. There wasn’t a Bitcoin Cash or a Bitcoin SV. Bitcoin was very hyped, so I thought, if you’re going to take a plunge into something new, this would be an ideal opportunity.’
Considering his aptitude with technology, Bitcoin’s melting pot of economic factors and security models aligned with experience.
‘Although I’ve looked at distributed systems and their consensus models in the past, Bitcoin’s was novel and interesting.’
Mee attended the first wallet workshop Steve Shadders put together in collaboration with the Bitcoin Association. ‘The first one had about 12 participants, and the next one 50 or 60. Although the roundtable discussions between 50 industry participants was enormously productive, we realised it wouldn’t be able to scale it within the same format. We decided to break it down into small groups focussed on a shared problem with the goal of standardisation of the solution.’
The model of standardisation resonated with Mee right from the start. ‘Standardisation is incredibly valuable for the growth of a nascent industry. It promotes interoperability, which was lacking in even the most basic of Bitcoin applications, wallets.’ He explains that running multi-signature wallets would require all parties to run the same wallet from the same vendor.
In contrast, he uses email as an example of how global technology should work. ‘Whether someone’s mailbox is on Gmail, Office 365 or Fastmail, they’re able to interoperate. Because SMTP and IMAP are standardised across all mail servers, email can be used as a global tool. The same should count for Bitcoin wallets.’ Interoperability is a win for everyone. As utility is enhanced, everyone has a better experience.
Back at the first wallet workshop, Mee wrote PayMail along with Ryan X Charles, Miguel Duarte from MoneyButton and contributions from the group. ‘We’ve got a panel of eight or nine great reviewers. They’re all really engaged and it’s a pleasure to work with all of them.’ He’s also the TSC sponsor for the Invoice-based payments group that’s introducing established payments processes to the world of Bitcoin – issuing a purchase order, receiving an invoice in return, making a payment and getting a receipt. ‘When you do it that way, it will be easy to integrate Bitcoin payments with existing accounting systems, in doing so lowering the friction of adoption.’
Although he is involved in two Working Groups at the moment, his strong suit is the TSC’s governance. ‘I helped to mould the TSC’s own processes, and I’m part of a subset of the TSC that’s determining the library of ancillary resources that should accompany each standard. We’re also thinking about how to publish the standards to make them most easily discoverable.’ When it comes to ISO standards, you’re required to dig out quite a hefty pile of money to be able to use the standard you’re interested in, plus the 10 or more it’s built on top of. This makes it prohibitive for small-to-medium sized companies. ‘With the BSV blockchain TSC, adoption is our primary metric, not revenue, so we take a different, open-access approach.’
Within the BSV ecosystem, nChain is perceived as an authoritative voice. And yet, the group itself is steering clear of forcing their ideas on the industry. ‘We want other companies in the space to participate. The TSC is a great help here, as none of the standards can be finalised without buy-in from the industry.’ Using SPV as an example, Mee mentions the light client programme they’ve launched to wean people off the idea that everyone needs to run a full node. ‘We’re convinced that Bitcoin nodes belong in data centers to be operated by people who are mining the chain.’
While nChain is encouraging the adoption of SPV by releasing such tools, the standardisation of SPV through the TSC results in a collaborative process where others can measure the solution and propose alternatives.
As there are different roles within the TSC, Mee sees the opportunity for different types of people to participate. ‘The committee is a small group and their role is governance. They shouldn’t be setting the roadmap, but consulting the industry to present an industry-unified view. We need to do everything possible to get a cross-section of the industry involved to ensure a high level of confidence that each standard is truly a representation of the industry’s wishes, instead of being pushed forward by a small interest group.’ If you’re interested in governance and in accountability, the role of committee member might be a good fit.
If you’re passionate about a particular standard, Mee recommends you consider joining a Working Group. ‘These are people from industry who come forward to identify a particular need – for themselves, as well as the whole space. The committee assesses these submissions, and if we agree that it’s aligned with our goal of promoting interoperability and growth in the ecosystem, we give them the go-ahead.’ The TSC helps them to recruit other working group members and provides them with the tools they need, like a project coordinator, technical writers, and even guidance on IP and licensing. ‘So, if there’s a particular solution you’d like to see standardised to improve Bitcoin, submitting a proposal or joining an existing working group is the place for you.’
As author of the standard, Paymail is close to Mee’s heart. ‘I designed it as a core with ever more extensions, and I’d love to see that grow within working groups at the TSC.’
When it comes to the TSC itself, he wants to see it integrate with partners like the BSV Academy so it can become a useful resource for people learning the space. ‘Although the TSC’s goal is standardisation, adoption and growth, education contributes to its goals. I’d like to see it become the go-to resource for learning about application development on top of BSV. I’m not talking about teaching people what a block is, but about how you can achieve a particular goal on top of BSV.’