On the 10th of July the first BlockchainHub Meet-Up in Ghent took place at KIP in NEST. Some fifty people attended for the presentations and about fifteen stayed for discussions afterwards. The reactions were overall very positive and many hoped there will be follow-ups. The two main topics addressed on the Meet-Up were sharing economy (Francis Chlarie, Hexalina) and rights management in the music industry (Raf Ganseman, CGI), alongside an introduction to blockchain technology (Thomas Marckx, The Ledger). People attending were diverse, although it should be noted women and ages 45+ clearly were in the minority.

Presentations

We started at 17h with a short introduction to BlockchainHub by Jean-Luc Verhelst and to the new initiative in Ghent by Joris Luyckx. Because of traffic jams, Thomas Marckx couldn’t make it in time, so Francis Chlarie started the evening with some basic concepts of blockchain. His talk was going to be about sharing economy (and Hexalina’s aim), so the introduction was rather high-level for people who didn’t have any idea of what blockchain was. Nonetheless, people were assertive and asked questions from the start.

When Francis spoke about the Hexalina project, his main concern seemed to be about the unfair way sharing economy platforms work. These platforms (like Airbnb and Uber) keep most of the value, while this value actually is not created by themselves. Instead of a sharing economy, Francis proposes a collaborative / cooperative economy, where builders of platforms are also contributors and vice versa. Hexalina wants to make this possible through the construction of four API’s: registration operations, reputation management, value calculation and distribution, and governance (like voting, decision making and conflict resolving). This project is called XFAIR and will be enabled by blockchain technology.

After Francis, Thomas Marckx began his introduction to blockchain. This was an amusing and interactive presentation which was much more adapted to blockchain newbies. His definition of blockchain was “a decentralized, immutable database”. This may cause a shift from the internet of information to an internet of assets. This evolution, especially through smart contracts, may bring about the Internet of Things (IoT): a total automation of everyday things such as payments, administration and consumption.

The final talk was held by Raf Ganseman and zoomed in on rights management in the music industry. He mentioned the Global Repertoire Database, a project to centralize all rightsholders in the music industry, started in 2008, but failed in 2014. New experiments with disintermediation and interoperability began and resulted in Ujo Music, Mediachain (which already has been acquired by Spotify), the Open Music Initiative and Dot Blockchain Music. The future for those projects looks bright with protocols like IPFS and open source projects like Hyperledger, who will make blockchain technology an important part of the music industry. Raf’s presentation can be found here.

Discussion

After the three presentations, we had two group discussions: one about the p2p economy and one about the music and film industries. While only about fifteen people remained, almost everybody proved to be an active participant and wanted to share thoughts, opinions and criticisms.

One of the most difficult questions concerning the p2p economy proved to be how to operationalize value in such an economy. Not everything is quantifiable, but there needs to be a quantitative measurement to make trade easier. Can blockchain-based coins be a solution for this? And can they co-exist with other kinds of trade and investment systems? A p2p economy is not about charity, it is meant as a true alternative to the traditional free market economy. The attendants were cautiously optimistic about the postive effects technological progress will have on the adoption of the p2p economy. Since many locals in Ghent have a rather lively p2p interest (all the way into city hall and university), maybe a larger event about this is desirable. No shortage of topics to talk about!

When it concerns the music and film industries, all are aware of the messy business it is today. Rightsholders are scattered all around the globe, with different laws in every country and intransparant ways of tracking who owes what to who. Gatekeepers today don’t instill trust and appear to be inefficient in a lot of ways. Database and rights management on the blockchain could bring the necessary transparancy and trust to all parties involved. Nonetheless, pirates won’t disappear and that’s okay. If legal platforms appear to be cheap, user friendly, qualitative and diverse, the urge to pirate will most likely decrease with most people.

All in all this first BlockchainHub Meet-Up in Ghent proved to be quite the success. Therefore it will certainly be continued!