DEV SPOTLIGHT: Francis Bacon said "knowledge is power." Then there's too much power.
Our Developer Spotlight this week comes all the way from Deutschland. That's right, we finally got the chance to sit down with none other than @enigma_dev.
@katyadee: Let’s start with an introduction -- who are you? How long have you been coding? What do you want us to know about you?
@enigma_dev: Hey, I am Malte aka Enigma. I have been coding since... I think 4 years? But I have ben obsessed with tech much longer and tried basic coding stuff before. I am really interested in cryptocurrencies and machine learning
@katyadee: How old are you, if you don't mind me asking?
@enigma_dev: I am 16 now.
@katyadee: Oh wow! So you've been coding for four years, but obsessed with tech your whole life?
@enigma_dev: Yes! I had a small Palmbook in class 2 I think.
@katyadee: What's a PalmBook?
@enigma_dev: Small laptop with 1.2 ghz.
@enigma_dev: Pretty neat for starting.
@katyadee: How'd you get into coding from there?
@katya_dee: Woa, woa, woa. Back up. A scissor into a monitor?! What's the story there? And uh, after you explain that bit of history, I seem hear this story of people losing interest quite a bit... Why do you think you lost interest?
@enigma_dev: Well, I was young, was more interested in gaming, reading, playing the trombone... As for the scissors, I was probably bored and used something laying around.
@katyadee: I hate to dwell on this, but...You just stabbed it for no reason? That's wild, friend.
@enigma_dev: I was two years old, Katya. Babies do weird things!
@katyadee: I certainly never did that. Pivoting a little bit... What’s the coding space like in Germany? Do a lot of people use Repl.it there?
And actually, how'd you discover Repl.it?
@enigma_dev: To question one: We have a big coding community in Germany, but it feels kinda rude. Well, to this point, I have met exactly one guy using Repl.it in Germany. And I met him on Repl.it. If that says anything. In fact, our school has blocked Repl.it, no idea why, which has me using TOR. CS in school isn't really up-to-date. We will learn Java, which is pretty dead (don't kill me on that, fellow Java users!). As for how I discovered Repl.it? Simply said, Google.
@katyadee: You know, it's weird. I hear that Ireland and Germany are both the most technologically forward countries in the EU, but I rarely hear anything other than CS education isn't very good in either country. Why do you think that is?
@enigma_dev: Well, Germany missed the point of supporting computer science in class for almost 10 years. CS starts in class 11, and as I said, with outdated languages. Japan started with CS classes in 2002. The network speed in Germany is really bad, too. We often have only Edge connection or ISDN lines- 270 kbits. SO, in my opinion, I can't agree with Germany as being most forward in IT.
@katyadee: That's super weird! Am I wrong about it having a reputation as being the "Silicon Valley" of Europe? Like I said, I know Ireland has a similar reputation... but I don't find them to have good infrastructure there, either. Is it an EU-wide issue, maybe?
@enigma_dev: Mh, maybe. We have technically developed cities, but many devs say France is more developed than us. Name one well known German IT company, for example.
@katyadee: Name one French one, to be fair.
@enigma_dev: Sure. I can.
@katyadee: That has worldwide recognition! As for Ireland... Stripe?
Maybe Ireland really is the ticket.
@enigma_dev: Ubisoft is French.
@katyadee: Oh... Yes.
@katyadee: Well, that's all gaming.
@enigma_dev: Yes, thats true. Well for other IT... no idea, really.
@katyadee: So... let's go back to coding a bit. You mentioned you know R. How'd you end up learning R? And could you explain what it's used for, for people who are total newbies?
@enigma_dev: Well, I ended up learning R by going to a local bookshop and searching for another programming book. Accidentally found R, but I have, sad enough, never bought that book.
@katyadee: What about it called to you? R feels a little obscure for someone who's not handling a lot of data.
@enigma_dev: Well, at this point I was just wanting something new...and I heard of it being good, SO that was it.
@katyadee: What do you think makes a programming language good though? That could be said for a lot of them, right?
@enigma_dev: For the folks not knowing R... R is commonly used for statistical calculations and drawings and sometimes for machine learning. Find my soon to be continued tutorials for more information about it!
For me, a language is good, when it is understandable. When the syntax fits something I feel like missing in what I can achieve with the languages I speak. And also, it seems to be used by an active community. So, don't learn COBAL. Nobody speaks it, trust me.
@katyadee: So you're into machine learning... What kinds of projects are you doing with R?
@enigma_dev: Well, I had a lot of fun with an AI estimating population in the future, using population count data from over 300 countries over an age count of 20 years. Here is a picture.
@katyadee: That's really cool. What gave you the idea for that project?
@enigma_dev: Well, I want to compare the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere and development of population. It is something that will bother us in the next years and I want to develop a model being able to calculate co2 levels in the future.
@katyadee: Machine learning to understand climate change...now that's ambitious for a 16 year old. What are some challenges you've encountered with building something like that?
@enigma_dev: Well, for a , the sheer data size. I have 32 TB of storage in my rig. And that feels way too little. And b, the complexity. What I am trying to calculate is really complex, because even understanding what exactly causes our co2 levels to rise and how it changes in the next few years is really complex.
@katyadee: Where do you get this data from? And are you doing other climate change related programs?
@enigma_dev: For example, I have three sheets of paper for calculating how more people cause more CO2-...thats how complex it gets.
@katyadee: This is really awesome. why wouldn't you share something like this with the Repl.it community? Is it because it's still a work in progress?
What are the different variables for calculating how population increases CO2 levels?
@enigma_dev: This data gets from multiple sources... NASA, satellites, and government weather services... I think its the NOAA in the US and so on.
Yes, I am also engaging in German podcast, "Fridays For Future," and at the moment joining the Young Greens. That's the youth organization from the Green Party. I am not sharing this program because of its sheer size of data, how unstable it is...it crashes way too often, and because of it being unfinished.
As for my calculations...per example, I can, easily say: higher population means more power needed means more power needed means more cars means more CO2. Other things: good economics means more co2, cause companies produce more. I could go on and on and everybody would be bored. Of course, it is much, much more complicated in the real formuli.
@katyadee: What are your plans for when it's done?
And is environmental science something you're looking to study when you get to uni?
@enigma_dev: Probably not, because even this info, at this point that I'm at right now, makes me a bit depressed. Having to work with that data all day would make me extremely sad. Seeing how it all goes down the hill is really frightening. In fact, I am dreaming about studying IT security when I get to uni. You know, Francis Bacon said "knowledge is power?" This is too much power for me.
@katyadee: I am in total agreement with you there. It depresses me too.
So... onto something a little less depressing! What’s NothingSoftware? How did you swing a job in QA?
@enigma_dev: Well NothingSoftware is rather a joke. It is a company doing exactly nothing at all, founded on Repl.it. Its only product is a bad looking Shell-OS. Where did I forget removing it? It was never really serious.
@katyadee: Hahaha! Oh my. I thought it was real. I saw it on your Twitter, I think. I thought it was real.
@enigma_dev: Well, definitely a real company I worked in was Frunana. A food startup I co-founded in class 9. TBL7 [Enigma's crypto-focused company] is not really a company either... because founding something as a minor is practically impossible in Germany. But we have real products.
@katyadee: What's the difference between a "real company" and a company that's fake, but has real products?
@enigma_dev: Well, Frunana was a registered company. TBL7 only exists on paper...or on hard drives (depends).
@katyadee: What do you mean that TBL7 only exists on paper? Do you guys not create tools? Could you share a bit about the story behind it?
@enigma_dev: By saying only exists on paper I mean, it's not an official, registered company. Of course we have tools, ideas, accounts, friends who work for us though.
@katyadee: What are you guys creating?
@enigma_dev: Quoting a friend: Things so complex I have no idea how they work. Joking. We are working on a new encryption, using many different layers Like an onion, but more and long, really complex encryption blocks. Also, playing around with crypto currencies, ways of investment.
@katyadee: Can you describe the encryption you're building?
@enigma_dev: Yes sure. The encryption I am designing... While in cryptography i prefer designing something- because cryptography is an art and not just normal IT. Have you ever heard of the matryoshka? A doll in a doll in a doll and so on. The cryptography I am designing works the same.
We have layer of security, encrypted with a 256 BIT SHA-like encryption, after it... 512 bit SHA-like encryption... gets complex all the way down. Currently working on fighting with the sheer data size.
@katyadee: Could you explain a bit more about what that means, and go a bit more into your process?
@enigma_dev: It's coded in Python, C++ and C. What exactly shall I explain better?
@katyadee: How many people are working on it, for example?
@enigma_dev: At the moment, four.
@katyadee: Wow! About how much time a week do you spend on it?
@enigma_dev: Not much, like four hours or something.
@katyadee: And you haven't built your own coin yet, right?
@enigma_dev: No, haven't done that yet, plan is pulling it December or January into testers, full access in March. But that was top secret...
@katyadee: Oooh, very cool.
@enigma_dev: Yes, indeed.
@katyadee: Can you talk more about it, or not really?
@enigma_dev: Not really. Maybe another time. Sorry. I have, in fact an NDA for most info.
@katyadee: Oh man. That's serious. Well... Let's talk a little bit about crypto more generally. I remember when people used to use crypto to actually buy things... that might be a little bit before your time. What do you think about the proliferation of alt coins as short term investments, versus people actually using cryptocurrency?
@enigma_dev: People still use crypto to buy things. I bought a coffee two months ago with Litecoin! Well the proliferation of alt coins is a good thing, because with every altcoin arriving, there was more diversity. Of course, there exist an so big diversity the internet needs a service listing all cryptocurrencies.
Many company are jumping on the crypto train... Facebook, the Citigroup etc. That all is a chance for crypto to get a much wider audience. So... I support that. A bigger problem is the many crypto currency platforms emerging from nowhere, getting a lot of money and then disappearing... take Quadriga CX. That market will probably regulate itself sometime.
@katyadee: Why do you think that happens?
@enigma_dev: Because people will get to use the famous crypto platforms because they trust them. Any exit scam only makes is more realistic....
@katyadee: Ah, yeah. For someone with an interest in blockchain, what programming language would you recommend? You’re using C++ right? What are some strengths and weaknesses?
@enigma_dev: Good question. C++ weaknesses are its sheer complexity of syntax. Strengths include the great OOP functions, the low compile time and the great memory layout in my opinion. What I don't like as well is the poor garbage collection.
@katyadee: How does that affect blockchain development specifically?
@enigma_dev: Well, the low compile time saves me a lot of time, that's maybe the most important thing about it.
@katyadee: Would you recommend any other languages for blockchain dev?
@enigma_dev: Python seems to be neat as well.
@katyadee: Nice! Ok...Just a few more questions for you...
What repl are you most proud of? Why?
@katyadee: Can you walk me through a bit about it?
@enigma_dev: Dystopian monopoly Monopoly in Dystopia! What would be the state of board gaming when, after the fall of currencies (which will surely happen, mark my words!) Bitcoin emerges as the world's money is an economically-depressed dystopia? It would be this game: Dystopian Monopoly.
@katyadee: Okay, cool. What was it like working with other Replers on that project?
@enigma_dev: It was a really great feeling, having a group I could work with, learn with and laugh with. I learned working with some async and some python multi-repl connections, which I had no idea of before. That is why I am so proud of it! Not because only of the products, but because of the experience of coding it together, pulling on one string.
@katyadee: Do you guys still work together?
@katyadee: Oh no! Well... let's close it on a good note. What are you most excited about with the future of crypto?
@enigma_dev: Well, crypto getting to be accepted wildly is something I am excited of.
@katyadee: Why do you prefer it over fiat currency?
@enigma_dev: Because of its anonymity and it's decentrality. No credit company can rate me based on what I spent online with crypto, etc. Sending money of crypto takes not long. Sending money from a private bank account to another one can take up to three days, and I have no idea why.
@katyadee: Do you think that it'll ever be abused?
Another thing I guess i'm curious about is...do you think most people misunderstand crypto/blockchain? What's the attitude around it in the EU?
@enigma_dev: Of course, and it happens today. Attacks happen (Bitcoin gold) and will happen again. Many older people see blockchain as something evil, for criminals and hackers.
@katyadee: Is it commonly discussed in Germany?
Or still kind of underground?
@enigma_dev: Our financial minister said: "The issue of a currency does not belong in the hands of a private company, because it is a core element of state sovereignty. The Euro is and remains the only legal tender in the euro area."
...which tells the attitude of politicians here. No, cryptography is not discussed commonly in Germany, though there was a discussion last month in our Parliament about Libra.
@katyadee: Any closing thoughts?
@enigma_dev: In the end, I want to address anyone, yes anyone, reading this article, being young, having a dream, an idea, everything. Live your dream. Code it. Change the future. Found a company. It's important. You have nothing to lose while trying. It is the right step . Code it, start it, talk about it. If everyone lived that, the world would be different. Code your dream. Now.
I gotta say, I really enjoyed that interview. I'm going to sleep now, its ten here. See ya around sometime.
@katyadee: I'm very happy to hear that! It was great chatting.