The Graph: A Personal Touch

Lou
6 min readDec 22, 2020

With the Curator program nearing its completion and the experience still fresh in my mind, I’d like to put a few thoughts to the proverbial paper. Over the course of past three months, I’ve been led on a study of how the new Web 3.0 paradigm will supplant the current version two. This process, already underway, is made possible through the work of thousands of software engineers, mathematicians, economists and ultimately, philosophers and is focused entirely on building a solid foundation. To that end, it is important to know how particular projects will impact the ecosystem, one of which is The Graph, aiming to build a decentralized indexing protocol for organizing and efficiently fetching data from blockchains and other storage networks.

Why do you believe in The Graph? What inspires you?

The Graph’s team recognized the pains of indexing disorganized on-chain data and the potential of an indexing protocol well ahead of everyone else in this space almost 3 years ago, and pioneered the research and development of a decentralized indexing protocol as a result. Amazing team with really great presence on the overall blockchain scene as well as in The Graph community.

An event of note: Ethereum indexing was in all essence a proof-of-concept that indexation from on-chain smart contracts work in an fast, secure and cheap manner. The Graph being chain-agnostic, applying the same logic and operations to all Layer-1 chains speaks for itself. The Graph is on-track to becoming a fully fledged marketplace for indexing and querying data supplied from all chains.

Why is The Graph critical to Web3?

The Graph Protocol presents a fourth major advancement in blockchain evolution. In 2009, Bitcoin introduced the concept of a decentralized store of value. In 2015, Ethereum introduced decentralized programmable smart contracts. In 2017, Chainlink proposed a solution to the blockchain oracle problem with its decentralized oracle network and currently, we’re already experiencing the start of the decentralized indexing protocol being used in the entire industry.

Web3 is a new paradigm for the web with no clear-cut definition and direction yet. Focusing specifically on the blockchain, it is clear The Graph will play a pivotal role in the intertwined space of different protocols and projects in which data is created and exchanged through one of the most essential services already in use in current Web 2.0, data indexation and querying.

Which subgraphs are the most critical for Web3 and why?

At the moment, with both The Graph and Web3 evolving and spearheading new solutions, this is impossible to guess, though few points of interest can already be identified that will play an important role in the coming years. Open APIs and data formats, distributed databases, identity and reputation system (a user account, of sorts), evolution of governance models and introduction of various marketplaces.

I personally believe that decentralized finance will continue to blaze the trail when it comes to the introduction of additional financial products and assets, which will become more accessible and used by the general crypto-population. This data will not only need to be fetched out the chain, it will need aggregation and transformation before it will reach the same scale of information density presented in the real world. This is also the biggest potential I see for The Graph’s subgraphs at the moment. On the same note, the same DeFi actors will also continue to further evolve and experiment with governance models to contribute to protocol transparency and democracy, and will require indexation to present their efforts and to provide certain guidelines for the rest blockchain projects looking for further decentralization.

On identity and reputation projects making ground, I believe formal reputation system will eventually replace the informal reputation condition we’re currently relying on, such as overall project sentiment, community presence, behavioural past track. Reputation building is important, and formally quantifying it will become the norm in the coming years.

Furthermore, supply-chain information will be important in the coming years. As a culture, we are striving towards higher sense of environmental responsibility, which entails local production and distribution of products to ease the burden of transportation costs and pollution. As such, supply chains on-chain data will provide an important foundation towards immutability and truth when it comes to the disclosure of starting and ending point of any given product. I recognize the bias, but a simple analogy would be that it is important to see how a particular fruit was grown, packaged, maintained and distributed before reaching my table plate.

What have you learned during the Curator Program?

My very first experience with The Graph was indirect with the introduction through a colleague, who predicted the colossal market The Graph could one day serve. As such, I was introduced to The Graph through the Curator program, aiming to understand from personal experience on how it might alleviate indexation problems currently faced in the blockchain space.

What I’ve learned so far is that curating is hard. When you’re dealing with the importance of subgraphs and what data they’re fetching from smart contracts and forwarding to the end-user, you need to take it seriously. Not only do you need to understand in-and-out what a specific product and its smart contracts do, you need to walk backwards and translate the structured end data the user wants and work out how you’re going to transform the functions and calls happening in smart contract transactions.

This led me to better understand the high-level protocol of The Graph — particularly how Subgraph Manifest, GraphQL Schema and Mappings come together to define a Subgraph. Majority of the work is spent after structuring the Schema, when you need to map and transform Ethereum functions from the Manifest into workable data inside the Mappings.

This has given me greater understanding of what makes a Subgraph great and it comes with great responsibility not only to yourself through the mechanism of a bonding curve, but to the protocol itself, which acts based on Curator signalling designed to tell Indexers which Subgraphs are high quality and in demand. Bonding curves as such are an important aspect tying the Curator economics together, and so I spent a lot of time playing out different scenarios when it comes to signalling.

What are you excited about when curation goes live on mainnet?

I am excited for how curation will affect the indexer side of the protocol and I regularly follow the discussions made in #indexers channel to see how Indexers are planning to tackle curation and allocating their tokens through a number of different subgraphs and particularly how this will affect Delegator rewards. Curation mechanics are currently in development, but the economics are mostly known and are tricky to say the least.

While Curators cannot be slashed in the same way Indexers can for inaccurate or malicious behaviour, they can experience a loss of a portion of their signalling allocation through several mistakes, such as:

· Short term signalling, where Curators are subject to 2.5% deposit tax into a bonding curve

· Mis-signalization, where Curators deposit tokens into a bonding curve of a subgraph that is neither complete, complex, accurate or in demand.

A potential curator should also needs to take into account the hype around a certain subgraph, enticing them to signal upon a subgraph which may ultimately benefit the early Curators that signaled. Down the road, I imagine there will be multiple custom-built subgraph evaluation software by 3rd party actors that will quickly analyse newly deployed subgraphs based on completeness, complexity and accuracy criteria and signal on them as a form of speculation, in which individual Curators may be left out entirely by way of a financial de-stimulation. However, if focused on the long-term signalling, this should not present much of a problem.

Final thoughts

The overall experience was quite overwhelming and it was amazing to see such a vibrant community of diverse outlooks on decentralization and blockchain evolution. I would like to thank the team and everyone in the Discord channels for not only being there, but for having awesome debates and philosophical stances, asking the right questions and helping each other understand the deeper technical levels of the protocol. Thanks!

RESOURCES
The Graph: https://thegraph.com/
The Graph Blog: https://thegraph.com/blog/
The Graph Network: https://network.thegraph.com/
Discord: https://discord.gg/vtvv7FP

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