A summary of the ANO Ask Us Anything

Authority Node Operators (ANOs) are tasked with operating the server infrastructure that decentralizes the Factom protocol and also charged with developing ways to further the protocol. At present there are 21 ANO’s appointed of the intended 65.

Over the weekend, the first 18 ANOs took over the Factom subreddit to answer your questions on what it’s like to be a node operator, how they plan to advance the protocol, what it’s like working with Factom Inc. and much more!

The ANOs are from various regions around the world and have very diverse backgrounds; so without further ado let’s dig in!

Why did you choose Factom over all other protocols and would you still select Factom is you were not being given FCT to run an ANO?

The Factoid Authority: Factom has the potential to be the most influential blockchain out of all the current protocols; the use cases are virtually limitless and legacy systems are easy to integrate. We want to help Factom realize this potential and that’s why we chose Factom over other protocols. We would continue to contribute (and have) without remuneration.

Block Party: Factom is one of the few projects with a narrowly-defined, enterprise-ready focus, which we believe will eventually lead to be one of if not the first blockchain projects to see adoption at scale. We were invested before we became an ANO, if we ever ceased being one, we would still remain invested after.

HashnStore: The Factom Protocol is a brilliant idea, which picks the best from the crypto industry’s decentralization with known vested interests and possible means to ditch rogue actors, while remaining inherently pro-business. Companies get to keep control of their processes, while leveraging the consensus on data that the Factom blockchain makes possible, and cheaply at that! That vision is more realist than the one conveyed by Ethereum, for instance.

Matter of Fact: The brilliance of the two token system and the design of the M3 governance are two reasons of why to choose Factom.

How much does it cost to run a Factom node?

Blockrock Mining:  A good question, but difficult to answer. For traditional masternode coins, the answer is pretty straight forward: You buy the collateral at some known price as proof of commitment to the coin, and then get proportional rewards. You also need a server. These two make up your cost, along with your time to set up and maintain the node. With Factom, the cost is not fixed. You pay mostly with effort and commitment.

Can you tell us a little bit about the server infrastructure of an individual ANO?

Crypto Vikings: A quick introduction to the typical ANO infrastructure:

Each ANO has two «Authority identities». Each identity is hosted by the software «factomd» on a server and basically only consists of a set of random generated numbers which makes up its «public» and «private keys». By «moving» these keys an operator can «move an authority server» around from physical (or cloud) server to server. Most ANOs are operating their two nodes on cloud-hosted servers.

In addition, an ANO must also have at least one backup-server used for updating the main servers. ANOs are also hosting systems for monitoring their nodes; with alarms triggered if they become unresponsive etc.

In your opinion, do you prefer higher market awareness for Factom or working towards more developer use cases?

The Factoid Authority: We can’t really do without either and we need to spearhead both aspects, that’s why it’s important to have a diverse group of ANOs. Right now, more market awareness would be great, but we won’t attract long-term investors and participants unless we build a thriving ecosystem with strong fundamentals first.

Block Party: We believe the current bear market is actually a blessing for protocols like ours that are light on marketing and heavy on pursuing enterprise adoption. Factom was never going to win the empty hype battle that drove the recent bubble. But, we can use this time during which hype is, thankfully, playing less of a role in the growth of any individual project to lay the groundwork for actual adoption — which we believe will be the foundation of the next uptick in the crypto market’s value, rather than pure unadulterated FOMO.

Blockchain Innovation Foundation: We need both. Which is being worked on as we speak. Some of the ANO focus on software development, like us, and others are pooling resources to engage in proper market communication. We looked at Factom Inc. in the past and believe they could have done more, but is it up to the community now, not just Factom Inc. If we all work, we all will benefit.

Matter of Fact: There needs to be a balance of this. For longevity of the Factom protocol, the developer use case is essential otherwise market awareness can be short lived if it’s pure speculation

Why do you and your team at Factom Inc. think we have yet to see any notable usage on the protocol after this many years in development?

Factom Inc (Paul Snow): I believe we are one of the greatest stealth projects to operate in public, and to have delivered a blockchain protocol to the public. I am not sure anyone else could be so successful at such a stealth strategy if they tried!

 believe this was a combination of projects like Ethereum grabbing the attention of so many, of a crowded field of parties making unrealistic claims, of the clear and real advantage of the core blockchain approach. Add to the churn some of the rules under which we operated and continue to operate to maintain compliance with the SEC, IRS, and regulators. Rules ignored by many in this space.

I believe going so many years without the ANOs hurt us. And I believe one of the advantages of being a public blockchain with a spring of capital to fund infrastructure and the core technology was denied us until Q2 of this year.

For better or for worse, we at Factom Inc. took the approach of targeting enterprise applications. Adoption by enterprise is slower. Adoption is even slower by large enterprises for projects with far more resources behind them than most expected, and we are no exception. Where we have had boots on the ground on the projects, like DHS and the Medical Wallet (supported by the Gates Foundation) we have had great traction. Now usage is building, ANOs are joining the effort, and there are increasing opportunities to push the protocol, and leaving “stealth mode” behind.

Given the recent unstable nature of the network, what are some ANO’s estimations on timelines getting their products to market?

Federate This: We hope to launch our product in November. Scaling was initially a concern, however we are able to batch transactions and spread them out during peak loads – this alleviates the problem. We also expect by November to have the protocol in a more stable state.

Blockchain Innovation Foundation: There have been a few issues, yes, but nothing that has hold us back moving forward. We have and continue to bring new products and integrations to the market with our partners.

What frustrations/setbacks have new ANOs recently felt in regards to development/marketing/compliance/etc. that has offered some perspective into how Factom Inc. operates?

Block Party: We’re in uncharted waters with crypto, which means that it’s a regulatory minefield. Factom Inc. has been VERY careful about staying on the right side of compliance. “Fail fast” is a great approach in some situations, but when it comes to legal compliance, failing fast is game over. Factom Inc’s unwillingness to be more aggressive on marketing the token is tied up in these compliance issues, which is frustrating in the short term, but ultimately has built a strong foundation for future development.

Factomize: If I had to pick one thing, I’d say having to budget when your funding source is a volatile cryptocurrency. Factom Inc. had to do that to a degree and I suspect it was troublesome. It lends substantial credence to the design of the Factom Protocol with its two token system, which allows entities using the protocol to avoid holding cryptocurrency and effectively budget for usage.

LayerTech: We didn’t realize how much of our protocol development is being held back by legal concerns. We knew it’s a big part of the equation when we applied to be an ANO and allocated resources accordingly. We underestimated the amount of work that needs to be done because it seems every roadblock we encounter as a community has its root in legal concerns.

Federate This: We felt the limitations of funding, holding us back on things we want to do. Also compliance is an issue as we’re launching a global product, so laws of one jurisdiction may not apply in another. It requires a bit of thought.

As a community member with a full time job, I can’t exactly join an ANO, but would love to help in whatever way I can. What do you think is the best way for community members to help advance the protocol? How can we channel enthusiasm for Factom in a productive way?

Canonical Ledgers: We love this question!

  • You can help create a culture of optimism by participating positively on Reddit and Discord and other social media platforms.

  • You can share ANO announcements, updates and products on social media and with any potential clients you may know in real life.

  • You can keep an eye out for potential applications for the Factom protocol and share your ideas with the community or with specific ANOs who you think might be interested.

  • You can vote for FCT to be listed on exchanges for ones which utilize public polls for their decision-making.

  • If you have writing skills you could consider offering to contribute the occasional article to Factomize, FactomBeat or other community marketing outlets.

  • You can review community documents, whitepapers, product fliers, etc. and offer feedback and check for typos.

Read more about the Factom Authority Node Operators and the awesome projects they are currently working to further the Factom protocol or to catch-up on the rest of the AMA check out the links below! Read the full ANO AMA here.