Developing on a technology as new and bleeding-edge as blockchain can be an interesting experience.

Just ask blockchain development group No Rest Lab’s CTO, Galen Danziger.

It’s definitely pretty weird at times,” he says. “Sometimes there are certain docs that are missing or we’ll run into something that looks like it’s there but it’s not working quite right. We’ll ask a team member from whatever blockchain it’s in and they’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah, this is coming next month.’ So it definitely feels like a new technology while we’re using it.” 

Still, the experience has its upsides. 

“There are still some things that are works in progress. Many things are changing a lot,” he says. “But it’s a lot of fun.”

All your blockchain needs

San Francisco-based No Rest Labs handles any and all blockchain-related development tasks a project might need. They’ve worked on wallets, exchanges, smart contracts, implementing forks and even building blockchains from the ground up.

Galen got into blockchain back in 2014, when he was living in San Francisco in a house with a bunch of other people. One of the people who crashed at that home was a young kid named Vitalik Buterin. Galen recalls, “He was talking everyone’s ears off about how we needed smart contracts and how you could execute verifiable code.

Buterin showed off concepts, virtual machines and scripted language for them. Galen says, “It was pretty cool.”

No Rest Labs typically begins a project with a bit of back and forth with the project’s team, trying to figure out what the client actually wants to do. Once this is ascertained, they move to the planning stage before putting something solid together and building it out.

No Rest Labs works with all blockchain solutions, depending on what the client is looking for. If the project needs a lot of transactions, for instance, it might not make sense to push an application out on Ethereum. Other things factor into the decision, too. “One thing that we’ve really found is that choosing a platform is sometimes a business choice rather than a technology choice,” says Galen. For example, a project might receive investment from a certain platform. Another factor is the region as some platforms are more prevalent than others- NEO in China, IOTA in Europe…and ICON in Korea.

Though working with blockchain can be fun, it can also be challenging. One of the technology’s biggest advantages, its immutability, can also be its biggest headache. Once you’ve put out a smart contract, it’s there, and you can’t change it very easily. Galen says, “Small errors can really backfire on you.”

You have to take security much more seriously, too. “You can’t really reverse a transaction or do much like that,” he says. “So if you’re building an exchange and somebody compromises a wallet address, you could lose a lot of funds. So there’s a lot of time spent on security, a lot of things that you wouldn’t ordinarily do in any other application.” 

He adds, “There are code reviews everywhere, but the level of audits, like going to an external firm to read the code, I haven’t seen that anywhere but in a blockchain application.”

No Rest Labs is affiliated with venture capital firm NueValue Capital, with whom it jointly runs the Bangkok-based blockchain accelerator MouseBelt (“The name MouseBelt came about from improvised clothing for a big meeting one day. A testament to always having a computer mouse handy,” says Galen). They’ve also recently established Blockchain Center San Francisco, a co-working space that doubles as the group’s headquarters. Galen says, “We’re trying to throw a lot of events, get more people in the community involved, trying to get more people in the space talking.”

ICON

No Rest Labs has worked with ICON, helping sports betting DApp ZenSports and viral marketing platform AC3 build on the platform.

What was it like building on ICON?

Once we started to write code on ICON, we all really liked it,” says Galen. “We’re definitely fans of ICON’s smart contract, SCORE. And the T-Bears test environment has been a pleasure to work with.”

“SCORE in general is also pretty nice,” he adds. “Just the decorators on the functions that will explicitly indicate whether read or write is kind of nice just to immediately know how it’s supposed to be used.”

He likes ICON’s built-in contract registry, which makes upgrading smart contracts easy. The built-in audit from the ICON team is also nice, he says, since it gives you a second set of eyes on your code. He approves of ICON’s choice of Python, too. “Generally, Python is a nice language for smart contracts,” he says. “It’s a more developed language than Solidity, which the overwhelming majority of smart contracts are written in.”

The ICONx tool is pretty nifty, too, he says. “You could do contract calls or read a smart contract with an UI,” he says. “I guess it’s pretty akin to Etherscan, just being able to test some contacts at code that are already out there.”

Of course, no platform is perfect. ICON can be a bit confusing to the uninitiated – don’t be surprised if you stumble a bit getting your environment set up exactly how you want it.The first time I tried to deploy [a smart contract], it wasn’t really clear that I had to go through an audit by the ICON team so I pushed it out onto the MainNet and had no idea why I couldn’t call things successfully at first,” says Galen. “And then eventually I realized I had to get in contact with the ICON team and then see it’s actually undergoing an audit.”

Building actual projects

Though the bear crypto market may have hurt Lamborghini’s sales, it seems to have had a positive effect on the development side. Galen says that whereas before, everyone just wanted to make a token sale, people now actually want to build out projects. “It’s been a lot more interesting,” he says. “We’ve worked on less token sales and more applications. So, I kind of prefer it in terms of how interesting it is to work on things.”

Might 2019 be the year we finally get a “killer” use case? Galen’s not so sure, but he does say some things that were worked on last year are getting more and more adopted. He says, “You’re seeing more use cases for tokens outside of people printing a bunch of money and selling it off to people.”

Blockchain must get easier if it’s going to earn widespread adoption. “If I had to tell someone they had to install a Chrome extension, write down a passphrase on a piece of paper, never loose it and then put money in their wallet and paste in an address, that’s really, really foreign,” explains Galen. “Even just to send money around, which is the primary use case, is kind of tricky.”

Nonetheless, No Rest Labs will spend 2019 doing what it has always done – working on projects and building out new things. Galen is particularly excited to work on some of the MouseBelt projects. He says, “I’m definitely excited to work on some more interesting projects as well as some larger, existing projects that need to get that next boost to really see mainstream adoption.”