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Ardor Blockchain Bootcamp Reviewed or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Master Ardor

Ardor

What a great feeling it is to challenge yourself and accomplish something that you have been meaning to do so for a long time. As an editor of Nxter for the past year, I have written much about the advanced functionality of Ardor and yet my dark secret until last week was that I had never truly explored the advanced functionality of Ardor. Sure I could parrot the concept of Phased Transactions but I have never created my own approval model. I could highlight the Asset Exchange functionality of child chains like Ignis, yet I have never issued my own asset or even bothered to see what assets are out there.

I acted like this guy:

But I really was like this:

I have that exact shirt!

But the plot twist here is that I decided to change all of this. I conquered my fear and my inadequacy and dammit I sat down and went to the Ardor Blockchain Bootcamp. Herein lies my review, and my experience.

SPOILER ALERT: the course is very well designed and has something to offer anyone, no matter their experience level and I highly recommend it to anyone who desires or wishes to be able to explore the advanced functionality of Ardor in a structured and guided manner. Yes, this course costs actual cash money, but I fervently believe that this course is a bargain for anyone who completes it as they are going to have a very solid understanding of many, but not all, of the functionality of the Ardor client.

 

What is Udemy?

For the uninitiated, Udemy is a website full of online courses, designed by knowledgeable and passionate people that are structured to teach you about specific courses. I needed to register an account with them to take this class.

Once I had passed the paywall I was in. It was comforting to read that this course ASSUMES NO PRIOR KNOWLEDGE. Nothing about Nxt, the Airdrop or anything like that. No special programming knowledge is required is plastered in the course description. While I personally enjoy programming, I get how the average plebian might be relieved to read this. This entire course is just using the Ardor client and the Ardor testnet. Oh yeah, I learned how to use the Ardor testnet too! #Exciting

 

Part 1: the Basics

The headphones are on, the calming lights are activated and I am ready to do this. The very first thing I am treated to is a calming video of the creator, Eric Funk, explaining to me what I am about to learn and what the objectives of this course are. I am excited to gain real-world, hands-on experience with the advanced features of Ardor.

What lies ahead of me is creating my own cryptocurrency, setting up my own poll using the Voting System, creating my own Asset on the Asset Exchange, issuing my own currency and more. I am actually knowledgeable about everything in part one, as is likely the average user. The first videos are likely very skippable for most Nxters – chances are that most everyone already has the Ardor client installed and an account created. No worries if this does not apply to you.

Like many Nxters my Ardor account is the same address as my Nxt account, but you know, with ARDOR prefixing it and not NXT. It was a little odd seeing an account creation process from scratch.

One thing that I heard that bears repeating, nay, tattooing onto your forehead, is that THERE IS NO CUSTOMER SUPPORT for Ardor. If you lose your PRIVATE KEY you have lost access to your account. This is the 21st century people – take some responsibility!

An interesting note is how US-centric these videos are. As our American audience knows, about the only real way to access the crypto world is through Coinbase. Oh, the horrors, the PTSD-like flashback of my account registration process with them last year. Shivers descend down my spine. Yet I persevere, I am not afraid. A critique I have is how hand-wavey the “Obtaining Ardor” video is for those who are truly beginners. The course recommends buying Bitcoin and converting it to ARDR on third-party exchanges. It reminded me of those cooking shows you see on TV: the host just magically has a pre-made version of the recipe just below the counter while you are struggling and making a mess of your kitchen trying to mix all the ingredients together. The video abstracts away A LOT of the frustration many users will experience as they try and convert fiat currency to crypto. Alas, us Americans do not have access to MisterTango accounts so the convenience of AEUR is unavailable to us. Regardless, the videos do a decent job of explaining how to fund your account with ARDR.

Now I am watching how to declare your public key by completing my first transaction. I want to nitpick how he does not explain the difference between Ardor, the blockchain, and ARDR the token of the blockchain. I am a perfectionist and such things bug me to no end. But again, I am here to learn and not to complain.

Overall the first part was very informative and complete – it exposes the core important concepts of blockchain without going into unnecessary detail. Simple and easy to follow along and all-in-all a pleasant experience. Videos around an hour.

Wow, an hour of my time has passed. I felt like I deserved something and so do you for reading this far. I present you with fuzzy kittens!

D’awww

 

Part 2: Advanced Placement

Part two of the course gets you down and dirty with the Ardor. For those only interested in trading crypto, Part 1 is enough. For those wishing to truly use and appreciate the future that is the blockchain, part two is for you. This is also where casual users of the Ardor platform can jump in and begin dabbling with the advanced functionality of the client.

Here I begin to explore the functionality of Ardor by using the Ardor testnet! Essentially I am using a real copy of the Ardor blockchain with FAKE tokens that have no real value. This way you can experiment without fear of losing tokens. From here on out the course takes place in the Ardor testnet in your browser and not in the Ardor client.

A shout out to Ardor.World – man this a great resource for anyone. In order to proceed in the course and become adroit at Ardor, I need to fund my testnet account. Luckily, you can get FREE testnet coins from the faucet links on the landing page!

It seems odd to me that FAKE testnet ARDR and IGNIS tokens are scarce – like why can I not have infinitely many fake ARDR tokens? I suspect that has something to do with how Ardor.world is set up. If I am wrong, please correct me in the comments.

Interesting to note that all the exercises for this section make use of the creator’s testnet accounts. There is no reason not to use your own, but I wanted to see if I could exactly use the same testnet accounts as Eric, the presenter, and I totally can. I feel like this does not scale with increased user activity, but hey, it works.

I finally get to experience conditional transactions. Not sure why they are called “Phased” transactions – I am ignorant of that distinction, I suspect it an esoteric computer science term. I created my first Approval Model and I saved it! Yet WTF am I limited to FIVE characters to naming things. Arbitrary limit is arbitrary, yo.

Random stock photo woman agrees with me

Continuing on now I am experiencing the Asset Exchange part of Ignis. I get it now, Ardor does not have an Asset Exchange. You and I cannot issue assets on Ardor but we can on Ignis because it is permissionless! That is sweet and totally makes sense now. This is coming from a guy who has written about this for a while now and yet it did not click until I actually created my own asset! The importance of asset control is mentioned many times here – the ability to control who can trade the asset.

Issuing assets and creating dividends is fun, it makes me feel like my own CEO. It is annoying how you need to search for assets by IDs so I hope you have handy the long string of numbers that represents the assets you wish to buy. A poorly optimized piece of UI for the Ardor client, but hey, it is what it is. Disclaimer, I understand that asset names are non-unique and that during the Ignis ICO there were many scammers out there selling assets named JLRDA. The only way to be sure you have the correct asset is by the asset ID. I just wish that there were a UI mechanism that would allow for verification of proper asset names such that I did not need to keep an ID string around.

I also get what Singleton assets are – nondivisible assets; like those absurdly popular crypto kitties on Ethereum.

Oh, for anyone who diligently does the exercises using the same testnet accounts you will need to copy and paste the passphrase like literally a million times.

Now for some real unknown waters for me: the Currency System. I have no idea how to create a currency, let alone do I know how they are different and distinct from assets. My understanding of Ardor continues to grow, as does my hair but that is not the point. The point is that I am deep in the course now, over two hours, and I am continuing to comprehend and appreciate the advanced features of Ardor.

Issuing my own currency is a little weird for me, but hey I can say that I have done it. The nuances of whether or not you want your issued currency to be “Reservable” and/or “Claimable” are subtle but powerful. Luckily the Ardor client (testnet and mainnet) are smart enough to not allow you to issue a currency with conditions that make it inoperable, but I sure wish that there was more documentation on what the significance of the categories are. I know the nxtwiki has documentation on this but it is not easy to grasp everything fully. It was fun to learn that, in essence, you can create “mineable” PoS coins and that you can enact conditions that only release the currency when they are fully met. There are many different currency types and different use cases for all of them. Admittedly this part was a little hard to follow.

The last few sections covered the many topics briefly. I created a poll whose only participants were the holders of my fake Ignis asset. Sweet – I see the usefulness of these polls. Why do I personally not use polls more often? Nxter needs polls – they drive engagement and are very easy to use. My only doubt is how can you link to them? This question is going to keep me up at night. But boy, are they useful!

The Data Cloud is cool, but documents are limited to 40K of space, good for hashes and code snippets. I understand that I can pay for more but man that seems small. Also, kudos to whoever listed Top Secret as a tag in the Data Cloud. I salute you, sir, or madam.

The Marketplace functionality of Ardor is great. I am guided through the Marketplace. The ability to list and sell things is great, but I wonder what guarantees I have of receiving the product? The same question exists on Craigslist and eBay but with them, the company can intervene on my behalf if a seller does not ship the product. On the testnet the products are fake – 5 IGNIS for a sailboat is too good to be true. LOL on whoever listed cocaine on the testnet Marketplace. The creativity and dark humor of people amuses me to no end.

Messages are the last section on my journey and it is mostly as advertised, but with an important distinction that I am probably the last person to appreciate: Shared Keys allow for third-parties to see encrypted messages to me without me giving up my Private Key/ Passphrase. That is a great point to understand and one that was here-to-before lost upon me – with them you can share sensitive data like identity documents, medical journals, certificates, whatever. Again, I am probably the last person to get this, but hey, better late than never!

And that is it, I put my headphones down. My 3.5-hour long journey is over. Before I was but a padawan, but now I am an advanced user! I am pumped and want to sell this exciting and exhilarating feeling of completing the course and gaining a much better understanding and intuition of the powerful functionality of Ardor.

I am no master of Ardor, but I am a sufficiently advanced user who now has the foundation to continue to explore and build my knowledge base. My journey is not over – it is only beginning.  It is a little deceptive to claim that anyone is a “Master” of Ardor after completing this course, but you definitely will be an advanced user.

The hands-on structure and constant manipulation of the Ardor testnet account were a great asset to me, and likely will be to anyone interested in exploring and mastering Ardor as well. A few minor gripes aside, (more on Forging and Bundlers please) and a complete lack of any mention to Lightweight Contracts, Multisig Transactions, and Cold Storage and proof-of account-ownership tokens, the course was engaging and methodical.

Nonetheless, believe that this course is very thorough and well-paced if not a little brief infrequently. The nuances of the many restrictions possible for currency and asset creation requires more of my time to fully appreciate all the different use cases for them.

Kudos to the creator for making this course. The material is accessible to all and well presented. The beauty of Udemy is that you do not need to watch every single video. You have access to all the content from the beginning and can immediately jump to the sections that interest you. Manipulating the exercises in Part 2 requires nothing from Part 1 if you already have the Ardor client installed and running.

The blockchain is the future people, experience it! Long series of sequentially hashed files are the future and now I am an advanced user of Ardor. I am prepared. My Private Key is secure, my high fives are for sale and I am ready to broadcast on Ardor, and to the world, that I am truly appreciative of the advanced blockchain features that are standard on Ardor.

Conclusion

I feel accomplished and I experienced, hands-on, much of the great functionality of Ardor. What are you afraid of when it comes to learning and personally exploring Ardor? Here, let me incline you to begin the same journey as me by offering this Nxter code course discount!

To many, a blockchain is a scary thing, an abstract concept that is hard to connect to. This is patently absurd – overcome your fear by practicing with it – it exists right now. Wonderful functionality already exists that is immediately usable for most anyone and this is just the beginning of what is to come!  There are many great features of Ardor: the Coin Exchange, the Monetary System, the Voting System, the ability to add conditions to transactions, Aliases, Currency creation, the Marketplace, all of it. But it is nothing more than words unless you experience it – dabble with it. Make it your own! With the release of this course, I believe that the time of being hesitant is over. Take the course and learn the advanced topics and concepts of Ardor. Now it is May and soon it will be June and then it will be summer and then you will be dead! Act now and learn the joys of using Ardor, you will be filled with regret of not taking a small amount of time to appreciate just how powerful a tool we have at our fingertips right now.