More than 3,000 stake pools are currently active on Cardano, each performing a vital role in monitoring and maintaining the network, while simultaneously ensuring consistent uptime of a node. Stake pool operators (SPOs), however, frequently contribute to the Cardano ecosystem in other ways as well: they update libraries, add repositories, help to develop open source tools, and often participate in shaping the network through the Cardano Improvement Proposals (CIPs) process. The Cardano Foundation therefore updated its delegation methodology in 2021 to both recognise and further encourage these efforts. They prove essential for the health as well as the resilience of the technology itself.
The series “A Spotlight on Stake Pools” compliments this focus and aids in demonstrating the breadth of the Cardano ecosystem. Each installment interviews a different SPO, serving as an opportunity to show their work while simultaneously incentivising others to join in open source practices. In the previous entry, we talked with SolPi Stake Pool, whose founders Marco and Dominik look to run an energy efficient stake pool, with part of the proceedings going to environmental-minded causes. Marco also consistently assists open source projects.
LIDO Stake Pool co-founders Stephanie King and Darlington Wleh also typify this multilayered approach to community building, often contributing to Project Catalyst as well as maintaining the Lido Nation website. In addition to publishing Lido News, a community newspaper, they regularly host educational podcasts and Twitter Spaces.
We have the combined skills to both run a stake pool and educate people about the importance of delegating their ada and supporting independent stake pool operators. We started a stake pool because we know how to do it, and participating in that way is good for Cardano.
Our mission is to provide meaningful and accessible Cardano education for everyone. To make our content more accessible, we avoid jargon and tech-speak, and instead use plain language to talk about blockchain. We also offer our content in multiple languages, and in written and audio format, for people who prefer different mediums. To make the learning more meaningful, we are building various ways for people to actually interact and use blockchain tools, in ways that feel approachable and fun. These include interacting with our pool tokens, NFTs, and “learn-to-earn” games.
Like many Cardano die-hards, our story started with the initial coin offering (ICO) in 2017. Darlington immediately identified with the vision, got the tokens, and then set up bi-annual calendar reminders to check-in on Cardano. The last check-in we would ever do was in December 2020. At that check-in, we learned that Cardano had reached the first milestone on its participatory journey: everyone who held ada could now contribute to the network security by staking.
We are big fans of learning by doing. So, naturally, we wanted to participate at all levels possible and available to us. To teach about staking, delegating, security, and how to run a stake pool, we had to first do those things. Darlington is a software engineer with more than 15 years’ experience. Half of that time was spent architecting, deploying, and maintaining Linux servers and cloud systems. And just like that, during epoch 227, the LIDO stake pool was launched on mainnet.
Before receiving the Foundation’s delegation, we had been committed to our mission for well over a year, publishing content every week, running Twitter Spaces, and participating in Project Catalyst. We had some true believers supporting our work by staking, but not enough to be minting blocks regularly. The fact is that running the pool put us in a financial deficit each month. Receiving the delegation put our pool on its feet and prompted us to go big on marketing for those three months. Now that our pool was minting blocks every epoch, people who believed in our work could stake with us without sacrificing regular staking rewards. It was a win-win situation for our pool and for those who were inclined to join us. The rewards our pool received in our margin allowed us to reinvest in the projects and infrastructure that we think will make our pool a place that delegators will want to participate in.
Did you find the Cardano Foundation delegation enabled you to either build or improve your tools, projects, or open source repositories?
We ran at a loss until the Foundation’s delegation, but with the resulting rewards of the delegation we could pay our bills. We were also able to redirect existing personal funding to content translation into Swahili as well as adding new mentees to our Ngong Road Blockchain Lab.
The increase and more stable block production, even after the Foundation left, has empowered us to put more focus into innovation on the site, including the new Every Epoch challenge open to anyone with a Cardano wallet. By answering a question or doing something on the blockchain in that epoch (and hopefully learning something), you can earn Cardano native tokens.
Since the pool launch, we’ve deployed and have become familiar with many parts of the Cardano architecture required for businesses to build on top of Cardano: DB Sync, Ogmios, cardano graphql, cardano hasura, submit-api, and wallet-backend.
We launched and maintained the Ngong Road Blockchain Lab in Nairobi, Kenya, in partnership with an on-the-ground NGO. At the lab we teach the community about Cardano. Lab participants have learned and led Proposal Assessor training programs, and have worked on Swahili translation efforts for numerous Cardano projects. We also run a mentorship program at the lab, training new developers to run Cardano and help businesses build on top of Cardano.
We publish hype-free, educational articles about Cardano blockchain technology, topics, and community every Monday—going on two years without missing a week! We recently launched a weekly podcast featuring more educational Cardano content.
We co-host more than four Twitter spaces each week, where we lead level-headed discussions with dozens of attendees about educational and newsworthy Cardano topics, and interview other community projects and contributors.
Our submit api is one of the 60 pools powering the FreeLoaderz submit-api infrastructure, and our preview testnet graphql instance is open to the public for teams building on Cardano.
We are going full turbo on several projects at the moment: Catalyst Explorer 2.0, CardanoPayments, GoAskAda, Swahili Learn to Earn, and Lido Minute Podcast.
Catalyst Explorer 2.0: Project Catalyst is a global experiment for the Cardano blockchain network that seeks to codify a way for ada holders to manage and distribute grants. If you’re building or doing something to improve Cardano, Catalyst wants to provide a way to get you compensated for your work. The experiment “lacks documentation and may differ between iterations.” Around the seventh iteration of the experiment, Fund 7, we spent dozens of hours compiling proposal data from disparate sources into an intuitive UI to help the community understand what is being built as a result of catalyst funding, who is doing the building and their history of participation in Catalyst. We’ve been funded to iterate on this effort in Fund 9. The goals are to add more data sources to the explorer, make it faster to use, add specific tools to facilitate research and share your findings privately or publicly, invite community ownership and maintenance of the data, and translate as much as possible into Spanish, Swahili, Japanese, Chinese, and French.
1694.io: Darlington was a participant in the IOG 1694 workshop in Longmont, Colorado. Lido Nation also makes it a point to be available in Twitter Spaces about 8 hours a week. One constant theme to all of the development coming through cardano is accessibility. It is challenging for the community to provide feedback, or jump in and help, or participate when information is not accessible in familiar mediums. 1694.io aims to move the needle on accessible governance information. Rather than forcing the community to wrestle with GitHub, the live alpha version of the product follows the github repo and streams the markdown and comments to a simple mobile friendly website people can read with zero clicks. As Cardano governance takes shape and grows, 1694.io will evolve to continue to be one spigot for accessible information on Cardano governance.
CardanoPayments: The goal of this open source project is to empower wordpress/woocommerce sites to install a plugin directly from the plugin store, go through a setup wizard, enter your product prices in USD or EUR, and receive payments in ADA or Hosky with automatic live exchange rate tracking. Store owners will also be able to simply define their price directly in Ada or any cardano native token as well.
GoAskAda – Blockchain Surveys for DAOs and more: Current DAO tooling focuses on binary questions and answers, creating ballots, affecting something immediately on the chain. GoAskAda wants to bridge that gap of market research and analytics of a blockchain community. Ask a question once, then segment, filter, interpret, and display results for many epochs to come. How many people who love pineapple on pizza held $hosky tokens in epoch 380? How many of my community surveyed three months ago have interacted with Milkomeda? What’s the trend of that interaction? This will be built as an open source project, we will run and manage a hosted version for teams not wanting to run the servers themselves. We will make use of Cardano Metadata as a central store of key data.
Swahili Learn to Earn: This innovative project will allow us to bring incentivized Cardano education to a huge Swahili-speaking audience in southeast Africa. A beta version of the quiz infrastructure with blockchain token rewards just went live on the site—in English. We are working with our Kenyan Lab team to write and translate educational content, quizzes, and website infrastructure to roll out this initiative in Swahili in a few months. As a result, we expect to see hundreds of new Cardano wallets in southeast Africa, all earning small amounts of ada and other tokens by participating in Cardano education and other blockchain transactions. Swahili Learn to Earn will be a core part of our content when launched.
Lido Minute Podcast: The Lido Minute Podcast is just another educational offering at LidoNation.com, but with its launch we also introduced another way for site users to participate in a blockchain economy by sponsoring podcast episodes through a unique NFT utility. Part of the reason is to find ways to monetize and support our work, of course, but a bigger motivation is tied to one of our biggest goalposts: Teach people how to use blockchain by giving them ways to use it. Episodes are available at our website or on your favorite podcast app.
Roundtable contributions: Through our aforementioned Ngong Road Blockchain Lab in Kenya, Lido Nation have committed 10 hours a month to supporting ADAO’s web base multi-signature wallet for Cardano. We contribute code (1 pull request a month), run community workshops to help teams run their own instances of roundtable (#DistributedAccountability), and watch the discord channel to answer questions and provide support for teams using the product.
Whether through games, pool token rewards, ada payment gateways, DAO tooling, or podcast sponsorship opportunities, we are building fun, relatable blockchain tools that will get people to plug in their Ledger and join the fourth industrial revolution!
The Cardano Foundation will soon announce the redelegation of its wallets, and we encourage all eligible SPOs to apply for the next round when it opens. SPOs can stay informed about how and when to apply by subscribing to updates from the Cardano Foundation.