Thank you to MaxioPool, as well as a few other pools launching immediately into mainnet, I have spent the last couple days looking into the on-chain pooling protocol and looking at a few different pools, and I have some thoughts. Maxiopool was kind enough to let me into their testnet9 implementation so that I could quickly build up a decent sized farm and see what pooling will be like after a few months – not just on the first day.
The first thing I noticed, both in testnet9 and mainnet, is that the process for plotting to an NFT for pooling is quite simple in the GUI. its easy to create multiple NFTs and pick between them when creating portable plots. And it is easy to plot out to multiple NFTs at the same time. I don’t think users are going to have a major support issue here as long as they understand to some degree what they are supposed to do.
So let’s talk about that for a second because I think that there is going to be some confusion that comes from the terminology at play here. Particularly “NFT” and “Portable Plots“. First, NFT; this is a term that has become very popular in the mainstream media over the last year and although it has a very specific definition, that is being met by the pooling NFT created, in casual parlance it now means a transferable token that represents something of value. Basically the usage that the art world has come up with for NFTs has become the common definition of an NFT. This will give the impression that they can be bought and sold. This will not be aided by the terminology “portable plots” which along with being tied to an “NFT” suggests you can sell the whole lot. But you cannot, because those plots and NFT are still tied to your farmer private key. They are technically both correct, the NFT is a token on the blockchain that is not spendable, and portable plots are portable between pools – not users. I think the solution here is going to be clear, concise documentation accessible directly from the client. The tooltips are inadequate to explain this, I think.
The experience of signing (or buying, really) an NFT is dead simple and its easy to start plotting to one right away in the GUI. I think there should be a mechanism to automatically hit a faucet and grab a mojo in order to create the NFT, but that could also be solved with clear instructions. Once I began plotting to the pool the experience had a lot of potential but there are still some rough edges. I was able to start outputting plots and contributing but the GUI didn’t refresh until I did a View -> Reload on it. And when I switched pools on one of my NFTs the process happened smoothly in the back end (and really quickly) but I didn’t see it reflected in the GUI until another reload.
While there is a lot of information directly in the GUI, what the pools will be able to offer as a value add goes over and above. I have been checking out Maxiopool’s yet-to-launch dashboard for their testnet pool and it really is nice. Gives a lot of information on historical information as well as consolidation of a bunch of data from multiple harvesters on the same NFTs. Its all accessed by LauncherID and doesn’t require you to give them any personal information. They also have a couple of tools for plotting and farm management launching and this is another good angle for deciding between pools – the value add software. I am hoping to reduce this advantage through my improved Windows client project but until that is complete we will be relying on the pools to fill the gaps between what the Chia client offers and farmers want. I expect most serious pools to offer something similar, and we will be checking the quality of the offerings once they have had a chance to iron out any initial quirks.
I expect these small issues to be taken care of by the time the protocol launches publicly or shortly after, but it is a reminder that even if the plots do not change (still a 25% chance they do before 1.2.0) there is some frustration with using beta functionality in software. My recommendation to people is that you do not jump the bandwagon and start deleting solo plots to join one of the operational pools today. Pools like Maxiopool that are focusing their efforts on testnet and getting everything just right for launch have the right idea I think. This isn’t a sprint, its a marathon. In the meantime check out our series All about Pools to see if any strike your fancy.