How Marco Falke maintains the Bitcoin community

Last week, Bitcoin developer Marco Falke logged his 1,752. Committed to the Bitcoin Core codebase and overtook WJ van der Laan to become the most prolific core dev in terms of the sheer number of individual changes submitted to the project.

As a full-time maintainer of the Bitcoin core repository since 2016, Falke himself is the first to point out that many of his commits represent minor optimizations that can be integrated relatively easily into the code base, and that this milestone in and of itself is not Bitcoins makes the most important or enterprising contributors. But Bitcoin is code after all, and the work that Falke does every day as the maintainer of that code – reviewing the posts to make sure they improve the protocol, maintain continuity across the network, and organize the code to be simple. Developers to work with – is critical.

“When it comes to my contributions, I think that the majority are minor improvements, each of which is exciting for their own reasons,” Falke told Bitcoin Magazine. “I mainly continued to improve the tests and spent time on quality assurance and review.”

Probably the most significant of Falke’s development work on Bitcoin was his contributions to the testing infrastructure, which he identified early on as inefficiencies in the project that he was passionate about improving. Bitcoin’s test bed is used to review potential changes to the code base so that developers can review each other’s work and identify potential problems. Falke has devoted much of his career to improving this test environment to make this process more efficient.

“When I saw what a critical project Bitcoin Core was, I also realized that the test infrastructure for Bitcoin Core was in no way sufficient and I was motivated to improve it,” said Falke, who began to “lurk”. on the Bitcoin project in 2014 and started contributing to the code the next year. “For example, the function tests at that time were mostly superficial or even completely broken – and could not detect any problems at all. I started by fixing the obvious bugs in the tests and rewriting the test framework to use modern Python 3 instead of the then-obsolete Python 2. “

Until last year, Falke was based in New York City, working full-time for Bitcoin research and development company Chaincode Labs. But now he’s working remotely from an unknown location thanks to an open source developer grant from the OKCoin cryptocurrency exchange, a source of income that he said makes it a lot easier for developers to get involved in open source projects like Bitcoin Core work.

“Apart from my work, I enjoy getting enough sleep (mostly) regularly, as my brain refuses to work if I have less than eight hours of sleep for a few days,” added Falke. “I also try to exercise at least every other day to give my brain more time to recover and to stimulate the rest of my body through exercise.”

It should come as no surprise that Bitcoin’s most active maintainer, who is also one of the directors of quality assurance, sees the project’s notorious resistance to change as one of its pre-eminent qualities.

“A major difference is the degree of verification,” said Falke about Bitcoin Core as a software project. “Every change to Bitcoin Core must be subjected to a code review. Changes that affect critical areas (e.g. consensus or network code) or are classified as more risky must be checked by several people … Which is good for Bitcoin, as Bitcoin users do not want the consensus rules to change anything. “

As possibly the most important open source software project in the world, Bitcoin is a pioneer in many ways. From Falke’s perspective, another important aspect of the Bitcoin project is the ability to review new versions of code (provided as “compiled release binaries” or compiled versions of the application that computers can read and implement). and protects against malware infiltration. To help users authenticate the new releases, Core Devs provide “reproducible builds,” software compilations that act as instructions for verifying new code – something that Falke says is a standard method for delivering releases in the world of Should be open source software, but it is not yet.

Finally, Falke also highlighted Bitcoin’s thorough “fuzz tests”, a quality assurance technique that helps detect code errors that could otherwise lead to security breaches or other malfunctions.

“Bitcoin Core is also extensively fuzz-tested, which is also not the norm for an average open source project,” he said. “I’m already satisfied with the overall state of our test infrastructure, but I think one area with little fruit for improvement is the fuzz tests.”

Falke also sees education as a great need in the Bitcoin dev community, something he helps with where he can.

As someone whose job is the day-to-day upkeep of Bitcoin Core and who leads their story in the number of successful changes to the code, Falke is clearly happy to keep the network up and running for the rest of us.


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