“Deploy, deploy, deploy”: Dispatch from the OMI Tech Meeting


The OMI held its inaugural Technology Meeting in New York City on September 13th. The timing was apt. There’s a certain energy around the fall. Beyond it being the season when students leave summer behind and begin focusing on their studies, there’s also a general sense of activity ramping up across all sectors. Whether the fall manifests in energy in university settings or in the business sector as they move towards the all-important fourth quarter of their fiscal year, the unifying theme is a bias towards action.

It’s appropriate, therefore, that Dan Harple (see my interview with him here), opened the proceedings with the exhortation of “Deploy, deploy, deploy.”

Dan Harple, Context Labs

Dan Harple, Context Labs

From Dan’s send off, the OMI did what it does best: provided a setting and format for interested parties to present and discourse around the big, hairy themes; those that represent both threats and opportunities to the music industry.


The focus of this event can be summed up as being concerned with standards. Interestingly, as was brought to light in one of the presentations, it was the music industry that — as it so often does — devised the first iteration of these standards. Here, once again, we see the music industry playing the role of the canary in the coalmine, and predictively showing other industries their future.

This is the appropriate call to action, and consistent with what the OMI is increasingly facilitating. That is, this tech meeting, specifically, and the OMI, generally, is less about building new things, and more about interoperability… facilitating information sharing across data sets.

This methodology of interoperability results in increased deployment in a manner that scales and accelerates — via network effect — with each iterative inter-operative moment.

Members listen in during the OMI Tech Meeting presentations.

Members listen in during the OMI Tech Meeting presentations.

Some Notes from my “sketch book”:

Gavin Nicol, Context Labs

Gavin Nicol’s presentation, bluntly, blew me away. Using only a handful of slides, Gavin presented a lifetime of learnings related to the various systems, substrates and architectures that have led us to this moment in time, and — most importantly — the perspective with respect to the efficacy (or lack thereof) of these gestures that only become visible with time.

In summary, this win/lose dynamic is a wildly interesting thought experiment, the net of which bears presenting here:

  • Must be open

  • Must be practical

  • Must be as simple as possible, but no simpler

  • Must be easy to understand by users and developers

  • Must support familiar tools and tech

  • Must represent consensus of all participants

  • Must play in the larger industry, or be prepared to be a niche

  • Must learn from and leverage what came before

In fact, these points pretty well sum up not only the meeting, but the OMI, generally.

Dan Middleton, Intel

One of the recent signers of the OMI MOU is Intel. Obviously, Intel’s participation in the OMI is significant, as so much of their work relates to powering systems. To this point, Dan Middleton, from Intel, introduced Intel’s Sawtooth Lake.

A deeper dive around Sawtooth Lake will appear in this space shortly, but, in short, Sawtooth Lake is Intel’s open-source distributed ledger. Sawtooth Lake is an outgrowth of their distributed systems research, which began in 2014. Built on Python with C++, it is a modular and “plug and play” substrate, that will likely provide a useful foundation for the deployment of OMI-related projects.

Intel/Sawtooth Lake made clear that — consistent with the OMI approach — they are not out to disrupt standards, but are focused on deploying standards that are more interoperable

Jesse Grushack, Ujo

Other presenters included Jesse Grushack, from Ujo, who addressed one of the ongoing concerns related to distributed ledger work: when will we see something real?

Jesse’s POV is that we haven’t seen a lot of core apps in this space as yet because of lack of infrastructure, but it’s getting there, and the recent Ethereum conference provided a showcase.

One crucial point from this presentation relates explicitly to interoperability. Specifically, there is interoperability between blockchains (Bitcoin can, for instance, be brought onto the Ethereum Blockchain via the utilization of math proofs.) In essence, this results in a consensus formation algorithm, or something resembling a Turing Complete Virtual Machine; i.e., something that can run any computer program, and is powerful enough to implement any program defined in a similarly computationally-complete system.

Jesse Walden, Mediachain Labs

Jesse Walden, Mediachain Labs

Jesse Walden, Mediachain Labs

A second Jesse — Jesse Walden — from Mediachain (who I profiled recently in my Forbes column) discussed the concept of collaborative attribution around search, with respect to media. In this manner, one single identifier works across different media, and becomes an information transmitter.

The result, according to Jesse, is a “whitelisted filtered view of the world you trust.” This approach, in essence, builds off Postel’s Law of: “Be conservative in what you send, be liberal in what you accept.” This is a sort of robustness principle, and is, of course, crucial to interoperability.

Marcus Cobb, Jammber

Marcus Cobb made the vital point that we’re all here for the artists, and that this is the spirit of the OMI. One of the things that delights me about the OMI, is that it is — building off the IDEO Design Thinking approach — very artist-centric, as evidenced in their recent OMI Summer Lab.

Benji Rogers and Chris Tse, DotBlockchain Music

Benji Rogers has made clear his drive is an all-consuming one toward helping artists, but he ceded the floor to Chris Tse, who updated the group on the progress of DotBlockchain Music, and provided an overview of its status and technological underpinnings.

Mark Isherwood, DDEX

Mark Isherwood from DDEX provided great context on current activities related to the definition of standards, and how DDEX integrates with them. An important point was the fact that major labels won’t take on new data without ERN, which is a form of release notification.

Joe Conyers, Songtrust

Joe Conyers from Songtrust made a key point in his presentation on issues around the practice of retitling in relation to music publishing. Joe stated that this practice of retitling would not need to happen if smart contracts were widespread.

Daan Archer, Context Labs

Daan Archer from Context Labs suggested that the ideal state can be summed up by a statement he attributed to Zoe Keating: “Create a recording, register it somewhere secure, be done with it, in order to get paid what I’m entitled to.”

Workgroups convene for the first time.

Workgroups convene for the first time.


Once the presentations wrapped, the attendees divided up into a series of workgroups geared to begin doing a deeper dive on the following themes:

  • Metadata Interworking

  • Ledger Services & Platform Architecture

  • Core Functions

  • Micropayment Services

  • Identity, Security & Audit Services

In keeping with the spirit of deploying quickly, the groups are operating under Chatham House Rules, and so while individual participation will remain anonymous, rest assured we will be chronicling the outcome, even as we hurtle towards our next meeting for the October Policy Summit.


George Howard