A Spotlight on Stake Pools: ABLE

15 March 2024 • News & Updates
Denicio Bute
Community Content Lead

Explore how ABLE stake pool uses Cardano to empower African communities

The Foundation’s “A Spotlight on Stake Pools” series provides an opportunity to recognize the pivotal role of stake pool operators (SPOs) in the Cardano ecosystem. Each SPO maintains network decentralization through operating nodes that validate transactions and create new blocks. Their active participation ensures a robust and secure infrastructure that fosters trust and resilience within the Cardano blockchain while empowering stakeholders to engage in network governance.

In each installment, we explore insights from a select SPO, highlighting its mission and commitment to furthering open source initiatives. In the previous entry, we examined how Sweden-based Ola Ahlman taps his technical expertise and passion for open source projects to operate the AHLNET stake pool. Ahlman’s contributions to the Cardano network have resulted in a community vote designating AHLNET as an official stake pool for SundaeSwap ISO and Scooper. In addition to his work as a core developer of the popular Eternl wallet, Ahlman’s social, economic, and ecological worldviews reflect Cardano’s role as a public, accessible infrastructure that aims to support new economic and social systems.

We now feature the ABLE stake pool, operated by Mike Hornan, which similarly operates with a mission to improve financial accessibility for global citizens—in this case, specifically those living on the African continent. Powered by bare-metal servers, ABLE mobilizes SPO rewards to educate African communities and provide financing for equipment, making everyday work more productive by facilitating the purchase of helpful tools. ABLE is also a proud member of the Cardano Single Pool Alliance (CSPA), an organization formed by individual SPOs within the Cardano ecosystem.

The alliance generates several benefits for its members by enabling collaboration and knowledge sharing. In particular, the CSPA advocates for the interests of single pool operators, amplifying their voices and ensuring their concerns are heard within the broader Cardano community. Furthermore, the alliance promotes fairness and transparency, encouraging adherence to best practices and ethical standards among its members. Overall, participation in the CSPA enables single pool operators to strengthen their position, enhance their operational efficiency, and contribute to the continued decentralization and growth of the Cardano network.

Why did you become a stake pool operator?

I was already a big fan of Cardano and the academic principle behind this blockchain from the start. Alex Lafleur (one of our operators) who had been in crypto for longer than me asked me if it would be possible with our current knowledge to build a decentralized stake pool where decision making would be done collectively between several operators from the same pool. It was an interesting cooperative concept and I thought "why not?". We then assembled a team of six operators with sufficient knowledge of linux and then taught them the "Cardano way". What in the end, with time and a lot of testing on the testnet, became the ABLE pool that we operate today.

My main personal objective, and what motivated my choice, was first of all to prove that with the infinite accessibility to knowledge that the Internet provides us with, it was possible for everyone and anyone with enough "willingness" to build a secure and functional stake pool in a decisional structure that would be as close as possible to the cooperative model that we currently know on the market.

We also wanted to create a 100% transparent pool model. For which each expense and income would be justified by a metadatum label 674 attached to each transaction in the wallet of our pool, allowing total decentralization, and at the same time, allowing everyone to question these expenses.

What is the mission of your stake pool?

We have 2 main objectives with our pool:

  1. Simplify as much as possible what may seem obvious to know for a software engineer but not necessarily for everyone by producing understandable infographic material which explains the Cardano blockchain as well as its governance for everyone. Such as the CIP-1694 in a nutshell, and the Cardano-Cli cheat sheet/study sheets. Also the French translation of CIP-1694 "README.fr.md" on the Cardano Foundation GitHub repository. We will use two of these four documents to complement our second objective.
  2. Officially declared as a non-profit company in the eyes of the Canadian government in order to use all of the income from the pool (currently in accumulation and trackable with the ada-handle $able-pool) to buy tools (agricultural, fishing, etc.) for Africans in small villages around Abidjan to enable them to be more productive in the profession they already practice and, at the same time, improve their family income. One of our operators, Mitoumba, will serve as an intermediary to organize the local purchase (on site) of the tools and to put us in contact with the charitable foundation of the community who are in need.

Can you give us a brief history of your stake pool?

After several months of testing on the testnet, we joined the mainnet on 26 October 2022. We minted our first block on 4 January of this year when we only had less than 100k in stake. It's an amazing feeling to know that your pool ticker will live forever on the blockchain from that moment on. Subsequently, me and Alexandre Lafleur (one of our operators) began to take a great interest in the governance of Cardano (CIP1694) and after having read and reread it many times, I decided to make a line graph of it to allow people to better understand it while Alex took care of its translation.

Then a few days later we lost a 44k ada delegate which alone constituted half of our total stake. I was devastated. In short, it started my day very badly. But for some reason I still can't understand today, Ada Whale and the community have come together to delegate to us and allow our pool to forge blocks consistently every epoch. It gave us huge visibility and added to the popularity of our first infographic; Tim Harrison of IOG contacted me to work on improving it with his team as well as Kevin Hammond who I'm a great fan of.

Today our stake pool is nine months old and I am very lucky to have six operators with me who work for free because they firmly believe in this project as much as I do.

How did the Cardano Foundation delegation impact your stake pool operation?

Receiving the delegation from the Cardano Foundation allowed us first of all to have better visibility with the Cardano community. We will not hide the fact that it became more inviting to delegate to a stake pool of 16 million in stake. Given that most of the team works absolutely for free (except electricity from the servers), takes no margin, and that all the rewards of the pool from the minPoolCost go directly into the wallet of the Africa project, it is mainly our delegates who have benefited from this delegation.

Personally, I find it extraordinary since it provided them with additional rewards for supporting us from the beginning. Not having enough time to market our stake pool due to our workload, the Foundation’s delegation allowed us to have some new delegates, assuring us that, at the same time, we got to produce blocks at each epoch. At the risk of repeating myself, everyone can follow this completely transparent wallet ($able-pool adahandle) whose each transaction is justified by a metadatum label 674 (invoice) which explains each of its expenses or income.

Did the Cardano Foundation delegation enable you to build or improve tools, projects, or open source repositories?

Of course. During the delegation of the Cardano foundation, we were able to complete the translation of the CIP-1694 into French so that it is also "machine readable" on GitHub and we have taken the necessary steps to have it merged into the repository of the Cardano Foundation. It also allowed us to follow the commits of the original document in order to keep the French version constantly updated for the French-speaking community of Cardano. We were also able to produce the Cardano Study sheet part 1 and part 2 which explains in detail how to use the command line interface of a Cardano node which is listed in full in the diagram we produced before (Cardano-cli cheat sheet). During the delegation, and thanks to this new visibility that the Cardano Foundation allowed us to have with the community, we were able to assemble translators (Italian, Spanish, Bulgarian, German, Arabic) who are all SPOs. In exchange for the translation of our documents into their respective languages, we added the logo of their pool in the header of these pages to thank them and give more collective visibility to their stake pools. I must also thank them here for their contributions:

How would you summarize your contributions to the Cardano ecosystem?

Our contribution as a stake pool at the operational level can be summed up in two words: Reliability and Decentralization. We (me and our five other operators) contribute to securing the Cardano network using six server nodes in six different locations. They are all bare-metal and self-hosted by each operator. We have assembled these servers to minimize any single point of failure. Being a big fan of Murphy's Law, we have mounted our servers in places where power failures, internet connection loss, etc. that could cause the loss of a relay would have no impact on the others. And in order to mitigate the offline times of this one, we also have batteries (duration of autonomy equal to one hour and 30 minutes) which allows to absorb the possible peak current of the electrical network and to give the necessary time to start the emergency generator in case of electrical failure. We also have a backup available for our BP which is also bare-metal and excellent coordination between operators if a problem occurs with one of the servers.

Our organizational structure and the decision making is done collectively between us six. We do zoom meetings in order to make these decisions for the best of our pool, its project, and our delegates.

Are you currently building something that you would like to share?

I am currently working on part 3 of the Cardano-cli Study sheets. It will explain in detail everything about the upcoming governance of the next node versions. Given that we are currently testing on the Sancho testnet, I made the decision to re-modify part 3, which would explain the SPO part of the vote, to include everything about the DReps Votes, the modification and/or construction of the Cardano Constitution as well as any metadata related to these steps. I make sure on my documents each time to consider the fact that it must imperatively be understandable for everyone, including those who have not had a deep university study as a software engineer. It takes a lot of time and I often have to take several hours to put each page together to make sure I don't overlook any details that might be difficult to understand. I also have to update several translated documents that are not yet up to date on our website. And Alexandre Lafleur and I then prepare a little something that unfortunately I can't talk about at the moment.

To stay updated on ABLE, follow @Hornan7 on X (formerly known as Twitter) or visit the pool GitHub.

The Cardano Foundation encourages all new stake pools, as well as those pools with novel initiatives, to submit the single form.


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