A Spotlight on Stake Pools: SM₳UG Stake Pool
The Cardano Foundation’s inaugural piece in the series “A Spotlight on Stake Pools” was with SHARP Stake Pool, operated by Kyle Johns and set up during Haskell testnet. SHARP contributes substantially to the C# library—used by many developers in the ecosystem—and makes building on Cardano simpler for .NET developers.
We now turn our focus to the SM₳UG Stake Pool, operated by Rémi who talked us through why he established SM₳UG and what that ongoing journey has been like.
With pool.pm, SM₳UG has created a new type of block explorer with innovative characteristics. The way events are displayed in a timeline, for instance, presented an entirely new feature for the Cardano community. Likewise, the manner in which pool.pm displays wallets from certain organizations was both new and forward-looking at the time of launch. It allows people to see critical information in real time, from funds to the number of wallets and even to the delegations from the Cardano Foundation. Similarly, with pool.pm SM₳UG transformed how NFTs were displayed. These innovations resulted in an added layer of transparency and engagement, which the Cardano community was both receptive and appreciative of.
Why did you become a stake pool operator?
I have followed the blockchain ecosystem with great interest since I was captivated by the Bitcoin whitepaper linked from a Slashdot post the first years after its release. Beyond the technical achievement, what really appealed to me was the decentralization aspect, empowerment of people over centralized entities, and the possible separation of money and state it could lead to.
Since then, I have always wanted to be involved in the ecosystem but didn’t for professional, practical, and legal reasons. What convinced me to take the leap with Cardano is a combination of key elements:
Firstly, Cardano's fundamental workings and principles. In my professional development activities, after a long time working with low level imperative languages in the embedded systems domain, I made a switch in the last few years to functional and pure languages and discovered all the benefits of their way to handle side effects and state mutations. I became really interested in Cardano when I made the link with its eUTXO and Plutus functional approach compared to Ethereum ones. I also realized that proof of stake (PoS) could allow me to be involved in the security of the blockchain in a much more active way than proof of work (PoW).
Secondly, it’s related to Cardano's scientific method of development. As an engineer, I am receptive to the scientific and rigorous approach of Cardano. I was not involved in Cardano before the Shelley hard fork, but I already appreciated the scientific contributions to the field, the potential, and kept an eye on it.
And finally, there’s the Cardano community spirit. The launch of Shelley testnet was when everything clicked for me. I was impressed by the implementation of the node in Haskell, read more about Cardano in detail, appreciated the roadmap, and decided to join the testnet. I really enjoyed the testnet, the excitement and the collaboration between operators. I tried to be as active as possible in the Telegram Cardano Stake Pool Best Practice Group, helping others and learning a lot along the way, and therefore naturally decided to start my SM₳UG stake pool during the first hours of Shelley mainnet launch.
What is the mission of your stake pool?
It may seem like a tautology, but I personally consider the mission of my stake pool to be fully dedicated to the Cardano ecosystem. With SM₳UG I have twin goals: First, I wish to contribute to Cardano’s decentralization, performance and security. But beyond that there’s a communal aspect to my pool, too. It acts as a place to share knowledge, information, statistics, as well as report issues, and gives me an opportunity to support Cardano’s tooling and open source ecosystem. I also want to foster Cardano adoption and contribute to the community’s identity by creating Cardano-related GIFs and memes.
Could you give us a brief overview of your stake pool’s history?
After being tested and improved a lot on Shelley testnet, my SM₳UG single pool was launched during the first hours of Shelley mainnet. It made its first block on 22 August 2020, then produced blocks every epoch since October 2020, reaching 1,000 blocks on 1 November 2021 and 2,000 blocks last month.
It started as a cloud based pool, but now runs mainly on dedicated bare metal servers hosted in geographically dispersed data centers from several providers in multiple continents to improve its resilience and performance. It is currently operated from France where I live, is running with five relays in Germany, UK, Finland, US and Singapore, and has automatic block producer failover almost since day one.
Technical properties aside, the success of the pool is in large part due to the support of its loyal delegators and long-term supporters through their encouragement and positive messages. Additionally, pool.pm users and fellow SPOs supporting my work have been a great source of motivation.
SM₳UG was selected in IOG’s “100-strong pool cohort” in March 2021, which was a recognition for the supporters and myself.
Finally, the pool was identified by the Cardano Foundation for its “outstanding contributions” in all four rounds of their delegation since they started support for ecosystem builders and contributors, which I’m proud of. Despite this recognition, SM₳UG was only selected once for delegation with this new methodology due to the random draws. But we operators are used to luck variance
How did the Cardano Foundation delegation impact your stake pool operation?
On a technical level, the Cardano Foundation delegation increases the stake and minting block rate of the pool. This increases the rewards of the pool, including for delegators due to the current “min fee” parameter, reduces luck variance, and this usually improves the pool’s position in wallet rankings, particularly with Daedalus.
On a personal level, having my pool selected in the shortlist of the Cardano Foundation’s delegation for "outstanding contribution" is gratifying, encourages me to continue with my contributions, and gives confidence to its delegators.
Did you find the Cardano Foundation delegation enabled you to either build or improve your tools, projects, or open source repositories?
The Cardano Foundation delegation contributes to the pool rewards which directly supports a portion of the pool.pm hosting costs. The project has been running for free for more than two years without advertisements, so this is really helpful, especially because it has its own infrastructure to query the blockchain.
More generally, the Cardano Foundation delegation, by making the pool more successful, enables me to spend more time and resources on my different contributions to the Cardano ecosystem.
Please summarize your contributions to the Cardano ecosystem.
My main contribution is obviously the blockchain visual explorer. It started as a tool to help me keep track of my pool, became a tool appreciated by other SPOs for the same reason, then got more use when NFTs were integrated, particularly the NFTs page and the metadata test tool.
The pool.pm received the Cardano Community Developer Spotlight in January 2021 , and I’m glad it is also used to follow the Cardano Foundation delegations.
When Alessandro Konrad proposed the first version of CIP 25, I contributed making it more generic by proposing support for more file formats, promoted its use through pool.pm and helped a lot of creators to use it, by DM or later using the Telegram group, which is still the case as of today.
I also made various contributions to some open source software, like the Guild Operators tools, TxPipe Oura & Pallas and published the derived oura-script-sink tool which gathers all Cardano NFTs policies and is, I think, a useful example of how to integrate Oura as a library source code. There’s a snapshot of policies available.
Lastly, I like to create GIFs, images or memes related to Cardano as I believe they are a powerful medium to communicate and contribute toward giving an identity to the community. This is why I don’t put any pool logos or watermarks on Cardano ones, but I enjoy seeing some of them used quite a lot on social networks, for example the “Nodding Charles Johnson” I created last year.
Are you currently building something that you would like to share?
While developing pool.pm, I realized that displaying NFTs efficiently and securely is much more complicated than it seems at first. This requires a lot of infrastructure (nodes, indexers, IPFS nodes, web servers, caches, etc.) and some knowledge of the specifications, formats and usage of NFTs on Cardano.
This service aims at making that as simple as possible so that applications can focus on their core features and improve their time to market. I hope this will contribute to the growth of the Cardano ecosystem and lead to the creation of innovative applications and services using NFTs.
I also have a few smaller open source side projects that I hope to be able to publish in the coming months but it’s too early to talk about them.
Finally, I’m obviously working on plans for additional developments on pool.pm. Stay tuned!
The Cardano Foundation encourages all eligible stake pools to apply for delegation. We provide full details on how to apply on our website. The next deadline to apply for delegation is 22:00 (GMT+2) October 2, 2022.