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Igniting Rings of Fire!
This week, in Episode 26, we talk to Marc Lacoursière (roosoft), a full stack developer building Bitcoin and Lightning apps from Canada! He is the creator of the Igniter script, which saved us a lot of work as it is one of the easiest ways to perform a circular rebalance in a Ring of Fire!
Marc is also busy with the development on Steer, a new app which enables users to make node configuration a breeze! It shows channel states in a mobile friendly web interface. In the future it will be possible to automate redundant tasks such as rebalancing.
What was your first experience with the lightning network and do you still know what you did/saw at that moment?
I don’t remember where exactly, probably an Andreas Antonopoulos document or book
somewhere. Probably was 3 years ago, and the document explained the technical detail
of the inner workings of the protocol. Despite knowing about it near at the beginning, I
only opened my first node a year ago.
You live in Quebec in Canada. Canada is moving towards a cashless society following the trails of leading economies like Sweden, Denmark and Norway. How is the adoption of Lightning in your neighborhood? Are there any merchants who accept Lightning nearby? Or do you need Coincards to spend your BTC.
Adoption in Quebec is really low. I know of a product owned by Francis Pouliot that helps
to pay bills with bitcoin. Where I live, I literally know no one who’s interested in being paid
in bitcoin, be it businesses or people.
You also worked at one of the largest online reservation companies for restaurants in Canada, Bookenda. One of your tasks was the integration of online credit card payments with Stripe. Not so long ago BitPay announced Lightning support for merchants. Do you think it’s only a matter of time other payment providers, like Stripe for example, will follow this example?
At the time, I was real excited about the fact that Bitcoin was an option and obviously
talked about it with them briefly… in short, at the time, and probably still, they weren’t
interested in the slightest.
What is most needed in changes and improvements to the Lightning Network as it is now?
Better user experience… working on it in the lightning node routing business.
There are those who believe that Lightning will serve as a service/protocol for more than just payments. How do you view the Lightning Network and the future of Lightning as a 2nd layer on top of the Bitcoin on-chain layer?
Seems to me it’s a really good attempt to achieve instant settlement. At the moment, it
probably wouldn’t stand a chance of routing visa level amount of transactions, but I truly
believe it can get there eventually. In the meantime, new solutions could also emerge…
Connect to Bitcoin core API, get some JSON out of one of the simplest calls and think of
a new way to use that information. The same could be done with a lightning node.
Sometimes, the best ideas stem from tinkering with those things.
Meanwhile you are a full stack developer programming software coded in Elixir, helping the adoption of Bitcoin and the Lightning Network. What prompted you to fully immerse yourself in Bitcoin and Lightning development?
I love programming and think Bitcoin is the financial way to go. Using both simply is
blending two passions of mine.
Not so long ago you started development on Steer. It’s read only at the moment and it’s a web app
to find the edges of the Lightning Network to get yourself connected with peers much further than yourself. Can you elaborate on this and explain how it will work and why it is so important?
In the current state, it isn’t really that important… I use it daily to display in a mobile
friendly web interface my channels in realtime in my routing node perspective. It has
much more potential though and I hope someday to enable it to automatically take care
of redundant tasks such as rebalancing if desired. Many tools already exist for that task,
but none of them that I know can be used on a mobile phone.
What is the biggest mistake you made related to lightning?
Connecting to nodes all in the same inner circle… Many of my peers were
inter-connected between them and it didn’t make any of us very useful in my opinion.
Now I try to connect to nodes as far away from mine as possible using my tools.
I saw you use keybase.io for instant messaging. It uses public key cryptography to ensure messages stay private, even for keybase. In Episode 23 we also talked with Fiatjaf a lot about decentralized social media. Do you think this will be inevitable in the future?
This is the way! Lightning network and Nostr connects people and enable all kinds of
information sharing… on a long enough time frame, 3rd parties helping us communicate
will most probably become obsolete, same as banks.
Building more useful applications that work with Lightning could help to create extra adoption. If you were to build something for mainstream users, what would it be or what kind of Lightning-driven application do we all need?
That’s what Steer is about. The app would ideally enable users to quickly and instantly
see what’s happening, and make node configuration a breeze.
Your Steer web app is LND compatible at the moment. Do you think it will be easier for developers in the future to be able to build something for multiple Lightning distributions?
Not in the forseeable future. Node impllmentations communicate between them with a
common protocol, but they offer a variety of very different APIs to communicate with
devs. Standandard APIs would help a lot, but that may hinder innovation… so I don’t
know about that.
We have a lot of great developers in our community. If they want to start developing for Bitcoin/Lightning, where would you suggest they start?
Use a language that works with HTTP, connect to a node API , get any data, really, and
see if you can transform it in a way that helps you. That’s how I started, and now I see
multiple use cases.. so much that I don’t have enough time in a day to implement all of
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Before asking this question we would like to mention to the listeners to check also episode 2 and 4 with Soul Exporter and Czino who started the whole Rings of Fire concept before we pushed it through and it skyrocketed with our Satoshi Radio Rings of Fire community!
You are the creator of the Igniter script! The script saved a lot of work and is one of the easiest ways to perform a circular rebalance in a Ring of Fire!
This script has helped make the Rings of Fire concept possible and also ensured that novice Node Operators with little command line experience dared to try it and discover more about the inner workings of their Node!
Why did you start building the script and what does it mean to you to know that afterwards this has been so valuable to so many people in the Lightning scene?
I simply wanted to be part of a ring of fire… at the time, there was an “instruction manual”
that included many commands with redundant parameters. I just decided to simplify this,
reducing the process to a config file and a simple command to run. Made it public…
hoping it would help someone eventually. Looks like it did.
How does the igniter script works in short?
It just converts a simple config file into commands LND understands. There’s not much to
The bio info of your node on Amboss says you’re building Lightning apps. Can you share with us what you’re building at the moment?
Mostly steer, but this app is using libraries I am also building. I sometimes use them to
build tools that may end up having different purposes… It’s a process. I have no idea
where it’s going to end up, but I am open to requests. I’d like to do my part to simplify the
life of the most routing node operators possible.
One of your goals is to bring routing nodes management more mainstream. How will you realize this ?
Starting by a mobile first web app that’s easy to use and available from anywhere using a
VPN. Command line management is not for everybody.
You are working on some mobile friendly routing node management software? Does it have a name already and can we test it ?
It’s named steer and yeah, it is available on https://github.com/roosoft/steer
Are for example LND, Core Lightning and many more Lightning distributions always going to exist next to each other?
I hope so… competition is a good thing and pushes innovation forward.
Do you only run a LND node or also another distribution?
Yeah. I’d like to try others, but that would require more investments in nodes. Will
probably do down the line to enable my apps to run on any node, but not at the moment.
If you could build in the future a layer 3 solution? What could that be?
I honestly have no idea… not so long ago, I heard we could transmit data with the
lightning network, but over time, I also heard people saying that would maybe end up
being spammy… in the meantime, nostr seems like a good “layer 3” alternative… things
are evolving fast and I have no idea where this aspect will end up being. Focusing my
efforts on layer 2 at the moment.