What’s the Future for OpenWork?

  • We’re open sourcing OpenWork: 3 “radically transparent” productivity apps backed by smart contracts. BoardChat, and a vacation tracker (coming soon!)
  • The apps are currently live and in use at Digital Asset. We’re committed to keeping them maintained as part of our internal tooling but we’d love to see others contribute. There are new products we’ll be adding soon, but we’re really interested in seeing what the community would like
  • There are interesting future directions for the suite, including how to integrate them into other smart contract workflows such as those uploaded by users, and interacting with other smart contracts running on different ledgers
  • If you’re an organization that’s interested in running your collaboration tooling on top of portable data, including blockchains, you should try OpenWork today

This is the final post in our introduction to OpenWork, a collection of open source SaaS productivity and business tools built on top of smart contracts. Previous posts introduced the suite, and walked through the product features.

Missed the first in the series? Smart Contracts for… SaaS apps?!

OpenWork started as an experiment: to see if modern smart contract languages like Daml were convenient enough to use in non-currency use cases like productivity apps. The result was a resounding yes! While there is some overhead, the benefits you get out of the box massively outweigh the costs. We did learn some things about the pain points with our stack and that has helped us prioritize our backlog.

While experimental, we found the tools in the suite useful and have been using them internally. For certain types of user or communities who care about open source, data portability, or distributed infrastructure, the suite is a great fit.

But we’re not stopping there! There are a few ways we’d like to improve things:

  • Add new features to the existing products
  • Add complimentary products to the suite
  • Add the ability for different instances of the app to talk
  • Add the ability for the apps to talk to each other

If you’re looking to get started with smart contract development the first is a great option. Take a look at our backlog and see if there’s any low hanging fruit to pick up. If you’re a more experienced Daml developer have a think about the latter. A couple of our products started from open source apps which were written for other persistence layers — this can be a great way to get the ball rolling quickly!

For the 3rd point, we hope to make some initial progress by allowing UIs to talk to multiple instances of an app. If you have different apps or groups chats running on different infrastructure then the UI should show you a unified view onto those instances. Cross-ledger updates to ledgers are more interesting, for example, allowing users to move a board from once instance to another (assuming that all board signatories sign off, of course). If all these instances ran on the same ledger — such as a public blockchain — that would be easy. But our belief is that different infrastructure is suitable for different use cases and that it’s better to allow different ledgers, even those running different frameworks to interoperate. We have some very interesting technology coming soon to Daml to allow exactly that.

Once that piece is in place we unlock the real potential of radically transparent SaaS: an ecosystem of running services which can be freely remixed and extended, even by end-users. Smart contracts do not stand alone. They’re designed to act in concert as part of a transaction with other smart contracts. For example, a capital markets use case running on VMware Blockchain might need human sign-off for a particular exception case. That could trigger a new card to be created in Board running on Daml Hub and assigned to a reviewer. When they mark the card as complete the process can continue on the original ledger. This level of seamless interoperability is really the great potential of smart contracts, and we can’t wait to see what it’ll mean for business tools.

This is the final post in this series on the OpenWork apps but we’ll be publishing more information as we improve the suite. In the meantime, take Board for a spinchat to us about our plans, and download the Daml SDK to start building your own radically transparent SaaS apps.