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An Ode to Lumenauts: The Thanksgiving Special

Stellar Quest Live Series 5: Soroban is live and has been releasing quests every Monday and Thursday since November 10th. This week, we are forgoing Thursday’s quest release due to American Thanksgiving, where many Stellar Quest creators and moderators will (hopefully) be spending time with family and friends and gorging themselves on copious amounts of food. Let’s be honest, though — we’ll probably still see some of them online, preparing diligently for the upcoming final challenges.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, after digging through Stellar Quest’s history, I found that the questing experience can compare quite nicely to a family holiday. Your dad might drink too much again, your mom’s cooking really isn’t that great, and your grandfather is telling the same story for the thousandth time. But there’s a fire crackling in the hearth, everyone is laughing together, and you end the night snuggled up on the couch watching a feel-good holiday movie. 

With Stellar Quest, each live quest will probably see something (or multiple somethings) break, which is all part of the experience. As community member Rahim says: 

“It’s really fun to be anxiously waiting for the next quest just to realize it doesn’t work.” – Rahim

Overcoming the various bugs, glitches, and failures wouldn’t be possible without our Stellar Quest community: the amazing individuals called Lumenauts. This group consists of some SDF employees but is supported mainly by part-time contractors and volunteers who have joined periodically from Stellar Quest’s genesis in October 2020. 

For this Thanksgiving Special, I had the chance to delve into the Stellar Quest archives and ask some Lumenauts about their most memorable Stellar Quest experiences. So, grab a blanket and some hot cocoa, and let’s enjoy a few tales from quests past!

The broken testnet anchor

One lovely day in May 2021, during quest eight of Series 3, questers were tasked with getting an asset (called MULT) from an SDF-run testnet anchor using SEP-0006: Deposit and Withdrawal API. An SDF engineer had stood up the trusty demo anchor for people to test their SEP integrations, and we were ready to go… or were we?

“What happens when you have a ton of enthusiastic people trying to perform a task? The server crashes.” – nesho

At first, it seemed that the anchor was just slow. However, it eventually stopped processing transactions completely, creating a massive backlog and many disgruntled users. The Stellar Quest Discord exploded with hundreds of questions and complaints posted in general channels and sent to moderator DMs.    

Tyler, Stellar Quest’s fearless leader, eventually got in touch with the SDF engineer who had stood up the anchor, and they got to work trying to fix the problem. When things started to calm down, Tyler went to bed (c’mon, the man needs his beauty sleep), leaving the moderation to our brave Lumenaut volunteers. Unfortunately, the anchor broke again and ultimately, we had to cancel all pending transactions, restart the anchor, and advise questers to submit their transactions again. 

This questastrophe lasted through the night (or day, depending on your location) and was probably the most significant breakdown of Stellar infrastructure in quest history. 

But from the darkness comes the light!

“This was the first time I realized how many people actually participate in Stellar Quest.” – KanayeNet

The tremendous amount of feedback received during this challenge showed just how passionate questers were and how many people were playing. This was also the first incident where the Lumenaut community fully moderated a Stellar Quest fiasco without any SDFers around to handle things if they got messy. 

In addition, this experience resulted in some performance improvements to the Polaris anchor service, making it more stable against high throughput. Stellar Quest: helping to improve the Stellar network one crisis at a time! 

Questers pay their own XLM rewards

Now, let’s journey forward to a more recent incident. During quest one of Series 5, there was a bug in the code where the source account was missing for the reward payment, causing users to pay their own XLM rewards. This only affected a few questers before it was fixed but was definitely one for the Stellar Quest memory bank. 

As this quest and many others show, much of what keeps Stellar Quest alive despite its obstacles is the encouragement, humor, and graciousness continuously shown by our community. 

“If there’s one thing clear about Stellar Quest, it’s that it’s full of bugs. But the moderator team pulls together, helps fix the problem, and then laughs instead of getting upset.” – kalepail

The Battle of Wits: red pill / blue pill

Series 4 of Stellar Quest was the infamous puzzle series. This series didn’t focus on teaching but instead presented various challenges for questers to solve. One memorable quest was the red pill / blue pill quest inspired by The Battle of Wits scene from The Princess Bride.

In this quest, there were two transaction options for the quest account to submit, and the quester had to figure out which one would fund the account with prize money and which one did not. The transactions were wildly complicated and contained all sorts of operations like sponsored reserves, flash loans, and payments to accounts that didn’t exist. Both transactions had the same sequence number, so if you submitted one, the other would be invalid (allegedly). 

As you can probably imagine, Discord went crazy with people trying to figure out what transaction to submit. Was it the red pill transaction or the blue pill transaction? 

However, in the end, Tyler was just messing with us all. Both the red pill transaction and the blue pill transaction resulted in success. 

And at least one great idea emerged!

We broke Futurenet

Quest one of Series 5 gifted us with yet another notable crisis. It was the first quest of our Soroban series, and all challenges were being performed on Futurenet. Unbeknownst to the Stellar Quest team, the limit for Futurenet was 64 peer connections at one time, and once this was hit, users started seeing timeout errors. Reminiscent of the broken testnet anchor, Discord flooded with comments, and the Lumenaut team had to calm the general public while also attempting to solve the problem.

After some late-night conversations with SDF’s Ops team, the barrier was removed, and people were able to continue on their questing adventures.  

When you’re a Lumenaut, helping others comes with the territory. Stellar Quest is all about education, so support doesn’t come in the form of complete plug-and-play answers, but instead, Lumenauts provide feedback, resources, and maybe even a hint or two to nudge someone in the right direction. 

“My favorite Stellar Quest memory is the day I became a Lumenary: because I love helping people, and being recognized for that is an honor.” – mRuggi

Testnet genesis account shenanigans

Lumenauts find ways to “improve” Stellar operations even during non-quest hours. Back in April of 2022, the community discovered that the testnet genesis account wasn’t locked during a reset. The genesis account’s secret key is known, and unless the account is locked, people can submit transactions from that account. Lumenauts had some fun creating data entries on the account, including “VIVA STELLAR QUEST”. 

And the fun didn’t stop with the manage data entries — one astute Lumenaut discovered that when the Stellar testnet is reset, lumens get deposited into the testnet genesis account and then distributed to the friendbot account. This individual decided to drain the genesis account of its lumens before they were allocated to friendbot, completely borking that testnet reset.

SDF ensured that the genesis testnet account was locked down after this event. Another case of Stellar Questers improving the network!

Alright, folks! That’s it for storytime. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane as much as I have. I’ve only been a part of the community for a short while, but from what I’ve experienced, it truly feels like a family. 

“Lumenauts are the most helpful, smart, insightful, and fun people you’ll meet online.”– -alejoskyhitz

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