This article was first published on: IOTA - Medium --

Alpha: playing with randomness

If you have been following the Illustrated Introduction to the Tangle series, you might remember a mysterious parameter called α, which affects the level of randomness in the random walk. In this article we will go into the specific way in which α affects tip selection, and mention some issues to consider when writing a software implementation.

Note that this article assumes a basic understanding of how the Tangle is built, and in particular what approvers and cumulative weights are. You should also be comfortable with the exponential function, and have some understanding of probability theory.

Why do we need randomness again?

To set the stage for understanding α, we need to remember why we perform a random walk in the first place. The context is tip selection: each new transaction must approve two previous transactions. The way this choice is made is crucial in determining how the Tangle looks and behaves.

The tip selection method should ideally provide the f...

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