CoinDesk article about "stuck ether", and efforts to unstuck the process

If you will excuse me for being blunt for a moment, work does not get done on those platforms.

Broadly speaking, I have seen this coming for a couple of years as interest has gone exponential. The average business person buying crypto on an exchange has no idea about the collaborative process by which open source gets built. Never mind the extra layer of running an open source blockchain network.

I am brand new to being this involved in the Ethereum community – basically you can see me writing up some notes and suggests at the end of May, and then I volunteered to organize the Berlin event – which was the second ever, and really the first of its kind. Now we have Magicians, Rings, and Scrolls and will be more organized.

But, I do have a 15 year history in open source, so this all seems very normal. The community is storming / forming / norming around base processes. What is harder, is there is no central authority to appeal to.

I even found that Ethereum projects (that are dapps or otherwise not building node client software) that I reached out to had in many cases not being focused on how to move the core code along. The ERC standard setting (as opposed to EIPs on core protocol) are a vast space where dapps can collaborate. But we have to get those projects to have people within their organization that spend time keeping up, that are welcomed in, and that work together on useful standards.

And of course, because a lot of us deeply care about the principles of decentralization, standing up and shouting about “this is the way it works and I’m in charge” would directly go against that. So we hope people will collaborate around best practices – because ideally no one can force anything.

The larger community are going to have to decide to either get involved directly (which, yes, has a certain time commitment!) or to find voices / people / sources they “trust”. This has always been the case for open source.

I appreciate the effort you have made in the discussion here. I think we ended up in violent agreement :stuck_out_tongue: This got long again, and it is late! Cheers!


I have to say, I take mild exception to this. A number of us, including @souptacular and @Arachnid have been responding to outrageous claims of centralization stemming from a lack of understanding, and generally lack of caring to understand, of the EIP and Core Dev process (a loosely coordinated process at that). We’ve each been met with ridicule and contempt. As if what we have said is indicative of some secret agenda or secret contingency. It’s quite frustrating to be honest.

There is not much we can do beyond attempting to educate on the process while the FEM and friends try to work on process improvement initiatives (not resolutions or decisions on proposals!). EIP-999 and EIP-867 have been tremendous learning experiences and have given the FEM a lot of insight into where the bottlenecks and challenges are in the process, and they’re (I say they because until I get to go to a meetup in person and contribute more regularly I’m just a Magi-apprentice) working hard to improve an exceptionally hard process.

It’s easy to armchair or Monday morning quarterback from afar. Which is why the FEM has encouraged EVERYONE and ANYONE to join and participate in the fun time that is governance betterment.


@CryptoHokie & @boris

The primary point of contention seems to be on what “centralization” actually means. From the perspective of those who are not closely involved with the FEM or core devs, lack of signalling/governance tools that represent miners and coin holders looks a whole lot like they have zero say in what goes on.

I’ve heard many arguments about how miners mean absolutely nothing and are just pawns of the market, and also the complete opposite about how miners are truly the only true decentralized party who can pick and choose what happens - all from within FEM/dev spaces. Not even knowing the value of these parties contributes to the idea that they really don’t matter very much.

These issues are being worked on, and hopefully when they are ready it will solve a lot of these problems. However, I’m not really convinced that these tools solve the problem with the great divide between what is actually going on with core devs and what the community perceives is going on (or is able to create false narratives about).

A pretty relevant example of this would be this whole EIP-999 thing. What is with the flip-flop that happened? The Reddit/Twitter communities are left only to speculate - which creates a very profitable opportunity for “news” sites to exploit, furthering the misinformation.

This is the kind of social activity that makes people extremely skeptical of any notion of centralization, and “centralization” to many people == “I don’t personally have a way to impact things”. Eventually, you end up having developer consensus to do something, but the entire community is up in arms over it because they weren’t personally consulted and given tools to provide feedback. I’m much more concerned with how this turns the community toxic and hostile than I am with any real bad-actor collusion or other conspiracy theory.

Hopefully I’ve been able to expressed my concerns clearly at this point, in that “centralization” from the perspective of the Reddit/Twitter community is very different from the dev community - and I think it has its merits and a basis in the reality of what governance looks like right now. Signalling tools will hopefully close this gap and represent a gamut of “users”, whether it’s miners, investors, traders, DApp users, developers, or just those interested in Ethereum and have no other involvement or holdings.

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I agree wholeheartedly with this statement.

Part of that education process should be for those who have the most influential voices to take a back seat sometimes and, instead of loudly proclaiming their own views, make small, supporting comments to new voices.

Instead of saying “I think this is how things should work,” they should seek out newcomers and say “I agree with what new_person_number_100 has to say” and quote that new person’s post.

If the ‘ethos’ is that new people are welcomed, and this is a conscious choice made on purpose by those who already hold positions of influence a lot of this “I am being excluded” attitude would go away.


There’s been a lot of discussion about FEM on Reddit and Twitter and plenty of open invites. It’s not a members only organization or a secret society as people seem to portray it on Reddit.

It’s hard to educate when people have formed their opinions already based on bad information and groupthink, but a lot of us are trying.

I truly hope you don’t think I was being critical. I certainly didn’t intend to be. I think the Eth Magician’s is an amazingly open group, and Jamie and Boris made that very clear. My point is that, given the outside world’s view of a group like this (especially given its title and the fact that we have “councils”), we have to be purposefully aware to be ultra-open.

I’ve been thinking, given Trump’s recent nonsense, that we should call it a “Counciln’t”

An effort to actually go to where the misinformed discussions are happening could go a long way. For the greatest effect, I think you probably need to be on that short list of mods on /r/ethereum, or have some special flair. Nick Johnson is very good at this though, and can keep a much cooler head than I can for sure.

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Looking through this (finally), I think @AtLeastSignificant is pointing to two issues that may indicate centralization in Ethereum’s governance:

  1. Whether Ethereum’s client-defaults give Core Devs a special standing in the community. The difference between Eth and Btc is that eth clients have a default upgrade settings on Core approval, whereas a Btc upgrade must be manually executed in all cases. By having the default as eth has it allows for more agility in issues where communication/propagation among pools or miners may frustrate a decision (the DAO rescue is an example), but also captures apathetic voters as practically controlled by Core Devs (and therefore more centralized). Note, I understand miners can override a default if they want to, but I’m of the impression skeptics believe that any time they lose a vote it’s because of the default and not necessarily because of the will of the community/consensus. Personally, I believe a hard-coded default has always been known/transparent and therefore is intertwined in Ethereum’s social contract definition of consensus/immutability, but it seems some have overlooked this. Perhaps this factor should be better emphasized (note, this is also why I’m opposed to having lower on-chain implementation requirements for Core Dev EIPs than others and those sorts of proposals, since it imbues special status to the Core Dev layer of governance that is less available to any other entity).

  2. If the default grants Core Devs some special privilege, how difficult is it for a non-core dev to become a core dev? I don’t think giving Core Devs special privilege is bad from a centralization standpoint if the process of becoming one is transparent. I’ve been involved with Ethereum for three years and I still don’t understand exactly what it takes other than “the other core devs just kind of know.” @gcolvin also indicated he’s as mystified by the requirements and he is a Core Dev. If there is a document outlining the process is available, maybe broadcasting/educating about that would help. If there isn’t such a document, then maybe it should be created.

Ultimately, this is more about appearance than governance functionality (so far) and to me 999 emphasized that the system actually works as designed. I don’t get the feeling mainstreet thinks Ethereum is substantially centralized (the SEC recently said exactly this), but we’re really discussing shields against maligned trolls changing that perception (possibly with amplification of influential news outlets) or perhaps having certain useful potential contributors turned off from doing so do to misunderstanding (I can think of at least two former contributors and now anti-Eth voices that I think this describes). So this might not even be worth considering. but if we (the community) thinks it’s worth considering, I think those are the two discussion points where centralization might be seen. @AtLeastSignificant please correct me if I’m putting words in your mouth.

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@Jason_C I can agree with most of this, but I think there are some nuances -

skeptics believe that any time they lose a vote it’s because of the default and not necessarily because of the will of the community/consensus

It’s really hard to determine what % of votes are due to default values from people just updating their clients vs. updating an coinsciously choosing to leave the defaults. This was a design choice, meaning somebody somewhere decided that apathetic voters should be counted in one direction rather than the other. That in itself is a massive governance/signalling goof that should be fixed immediately. IMO, there should be 4 options on a binary vote (yes, no, abstain, no vote). “Abstain” is the same as “no vote”, but serves to provide insight into total conscious voter participation.

From everything I’ve seen and read about, there has never been a vote that represented any majority participation from any demographic (coin holders, miners, etc.) that did not involved default values of some kind.

captures apathetic voters as practically controlled by Core Devs

how difficult is it for a non-core dev to become a core dev?

This is getting at a good point, but also misses the primary issue - you shouldn’t need to be a dev/core dev to have a say in governance decisions. If the only real way to have a say is to run a node that goes against core devs, then we have already become a centralized blockchain with a power monopoly in the hands of a borderline secret society. Since running a node that doesn’t support devs is a hopeless and financially wasteful endeavor, the only option left is to try to influence things at the core dev level and in the EIP process. We keep seeing more and more proof that community opinion on matters does not belong/influence anything in these arenas.

If you don’t fix signalling/miner voting and default client value problems, I don’t think we will ever have a real governance process that represents anything other than core devs. Full stop.

All the attempts to put checks on core devs and “fight them” on their own turf is inherently pointless since they can censor and change the rules at any point. It also has no actual enforceable power in terms of what happens to the clients and protocol. This problem becomes even worse when you consider what you’ve brought up about becoming a core dev, because this seems to prevent even those who should undeniably have a say in governance issues from having one, but I still don’t think this should be a technocracy.

This will mean choosing what to do with apathetic voters (since I imagine they will be the majority on all matters). Apathy could be a signal that things as-they-are are good and shouldn’t be changed. However, I think this is counter to what I believe Ethereum is. Apathy can also be a signal that people are happy entrusting the core devs with things, which has been the case so far for Ethereum. With this perspective, I personally think apathetic voters should simply not count at all, and decisions should be made with yes/no/abstain votes (in addition to other signals that represent non-miners).

All the attempts to put checks on core devs and “fight them” on their own turf is inherently pointless since they can censor and change the rules at any point. It also has no actual enforceable power in terms of what happens to the clients and protocol.

Hopefully I’ve addressed why miners really don’t have any say in governance decisions unless they are willing to lose money - the opposite of what a miner wants to do by definition.

The other argument I see is that the “market” will decide viability of the blockchain. To this I say:

• The market can’t support or validate what does not exist

• The market does not represent what is good, rational, or popular - only what can be used to make a profit.

Do you really want the next Ethereum fork to come about from the same decision makers that sustained Bitconnect? Do you really want money to determine what happens to the blockchain ecosystem at all?

Interesting development on this topic pointed out by @AlexeyAkhunov:

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