Follow up to community dialogue around NNS proposals April 1 to April 6 2022

Summary

From April 1, 2022 to April 6, 2022 there have submitted 16 governance proposals ranging from informational to opinions. This is a bit unusual because typical rate of governance proposals is 1-3 per month. Last batch has been 3-4 per day. There are many topics addressed in these proposals (which are linked as an appendix).

This is a post is a bit of an open letter so DFINITY foundation can be transparent about its current thinking.

Open Letter

Hi @ysyms,

Thank you for your contributions in your NSS proposals as well as your Forum posts. We are thrilled to see that the community has started a dialogue on the NNS front-end dapp and ICP governance in general. As we wrote in the forum, “we always support passionate IC voices” like yours. We do not see FUD or bad intent. We believe an open dialogue is best.

We feel that we share the same opinion on many of your points, such as:

1. The DFINITY foundation believes the NNS frontend dapp needs to improve

As constant users of the NNS frontend dapp, we are equally concerned with making it a great user experience. More people have joined the team working on it in the last few months and we posted an update last week on its status. We have just finished rewriting the full NNS frontend dapp in svelte so that we are able to migrate it to the UX design. Having said this, we most likely will have to postpone the latter until we have a frontend for the upcoming SNS.

2. The DFINITY foundation wants to keep lowering the technical bar for governance

We agree the IC should maximize participation. The NNS frontend dapp itself is an improvement in non-technical user experience in comparison with the command line interface. Wherever the code is behind our intent, we try to write and improve documentation to make tutorials increasingly easy. See How to create a motion proposal or How To set your neuron to follow another neuron.

3. The DFINITY foundation acknowledges that the foundation could have been more consistent with how it voted on “informational motion proposals”

Motion proposals that had no clear action or direction, but were just proposals to spread information (such as tutorials) were seen as “harmless” so the foundation voted some as “Accept.” You are right. Then when your information proposal with a tutorial appeared, the foundation voted NO. It is reasonable you were confused by the change.

Well before you posted anything, the foundation had decided the new voting principle for “information proposals” is that it should vote NO as a default. The reason is simple: the foundation treats proposals very seriously so it wants to elevate and raise the bar for what it means to vote YES (on any proposal). Even if the proposal is harmless, under the new guidance, by default an NNS proposal shall receive a NO vote, UNLESS it can prove that, without implementing this proposal, ICP’s performance or growth will be materially impaired. It is honestly unfortunate that your proposals were among the first information proposals to be voted on AFTER the foundation changed its strategy. I will not avoid responsibility here. It took me (Diego) too long to start to publicize the foundation’s voting strategy for “informational proposals”.

The foundation is not necessarily any wiser than the community at large on what’s the best way to vote on NNS, but we are learning from the community and iterating.

4. The DFINITY Foundation would like to see more conversations on decentralized platforms

The IC ecosystem, like all blockchain projects, is one where IC community members engage across many different social platforms (e.g. Dscvr, Telegram, Reddit, Discord, OpenChat, Twitter, Facebook, Wechat). It is in the spirit of decentralization that no one platform monopolizes the conversation of what constitutes “the community.” The DFINITY Foundation likes to use the developer forum for engaging in long-form content with developers but we would rely on community leaders to spread this content and reproduce it across blog posts and websites. As an avid user of almost all social media platforms from Telegram, Wechat, Youtube to OpenChat and a prolific speaker on those IC-themed group channels, you are a very savvy practitioner in the true spirit of decentralization. We appreciate that you’ve been helping other fellow developers get started on IC.

5. The DFINITY Foundation would also like to keep educating and engaging IC community to stake and participate more closely with NNS proposals

Indeed participation in staking and voting has significantly increased in the last 10 months since Genesis (56.6% of Total Supply is staked) and have seen greater and greater participation in voting. There is much to do, of course, so we can both agree in two complementary things:

  1. The staking and voting participation has greatly increased
  2. The staking and voting participation should keep increasing

Comments which we’d like to set straight:

Your proposals contain certain statements that we would like to take up and clarify in order to be technically accurate and avoid misunderstandings.

1. The NNS is not controlled by DFINITY

You mentioned correctly that DFINITY has 22% of the NNS total voting power for any proposal.

For non-governance proposals, DFINITY does not have more than 90% of the voting power as you claimed. Rather than argue semantics, I looked at the last 30 NNS proposals in the NNS. You will see that the non-governance proposals have over 405MM voting power, making DFINITY’s vote to be around 25%. Very far from the 90% cited in proposals #53056.

It is of course true that many neurons follow the DFINITY foundation, as part of liquid democracy. But this is not a guaranteed power of the foundation. Any one of these neurons can remove the DFINITY foundation and follow other neurons that can vote on their behalf. It is more accurate to say that these follower neurons vote by choosing to follow the DFINITY foundation via its expertise and leadership, than the foundation has the voting power. In fact, there are many neurons that now follow the ICPMN neuron for governance proposals.

2. The ‘List of Known Neurons’ are not like the EOS supernodes, they are just for user convenience

In proposal 53116, you may have ascribed more weight to these neurons than is intended. It’s important to mention that any user can add any neuron to follow by entering neuron ID. The intent of the “named neurons” is for the benefit of users because not many users want to dig around for the neuron ID, but rather have something easy. But since the NNS frontend dapp is controlled by the DAO which is the NNS, it made sense that users vote on which neurons to add for convenience. The named neurons are the neurons which took the time and effort to identify themselves to the community.

More simply, you mention that users should be able to follow neurons who have contributed to the ICP community. We agree. They are able to do so by:

  1. In the short-term, any user can add any neuron ID to follow in seconds
  2. In the medium term, any user can propose neurons to be displayed in the NNS frontend dapp

3. NNS can not change your private key

For what is worth, I actually believe your statement from Proposal 53056 that “the NNS can change your private key” is likely a mistranslation from Google (not on you), but it is worth confirming the technical aspects since it is a critical statement. The IC, like in all secure cryptographic systems, is a protocol where users can safely interact without ever sharing their private keys. Since private keys are not shared in using the system, not even the NNS knows them, let alone can access them or modify them

4. DFINITY cannot freeze your account at any time

To be honest, this may just be a mistranslation in Proposal 53056, but it is important enough to clarify. DFINITY foundation has 22% voting power which we use in the spirit of the majority, bylaws which are publicly available which clarify our mandate. In order to submit a code upgrade to the IC, DFINITY needs the community to accept it. This is the nature of a blockchain and consensus protocol. Furthermore, such an act would be in clear contradiction to the foundations bylaws and would be prosecuted under Swiss law.

Let’s take Bitcoin as an example: If 51% of the miners decide that you cannot spend your Bitcoin, then you cannot (by ignoring your transactions). Just like I am not aware of any time when 51% of Bitcoin miners blocked transactions to block spending Bitcoin, there has never been a time when the IC community has voted or even hinted at voting at changing the Ledger code to block transactions from and to an account. The crypto community is unlikely to accept that for a variety of reasons, both philosophical and game-theoretical.

Let’s talk

We hope that this article creates an additional basis for further conversations and creates new initiatives within the community. As mentioned earlier, the DFINITY foundation is always open to impulses from the community and constantly strives to move the project forward - since May 2021 there have been over 60 code upgrades to the IC.

We are proud of having so many people around the world who share the same passion with us. Thank you @ysyms for your contribution and commitment.

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Appendix

As background to community members learning about this, I have posted the proposals referenced for transparency:

URL
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/52214
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/52537
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/52564
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/52579
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/52742
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/52758
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/52869
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/52912
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/52949
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/53013
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/53056
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/53169
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/53171
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/53420
https://dashboard.internetcomputer.org/proposal/53423

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I’ll host a Twitter Space with @ysyms and @PaulLiu , as well as some Chinese community members (such as @witter of CBD) tonight at 11pm China Standard Time to have an open discussion of NNS and how we can make it better together as a community. All are welcome, if not for brushing up your Chinese :grinning: . The session will be in Chinese.

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My voting history that covers all the above 15 proposals and my rationale:

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Thanks for the post @diegop. A small correction to above sentence, we are in the process of rewriting the NNS frontend dapp in Svelte - i.e. it isn’t finished yet. The rewrite does not change UX not UI. We are currently testing the “Voting” tab and proposal detail page that we have for goal to unleash first and hopefully soon.

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