[Proposal] Defining An Ethos For The NNS

If it’s too soon to discuss ratifying any purpose or scope for the NNS, then it’s CERTAINLY too early to start discussing how we might create an NNS Treasury to give it the powers of a central bank. Unfortunately, that discussion has already started.

My fear is that, without any guiding principles in place, the NNS will entrench power and not become more decentralized.


Neurons and Named Neurons can certainly have their own scope and goals, but the NNS could still use an Ethos.

Compare this situation to the USA government and the two political parties. Each party has it’s own agenda, values, and goals, but the constitution is a tool for drawing attention to situations where a party might diverge too far away from the common shared vision of the nation. It’s a tool for driving generalized alignment between many different and even opposing parties with their own individual interests.

Without an Ethos, no one really has anything more than an subjective opinion as to why their direction for the NNS is best. There’s no shared foundation or expectation the community can use to know or judge what the NNS should be used for.


I absolutely agree the NNS needs an ethos/constitution/however you wanna call it, it will instill more trust in both stakers and devs, for the latter especially it is quite unnerving to know your dApp could be taken off the network by liquid democracy, at very least there should be guidelines known beforehand to assure what kind of content the NNS is willing to keep on the IC.

I have 2 concerns tho:

  1. How do we make sure the ethos is actually followed.

  2. Point 7 states " The NNS will only censor to protect the operational functionality of the network.", it is then specified that clause applies to canister running harmful code, in my opinion it could also be applied to legit canister whose dubious legality or sensitive content, e.g Wikileaks 2.0, causes the node operators running them to shut down in order to comply with legal requests.
    I know Dfinity has proposed to use boundary nodes as censors, but I don’t think it will be enough if the IC were ever to be under public scrutiny. What would the NNS do then? Protect the network integrity and remove the canister, throwing the dev under the bus and essentially renouncing on any censorship resistance claims or penalize the providers who have invested thousands on dollars on node hardware?


OMG you are making my point for me. You are calling it fragile and I am calling it not decentralized. Yet you are standing it the way of the only viable path forward in which it actually becomes less fragile and less centralized. It’s a long road ahead to achieve decentralization and the only way that will happen is when people and organizations are able to step forward and become contributors to the IC. We can’t sprinkle some magic fairy dust and hope that people will volunteer or make donations to make it happen. We are talking real careers and organizations that can only exist with funding. An ethos as you have defined it won’t solve the decentralization problem. The NNS is not fragile. It is controlled by the very people who should be controlling it at this time and they have provided ample evidence that their intent is decentralization over time as the community becomes capable of handling that responsibility.


I think this is a bad idea. Please work with the governance working group instead of going it alone trying to push your agenda for an ethos. There is a lot of validity to the points you are making, but they should be presented as deliverables from a dedicated working group on governance.

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EDIT 10/27
I didn’t want to change by original post to be transparent and preserve the factual history of the conversation, but I want to be clear here that it was not my intention to imply anything negative regarding anyone’s character. While we may disagree on ideas, I think Wenzel and David want nothing but the best for the ecosystem. https://twitter.com/IsaacValadez55/status/1585631550711812102?s=20&t=RVIp_CTK4VCIMLDC_fCuNg

I literally sat in a private in-person meeting last Thursday where you & David argued the case for using the NNS to fund a single “DFINITY-like” organization, and every safeguard I brought up was shot down due to a base-less desire for urgency at all costs. That is centralization. Synapse still has 10% voting power, that’s centralization.

“Funding” comes from building value. We don’t need speculators and volunteers running governance, we need value-creating projects running it to protect the foundation of their own infrastructure.

This call for an Ethos isn’t “fairy dust”. My guess is that you are only saying that because it would slow down and likely end up opposing your clear ambition for promoting the creation of a NNS Treasury. I’ll be upfront, that is my goal, because an Ethos is needed specifically needed to protect builders from things like that. Without it, builders will look up after several months of building and realize the network changed around them, instead of simply providing the protocol stability they needed.

The hard push for an NNS Treasury is not for the good of the community, because it’s been pushed despite the active harm its caused to the community. We have builders and good people losing faith in the strength of the token and future of the NNS, and I personally know of at least 3 builders who are leaving the Internet Computer because they believe the existing powers controlling the network are entrenching themselves. Yes we need funding, but we shouldn’t harm the ecosystem by how we push to get it.


You’re free to think it’s a bad idea, but I disagree and will continue.

The NNS governance working group is free to become involved (and I will make an effort to attend their future meetings), but they don’t have the monopoly on working on governance topics. The NNS is an open DAO, and I’m using the approach which was common before working groups even existed.

Also, I’m not doing this alone. In fact, it looks like I have significant support for this proposal.


By “social contract” basically. For example, if someone doesn’t post a proposal on this dev forum for ~7 days prior to submitting it for live voting on the NNS, then a lot of neurons will vote it down simply because there was not enough time for deliberation.

Likewise, if someone makes a proposal against the Ethos, then those who agreed with the Ethos will vote it down.

Perhaps some aspects could be enforced by code (such as locking tokenomics), but in general it’s not meant to be a strict code of law, simply a set of “guiding principles” for aligning the community and giving them a shared foundation of unity.


So this proposal is only for getting the Ethos process started, I just included some guiding principles to serve as examples.

For point 7, I specifically tried to make it clear that “sensitive data” or “anything illegal” didn’t qualify. I just meant that if a canister was actually breaking the network by stalling a subnet or something (which has happened before) that we could stop it to fix a significant technical problem.

You have my support Isaac. Thank you for your transparency.

I agree that nobody has monopoly on how and where we choose to discuss these matters. We don’t have to adhere to other people’s leadership if we don’t trust it anymore.

No more closed doors, let’s talk about this publicly and openly. These are plans and decisions that will affects everyone. It should be common knowledge.


I appreciate the transparency here Isaac. I support your message and I agree that adopting an ethos, even if it just a social contract, is well worth it for those of us who actually believe in the original vision for the network.


I agree, honestly this “working group” gives me authoritarian vibes.


This was my exact thoughts too - you are my twin brother now


I mean it’s open to everyone so I don’t think that’s the case, but I simply don’t see why anything should be limited to it. People should have a say even if a working group happens to meet outside their time zone. In my mind, the working group is more of a tool to help move things along faster, but not to be an exclusive channel for having the monopoly of a topic.


Yeah, not saying that is literally the case, just the vibes around it. That’s why we need to have some kind of chat/forum feature directly integrated into the NNS. When a new proposal is made there could be 7 days of deliberation, then transition to the voting phase.


This is an incredible mischaracterization. It was not an accident that you were present. You ideas were recognized as highly valuable and desirable. The focus of the meeting was not a single organization. Your ideas were not shot down. There were a dozen people present speaking from many different perspectives.

Synapse does not own 10% voting power. We own 20 votes. Everything else comes from people who have chosen to follow us and we have no ability to accept or reject their following.

I think this is a good initiative, and is good that it was put forth for discussion.

In order for the NNS to function properly it requires more structure and comprehensive execution of the motion proposals which in the current state of how the NNS is structured for the governance proposals there is no clear roadmap on how/if they are implemented.

Lately the NNS has been used for exposing personal perspectives, awareness campaigns - and low quality proposals. If we are to talk about something so relevant, why not set the proper structure from day zero? although I understand the urgency with latest discussions about some subjects, but objectively I see no need to rush this discussion, .

To define the Ethos of the community most active members should be involved and the document should be a collaborative result.


Yes, this is exactly what this proposal is, that we start a collaborative effort to define an Ethos.

The guiding principles I included were just examples, but each one added would need to be it’s own proposal, collaboratively constructed by the community.


I predict this will be the exact argument given by all future proposers regardless of the existence of an ethos.

It’s ironic that you are trying to gate keep the NNS with your personal agenda simply because everyone doesn’t embrace the full scope of your ideas. You have awesome ideas and many people including me have given you recognition for them, but you are definitely violating your own ethos by trying to force this issue without the collaboration of a working group. If this is how it’s going to work, then maybe we don’t need working groups at all.

BTW, I really hope you are elected to be a voting member of the Synapse neuron. We need your voice to be heard through our vote.

It wasn’t my intention to mischaracterize, I tried to be careful with the wording but perhaps I wasn’t clear.

I did not get a calendar invite for the discussion and I don’t think anyone (including myself) knew I’d be there that early before the planned meetup later in the afternoon, but I’ll take your word that it wasn’t an accident, that’s nice to know!

I didn’t say it was a meeting of a single organization, I actually still don’t know who called it or how it came to be. I wasn’t arguing, commenting, or implying anything about the meeting’s attendees or how it came to be, just about that specific discussion point that was brought up during it.

I did feel my ideas were valued, upon reflection “shot down” is probably not the best wording. Specifically, I’m referring to the point where it was said that, “Isaac’s goodwill ICP strategy is clearly the safest and best path forward, but we don’t have time to wait and it would take too long to put in place, so how can we find a way to get the funds the ecosystem needs in the near term.” At that point, I personally felt like an agenda was still being pushed even though it didn’t withstand scrutiny. Perhaps I’m misguided in that perception.

Giving a single (or handful) and entities funds from the NNS is centralization, not decentralization, that’s what I was calling centralized.

The two oldest Known Neurons (the second of which follows Synapse) and DFINITY collectively control the outcome of most proposals. I’m not stating that there’s any greed or wrongdoing regarding that, just stating that as a known a fact about the current flow and voting power on the NNS right now.

For the health of the NNS, that needs to change so things can become more decentralized. I suggest an Ethos to provide guardrails as this change happens and NNS control becomes more decentralized.

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