Cosmos Governance Working Group: Month 1 update

Gavin Birch
January 31, 2020
minute read

Quick takes

Cosmos Governance: Prop23 voting data

In terms of network participation by stake weight, nearly 80% of all staked ATOM was represented in this vote. Sixty-two validators and 33 delegators voted. Though 4.66% of the total vote backing came from delegators, 95% of that backing come from one single delegator account holding nearly 6.5M ATOMs. Take a closer look at these stats here.

Figment voted 'abstain,' since Figment is positioned as a direct beneficiary. Figment represented 3.32% of the vote, and just over 70% of the 'abstain' vote. We hope that this practice will take hold in Cosmos governance culture in that entities who make community-spend proposals will vote 'abstain' and let the rest of the community decide.

GWG Participation

Note: I took these stats manually over the course of about 30 minutes, ending approximately at Block Height 6000100, 2020-01-29 @ 19:11 UTC. I excluded vote information for accounts with under 10 ATOMs staked (a couple of these accounts are mine that I used to test voting functionality of wallets).

My understanding is that the Chinese new year made it difficult for some of the validators to participate. I also received feedback that this vote was less of a priority because support was not critical to the outcome.

Why is delegator voting so important?

Delegators that understand the implications of a proposal should consider voting, even if they're delegating to a validator that has voted on their behalf. Why?

  1. You may be delegating to more than one validator, and your other validators may vote differently or not at all.
  2. You may want to lock your vote, since your validator(s) may change their vote at any time before the end of the voting period.
  3. You can use the opportunity to demonstrate that you're not a passive delegator.

Showing your validator(s) that you're an active participant lessens the assumption that validators are the decision-makers for the Cosmos Hub. I think that it encourages solidarity, creating a culture where delegators vote because they own part of the network.

Voting is important culturally, and has intrinsic value beyond the outcome. The community is watching, and the way the community votes will likely lead to expectations about future votes, which I think will influence participation.

How can we encourage more participation from validators & delegators?

Direct discussion with non-voting validators could be an important way to learn more about what kept them from voting. From the discussions I have had, several validators mentioned the difficulty they had voting.

It's inconvenient to vote with a secure validator

A validator operator that wishes to vote needs to use their validator's private key to sign the voting transaction, which involves risk. And many validators are set up with private key protections that makes voting very inconvenient. A potential solution?

Subkeys (or "group keys") make voting easy for secure validators

Subkeys (aka group keys) are keys that are created and revoked with the validator's private key. A validator can designate a more convenient, less secure key to be used to sign voting transactions without exposing the key that controls their validator. If the voting subkey is exposed, the validator can use their private key to revoke that subkey and issue a new one.

This isn't a new idea: Kusama (currently) and Polkadot (in future will) support subkeys. Hyung (B-Harvest) has long advocated that the Cosmos Hub implement subkeys, and we should support protocol development efforts to do so. Why doesn't subkey functionality exist on Cosmos yet? The work is involved, and All in Bits is prioritizing IBC with their limited resources. If anyone is keen to develop this, add your name to this list and/or post on the forum with the tag [GWG] in front of the title.

Exchanges & Wallets:
Delegator voting functionality should always come with staking functionality

Delegators should be able to do more than just stake their ATOMs--the Cosmos Hub gives stakers the right to vote on governance proposals, which can be very powerful, and shouldn't be prevented.

If your exchange offers users the option to stake, it should also offer users the opportunity to vote. If you are an exchange and this is something you're considering, please connect via the forum or Telegram so that we can assist.

Wallets that offer staking should also offer voting functionality. Currently there are four wallets that I know of that offer these features:

  1. Keplr (web)
  2. Cosmostation (web/Android/iOS)
  3. Rainbow Wallet (Android/iOS)
  4. Syncnode (iOS)

Please let us know by either the forum or via Telegram if there are wallets and/or exchanges that are offering governance functionality. Help us get the word out about those that are!

GWG Month 1 community call and the GWG charter

The first Cosmos GWG community call took place on Jan 28, 2020 at 15:00 UTC with about 20 people. The call lasted approximately one hour (15 minutes later than scheduled). All notes, recordings, and future calls can be found here.

I documented the people that introduced themselves and detailed that discussion here. Discussions about future GWG community calls will take place in this thread. We spent a portion of the time discussing the 'mission' part of the GWG charter, which can be found here. As the GWG develops, I look forward to revising this charter.

Participation in the Cosmos GWG

The Month 1 targets for GWG participants:

GWG Participation

Thirty-two participants signed up to the GWG list. We identified one new stakeholder, the 'community organizer,' as a stakeholder that organizes in-person Cosmos meetups and events.

In retrospect I think that these targets could have been more aggressive, considering that most metrics were greatly exceeded. For example, nearly three times the target for validator operators have joined as participants.

The GWG Telegram channel has 106 members (excluding me), though there hasn't been a lot of chat discussion to date. There has been more discussion in the governance channel of the Discord server run by Riccardo (Forbole). The governance section of the forum has had some activity, though most of the topics were created by me.

The Cosmos 'Parameter Change Wiki' has been initiated

I've initiated the Cosmos 'Parameter Change Wiki' here. Please take a look and provide feedback here.

The wiki will contain an exhaustive list of the modules with parameters on the Cosmos Hub so that people my learn and reference this resource when proposing and assessing parameter-change governance proposals. The most challenging part will likely be detailing the potential implications associated with increasing or decreasing each parameter. I will be consulting researchers and engineers to ensure accuracy, and seeking broad feedback.

Beyond the original scope for this deliverable, I would also like document how to independently verify the current value of each parameter without having to rely upon a third-party application or service.

The Cosmos 'Community Spend Best Practices' doc has been initiated

As per the deliverables for Prop23, I’ve initiated the Community Spend Best Practices:

I’ve begun by developing this into more of a ‘Community Spend wiki,’ which means that it will likely be more than just a best practices doc. Please take a look and provide feedback here.

My goal is for people to understand how to create a community-spend proposal of their own--from drafting their proposal off-chain, to posting the transaction that makes the proposal active on-chain. I'd like to use my work on Prop23 as an example of a successful proposal to illustrate what information the community may be looking to assess. I'd also like to educate people about how the Community Pool functions at a high level eg. how it's funded; how funds are disbursed.

Community Discussions

Some of the discussions that have stood out to me:

  1. How should the Community Pool be used?
    Terence (Forbole) listed 11 questions about how the Community Pool should be used here on the forum, with a reply from Kwun (Forbole) concerning sustainability. Terence has since published articles that answer some of these questions.
  2. How much should a proposer deposit for a community-spend proposal?
    I consider the ATOMs deposited on a proposal to be at risk. After some discussions in Discord, a few of us think the amount contributed should be a personal choice. I think it can be an opportunity for others to back a proposal beyond voting 'yes' by having "skin in the game."
  3. The minimum deposit amount is a barrier for some proposals
    Vit (Everstake) and I are interested in exploring decoupling community-spends from the rules (eg. deposit amount) of the other governance proposals. Hyung (B-Harvest) suggested that we decrease the minimum deposit amount from 512 to 100 ATOM, and Talisman (Firmament) agreed that this amount should be reviewed and decreased periodically. Fredy (DragonStake) would like to make a proposal for $1000 worth of ATOMs, but the risk of depositing ~$2200 worth of ATOMs for that proposal is too great.
  4. Ways that the Cosmos GWG could be organized
    Matthew (Simply VC) and Sergey (cyber~Congress) used the forum to detail potential ways the GWG could be organized and its potential processes. Check those out here.

Beyond these discussions, there are a number of topics of interest that members of the Cosmos Hub community have expressed interest in. Topics range from how the GWG should operate, to the philosophy and functionality of community-spend proposals, parameter change proposals, and include governance protocol functionality. Check them out here and be sure to add your interest(s)--then join the GWG participants list here. Feel free to check out our intro article on the Cosmos Governance Working Group.

That's all folks! Please contact me if you have any feedback.

Thanks to the Cosmos community and GWG for being so thoughtful and active. Governance work can be difficult--let's break it down into manageable chunks. We can be found working in these places (and probably others!):

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