Cosmos March Governance Update (Q1 2020)

Gavin Birch
April 2, 2020
minute read
Cosmos governance update

Cosmos Governance March 2020 Update

Related articles:

A Quick Look at Cosmos Hub Governance Power

Google Sheets

Cosmos Governance Q1 2020 Deliverables

A big thank you to the Cosmos Hub community for your confidence and support, both on-chain and off-chain. I am confident that this body of work will continue to deliver value as the Cosmos Hub becomes a thing that is more and more useful and thus more worthy of governing. I think that establishing these norms now will be foundational to how the Hub's governance practices develop.

If you want to know more about why I'm doing this work and how I feel about it, check out this podcast episode by Sergey & Anna (cyber congress).

As per the deliverables of Cosmos Hub Prop23, this is the final Q1 2020 GWG article. You can see articles for Month 1 (January) here and Month 2 (February) here. I set out to deliver two major things.

Major Deliverable 1: Establish governance proposal documentation

Community-spend proposal documentation
Objective: Best practices docs for drafting & evaluating community spend governance proposals hosted via IPFS, template for drafting & submitting proposals, plus an accompanying blog article.

I published v1.0 of the best practices document for drafting & evaluating community-spend governance proposals on February 26, 2020. You can read the accompanying blog article here on the Figment website or on All in Bits' Cosmos blog.

Drafting and submitting a community-spend governance proposal is a process that takes time, attention, and involves risk. However, proposals also have the potential to enact funding for important Cosmos Hub work. Version 1.0 of the ‘Community Spend Best Practices’ documentation is intended to make community-spend proposals easier to create and more likely to be fully assessed.

While no one has submitted community-spend proposal since Prop23 in January 2020, there are a number of people using this documentation to draft this kind of proposal. Beyond the Cosmos Hub itself, the broader Cosmos ecosystem will potentially benefit as well–Althea and Enigma are two Cosmos-based projects that have begun exploring these docs for their networks. Feedback from users has been important for making improvements, and so as of March 27, the current documentation here is more up-to-date than the IPFS doc is.

Parameter-change proposal documentation
Objective: an educational wiki +documentation and best practices documentation for parameter changes.

On March 24, 2020, I published the first version (v1.0) of the documentation for drafting, evaluating, and launching Cosmos parameter-change governance proposals as an IPFS-hosted doc. I decided to also write an accompanying blog article, which you can read here on the Figment website (and in future on All in Bits' Cosmos blog). Enigma is one Cosmos-based project that has begun exploring these docs for their network. Within the Hub itself, there are conversations about adjusting some of these parameters, so I think it will be important for people to understand the implications in advance.

The contents of both types of documentation belong to the Cosmos community and to anyone that would like to participate in the Cosmos Hub. While they should satisfy their respective deliverables outlined in Cosmos Hub community-spend proposal ‘Prop23’, I’m looking for feedback on this documentation to improve upon it.

Whether you’re educating yourself, working in the Cosmos ecosystem (beyond the Cosmos Hub), and especially if you’re preparing to launch a proposal, please consider joining the Cosmos Governance Working Group channels (Telegram, forum) to discuss your proposal and/or these docs. Working together can help improve the documentation and your proposal. You can also provide direct feedback here on Github.

Major Deliverable 2: Establish a governance community

In order to guide the working group's activities, I wrote this short set of mission, vision, and values for the working group. Some discussion took place here and in the first call. Though we haven't referenced this charter recently, we've roughly decided that the working group should provide education and support to people 1) drafting Cosmos Hub governance proposals and 2) doing Cosmos governance work.

The working group community

The goal was to establish a GWG participants list and to bootstrap stakeholder membership, while engaging within All in Bits' Cosmos forum and the new GWG Telegram channel, as well as to promote awareness outside of the GWG Telegram channel to grow GWG participation. 54 participants signed up, and the target metrics were either satisfied or exceeded:

The participants' list has been important to invite stakeholders to governance calls. Going forward, this list could be used to invite key stakeholders likely to be impacted by a proposal being discussed. Identifying new stakeholders will be an important part of keeping the broader Cosmos community engaged with governance work and proposals.

Working group calls

Part of the engagement was to host a recorded community call at the end of each month. I hosted hosted and recorded six community calls, which you can review here. An average of 18 people joined the month-end calls. I only recorded metrics for the most recent mid-month topic call, which had 29 participants.

Blog articles

In order to keep the broader community apprised, I published accessible articles (like this one) that describe what the GWG has completed and what will come next. You can see articles for Month 1 (January) here and Month 2 (February) here.

Reflecting on Q1 2020

The metrics suggest the Cosmos GWG has been successful, and there has also been governance activity that has not been measured. Several people are currently drafting proposals, and the GWG is actively helping Sunny (All in Bits; Sikka) to finalize a text-based signalling proposal. However, my impression is that there is a particularly high observer to participant ratio in the Cosmos GWG.

While I think that there is now an established governance-focused community, I look forward to others taking the lead to support governance work efforts. I think that going forward I should focus on building this sort of capacity, so that beyond my efforts we can be confident that the community will continue to focus on governance together and will continue to provide support for governance work.

Reach out if you'd like to try hosting a call and want support. Feel free to chat about something you're working or an idea you'd like to pursue. Join us in the working group Telegram channel:

Recommendations for Q2 2020

The final part of this deliverable was to publish a list of recommendations for the GWG’s next quarter initiatives. The idea here was that it could be then be used for a Q2 2020 community-spend proposal in advance, so that others could compete to be funded to continue the work that I started. However, I'm not convinced that the Hub will get enough value from continuing to fund the Cosmos GWG at this time (but could be very important in the future, as the Cosmos network becomes a more useful). Instead, I'll detail some potential opportunities and things to consider for funded governance work in the future.

Cosmos Governance Q2 2020

Figment does not intend to seek GWG funding for Q2 2020. However, others should consider proposals for governance work. Going forward, I will host topic calls periodically and as needed, likely at least once each month. Calls and recordings will continue to be posted here. I'll continue to tweet out working group activity from, and I'll begin using it more liberally to advertise Cosmos governance activity in general. I'll also continue to support the delivered documentation and those using it to create governance proposals.

Based on the work I've done, this is some low-hanging fruit I can see for providing the Cosmos Hub with value:

  • text-based governance proposal best practices & templates, particularly for protocol upgrade proposals
  • one comprehensive set of Cosmos governance documentation
  • a dedicated website that makes accessing Cosmos governance documentation accessible
  • protocol changes enable accounts to assign revocable staking & voting keys ("subkeys")
  • to encourage large stakers & validators to vote while enabling them to keep large funds secure

There have also been a number of community discussions that could serve as ideas for non-funded governance proposals.

  1. How should the Cosmos Hub’s codebase be owned and controlled?
    Perhaps the location and ownership of the Cosmos Hub’s codebase could be something dictated by the outcome of a governance proposal.
  2. Should we reduce the time frame to be slashed for downtime? Should we increase the severity of the slashing?
    Perhaps ~18 hours downtime without slashing is too long and gives people the chance to run non safe setups. The penalty for is only a 0.01% slashing.
  3. Should other Cosmos Hub parameters be changed?
    What if equivocation (double-sign) slashing was increased from 5% to 20%? or if the speed that inflation changes was 4x faster? Cryptium made some suggestions with reasons here.

I think we should start reconsidering the barriers to community-spend proposals.

  1. Different-sized deposits: I don't think the deposit amount should be the same as parameter-change proposals. Perhaps they could be relative to the funds being requested from the community pool. For example, a proposal asking for 2000 ATOMs could require a 5% deposit amount of 100 ATOMs.
  2. Disbursal methods: we should consider ways to improve how the community pool funds are delivered so that we're more inclined to support proposals from newcomers. Protocol changes could help, but for now a trusted third party could hold the funds and disburse them after agreed-upon milestones, for example.
  3. Prescreening and endorsement: individuals or organizations like the Interchain Foundation could endorse a proposer that they think is suitable, and likely to deliver something valuable to the Hub. This could help a proposer to be more secure with their proposal.

Proposals Being Drafted

There are still a number of draft governance proposals that are not yet public. As mentioned, we've been providing feedback to Sunny (All in Bits; Sikka) with his initial draft proposal for changing how Cosmos Hub slashing works. The proposal process is complex and involved, and pressure from even a vocal minority can make this an undesirable process.

My understanding is that many prefer to simply apply to the Interchain Foundation for a grant in order to avoid these pain points. However, consider submitting your proposal on-chain and to the Interchain Foundation in parallel. 

Why an on-chain proposal? It's a good way to build rapport with the community and to engage them as stakeholders in the work that you're doing. Besides the time it takes to push your proposal on-chain, the only funding delay is a fixed 14-day voting period (much faster than ICF). As soon as the proposal passes, your account will be credited the full amount of your proposal request, and then you can withdraw your Interchain Foundation application.

Preparing to draft a proposal? We can help!

Start by defining the minimal, critical components of your proposal:

  • Name of your project
  • Value to the Cosmos Hub
  • Rough timeline
  • Estimated amount of funding

We'd love the opportunity to help ensure that ideas and proposals get a fair chance by providing feedback and educational resources. Consider joining the Cosmos Governance Working Group (GWG) channels (Telegram, Discord, forum) to discuss your proposal.

GWG Month 3 (March) community call

The third (and final, as it pertains to the Prop23 deliverables) month-end Cosmos GWG community call took place on Mar 31, 2020 at 15:00 UTC with 12 people. I plan to continue to working group calls, and all notes, recordings, and future call agendas can be found here.

I documented the newcomers who introduced themselves and detailed that discussion here. Discussions about future GWG community calls will take place in Telegram, Discord, and this thread.

Mid-month topic call review

On Mar 18 we had a short call to discuss connecting the Cosmos Hub's governance mechanism to a dedicated legal entity. Zaki (Iqlusion) led the conversation about his work to create such a legal entity, one that gives legal rights to token-holders. This legal entity could be a middle management layer between Cosmos Hub governance mechanism and those who do development work, and the legal entity would be obligated to pursue token-holder desires, as expressed through the governance mechanism. Rather than have many employees, the legal entity could have many company members.

Topic: What kind of governance work could the Cosmos Hub find valuable?

I proposed this topic because I thought it could be a way to identify work that we think the Hub would support. Most of what we discussed were the barriers to making proposals to the Hub, much of which I've discussed earlier in this article. Curious to know more about this call? I'm currently recording notes, which will be published here.

Next Steps

Our next dedicated topic will likely be related to addressing barriers to launching community-spend proposals.

Join us!

Beyond these discussions, there are a number of topics of interest that members of the Cosmos community have expressed interest in. Check these topics out here and be sure to add your interest(s)--then please join the GWG participants list here to stay in touch.

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!):

Stay in Touch

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