What Tezos can learn from GDPR

Graham Smith
March 11, 2019
minute read

In late February, Nomadic announced their two flavors of the Athens proposal for Tezos. Immediately, the Tezos community became polarized and buzzing with opinions.

The headlines for the two proposals are:

  • Athens A: Increase the gas limit AND reduce the roll size from 10,000 to 8,000 XTZ.
  • Athens B: Increase the gas limit

There are many posts and articles discussing the pros and cons of each of the above proposals. Before we jump in with our perspective of the reduced roll size, we’d like to give focus to something that is a bit more meta. We’d like to discuss the way that new proposals for the Tezos protocol, and in general, proposals of self-governed blockchains should be presented and distributed.

From our observation, the current process for proposal submission is somewhat flawed and open for exploitation.

Going back to the Athens proposals, the decrease in Tezos roll size has become the point of division amongst bakers and delegators. The bakers, fearing retaliation by their delegator base usually takes to social media to allow their delegators to vote for and decide on their vote of Athens A or B.

Even the gas limit change is glossed over.

Current discussions are around ‘Will decreasing the roll size be better for Tezos adoption?’ and ‘Is voting for something this trivial, the best use of the Tezos Foundation’s resources?’

What the public isn’t discussing or may NOT even know about are the 23other changes incorporated in the Athens proposals.

The public is currently fixated on 1 out of the 24 proposed changes within the proposals. They are essentially passively accepting the 23 other changes.

For details, refer to Nomadic’s post.

The majority of the public, yes, even Tezos stakers, aren’t experienced in voting on bills and passing laws. We can easily get caught up in sensationalism and hype, and gloss over the important terms of a protocol proposal. The devil is really in the detail.

Anyone can propose a set of changes to the protocol, and hide a malicious or self-serving change behind both a laundry list of changes and controversial changes. A possible attack can occur by submitting two proposals, both having the same target malicious change but one being slightly different and incorporating a controversial change as well. The public will fixate on the controversial topic and thus one proposal, vote on it and pass it while also unknowingly accepting the malicious change.

The general voter is inexperienced in passing bills and laws, and attacks like the example above can occur.

Our proposal is to have a clear, concise, and non-technical manifesto required with each Tezos protocol proposal outlining all of the proposed changes for the public to review and scrutinize. Currently, it is too easy to hide certain proposed changes to the protocol, gain public support, and vote the change into effect.

Similar to what the GDPR has done to clean up complex corporate Privacy Policies, we need to make protocol proposals accessible to the average Tezos holder.

At the time of this writing (6pm, March 11, 2019, Eastern Time), 69.41% of those that have voted have voted for Athens A. 67.6% of the votes (or 35351 votes) hasn’t been cast yet.

And now, to join the party on the discussion of roll size…

While we’ve seen many valid points arguing for and against the reduction of the Tezos roll size, we wanted to summarize some of our thoughts and perhaps offer a few new perspectives.

By reducing the roll size, we could see:

  • Increased engagement by the community which may further increase adoption. However, there will also be an increased # of self delegators (i.e. self serve) which may impact existing delegates’ models in a negative way. With fewer delegators, delegates’ bottom lines will be impacted.
  • Temporary increased technical overhead for all stakeholders including for the foundation, bakers, and developers. Too small an amount of roll size reduction and the update will likely not result in huge benefits for the network (in terms of increased bakers) but will incur technical costs. Too large of a decrease in rolls size could have the potential to destabilize the existing relationship and dynamic between bakers and delegators.
  • An interesting dynamic where with incrementally smaller roll sizes, in theory, there could be less unused XTZ overall. With a roll size of 10,000, 9,999 XTZ can be wasted in a baker’s wallet as it doesn’t form a full role. However, with a roll size of 5,000, only a maximum of 4,999 would be wasted. In practice though, waste is harder to predict.
  • Another potential positive is that it’s good to test the ability for Tezos to support relatively large infrastructure changes earlier on. Issues should be detected as early as possible. If successful, it’ll also build confidence in one of the core value propositions of Tezos: self-governance.
  • Lastly, it’s important to note that the incentives between different types of stakeholders are not necessarily aligned and at times, completely opposite. A larger baker, for example, would want a higher barrier to entry (i.e. larger XTZ rolls) whereas a self delegator may want a much lower roll size.

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