Stacks Foundation: Developing Governance for Blockstack

Hello! I’m Brittany. I’m excited to work with all of you on a critical piece of Blockstack’s future: Governance.

If we haven’t connected before, I’ve led Investor Relations at Blockstack PBC for the past year, but my work with the project extends back six years. I was on the investment team at Union Square Ventures when USV made its initial investment in Blockstack in 2014. I then invested again in 2018 through my seed fund, Lattice Ventures. I’m a long time community member and believer in the project.

I’m working on behalf of Blockstack PBC, along with an independent researcher, to solicit input from the community as we work towards establishing an independent foundation supporting Blockstack governance and decentralization.

Continued growth requires governance

This past year was the most significant year of growth for Blockstack. From community (200+ Meetups), to apps (from 46 to 400+), to Stacks holders (800 to 300,000+), this momentum sets the stage and highlights the need for future governance structures within the ecosystem.

Blockstack PBC was founded on the principles of decentralization and we firmly believe it is the only way to fully succeed in building a user-owned internet. Two years ago we laid out a concrete path to decentralization, and we are actively working with the community to carry out that plan.

Stacks Foundation

Today, we’re kicking off the research required to start a ‘Stacks Foundation’ that reflects the needs and values of the community. The Stacks Foundation should be a long-term, permanent home for Blockstack-related governance, and an entity that serves as a neutral ground for various parties to come together and reach consensus on the path forward.

The foundation can create new avenues for innovation and provide an additional means to bring new talent and fresh thinking into the Blockstack ecosystem. We also anticipate that the foundation will have more tools to reward and support independent researchers, contributors, and collaborators than Blockstack PBC could alone.

Good governance is critical for open, collaborative projects like Blockstack. Examples of governance gone wrong abound in the blockchain space, and while we won’t highlight these in detail here, such failures make it clear that strong structures for decision making and conflict resolution are essential for the long-term health and success of the project.

An early vision for the foundation

Nothing is set in stone while we research and gather feedback, but we’d like to share a few things we believe will make a successful foundation and some ways we anticipate it being be different from others in the space.

  1. The foundation does not exist to fundraise. Its sole focus is to promote transparent, participatory governance in the interest of the long-term health and success of the network.
  2. The foundation aims to be ‘for the community and by the community.’
  3. The foundation will be independent of Blockstack PBC.

Community led charter

The purpose of this initial post is to get as much feedback from the community as possible before taking any concrete steps towards establishing the foundation. We cannot do this without you. Your input will be a key part of creating the foundation’s charter and governance.

We’re excited to work with you over the coming weeks to build a robust governance proposal.

How to get involved:

  1. Participate in our Governance Community Call on Thursday, February 13th at 10am EST (15:00 UTC/23:00 CST).
  2. Join our #Governance-working-group in Discord.
  3. Reply with your thoughts and feedback directly on this post. Here are a few questions we’re looking to collaborate with you on:
  • What does decentralized governance mean to you?
  • What does legitimate governance look like to you?
  • What role would Stacks holders play in governance?
  • What role should the foundation play in the overall Blockstack ecosystem, and in Blockstack governance?
  • Are there things that PBC should definitely keep doing?
  • How should the foundation solicit feedback and input from the community?
  • What other projects (crypto or non-crypto) should we learn from? What positive or negative examples exist?
  • What should be included in the foundation’s mission statement?
  • How should the Stacks blockchain protocol evolve?

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Forward-looking statements

This communication contains forward-looking statements that are based on our beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to us. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the following words: “will,” “expect,” “would,” “intend,” “believe,” or other comparable terminology. Forward-looking statements in this document include, but are not limited to, statements about future governance of the Blockstack ecosystem and plans for a potential Stacks Foundation. These statements involve risks, uncertainties, assumptions and other factors that may cause actual results or performance to be materially different. More information on the factors, risks and uncertainties that could cause or contribute to such differences is included in our filings with the SEC, including in the “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion & Analysis” sections of our offering statement on Form 1-A. We cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate. These forward-looking statements speak only as of the date hereof. We disclaim any obligation to update these forward-looking statements.

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Hi @blocks8 or Britanny


  • What does decentralized governance mean to you?

Decentralized mean, to me, almost like open-source or for everyone, to contribute and to be part of something. On the other side, it would mean to be in Jail


  • What does legitimate governance look like to you?

Transparency and community.


  • What role would Stacks holders play in governance?

I think the role is to maintain a stability or neutral point of view from others.


  • What role should the foundation play in the overall Blockstack ecosystem, and in Blockstack governance?

The main goal to achieve is to realize our main achievement, witch is to keep Blockstack and Blockstacker"s members the opportunity to be part of the new consensus Proof-Of-Transfer at first. The Gouvernance would work in parallel because it’s fundamental and vital for the Blockstack community in order to work properly. The Foundation will also be used to promote and foundraise event’s and organisation meetings but also members that give time and work.


  • Are there things that PBC should definitely keep doing?

Expand and spread the words more aggressively.


  • How should the foundation solicit feedback and input from the community?

The Gouvernance and Forum, Discord, Social Media is the key part of the Feedback.


  • What other projects (crypto or non-crypto) should we learn from? What positive or negative examples exist?

I think there too many example right now, but implementing a side-system to learn more about Blockstack and what around it could be a great idea. A Bitbucket loaded with apps or a multi-share Blockchain on ASW once the foundation will be up and running.


  • What should be included in the foundation’s mission statement?

Transparency Transparency and Transparency. People that will funds or raise funds or contribute from close or far to the project will want to be involved and know what going on. The best way to achieve Transparency is Transparency.


  • How should the Stacks blockchain protocol evolve?

This is a question that would need different point of view from the community or Gouvernance.

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Hello! I appreciate you sharing feedback on all of the questions. We’ll collect it into our feedback.

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I don’t have a clear picture what is needed, possible and already existing. So my answers to the questions might be confusing. Do you have some links about “theory of governance in the context of the commons”?

Here are some answers:

  • What does decentralized governance mean to you?
    Any participant can be easily replace by another one without breaking the system.

  • What does legitimate governance look like to you?
    100% of the participants accept the way how decisions are taken.

  • What role would Stacks holders play in governance?
    Only Stacks holders can participate in the governance process

  • What role should the foundation play in the overall Blockstack ecosystem, and in Blockstack governance?
    The foundation should represent the values of the Blockstack ecosystem to the outside and the insides. The values are defined through the governance process. The foundation consists of a board and members. The board makes decisions following the governance process. The foundation should overview the ecosystem and incentivize behavior according to the values.

  • Are there things that PBC should definitely keep doing?
    Researching about better solutions for a user-owned internet

  • How should the foundation solicit feedback and input from the community?
    Prepare proposals to the board

  • What other projects (crypto or non-crypto) should we learn from? What positive or negative examples exist?
    Positive: https://eosdac.io/, https://www.metacartel.org/ https://threefold.io/

  • What should be included in the foundation’s mission statement?
    “Create a user-owned internet”, “Support political policies on a global scale that give users better means to make decisions about their use of the internet and service providers”, “Support the development of alternative service providers if there is too little choice”.

  • How should the Stacks blockchain protocol evolve?
    Goals for the future should be to be environmental friendly and keep an archive of the blockchain history so that nodes do not have to keep duplicates of historical data.

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edit/ It may be instructional to see how Bitcoin is doing governance - such as this recent discussion on how to do soft-forks. While Bitcoin is using block bits/flags to signal voting by miners, maybe it’s possible for Blockstack to do something similar with a voting dapp?
see: Modern Soft Fork Activation /edit

I think a lot of formal “governance” is un-necessary, and even a waste of time/resources, to some extent because “voting” can be performed via the code you choose to run. It’s difficult for me to define so instead I will provide some examples, and what I like about them. I think the main feature is just that they are all engineered to be backward compatible:
Bitcoin - you can opt to run the latest release or not, some very early versions of bitcoin node/miner code still work fine today and interoperate with the rest of the blockchain network. A recent example is the bitcoin “segwit” code, which was a major release and point of contention. When it finally was release it took a while before a majority % of nodes ran it. But eventually it did reach majority due to it solving a real need.
Linux OS - there have been hundreds of different code forks, and you can choose to run the one you prefer. Some code won’t run on some versions but many distributions can run the same binaries - such as Debian, Ubuntu, LinuxMint, they all run the same binaries because they are all forks of Debian
TCP/IP network protocol - nobody was/is forced to run TCP v6, the newer version. You can run v4 and have no problems running on the Internet.

Having a majority-rules kind of thing where due to “governance” minorities can get essentially (voted out/off) the network because they don’t agree is the worst IMO. Individuals should have the right to choose and this is why voting with code (version you run) is good.

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• What does decentralized governance mean to you?

We’re pushing the boundaries of governance, from centralized governance to decentralize. I do not know whats the best way to go about implementing governance in a decentralized way, but thought of focusing on first principals. Governance exists to ensure accountability of the decision makers that they are acting in the network’s best interest.

• What does legitimate governance look like to you?

Bad actors are unable to manipulate the governance system to their favour.

Ensure alignment of all stakeholders(miners, app founders, stackholders, users, etc) and decision makers to a same set of objectives(broadly speaking) – the network’s interest

Deadlock mechanism and resolution to be in place to solve conflicts in the network’s interest.

It needs to be scalable, as blockstack grows, the stakeholders(miners, app founders, stackholders, users, etc) increases exponentially with a more diverse view on how blockstack should eventually be.

• What role would Stacks holders play in governance?
To be involved on an equal capacity as other stakeholders in governance setting and implementation.

• What role should the foundation play in the overall Blockstack ecosystem, and in Blockstack governance?

A neutral body, constantly researching on the forefront of decentralization, blockstack networks and injecting ideas, guidance, policy thoughts to the wider blockstack community.

A think tank for blockstack network and the wider blockchain community.

• Are there things that PBC should definitely keep doing?
Community reachout and engagement! Doing an exceptional job currently!!

• How should the foundation solicit feedback and input from the community?

Via community channels(discord, twitter, etc) while also publishing thought papers and engaging the research/academia/commercial sectors to gather inputs.

• What other projects (crypto or non-crypto) should we learn from? What positive or negative examples exist?

Not too sure, but always have the impression that Decred is really strong on governance. Quoting Chris burniske “with great governance you can have any feature you want”

• What should be included in the foundation’s mission statement?

Neutral and a thoughtful think tank for the community.

• How should the Stacks blockchain protocol evolve?

As a layman person, hope to be able to use dapps as seamlessly as how we are using mobile apps now, in a secure and efficient manner.

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This should be possible in Stacks 2.0 because Clarity is a decidable language. There’s a lot of things that a miner can determine about a transaction without running it, so soft-forks that place limits on the kinds of transactions that will be mined should be doable (much as they are in Bitcoin). The Stacks 2.0 coinbase transaction wire format already gives miners 32 bytes of space to store ancillary data of their choice, and I could easily see this space being used to implement on-chain miner voting.

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I’m excited to welcome Lane Rettig (@lrettig) to the conversation! Lane is an independent researcher who will help deliver a Governance proposal in collaboration with our community and researchers. Lane brings deep expertise in crypto governance. We’re excited to have him to help build a community-driven proposal for the foundation.

Lane will be co-hosting the call on Thursday where he can introduce himself, but here’s a bit more about his background:

Lane Rettig is a writer, technologist and entrepreneur with a background in computer science and quantitative finance. Lane received bachelors degrees in computer science and Japanese at the University of California, Berkeley, received his MBA from The Wharton School of Business, and his MA from The Lauder Institute. He spent time developing a healthcare startup called Seratis before beginning his work on blockchain. Lane founded Crypto NYC, a blockchain-centered coworking community in New York City, and worked as a core developer for Ethereum from 2017-2019. He is currently working on Spacemesh, a next-generation blockchain platform, and is engaged in independent research and consulting in governance of cryptoeconomic systems.

Lane’s work focuses on both the theory and the practice of the governance of cryptoeconomic networks: using novel, blockchain-based incentive mechanisms to build more robust, sustainable, just, participatory human institutions in the Spacemesh and Ethereum communities, and beyond. He has contributed to COALA, the Coalition of Automated Legal Applications, and the Wharton Cryptoeconomic Governance Initiative.

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Looks very promising. It’s a big problem and needs focused expertise/attention. A quick search came up with this. Maybe a decent place to start?
https://spacemesh.io/a-new-human-chain/ (by Lane Rettig)
If there are others, please post.

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Thanks for the intro, @blocks8! I’m so excited to meet everyone in this community, and to work on this important project with you all. If you haven’t already, make sure to sign up for the Governance Community Call this Thursday.

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Hi there! Here are a couple more articles that you might find useful!


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Thanks for the links @lrettig! Looking forward to the Governance Community Call on Thursday.

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@blocks8, I’ll try to answer your questions considering especially that the focus of the foundation is “to promote transparent, participatory governance in the interest of the long-term health and success of the network.”

  • What does decentralized governance mean to you?
    Here ‘decentralization’ implies finding the better way for all members of the network to participate in decision making. Governance is how the decisions that affect all the members are taken. Decisions concerning security and conflict resolution are two basic fields to consider, aparte from those more technological ones.

  • What does legitimate governance look like to you?
    In the physical world any governance is established following at first some few basic principles that the founders all agree and acknowledge. Usually inspired by the mission. Then the rules to make decisions have to respect such principles, including those regarding governance itself. This is how any rule, law, governance in general can only be legitimate if it respects the founding principles. Any decision for the community trespassing the founding principles (and subsequent rules of governance adopted) is illegitimate. So far, in the context of the foundation (as described) governance is legitimate only if transparent and participatory.

  • What role would Stacks holders play in governance?
    Stacks holders should have a special role in governance when the time comes for governance to address decisions concerning stacks. Moreover, in an eventual voting system a way for their vote to be of some special weigh (just thinking out loud here)

  • What role should the foundation play in the overall Blockstack ecosystem, and in Blockstack governance?
    The foundation should keep the mission of the network alive by promoting initiatives that reinforce protection of the user’s fundamental rights.

  • Are there things that PBC should definitely keep doing?
    The PBC should help build such governance until it’s fully developed and active. Then the PBC should be part of the foundation and control the preservation of its transparent and participatory governance principles and rules. Moreover it could have a research and counseling role to support evolution and adaptation to environment and new challenges. The PBC should keep the whole picture vision while the foundation could better focus in the management of present decisions.

  • How should the foundation solicit feedback and input from the community?
    We should find a voting system where all members of the community could express themselves, but also where the value of members with specific interests in the network - stacks holders and developers as well as users - could have their say on decision the especially address their interests. My first thoughts go for a system of ’quality voting’ depending on the type of decision as well as the interests of voter.
    The examples of good governance that come to my mind depend on security, efficiency and quality of the means for community participation (in the physical world universal democracy being the most successful so far). Therefore, I think that we should definitely design a voting system, but we should look for a new approach with improvements.

  • What other projects (crypto or non-crypto) should we learn from? What positive or negative examples exist?
    I haven’t studied this subject enough to bring examples (I will have a look at the examples of governance on the blockchain and in the physical world, especially in history). I am reading right now the book “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” by Robert Nozick and it is actually very interesting. This came after reading the article (chapter of a book) Anarchy, State and Blockchain Utopia: Rule of Law vs. Lex Cryptographia by Thibault Schrepel. I still have a lot to learn… before being able to answer. Any recommendation will be welcome.

  • What should be included in the foundation’s mission statement?
    Following the founders of Blockstack, the foundation provides transparent and participatory governance in order for the network to fulfill the mission of keeping every user in control of his identity, data and fundamental rights.

  • How should the Stacks blockchain protocol evolve?
    I don’t know…

All the best to you all!

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What does decentralized governance mean to you?

The same principles of sensible governance that exist in well-governed national systems extended to the international level independent from other institutions
What does legitimate governance look like to you?
It has to have a rule of law, legislation in the common interest, an executive branch to implement such legislation, and courts to enforce it
What role would Stacks holders play in governance?
In a capitalist model, generally the holders of capital decide. Probably, as the foundation early definition is broader, it is not associated to capital, it has to be just as normal human beings, equal, as the rest of the members of the community. Based on a common interest.
What role should the foundation play in the overall Blockstack ecosystem, and in Blockstack governance?
Promoter of the Blockstack Ecosystem, tester, research of potential use, look into new possible areas of application, grow usage, promotion of application development based on the Blockstack ecosystem, define requirements or goals that Blockstack has to achieve. Act as representative of the user community to the general public explaining the benefits, assure principles that protect the users (community) of bad use of the technology (Do not be evil principle).
Are there things that PBC should definitely keep doing?
Do not know
How should the foundation solicit feedback and input from the community?
Surveys, studies, community social networks, regular events
What other projects (crypto or non-crypto) should we learn from? What positive or negative examples exist?
One key aspect that the foundation has to consider is the huge digital divide that exists nowadays between rich and poor in terms of computer use and the Internet. With Crypto technologies that divide increases among the ones that have access but do not know about crypto, etc. So the foundation has to help to reduce dratically all these divides.
What should be included in the foundation’s mission statement?So the foundation has to help to reduce drastically all these divides, digital divide, facilitating its mass adoption assuring privacy, security and data sovereignty . The best protection is unified collective action, based on shared values and respect for diversity, applying widely accepted international principles to advance universal human prosperity and well-being.
How should the Stacks blockchain protocol evolve?
Cost effective, easy of use, stable currency, world wide adoption.

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Another aspect that comes along with the New Internet, it is the Internet of Value facilitated with the cryptomoney. Another crucial problem in the world is the need of financial inclusion of the inhabitants of the world. Around 2.000 million people do not have access to financial services. So the foundation has to consider how all the Blockstack ecosystem will contribute to increase this financial inclusion.

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What does decentralized governance mean to you?

Decentralized governance means that there is no centralized authority that dictates the actions of the ecosystem. There is no monarch or benevolent dictator. Authority is based on the will of the people and that will is contained within a constitution, mission statement or manifesto ratified by the people. The decision making occurs at the edges by those most affected.

What does legitimate governance look like to you?

Legitimate governance is the will of the community guided by a constitution, mission statement or manifesto that upholds fundamental founding values and has been ratified by the community.

What role would Stacks holders play in governance?

Stacks holders are members of the community. There is a common idea throughout the blockchain communities that only token holders should be participants in the governance of a community. This is a plutocracy. I have concerns if only Stacks owners have a voice in the governance of the community as this does not provide a complete understanding of stakeholder opinions

What role should the foundation play in the overall Blockstack ecosystem, and in Blockstack governance?

The foundation should play the following roles:

  • Co-creation of a constitution;
  • Co-creation of a governance system including a custodian board of directors;
  • Creation of an educational branch that provides early stage and continuing education for Blockstack developers;
  • Creation of a community development branch that spreads the message of a user owned internet through education, research, events,etc.;
  • Creation and governance of a fund for open source projects;
  • Governance of app mining.

Are there things that PBC should definitely keep doing?

PBC should focus on the continued development of the Blockstack platform such as continued work on Clarity language, SIP-001 and SIP-007, and more tools for developers.

How should the foundation solicit feedback and input from the community?

Use community social channels like Discord to engage the community along with Zoom meetings, a Github issue tracker, a forum and polls for surveying. Each method provides an opportunity for people to engage in a way that suits individual preference so they can share their ideas.

What should be included in the foundation’s mission statement?

The mission statement should specifically address first principles of privacy, protecting user rights and growing a user owned internet.

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Hi there!

I’m new here - but I’ve been following Blockstack with deep interest for ages :wink:

I did fill out the survey, and that’s what kinda got me thinking about governance per se, and so I’ve been reading through everything here on governance, and the various links - and had set off on my own search for interesting material on it.

You very soon realise that this is an age old problem, and that it’s not so easy as ‘automating benificent systems’. For example, I didn’t know the story of the DAO in 2016, but I’d already realised that there are fatal issues with trying to automate something like governance, by coupling it to market dynamics etc.

Having said that, one of the things I feel blockchain can accomplish is at the very least better systems that dis-incentivise bad actors.

Anyway -

I’ve found some really interesting papers and talks etc etc, but there’s so much detail, and I feel this does need a lot of boiling down to see whats what.

So, although I am making a bunch of notes and diagrams and links and quotes and ideas etc etc about it all, perhaps this is the best thing I have found so far - this lady is fully on point with the topic imho.

Thanks!

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@kieranalexis.id.bloc Thanks for filling out the survey! Please join us at the Governance Working Group tomorrow (15 April 2020) if you are available.

Here is the link for the Working Group Call tomorrow (15 April 2020) 7am PT/ 10am ET/2pm UTC/ 4pm CEST/ (GMT-04:00):
Join Zoom Meeting

Here is the agenda: https://github.com/stacksgov/pm/issues/25

Take a look at our resources:

Hope to see you soon!

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I’ll be there - thanks for the invite!

K

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Great! I’ve had the chance to work with Dr. Barrera from Prysm Group at Blockstack. Her team helped us evaluate our token economics and consensus mechanism. She’s definitely a leader in thinking through the inputs of governance within crypto. Thanks for sharing this video!

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