Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  • I am not tackling the conscious intent of any of the mentioned people — I cannot possibly know it. The effects of an action are the same regardless of conscious or unconscious intent and biases.
  • This is feedback from the trenches of truly independent contribution to a system that has the publicly expressed intent to be/become completely decentralized.
  • There is a paradox: You can be biased when bringing criticism while being one of the directly involved parties. You can also be unbiased, especially if you have experience on both sides. Regardless if you have a bias or not, people will still accuse you of bias and obstinately view everything you say as coming from a biased view. Similarly, people are inclined to give more credibility to external people “coming to the rescue”. At the same time, the directly involved parties are the ones who intrinsically have all the information and are the best representatives of their positions. They are the only ones who have standing in a conflict. One cannot fully vouch for anyone else than oneself. One has a duty to fight against any wrongdoing that one finds because you will not be the only one.
  • abuse — To use improperly or excessively; misuse. To hurt or injure by maltreatment; ill-use. An unjust or wrongful practice. (https://www.wordnik.com/words/abuse)
  1. Ethereum is a decentralized technology that has nothing that imposes brute force legitimacy in its protocol.
  2. Ethereum is also a community that uses, supports, and develops the technology.
  3. Legitimacy can be accrued by (from Vitalik’s article https://vitalik.ca/general/2021/03/23/legitimacy.html):
  4. brute force: someone convinces everyone that they are powerful enough to impose their will and resisting them will be very hard. This drives most people to submit because each person expects that everyone else will be too scared to resist as well.
  5. continuity: if something was legitimate at time T, it is by default legitimate at time T+1.
  6. fairness: something can become legitimate because it satisfies an intuitive notion of fairness. See also: my post on credible neutrality, though note that this is not the only kind of fairness.
  7. process: if a process is legitimate, the outputs of that process gain legitimacy (eg. laws passed by democracies are sometimes described in this way).
  8. performance: if the outputs of a process lead to results that satisfy people, then that process can gain legitimacy (eg. successful dictatorships are sometimes described in this way).
  9. participation: if people participate in choosing an outcome, they are more likely to consider it legitimate. This is similar to fairness, but not quite: it rests on a psychological desire to be consistent with your previous actions.
  10. to this list, I would add existence: an elected person may have more legitimacy if representing (by existence in circumscription) more people than another elected who was voted by more people but with a smaller circumscription. And this is further dissected into: existence as an entity in a set, existence in space (area/volume of the circumscription), existence in time (elected period)
  11. also my addition: origin: if a person or entity owes its existence to another, the second entity has more origin legitimacy than the first.
  12. also my addition: clarity: definition and transparency give legitimation. E.g. a transparent process for a public service is more legitimate than a private process. Hard to understand legalese takes away from the legitimacy of a law.

Leverage Points in a Decentralized Structure

The leverage points are strategic points in a decentralized structure, which shape and change the direction/strategy/ethos of the decentralized structure. They are or end up being control mechanisms for accepted, rejected, or suppressed narratives.

Moderators’ Legitimacy

Moderators are trusted by the community with a monopoly on the application of cancelation over information dissemination.

  • delegation, through legitimacy by performance. They have demonstrated performance in guiding, informing, and curating information for the Ethereum community and they have been appointed through a non-public process.
  • fairness — demonstrated fairness in handling contentious cases
  • moderators of /r/ethereum (https://www.reddit.com/r/ethereum/about/moderators/, 13 at this time) are volunteers doing moderation in their spare time. This can be daunting, thankless, boring, and repetitive. More, it can involve interacting with irrational, rude, obtuse, and insufferable posters. Any wrongful action taken against a poster can originate from subconscious rather than conscious bias.
  • if the submission of a poster is wrongly removed, depending on time zone, it can cost the poster the majority of upvotes and views that the post could have had. By removing a post, you communicate that the other person did something illicit. If there is no penalty for wronging a poster, then the poster is the only one who is penalized. The moderator may think this one-sided loss is fair and normal. Normalization brings repetition.
  • an apology with an exact explanation of why the wrong happened
  • say what measures will be taken to avoid it happening again
  • say what measures will be taken as a penalty for the moderator and/or compensation for the poster

Continous Voting — Important Source of Legitimacy

I consider that the synergy of Ethereum as a community and Reddit as a platform is not by chance. It follows as a consequence of the alignment of mechanisms of legitimacy. Reddit implements continuous voting that accrues legitimation by:

  • continuity: each vote is added to the tally of the specific option. No other change is operated.
  • process: all Reddit has the same process, adopted by the platform users when they join.
  • fairness: all votes have the same weight.
  • clarity: users are well-acquainted with the voting mechanism.
  • existence: the subreddit is selecting for users interested in the subject (existence in a set). Furthermore, because the voting is continuous, it covers the existence in time starting with the post creation, for all foreseeable future
  • partially on participation: not all people with existence in the /r/ethereum set are participating

My Experience of Bringing Constructive Criticism to Ethereum Gatekeepers

Why I consider I have Standing

Provables

Legitimacy by existence. I contributed financially to Ethereum’s success by buying its gas coin, when it needed support.

Non-provables

I have not had any vacation, nor a free weekend, nor a free day in the past 2 years, working an average of 12+h / day, for Ethereum. Somewhat provable by https://github.com/loredanacirstea. Meanwhile, refusing several CTO offers. I am fully dedicated to the ideals of Ethereum.

Abuses by the Watchmen

The following is the experience from my perspective, as an independent, volunteer contributor. I provide links to the raw material, for you to make your own opinion. These are the cases that I know, I do not have in-depth knowledge of others who have been through similar or worse cases, as I could not find such statistics.

Abuse 1: by Standards and Research Editors/Publishers

My first contentious topic was dType — a decentralized typing system that I brought forth for examination: https://github.com/ethereum/EIPs/issues/1882. My conflict was with Nick Johnson https://twitter.com/nicksdjohnson. At that time Nick was an EIP editor and was actively advocating to merge drafts faster https://github.com/ethereum/EIPs/pull/2147/files#r297057639. My draft ( https://github.com/ethereum/EIPs/pull/1900) stayed unmerged from Apr 2, 2019, to Jul 7, 2019. Even after extensive technical discussion with Nick, unrequired for any other draft merging, started on Jun 26, 2019, the draft was not being merged. He then stated that he plans to not offer any more technical feedback. Not offering detailed feedback was ok, but I was puzzled as to why my draft was not being merged: https://github.com/ethereum/EIPs/issues/1882#issuecomment-507619192. The reason was: he was not acting as an editor, but volunteering technical feedback to me. However, he never pinged any other editor to take on the draft.

How

Abuse by lack of clarity of process:

  • EIP editor acting in a different capacity than reasonably expected
  • some editors were inactive, cannot determine who is actually performing this duty reliably
  • no process for how to get the attention of an editor for review and merge, without out-of-platform direct contact
  • no process to rate the priority level of a draft
  • double standards applied to drafts without the reason being transparent
  • tens of drafts, especially those made by contributors external to the Ethereum core team were being left unprocessed for many months

Abuse 2: by the Same

Because the main complaint that Nick had was: “editors are volunteers and do this in their spare time”, I wanted to actively help by starting to create a process for expanding the editor list. I made it as strict as I could and of course, I was not eligible. See https://github.com/ethereum/EIPs/pull/2166 and https://github.com/ethereum/EIPs/pull/2172. In both discussions, Nick was the most legitimate figure (editor) and he dismissed my ideas without wanting to acknowledge that there is a problem that needs fixing and without constructive criticism. There was simply no intent to improve the process. Or no intent to let me participate in improving the process.

How

Abuse by considering the legitimacy of continuity is higher than legitimacy through performance:

  • “I think this reflects a misunderstanding of the EIP process” in a case, where I specifically wanted to improve the parts of the EIP process that were not performant
  • “EIPs do not have assigned editors. You may think they should, but that’s not currently the case, and your proposed change seems to assume it is.” — with no data or arguments regarding performance
  • the process for electing EIP editors is not transparent
  • see Abuse 1
  • see above

Abuse 3: by Amalgamation of Abuses 1 and 2

There might have been a conflict of interest. A dType done well could have been either a very good ally to ENS (Nick Johnson’s creation) or a competitor. I was not sure if Nick was acting out of the intention to block any competing or overlapping ideas to ENS, so I wanted to bring the conflict out in the open (if there was one) — I wrote https://loredanacirstea.medium.com/flexible-alias-or-why-ens-is-obsolete-a1353030f445

How

Abuse by lack of clarity:

  • the entire Magicians discussion stemmed from an unclear tweet, from a person with performance legitimacy in Ethereum.
  • a person with greater legitimacy challenged a volunteer by dismissing the volunteer’s fairness and therefore, legitimacy to criticism. When the volunteer pressed forward for a detailed analysis, the person invoked a lack of time, so no clear resolution on the topic at hand was achieved. An unclear resolution between two individuals of mismatching legitimacy results in the person with higher legitimacy being perceived as winning the argument. But an argument won on an irrational premise leads to an increased chance for further moral and intellectual corruption of the winning party and of the audience.

Abuse 4: by Grant Dispensers

I applied for an Ethereum Community Fund grant for Pipeline in October 2018, where the only feedback was: we need to see interest in Pipeline from the community; no other technical feedback, no explanation as to how “interest from the community” is measured, no other offer.

How

Abuse by lack of clarity:

  • unclear grant process and timelines
  • lack of transparency — how many grant applications are processed? who are they originators? who decides and under what criteria? what does “community support” mean exactly?
  • grant amounts were initially public, now they are not.
  • no official feedback process, therefore no public statistics to analyze.
  • grant teams and core teams in Ethereum have direct communication and are under the same organization; there is an asymmetry of information between them and the individual contributor, who can end up with months of unpaid work going down the drain, on projects that want to be built in-house, by the Ethereum Foundation core members.
  • lack of transparency on grant amounts and performance comparisons leads to information asymmetry; historically, bigger grants have been awarded to people who knew Ethereum Foundation people personally, than outsiders. We have no way to analyze if those amounts were fair.
  • the Ethereum community was not invited to vote on grants
  • if a grant process that could take less than 1 week goes on > 2.5 months there is an obvious lack of efficiency and individual contributors cannot afford to plan ahead

Abuse 5: by Conference Organisers

I applied at Devcon5 with both dType (presentation) and Pipeline (workshop). It should be obvious that dType is the most interesting idea and it would be revolutionary to computing if done right. But it was not acknowledged as so and it was not selected to be presented.

I know ppl like pipeline in fact
but not everyone is on twitter constantly (I just saw this now)
and with blockchain week, it’s even worse, even less people with eyes on twitter since a good chunk of the community is in Berlin
I was one of the ppl who reviewed your application for devcon, I think it deserved to be there

How

Abuse by lack of clarity:

  • no public voting process
  • the entire list of applications is not public, to be able to judge if interesting presentations have been left out (it can also act as a repository of projects to pay attention to)
  • lack of feedback on application rejection (multiple complaints on my Twitter timeline)
  • unprovable: the undocumented process of appeal, some projects have been able to appeal and receive a workshop/presentation spot because they knew some of the organizers.
  • stemmed from lack of transparency on the process (see above)
  • instead of being events for the whole world, Ethereum conferences were restricted to mostly the same power groups. I proposed digital meetings and was refused by event organizers. (this was before COVID19)

Abuse 6: by News Disseminators

In 2020 I proposed a news section, dedicated to Ethereum volunteers: https://twitter.com/lorecirstea/status/1287845436024389632, who do not have the money to market themselves, nor the time to spend retweeting more legitimate accounts or to enter in Twitter feuds, in order to maintain visibility (a continuous and time-consuming process). To such a proposal, they gave no answer.

How

Abuse by lack of transparency of judgment and therefore, by lack of fairness. Judge a project not by the money but by the tech and give a fair chance to those with equal tech but less clout. Here, the modus operandi smacks of graft and graft-solicitation.

Abuse 7: by /r/ethereum Moderators

The /r/ethereum post that generated this article and the Twitter discussion https://twitter.com/lorecirstea/status/1394612745245532162.

How

Abuse by lack of clarity

  • the reasons for post removal do not include quotes or descriptions from the removed material — it is not clear how to fix your post if you want to
  • no process for how the rules of the subreddit can be updated
  • no process for what happens if a moderator wrongs a contributor
  • no process for appeals
  • no process for how and by whom are new moderators appointed
  • performance for each mod — how many posts do they moderate, from that, how many appeals they receive, etc.
  • the above results in the content contributors and voters have no direct say, through continuous voting, regarding the administrative and unpublic processes
  • no intent of righting the wrongdoing initially, with a degree of resistance after I pointed out what should happen
  • moderators acted as if a contributor has less legitimacy than a moderator because wrongdoings by moderators against contributors are deemed as acceptable. But wrongdoings of contributors are unacceptable (banned). Realistically, content producers have legitimacy by origin, through their content.
  • a wrongfully removed post is obstruction of legitimacy by participation

Conclusions on Such Abuses

When is the lack of response from an editor abuse of power?

The editor has legitimacy by performance, in the domain of reviewing EIPs. His position is dependent on the quantity and quality of EIP reviews. If the editor is asked to review an EIP and that EIP conforms to the imposed quality standards and the editor refuses without a reasonable argument, this lowers the editor’s performance and legitimacy.

Obstructing participation by cancelation

If editors do not review your valid proposals, moderators remove your valid posts, news disseminators do not disseminate your valid news, they effectively obstruct participation and preclude you to gain legitimacy by participation.

A look back

I shook hands, talked, laughed, went to conferences, hackathons, and parties, discussed technical matters in person and in writing with many of the people from the core of Ethereum. I have the experience that when you do not criticize the legitimacy or ethics of the people in the space (or at least the more powerful people in the space), people more or less like you and they appear favorable to your face because you help them keep their status. But I would rather have the peace of mind that I am not helping a corrupt system to become more corrupt.

The Effects of Gatekeeping

By eliminating me, they preclude access to valuable technologies for the Ethereum community. I will remind the most strategic:

  • The first interpreted (and functional) language for the EVM (taylor)
  • The first decentralized type system with type checking and typed database on EVM (dType)
  • The first arbitrary-precision library on EVM (tally)
  • An optimized EVM bytecode interpreter in EVM
  • The easiest IDE for dApps to learn and run on mobiles (Marks Factory)
  • The first chat engine that treats conversations as Ethereum shards with EVM support (ark)

Final Words

The Ethereum, as a community, loses fairness legitimacy when members abuse each other’s legitimacy. It also loses fairness and performance legitimacy when it accepts with impunity and even promotes ICO companies that do not fulfill their promises.

Required Study

Poll and Actionable Stuff

https://forms.gle/AUsZobjgHLcDxNak6

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Building bricks for the World Computer #ethereum #Pipeline #dType #EIP1900 https://github.com/loredanacirstea, https://www.youtube.com/c/LoredanaCirstea

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