Governance in Raven Project & other FOSS Projects

Categories:Personal
matt

A long time industry member and friend asked me if I could help with navigating getting some changes on Ravencoin implemented.

I replied by email and have adapted it slightly for this article. My reply might be useful for anyone thinking about governance for Ravencoin, Bitcoin or any other free and open source project.

Ravencoin is a FOSS project designed to help users be able to easily create secure and permissionless digital tokens.

I’m a community member and supporter but I don’t have any official role, no one does. I don’t work on the project full time — or even that much at all. It’s not “the” securities protocol we will use, it’s simply an open source project we support.

Raven had a fair launch, no premine, no fundraise, no ICO and has no treasury or employees.

Also, just because I support something doesn’t mean I recommend it for purchase, in fact I don’t recommend it and never have and people should be aware that crypto is risky and you can lose all your money.

The question (basically):

Can you help us find the thought leaders for this proposed change [which relates to tech my contact works on]

My reply (adapted for clarity, privacy & article format)

Well definitely I think anyone can do a test net or write code. — there’s no permission needed —- nobody has any authority & anyone can be a thought leader — nobody is appointed to anything & there are no official roles in the project.

There are many volunteers, companies building and devs. There are dev who are most well known, they are great and have done a large amount of work — but that doesn’t give them any official authority and they can’t make changes go through. In fact even basic changes have been hard to get miner support on [note- Medici has been an active supporter of devs, I don’t have any role with Medici at this time] – I don’t think any company directs the devs on code changes to Raven. It tries to model Bitcoin with companies like Chaincode or Stripe who have devs work on the code as subsidized volunteers.

Different than almost all other chains, Raven has no Corp structure, org, foundation, HQ, budget, treasury, fund etc. it doesn’t exist as an entity — no person is official and no person has power over the project —- it’s simply code and ideas that were given away for free for anyone to run and use.

If something is second layer — or using the protocol then anyone can do anything, there’s no one with authority to give permission so it’s not needed

If you have something that doesn’t require a fork that would be super easy — you can just do it and you’d probably have a ton of support because the other supporters of the project like anything that builds on it

As I understand it may require a hard fork to implement — so that’s harder — forks have been hard to get passed — the current upgrade for example hasn’t reached 85% and it’s been over a month of trying — and that’s with full support of nearly every major contributor, site and company that works on Ravencoin — and with changes that are pretty non controversial and part of the roadmap (which, at this stage is also not official).

We are at around 80% but some resist even minor parts of the code changing. This is actually good that it’s so hard to change, it’s more like modeling the best practices of Bitcoin.

The only influence anyone can have on this is either writing code, running nodes or speaking about it on social media, videos, speeches etc. in that regard everyone has the same power and the only way to gain influence is when others listen to you. People tend to listen to active devs because they see the dev work, some listen to me because I have lots of ideas. Others have a large following. But no one has any ability to change consensus rules.

Without a fork, and on second layer, anything is easy

With one, you don’t need anyone else to take any action you want, if you can code it and present something to the miners then you don’t need anyone else — there’s no official devs — even the github isn’t official

So it comes down to getting miner support — if any changes requiring a hard fork are contentious then they could cause a chain split — getting support of well known devs and community members, major miners is key in that but it’s essentially a contentious political campaign

I don’t take positions on most technical changes for Bitcoin or Raven or anything else. Even when I have on raven I’ve been often overruled by the miners at times

I was against the Dark Gravity fork but it went through anyway — anyone can gain influence just like Bitcoin — having support of devs is helpful — but this isn’t an easy chain to change —

It sounds like marketing jargon to say raven is decentralized with no leaders — but it really is true by design — the only thing official is what software any miner chooses

What I’d suggest is that if you can find a way to make it work without a hard fork or on the second layer that’s ideal

If a hard fork is needed I really don’t have much power because of the reasons above — I’d have to learn more but even if I was the loudest cheerleader it would have no effect without the devs & major community members and miners on board — and then even in that case if it was contentious it wouldn’t go through

I wish I could help more on this — this structure is by design and it has some great advantages — but also makes change very hard.

// End of message

Note: a couple folks speculated that this structure is simply hand waiving for legal reasons to claim decentralization — afaik there’s no legal reason anyone would do that — Raven isn’t a security, wasn’t a securities offering and therefor isn’t concerned with centralization aspects that some projects have

Conclusion

Hopefully this gives you some food for thought on FOSS governance not just for Ravencoin but for Bitcoin and any other project.

Overall, there can be drawbacks of a leaderless, distributed structure but for a project like this imho it makes sense to strive for as much decentralization as possible.

Bitcoin seems to be the gold standard of this. For Raven I’d like to see even more distribution. More devs, a more transparent dev process, an open mailing list / discussion board and maybe other reference implementations and more contributors.

By embracing the best practices of Bitcoin, decentralization and cypherpunk values, Ravencoin has built a strong network with a huge variety of builders. Hopefully the project will continue to always improve these principles and that will continue to strengthen the project.

To learn more you can visit Ravencoin.org

This has links to discussion groups, and the github with the wallet

Using the wallet you can create a digital asset in 5 minutes without a smart contract

Ravencoin is experimental

The logo for RavenCoin