Process Discussion Decision making, effectiveness and changes needed for 2020

Full disclosure: Before creating this post I was going to resign as guide. Some people talked me out of it with good enough reasons, the most important one of me giving up on effecting change. This is not to get people on my side, because for all I care I already resigned. It would be too easy to do that though IMO. If people still want me to go, they can obviously ask or make me. Please do not state you do not want me to go or anything, as I am not interested in distractions from what this is about. I just want to be open to everybody.

There were multiple reasons for me considering resignation. The main reasons, however, are time, effectiveness and failure to bring change.

The Factom Protocol and FCT have seen a fair share of problems for the last 1.5 years. Price being at all-time low last year certainly has put pressure on all the parties involved. I do expect we have hit the bottom though and will see a very positive 2020. I think we have seen a tremendous amount of development and applications being brought live every month lately. PegNet obviously being the best example of it. So far the positives ;)

I am seeing several issues regarding our grant system, general governance, decision making power (or lack there off), apathy by standing parties. Standing parties not living up to their pledges, standing parties not participating at all. Standing parties lowering their efficiencies without doing much reporting.

A small sample of low efficiencies that are almost all different from initial pledges. Standing parties do next to nothing to ask questions or hold ANOs accountable:

  • 0% DBGrow
  • 10% Go Immutable, De Facto
  • 20% Federate This
  • 25% LayerTech, Factomatic, TFA
  • 30% HashNStore
  • 35% BIF
  • 40% Factomize, Luciap

Of the above list, there is one ANO at their pledged efficiency (TFA) and two at a higher than pledged efficiency (Factomatic, BIF). All reported their efficiency changes. Some of the above do report, but whether the ecosystem is getting the lowered efficiency worth is a big mystery. What exactly is being done for the lowered efficiency is not clearly stated most of the time. The standing parties also have no tools to change that. At the same time we have contention on grants, reporting and grant rounds.

Some things I find highly irritating as we have not addressed them yet, the last one being the most important one.

  • Parties that do not participate in governance should be removed
  • ANOs should go to infra only to pave the way for performance based grants. We have entities at close at 25 percent or below, with not a whole lot of questions asked and no updates in some cases
  • Grants IMO should go to backpay grants mostly and have the application requirement removed so you can already apply for any future grant round (so even 3 rounds out). Grantees would take on risk, but it incentives to do reporting and bring value. It also makes sure standing parties are aligned with the backpay grant, instead of being ambushed and pressured to pay for work already being done, without the question of whether people want it in the first place.
  • Token holders / EC users should find their place in governance. With Poloniex not being owned by Circle anymore, I see no reason why we cannot pursue it.
  • We need standing and DPOS like system to create competition and effective decision making
  • We need effective guidance to get things done. We haven’t had important changes/decisions in over a year.

Actually the last part isn’t true. There is one exception AFAIK.

The ANO standing system is being implemented right now. Why? Because 2 guides and David Chapman came together to get sh#t done. That also immediately showed to the 3 parties involved what was wrong with our current guidance. Because there was an immediate back and forth between the 3 to come up with a better solution. One doing a proposal and immediately being improved by the others. This is the dynamics the guides had in the first installment and to some degree after 2 guides stepped down as well.

I know I might be throwing people under the bus, including myself probably, but I regard current guides and their guidance to have failed. I believe this is a result of many factors (low price, other priorities, not really being up to the task, strain etc). But more importantly I also believe this is hurting the whole protocol and to some degree even has caused the above issues. I honestly believe the guides are a vital part of the success of the ecosystem, but not with the way it is right now. I have tried to address this on several occasions and somehow seemed to have failed at it. I also regard the standing parties to have failed at this part, because I am aware of several individuals not being happy with the guides right now. So for me, now it is time to let others be the judge of what we including me should do. If you ask me we should have proper discussions about our future, the above issues and have a new guide election early next year.

Ok, this was enough drama, but in all honesty I think it needs to change to make sure that Factom will even be stronger in 2020. Thank you for reading and I hope to see some discussions and changes happening after my ramblings.
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Thanks for your candor in this update, Niels. It’s disappointing to hear about the lack of active engagement amongst Guides and ANOs in the past year, though I understand from experience how stressors like the strain of a down market and negative sentiment in the community can put a significant damper on collective endeavors.

I’m less concerned with the existence of these problems in what is still a very young and experimental project than I am that we consciously address them as the growing pains they are. They each represent opportunities to become a stronger protocol and ecosystem.

I know you said not to bring it up but I’m glad you’ve been a Guide to date, whether you choose to continue or not.

You mentioned “soft power” recently in the governance or market channel of discord. I can’t stress enough - again, from experience - just how important it is to have this skill represented, in the case of Factom in the Guide cohort. All the technical skill and work ethic in the world can’t replace it and there’s no other role with the Standing to hold accountability for it as broadly as necessary over all aspects of the ecosystem.

I hope this is taken into consideration during the next Guide election, and in the evolution of Guide responsibilities and powers going forward.
Hey Niels, thank you for bringing this discussion forward and for your transparency and honesty.

I will tackle one of the first elephants in the room (so to speak) and can admit that my leadership/guidance and mind-share in the Guide space has been severely lacking. While I do feel I've made some meaningful contributions:

- Creating and bringing forward the Committee framework (albeit getting it done far later than it should have taken)
- I created the Sponsor framework in Doc 107
- Scored Grant and ANO rounds before the scoring was automated
- Standard things: Made announcements to the community, recorded many Guide meeting minutes, attended near all Guide meetings (minus one recently when I announced, in advance, that I was sick, and two very early on when adjusting to the meeting schedule). I have participated in many Grant Proposal and ANO candidacy threads and have voted in all governance votes that took place that I am aware of.

However, I admit, in my mind - how does this compare to the efforts of prior Guides and at least one (if not a couple) current Guides? Relatively poor. Guides are meant to facilitate Protocol processes and act with leadership, and while I believe we have accomplished, to some extent, the facilitation of process and bringing about some meaningful changes, I do not believe we have acted with exemplary leadership or communication at most times.

I agree that we should discuss our direction, priorities, and issues openly, and I appreciate the opportunity to have this discussion with you and the community.
In the earlier days of the protocol, there was a small handful of us that held people and entities accountable. We saw the direction that we were headed and there's really no nice way to effectively call people out on their shit.

We were demonized for it to the point I began to worry about Factomize's future in the protocol. People felt we should all get along and sing songs together around the campfire and those of us who felt otherwise were told we were not supportive and if anything, destructive. We were even excluded from important roles because we didn't drink the kumbaya koolaid. Yet we've come to see what happens when we don't call each other out, when we let those who don't have the capacity to execute continue to ride coattails.

My question is, has this ecosystem matured to the point where we don't have to treat each other like snowflakes? The post above this one gives me hope. Because as I've said before, if we're going to be successful on the international stage when trillions of dollars are at stake, especially as geopolitics come into play, what we've experienced here is nothing. We don't just need smart, savvy, capable Standing Parties, we need them to be tough as nails as well.
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Valentin Ganev

I am going on a complete tangent here, but I just want to point out that:

Of the above list, there is one ANO at their pledged efficiency (TFA) and one at a higher than pledged efficiency (BIF)
is not correct, as Factomatic is operating above our originally pledged efficiency (and we also have never dropped our efficiency below what we originally pledged). Here is the update where we announced the increase:
Thank you Niels for a frank, and in my opinion accurate, assessment of decision making, effectiveness and changes needed.

This doesn't detract from the tremendous amount of development and the great applications that have been developed recently. It points us to what we need to do to encourage more such development and do so in the most effective way possible by ensuring greater participation in governance, clarifying the basic role of ANOs as being to run the infrastructure well, changing grants so that they reward those who have invested time and effort to deliver really beneficial developments that align with our strategic direction, involving token holders properly, better managing standing and very importantly GETTING THINGS DONE.

Paraphrasing Dale Carnegie's words about "people in the ranks...stay in the ranks...because that have not got the ability to get things done". That is our current dilemma because we do not want to stay in the ranks but become the integrity layer of the Web, and maybe more, with the rewards and benefits that go with it.

I completely agree that getting things done requires agility as aptly demonstrated by the ANO standing system work conducted by a tight knit team of three who collaborated at pace. Some of the small, informal working groups have also sought to follow this model. When it works well it is great. It would be good to see the new approach advocated driving this forward and holding people accountable.

In parallel I see the proposed post-work grant (back-pay) system being a great way to ensure our development funds are well spent on work aligned with our objectives. I see a great opportunity to make this competitive, driving even better developments, because only demonstrably deserving and effective grants would be funded ...after they can be objectively assessed and demonstrated.

I fully support your call for change and encourage eveyone to carefully consider their role in this.
I think it could be wise to have a system where guides are being rated (rating themselves up?) and paid based on their performance against the field?

Why should a guide acting as a "gate keeper" be paid the same as someone who is doing the lion's share of governance work?

Also last election, IIRC, some guides were clear on their intentions to act mainly as gate keepers and not push governance work. I have a hard time believing that a system that is paying the guides the same and have a different set of responsibilities and expectations can work long term.

As for ANO's efficiencies, I'm still a firm believer that we should set a base efficiency for everyone and focus on the grant system. It would have been way more effective. I still believe this is going to happen, sooner would have been better than later.