Why Obelisk should soft-fork Sia

Yesterday I published an article about why Obelisk shouldn’t soft-fork Sia. Since then I’ve had some time to reflect and gather my thoughts. I’ve also spent time talking with the community and have heard what others have to say. Let me be clear, for the most part I still firmly believe that Obelisk shouldn’t soft-fork Sia. Albeit, I also believe that there are some circumstances in which a soft-fork should be implemented. Let me explain.

I think the notion that Sia should have fundamental ideals that it sticks to is good. I based much of yesterdays argument on this idea. It’s the reason the US has the constitution and businesses have standard practice. Fundamental ideals get you through thick and thin. They guide you when you aren’t sure what to do. However, as one Reddit commenter pointed out there are situations where the landscape changes and ideals must evolve. Defining these situations is what is important. Let’s give it a go.

Before we begin, I want to reiterate what shouldn’t qualify. Soft-forking Sia to defend the competitiveness of Obelisk’s SC1 miner is not okay. That defies the very nature of the blockchain being the Wild West. You might argue that if it truly is the Wild West, then Obelisk soft-forking Sia to outmaneuver Bitmain is just part of the fight. You’re completely right and Obelisk has every right to do so. In the same way that Apple forces iOS developers to sell their apps via Apple’s App Store because they know that’s the best way to ensure that Apple gets a cut, Obelisk could force all Siacoin miners to use its hardware. The move is a smart play, but once you consider the implications, the negatives far outweigh any perceived benefits. If Obelisk forked Sia to defend the SC1, Sia as a platform, would be sending the message that if someone does something to challenge Obelisk, they’ll use the network to play to Obelisk’s advantage. This could prove disastrous, especially down the line when Sia has to make the argument to businesses that they should choose Sia as the host for their data. What if the company does something that challenges Sia? Will Sia add measures to cause disadvantage to the company? Sia’s early days are going to be all about image. They need to have as many things going for them as possible. It’s the only way they’ll persuade users to take the plunge and adopt Sia. Soft-forking to defend the SC1 is a dangerous gamble and risks damaging Sia’s image forever. It’s shortsighted and doesn’t consider the bigger picture.

As I said, there are situations that qualify as grounds for the soft-fork. In my mind, soft-forking to defend Obelisk’s SC1 and soft-forking to defend the Sia network are two distinct things. The former is negative, the latter is necessary. If Bitmain attacks the Sia network in the way of double spends, mining empty blocks or causing mass scale centralization by overselling hardware, then Sia needs to soft-fork. In such a situation, Sia is soft-forking based on survival not benefit. It act’s to preserve decentralization and a functional network. In my last post, I talked a lot about setting precedents. I said that Sia needs to set the precedent that even if something looks like it might harm Obelisk, it won’t get involved. That remains true. Perhaps just as important, Sia needs to set a precedent that if something is causing a negative impact on the network, Sia will stand up for, and defend itself. This is a very fine line and has to be managed delicately. The implications are serious. If done right, it sends a message to potential customers that Sia is not okay with outsiders attempting to take advantage of the network. It shows that Sia won’t go down without a fight. Sia is acting in the interest of the network and therefore the networks users. That’s a huge positive. If done wrong, it looks like Sia is soft-forking based on self interest. It’s hard to earn public trust and that would be a huge, potentially critical blow. As for Bitmain ASIC buyers, Sia would have a reason for the soft-fork other than defending Obelisk. Bitmain ASIC buyers aren’t losing out because they didn’t purchase Obelisk’s SC1 miners, they are losing out because their miners are harming the network and acting in self interest. Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time. Most importantly, the soft-fork has to be based on something that Bitmain is doing and not something that they might do. “Sorry Judge, I shot them because of something that I thought they were going to do” isn’t going to hold up in the court of law and it won’t hold up here (let’s ignore police officers in the US for the sake of a good analogy). In the case of an attack on the network, a soft-fork is something that Sia needs to do; any risks are justified.

Irrespective of soft-fork or not, communication from David and the team is vital. It needs to be early, clear, and often. Don’t get me wrong, I really do feel for David. It’s not a decision that he particularly wants to make, but it’s one that him and the team need to.

To David: you’re never going to make everyone happy. Although it may not seem seem like it, having such a passionate and divided community is also a good thing. It shows that you have a community that is dedicated and genuinely cares. That’s testament to the hard work that you and the team have put in. Keep it up. I can only speak for myself, but regardless of your decision, I’ll back you one hundred and ten percent. I have every reason to believe that you and the team will manage any decision correctly and do what you think is right for the network. As for the rest of the community: you guys are awesome. I’ve enjoyed debating with all of you. The amount of time people have spent discussing the issue is encouraging. The amount of people that have had participated in the debate and been open to changing their opinion is one of a kind. Keep discussing, don’t settle; continue the debate.

Oliver.