How do we define ethics in the Ethereum community?

Last week brought some discord to the Ethereum community. Piper Merriam’s, “An open letter to Gavin and Ethcore.” and Vlad Zamfir’s tweet,

“Ethereum isn’t safe or scalable. It is an immature experimental tech. Don’t rely on it for mission critical apps unless absolutely necessary!”

Brought forth a divisive discussion about the nature of prominent community members posting their private thoughts and disputes on public platforms.

It also raises an interesting pair of questions about resolving conflict in a decentralized community.


How do we define and address ethics within the Ethereum community?

And secondly,

Should the Ethereum Foundation have a set of publicly stated Guidelines?

In regards to the first question:
How do we define and address ethics within the Ethereum community?

Currently, the answer seems to be with plain-old-fashioned-common-sense and-good-judgement. Right now, individuals are left to determine their own ethics standards within the greater context of the Ethereum community.

Since there is no ‘Code of Conduct’ or ‘Official Guidelines’ in Ethereum Land. We must define our own ethics on an independent basis. I devised the following formula to explain the current state: Person (A) defines his/her Ethics by standard (X), whilst Person (B) defines his/her Ethics by standard (Y). Where Person (A) and (B) and Ethics Standards (X) and (Y) are completely arbitrary and unpredictable. So the equation looks something like A(X)? + B(Y)? = A(B) / X(Y). Good luck solving!

Disclaimer 1: I am a terrible mathematician.

Disclaimer 2: This equation is not meant to be taken seriously.

Which brings us back to question 2:

Should the Ethereum Foundation have a set of publicly stated Guidelines?


Why? Because even Pirates have a code!

Seriously though, Pirate jokes aside. Yes, I realize Ethereum is a decentralized effort with no central leaders or traditional authority figures. I also understand the community’s foundation is built upon the principle of consensus. A set of Guidelines put forth by the Ethereum Foundation to address certain ethical practices would NOT BE A MANDATE to the rest of the community. It would be a framework. Something the community could use in an effort to TRY to color between the lines when it comes to matters of public discourse, ethics, and understanding EF standard practice.

I should note that on a personal level I was in favor of Vlad and Piper’s decisions to take their private views public. It is my belief that public airing of grievances is a healthy and effective route to take in a decentralized community like Ethereum. Their follow-up articles (1)(2) were a perfect example of why.

Take the following hypothetical clause from the theoretical ‘Guidelines’ which addresses private opinion on public networks.

“All Ethereum Foundation members are entitled to their personal beliefs and opinions, both in regards to the Ethereum Project and other aspects of life. Keeping in line with this core tenant, all Ethereum Foundation members are not discouraged from posting their personal opinions and beliefs on public platforms including but not limited to: (Twitter, Medium, Facebook, Instagram, Personal Blogs, Forums, etc.)”

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. The prior quote is pure conjecture.

Guidelines for any organization, be it centralized or decentralized provide a framework for measuring individual values and ethics against those of a larger group or cause.

Vitalik Buterin and the rest of the Ethereum Foundation has a lot on their plate. I’m well aware that drafting a set of EF Guidelines is a low priority compared to scalability, POS, preventing Skynet etc. And for all I know the EF does have a set of internal guidelines that deals with ethics.

But I hope at some point there will be a publicized set of Guidelines put forth by the Ethereum Foundation, both for accountability purposes and to lead by example to the rest of the community. Being a decentralized movement, community, organization — whatever this Ethereum thing is, does not mean there can be no standard by which we can point to as a way to hold ourselves accountable as a collective, even if only suggestive in nature.

Disclaimer: Any official Ethereum Foundation Guidelines would likely cover a wide array of topics, Ethics and Standard Practices for EF members being only a small but necessary component.