You could hear the whispers everywhere — in the halls, at the gym, at the latest ETH hackathon: Ethereum governance?
Amidst this discourse, I developed a survey to capture the community’s perspective on technical and political decision making in Ethereum.
The intent of the survey was to derive quantitative data for more accurate sentiment analysis and to reduce the signal to noise ratio on hot topics. Hopefully the data will be interesting and can inform future governance within Ethereum.
The results have been processed.
A few notes before we dive in:
- The survey was created voluntarily, it was not commissioned by or for any organization and no organization has received privy access or knowledge to the raw data, graphs or qualitative insights.
- The survey was intended to be distributed as widely as possible to incorporate diverse stakeholders. It was shared on Twitter, ETH Magicians, ethresear.ch, Reddit and by word of mouth; however the results are likely subject to sample bias.
- Data was collected anonymously — no email address or other identifier was required.
- Kudos to the EIP0 Shared Values Survey executed by Status last year that set a precedent for data analysis and inspired this survey.
- The data and analysis do not reflect the beliefs of my past or current employers nor do they reflect the beliefs of all Ethereum stakeholders.
- Thanks to everyone who gave feedback, much appreciated!
*drum roll please*
Ethereum Governance Survey Data
This post only highlights some of the results. Check out the graphs and raw data for more in-depth analysis. 🤓
Fun Data Tidbits
- 282 respondents
- 94% identify as a member of the Ethereum community
- 70% are token holders
- 45% work at organizations building on Ethereum
- 39% were not “in Ethereum” when The DAO hack occurred
- 51% hold more than 100 ETH
- 89% have used Ethereum-based dapps
- 84% support Proof-of-Stake consensus for Ethereum
- 57% have attended Ethereum meetups
- 41% have attended Devcon
- 73% use Crypto Twitter to learn more about Ethereum
- 66% use Reddit to learn more about Ethereum
- 61% use the Week in Ethereum newsletter to learn about Ethereum
- 36% believe Crypto Twitter best captures the ecosystem/community sentiment
- 24% believe Reddit best captures the ecosystem/community sentiment
When asked about understanding Ethereum’s vision, 52% say they understand it very well while 41% say they understand it somewhat well. 92% are aligned with the vision.
Ethereum: the decentralized world computer and global financial platform.
This word map isn’t surprising and frankly it’s reassuring to see consensus over vision setting. Yet despite the enthusiasm, the community could also benefit from greater vision around Ethereum’s tactical goals.
We should be asking ourselves questions like:
What is the vision for adoption? Is adoption possible without collaboration with incumbent centralized entities (eg. on ramps, exchanges), systems (eg. central banks) or regulators? Should we be thinking about adoption at all?
Where does Ethereum compete? Back-end? Middleware? User-facing apps? What are the intended products?
Ethereum Governance Activities
18% of respondents say they don’t want to participate in either technical or political governance, 51% want to participate in both.
48% say they would like to take part in governance activities quarterly or biannually, 32% would prefer biweekly participation.
Meanwhile, the majority of respondents participate in Crypto Twitter polls but only 33% have contributed to an EIP and 21% have attended Ethereum All Core Devs Meetings. (Q22)
This suggests that the majority of respondents who actively debate protocol updates on social media are likely not contributing to protocol development itself.
In fact, 58% of respondents have never attended an All Core Devs Meeting, despite the majority of respondents knowing where to find the links to attend the meetings live.
41% of respondents sometimes review notes/videos after the meetings, only 15% diligently review after each meeting.
Overall, Ethereum All Core Devs are highly trusted to make technical decisions but less trusted to make political ones about Ethereum. The data also suggests there’s room to improve the transparency of decision making processes about the Ethereum protocol. (Check out Q34–42 for more sentiment analysis on the All Core Devs Meetings and the EIP process.)
Since the majority of respondents do not attend All Core Devs Meetings nor do they contribute to EIPs, perhaps more non-technical or high-level summaries would be effective to inform the rest of the community. This could help assuage any irrational alarmism that comes from lack of knowledge rather than adversarial intentions.
Shout out to Tim Beiko who has graciously been live tweetstorming All Core Devs calls, no matter how late in the night!
Creating a playlist dedicated to the All Core Devs Meetings on the Ethereum Foundation youtube channel could also be helpful to those looking for the streams, and would make it easier to binge watch past sessions. Coming soon to a Netflix near you.
For reference, here are resources where you can learn more about All Core Devs, the EIP process and Ethereum’s technical roadmap:
- All Core Devs Meeting Project Management: Agenda and Meeting notes
- Ethereum Foundation Channel (Meeting livestreams uploaded here)
- EIP Website
- EIP Repository
- Ethereum Technical Roadmaps
- Ethereum Roadmap — eth.wiki
- Sharding Roadmap
- Ethereum 2.0 (Serenity) Phases — Ethhub
Perspective on the Ethereum Foundation
On the topic of the Ethereum Foundation, respondents said they trust the organization highly but feel there could be more visible output / productivity. The data also shows a desire for greater transparency in the EF’s operations, research and grants decision making process.
However, since this survey was administered, the EF has made a number of updates that give insight and transparency into ongoing efforts:
- EF-Supported Teams: Development Report (June 21)
- Ethereum Foundation Spring 2019 Update (May 21)
- Aya’s EF Update @ Ethereal (May 10) — 4:03:38
- Launch of new ethereum.org (April 30)
Check out the video of Aya at Ethereal where she covers the grants decision making process and intention to spend $30M USD over the next year to fund ETH1.x developers and general “core” Ethereum support and development.
Aya also discusses commitment to long-term research, global Ethereum events, plans for regular team updates and quarterly EF blogposts about progress from research teams and internal initiatives. Lastly, Aya encourages the development of more organizations like the EF to support sustainable and open-source Ethereum projects, such as MolochDAO.
Miners & Stakers in Governance
A hot button topic is whether miners and stakers participate in Ethereum governance. 75% of respondents say that miners currently do participate in Ethereum governance; what’s more interesting is that 77% think they should!
We should put this to rest, every stakeholder that contributes to decision making processes about the Ethereum protocol, participate in governance.
Ethereum as a Political System
The most interesting question asked which political system Ethereum governance should emulate. While 46% favor democracy (rule by majority, no single ruler), 32% prefer a republic (equal say through elected representatives, representative democracy).
Moreover, 7% believe a theocracy is the way to go. (Moloch our lord and savior?!) 6% prefer oligarchy and 4% favor communism.
As identity hasn’t been solved in Ethereum yet, it can be difficult to execute sybil-resistant governance. In the past, coinvotes, prediction markets and DAOs have been used and more recently mechanisms like quadratic voting and conviction voting/staking have been explored.
Only 35% of respondents said they’ve participated in a coinvote in the past (eg. Carbonvote, Tennagraph). Others cited lack of trust and difficulty to commit funding as reasons for lack of participation.
In regards to prediction markets (eg. futarchy), 30% feel they’re effective governance tools, 46% are neutral.
58% of respondents joined Ethereum in A.D. (After DAO). While only 42% were building or invested in Ethereum when the The DAO hack occurred, 39% of respondents would still trust a DAO to make decisions on Ethereum governance (eg. for distributing public goods funding to Ethereum devs).
For more information about different types of Ethereum DAOs, check out this post. Most notable community DAOs today are MakerDAO, MolochDAO, Meta Cartel, HumanityDAO, DAOstack and a slew of Aragon DAOs.
Although quadratic and conviction voting are still relatively untested, respondents feel positively about their effectiveness. More experiments please!
Controversy in Crypto
The caveat to this survey is that there were only 282 respondents and the results are likely biased to those in a specific network, who actively use social channels and care enough to share their opinions. Thus, results are not a reflection of the Ethereum community’s perspective in entirety… nevertheless there are interesting insights on controversial topics.
51% feel that a hard fork is a strong mechanism to incentivize collaborative Ethereum governance.
65% care if the Ethereum chain splits (again), but 76% care if the Ethereum community splits. This signifies that the Ethereum protocol itself is less significant than the community that builds and maintains it. We should think more about what this means in the context of adoption — perhaps multiple Ethereum chains will be ideal for different use cases, with one community to rule them all.
84% support PoS consensus for Ethereum, 40% support PoW while 37% support ProgPoW (Programmatic PoW).
32% of respondents support on-chain governance.
On the most controversial discussion of our time: 60% said they do not support EIP 999.
At the time of the survey, EIP 1890: Commitment to Sustainable Ecosystem Funding (eg. block rewards funding) was also widely discussed, 45% of respondents support it.
Governance Challenges & Solutions
The results of the Ethereum Governance Survey are fascinating and provide a clearer picture of the community’s grievances.
When asked about challenges in governance, respondents highlighted a few key points, although none are reflected by the majority.
To better compartmentalize the challenges, I’ve categorized them into groups: Diversity, Collaboration, Leadership, Communications and Tooling. Instead of dilly dallying around the challenges, we can be solution-focused about how the challenges can be addressed.
Here are a few things we can do to improve Ethereum governance:
- Provide equal access to information and tooling to all members of the community including devs, researchers, miners, investors, business people, hodlers etc. — don’t discriminate, nobody is an expert here.
- Encourage discourse and participation from those outside of Ethereum as well as superfans. We’ve all been Alice before she fell down the rabbit hole.
- Share research and solicit feedback across many channels (eg. Ethereum forums, Reddit, Twitter) to include various perspectives and reduce narrow groupthink.
- Don’t be afraid of competition. Conduct working groups with those doing similar research or dev work to grow mindshare, reduce redundancies and accelerate innovation (eg. many ETH2.0 teams are working closely together, state channels teams publicly collaborate)
- Create workshops. Recently, a research workshop called Scaling Ethereum was started that brought together researchers of oracles, DEXs, layer 1 and layer 2 scalability. This is not an exclusive organization, anyone can make a Scaling Ethereum!
- Don’t rely on a canonical leader, each project can make its own rules and governance. 64% of respondents suggested that Ethereum PM efforts should be decentralized with many leaders. Ethereum has no single leader — be it an organization or individual.
- Be accountable. Decentralization empowers many to be accountable instead of a select few. Don’t be afraid to start up a community or project, there’s no one to tell you that you can’t. This is open source. Also don’t expect one organization to be the most accountable.
- Be proactive instead of reactive about sharing information and updates. If you’re a highly critical, involved or reputable individual / project, there is likely an expectation for consistent updates on your work — like our blockchain, the community is quite public.
- Don’t conflate lack of knowledge with lack of transparency. If you’re unclear on the current technical roadmap, political decisions or the color of next year’s Devcon logo, check out all available resources and forums before sharing feedback.
- Keep up to date with resources. One of the best is Week in Ethereum News and the Ethereum Foundation Blog
All in all, Ethereum governance has not failed.
It continues to evolve as the protocol grows and the community expands. No single data source will be able to capture the sentiment of this disparate community, so it’s important to take feedback from various tools and sub-communities.
Hopefully this survey provided some useful insight and there will be more studies in the future.
Thanks to Abbey Titcomb for feedback and notes.