EthMagicians: the importance of community and activism
During this past weekend, the Fellowship of Ethereum Magicians hosted its Berlin Council. This is a self-organized initiative, catalysed by Greg Colvin and Jamie Pitts, which began in February of this year.
After the first, open invitation, the Fellowship has continued to work and grow, and the councils they’ve hosted (Paris and Berlin) are proof that these kinds of community initiatives are very much needed. They propose pragmatic approaches to problematics in the ecosystem, improvements to the current processes, and most importantly, act as a testament that this community is agnostic, positive, and completely open to all voices in the spectrum.
The weekend joined together people from all parts of the globe, who proposed workshops, breakout sessions, lightning talks, and more. In addition, there were topics organized by the Magicians, such as a (much-needed) discussion on Ethereum roadmap approaches: who sets the roadmap, whether it’s a joint community/Foundation task, and what we can do as a community to align with the Foundation and support them.
The EIP process proposal was also discussed, and more specifically, it was the so-called #EIP0 topic signaled by the participants as one of the most necessary. Even though, we all must admit, this particular edition did not manage to gauge the sentiment or approaches towards Ethereum governance, so we agreed on meeting again in Prague for DEVCON4. We are undergoing a process where community awareness is growing, more voices are becoming activists for the improvement and support of Ethereum, and naturally, discussions become larger and need more time to mature into proposals.
For this purpose, signaling is an important topic to cover. Phil Lucsok introduced the reasoning behind this as he pointed out “Technical improvements proposed for Ethereum require developers to believe their work is aligned with the community so that those improvements can be implemented.” Different ideas to tackle the issue from a technical standpoint were discussed and the attendees will be trying to build the most sensible alternative, which is directly tied to the need for better governance. Discussions around putting together signalling TCRs in the context of community support around technical improvements, and curating educational resources for beginners, developers, and the broader ecosystem also flourished during the weekend.
The attendees also voiced the growing curiosity around eWasm’s future and how exactly it will replace the EVM. Education was another hot topic, and we were able to list resources, as well as generate more community-driven educational activities (as the Foundation can’t do it all). You can read the notes here.
Another very interesting assembly formed around UX and wallets, private keys and how these should be replaced with other alternatives. For this purpose, we also need to educate the users; but we understood that due to the nature of the current status of UX, we are still not doing so well. Ideas around educating the users via challenges around the processes of acquiring and transacting ETH were present in the room, and we reached a common agreement to build a “ring” to push these thoughts further and continue in a working group format.
This weekend was packed with interesting ideas, but perhaps one of the most fresh and needed sessions was the one introduced by Lane Rettig on social scalability and wealth distribution — I may be a bit biased as blockchain for social good and improvement of institutions is the reason why I got into the space. Lane introduced the topic of social scalability to reach out with blockchain in a wider way, or “How do we make Ethereum/blockchain into platforms for a billion people?”. One of the major social challenges faced by Ethereum (and other blockchains) is a wildly disproportionate wealth distribution, worse than that of any country. To address this, there are several ideas on how to get ETH or other cryptocurrencies in the hands of more people. The idea of a taxation model to funnel funds into bounties was introduced, and another idea around this topic was to funnel funds for infrastructure. Boris Mann also spoke about generating a TCR to list businesses taking cryptocurrencies, and incentivizing those who do, as a way to generate wider adoption. The working group would like to generate 2 or 3 EIPs on these topics, so we will continue working towards it.
From the developer front, we have multiple takeaways I will list in no particular order of relevance, as the different scopes will decide priority:
- There is a lack of good, clean and easy-to-follow developer onboarding materials, whether community resources and Ethereum’s own ones. Content on Ethereum.org is extremely dated to the point that it provides almost no value to new developers. A good onboarding experience example pointed by the group is Reactjs as it’s comprehensive and with code examples.
- We mentioned Truffle as a good tool, but not sufficient. The community would like to push its scaling and see it evolve better, as the Swiss-Army tool model it proposes at the moment does not satisfy developer needs.
- Languages: one of the most pressing pain points in smart contract development (especially for new developers) is that Solidity is a challenging language to work with and it has a steep learning curve. Developers want to see more languages with simpler syntax, such as Vyper. Existing IDEs should also support other languages than Solidity.
- Atom-like editor tools should have more plugins to support smart contract programming.
- A dev-wishlist was formed: around better debuggers, test frameworks, and many other toolings.
Finally, some notes on the community sentiment around the Ethereum roadmap: we came to the conclusion that we need to take pragmatic action and support the work of the researchers and devs by developing our own directories, libraries and a framework through which everyone can be up to date with the latest developments and align their roadmaps accordingly.
The biggest takeaway from this edition of the Fellowship council, and the work done in the past, is that we need more community activism. We need more voices, more chapters of the fellowship, more independent movements. The Fellowship is a brilliant example of how a community starts self-organizing and working towards pragmatic solutions. We are also building working standards and structures for these initiatives to thrive, as we navigate this new horizon. We need to make the Fellowship thrive and expand, but we also need more of these initiatives. We agreed that we will remain fully open and collaborative, and would like more voices, regardless of backgrounds, to join us in the quest for positive, mindful and sustainable Ethereum activism.
Below, a resource list for you to dig into, I encourage everyone in the community to take part in these discussions as they are working on pressing subjects where improvement towards achieving mass adoption is needed:
Ethereum Roadmap Discussions and Videos: https://ethereum-magicians.org/t/ethereum-roadmap/746/5
Social Scalability and Wealth Distribution:
Logins, Wallets and Identity:
Vision, Principles and Practices of the Fellowship:
Core EIPs vs. Implementation + EIP standards process notes:
Thanks to Scott Moore, Lane Rettig and Cassandra Shi for the input during my due diligence process to complete this piece.
Disclaimer for the article’s publication on ECF Review: The views expressed by the author do not necessarily represent the views of ECF. The Ethereum Community Fund is a non-profit grant initiative with the ECF Review as a platform for guest writers to freely express their diverse ideas and perspectives.