Announcing EDRA

The Ethereum Dispute Resolution Alliance

by Dean Eigenmann and Mark Beylin

In case it wasn’t already obvious, Ethereum needs robust, unopinionated dispute resolution systems. While Ethereum is great at minimizing the amount of trust counterparties must have in each other, ultimately some trust is required, and we need to build systems which address the cases when that trust is broken. In order to effectively pool together multiple teams and researchers working on this issue, we are announcing EDRA — The Ethereum Dispute Resolution Alliance.

This effort was started together by the Bounties Network and ENS teams after realizing that we were doubling our efforts to solve the same issues in designing dispute resolution systems. Since then, the Aragon One team has also decided to officially join us as a member of the alliance.

Our Goals

While we have many things we want to accomplish, they can be categorized into two main areas: collaborating on research and on standards.

In collaborating on research, our goal is to share as much information as possible with each other about ensuring the theoretical soundness of the mechanisms we’re designing, as well as their applicability for real users. While most researchers in Ethereum consider only the former game theory research, the latter is at least as important. We’ve realized that no matter how sound our designs are, it’s all for naught if users don’t feel they fulfill their needs. Our charge is to share our research in these areas as openly as possibly, not only among members of the alliance, but as well to the rest of the Ethereum community. A rising tide lifts all boats.

In collaborating on standards, we recognize and acknowledge that we have a rough road ahead of us. Collaborating on standards is necessarily difficult: we need multiple groups at the table, each of whom has different goals and use-cases, each making sure that what we build is consistent across a myriad of implementations. In order to accomplish this, we plan to:

  • Take the time to understand the needs of all members, and ensure they’re met by whatever designs we settle on
  • Make concessions, if we realize that ultimately one size won’t fit all
  • Collaborate respectfully, not throwing stones if we become unhappy with the progress (or lack thereof) of EDRA members

Standardization is an uphill battle, but one we recognize is important when building such foundational mechanisms.

Our Plans

We desire to build a protocol for dispute resolution that is:

  • Anti-fragile: providing the consistency necessary for such a core component
  • Modular: capable of having different components swapped out, so that it is usable across any use-cases where dispute resolution is needed
  • Un-opinionated: absent of implicit assumptions which are grounded in present-day dispute resolution systems.

Initially, we will meet on a monthly basis on publicly viewable calls, in which we can share the current status of our various efforts, and move towards finality in our various specifications and development efforts. When necessary, we’ll collaborate on shared code repositories, or build separate (but compatible) implementations of our specifications. These implementations will remain open and public, not siloed or hidden from outside scrutiny.

Finally, we will publish quarterly reports to summarize our work for public consumption, and keep anyone up to date who wishes to know the progress of our work. We don’t believe it’s necessary to deploy any new legal structures to accomplish these goals (as all alliance members are already part of established structures), but we pledge to equally share the burden of both work and costs. We’re a self-governing collective, without an ability to enforce anything other than membership, and easily forkable by anyone who disagrees with our goals, intentions, or direction.

Call to Action

If you’re a researcher, dapp, or user who’s interested in dispute resolution systems built on and for Ethereum, please join us. While we want to be slow about spinning up this effort to ensure we don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen before a more concrete direction can be decided upon, our goal is to eventually allow any interested collaborator to join this alliance.