Review 2020: The Ethereum Cat Herders
Community outreach, network upgrades, events, education, meeting notes, and more to support the Ethereum ecosystem!
Another year is passing by adding milestones to Ethereum history. 2020 is different for many reasons, the pandemics affected many industries but blockchain kept moving. Events moved to be virtual but development never stopped.
The Ethereum Cat Herders (ECH) was originally formed with the idea of being the premier Ethereum onboarding group for those who are excited about the ecosystem but do not know where or how to expend their energy towards making Ethereum better. Over the last year, we have seen a lot of success within ECH from both the perspective of individual growth of members and their outputs affecting Ethereum. The hard fork coordination tasks, diligent note-taking, and the major Ethereum video calls and ProgPoW audits are just some examples of prominent efforts in 2019, the Ethereum Cat Herders have been known for.
The 2nd year of the Ethereum Cat Herders started with a vision “To emerge as an Ethereum Support Desk and increase support with more community involvement.” Goals and milestones were laid out in a roadmap. Overcoming the roadblocks, we executed various tasks that helped with data collection & accelerated decision making for the network upgrade process making Ethereum a decentralized space in its truest sense.
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” — Tony Robbins
The ECH Roadmap 2020 outlines the milestone that the group aims to achieve. Just by the end of the first quarter, it already felt like making good progress and heading towards achieving the goals. Here are some of the initiatives, accomplishments, and proud stories that describe the Ethereum Cat Herders in 2020.
Creating awareness, communicating progress & coordinating events
Since coming on the scene in January 2019, it has helped coordinate EIPs for network upgrades, pre and post communication needed for successful deployment of network upgrades, community consensus gathering, community funding, and many other non-development tasks. We did hardly anything about creating awareness about the ECH group that people may reach. So, this was something on the top priorities of 2020.
Members of the Cat Herders participated in various conferences and meetups with presentations and workshops throughout the year to create awareness about Ethereum, Ethereum cat Herders, share the progress of tasks, and help onboard people to the Ethereum community.
Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) and Kaleido.io organized a blockchain meetup inviting developers and entrepreneurs to participate and exchange thoughts on the future of blockchain and the growth of Ethereum. This was the first event of the year, where Pooja Ranjan represented Ethereum Cat Herders and introduced it to the community at Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. The event provided an opportunity to meet representatives of different projects of Ethereum and increase our community reach.
The EthCC is one of the popular Ethereum developers' events organized in Paris. Three ECH members — Tim Beiko, William Schwab & Helena Flack organized a workshop and shared what the Ethereum cat Herders can do for the Ethereum ecosystem. Based on the community interaction, a blog “How Can We Onboard Newcomers to Ethereum Better” was published later to share the community feedback.
In association with EthPlanet, ECH organized a special event “ Women in Ethereum” inviting women contributors to the Ethereum ecosystem from various on-chain projects and working groups. The event covered a range of talks from “breaking into space as a beginner”, “project management & process improvement” to “despite the hacks, the future is still DeFi”. Participants list included Isa Kivlighan (AAVE), Pooja Ranjan (ECH), Jaye H. (Quantstamp), Anett R. (Fellowship of Ethereum Magician), Alexis (Opyn), Medha (She256). In my talk on Project management & process improvement in Ethereum, some of the key contributions of the Ethereum Cat Herders in the core developers’ meeting and process improvement are highlighted.
EthPlanet hosted a hackathon — “Building the Next Digital World” to encourage a reciprocal world in the next digital generation, envisioned with the power of blockchain technology. This hackathon aimed to be helpful to the new community members with support from both technical experts and pioneers in the creative area to help you to start off your project on the right foot.
Pooja Ranjan conducted a workshop on Ethereum Improvement Proposal to explain the EIP standardization & network upgrade. The presentation followed by Q&A included EIP, EIP process, change in the EIP process, and the BIG picture.
The Fellowship of Ethereum Magician organized a Virtual Summer Session including topics of Social Governance, EIP Improvement Process, EIP-1559 Fee market change. The Ethereum Cat Herders coordinated with the participants for the event and also shared the EIP Improvement Process working group’s progress with the community. A group presentation on EIP Improvement Process by Alita Moore, Edson Ayllon, and Pooja Ranjan explained the evolution of the EIP process.
Coordination for events, meetups, and community partnership
The Ethereum Cat Herders can be seen as the Ethereum Support Desk. It’d be like a one-stop for new individuals in the Ethereum space, irrespective of their area of expertise and domain where they want to contribute. With people reaching out to the Cat Herders at Discord or GitHub with a specific issue, our goal is to resolve the issue in the best possible way and if it is beyond our purview, we can point them towards the correct point of contact who can help.
We’re also coordinating blockchain events or conferences, if you’re looking to invite Ethereum developers as speakers, Ethereum Cat Herders can help facilitate the coordination.
This year Coindesk organized Consensus 2020 (virtual) in the light of social distancing requirements due to the global pandemic. We are happy to share that Ethereum’s participation included diverse speakers talking about Ethereum mainnet development, and other project & protocol development. This event was fully coordinated in terms of logistics by the ECH team and speakers (developers) did not have to worry about anything but the presentation.
Other events organized or speakers facilitation done by the Cat Herders are
- Crypto Talks from CoinDesk Marketing Ethereum 2.0 and Herding Cats With Hudson Jameson
- EIP-1559 at Ethereum Magicians Summer Session
- The Ethereum Cat Herders were the community partner for EthPlanet Ethereum Summer 2020 and organized Women In Ethereum Lightning talk and Q&A in EthPlanet Summer Week 3.
ECH Medium update
We publish a bi-weekly newsletter covering Ethereum mainnet updates for Eth1 & Eth2 chains. It includes Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIP), core clients’ updates, testnets updates, and other processes around the network upgrade. Follow ECH Medium to get the newsletter right into your inbox.
In addition to the newsletter, we also publish blogs on other useful information to keep the community up-to-date. Some of the featured blogs are:
- YOLO: An ephemeral test network for Ethereum
- The EIPIP Roadmap: A reflection of the EIPIP survey results
- The Feedback that Improves Ethereum: Results from collecting feedback from EIP Editors, Authors, and Core Developers on improving the EIP process
- EIP Improvement Process for continual progression in Ethereum: Q1–2020 achievements by EIPIP group.
Network upgrade & coordination
Ethereum Cat Herder is the only group in the Ethereum ecosystem to provide continuous communication within and outside the core development team. Although it is sometimes difficult to qualitatively assess the impact ECH has had, we do have some metrics and feedback we can share.
In late 2019/early 2020 there were a series of network upgrades that were less than 1 month apart (Istanbul and Muir Glacier). The Ethereum Cat Herders sprung into action with a few notable actions that allowed for the network upgrades to happen smoothly. Blog posts for both Istanbul and Muir Glacier were written to alert the community. Additionally, a spreadsheet was compiled of major network players, such as mining pools and exchanges, and a group of at least 5 people from the Cat Herders coordinated reaching out to each entity. This alerting system will be improved in future network upgrades.
The new Ethereum network upgrade process is one of the outcomes from the EIPIP meetings. All network upgrade processes will be coordinated through a new Eth1.0 spec repository. This is the new to-go place for information on the selection of EIPs, EIPs in developers testnets, public testnets, and selected for the mainnet upgrade. The project board helps with tracking EIPs and clients’ development & integration can be followed on the latest version of the developer's testnet.
Connecting with on-chain projects & infrastructure providers
The ECH created & conducted a survey to collect data for client adoption from the critical installations based on suggestions from Ethereum Core Developer Alexey A. to get a better understanding of client diversity as discussed in the Ethereum All Core Devs meetings in the Summer. A research report is published based on the data collected from the Ethereum critical installation survey. This report is also shared with the All Core Developers in subsequent core devs. meeting.
Ethereum core developers are progressing towards Berlin, the next network upgrade (hard fork). The Cat Herders are reaching out to various projects in the community to understand their experiences, challenges with the network upgrade as well as collect feedback about preferred frequency and how it could be deployed as smoothly as possible for all Ethereum node operators. If you haven’t responded to the survey yet, consider responding to share your experience and help us plan future upgrades. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.
EIP awareness and consensus building
The Ethereum Cat Herders have been involved in the network upgrade process since the formation of the group. Working closely with the EIP standardization process led to the identification of the possible opportunity of EIP education. Close to the end of the third quarter, a video series focused on Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) was proposed. The main focus of the initiative is to familiarize an EIP and take community questions with the author or the champion of the proposal.
This is the first and only video series where a (core) proposal is explained, outside the Ethereum All core devs meeting for a better and easier understanding of the proposal creating an educational video for future reference for the community. The series also provides an opportunity to uncover some under-discussed ERCs, Networking layer & Informational EIPs that are there in the “Draft” status for over a year.
Over 15 episodes have been recorded so far including EIPs like EIP-1559: Fees market change for Eth1, EIP-2718: Typed Transaction Envelope EIP-2537: BLS12 381 curves, EIP-2565: ModExp Gas Cost, EIP:2666: Precompiles and Keccak256 repricing, EIP-2935: Save historical block hashes in state, EIP-2982: Serenity Phase 0, EIP-2938: Account Abstraction, EIP-778: Ethereum Node Record, EIP-1571: EthereumStratum/2.0.0, and some conversation with experienced editors like Greg Colvin, Nick Johnson, Matt Garnett. A Project board is also available for quick reference with a list of EIPs to be discussed in future episodes.
One of the challenges in the adoption of the EIP-1559 as discussed in the EIP-1559 implementers meeting was the ‘community outreach’. The acceptability is directly related to the availability of the information. Getting the community on board is a high-priority task for a decentralized chain especially when a proposal is proposing significant changes.
Soon after the meeting, the Ethereum Cat Herders prepared a questionnaire to collect community response and gauge the sentiments for this proposal. 1:1 meetings were arranged with several projects and infrastructure providers to talk through and help understand the implementation requirement & importance of the proposal. We published the EIP-1559 Community Outreach Report in early October based on the data collected from the survey and meetings arranged with projects on the Ethereum ecosystem.
Currently, ECH is engaged with creating awareness, community outreach, documenting notes, and fund management for fee market change proposal for Ethereum 1.0 chain. A curated list of 1559 educational documents and video talk is available on the ECH website. Meeting notes of the EIP-1559 implementers’ meeting can be found at Fee Market Meetings GitHub. Funding support to the client implementation can be provided at 1559 community funding at Gitcoin and we also have Created a 1559 multisig accounting sheet for transparency with funds distribution.
Arranging a community call for an upcoming upgrade was a big success last year. In 2020, the Cat Herders arranged the first community call for a proposal which may be the part of a future upgrade. EIP-2938: Account Abstraction is one of the most discussed proposals which is making significant progress to be a candidate for Ethereum’s future upgrades after Berlin. We recorded two episodes in Peep an EIP where authors explained the proposal and answered some questions, but on high demand, we also organized a dedicated community call.
In association with The Fellowship of Ethereum Magicians, we organized the first (EIP specific) Account Abstraction Community Call in November. The call was joined by EIP authors Ansgar Deitrich, Sam Wilson, Matt Garnett, and client developers. Karl F. joining the call added more to the proposal along with some information on the rollup roadmap of Ethereum. In 2021, we’re planning to arrange more calls to discuss upcoming proposals to increase community engagement.
The EIP Improvement Process (EIPIP) group was created in January 2020, to discuss the challenges and mitigation plans for the Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP). The bi-weekly meeting is organized to discuss challenges, concerns, and improvement suggestions to improve the EIP process, design a path for continuous improvement, and other discussions around EIP and network upgrade.
One of the biggest achievements of this group is the decoupling of the EIP standardization process and the network upgrade process. Data collected through survey and community interaction indicated that the EIP process (at the time) was leading to complexities in absence of a clear distinction between the standardization and the network upgrade process.
After a few months of brainstorming, the group proposed two separate processes to the All core developers meeting, which was then approved and is updated to the EIP-1. Follow the EIPIP project board to keep track of progress made on issues under discussion.
Other achievements include
- Introduction to Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) page is created at ethereum.org providing users basic information of the EIPs and ultimately pointing towards the eips.etherum.org to find more on EIPs.
- Updating EIP bot to clean up of EIP GitHub repo by closing the inactive PR which are older than 6 months or more. However, the status of EIPs are not changed and it still reflects the old status in eips.ethereum.org. The Cat Herders are connecting with EIP authors to change it to the correct status with their consent.
The breakout room meeting was proposed in Q4 hoping this will help offload some discussion of the Ethereum ACD meeting and speed up the decision making to move ahead with a ‘go’ or ‘no-go’ on EIPs to implement in the respective client. These meetings have been proven very successful and helped client developers to proceed with the selection of EIPs for the YOLO testnet & Berlin upgrade. The Ethereum Cat Herders facilitated half a dozen meetings and shared the summary with the community. The agenda of the meetings can be found here.
Processes & meeting notes documentation
Ethereum is the cutting edge technology and by far the leader in blockchain projects. We believe that the availability of documents will be helpful to new community members. The Cat Herders are helping with the documentation of processes, meetings, and reports to make information easily available.
Ethereum network upgrade is following a new process for the Berlin upgrade (hard fork). Now that network upgrade is no longer part of the EIP standardization process, the process can not be added to EIP-1 but has to live on the Eth1.0 spec repo. This being a new process living on a new repository, may not be easier to find and follow. Hence, the Cat Herders documented the process and published it for wider access.
The recent changes in the EIP standardization process and the terminology has been added in the EIP-1, but the document is not frequently referred to by the community. The process is documented and published at the ECH Medium to increase the reach.
With the new repo dedicated to network upgrade, it is decided to be a placeholder for ‘Network Upgrade Retrospective Report’ (earlier known as Upgrade postmortem report). An Ethereum network upgrade retrospective report template was created to standardize the report and the Muir Glacier retrospective report is added for future reference.
Meeting notes documentation
For ecosystem meetings
Documenting meeting notes is one of the early tasks undertaken by the Cat Herders. In the year 2019, documentation of notes was limited to 2 major ecosystem meetings but in 2020, we expanded, and currently, we’re documenting meeting notes for
- Ethereum All Core Developers meeting
- Ethereum 2.0 Implementers meeting
- EIP-1559 Implementers meeting
- EIP IP meeting
- Breakout-room meeting (Summary)
For community support
We have got a pool of resources available to attend and document notes for meetings and share with the rest of the community for future reference. We provide support with notes writing in the event (Eth CC, Paris) to the Fellowship of Ethereum Magician.
Overcoming the roadblocks
The key focus area in the first quarter was overcoming the roadblocks and we made significant progress in that direction.
One of the biggest challenges faced was ‘accountability’. It’s always helpful to have a point of contact who can be reached out to at a time of need. Because most of the members contributing to the Cat Herders are volunteers and support in their own time we struggle with finding people who have the time to oversee complex asks from the community. The group appointed the Herder-in-chief in the second quarter to commit as a part-time resource for this group to perform day-to-day tasks needed to run the group successfully, serve as the point of contact for the Ethereum Cat Herders, and is directly responsible for the coordination of larger initiatives that the Cat Herders take on.
The ECH is a community funded working group where ultimately funds are distributed to community members for their contribution to the Ethereum ecosystem. To increase community engagement and get work done in assigned duration, putting out bounties for notes and community outreach is helpful. The biggest challenge was to arrange funds for tasks. In 2019, documentation of notes were funded by Aragon & Moloch DAO.
Huge shoutout to the Moloch Grant for funding the Herder-in-chief, notes documentation, and other operational tasks being performed by the group.
Gitcoin CLR matching
We can’t thank the Gitcoin contributors enough. Words of appreciation along with support means a lot to us!
Recently we've been added to the recipient of the CLR.fund matching grant. Thanks to the developers of the CLR for considering ECH to be listed.
Contact Ethereum Cat Herders
You may contribute to the Ethereum ecosystem, get paid, get updates & support Ethereum Cat Herders in various ways.
Join the community at public ECH Discord.
Follow us at ECH Twitter.
Visit ECH Website for curated resources available on proposals under discussion & upgrade related information.
Share your question, comments, and suggestions with me on Twitter. Thank you for reading 🙏.