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Want to Stake your Sentinel $DVPN tokens? What to consider when choosing to delegate to a validator.

Hello, I am Johnnie Cosmos and this is a brief guide focusing on the key points that delegators/token holders should pay close attention to when staking on Tendermint based blockchains and Sentinel in particular. Choosing the best validator boils down to personal preference but this could be useful to users who would have not delegated on a Cosmos chain before and would like like a starting guide.

Introduction

This guide is made for people who have an understanding of staking through Tendermint based chains. If you are not confident with staking within the Cosmos Ecosystem please refer to this guide:

Explorers on Sentinel Network

Currently, there are two main explorers via which a user/token holder of Sentinel can explore several options such as: general information on the network, amount/percentage of staked tokens, circulating supply, current proposals, active validators, market cap, price of $DVPN, addresses/wallets etc.

Not every explorer offers all of the above options so it is advisable to visit all of them and decide which one is the most appropriate/suitable for you.

  1. Big Dipper Explorer

2. Mintscan

https://www.mintscan.io/sentinel

Validator Set

Sentinel Network will consist of 64 active validators. Any new validator that enters will need to have more tokens delegated to their node (aka voting power) than the 64th in the current active set. Sentinel’s genesis validators were mentioned here, but that does not mean they will be the only ones validating by the end of the day. Validators can come and go, which is why you should research whom you are delegating to.

Choosing a validator

The following passage is taken from the author’s general guide on staking within the cosmos ecosystem found here:

We expect more validators will go live on Sentinel after mainnet. How does one choose between them though?

This section is dedicated to the end of providing some basic guidance/tips on choosing the validator that matches your needs more closely.

This topic has been discussed and analyzed through articles in the past. I found one article particularly useful, written by Mira Storm.

Mira has compiled a validator Selection Criteria Checklist in order to help you when conduct your due diligence on who is fit for this purpose, to which i have added three points namely: the uptime of a validator, the ability of delegators to participate on governance and vote and slash protection offered.

As a final point, I stress the importance of a validator’s willingness to participate actively on the chain’s governance process.

Selection Criteria Checklist

  1. Technical setup of the validator
  2. Amount of self-bonded coins of the validator
  3. Current commission rate, commission change rate and maximum commission
  4. Total amount and number of delegations
  5. Community Involvement and Longevity
  6. The level of network decentralization
  7. Uptime of the validator
  8. Ability of delegators to vote and participate on governance
  9. Slash Protection
  10. Active participation on chain’s governance

Let us now analyze them one by one:

  1. Technical setup of the validator

This is the most compelling part when choosing a validator as it involves some form of technical expertise. Some validators offer detailed info on their technical set up whereas others don’t. As Mira Storm advises:

We encourage you to reach out directly to validators to get more details. Some attributes that you should pay particular attention to:

  • Is the software run on a physical server or in a cloud? (Listen carefully for the reasons why the operator choose one over the other)
  • How is validator private key secured? Do they use a hardware security module (HSM)? How about the Key Management Service (kms)?
  • Do they have a reliable way to restart the node if the software or hardware fails?
  • How are they making sure double-signature doesn’t occur?
  • What will happen if the node is censored or under the network attack?

It has also been recommended to check if a validator node is shielded behind a layer of private and public sentries. This type of set up is recommended by the community to protect the node against malicious blocks and network attacks.

Some projects within the Cosmos ecosystem have stricter requirements for node operators. One such instance is the Secret Network where — in order to enable Secret Contract functionality — validators are required to run nodes equipped with the latest version of Intel SGX.

2. Amount of self-bonded coins of the validator

This is another important criterion providing a clear view on how serious a validator is, how much trust they have on their own infrastructure, or even whether they can deliver their warranties (e.g. when offering slash protection/refund)

3. Current commission rate, commission change rate and maximum commission

Commission rates are important and a determining factor to a majority of people delegating their coins, but it is equally important to review the finer print i.e. what is the commission change rate and how much the maximum commission. For example, you may be delegating to a validator charging 5% commission. If they have a max rate of 20% and a Max Change Rate of 10% then you may wake up to a 20% commission in no time.

4. Total amount and number of delegations

People also seem inclined to delegate to node operators that have a large number of coins or delegations although this should be counter-balanced by a spread of delegations among more validators in order to decentralize the network.

5. Community Involvement and Longevity

Validators that are involved in the community, spend resources on improving the network’s infrastructure or provide educational material, apps, dApps are the ones most likely to stay in the network longer.

6. The level of network decentralization

It has been argued that a centralized network could be prone to double-spending attacks whereas at the same time the overall value of a staking token that by design is supposed to be part of a decentralized network may be reduced. It is thus important for delegations to be spread to more validators. One tip that may be given here is to spread your delegations over more than one validators.

7. Uptime of the validator

The uptime of a validator is also another important metric that delegators take into account. Most validators usually have a 99–100% uptime on the Cosmos ecosystem.

8. Ability of delegators to vote and participate on governance

If you stake through an exchange, or through wallets that do not support voting on governance proposals you are left out of one of the most important features of the Cosmos ecosystem: voting. It is quintessential that you opt both for wallets that support this feature while steering away from staking through exchanges (that by default have the voting feature disabled) and finally ensure that your wallet provides access to all validators (some don’t). Luckily, on Sentinel Network, all wallets will be supported namely: 1. Cosmostation 2. Keplr provide full services (voting, access to all validators etc.) 3. Sentinel’s native wallet.

For a guide on wallets currently available on Sentinel Network please see:

9. Slash Protection

There is an increasing trend among the Cosmos ecosystem’s validators to offer soft or even hard slash protection. This is an important new feature that has been attractive to people who delegate their coins and need the peace of mind that a. their coins will not be slashed and b. their rewards will be guaranteed. It is currently not offered by any validator on the Sentinel network.

10. Active participation on chain’s governance

This goes beyond community engagement. A validator who values a project should engage in active participation on governance by voting on proposals, letting his/her delegators know about their vote and the reasoning behind their vote.

Thank you for the taking the time to read through this brief guide!

Regards, Johnnie Cosmos

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An interoperable networking layer for distributed services. Developed decentralized VPN as first use case. Learn more at Sentinel.co

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Johnnie Cosmos

Johnnie Cosmos

A Cøsmos pleb.

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