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Securing a blockchain with Proof of Engagement.

What makes a blockchain secure?

Securing a blockchain depends on many factors such as the consensus methodology, tokenomics, cryptography, software engineering, and the size of network.

There are trade-offs between speed and security in the mechanisms to ensure consensus is reached on the state of the blockchain, and a nice diverse set of nodes/miners help make a chain secure.

A key part of securing the blockchain goes beyond the purely technical aspects and has factors such as community support, reputation, and trust of the operators.

We know that the good projects have a very active community of validators/miners who are well regarded, a strong core development team, an ecosystem of dApp builders, a vibrant community management who inform, educate, and promote the project, and not forgetting the businesses who build on the blockchain. In short, there is a social endeavor around a blockchain.

The big question is how to align the incentives of the whole community around the blockchain?

We see models where the rewards are distributed to the network operators, the core developers are funded through the foundation, and a community pool invites the rest of the community to bid for funds where the applications are debated on open forums and voted on. The idea of open and transparent governance is powerful, however, we can observe that in practice debate and voting has a low engagement amongst those eligible to vote. We also observe hostile debates on proposals and the default position of voting no or abstaining where there is activism seen.

The observed interactions do ensure that the blockchains are functional and that the various roles people and organizations play ensure that everything is done correctly. We also observe that there are blockchains with deep communities and a sense of purpose with the foundations behind the projects actively involved in funding initiatives instigated by the community or people with ideas to support or build the ecosystem.

Can we improve on what is observed? How do we create the right incentives to further build on a community that forms around a blockchain?

Cooperation vs Collaboration

A key topic to explore is the type of model we desire, and it is important to distinguish the difference between cooperation and collaboration. In the context of the community around a blockchain, we consider the incentives of both.

Cooperation is where there are the right incentives for each individual and their focus is on doing their tasks to the best of their ability in order to maximise their returns. The pooling of these individuals’ efforts to a goal is what makes it cooperative.

Collaboration is much deeper and is around shared objectives and goals. This form of working encourages individuals to work together to achieve common goals and objectives. This can manifest itself as a group combining their expertise where the overall impact is greater than the individual contributions.

The shared objectives and goals in securing a blockchain make collaboration more powerful than cooperation.

Photo by Gianandrea Villa on Unsplash

Nice words, how do we put it into practice?

There is a degree of subjectivity to collaboration, and it is important that whatever methodology is derived that it is inclusive and not weighted towards sub-sections which may be easy to quantify.

The inclusiveness and subjectivity are introduced by Proof of Engagement concept of Engagement Points. Engagement is a subjective value, we know engagement when we see it and it is very hard to quantify or indeed create a comprehensive list of activities that constitute engagement. To evaluate engagement, the Proof of Engagement design included a self-sovereign group known as the Oversight Community.

The Oversight Community builds its off-chain infrastructure to collect and share information about engagement activity taking place. The Oversight Community members reach out to the people who are engaging to establish who they are and what their blockchain address is. The Oversight Community establishes consensus on what activities undertaken demonstrate engagement and how many Engagement Points to allocate, to which address using governance processes.

The Oversight Community will also engage with the wider community to communicate what engagement means and gather feedback. It is important that the whole community has a say in establishing and maintaining the goals and objectives of the blockchain. In short, there is a two-way communication between the Oversight Community and the wider community around the blockchain.

Engagement Points have two roles in Proof of Engagement; firstly they are a part of validators voting authority and secondly Engagement Points are used in the distribution of tokens from the revenue pool which is funded by transaction fees and a portion of the block rewards.

The voting authority in Proof of Engagement is the sum of Engagement Points and Stake. The intent of the design to include Engagement Points was to incentivize both established and new validators to be engaged with the blockchain beyond running a node.

Why is it important to have validators engaged with the blockchain and why don’t they just concentrate on running an efficient node? This comes back to the collaboration and cooperation question, where a more secure blockchain is run with collaboration, we look for validators who engage. Validators have resources and access to communities to evangelise and promote a blockchain to a wider audience, they have development teams who build block explorers, they have expertise in security and can share best practices, and as a group has a lot that they can contribute.

The same goes for other groups in the community around a blockchain. The bloggers, vloggers, social media moderators, podcasters are an essential part of the community as you could have the best blockchain in the world but if nobody knows about it then it does not have a long term future, and so their work of telling the world about your blockchain matters.

The developer community around a blockchain count, this group keep the blockchain maintained, and while a sub-set of core developers may get funding from the foundation behind a blockchain there are others that contribute through tooling such as wallets, smart contract browsers, block explorers and not forgetting the dApp builders who bring value to the blockchain through accessibility, and innovation.

The businesses building on a blockchain have an important role in using the infrastructure, generation of transaction fees ensuring the flow of tokens in the ecosystem, and the growth of the blockchain’s user base.

These sub-groups all have a part to play and the Proof of Engagement model ensures that they are all incentivised to collaborate and take an active role in the blockchain community.

Why does a secure blockchain matter?

We have explored why collaboration matters, how this translates into Proof of Engagement and how this makes a strong community.

The final thought is why does all of this matter to a blockchain? Why is it important to secure a blockchain using Proof of Engagement?

A generic Proof of Stake blockchain, given a sufficiently high market capitalization, is undoubtedly a secure blockchain, why would you add the layer of Engagement?

The answer is that by having a well incentivised, active community securing the blockchain is that businesses evaluating blockchains will consider security as one of the important criteria. If they are going to issue a significant volume of tokens by value then they need to be convinced that the blockchain they are working with is secure, and if they compare a standard Proof of Stake blockchain with Proof of Engagement they will see the difference between a cooperative and a collaborative model.

The collaborative model is more secure as the ecosystem around the blockchain actively works on making it better, broadening the community, and ensuring decentralization by involving the whole community.

Further Reading

Proof of Engagement Paper

What are Privileged Contracts?

Delegators or no Delegators?

Proof of Engagement blog post

How to follow Tgrade, the world’s first Proof of Engagement blockchain

Discord / Telegram / Twitter / LinkedIn / Website

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The foundation of Tgrade is a robust, secure, fully decentralized platform that offers the ability for self-sovereign groups to form and interact with each other.

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Martin Worner

Martin Worner

Building Tgrade, a public blockchain with self-sovereign governance frameworks to help bridge traditional finance.

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