I’m DC and I’m running for MGRC as the nominee from the Electric Coin Company team. I have a technical background, significant business and non-profit experience, and a track record of working to protect and defend electronic privacy. I have strong opinions about what the Zcash project needs going forward, and as a member of MGRC I would push hard to synergize efforts from the ECC, Major Grants, the Zcash Foundation, and other stakeholders. I believe that MGRC funds should be used for a combination of grants, bounties, prizes and investments. Return on MGRC investments should be used to fund Zcash development beyond the end of the dev fund. I will play well with others.
If I’m chosen to serve on MGRC, I will focus on the following high level priorities:
Broadening the Zcash community. We lost a massive amount of active users and community mojo when the ASIC miners came onto the network and the GPU miners were pushed out. I’m not advocating for ‘ASIC resistance’, but I would encourage contributions from people with novel ideas for how to reward people with Zcash for contributing to the network/platform/ecosystem.
Relentless focus on product, design and usability. Zcash is amazing, but until recently it’s been impossible to use to its full potential. I would encourage contributions from people who appreciate the power of great UX and design while not compromising on performance and security.
Discovering and supporting use cases in support of the mission. Today, Zcash is widely used, but the most popular use case appears to be speculation. I would encourage contributions from people that explore and promote use cases that make use of Zcash for good.
Encouraging diversity and inclusion. Diverse teams are stronger than monocultures. Tech is bad, but crypto is even worse when it comes to D&I. I helped to create the D&I program at my previous company, and successfully hired several outstanding candidates from underrepresented groups into technical roles in multiple departments. I believe it’s important that MGRC be composed of people that represent the numerous stakeholders of the Zcash community, and that MGRC benefit from geographic, economic, ethnic and gender diversity. A diverse MGRC will do a better job of soliciting grant applications from and awarding prizes to underrepresented candidates.
Investing MGRC funds wisely in relevant projects. MGRC should do more than just write grants. It should also reward contributors with prizes, and set material bounties on critical features/products/etc. Furthermore, MGRC should be able to take equity positions in up and coming projects that directly support, or are adjacent to the Zcash ecosystem. Return on these investments should be used to meaningfully extend the effectiveness of the MGRC beyond the life of the four year dev fund defined in ZIP 1014. I expand on this assertion in greater detail here.
I believe strongly in digital liberty. To me this means that people should be able to use technology to get leverage over their lives without that technology enslaving them into a system of surveillance capitalism or worse.
I grew up around computers, and developed a knack for figuring out how systems break early on. This “security mindset” gave me a natural fear of social technology, and I sat on the sidelines while my friends got on Friendster and Facebook, etc. I was first drawn to the intersection of technology and privacy when I saw Moxie Marlinspike’s talk at Defcon in 2010. In this talk, Moxie explains that choosing not to be on social media, or have a mobile phone, has profound implications. He argues that, for example, forgoing a mobile phone is not a choice simply not to carry a piece of consumer technology in your pocket, it’s a choice not to participate in society. This talk opened my eyes to the impact of the (then) nascent practice of surveillance capitalism, and I leaned in to help normal people understand what was going on and how they could protect themselves. I worked with the team at the Wall St. Journal to analyze the data security and privacy dynamics of the top 100 apps in the Android and Apple app stores. This feature was one of the first times that mainstream media focused on digital privacy, and our team was pleased to see that in response to this work, Apple and Google overhauled some of their privacy practices, making it harder for apps to spy on users.
I continued to lean into developing privacy preserving technology, building a mobile transparency product called MobileScope in 2011 with Ashkan Soltani and Aldo Cortesi, which was acquired by the privacy-centric company Evidon (now Ghostery). I later served as the Chief Security Officer for SendGrid, a cloud based email provider. During my time at “The Grid”, I worked cross functionally to enable encryption for the email pipeline, which meaningfully increased the security and privacy of the platform, encrypting password reset emails for dozens of sites you probably use every day.
While the majority of my professional experience was in the for-profit sector, I did serve as a volunteer for the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) for four years. I initially served as a local chapter leader, and went on to serve on the project’s Global Industry Committee, helping to raise awareness around the importance of software security as a fundamental tenet of digital development.
I had become familiar with Bitcoin back in 2011, leveraging GPU horsepower from my security consultancy to mine blocks in between pentesting engagements. In 2016, I volunteered as a Techstars mentor for the team at Bridge21, who were among the first to use cryptocurrency to provide high speed, low fee cross-border payments to the world. I was particularly enamored of the potential for cryptocurrency to right some of the wrongs of the financial system that had spectacularly melted down in 2008 and led to populist uprisings in cities all over the world. The crash exposed that legacy financial systems extract more value from people than is appropriate. I had met Zooko at the University of Colorado law school when he was still working primarily on Tahoe-LAFS. I was very excited to see the progress he and his team made on bringing Zcash to life, and participated in the project as a miner initially, and then as an advisor to, and finally as an employee of the Electric Coin Company.
Zcash represents the realization of potential that Bitcoin originally promised. Zcash is private, decentralized, innovative and resilient. Zcash is poised to do for Internet Money what HTTPS did for electronic commerce.
I believe that the Zcash project has done a superb job of productionizing cutting edge cryptography, creating an altcoin that clearly has a raison d’etre. The project enjoys first class liquidity and broad exchange support. The magical “shielded” technology that differentiates Zcash from other altcoins has become dramatically easier to use recently, thanks to effective collaboration between the ECC, the Zcash Foundation, and community developers such as Aditya from the Zecwallet project. Upcoming collaborations with organizations like Gitcoin will breathe new life into the Zcash ecosystem, and encourage developers from all over the world to contribute to the project. That said, I believe that the biggest threat to Zcash at this point is relevance. As other projects begin to add meaningful privacy capabilities, it is important that we work hard to identify and support (legitimate) use cases, while investing in things that we (as a project) have not historically prioritized, like community outreach and developer engagement.
I believe that the MGRC will be most effective if it is composed of people from diverse backgrounds; people that represent the various types of stakeholders of the Zcash ecosystem. I believe that it’s important for MGRC to work to expand “beyond the crypto bubble”, and seek engagement from candidates that are experienced not just in technology or cryptography, but in areas like governance, funding public goods, public policy and law. If I am chosen by the Community Advisory Panel to serve on the MGRC, I believe that I would be an effective conduit between the ECC and the MGRC, helping MGRC to focus on funding work that the ECC cannot or will not prioritize.
The Zcash project has a ton of potential that is not yet realized in the world. I believe that I have a unique combination of organizational, technical and communication skills that would make me a good choice for the MGRC, and humbly request that the community give me the chance to serve in this capacity.
Answers to MGRC Open Questions
(note: these questions were discussed live by several candidates during the Live Stream Q&A)
The ZIP-1014 language has some ambiguities. Where would you stand on how to interpret and implement operational activities when there is no explicit language to guide you? How should the MGRC consider community will/preference?
I believe that ZIP-1014 contains several “bright lines” that shouldn’t be questioned. These include:
- The 4 year term for dev fund
- The issuance splits between MGRC (8%), ECC (7%) and ZF (5%)
- That there shall be no compensation paid to passive participants, including initial investors and inactive founders
I sense that ZIP-1014 is ambiguous about the following points, and believe we should iterate on these points, in partnership w/ ZF and community.
- If / how to compensate MGRC members.
- Whether or not to hire a full time administrator?
- Whether all committee members should be stand for re-election simultaneously
- If/how MGRC should do only “grants”, or also prizes, bounties and even investments.
I believe that it’s critically important that MGRC balance innovation and ossification, with a preference for innovation at this phase in the project’s lifecycle.
The key is to find the balance between innovation and ossification. We have enough concrete guidance in ZIP-1014 to get the committee seated, and to start delivering value straight away. The open questions regarding comp and re-election timing we can tackle as a group, in partnership with the Foundation and the Community down the track.
“It is highly desirable to develop robust means of decentralized community voting and governance –either by expanding the Community Panel or a successor mechanism– and to integrate them into this process by the end of 2021. ECC and ZF SHOULD place high priority on such development and its deployment, in their activities and grant selection.”
So based on this guidance, I believe that MGRC should immediately solicit grant applications and/or set bounties for development of “more robust means of decentralized community voting and governance”.
Note that the ZF has posted a memo on 31 Aug 2020 that states that it will pay MGRC members a fixed stipend of $500USD per month, estimating the effort involved to be ~5 hours per month, and assuming a rate of $100USD/hour. The ZF memo also states that “ZF will provide administrative support for purely logistical and operational tasks, such as required KYC and OFAC compliance for all grants, payment processing, and record keeping.” This clarity is helpful, but I’m not sure that the stipend nor the administrative support will be sufficient for MGRC to maximize its potential.
Should MGRC be a “driving actor” or provide sourcing, oversight and review? [context]. Should MGRC be more of a bureaucracy (with hierarchy, continuity, defined rules, and expertise) or can it be an adhocracy (decentralized and flexible)?
I prefer the term “do-ocracy” to bureaucracy. I would like to see MGRC members empowered to excel in their relative area of expertise. That said, I’m not sure “ad-hocracy” is the right approach, as we will need to have robust transparency and accountability requirements and a consistent process. I believe that there should be strong controls around the treasury, and that the process by which grants/prizes/investments are approved should be formalized, documented and have appropriate transparency.
Zcash already has “driving actors” in the form of the ECC and the ZF. MGRC is intended to be a review committee, not a software development company. The MGRC members should focus on:
- identifying strategic opportunities to improve Zcash and the ecosystem.
- Sourcing talented teams to fill these gaps (via grants, prizes or investments)
- Performing diligence on potential grantees and investments
- Providing ongoing mentoring and support to funded projects
I see there being an ongoing need for administrative support. ZF has committed to providing
“administrative support for purely logistical and operational tasks, such as required KYC and OFAC compliance for all grants, payment processing, and record keeping”
to MGRC. However, I don’t think that will be sufficient to support a high functioning MGRC. Thus I advocate that at some point, MGRC find a path to secure a contract (to-hire) resource to provide direct and ongoing administrative support for MGRC.
It’s important that MGRC not try to become another ECC or ZF. These organizations are already well established and delivering value in their respective areas. The gap that MGRC is intended to fill is to provide funding for the development of the broader Zcash ecosystem, and MGRC is specifically designed to incentivize greater participation from third party developers.
I believe that it’s important for MGRC members to lean in and be proactive on sourcing. It’s not sufficient to just sit around and wait for grant applications from interesting people to show up. MGRC members should have an informed opinion about what’s missing in the Zcash ecosystem. They should actively encourage applications from amazing people well suited to do the work. Separately, MGRC should be empowered to set bounties on key features, components or artifacts, to directly incentivize developers to fill in gaps in the ecosystem. Finally, MGRC should award prizes to developers who have risen to the occasion, and acknowledge their fine work with economic rewards.
MGRC members should also be available to provide mentoring, guidance, support and oversight to funding recipients. The journey for most projects is long and arduous, and “writing a check” is often the easiest step in the journey. The hard part comes when the teams inevitably run into problems, experience setbacks, or simply need encouragement. MGRC should be available to provide ongoing support, which may take financial, technical and even emotional form.
Have you had previous experiences of being put together rather arbitrarily in a team before? If so, how did you manage? How will you go about managing disagreements between 1) yourself and another MGRC member and 2) other MGRC members with each other?
I was a volunteer leader of OWASP for several years. Leaning into a professional situation where you don’t get to pick your peers isn’t always easy. But at OWASP, we were united around a common goal. I see MGRC as attracting people largely unified by a shared goal, which gives MGRC a significant advantage over other communities that are brought together purely by chance.
I also know several of the candidates IRL already, and have attempted to build bridges with those that I don’t yet know. A healthy MGRC won’t agree on everything, but it will be able to effectively discuss and work through issues. For conflict resolution, I always try to reach out 1:1 and gain understanding and perspective directly, rather than engaging in public flamewars. Lots of context is lost in text only comms mechanisms, and arguments in those mediums can get out of control quickly.
If you were elected to the MGRC, what processes and frameworks would you attempt to set in place in order to allow frictionless collaboration between the members of the MGRC? Is it a conflict of interest for a member of another cryptocurrency project to be on the MGRC?
I believe it’s critically important that we first pick the right people. The right people will implement good process. Once a process is up and running, then we should layer in technology to automate it where possible, to give the MGRC leverage and scale. I suggest MGRC hire a professional facilitator to guide the initial “forming” phase of the group, and do a virtual “offsite” that helps us connect both personally and professionally.
I hope that MGRC is assembled with members from all over the world, and as such believe that it will be important to build the processes in such a way that they are largely asynchronous. This will allow MGRC to be effective without blocking on circadian rhythms of members separated by oceans.
I do not believe that it is a conflict of interest for a member of another cryptocurrency project to be on the MGRC. Several forum members have expressed concern about @Souptacular 's affiliation with the Ethereum Foundation. I do not share this concern. I have known Hudson to be a consistently constructive member of the Zcash community for years. He has been a member of the CAP for a long time, and he participated constructively in the debate around the dev fund. He has helped connect me with members of the Ethereum community on multiple occasions, and seems to be genuinely interested in building trust and respect between the Ethereum and ZCash projects.
Since DC is nominated by ECC, does that mean that the opinions he will bring to the MGRC discussions and decisions will be unduly influenced by Zooko?
As mentioned above, I have a long track record of caring about, and doing something about electronic surveillance and privacy concerns. I have strong opinions about the future of Zcash, and these opinions don’t always align with Zooko’s. That said, I expect that I would show up to the MGRC as a representative of the ECC, and would exert influence on MGRC in such a way that properly balances my personal conviction with the ECC team’s perspectives.