[DISCUSSION] How should we deal with attacks from Howard Chu and the rest of Monero community?

So, Howard is at it again - as usual. I want to jot down some of my general thoughts about the bigger picture and perhaps get a discussion going.

If you are unfamiliar with who Howard Chu is, he is a Monero developer, and “saviour of NASA”, “saviour of the space shuttle”, or “saviour of a space shuttle radio”, depending on which of his re-tellings you want to believe. Most tellingly the chief engineer of that mission actually haven’t heard of him and pointed out that Howard got the dates wrong and mission launched after he claims to have left NASA [ 1 ].

“It is just a community member”

This is the usual way Monero likes to deflect any criticism. It is nice and flexible (after-all everyone is just a community member). Of course it ignores the fact that the whole community is structured to funnel money to people at the top. For a case study of what happens when a community member doesn’t toe the community line, I suggest looking into the “Xeagu affair” - when one community member added his own donation address to his leaflet - he was ejected from the community faster than you can say “community member” - he even wrote a long apology letter and was still told to bugger off [ 2 ]. Therefore Monero is quite capable of dealing with community members, they just choose not to in cases like Howard, Magical Crypto Friends or neo-Nazi members.

Gather 'round the gaslight

Right after @sgp organised ZCash funding debate on Monero platform (itself a subtle message that Zcash is incapable of sorting out its own affairs without help from a Monero platform), and letting Monero community members troll Daira and Sonya for 180 minutes straight on a livestream [ 3 ] I had a conversation with one of the ECC members, he said “The guy that moderated seemed ok” - seriously?

One sided-relationship

In the same vein, none of non-technical readers here will know that @daira helped to review the fix for the biggest bug Monero had in its history [ 4 ] - you certainly won’t read about it from their press release. I’m not sure how ze feels to be called by the same people a developer of “pure snake oil”, but the general strategy is fairly clear and consistent.

Whenever Monero wants something from Zcash (technical expertise, money for their conference, or to expose themselves to trolling) - it is portrayed as “working together” [ 5 ]. Whenever Monero needs something from Zcash - it is swept under the rug as soon as possible. Whenever it is time to trash Zcash - it is just a community member doing it.

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I didn’t fix that bug. I did review the PR (after learning about the bug from the public disclosure) to check that it correctly fixed the bug and wasn’t leaving other cases uncovered.

The “snake oil” jibes are annoying but don’t affect me much personally. I’m pretty hard-skinned — I unfortunately have to be because I’m trans.

The effect on adoption of cryptocurrency in general (and private cryptocurrencies in particular) of inter-coin toxicity does bother me, and is objectively a problem for all coins. I’m talking to you, @sarang, Surae, and @sgp : I wish you would oppose this toxicity from the Monero community more strongly and vocally in public. I know you can’t stop people from being toxic, but you’re not doing enough to resist this problem and call it out.

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Ok, thanks for clarification. I was only privy to the public github comments (that’s why I assumed the idea of the fix originated with you). I fixed that part.

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Would you be interested in 2 years worth of IRC logs where they join in that behaviour?

[ screenshot removed ]

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Ugh that’s pretty dire.

I think the best way to deal with stuff like this is to graciously admit that ‘private by default’ is a good thing, and take steps to make zcash private by default. What steps are required to achieve the news headline ‘zcash is now private by default’? (Probably guidelines for wallet developers, a popular sdk, and an effort to nudge wallets to get on board, up to the point where all the major ones are, with a clear list of wallets that are and are not, and maybe some date for ending t to t transactions though I don’t think this matters as much as wallet behavior.)

Then try to build features where zcash tangibly provides more privacy than monero, eg fully supported and audited network layer privacy features built into the wallet sdk and available by default in all light wallets. And fixes to any low hanging fruit attacks like dusting.

Once it’s better than monero in all of the ways most monero users care about, it’s then easy to point this out whenever it comes up, and politely point out that, if anyone’s statements don’t match the facts, it could be because they are financially conflicted and not disclosing their conflicts, or just overly loyal to a specific community beyond the bounds of reason.

Has anyone done user interviews with a sample of monero users?

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also, competition can be really helpful for clarifying what users care about and what the real priorities are.

i think we should welcome it and respond gracefully with a competitive spirit.

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I don’t have any objection to people pointing out genuine weaknesses. That’s really not what we’re talking about here. The accusations of “snake oil”, calling Zcash a “scam”, etc., have nothing to do with technical aspects of the coin.

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It always takes much more effort to respond to these posts than it does to make them. I know exactly what the point of this post is. It’s to act as Lucille in Arrested Development, pitting Lindsay against Michael. I’m keeping a calm head on my end while doing my best to address these concerns.

Xeagu was a sad case for Monero. We originally thought he was just someone interested in supporting Monero, though it soon became clear that he was trying to make a group with cult-like qualities. After much discussion and warning, we decided to consider talk of his group off-topic in the subreddit and a few other community-run forums. When he came back several months later with a weird apology inside of a request for money (for a nonsensical proposal), it wasn’t well-received. Ironically, fireice continues to call Monero a cult, pointing to things that Xeagu did.

I don’t understand how I’m criticized for helping kickstart the important Zcash community discussion on the future of the developer fund. Everyone who participated felt the moderation was fair. I spent hours making the only public financial model so people could actually talk numbers. I received many compliments afterward. The Zcash Foundation seemed to take it as a good gesture that the Zcash community can be more than just the ECC or the ZF. MoneroKon and Zcon shared a livestream on their respective channels in the past also.

This all being said, there is going to be some feud between the Monero and Zcash community given the similar nature of the projects, just like there is feud between different sports team fans. We should be trying to steer this feud in a fun, good-natured way.

While the “I’m just a community member” mantra is sometimes used to try and get out of things, it also is somewhat true. I strongly stand for the ideals I believe in for the channels I operate in, and I am in close communication with most others to try and get us on the same page. I do call out bad behaviors when I see them, something I started doing more after another of Monero’s projects was left going on for too long before it exploded, leaving only insults to me and my family. While not everyone feels this way, I genuinely care about going out of my way to call out behaviors that may make the group unapproachable. I think this is essential to help bridge the minority gap in open-source projects, which is worse than tech overall.

In the case of Howard in particular, he genuinely believes that Zcash is a scam, and he has made this clear many times. Though every community has its share of outsiders who considers the project a scam, Zcash needs to be prepared for users who think anything with a founders reward is a scam. I think it’s fair to expect prominent Monero communities to call out certain behavior more, such as if people call specific things scams without explaining why. That said, manage your expectations for what you expect from volunteers. We do our best, but also I’m not paid to run a PR team. I will do what I can and hope that my voice has an influence.

Without stirring too much dirt, I REALLY need to ask the same of the Zcash community, and frankly it’s significantly worse when someone in a prominent, official position is making or liking offensive, absurd comments about how COVID is a farce and strongly suggesting that the United States is not systematically racist. This isn’t just a prominent community member making comments; it’s one of your officers. I stand by watching the whole Zcash community pretend this isn’t happening. Let this be a wake-up call on your end too that people are noticing and it’s sick.

If you think this relationship is only one-sided, I think you are only looking at specific examples. There are plenty of ways that the communities can benefit from shared research. For example, sarang and vtnerd recently offered to help the Zcash Foundation with their networking project. We had a lovely MoneroKon panel. The Zcash Foundation was given a lot of time at the Monero Defcon Village last year. There’s actually a lot of stuff, as you can imagine from a project that has similar goals, and I hope these further grow.

To summarize, while this post is meant to cause pain, I don’t think we need to take the bait. fireice has been banned from many platforms that I moderate and others within the Monero community. For these actions, I have received death threats and images depicting me as Hitler from his followers on countless occasions. For my own sanity, it’s best for me to not engage, since really I am their only audience. Please don’t make the Zcash community one of their audiences.

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I appreciate your attempt at telepathy, but no. The point of this topic is to discuss how to respond to attacks on Zcash by your friends. If you want to be helpful, why don’t you go and tell your friends to cut it out in an effective way - you have been unable or unwilling to do that for over two years, despite the fact that you talk to them everyday.

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The accusations of “snake oil”, calling Zcash a “scam”, etc., have nothing to do with technical aspects of the coin.

I can see where we’d want to think of statements like “scam” and “snake oil” as out-of-bounds in the conversation about the products, but in my experience doing public interest work on the Internet it’s really common for Internet users to assume the worst of any person or institution, and be very careless about how they express that. In any space that intersects with deeply held values like privacy and freedom I think that becomes even more true, because people have strong feelings about things.

So whenever you’re trying to build reputation online you have to take for granted that this will happen, and patiently address things like these in good faith, probably not in direct response to the trolls, but in documentation, FAQs, messaging, and most of all the actual substance of whatever you’re doing.

Even the really bad-faith critics will play to whatever fear, pessimism, and paranoia they sense might be floating around in peoples’ heads. They’ll focus on whatever seems to resonate. So in some ways that’s helpful, because it can show where a product, institution, or communication strategy could use shoring-up.

The screenshotted tweet, “snake oil because not private by default” is a great example of this. It’s a really wild and unfair exaggeration rooted in extreme mistrust, paired with a specific weakness—one that can actually be addressed.

You can’t really get the bad faith critics to stop or go away. Probably they’ll grow in absolute numbers as the work gets more successful. There’s always some proportion of contrarians. But as you address all the weaknesses they point out in substantive ways and communicate well about it, their criticisms sound increasingly hollow and unconvincing to others.

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Toxicity is one of the reasons I have nothing to do with XMR, not something I want to be associated with.

Measure people by their actions (or inaction) and the company they keep, invest time & attention accordingly.

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I’m going to chime in here to remind all about the forum rules against personal attacks.

So far the conversation seems mostly civil but I could see it getting very personal very quickly. Refrain from making it personal, even though it could be said that the opening post is already on the edge and some response’s are likewise.

Please keep it on the issue of the differences in communities dialogue and how to approach interactions with each other. Hopefully this forum can serve as neutral ground for some Zcash community members that obviously have a long history of disagreement (@fireice_uk and @sgp) to resolve things.

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For fudd its simple, ignore it
Those individuals just want engaged doesn’t matter how so do everyone a favor and don’t waste your time

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For the record, I don’t understand the critique of @sgp’s role in the Dev Fund governance process and don’t agree with it. Your efforts were appreciated.

[Remainder of comment deleted given further information.]

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That’s absolutely unacceptable and would be a serious violation of the Zcash Code of Conduct. However, we would need evidence that fireice was responsible for this; “his followers” is rather vague. I promise that we will ban anyone who is shown to have been responsible for sending, or soliciting the sending of such threats (on any platform) from Zcash-related fora.

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We do, all the time, both in technical decision-making and in documentation etc. I personally, and others at ECC, have been putting a huge amount of effort into that from the start.

It’s not helpful, at all. We know what the technical weaknesses are, and we know what people (correctly or incorrectly) perceive them to be. More toxicity isn’t going to make a jot of difference to that.

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I think so too!

Though I should super gently point out that an unsophisticated user evaluating this critique might turn to Google: https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=is+zcash+private+by+default … and not really find anything that makes Zcash’s position clear, and instead find some confirmation for the critique, or pro-Zcash arguments that don’t make the strongest possible case for Zcash’s position.

This sets the bar super high, so there’s no shame in not being there yet, but it’s a good goal, you know? Ideally you want the Zcash story on this to be so clear and easily-relayed that whenever it comes up, someone tells it for you perfectly.

I’m not sure what I can do to help, but I would like to help in some way.

Well if it really isn’t, it’s best to ignore it, for sure!

I think the right answer on an institutional level though is that it’s good for there to be people whose job it is to obsess over this kind of thing, advocate internally for solutions, measure progress, etc. Again, I’d love to help in some way.

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I’ve probably debated them all by now on twitter z2z.to/zcashvr

From what I can tell, the only place zcash cannot compete with monero is in regards to GPU mining and monetary policy (i believe we have the upper hand - I don’t share their philosophies)

I am against the removal of t-addresses until there is a better way than enforced turnstile migration to limit $zec supply in the event of an inflation bug

I consider coins that cannot ensure a limited quantity to be defunct as a currency

Not sure how community feels about my tone on twitter. With your permission, I will unite the #z2z coins and memewar monero to death: we deserves their entire marketcap, userbase and dev community.

ZILLIONS!

Edit: Adversarial learning can be good for both communities.

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How is that tweet an attack?

its well known that this can happen. Monero isn’t immune to correlation attacks either, but they are different. If anything is good to know this so users can be educated. Those evil MCF did a really good podcast on the strengths and weaknesses of xmr and zec. They even talk about the dev fund debate and fluffy pony is pretty complimentary about it.

From my experience the main issues people out side the community have are:

  • Trusted Setup
  • Founders Reward
  • Lack of transparency as to the owners of the ECC
  • Complicated to actually be private/easy to make a mistake and lose your privacy. (like tor prebrowser bundle)

This baggage will last for years. (4 more at least) - even then it wont be immune. So what is the bigger picture as you see it? what am I missing? What would an ideal situation look like?

@sgp did a great job. I personally would have liked it if he could have been involved more, he was knew what he was talking about, put a lot of effort in and i thought it worked well having someone from another project moderate. would you please elaborate on what I missed in that livestream. Do you really think he was acting in bad faith?

Who are you asking?