Major Grants committee

I’m sorry if what I wrote in this thread is contributing to the confusion. I didn’t intend to suggest doing anything different from ZIP 1014. I am only advocating that we as the community should choose 3B instead of 3A from the poll, for decentralisation and inclusivity.

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I have a few things it would be really helpful if you (@zooko) or @joshs could clear up for me.

I have the sniffles at the moment, drank a bit too much sleepy cough mixture and smoked a little too much last night.

I asked above, directly if the ECC considers the MG committee resolution a showstopper. The answer was no. this seems to contradict what you have said below.

If the ECC does not apply for Major Grants then you would not have the funding to provide a future for zcash even if the price goes up 4x (I can grab quotes for this, but the post is long enough already). Even then, if the price goes up, then dips to these lows again you wont have the money either - (this was the reasoning behind caps. I voted against them because I wanted to keep the ECC, I think the caps were/are a good idea.)

The community is currently offering the ECC 75% of the devfund on the condition that they can justify the extra 40% of it. Part of this justification is to onramp other teams. 35% as has been shown by previous statements is roughly enough to keep the lights on. (just) How is the ECC going to be able to have the resources to teach others within that 35%? (please see the end for an idea)

When NU4 rolls around, we will have 40% of the devfund going to teams that are not up to speed and no funds going to get these teams up to speed. So what would the ECC’s plans for the 35% be in the case they don’t apply for MG’s. How is this not a showstopper?

I don’t think you should be basing you actions upon what the uninformed think. Unfortunately people think bill gates is responsible for everything at Microsoft (even after he left), Bezos amazon, etc. You will never get away from it - just keep acting in good faith.

People making character judgements are always frustrating and upsetting. You are subject to a higher level scrutiny though, this goes with the territory. Your opinion does carry more weight. For example, it doesn’t matter to people if I am acting in bad faith, people can just ignore me and move on - so they wont question me or try to call me out if they think I am. It is different when there is a possibility that you might be acting in bad faith because your decisions have a direct impact on zcash, so people will scream from the rafters.

The extra community scrutiny of your words is not completely without basis, there is some history for it. Some actions by the ECC have caused a loss of faith and loss of large parts of the community (be that rightly or wrongly. I am not making judgments in this post). This is not directly your fault but it does lead people within the community to scrutinise your words more.

Please don’t let the optics stop you from posting - maybe start by caveating posts like @daira does and reemphasising that @joshs is the “official” spokesperson.

Whilst we are waiting for a statement from the foundation as to how they will interpret the results, I have had a idea as to how this might be solvable. (“don’t just bring me problems steve, bring solutions too.”) I am not sure of the viability of this, the legal implications nor if it is too much red tape, but it is a shot in the dark.

this is not a statement on if i think the committee should or shouldn’t happen, it is in reaction to 35% for the ECC and where to get money if not from MG’s - which might be a non issue depending on what the foundation says. I don’t want to get caught in the “decentralise everything” trap and end up with a 787 dreamliner - a project slaughtered by outsourcing.

You could move the ECC funding burden to the MG recipients. One of these additional revenue streams be training.

So say @mhluongo @JamesTodaroMD @mlphresearch @hloo or anyone else (@'ing them because I would like their feedback on this question in their capacity as potential MG recipients/applicants) puts forward for a proposal for a MG and part of that proposals funding is allocated to recompense the ECC for their on ramping of the team, rather than it coming directly from the devfund.

This might be a financial legal quagmire, or not a sustainable vertical. I don’t really know about these things Id love to hear thoughts though.

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What was the general reception of the grant review committee method used in 2017 and 2018 by the community? My understanding is that the Foundation board could have made different decisions on recipient choices than selected by the committee, but that it was expected not to.

2017: https://github.com/ZcashFoundation/GrantProposals-2017Q4
2018: https://github.com/ZcashFoundation/GrantProposals-2018Q2

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Does Major Grants committee have a directive? Is it primarly for decentralizing the code development, or can it be for other things like pushing demand with partnerships, adoption, wallets, etc.
This might affect who should be on the committee. For example a wallet developer might be useful for deciding if a wallet grant has promise.

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What was the general reception of the grant review committee method used in 2017 and 2018 by the community?

As someone who happened to be a member and chair of those two committees, I noticed three main issues:

  1. The decision process was heavyweight and slow. We analyzed proposals in detail, and some entailed long interactions and debates. Our highly qualified committee members tended to also have busy schedules and other obligations, and it was difficult to get their input and gather them for interactive discussions.

This is less of an issue for the Major Grants. Presumably there will be just a handful of those (unlike the dozens of mostly-small grants that the previous committees handled). Also, major funding merits deep analysis of the proposals.

  1. Some proposers were unresponsive, which also contributed to delays and burden on the committee’s work.

Given the high bar on Major Grants, this also should be less of an issue. An unresponsive proposer ought to be rejected.

  1. The GitHub-based application and discussion system was inconvenient to many users.

Already addressed by ZF’s new grant system website and its ongoing improvements.

My understanding is that the Foundation board could have made different decisions on recipient choices than selected by the committee, but that it was expected not to.

That’s correct. The ZF board set the overall budget, then gave the committee autonomy and ratified the recommendations.

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I think you’re on to something here. As long as a major grant recipient is a new team, there will need to be ramp-up time on the existing protocol and code bases. I was starting to plan and thought a very competent Rust dev with some C++ literacy and passing familiarity with the space would likely need 2 months before they could reach velocity, for example. I’d have no problem paying handsomely for the ECC’s time to help ramp up new devs if it means that time could be cut down, and we could better serve the community, increasing the likelihood of continued work.

I understand this isn’t a long-term revenue stream @zooko but I’m really intrigued. It’d also be a great way to kickstart a more open dev process – it’s easier for everyone to get along on calls, etc and build working relationships when they’ve spent dedicated time together.

Disclosure: We would like to be a founding Major Grant recipient.

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If the decision is made to keep legal/financial control over Major Grants funding with the Foundation, what are some procedures or policies that could be used to honor the wishes of those who supported an independent committee and avoid undue Foundation influence?

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I didn’t vote in the official poll, but I would certainly have voted for B, with a caveat:

Any member of such a committee (the MGC) MUST be compensated in zcash futures.

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Thanks for your post, Steve.

Scrutiny is not the same as spurious insinuations of bad faith. Scrutiny strengthens communities. It encourages good people to join the community and to lean in. Spurious insinuations of bad faith do the opposite. They are corrosive to people and to communities, and they can be used as a tool to deflect attention from integrity issues that the community really should be paying attention to.

I appreciate your concern for ECC’s work to continue to be funded, Steve! I like the direction you’re going of having some kind of transitional period where MG funds could be used to sustain ECC’s operations, while still making progress toward including and empowering more independent core support organizations.

On the other hand, maybe it would be good to exclude ECC entirely from the MG funds in order to effectively signal to the wider world that the MG is open for competitors and that Zcash no longer has any central point of failure which receives > 50% of the funding.

Also, don’t forget that this all kicks in next year, in 2021 — we still have 2020 under the current funding regime. So we have time to work on planning what to do under the Dev Fund.

These aren’t issues that we should be deciding right now. They are issues that the MG governance process should decide. What we need to decide right now is whether that governance process is to be under the control of the Foundation, or independent of the Foundation. Let’s not allow our attention to be deflected from that critical question. In my opinion, it is even more important to signal to the wider world that there is no single point of failure that controls > 50% of the funds, because control of the funds is where political power concentrates.

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P.S. I really thought Barbra’s comments up-thread (1, 2, 3), which are apparently based on experience, were insightful. One comment she made that I appreciated was that the problems of too much concentration of power happen even when there is good faith on the part of the entity wielding that power.

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A quick point: we are all focusing on independence of the committee. I think a number of people are worried, long term, that the committee will get captured. This is a concern. But our larger problem, short and medium turn, is we need to effectively spend money to further the ecosystem. All of the good governance is moot if the project fails to gain traction. Moreover, people can always vote with their feet/wallet or fork the system.
I don’t want to minimize people’s concerns, but we should keep the other goals in mind as well.

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I scanned https://zips.z.cash/zip-1014 .
My apologies if I missed included information.

Where is the compensation for the work to be performed by the MG Committee Specified? That information merits its own section, and/or was too hard to find.

Thanks in advance.

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I agree. Again speaking again from my experience in ZF’s previous (non-Major) Grant review committees, our problem was never with capture or conflicts. CoIs were properly disclosed and effectively handled. And ZF did a good job of minimizing them in the first place, by its choice of committee members.

By far the greater challenge was understanding the proposals well enough to render live-or-die judgment on their merits. Which involved learning about the teams, understanding (and often, questioning) their technical approach, assessing their timelines, budgets and deliverable. Exercising the accountability, prioritization and effective execution that this whole mechanismis is meant to facilitate.

This is consistent with my my experience serving on other grant boards and other review committees. It’s typically 3% of the time spent mitigating CoIs, 17% spent arguing about merit, and 80% spent with someone’s PDF files and budget spreadsheets, holding a red marker.

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(ZIP Editor hat.)

The current wording on the composition of the Major Grant Review Committee is:

  1. Major Grants awards are subject to approval by a five-seat Major Grant Review Committee. The Major Grant Review Committee SHALL be selected by the ZF’s Community Panel. The Major Grant Review Committee’s funding decisions will be final, requiring no approval from the ZF Board, but are subject to veto if the Foundation judges them to violate the ZF’s operating documents or U.S. law.

  2. Major Grant Review Committee members SHALL have a one-year term and MAY sit for reelection. The Major Grant Review Committee is subject to the same conflict of interest policy that governs the ZF Board of Directors (i.e. they MUST recuse themselves when voting on proposals where they have a financial interest). Additionally, no one with interest in or association with the ECC may sit on the Major Grant Review Committee — since the ECC can be a beneficiary, this avoids those potential conflicts altogether. The ZF SHALL continue to operate the Community Panel and SHOULD work toward making it more representative and independent (more on that below).

So there is no coin-holder voting for that committee (unless the Community Panel decides there should be, perhaps), which I think addresses @tromer’s points.

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Thanks for the response Zooko.

Fair point, well made. I wasn’t trying to excuse the behaviour of bad faith actors and agree with what you wrote - I don’t spend time on twitter so I assume I am somewhat isolated from it.

I don’t like this reasoning unless the zfnd has total oversight, in which case I empathise but still feel it might be a step to far depending on the reasoning the foundation gives. I know you are saying you don’t think you will apply for these things not that you wont. and are coming from an ideals perspective.

Yes it is kind of on and off topic. I do feel it was made relevant though when you suggested that you might not apply for grants. I see this a detrimental to zcash as outlined by the zip. but I didn’t just want to moan, so I though I would add an idea. (feel free to shoot me a commission, heh. j/k)

I am happy to argue either way on the subject of the committee. I would like a grants committee, as defined in the zip. I am concerned for the who will be on the committee because I have no way to vet them or their credentials. but this is the same as trusting the zfnd with the money, I trust them to set up the committee too. (and the ECC if they are not getting MG’s)

Just to reiterate my main concern, which far overrides my opinion on the committee, is if the ECC turns down MG’s. I understand your point of detractors and people harming the brand, but I feel that it would add vastly more weight and transparency to the ECC had and did to apply for them (especially with an independent review committee rather than just the zfnd). We are just waiting for the foundations statement.

I feel I have expressed my concerns over the MG committee and as not to derail this thread I am writing one for funding discussion should the ECC not apply for major grants.

I am really interested in pursuing this as another avenue because the ECC becomes accountable and gets rewarded via other peoples performance and transparency. I really like that idea, I just need to flesh out my thoughts a bit further. this is really off topic now. sorry.

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(Speaking for myself, not for ECC or as a ZIP Editor.)

I disagree with this. I agree with Ian that there is a potential conflict of interest here. (Please note: pointing out a potential conflict of interest is not the same as accusations of bad faith. Quite the contrary. I have a conflict of interest on this question due to working for ECC as a possible grant recipient, for instance.)

If it were a choice between:

  • retaining the option to apply for major grants and staying quiet about the composition of the panel, or
  • weighing in on the composition of the panel and not applying for major grants.

I think we should certainly choose the former. This is especially since the level of ECC’s slice has arguably been decided on the basis that ECC would be able to apply for major grants.

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This might be putting the cart before the horse, but to what extent is ECC’s role in Zcash development specifically delineated going forward? I wonder about a hypothetical case where ECC applies for a major grant and it’s unclear how to assess whether or not the scope of the grant work somehow falls within responsibilities the community might feel already apply to ECC as a recipient of development funds.

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(Speaking for myself.) I would support adding wording such as:

ZF MAY compensate Major Grant Review Committee members for their time and reasonable expenses.

(or “SHOULD”, if we decide that is definitely a good idea).

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I agree that the potential for outright fraud or corruption is a low risk, and that our chief priority in deciding how MG should be governed should be to get effective use of funds and good strategic direction. This is why I liked Barbra’s comments (1, 2, 3), which emphasize that the positive effects on the ecosystem from decentralization of power accrue even when everyone involved is acting in good faith. I suspect that an independent MG governance structure would be more effective than one controlled by the Zcash Foundation.

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Do you mean independent governance in a legal sense, or in a policy sense?

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