Shawn Retiring

It is with a melancholy heart that I write this post.

I had originally intended this post to be about my re-running as a ZOMG candidate to serve the community for another year but upon examining my personal life and the time commitments required I have decided against running for ZOMG. Additionally, I have spoken with the Zcash Foundation and with their newly hiring community support personnel I will also be stepping back from acting as the primary administrator and moderator of these forums over the next few months.

  • How did I get here?

I have been with Zcash in some form or another since before launch, originally starting the first blog about Zcash (minezcash.com) and later creating ZcashCommunity.com. After volunteering here on the (then ECC ran forums) and Slack (now closed) as a community mod the Zcash Foundation later took over the forums and asked me to remain a moderator and admin in a contract capacity for the Foundation. The primary reason I took my time and effort to start these websites was because I believe in what I wrote back on my blog in 2016:

Zcash promises to give you back your right to tell others exactly what you want them to know, when you want them to know it, and nothing more……The choice to use your own information how you want is the entire reason why we need an online currency that is similar to using cash in real life. And that is why I’m excited about Zcash.

My belief in this mission remains true to this day. Zcash has the most cutting edge cryptography to provide its user with control over their own information, trustlessly, without needing permission and all you need is an internet connection. That vision, if realized to its fullest potential, can be an incredibly powerful tool for everyone.

  • So why step back now?

The completion of my first year on ZOMG and needing to run again to be re-elected has made me sit down and examine my time availability more closely. A few months ago I received a promotion at my primary job and while this came with benefits, it also came with an increased workload and greater responsibilities. As the years went by and I took on more and more Zcash related roles I told my wife I was good, and I could handle the additional workload and the stresses that came along with it. But I promised that if I ever felt that the work/life balance was out of whack then I would take a hard look at what needs to be re-balanced. It is with that balance in mind that I have decided that I won’t have the time to dedicate to ZOMG that the community expects and deserves from all ZOMG members. And longer term, with new ZF staff coming on board, I will also dial back my hours spent on the forums.

  • Reflecting on ZOMGs first year

Please note: these are my personal opinions, the other ZOMG members were not consulted when writing this

I am proud of all the things that ZOMG was able to accomplish in our first year. Remember, ZOMG (then MGRC) is literally a group of 5 random people from the internet who were thrown together in a pressure pot (under the watchful eyes of the community) and asked to build an organization that could grant millions of dollars, from scratch.

These 5 people, Chris, Sarah, Holmes, Michelle, and Hudson are some of the greatest and kindest people I have met in the Zcash Community and they all came together to try and lay the foundation for something that would last. It was a heavy lift at first, from countless hours drafting, writing, and rewriting trying to figure out what ZOMG “is” , developing a voting process, changing our name, designing a logo, building out the grants platform and a new website, etc, etc… to later drafting a comprehensive “whitepaper” to help better explain what ZOMG is looking for and hosting community calls with developers to try to drum up more quality applications.

At first, we were very conservative and deliberated all grants with great scrutiny, which is what prompted some in the community to tell us to take on bigger grants and be comfortable with the fact that not every grant we fund will be successful. Plus, ZOMG faced a challenging set of organizational headwinds with the negative reception to Mario helping out Chris, and later to Sarah resigning with Michelle stepping in to take her place. Despite those challenges and setbacks we came back with a renewed energy to get things done. We funded key development teams (ZecWallet and Nighthawk) so they could work full-time on Zcash stuff and hire their own staff, we also funded promising longer term projects like Arti which will help solve Zcashs network layer privacy problem, and Trezor which will finally bring Z-address storage to hardware wallets. We also made a deliberate attempt to encourage the community with smaller “fun” projects that would encourage more community participation, to which we funded ZcashZeal, ZemeTeam, and ZecPages. Through grants we were also able to on-board new Zcash developers like Hanh, FireiceUK, and MistFPGA who had not worked on Zcash projects in official capacity before.

We did this work with the full knowledge that we would not be “paid back” for all these extra hours we spent and some on ZOMG even refused to accept the $500 per month in ZEC stipend from the Foundation. We did it for the broader vision of Zcash, not for the money.

  • Thoughts on ZOMGs future

I don’t think there is anyone in the community with the opinion that ZOMG should continue just as it did last year, the only question is: how do we fix it? On one side some feel that ZIP-1014 has flaws that need to be addressed before ZOMG can get back to work, that a complete halt and reset is the best course of action. On the other hand some feel that ZOMG issues can be handled on-the-fly and the ZF is making steps in that direction by hiring personnel to support ZOMG. My first thought is not that neither camp is wrong, both sides have valid points, but the set timing to address those points is extremely short. Adding to that complexity is that there are too many separate groups making too many polls to try to make their point, many new ZOMG candidates trying to get noticed, ZOMG members highlighting issues they feel strongly about, a ZIP that has many moving parts to address, etc, etc. it’s enough to keep the community paralyzed in back and forth debates for months.

Bear with me for a second while I make an analogy that popped into my head while thinking about this problem. ZOMG is a car in a race, trying to do the best it can to win that race (ie win developers, allies, and broad support for Zcash) and it’s got a pit stop scheduled every year (elections). If you’ve ever seen a race before you know that cars in pit stops get fresh tires, more fuel, and maybe a new driver, but they never go through a complete engine (ZIP) overhaul; we know the engine isn’t running as efficiently as it should but there simply isn’t time to replace it. Plus it’s important that the drivers get back on the track to keep pace with the rest of the pack and to reassure the onlookers (investors, developers, public) that they are working out the issues and haven’t completely broken down or dropped out of the race. An additional factor in this years "pit stop’’ is that a new pit crew (ZF support staff) are just coming onboard at the same time, and there hasn’t been any time to quantify how that will affect the ZOMG.

My point with this analogy is that the seemingly opposing perspectives about how to fix ZOMG are not mutually exclusive. We can complete this pit stop and give the new committee members some laps on the track (with the new crew supporting) to figure things out with thier own eyes while at the same time giving a replacement engine a much needed redesign. I think it’s a huge mistake to think of ZIP-1014 as etched in stone indefinitely and the community should make the effort to put forward several amendments to it that can be voted on. The democratic process of getting to ZIP-1014 was a big undertaking in and of itself but that does not mean it’s a perfect solution and democratic processes should be followed to amend it. We have to keep in mind that this may mean that sometime during the middle of the next ZOMG election tenure there may be an additional ZCAP vote that will affect sitting ZOMG members terms/conditions but as long as everyone is aware of this from the start I think they will understand.

  • Final thoughts

If you have made it by reading this far, thank you for sticking with me. I hope that this news of my dialing down my participation in the community isn’t received by anyone as a negative towards ZOMG. ZOMG did some great things during the short time it’s had so far and I’m optimistic that as a community we can work together to fix its flaws and get back to what’s really important: making Zcash better and stronger than before.

Thanks for listening,
Shawn

41 Likes

I don’t even know where to begin.

Congratulations on the promotion! I hope your cup fills to overflowing… you deserve it.

While I’m selfishly sad to see this, I greatly appreciate the rationale behind it. Finding that balance is difficult and I applaud you for your thoughtful decision to take care of yourself first.

I also hope you will stick around and continue to share your perspectives. You have been such a significant a part of this work we are all doing, and have left your mark like no one else in the community. I have such admiration and respect for you. Godspeed.

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You’re a good one Shawn, no doubt.
I hope to see on this forum from time to time.

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I have a bunch of feelings about this, one of which is that I’ll miss Shawn here, and another is feeling how much everybody else is going to miss Shawn both in the forums and on ZOMG and what a big hole that will be.

But on reflection I’m not discouraged by it, and I don’t think we should be discouraged by people deciding to not run again.

This stuff is a lot of work, and part of the process is finding people who are able to open up the space in their lives for that work.

Another part of the process is refining it so that it isn’t any more work than is necessary, and I agree with pretty much everything Shawn is saying here about the importance of doing that, as well as on the value of not putting anything on pause and instead making process changes as we go. Unnecessary work means unnecessarily discouraging committee members from running, and (especially) unnecessarily discouraging existing members from running for re-election.

Another way to avoid excluding people is increasing compensation. But due to the inflexibility of most typical jobs when it comes to cutting hours and the difficulty of juggling multiple roles, compensation will not be as powerful a tool as reducing the time commitment. It is the least we can do, and we should do it. But we should keep our expectations in line and still focus on reducing time commitment.

For me, the most important thing for reducing time commitment is that ZOMG is served by the skilled professionals it needs to best function. One piece of that is having a mechanism for that to happen at all. We have one now with ZF, and we have another with proposed changes the ZIP to allow ZOMG to hire people at market rates.

I think we need both of these options, not just the option of ZF support, and here’s why: one of the most costly activities is managing staff and working relationships. So we need to do everything possible to minimize that cost. Sometimes, if ZF has someone who can easily help, or a particular ZOMG committee doesn’t have much inclination or aptitude to solve its own staffing problems, the ZF approach will be much lower cost.

However there’s also a case where a ZOMG committee has a lot of ability and inclination to solve its own staffing problems. You could imagine a ZOMG where, by virtue of being part timers, each ZOMG committee member has equivalent or perhaps even greater seniority and experience to top ZF management. Or where they happen to have warm relationships in place from previous roles and more ready access to talent than ZF has. Or maybe you could imagine an interpersonal issue either at ZF or between ZF and ZOMG, or some kind of culture-fit issue that made working together hard. In any of these cases, the time cost of using ZF to address staffing problems could be much higher than the time cost (to ZOMG) of addressing the problem directly, e.g. by hiring someone from their own talent network directly without needing to consult with or work through ZF. This gets tricky, because ZOMG turnover could radically change the nature of a few ZF full-time positions if a new ZOMG decides to hire its own support staff. But remember, in practice this would only happen when something wasn’t working, so it’s probably worth it to keep ZOMG humming along smoothly.

Optional compensation for an increased time commitment is important, but also ZOMG having a budget to hire directly is important.

A very positive, flexible ZF/ZOMG relationship is really important too, and this is actually really hard for ZF, because they’ll need to get to know potentially 5 new personalities and a whole new committee each cycle. But in practice (especially if we get these things right) there should be a lot more continuity than there was this year, in the candidate pool at least.

In the end, this turned into a post about ZOMG changes when really I’m mostly sad and anxious to see Shawn go. But I think if we get the ZOMG changes right we’ll be fine, i.e. ZOMG will keep growing in impact.

I hope we get to meet for a drink in person sometime, Shawn!

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Sometimes we just need a break to replenish our strength. A person who has a big idea in his soul will always return to continue where he left off.

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Shawn,

I’m absolutely gutted that you’re stepping back but I fully understand your reasons. Thank you for helping make Zcash the success it is today. The importance of your work in helping to build a community around Zcash cannot be overstated, and I’ve deeply valued your insight, advice and feedback. I hope to continue benefitting from it in the future.

Thank you,

Jack

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Geez, what Josh and Jack wrote above really reflects my own emotions at this point. I don’t know what else to say at this point… I definitely wish you all the best in everything, Shawn!

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So sorry to see you leave Zcash. Thank you so much for what you have done for the community. Zcash won’t be the same without you. You put tremendous amount of time for Zcash, the only thing we can do, is keep the community live & educated.

btw Congrats on your promotion :slight_smile:

3 Likes