Shielded dialogues: media and advocacy for private transactions

Description of Problem or Opportunity

Problem/opportunity: Privacy-preserving cryptocurrencies and the ecosystem that they enable may experience a significant crackdown by the US treasury soon. This is happening as China is rolling out its surveillance-friendly central bank digital currency, potentially making its use a condition for economic agreements with weaker international economic partners.

How serious or urgent of a need: Given US regulatory speed, a crackdown on private coins that is “soon” may mean 2-5 years but by then we need a strong global public awareness that privacy is crucial for US and global consumers. The Chinese surveillance-friendly digital currency expansion will likely be faster.

What evidence do you have: Recent US House of representatives hearings that were suggestive of limiting actions on cryptocurrencies China is continuing to push its digital yuan pilots: Where Does China’s Digital Currency Stand? – The Diplomat

Proposed Solution

Describe the solution at a high level: keynote seminars turned into podcast that establishes public awareness that the ability to cooperate privately is central to human freedom and crucial to enable a variety of communities to live flourishing lives. This aligns with the “media, narrative, and policy advocacy” stakeholder segment on the ZOMG whitepaper (zomg/ZOMG_whitepaper_v1.0_published.pdf at master · ZcashFoundation/zomg · GitHub)

Please be specific about who the users and stakeholders are and how they would interact with your solution: stakeholders who stand to benefit: US and global consumers at large, DeFi, and privacy-preserving currencies in particular.

Solution Format

What is the exact form of the deliverable you’re creating? interviews with top privacy/ human rights activists, regulators, DeFi projects, consumers, and more on why shielded transactions should be a crucial part of our lives, and what we risk by giving them up. Topics we may cover include:

Why the global public should care: Global human rights activism that benefits from shielded transactions

Why the US govt should care: How non-shielded transactions lead to national security concerns vis a vis exploitation of US by external attackers

Why consumers should care: How future mass traffic analysis can lead to physical extortability of anyone who ever transacted using public blockchains

Why entrepreneurs should care: How public blockchains can enable anti-competitive behavior, e.g. by allowing the next Amazon to analyze the world’s transactions in detail to clobber rising products

Why DeFi should care: Major losses in DeFi due to bots doing traffic analysis of major public transactions on exchanges to frontrun them

Why the crypto ecosystem should care: Previously impossible cooperative arrangements enabled by zk, e.g. how recursive HALO zk proofs could enable scalable DEXs

Technical approach

Keynote seminars will be virtual, allowing high global live attendance and easy editing as a well-produced podcast

How big of a problem would it be to not solve this problem?

Anyone who is currently operating on public blockchains will be vulnerable to future traffic analysis getting better via ML techniques and may thus become a victim of physical coercion.

Execution risks

The public may end up not caring about their ability to transact freely despite strong reasons and narrative to the contrary.

Unintended Consequences Downsides

Shielded transactions, in general, may have unintended consequences, e.g. by enabling entities to centralize power in unobservable ways.

Evaluation plan

  • mainstream media referencing podcast
  • public opinion polls on privacy and private cryptocurrencies improving
  • charities and dissidents accepting Zcash
  • Every podcast episode will be followed by an action item, running a Zcash node, installing a private wallet, donating to a charity using Zcash etc. Some of these may even be trackable via zk-proofs, which would be a fun meta-way to validate success.

Schedule and Milestones

  • 1-year prototype, monthly release of keynote podcast. Youtube listenership target of ~20% monthly viewership growth via cross-promotions with interviewee organizations, strong global PR

Budget and Payout Timeline

  • Target: $70,000USD: $15k for editing and production, $15k for PR, $40k for podcast interviewer. Can be paid out in two installments in Q1 and Q3 of 2022 if monthly 20% viewership growth milestones are delivered.

Applicant background

I run a science and tech non-profit that has a monthly keynote podcast series with +10k technology-oriented subscribers on Youtube, and up to 80k views per video, and a strong existing network with the proposed interviewees

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I’m in full support of the Shielded Dialogs initiative and glad to have someone interested to pursue the educational angle. Here are some of my questions relating to the approach:

  1. Have you considered who to interview? I would highly recommend including @balajis & @secparam
  2. Would you be interested in including an estimate for a video production? And possibly working towards getting the video series published on a larger platform like Amazon Prime Video?

Wish the series convinces the viewer otherwise!

Thank you, @aiyadt .

1.We have a shortlist of 20 potential interviewees. I did not want to share them because they are neither confirmed nor invited but we have interviewed Balajis in our existing series before (and would to do so again) and would absolutely love to interview Ian Miers, too.

  1. That’s a great idea. I tried to keep the proposal as MVP as possible to make it work on a tight budget but those platforms have a larger multiplier effect. Based on https://thesparkhouse.com/video-production-cost-estimator/, professional production costs for in-person for 10 days of shooting (i.e. 10 keynote interviews) would be around $60k. Travel expenses could be kept as low as an additional $5k. With the existing PR ($15k) and interviewer ($40k) budget, this would make $120k on a rough MVP budget. That said, it would probably be necessary to ramp up but PR and interviewer budget to get the quality required for a successful Prime series. Would love your feedback!
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Hi @Allison!

We discussed this at the last ZOMG meeting and decided that our decision to fund this project hinges on how many people we can reach with these interviews.

We are open to funding media that measurably impacts how many people know about and understand Zcash, because effectively spreading the word for Zcash benefits our mission in a number of ways. We see that your existing work is high quality. And so the main missing piece is that we need to have confidence about the distribution strategy and audience reach.

For context, the most watched Zcash videos on Youtube, excluding some “how to mine Zcash” videos from the pre-ASIC era that come in at ~200k, are in the 50k range: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=zcash&sp=CAM%3D

We see that your organization’s most popular videos are on the order of 10k views, with the highest coming in at 89k views: https://www.youtube.com/c/ForesightInstitute/videos?view=0&sort=p&flow=grid.

If you produced media about Zcash that gained the reach of your most popular videos, that would be a big win for ZOMG and the Zcash community!

On the other hand, we also see that the median number of views on your recent videos is much lower, in the mid 100s: https://www.youtube.com/c/ForesightInstitute/videos?view=0&sort=dd&flow=grid.
If the videos produced as part of this grant ended up with a few hundred views, we think the vast majority of those will be by people who are already part of the Zcash community. So the impact would be negligible and this wouldn’t be the best use of community resources. For this reason, we’d like to move forward with the grant but add view-based goals to each milestone.

20,000 views over a 3 month phase is the number that would make this a clear success to all ZOMG members. You’d receive funding for the first 3 months either way of course, but then if we didn’t hit 20,000 views we would probably choose to not continue funding the project. If you fall short of this number there would be no bad feelings; we would look at it as an experiment that was worth trying.
And if you hit that goal we’ll be delighted to keep funding the project, with similar goals for the subsequent 3 month phases.

Does this sound achievable to you? If so, please update the milestones, and the proposal if necessary, and we’ll discuss it again at our upcoming meeting.

I hope you understand our thinking on this. We’re enthusiastic about your project and grateful for your application!

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Hi @holmesworcester, thank you for this in-depth analysis. Your proposed plan sounds good; I updated the proposal to reflect the requested changes and look forward to hearing your proposed edits or next steps. Thanks!

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Great! We’ll discuss at the next meeting, and perhaps we can get a discussion going inter-meeting!

Hi Holmes, sounds great! Happy to further edit if needed. Thank you so much!

Hi @Allison, great news!

We’ve decided to fund this project with an immediate payout for the first milestone. All future payouts would be contingent on hitting the audience reach metrics you laid out in the milestones.

Our biggest hope for this grant is that some of the videos are widely shared on crypto Twitter and become moments where tens or hundreds of thousands of people learn about Zcash, its mission and its benefits. One of these videos could easily become the most watched video about Zcash, and that would make all this work worth it.

Hitting the minimum metrics laid out in the milestones ensures a baseline level of impact, and ensures that we’re in the running to have a few hit videos as a result of this grant.

Please let us know here in the forums if there’s anything ZOMG or the Zcash Community can do in terms of connecting you to interviewees or brainstorming interviewees. We all want this to succeed!

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