Thank you, Sarah, next steps for ZOMG

Wanted to put this in a separate reply, because again I think we’re extremely lucky to have ml_sudo joining:

Speaking for myself as a ZOMG member, not for everyone on ZOMG, I have some perspectives on the decision to do replacements in this way:

  1. We are extremely lucky to have ml_sudo joining. (Repeating just to make sure it’s clear!!)
  2. I don’t think using results from the previous election is the right approach. (More on this below.)
  3. I think the speed at which this decision happened closed down space for stakeholders like ZOMG members, ZCAP members, and forum participants to participate in the decision, which isn’t great for legitimacy or democratic process.
  4. Sarah, the member who resigned, has said that sexism played a role in her resignation, and I think that both the speed of the decision and the chosen replacement mechanism limit the space we have to discuss this and address it, which isn’t great for the future, since it will come up again.

Whatever replacement mechanism we have has to come from the preferences of the ZCAP, so there are three options:

  1. Do nothing, run with a smaller panel, and replace in the next election.
  2. Use the preferences declared of the last election, i.e. what ZF is deciding here.
  3. Have a special election for the vacant seat.

It’s pretty clear to me that the third option, having a special election for the vacant seat, is a better method than the one chosen here and should be the one we use going forward, for the following reasons:

  1. A special election is harder to game, generally. Using the next person in line means anyone resigning can know exactly who will replace them by making an agreement in advance. You can also get a series of colluding parties, who all resign in order to put someone farther down the list on the panel. Someone with the power to push a member to resign also knows exactly who is going to replace them, so the prize is clear and the incentive could be very strong. (This happened in Brazil a few years back, to their first woman President.) Or the opposite could happen: someone with a very good cause in forcing a member to resign might not, because the next person in line is even worse. These latter scenarios are all pretty paranoid, and I think there’s way too much good will here for all of these things, but then so did Dilma.
  2. A special election is the only fully democratic option in this case. In this case where the replacement mechanism hasn’t been chosen yet, knowing who the “next in line” successor is especially undemocratic, because with the other approaches, whoever is choosing the replacement mechanism knows exactly who they are going to get. It seems based on the post above that Zcash Foundation considers itself the party that chooses the replacement mechanism, in the absence of specific language in the ZIP. That means Zcash Foundation has had an opportunity to choose whether they prefer ML or a vote by ZCAP. ML is apparently awesome, so they chose ML. But if ML was someone they didn’t like, they had a chance in this first case to put it to the ZCAP instead. Unless something in the language bound them to this replacement approach (and I don’t think anything did or it would have been cited above) that’s a small short circuiting of the democratic intent of the ZIP.
  3. A special election lets ZCAP members use all available information. Using the ZCAP’s preferences from months earlier means that people are choosing without the latest information. One important kind of information is the makeup of the current panel. For example, the ZCAP might decide that a certain set of skills or perspectives was missing from the panel and vote accordingly. As Zooko has suggested, being able to vote for one or two members at a time introduces a mechanism where voters can vote for diversity (right now there’s no way to do this without giving up your say over which other candidates are chosen.) There are other kinds of important information too. Maybe a new ideal candidate has entered the scene since the last election. Maybe there’s some current crisis that makes a given candidate more suitable. Maybe ZCAP members have since changed their mind about a previously preferred candidate and now actively don’t want that candidate to serve. It could be a lot of things.
  4. A special election creates space to talk about why someone just resigned. Something really messed up just happened, where the only woman on the committee resigned because she came to believe that she couldn’t do the job she was elected to do, and thought sexism was a factor in that. This is itself useful information that might inform the ZCAP (see #3) and also something where the kind of discussion that would happen in an election process could be helpful to figuring out what went wrong and reducing the chance of it happening again. I can see where it’s tempting for anyone with a stake in the Zcash brand or minimizing public controversy to cut off this discussion, but I think that approach is both morally wrong and leads to even larger crises in the future.

All of this is very wordy, and my process-geek side is on full display here.

I hope the tone and sheer quantity of writing here doesn’t convince people I think we’ve forever lost our legitimacy. I’m confident we can still address these various issues (except #2, which will have to be water under the bridge) and maybe there are other approaches than special elections which address this.

And I hope no one gets the impression I think there’s some evil power-play happening, because I don’t.

It just seems suboptimal and a little dicey.

But as long as this doesn’t set a precedent and we can clarify a more consistent-with-democracy process like special elections at some point in the future, we should be fine.

Interested to hear what others think!