The Byzantine ZCAP

The topic of the ZCAP membership(and its potential impact) came up on another thread and I would like to understand the broader community’s opinions on the current state of the voice of the community.

The ZCAP does have lots of potential, however in its current state it is in a pretty weird place .

  • How do people get added,
  • How do people opt out of voting
  • How much weight do the votes count for in real decisions
  • Who screens the members

I thought it was interesting that Rhett commented on the BSOL as they were the only one I can recall being actively denied the ability to join the ZCAP.

The community grants board is voted on by the ZCAP so it is possible that having a biased ZCAP could have a big impact on the fund. It is an interesting social attack for an organization with enough funding and motive.

The biggest question is: How do you have an open and transparent vote with unknown number of participants being bad actors? Something with differential privacy maybe?

IDK something needs to happen if the ZCAP is the voice of truth for the community.


There’s some background info here, which includes some new routes for adding new members that were suggested on this topic.

With the upcoming ZCG election, we’ll be kicking off another expansion next week.


ZCAP isn’t perfect. Improving it is always good, but it’s important to understand why it looks like it does.

Zcap exists because, if we just allowed anyone to vote, we’d get both trolls and sybil attacks where someone makes a sock puppet army to stuff the ballot box. So either we:

  1. have something like ZCAP with eligibility criteria that are continually refined,
  2. some weird proof of personhood protocol
  3. could abandon one person one vote and do like coin holder votes

All have downsides. Proof of personhood is an unsolved problem. Even if it works, it only stops sybil attacks, but not mass trolling/brigading by e.g., the monero community. Coin holder votes have at least three major problems that 1) an attacker can buy votes 2) given the amount of funds ECC and ZF hold and ECCs investors, it wouldn’t really represent the community as it exists now. 3) many people won’t want to risk the funds they have in cold storage by taking them out to vote.

TLDR: the problem is, no matter the voting mechanism, you have to define the community. There end up being criteria there no matter what.


Potentially, and I no way want to imply this has ever happened, the foundation being the gatekeeper could be a conflict of interest.

If members are removed for being actively against a popular ZF proposals, or if the ZCAP is packed with overly ZF friendly members.

1 Like

To avoid such a conflict of interest (or even the perception of one), ZF has used purely objective criteria to determine who qualifies to join ZCAP.

For example, one criterion that we’ve used repeatedly is to invite long-standing members of the forums (i.e. people who had joined the Forums before a certain date). Major grant recipients, community contributors, and ZIP authors are similarly objective criteria that ensure that ZF doesn’t have any influence over who gets to join ZCAP. That’s how we ensure its independence.

Incidentally, we’re very alert to the risk of a Sybil attack. We screen forum volunteers and existing ZCAP members’ invitees by, for example, reviewing their forum profile, and checking if they have an online or social media presence that looks authentic.

1 Like

Speaking for myself, not ZCG (of course)

As a ZCAP member AND a ZCG member elected by ZCAP, however, I don’t consider the ZCAP to be a credible mechanism for gathering community consensus.

I agree that some ZCAP members might be snakes in the grass, and may not have ZEC’s (the token) best interests at heart. But I think that’s secondary to fact that it’s essentially impossible for almost all (all?) voters to be informed on all the important issues in Zcash.

I consider myself a pretty motivated community member. I’ve built apps, supported new developers in the space, sent tons of onboarding z2zs. I care about Zcash.

That said, there are many things ZCAP has voted on that I haven’t had the time to research at all fully, despite being a motivated community member. Two come to mind right now:

  1. The ~16 first MGRC candidates. Nobody has time to research ~16 candidates, let alone a committee of ~100 people. It was a name recognition election and probably always will be.

  2. ZIP 1014. I gave little thought to licensing at the time, and basically shrugged and thought “Preference for MIT seems fine”. I considered ZCG existing under ZF to be a formality, not a day-to-day reality (Let me make clear I think ZF does a good job supporting us on ZCG and I appreciate them!). What I don’t like is that ZCAPs consensus ends up, years later, being treated as Gospel and used as an argument against innovation and change, when the reality is that every ZCAP voter is probably as uninformed and prone to change their mind with new information as I am.

I agree this is a bummer problem (wrt loans). Maybe a timelock is good enough, maybe something more sophisticated is needed.

Why is this a problem? I think it’s GREAT if these groups still hold a lot of their ZEC tokens. They’re aligned with holders, and them having influence would be good.

+1 for crypto UX being abominable!

ZCAP is fine for gathering loose consensus of a small subset of our community, Zcash OG’s, their besties, and some people whose motivations we don’t know! But the project is funded by ZEC holders, and the people who actually support the developments of the coin should be the ones in the driver’s seat. I would trust holders of timelocked ZEC to make better decisions for the community than the invite-only ZCAP cool kids club.


+1 for not treating anything like Gospel. It’s so easy to pull up a line that has been “voted on” or “decided” previously when, in fact, that decision or rule could have been misinformed. If someone comes along with a reasonable idea, they should not be shot down out-of-hand by quoting an already established, and likely at least partially wrong or never tested, prior rule. The idea should be debated on its own merits.

After all, we would of never had the plot of Pirates of the Caribbean without a little flexibility.