Zeboot: ECC + community workshops

Zeboot wrapup

Zeboot is a wrap. This week, Electric Coin Co. (ECC) gathered in Palm Springs with a dozen ecosystem and community members from disparate corners of the world to set a roadmap for the coming months. The event spanned four days, with two of those days set aside for ECC team members only.

The insights from the event were extremely valuable, and there was universal agreement that we need to do this kind of meeting again — soon and often. A few themes guided our sessions and workshops.

  1. The world needs Zcash, immediately.
  2. Our number one priority at ECC is Zcash adoption.
  3. We need to ship code, faster and more frequently.
  • ECC owes it to the community to align our efforts and build products and user experiences that make Zcash useful and accessible.
  • With increasing regulatory pressure in the U.S. and across the world, it’s more urgent than ever to release open-source software that can be picked up by others, if necessary, to carry forth and deliver on a mission of empowering people to be free, regardless of what happens to ECC.
  • To do this, ECC needs to identify places of friction, such as legacy code and internal inefficiencies that slow us down, and remove them.

Event summary and next steps

There is a ton of feedback and information to synthesize from Zeboot, and we’ll have more clarity in the coming days, but a few very specific priorities emerged. At the top of the list are launching Zashi 1.0 in the app stores in March and, in partnership with the Zcash Foundation (ZF), retiring zcashd and replacing it with zebrad and other tooling.

Timelines and final objectives on other potential work, such as NU6, an evolving Zashi roadmap (including messaging functionality, “ZEC to credit card,” and other features), proof of stake, liberated payments, DEX integration, and others will be evaluated and charted this month.

ECC-led presentations and workshops:

  • A vision for Zcash (presentation)— Josh Swihart, CEO
  • Ranking possibilities (workshop) — Chris Tomeo, Head of Comms and Media
  • Current state of Zashi (presentation and workshop) — Chris Tomeo
  • Who is our target user? (workshop) — Josh
  • Exploring opportunities where ECC can have the greatest impact on Zcash adoption (workshop) — Josh
  • Functional prioritization (workshop) — Josh
  • Current state of PoS research and findings (presentation) — Nate Wilcox, former Head of Research, and Daira Hopwood, R&D Engineering Manager
  • Technical debt and Zcash ecosystem obligations (workshop) — Josh
  • Governance, assessing community sentiment, and dev funding (presentation) — Paul Brigner, VP of Strategic Alliances
  • Exploring opportunities where ECC can have the greatest impact on Zcash adoption (workshop) — Josh
  • Functional prioritization (workshop) — Josh

Community member presentations:

  • Tatyana of ZURE, a ZCG-funded project, presented her research on Zcash users. One substantive piece of data that impacted Zeboot discussions was that the NPS of Zcash users who transact is significantly higher than that of users who primarily hold Zcash. She plans to post a summary of her talk soon, so keep an eye on @usezcash on Twitter/X.
  • Ian Sagstetter presented “Zcash to sovereign rollup: An alternative PoS proposal.” He posted about this on the forum in January. As a next step, Ian is planning to set up R&D calls with influential contributors inside and outside the Zcash community.

Some Zeboot highlights

A vision for Zcash

ECC CEO Josh Swihart, 30-something days into his new role, kicked off Zeboot with his vision for Zcash. It’s ambitious — a comprehensive user experience that expands Zcash utility across use cases and ecosystems and empowers users to store, spend, and protect their assets. He’s posted about this before.

The vision is multi-layered, but he summed up his hypothesis going into the meetings like this: “Until we have user-friendly access and private storage, nothing else matters.”

(Spoiler alert: We changed his mind on a few things.)

Ranking possibilities

With limited budget and people resources, ECC needs to make decisions about where we focus over the next 12 months. So after hearing Josh’s vision on Tuesday morning, Zebooters were given a chance to make their voices heard.

Participants were given a stack of bills (fake ones), and asked to allocate them to products, features, and capabilities that they believed would move the needle on Zcash adoption.

Each person received a $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, $2, and $1 bill, and they dropped the money into ballot boxes that were labeled with different user-focused outcomes. Participants were allowed to put multiple bills into any single box, but the rules dictated that each participant had to put money in at least three boxes.

When the results were tallied, “Venmo for ZEC” was a clear winner, followed by “Trade ZEC and other tokens on a DEX that does not require KYC.” This sheet contains the full results.

We repeated the exercise at the end of Day 2, and added a box for “A standalone private messaging app as part of a suite of products,” which was an idea that emerged in other sessions. The two winning priorities from Day 1 flipped positions but remained at the top, while the messaging app came in third. Those results are here.

The exercise was imperfect, no doubt, but it was informative — and fun!

Promotions announced

Paul Brigner was promoted to Vice President of Strategic Alliances. In addition to focusing on his policy and advocacy in DC, his new role will include a substantial focus on ecosystem partnerships that drive impact and adoption, plus work with Zcash coinholders and stakeholders on governance-related issues. That work will include facilitating open and transparent engagement to identify and adopt resilient mechanisms for community deliberations and decision making.

Daira Emma Hopwood — who has been part of the ECC team since the beginning and was instrumental in launching Zcash in 2016 — was promoted to R&D engineering manager. In this new role, Daira will lead our R&D efforts and manage our engineering priorities and core team.

Immediate ECC priorities

Release Zashi 1.0

The Zashi private beta program has been going well since August (Zcon4), and we onboarded all the Zeboot participants on Tuesday. Overall feedback was good, we identified a few simple UX improvements, and we’re looking forward to getting this into the iOS and Android app stores in March. Here’s the current state:

Understanding user needs and building for them is critical, and we’re kicking off a deliberate effort to learn more. And as we learn more, we’ll adjust with frequent iterative releases.

Our Zashi development team, Lukas Korba (iOS) and Honza Rychnovský (Android), was on hand at Zeboot, as was our new project manager, Andrea Kobrlova. She is a critical piece and a much-welcome addition to this team!

In addition to helping guide Zashi development efforts, she’ll work with the community to help ECC validate assumptions and ensure our releases are aligned with Zcash user needs and real world use cases. She’ll also be part of a collaborative effort to consolidate and manage a roadmap that aligns our R&D team efforts with our Zashi team efforts.

Zcashd to Zebrad

The other immediate priority for ECC is the retirement of zcashd and a move to zebrad, the independent node built by the Zcash Foundation using memory-safe Rust language. There are specific challenges in this transition, including the absence of a wallet in Zebra, but this move will eliminate painful tech debt and provide significant added efficiency for future development efforts.

Old code and tech debt is a killer. We estimate that with NU5 and the sandblasting incident, for example, 80 percent of our time was spent dealing existing code and only 20 percent on innovation. We need to flip that.

ECC and ZF are excited to collaborate on this important effort, and we’ll release more information when the timeline is mapped.

Proof of stake

Moving Zcash to proof of stake could have significant impacts on adoption — e.g., improving finality, unlocking interoperability, and giving Zcash users a new way to make use of their coins.

The road to proof of stake, however, is complex and it could take more than a year to build it out. Under Daira Emma Hopwood’s leadership, the R&D team is prioritizing a closer look at the timeline to determine what is realistic and how a transition to proof of stake aligns with other adoption-focused opportunities.

Sunrise over Palm Springs at Zeboot, Feb. 1, 2024. Photo by Lukas Korba, Zashi iOS developer