ZOMG is not what i thought

Recently, we had a meeting to discuss the ZOMG white paper. Since we all acknowledge the difficulty in choosing and tracking projects, I suggested that one of the ZOMG grants goes to funding a ZOMG grant tracking platform.
AFAIK, the ZIP does not prevent them from funding such a thing and it will go a long way to help the zcash ecosystem with better projects.

Here are the slides I made

The tracking platform is the first slide after the title slides (p. 3)

  • Pre-approval:
    • Establish Project Goals
    • Technical “Whitepaper” or POC
    • Timeline & Milestone Exit Criteria
    • ROI and KPI
  • During project
    • Regular Scheduled Progress Updates
    • Open Demos
    • Community Driven Peer Review
    • Option to Adjust Trajectory or even Abort
  • After
    • On going Checkpoint vs ROI
    • Debriefing

Anyway, with no real fund to speak of, I think the ZOMG is doing as much as they could.

To be honest, I think the community should find a way to operate, moderate and regulate these grants but I’m a bit fearful that it becomes largely dominated by politics and demagogy.
However, I don’t think we should leave the control of grants in the hands of a single individual whether from ZF, ZOMG, ECC or elsewhere.

Edit: It doesn’t have to be a fancy platform. A form with a detailed manual could do. Probably easier than doing your taxes.

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Hi there, I appreciate your concerns. In fact I share the frustration that I wish we were further along. But at the same time, I will say with no reservation that we have done the best with the almost zero resources that we have at our disposal. Many months I’ve worked 20+ hours instead of the “expected” 5 hours/month (I track my time, so this is a reliable estimate).

We are attempting to move forward in several ways:

  1. Generate ideas for potential builders.
    This is the primary purpose of the ZOMG Whitepaper published in June. We had a call with about 10 builders this week and they’ve raise their hands for projects like building a DeFi platform and writing a Mastering Zcash book. I will provide an update on this once i sort out the meeting notes

  2. Push ZF on greater support, so we can create a really great, smooth-running grants platform.
    We need someone who can help with grant due diligence, reviewing milestones, etc (see below for a longer list). We have asked ZF for a full time person, but they have told us they will afford us part of the time of a Ecosystems Relations manager who will work for ZF on a number of other responsibilities. I prefer being able to make this call on a full time person ourselves, but it appears that some stakeholders’ interpretation of ZIP 1014 says that we cannot do so. (@lawzec to your question on example of being constrained)

Just so you know, this is the wishlist of things we want help with. We provided this to the ZF before they published their Ecosystems Manager job description.

“Marketing” and comms

  • Twitter (or other digital venue that becomes relevant):
    • Publicize our grant activity (grant approvals, significant updates, finalized grant products that the community can start using)
    • Monitor for action items (e.g. community suggestions)
    • Tweet/retweet ecosystem news so that potential grant applicants keep us in their minds
  • Forum: monitor for action items and surface to ZOMG at meetings
  • Monthly or quarterly write up of what’s going on in our minds, significant grant decisions, etc. The community has voiced its desire for transparency from ZOMG activity
  • Updating ZOMG members on any significant developments on the forum and various community calls (ZOMG may join some but not all of these calls)
  • Possibly: market ZOMG to potential applicants by appearing on podcasts, virtual events, livestreams.
  • Coordinate with grantees’ social media presence to promote ZOMG
  • Helping recruit possible grantees or support for grantees through standard recruiting practices.

Grant QA

  • Screen grants for basic omissions/errors/clarifications, before the ZOMG reviews them. Many grants so far have required re-working, leading to less efficient ZOMG meetings and delayed responses to the applicants
  • Where appropriate, follow-up on milestones from grantees and gather short update reports from the teams (this is a weekly task). Summarize to ZOMG so that if any re-direction needs to happen to ensure quality for our money’s worth, we can act in a timely manner
  • Communicate with grantees about the back-end grant processes such as payment timing/dispersal, where to post their updates, connect them to ZOMG/ECC/ZF individuals as needed
  • Help with strategic actions like refining the grant template or a change in communication strategy. ZOMG members will be responsible for the strategic thinking behind this; the assistant would help with rolling out these actions/decisions

Administrative

  • Before ZOMG meetings, prepare agenda based on items collected from sources like the Forum, grant page submissions, etc
  • Operate the back-end processes on the grants website to approve grants submissions for viewing and acceptance/rejection.
  • Note taking at ZOMG meetings and making sure action items are completed

Many of the tasks above are currently performed spontaneously by a ZOMG member. Given the 5-hour/month target, sometimes we miss things (even when some of us bust past the 5 hour target).

The ZOMG would be a lot more effective if we could rely on someone to make sure the train is running as scheduled, so that we can apply ourselves in ways that the community that elected us intended for us to do so, e.g. strategizing on what grants are approved, reaching into our networks to validate teams and hypotheses, etc.

You may also reflect that some of the tasks should be taken care of by the ZOMG members ourselves. This is correct. in fact, the assistant’s role is to be a reminder/accountability person so that important things don’t fall through the cracks, or are too delayed. We’d like grant applicants to be getting high quality and quick responses from us, but without an administrator that is focused on keeping the train running, it can be challenging to achieve this consistently.

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On a final note, I like this idea you have. Would you like to submit a grant where the task is to write up some bounties? I’d like to nudge our community members towards @hanh’s approach of constructive input

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Instead of duplicating an existing system, a better approach would be to contribute and improve the open source GitHub - ZcashFoundation/zcash-grant-system: The Zcash Foundation Grant System ZF Grants platform with any new features the ZOMG requires to be added. ZF Grants has served the Zcash community since a long time; my only ask has been to increase the wording length for the proposal so the spec can be as detailed as required.

IMO The 5 member ZOMG has functioned phenomenally since the launch just over half-year ago with high % success on projects that are funded. I cannot think of any projects that haven’t benefitted the Zcash community, and this is a huge achievement to be proud of. Sure there are processes that can be optimized to make ZOMG member’s work efficient, but I’d avoid complicating the workflow that makes it difficult for contributors to apply for grants. I believe we want to attract projects to Zcash, and not push them in to unnecessary bureaucracy. Additionally, I want to avoid single individuals(including myself) wants/expectations from a project affecting proposals, as everyone has their own approach/opinions. ZOMG has done an excellent job on this front too.

And both ZF & ECC management has been very receptive of my feedback both positive & negative.

While I’m a fan of Cardano’s structuring too (having followed the project since 2016 & attended several meetups with the founders) Cardano only launched the full fledged ambassador program & team during the incentivized test-net phase, just before the community driven PoS main-net went live. Also, Cardano Foundation had totally collapsed in 2018 and risked the entire project, but Charles managed to save it.

I think Zcash is still very small to incorporate a dedicated ZOMG funded ambassador/development/community leads (even though I’d love to apply for such roles). ECC has hired a Developer Relations member, we could learn from their feedback and once we have more stable features/APIs on Zcash like ZSAs, then it might be a good time to set up dedicated roles for such positions. And I’d definitely prefer ECC/ZF to interview candidates to chose a high quality candidate to represent the Zcash community.

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IMO, associating the idea of the grant with the execution contributes largely to the situation.

There is an implied rule that if someone proposes a grant, they should be the one doing it.

I don’t believe this should be the case at all:

  • Great ideas don’t come from great engineers: iPhone was Steve Jobs’ idea - he’s not an engineer.
  • Price tag is excessive because the proposer does not have the technical skills required.

As a quick fix, I suggest we discuss grants based on their contributions and their cost.

  • Pay a fee upfront for a POC and then % based on ROI. A system adopted by the entertainment industry for ages.
  • Open up grant ideas to other execution teams

Currently, it seems to me that the community will run out of funds before we get to Halo2 where things get really interesting.

In response to no one in particular:
I think it’s worth remembering why ZOMG is structured the way it is. Remember, Zcash had a long community process for deciding if there was a dev fund after the (horribly named) founders reward expired. One basic point we all agreed on was that Zcash could not just be the Electric Coin Company. It had to be a community, and as such you needed a balance of power and checks and balances. This is why there’s a trademark agreement in which both ZFND and ECC have to agree.
So, clearly, the money needed to be split between at least ZFND and ECC.

Some people wanted there to be a “third entity”. And indeed, even today some people incorrectly assume ZOMG is such an entity or are trying to make it such. But the community explicitly rejected that option, at least for the time being. ZIP1014, the voted on (social) consensus mechanism that set up the dev fund and pays money to ECC, ZFND, and (via ZFND) ZOMG, was explicitly designed to avoid creating a third entity. (This is subjective, but think of ZOMG like a ZFND grant committee thats community run). The reasoning was as follows: if you have two organizations, you have checks and balances. If you spin up a third without safeguards and give it a third of the power, it’s likely it would be used as a proxy by either of the existing orgs to muscle out the other. So instead of a balance of power between two or three entities, you end up with one dominant one. This is avoidable, but you need serious governance mechanisms and candidates, a robust voting process, and a couple of years of norms against doing that. We couldn’t come up with those in time (and still haven’t now). So instead, what the community decided was what ZOMG looks like now, where the power balance and control is structured between ZFND and ECC and ZOMG hands out grants.

Note, this can all be changed. New zips can be proposed and voted on. And at some point we probably should revise this. But to do so we need rules and norms to make sure ZOMG isn’t just a proxy for ZFND or ECC. Without those, you risk that changes to give ZOMG substantially more agency actually just mean tilting the scale towards ZFND or ECC. That would be bad and the current structure is set up to avoid that.

[Edit to add} I should also note, a vocal minority disagreed with this at the time. Thats fine. And predictably, some of them are still angling to make ZOMG a third entity despite the community’s current consensus. Thats also fine if its done via a new ZIP and a vote.

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This is a good time to reflect on how ZOMG is doing since we’re going to have the zcap reelection coming up soon, and that would be a good time to iterate on the structure of ZOMG too. I’m especially interested in hearing from zomg members and grant recipients on their thoughts of what’s going well or should improve.

My personal perspective is that zomg is doing really well with the resources and authority they already have, especially through writing their whitepaper and catalyzing a lot of discussion within the community, all of which are value-add beyond just grant administration overhead. Because of this we should consider making a zip to have them become a formally independent third entity.

In general I think we should continually push to diffuse more power and become more decentralized. (I gave a short talk at zcon1 about this for which this post is a continuation). It’s not the ordinary way things go, to become more decentralized. Instead everything in the world tends towards centralization and economy of scale without a lot of effort to the alternative. We’ve already done a good job of this in zcash through creating two orgs, having the original developer company voluntarily cede ownership of their trademark property, etc, but we should keep going and encourage more orgs to sprout up rather than settle for just two. There’s probably lots of ways to do this but boosting what we already have with ZOMG seems pragmatic.

Fwiw the main reason i remember for dropping the third entity requirement for zip 1014 was that it would create a lot of complexity of creating a new organization in time that would be too hard to rush, especially when it was blocking the rest of the trademark agreement and dev fund. With less of a rush now, and with the benefit of observing the first year of operation, now’s a good time to revisit.

I’m curious what ppl think, should ZOMG get additional resources or restructure some other way?

  • Grant more independence and authority to ZOMG, they’re doing a good job and should grow
  • Keep ZOMG structured roughly the same, no need to change
  • Scrap ZOMG and try something else

0 voters

Not the best poll but interested in how else to frame it. Also none of this is really in contradiction to what @secparam wrote above about wanting to design it to avoid capture

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Ian - I really appreciate this post. It helped answer questions I had regarding why ZOMG was not initially set up as a separate entity. The reasoning you outline makes sense: you want there to be a balance of power, but you first need to have the appropriate governance mechanisms in place. It sounds like there wasn’t enough time to come up with those mechanisms prior to the launch of ZOMG, but that doesn’t preclude it from happening in the future. Further, based on what @amiller says in his response, ZF encourages ZOMG eventually becoming a separate entity as part of a continual push to diffuse power and become more decentralized.

I read the below quote in the ZOMG meeting minutes from 7/6/21:

What’s causing this contention? Does ZF unintentionally have too much oversight over ZOMG? By the sounds of it, ZOMG can’t get the funding it needs from ZF to hire full time support that it desperately needs. How can this be ameliorated in the short term?

@amiller If you don’t mind, could you please weigh in on this too? Thanks!

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I believe ZFND is hiring more people for staffing.

[Emphasis mine.]

That said, (and I say this without context because I have stayed out of this side of ZFNDs operations nor followed the public discussions), from the quote above, it sure sounds like ZOMG wants to do a number of things that aren’t just handing out grants and there’s some push back because it would bring them into third entity territory. And the community intentionally rejected that in ZIP 1014. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of back and forth on this, provided its reasonable, but that seems to be whats going on.

Again, it seems the push back is happening precisely because of the safeguards put in place in zip 1014 , after a long community discussion and vote, to ensure there is a balance of power. This meant we need to ensure its two entities (ZFND and ECC), not 1 v 1 + a proxy = 2 v 1. ZOMG, per ZIP 1014 is, intentionally, really supposed to stick to just handing out grants.

And again, this is all subject to change by a public discussion, a new zip, and a new vote.

Sure, but you said so yourself in your previous post, the ZIP 1014 safeguards were less about micromanaging spending and more about a third entity disturbing the balance of power between ZF & ECC without proper governance mechanisms in place.

Let’s be clear here, we’re talking about ZOMG hiring someone full time so it can properly fulfill its duties. If Jack wants to hire someone as an ERM who will help ZOMG as part of that role, that’s fine, but what about hiring a part time consultant/contractor in the meantime to help the team out? It sounds like they need it and it shouldn’t be an adversarial discussion.

Anyway, I’m glad to hear they’re hiring staffing, and I understand you’re not involved in this side of ZF operations, but assuming what’s written in the minutes is not fabricated or exaggerated, it sounds like silly power politics that really supports the argument that ZOMG should be its own entity.

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For me, this is the root of the problems. Even with the best care, it’s a miracle if the project lands.

For example, let’s take a project that has clearly everything done right: Zondax.

  • zcash absolutely needs a hardware wallet
  • zondax has delivered countless apps for the ledger. They are the #1 company for it.

Yet, it didn’t materialize. As a wallet developer, I can say it is just a matter of some missing API and performance issues. These could have been corrected during development. But it is not the mandate of the ZOMG to track the project.

We can’t expect projects to land successfully without making adjustments. This would be like forgoing missile guidance and rely on accuracy at launch.

Furthermore, as anyone who has worked with IT vendors would tell you, usually proposals aren’t remotely that obvious. Even when the idea is unquestionable, we have to check credentials, past references, prior work, functional specs, technical specs, cost estimates, budget, resources, timeline, project plan and proof of concept. None of which are under the responsibility of the ZOMG right now.

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It would be very unfortunate if there are power politics going on. ZOMG was set up in its very limited scope precisely so it wasn’t worth doing empire building games over. The hope was you’d only see that kind of political crap if either 1) it was a third entity with power people wanted to co-opt or 2) people were trying to turn it into a third entity so they could co-opt it. A little bit of those kind of playground games happened before zip 1014. Some people clearly were trying to setup some plays. But the community wisely bypassed all that bs: the goal everyone shared was just to hand out money to make Zcash better.

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I am honestly more worried about the quality of the projects delivered than politics. IMO, if we had great results, it’d be acceptable to have some politics under the covers.

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I agree it would be very unfortunate if there are power politics going on. I want to say one more thing here because the “adversarial” quote I cited above from the meeting minutes bothered me.

The ZOMG members all seem to be highly intelligent, capable people. Let’s take Chris Burinske as an example because I’m more familiar with him than the others. Chris runs a successful fund where he manages hundreds of millions of dollars for his clients. He’s one of the most prominent, well respected people in the crypto space. I don’t think Chris needs Jack or Alex to tell him how to allocate financial resources for staffing. If I was Executive Director and Chris came to me and said he needed additional staffing, I’d trust he knows what he’s talking about and approve the request. I don’t know all the details, but ZF’s oversight sounds like is a waste of both ZOMG and ZF’s time (at least in this instance).

I’ve quoted the ZF Bylaws Amendment III, Article VIII, Section 3 below. If grant or expenditure doesn’t violate that provision, it should probably more often than not be approved without question.

All grant making recommendations by the MGRC will require no further approval from the Board to become effective, except the Board shall retain a limited veto power as described herein. The Board shall have the right to veto any funding recommendation by the MGRC if the Board determines that the grant is outside the scope of the purposes set forth in the Corporation’s certificate, would violate U.S. law or the Corporation’s reporting requirements, or any other (current or future) obligations under U.S. IRS 501(c)(3).

EDIT: Yes, I get that expenditures aren’t explicitly covered by the Bylaws and that ZOMG cannot use its funds for anything other than grants. My point is more that they could be held to the same standard as grants (outlined in the bylaws), even if the expenditures are covered by ZF. I should have made that more clear in my original post.

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“Grant” sure, but “expenditure” isn’t covered in that bylaws text.

Also the zip is pretty explicit about not funding overhead for the zomg itself, hence the need for ZF to volunteer support discretionally

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  1. ZOMG did not fund Zondax, ZF did.
  2. Zondax had proven speciality in firmware development, but they missed out on planning end-to-end deliverable of contracting a JS/web based PoC to get through the Ledger review.
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Right, but the trouble is, hiring and managing your own staff isn’t a grant. In fact, legally, I think they’d still have to work for ZFND unless someone made a literal third legal entity. We went through that debate about paying ZOMG members and similar reasons are why ZFND just pays ZOMG members (IIRC out of ZFNDs dev fund share). Luckily, as I said, I believe ZFND is hiring staff for this.

To just come out and be explicit: if you read the quotes you’re providing dispassionately, one of three things is going on.

  1. ZOMG just wants some staffing and, once ZFND hires someone, it’s fine. I think this is the case. Everyone just wants to get stuff done in the quickest way possible and there some friction in working with the somewhat narrow scope in ZIP 1014. And so we can all move on and hand out grants to make Zcash better.

But If we’re going to insist machiavellian games are afoot then there are at least two possibilities :

  1. ZFND could be playing power politics to control ZOMG. It would be odd because ZOMG is, per the community discussion, vote, and ZIP 1014, explicitly set up to not be a chess piece on the board. It’s just supposed to hand out grants. It’s meant to be not worth fighting for. And we haven’t, as far as I know, vetoed any proposed grants (which the ZIP lets ZFND do for the narrow reasons of its illegal for us to do so or grossly inappropriate).

  2. Some people, probably outside ZOMG, are pushing ZOMG into a full blown third entity by exceeding the scope of zip 1014. And then you’d use it to alter the balance of power. Again, I really really don’t think thats the play here, i think it’s a civil disagreement from people who want to be as effective as possible. But if we are going to insist something strange is afoot…

Personally, I really agree with @hanh , I’m more worried about ZOMG being able to hand out grants. Deploying capital is hard and they got a large chunk of the dev fund. Staffing might help with oversight, but i’d be surprised if it was what was blocking on handing out proposals. ZFNDs grant committee managed without it. And personally (and this may or may not reflect the views of ZFND), I can live with some loss rate on bad grants while ZOMG gets its self up and running.

Thanks but I don’t see 2. as their responsability unless contractually stated (it may be).

When you write a server, it is not implied that you should check on the client code.

That’s stretching it. It comes down to the grant proposal, the target deliverables need to be defined and ZOMG proposal template covers it pretty well.

In the case of Zondax, the wider community understanding was the end result of having Shielded ZEC support on Ledger. All is not lost yet, as someone from the community can pick up the remnant work and deliver what needs to be done. Zondax has been asking for collaboration.
https://twitter.com/zondax/status/1415609492549550080

Zondax is also hiring a front end dev, hopefully to finish the task they started https://twitter.com/zondax/status/1402181784570417152

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To clarify, when I said “silly power politics” I didn’t mean anything diabolical like Machiavellian games or one entity trying co-opt another. I meant the basic personality conflicts common in office dynamics.

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This is technically delivered but impractical to say the least. I’d be interesting to see the grant text. Could someone provide a copy?