Blockchains’ Governance Development Update: GitHub And Internal Education

April 22, 2019

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The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind in Blockchains land. Though, to be fair, every week in startup world is a whirlwind. Here’s a summary of our recent distributed collaborative entity (DCE) governance efforts and developments, as well a preview of some of what’s coming.

The GitHub Thing

I’ve moved some of the documentation I’ve been working on to a GitHub repo to make the DCE development process more transparent. A GitHub repo might suggest there is some code involved, but this is not the case. While that will be added later, right now we’re building out what I’ve been calling the “social protocols” of governance – the basic coordination schemas for interactions between and within stakeholder groups. I chose GitHub mainly because it’s the public co-working platform that I am most familiar with and because everyone else seems to understand how to use it. Still, I will probably never fully figure it out because I am hardly a computer programmer – it took three years of owning an iPhone before I learned how to close an app. So, bear with me, development community; I’m trying.

So far, I’ve included documentation regarding who our stakeholder cohorts might be and how to address the reality that those groups can change over time. This includes the proposal and voting protocols to add and remove formalized stakeholder groups as priorities shift, as well as how directors are appointed to the DCE board. I’ve also included a proposed set of values to govern Blockchains’ collaborative partnerships and joint projects. At the moment I’m working on a single document more clearly laying out our values, mission, and governance model – a constitution of sorts, including all of the necessary ingredients to write corporate bylaws. This will likely be a few weeks in the making and will constitute part one of the two-part set of documents required before I will consider myself to have created a fully fleshed-out first draft of a comprehensive Blockchains governance proposal. The second document required for this will be a technical document, or white paper.

I am generally a very goal-oriented individual with a love for lists, plans, and Google calendars. For this reason, I have attempted to roadmap this project multiple times. However, I have come to believe that this project is not currently well-suited for road-mapping; there are too many continually evolving priorities and players involved that are outside of my control. I’ve found it more useful to hold the Big Picture in my mind and just move toward it, one step at a time, answering questions as they are asked, and adapting to new challenges and opportunities as they come.

The Devine Input of Rebekah

One big change here at Blockchains is that my dearly beloved former employer, ETHNews, has transitioned from an editorially independent daily news outlet to a curated news site – providing segue for a majority of the team to transition into a content division for Blockchains. For those unaware, ETHNews was founded by Jeff Berns in 2016 and was owned by Blockchains Management, Inc. – Blockchains’ operating company. This is relevant to DCE development because it means I have been blessed with the well of knowledge, insight, and thoughtful consideration that is Rebekah Devine’s brain. At the moment she’s joined the DCE development mission part-time, but I’m (obviously not at all) secretly hoping she’ll just come in full time, answer all the questions, and solve all the problems. We’ll see.

Internal Education Efforts

I’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’m going to need a lot of help getting there. Though I am currently the only person whose sole job it is to plug away at this mission, I’m in no way at this project alone. My whole team – the so-called Collaboration and Project Development team, which has five members, including me – continually offers up valuable insights and information. They also provide constant whiteboarding and sound-boarding to help cook my half-baked ideas.

We have been mapping out a series of internal education presentations and discussions to get the whole company on the same page. As it stands, individuals in our company have widely varying degrees of blockchain and Ethereum education and skills. We’re not just a team of developers and hardcore crypto enthusiasts – we’re also security experts, human resources and IT professionals, lawyers, administrative assistants, bookkeepers, and custodial staff. And, if you haven’t noticed, crypto and blockchain applications are rarely intuitive or easy to use. So, we’re starting with the basics: setting up a MetaMask account, getting test ETH, sending transactions, navigating Aragon and MakerDAO, and understanding key issues in blockchain governance, like identity and voting. Sena Loyd will be presenting on issues specific to Blockchains’ land in northern Nevada, like the wild horses that occupy it and the river that flows through it. Matt Brill, one of our developers, will lead us through different kinds of Ethereum nodes and how to run one. If we want to be engaged and informed decision-makers, we must do the work to educate ourselves.

So far, we’ve only hosted one such discussion, but the next one, the first of a planned 12-week program, is scheduled for a week from now.

Coordination Efforts

The part of this whole project I’ve been most excited about in these last weeks is the part where I’ve been working out how this whole DCE could be facilitated using some combination of existing DAO frameworks built out to our specific needs. To that end, I’ve been researching DAOstack and Colony, toying around with Aragon’s app on testnet with the Collaboration and Project Development team, and consulting with people who have more experience and expertise in this area than myself. While there’s nothing really to report on this front at the moment, some models for facilitating the multi-stakeholder governance framework via existing DAO stacks are not far off.

What’s Next

A comprehensive roadmap is in the works, but for now we’re biting off one chunk at a time, juggling near-term and long-term goals. Recently, when I was briefing a new teammate on this whole project and insisting that things be thoughtfully considered before rollout, his response was something along the lines of: “You can detail complexity and make considerations all day, but you have to put something into action in the near term, or else it’ll never get off the ground.” I took that advice to heart, so these are the things I’m working on getting off the ground ASAP:

Reputation system pilot

Our governance model will be reputation-driven, such that people who contribute more have more power of influence, and more financial reward – and to avoid building a plutocracy. But how you allocate reputation is a difficult question. So, we’re going to start testing different ways of doing so, trying to come to a system that we at Blockchains can generally agree upon. An initial draft of the proposal for that pilot can be found here.

Collaborative decision-making via an Aragon DAO

Haley Summers and I have been playing with this idea for a while, but it wasn’t a priority. Now it is. This week we’ll get everyone set up with a MetaMask account and test ETH, and later this month we’ll lead everyone through the set-up process to create an Aragon tokenized democracy on Rinkeby and begin voting on low-impact decisions, like in-office perks (event planning, lunch, etc). Once we iron out any wrinkles and get everyone on the same page, we’ll move toward using real money for more meaningful decisions.

Aaaaaaaand that’s all I’ve got for now. Stay tuned for more updates. If you’ve got any feedback or questions, feel free to reach out to me at aberreman@blockchains.com.

Alison Berreman is a member of the Collaboration & Product Development Department at Blockchains and is spearheading the company’s creation of the DCE.

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