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Archived Tiered Democracy - How to distribute voting power


Apr '17


One very important part on the cryptocoin ecosystem is the voting and governance process. A too rigid system scares investors and developers away, and a too flexible system risks overwhelming the community with lots of conflicting ideas and implementations and turning the coin into a generic coin without solid identity.
Creating all the rules, laws, norms and so on takes a lot of time, usually involvs lots of conflict. Relying on too much people on the definition phase usually creates long delays between proposal and approval of any rule. Starting a fresh framework with less people is advantageos because of the reduced work to achieve consensus.
The first rounds of the governing norms are the most difficult, and more prone to generate conflicts, because pluralistic norms will surely create conflict, areas without clear norms will create doubt, areas with apparent harsh or unfair restrictions will create discord, areas with too relaxed norms can create anarchy. That’s why the first phase of governance cannot be a work of the entire community.
Allowing all the community to vote on this phase can have severe detrimental results for the whole. Having a direct democracy, giving each user the same voting power and considering all and any proposal having the same importance can be desirable on theory, but will create hard problems in practice.
The Cortes of León[1] was one of the earliest parlamentary systems recorded. This Royal Curia consisted of the aristocrats, bishops, and representatives of the urban middle-class. This court dealt with common laws (like private property), justice, and other laws. This system was studied when the United States was founded.
The Veche [2] existed on earlier slavic countries. The concil was an assembly of every one in the city, gathered in front of the cathedral where laws were discussed. The resolutions made on the Veche were later discussed on the Кontsy, separate assemblies held later. After those assemblies reached consensus, the decisions were ratified.
The Swiss Landsgemeinde [3] have a lot of similarities with some current cyptocoins governance. It’s an yearly assembly, where all people vote on a non-secret ballot voting. This open voting system - without secret voting - gives way to a degenerate democracy known as Ochlocracy [4] or Majoritarianism [5].
One of the most immediate danger of the majoritarianism is the demagogy. On such systems, a leader can exploit uninformed crowds to reach power appealing to the lowest common denominator in a diverse group of people.
Other issue is the exclusion of minorities. When only the majoritarian view is taken into consideration, the minorities cannot debate their ideas and end up extinct, or abandon the community.
Another problem is the crowd mentality. With no secret vote or with the results of an election being publicized before the end of the election, a sizable portion of the community tend to vote on the winning party, even if they disagree. This behaviour is based on the wish to be on the winning side, even against the will of the individual.
According to the Governance Analytic Framework[6], norms can be divided in 3 groups: meta-, constitute, and regulative norms.
Meta-Norms are the principles guiding the community. In this text, it’s The Manifesto. It dictates what are expected from the community on a higher view, and guides the development of the other norms.
Constitute Norms define the organizational and institutional mechanisms. This governance post can be defined as such. Other norms of the same type must be created to regulate, for example, when elections will be held, how and when the manifesto can be changed, how to create and evaluate proposals, and so on.
Regulative Norms defines the rules of conduct, what any person can do or cannot do, how rewards and punishments are given, who will receive a donation. It can be seen as the Terms and Conditions for any discussion forum.
The manifesto can be seen as The Constitution. Every proposal must be seen in relation with the manifesto. Any idea, proposal or implmentation that goes against any article of the manifesto must be immediately discarded, without further discussion.
The idea that the manifesto is supreme, and nothing can go against it is not new. The law system for the Rashidun Califate[7] incorporated this principle, as even the calif was not above the law, and provisions existed to impeach him in case of disrespect of the law.
Even if this rule looks too harsh, it’s the first line of defense on the community against internal or external attacks. PIVX manifesto[8] puts absolute value on privacy. Any idea undermining privacy is against it, and discussing the idea brings no further progress to the community.
Discard ideas against the manifesto as soon as they appear will save a lot of time and energy. With this rule in place, and enforced all the time, part of the community will bring forward ideas more aligned with the spirit of PIVX, and lose less time.
For those reasons, the most important part of the governace is the manifesto. It must hold the highest priority during its writing, and every developer, user, investor and core member must dedicate special attention to it. The manifesto is the document that will shape the community, the norms and laws, the interaction between all groups, and define the future of PIVX.
The manifesto alone cannot solve all the proposals’ problems. Another damaging issues are the number of proposals, and the loopholes. Those can, even in according with the manifesto, bring significant hurdles to developers and the community.
First, overwhelming numbers. PIVX is still a maturing community, and for now, a lot of functionatilies are still not implemented, planned, or designed. This can cause an overwhelming number of proposals to come, some without solid thinking, or of little value, or against the core function of the coin, wallet or protocol.
Letting the community discuss and vote on a large number of proposals is detrimental for the results, as important issues will be overlooked as there is no time or focus to address them. On the other hand, polemic but trivial issues can have a lot of interest, creating a futile and endless discussion.
Now, the loopholes. A loophole is defined as an anbiguity or inadequacy in a law. Even a concise manifesto cannot cover every aspect of the community, and sooner or later an idea can be according to the manifesto and detrimental to the spirit of it. If those kind of ideas go forth, there can create endless discussion and dissonance.
My proposal is to learn from all those systems before us, and avoid the shortcomings of them. This system consists of involving the entire community in the creation of proposals, and the voting on them, but creates a middle layer - a moderating layer - to analyse, adapt, resume and discuss the ideas from the community before sending those ideas to voting.
It consists on 3 phases (with an optional phase for special proposals), and community participates actively on the first and the last ones. This system still enables the creation of mechanisms only by direct input of the community, the activation of the ideas only after voted by the community, but prevents the community to pass and vote fot detrimental ideas by adding moderation.
In the first phase, all the ideas are worth the same, there is no need for debate, and no idea should receive praise nor criticism. It’s an open, free area to put anything on the table, without fear or discrimination.
Even if this sounds as an anarchic method, it is very useful for the community know what are the desires of the group, the amount of people that will engage in the voting process, and the patterns of thought in the group.
This phase is public. Every member of the community are invited and welcome to that. The medium for this phase is to be determined, but must be the most reasonably public and accessible possible.
This phase will hopefully create a large list of ideas and proposals, and will be sent to the next phase - the moderation.
An interesting way to chose those for this special group can be the reputation system. The top users for each category (developers, common users, masternode operators, and so) can be invited to the group, in order of reputation, and the next ones called until the number of members are reached. This group can be called the concil, parliament, curia or alternative names.
The main objective of this phase, and this group, is to reduce the number of proposals, remove ideas conflicting with the manifesto, and analyse the wills and needs of the community as a whole.
In this phase, ideas receive criticism. Those in discordance with the manifesto are discarded, unless they provide a reasonable reason to challenge it. Ideas are evaluated according to the manifesto, viability, technical challenges, evolution opportunities, and such.
After deliberation, common ideas are joined together, antagonic ones are put on the same proposal as alternative options, pros and cons of every option are listed (if applicable), consequences for approval or repel of every proposal are writen, and the elected questions are sent to voting by the community, and a few are directed to special comitees.
Some proposals will be very technical, others will have profound impact on the community as a whole. Those “special proposals” will require more work.
To address those ideas, special comitees can be formed based on merit, skills, reputation, experience or another criteria, taking into account the best people to address the proposal.
After all deliberation is done, surviving questions are submited to the community for voting. The voting platform must at the same time be public and anonymous. Public for allowing anyone involved with PIVX to cast a vote, and anonymous to allow everyone to vote without fear of being identified because of his votes.
The voting phase must record all votes, but not publicize them until the voting phase is over. This provision is to prevent users changing votes for fear of voting for the losing proposal.
One problem regarding elections is the distribution of voting power. There’s several discussions about this, including power by stake, power by status (masternode operator, developer, large stakeholder), power by presence, and so.
Every one of those distribution systems had unmitigable flaws, as they are detrimental for one group or another. Take power by stake, for example. The main problem with this system is that if someone have a large stake of PIV, they can work around the rules and cast more votes than someone with a low stake.
Developers having more power is difficult too. How can one realistically measure the amount of contribution of a given developer? Lines of code? Bug reports? Classes created? There’s not a simple formula.
I propose a reputation based voting power distribution. It is based on the principle that the number and quality of contributions of a user can be used as a measure of his engagement with the community, and a engaged user shoud be rewarded for putting his work and time to help.
As already discussed on the forum [9] on a post by Dark, there’s one alternative to PoS voting power, and he called it Proof of Contribution, or voting by kudos. The central idea here is to allow productive members of the community to have more power than those staking a lot of coins but not contributing back. My proposal is based on the same idea, but with a slight different implementation.
One reputation system that I personally like is used at StackOverflow [10]. Using this system as a framework, we could build a system that enables all users to give or take points from another user, depending on the questions asked or answers given. A special group of moderators would take care of the system, detecting spam, anomalous up and downvotes, and punish those involved.
The points received by every user would be used to calculate the voting power of each one. Users more engaged with the community, those with more knowledge and more helpful would have more voting power than those uninformed or not really engaged.
Common users ranking up lots of reputation points would be given more and more moderation power, and effectively being as powerful as the core moderators. As any user will hopefully only achieve such power by being helpful and engaged, this system will automatically reward good behaviour and punish bad behaviour, as a misbehaving user will receive lots of downvotes, have little power on elections, and have less power to change anything.
Developers will use the system to get reputation too. Every issue solved will be posted, and users will thank him by upvoting the post. Users that engage on technical support will get upvotes from those they helped too.
This system prevents rich users from manipulating the election because of their stakes, gives voice to core developers and users, rewards those engaged and helpful, gives voice to minorities when members of it are represented in the group of high reputation users, reduces the work needed to pass proposals.
[1] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cortes_of_León
[2] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veche
[3] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landsgemeinde
[4] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ochlocracy
[5] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majoritarianism
[6] www.urbanpro.co/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/The-Governance-Analytical-Framework.pdf
[7] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashidun_Caliphate#Accountability_of_rulers
[8] pivx.org/what-is-pivx/manifesto/
[9] Proof of Contribution (Kudos) - Better alternative to PoS voting
[10] stackoverflow.com/help/whats-reputation