Aligning the "What" of Governance with the Existing SIMD Process

Background and Context

A group consisting mainly of Solana validators has been working to develop a governance process for the Solana network. The effort kicked off in July 2023 and is organzed by defining -

  • Why a governance process is needed
  • Who should vote
  • What should be voted on
  • How the voting should be done

Recent efforts culminated in a non-binding “signaling” vote related to “Who” should vote in late 2023. Governance was also a track at the inaugural Block Zero, held just before Breakpoint 2023.

Since that vote, activity related to this effort has mostly paused. The conversations that have ensued since then, in Discord chats and validator calls, relate to the “What should be voted on question”.

What should be voted on?

A couple proposals have shaped-up during this earlier effort to define the scope of the governance process. Their details are found here.

Another approach has been suggested by various participants as well. That approach is to align the governance process with the Solana Improvement Documents (SIMD) process.

Aligning Governance with the SIMD Process

The SIMD process is reasonably well-formed and active among the Solana core developer and contributor community. The idea behind aligning the governance process with the SIMD process is that doing so will effectively define the governance process scope.

Governance process participants would vote on the SIMDs as they surface through the SIMD process. The assumption is that the parameters of the SIMD process are well understood (at least among existing participants) and that this understanding provides an implicit filter for the process, hence defining its scope.

Aligning the governance process to this scope implies that governance process participants agree in principle to this scope definition, at least for now. However, one way the governance process could further limit scope is to pick and choose which SIMDs to vote on. The risk of doing this is that a loop is formed that brings the group back to its current position of having to further define scope, i.e. to determine which SIMDs are voted on and which aren’t.

The most straightforward way to use the SIMD process to define scope is to hold a vote on each SIMD as it surfaces. Governance paricipants could also work through the SIMD backlog to resurface issues the participants feel could be particularly beneficial to Solana, e.g. Timely Vote Credits, which is now a year old.

Conclusion

Aligning the governance process with the SIMD process would allow a broader set of voices to introduce noticeable feedback into the Solana development process, in a consistent and meaningful way, while minimizing disruption on the current development process.

This voting process can likely help synchronize the development process among the various client teams as well, if not right away, in the not too distant future. Doing so would also help the governance development process gain momentum in a meaningful way, by providing an answer to the “What” discussion and establishing a regular voting cadence among the governance process participants.

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