Who votes - three proposals

Who votes – three options
One of the key decision-making points in implementing governance is deciding who governs.
With this in mind, discussions on Discord have been distilled into three possible scenarios:

  • Validators vote, with votes weighted by stake
  • Validators and token-holders (stake accounts)
    ** In this scenario a token-holder could override their validator’s vote for their share of the validator’s stake-weight
  • Validators, token-holders and other stakeholders
    ** Other stakeholders might include RPC operators, developers etc.

This post is intended to permit users to provide their viewpoints in replies - please try to summarize all your points for and against certain options in a single post, avoiding multiple replies to address points made by others, so that we have a concise but complete record of everyone’s view points.

If possible begin your reply with your preferred option.

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My opinion: Validators vote

Reasons: Validators are custodians of the blockchain. They are entrusted with stake to decide on what constitutes the correct view of the chain, they are tasked with staying up to date with technical developments, are generally an active community of a large but manageable size.

Validators should engage with governance to represent their view points and express assent or dissent to developments. These expressions form part of the larger validator persona that should be taken into consideration by stakers when deciding who to entrust their stake with.

Governance works best with engaged and knowledgable participants, and ideally has a high rate of participation. A system whereby token-holders vote would likely lead to lower levels of engagement, necessitating a lower quorum and thus overall lover level of security.

In permitting other stakeholders to vote there is no objective measure of how to weight their votes - this presents further problems.

Ultimately the chain does what validators (or at least those representing a supermajority of stake) choose to do, for governance to be effective it must be enforceable, which is only possible when those enforcing the chain state are the ones voting.

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Thanks Laine for getting this started.

I believe that validators should vote, and that their vote should be representative of the broader ecosystem, thus enriching and surfacing the validators perspective from a simple primitive of vote (eg. Yes, No).

By exposing the vote details through categorical representation I believe it can incentivize and motivate stake in a much more dynamic and supportive way that a validator simply cannot.

These layers which exist on top of the chain drive immense value to the base and therefore may be better positioned to direct users to stake with validators which support their perspectives as well.

Governance works when it works for those it governs. Creating an echelon of sophisticated infrastructure managers doesn’t necessarily mean that the depth of knowledge will suffice for all issues where the vote is cast. I believe there may be issues which require the yielding or the validators may not want to cast their vote, therefore having a more dynamic system may be called for.

A system of on-chain governance should be strong when engagement is low as well as adaptable for a future where engagement and activity could require the casting of billions of votes (of which I do not have an answer yet, but exploring actively).

What I would like to avoid is centralization factors (such as LSTs) driving validators to vote for X or lose stake, and by leveraging other representation (not with a vote, but to be represented by a vote) could weigh these factors better.

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My opinion: Validators, token-holders and other stakeholders

Reasons: 1) whatever the governance process is used for initially, I’m pretty sure, it will eventually be used for much more; including funding proposals. 2) validators only really know about validating, I don’t think they have the insight to steer the ecosystem 3) who “owns” the network? is it not the token holders? if only validators vote, we have incentive misalignment.

When I think “other stake holders”, I’m mainly concerned with dev teams – attracting more dev teams to our chain, is the current issue, we are fighting other chains for those precious projects – so why not give them a seat at the table? I will admit, I don’t know an easy way to implement that directly.

In Cosmos chains the validator votes, but the token holder can override. The part all Cosmos chains have screwed up, is the interface, it’s very not-obvious for token holders to do it. But in theory I like it.

I also like the idea of transferable votes that Cardano has. In this scheme the voting tokens can be transferred, so you can give your vote to an expert. For example, if the vote was important to the developmentability of the ecosystem, I could give my votes to a team like Jito, who know more about this than me.

Summary: I believe token holders need to vote because token holders are the financial owners of the network and therefore will care the most about the network. Validators are typically just handling other peoples tokens not their own bags; yes they have an interest but it is limited. If we had transferable voting, token holders could “give” their vote to whoever they thought knew best for that particular vote.

These are just my thoughts, I am relaxed about whatever the community decide - however, I do feel that the discussion so far (telegram and discord) has been almost exclusively validators.

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For those looking to orient themselves with the discussions that have taken place to-date, you can find the details of the three different proposals here.

Proposal A - Validators Only

Proposal B - Validators and Stake Accounts

Proposal C - Validators, Stake Accounts and Other Stakeholders

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My current opinion is that, consistent with Chainflow’s values, the governance process should be inclusive as possible. Recognizing the practical limitations of this open-ended statement, my thinking is that we start with Proposal B and look to move toward Proposal C as the governance process continues to evolve.

Really really cool that you guys are working on this. Here’s my two cents, as a Solana application dev:

I think it makes most sense for validators and token-holders to govern the Solana protocol.

  • As pointed out by @laine, using other stakeholders is subject to sybil problem.
  • IMO, we want to avoid as much as possible the ‘shadow governance’ where a small group of core devs end up making the decisions.
  • I don’t see any downside to having token-holders in addition to validators. 99% of the time, users wouldn’t care about a vote, and the validators would be de facto in charge, but having the recourse of overriding the validators could prevent validators from exploiting their position for their benefit (and to the public’s detriment), such as passing a proposal that enforces 50% validator staking fees at the proposal level.
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please join the discord discussion too (Solana Staking Alliance) - I’d like to comment on your post without distracting from the convo here too much, i.e. on Discord

(in short I believe the best approach to the token-holder voting is to allow them to redelegate to a differently voting validator)

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Validators and token-holders (stake accounts)
^ is the clear choice IMO

Agree with statements above that 99% this will default to validators, but there is no reason not to include stake accounts if they would like to cast their vote.

Also agree that “other stakeholders” would be problematic because they’re difficult to define and weight.

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I think “governance” is highly overrated when it comes to blockchains, most projects that have any kind of governance end up becoming obsolete, and eventually replaced by newer projects with better technology.

If anything serves as an example, our democracies are a big mess, where citizens are stolen from in the form of inflation in order to finance wars in other parts of the world.

And I honestly think Solana is so early in its development of what it could be that I would rather keep things running as they’ve been running.

Here are a couple of my main arguments against creating bureaucracy on blockchains.

  1. Empirical evidence:
    Most of the well-run organizations don’t have any form of governance mechanism.
    Tesla, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft.
    These organizations are empirically the ones that have created the most wealth in this planet, what do they all have in common?
    No bureaucratic governance, nor voting democracy, they are simply put run by one guy with a good vision for the most part.
    On the other without doubt the worst run institutions, measured by the amount of resources that they use in unproductive activities, by running deficits, are precisely those institutions in which every decision has to be made through a governance mechanism, Governments.
    Now to be clear, there are well run governments and badly run companies with single founders, but something is very clear, the best run government in the world is not even close as well run as tesla in the creation of wealth for its “citizens” or “stakeholders”. and the worst run companies is not even close to the level of wealth destruction made by badly run governments (Venezuela, Argentina, etc.).

  2. Blockchains by their nature don’t require a governing mechanism since everyone participating in them is doing so voluntarily, the reason we need governance when it comes to countries is because for the most part when we are born we are automatically part of a group, and are naturally forced to live within that group and in order to do that one has to follow a set of rules, for peaceful living, and the cost of leaving the governing institution is really high, one has to change almost everything in order to leave, for the most part, learn a new language, sell all property, travel, learn new culture, buy new property, etc.
    The price for leaving is so high that it makes sense that everyone has a saying on what set of rules we should be living our lives in order to have a peaceful living, that is not the case in blockchains, the price I have to pay if I don’t like what the blockchain is doing is virtually inexistent, I can with just a couple of clicks leave the “community” as easily as I arrived.
    For this reason having a governing mechanism is just going to end up becoming a dead weight in the development of this technology.

  3. Blockchains are open source.
    None of the fundamental components of blockchains are private to the public, anyone with enough knowledge of these systems can just as easily fork, or start from scratch with the already developed technology if they don’t agree with the way the tech is being developed.

  4. Solana already has a governance mechanism, and it’s the best for the task IMHO.
    When Solana labs, jito, or anyone releases a newer version of Solana, all the validators have to upgrade their nodes, and therefore the validators and stakers vote with their actions whether they agree or disagree with with such update, Core developers vote with their actions when they decide on which version to develop (Labs, jito, firedancer), validators vote on what version of the software to run, and stakers vote based on the validator that they delegate, therefore everyone has an opportunity to vote with their actions.
    Anyone in the world can decide if they want to change the protocol by forking the open source code and working on those changes, and anyone can decide if they agree or disagree with them by using their stake as vote. so effectively is the best form of “governance” IMO, it’s effectively a free market of “governance”.

  5. Tezos.
    Tezos was one of the most promising projects in crypto back in 2017-2019, and one of their main pillars was this idea of upgradeability and governance, because of what had happened with bitcoin, bitcoin cash, eth and eth classic.
    It was top 15 for a long time, but the net result of all these governance mechanisms was a slowdown of their technology development in favor of bureaucracy, now after 7 years of development it has a market cap even lower than what they had back then in 2016-2017.
    And as far as I researched this project back then, they really had good talent, they took top governance mechanisms from swiss institutions.

  6. Here’s a snippet of 6 minutes of Andrej Karpathy, he was one of the leads engineers at tesla AI division talking about how a well run organization looks like, it’s nowhere close to governance or bureaucracy.
    https://youtu.be/cdiD-9MMpb0?t=5665

  7. “Show me the incentive and I’ll show you the outcome” - Charlie Munger.
    I Think we naively assume that everybody has the project future in mind when voting, but as countless times evidence has shown for the most part people don’t think beyond their personal interest, and this may not be with bad intentions but it’s usually the case, I myself have seen multiple times, validators within the super minority keep promoting stakers to stake in their validators, since it’s economically beneficial to them, they keep doing it, at the cost of the end goal of decentralization, this is the reason I don’t trust people to put the protocol before their self interest, and IMO, the best way to vote is with your actions.

  8. The whole point of blockchains at the end of the day is adoption, and users, and users also can vote without the need of a governance mechanism, as a user I am as free to use sol, or eth, or bitcoin, and what I decide to use is effectively my vote, and I can vote whenever I want by moving my resources to the protocol that best aligns with my beliefs.

In my most sincere opinion governance although an idea with great intentions it seems to me that it only adds bureaucracy, and nothing more, because anyone involved in blockchains can already vote with their actions, and as far as evidence I’ve been able to wrap my head around, free markets are the best form of governance.

Thanks for your input. I’m glad to see a developer perspective here. While it may be tangential to this discussion, I feel that the more infrastructure operators and developers are in sync, the stronger Solana will become.

Regarding your point, is it fair to say that you support an option where -

  • Validators and token holders vote, in which
  • The validator votes with the tokenholder’s stake weight
  • And the tokenholder can override their validator’s vote by voting for themselves
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I’ve actually been redelegate-pilled by Laine in the Discord discussions. The main problem with the ability to override a validator’s votes is that it encourages governance apathy from validators.

If I as a validator know that any of my stakers that disagree with what I put forth, they will simply override me, I don’t have a strong incentive to either research proposals or explain my opinions.

On the other hand, if people cannot simply override me and they must move their stake elsewhere, then I am incentivized to research proposals, vote on what I think my stakers will agree with, and explain my votes. Otherwise, those who disagree may decide to park their stake elsewhere.

There has also been some back and forth on whether we need redelegation. IMO, it’s not a huge sticking point, but I lean towards redelegation because without redelgation, someone who disagrees with their validator on a vote will probably keep their stake parked since at that point it’s a sunk cost. But yeah, there’s probably some implementation cost here, and I’m not in a position to evaluate whether that cost is worth it.

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Validators vote. Users who want to vote should make an effort to become validators or move their stake based on what Validators propose whenever something needs to be decided and voted.

Validators vote

If stakeholders aren’t happy with the validator’s vote, they should redelegate their stake to a validator that supports their position. This seems like a logical extension of the way the network already functions.

Hi All,

I have created an advisory vote to sample validators’ stake-weighted opinions: VOTE! First Governance Advisory Vote by Validators

Currently, there is no option that allows validators to vote with a system where one validator equals one vote. All provided options favor validators with larger stakes, who are primarily funds, investors, and whales, and who may be influenced by other funds and whales. Under the present system, one validator with a 2M stake would have the equivalent voting power of 36 validators on foundation stake.

To achieve true democracy, we should implement a system where one validator equates to one vote, irrespective of stake.

Who responded first to the chain restart? Who were the validators attending to restarts in the middle of the night? Predominantly, it was the smaller validators (in terms of count, not stake) who responded, while the entire chain awaited the others to wake up. It is unjust governance to provide unequal voting rights, especially if votes are weighted by stake.

My 5c.

As mentioned on Discord this introduces sybil risk, even if setting an arbitrary min stake amount.

In your example it also means that the foundation basically controls governance, as foundation validators in absolute numbers account for >80% of all validators, and thus would account for over 80% of all votes in a governance system using this method. All it takes is for the foundation to say “We will no longer stake with validators who vote for this proposal” …

The stake-weighted approach will favour a super minority of validators, many of whom are funds, exchanges, and private validators with 100% fees, among others. How can this be considered fair governance? It is imperative to find a quintessential balance that satisfies all parties involved.

To achieve true democracy, we should implement a system where one validator equates to one vote, irrespective of stake.

This is a Proof of Stake network, not a Proof of Humans network. Implicitly influence in the network is acquired with stake, so stake weight is the only logical way to apportion voting influence.

Who responded first to the chain restart? Who were the validators attending to restarts in the middle of the night? Predominantly, it was the smaller validators (in terms of count, not stake) who responded, while the entire chain awaited the others to wake up. It is unjust governance to provide unequal voting rights, especially if votes are weighted by stake.

This is an uninformed opinion to be honest. The loudest participants in restarts are generally a fairly “core” set of validators, along a spectrum of stake-weights, some large and some small. It is true that the largest “institutional” validators are generally the least participatory and only of average at best responsiveness when it comes to actually implementing the agreed-to path of action. But that is also true of most small validators, who have little incentive to be active participants and mostly just follow instructions at whatever rate is most convenient for them.

Jito has now voted option 1. Rationale is validators are best positioned to evaluate these decisions. Option 2 is elegant but more complex to implement and enshrines a specific model. Think option 1 works more cleanly as a first step.

Validators should explore their own model for communicating with stakers and including that feedback in their decision. Option 1 keeps things as simple as possible to start with room to evolve as tooling and governance matures

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