27: The Way Forward

It’s been a long couple of weeks for me, and during a time in which there was significant contention in the Pocket community over a number of issues currently at play, including the PEP-49 discussion, the clean division of PNF and PNI, and the foundation’s 2023 budget (as compared to 2022). As opposed to my normally more structured posts, this week, I’m just going to go through all of my thoughts on all of the above.

It’s honestly kind of extraordinary to watch the conversation around the PNI compensation proposal. In the last 12 months, we’ve seen a massive shift in sentiment as the bear market took hold, and in the typical human need to assign blame, criticisms of PNI became the norm. It’s a well established meme in the crypto space that devs should make number go up, but a fair number of folks in our community at large missed the part where that’s a meme.

It’s one thing to point to ways that PNI could have operated more effectively or more efficiently, and we can debate for days about what the variable impact of that would have been, but as long as Pokt remains an illiquid token not exposed to the greater BTC/ETH pairs, it is never going to follow the market pumps tightly. It will shift slowly in response to broader market changes, as people who shift to risk on begin to speculate on illiquid assets. In my opinion, the ONLY thing that would have made a significant difference in last year’s pricing performance would have been the launch of wPOKT, given the greater liquidity access it would have provided to the token.

And now we’re at a place where PNI needs the support of the community at large to weather this last stage of development leading up to the most important launch of the protocol’s history, and instead of focusing on how much PNI has built to this point, and what it will take to stay competitive in this market, a number of folks have decided that it’s a good time to drag the team for every place they fell short of perfect.

I’d love to say that I’m surprised by this, but given how some folks have been hammering the team for months now in the community channels, it’s anything but surprising. Combine hindsight being 20/20 with the natural tendency to armchair quarterback, and it creates the perfect opportunity for people to vent all of their market frustrations in a way that feels like they’re making solid points, without even considering the purpose of the proposal, or the undeniable fact that PNI has built 95% of the protocol to this point.

We have a number of awesome builders in the space, and much speculation has been offered about how they could contribute to the current development timeline, but the fact is, this is an open source project. At any point in time, any team could have been submitting PRs to the repo to help improve the protocol. Some have. And at any point in time, those same teams could have submitted for compensation from the DAO for working on the protocol.

People have brought up paying PoktScan for GeoMesh, when PoktScan has not even chosen to submit a proposal yet. People have brought up the LeanPocket proposal, which was rejected for multiple reasons spelled out in the conversation below it. Thunderhead has as of yet chosen not to resubmit. These are both choices by those teams, and have nothing at all to do with PNI, so it seems disingenuous at best to use them as an argument point. PoktFund’s first proposal was rejected by the community, and they chose to reformat and resubmit, and it was approved the second time around. The argument that the Pocket community doesn’t support builders is not in any way supported by the facts. Hell, SendNodes was payed by the DAO to build a wallet which is a marketing platform for their own noderunning service. The DAO’s funding could have been more spread out over time, but that’s more of a function of proposals entered than rejected. The rejection rate has been very low across a broad number of proposal types, but when the rubber hits the road, most people were building out tooling or marketing tools, not contributing to the protocol directly.

Rejecting PEP-49 would be the first REAL anti-builder thing the community has done, given that no one has built as much of what we all rely on as PNI.

We’re seeing simultaneous attacks on the foundation at large, with some of it reaching conspiracy theory levels of ridiculousness. “What if Jack votes himself a million dollar a year salary?” It’s remarkably illustrative to me that when people evaluate those positions, some of them approach it from a maximally extractive perspective that in my opinion projects their own views of the project more than a value judgment of the directors. The foundation team has driven the movement towards being truly credibly neutral based on their shared beliefs that the DAO needs to be able to operate independently, with transparency and oversight.

This particular line of attack is extraordinary given how incredibly effective our DAO governance has been in many significant ways:

  • Pocket DAO’s governance structure presents a unique case study in protocol governance. Despite only minting 55 governance tokens to date, Pocket DAO governance remains exceptionally active, with more than 50% engagement on some of the DAOs most recent votes.

  • A proof-of-participation model creates a uniquely flat power dynamic in DAO governance and contributes to a strong technical foundation, which may allow the DAO to explore new primitives in on-chain identity and governance.

It’s incredible to me to see blatantly false claims like “the DAO is mostly employees of PNI” (about a quarter of DAO voters are current or previous employees), or that the DAO is anti-builder given that the vast majority of reimbursement proposals have passed with strong support. When a proposal is rejected, it’s generally rejected with a clear majority and clear explanations for why spelled out in the conversation.

It’s time for us to get past the noise, and focus on the way forward.

We don’t do that by endlessly relitigating perceived failures of the past. We don’t do that by taking shots at PNF directors or PNI leaders. We don’t do that by venting our frustrations over market forces and token prices. And we certainly don’t do that with whataboutisms and falsehoods designed to sow doubt and distrust.

We do that by doing what we’ve done best over the last year and a half: coming together as a community, focusing on the future, and working together to support the movement towards our v1 deliverables later this year. I know it’s been frustrating going through a bear market when so many of us are so heavily invested in this ecosystem. And I know how tempting it can be to use the forum as a place to express frustration.

But is any of this healthy for the protocol?

It’s critical for us to stay focused on the goal: a fully decentralized and permissionless protocol that becomes fully censorship resistant by architecture. PNI as a development organization is critical to that outcome. A healthy DAO and community participation are certainly a critical part of that, but it’s important that we don’t let the conversation get shaped by those who want to use this opportunity to build political power, and when the conversations around proposals are being used as attack vectors instead of simple evaluations of the merits of the proposal, that’s what happens.

PNI has put thousands of labor hours into the protocol, and is the only team capable of carrying it across the finished line. They need the ability to build incentives for their talent to offset paycuts they’ve laid out in order to retain the key builders on their team. These are the only considerations that are important for PEP-49. And they have been remarkably transparent about the details of all of that.

The foundation is now credibly neutral, and Jack and the rest of the Directors are wasting no time putting together programs and incentives to help engender greater participation from the community at large in their first term. Using budgetary proposals to attempt to reshape the structure of the foundation is a governance attack, plain and simple. Does the directorate have the tools and budget to achieve the goals they’ve spelled out? These are the only considerations that are important to the budgetary proposals. Changes to governance should be litigated in their own standalone proposals.

I am deeply proud of the community we’ve built over the last two years. The level of active participation, the deep care that most of these folks have, the passion and love that so many bring to the table, it’s really extraordinary. Seeing so many of you in person, lifting a beer, spending long hours talking about why we’re here, what we believe in, why Pocket matters.

THIS is the heart of the Pocket community. Not the political factions. Not the popularity contests or the persecution fetishes. The true believers in a decentralized web3, who agree that Pocket Network is the single best path forward to achieve that. I stand with all of you, as I have since the beginning.

Let’s push this thing forward.