Governance is hard… Appreciate your thoughts on this @burrrata, here and in your latest response on the Discourse Director topic. It’s good to be able to learn from your hard-won experience in these other governance experiments. After digesting, dreaming about this last night (my life these days), and thinking about this some more, have come up with a possible path.
First, in my mind there’s now a distinction between the SourceCred Foundation (or whatever legal entity we set up), and the SourceCred community. While I think it’s good we’re grappling with all these governance issues now, I worry about scope. We’re already building a new reputation protocol (a massive undertaking in its own right). Are we also going to solve large unsolved issues in decentralized governance at the same time? While I think SourceCred presents a unique opportunity to address some of these issues (main reason I’m here), and other projects will look to us for best practices from our dogfooding, as you point out, we need to efficiently make decisions and direct resources. Also, SourceCred the protocol/application will get used in lots of ways we can’t imagine, and plug into many different types of governance experiments. Then again, as inspirational as GitLab and DRIs are, I don’t want to work at GitLab…i.e. a corporate hierarchy with innovative collaboration mechanisms. I just got off the phone with a friend who went to work for GitLab, who I called to ask about their structure. She was thinking about quitting. They just doubled in size from 500 to 1,000 people in a year, are firing people left and right as they continually reorganize and push everyone hard towards an exit (they’re shooting for next year). Lots of great things to learn from there, and DRIs make sense as a concept. But I think we have the room to do better. Perhaps that takes the form of a somewhat more “traditional” (only traditional by bleeding edge OSS/crypto standards) centralized entity like a foundation with typical corporate/non-profit governance (board of directors/trustees, employees with titles, etc.) that drives development of the core product, and a wider community the foundation supports with its resources. Perhaps this will also help attract talent and investors that aren’t comfortable with investing in technology experiments that are also governance experiments. I think however that the crypto space has done a lot of work exploring new models, some of which are working and applicable. Below is a thought experiment that outlines a path to decentralization that I think is compatible with all of the possibilities discussed so far. tldr; we can have hierarchies if they’re permissionless and “leaky”, with investments routed through the graph.
We get away from the problem of @decentralion being TBD by making the creation of initiatives and boosting of those initiatives permissionless. You can assign yourself “champion” of an initiative you create yourself. You can also create an initiative and assign someone else to it. This person is the DRI. At our current stage, the TBD still currently controls cred flow to initiatives, via manual mode. “Unfunded” initiatives and their champions are free to work on what they want. Even if it’s just a fun, frivolous endeavor, or long-shot experiment that “SC core” doesn’t care to fund, preferring to direct resources to more important initiatives. Work around these “unfunded” initiatives should show up as normal activity, similar to any other work in an OSS project, flowing a nominal amount of cred/Grain to contributors. If work from unfunded initiatives becomes valuable later on, cred and grain will flow retrospectively, as it should. And having initiatives created along the way will help organize that cred flow (retrospective curation). At this stage, it doesn’t make much sense for people to create initiatives they know won’t get funded. However, once boosting is implemented (the main mechanism that generates utility for the Grain token), further decentralization is enabled. Other contributors within the project now have the ability to vote with their Grain (skin-in-the-game) in a non-binary, engaging way. Kind of like having mini Patreon feeds that also function as prediction markets/investments. This should actually be fun and engaging, not dreary form filling (I love using patreon/brave). This breaks the monopoly on funding the TBD currently has, harnessing the collective intelligence of the community. Directors and other “old guard” at this point have also built up large positions in cred/grain through their work funded by the TBD. This allows them more freedom to independently of the TBD direct funds through boosting, further diversifying funding of initiatives and flowing power to the edges. This also opens the possibility for outside parties (e.g. investors) to buy Grain and invest in initiatives they find valuable, decentralizing power outside the project. In addition, as individual community members interact with different initiatives and contributions, building other people’s visions, they build a “position” in the graph. This begins to create a robust, coercion-resistant flow of cred->Grain->$, should they need it to pay bills. In this way, there is a clear hierarchy based on the usual mechanisms (direction of funds/resources by those at the top). But this hierarchy is “leaky”, flowing cred around to all contributors over time, spreading investment and decision-making power to the edges. Once individual contributors’ income becomes “antifragile”, they can afford to speak truth to power, creating more equality and better communication between labor and capital.
Potential for binary (hired/fired) coercion still exists in hierarchical permissions (e.g. GitHub and Discourse). This is unavoidable for now. SourceCred core can’t allow anyone merge access. Likewise, if it grows it will eventually need to ban toxic/abusive actors if other methods fail (this is a truth even “free speech maximalist” crypto projects have learned the hard way). This can be mitigated in ways we’re exploring in Discourse Admin trust model. Namely by making the project more easily fork-able with shared permissions, backups, and other methods to decentralize control over infrastructure. Discourse actually has a really interesting solution in its trust levels, which could be useful.
Forking under this scheme can also possibly solve the issue of forking an asset that has acrused financial value. By building up a cred “position” in a community, a contributor also has the ability to liquidate into Grain->$ should they want to exit (e.g. if a corporation they are morally against buys into the project). They just sell all their cred for grain, or keep their cred position and just cash “grain dividends” while they work on a new project (perhaps a fork of SourceCred created with other dissident contributors). In this way, the original project pays indirect dividends to forked projects.
Curious to hear thoughts!