Adopt Snapshot + Aragon for binding governance

I don’t trust that the collection of forum responses thusfar expresses a meaningful quorum of YFI token holders’ actual thoughts about this proposal. I wouldn’t dismiss Andre’s introduction of this idea as just a dopamine fix. Aragon have top minds and have been working for a long time on hard governance issues. I for one believe they are a well intentioned community and could be a compatible fit for integration into the Yearn ecosystem.

Now, we recently switched over to a multisig in order to streamline decision-making process because “developers were being held back by governance”. However, since I’m not involved in the day to day governance and decision-making within Yearn, I’d like to see replies from those who are. Can we please hear from as many of the 20+ employees and current multisig holders as are willing to share? Would Andre spare some cycles to further flesh out his perspective on why this might be a positive direction to pursue?

Should we explore whether to reside in the jurisdiction of the Aragon court and be subject to their dispute resolution process? How would this compare to our current dispute resolution process?

As well intentioned and trusted as people are, let’s not be naive and forget history, even within crypto there have been major rifts in large communities that have resulted in catastrophe. Would the Aragon Court help us navigate these inevitable future disputes?

Ultimately, we need to be thinking carefully about minimizing attack surface, especially whatever is exposed from internal disputes. Think about the situation with bitcoin.com, /r/btc and @bitcoin (twitter). Bad disputes can tear great communities to shreds.

So I can’t say I’d vote yes today, but I definitely want to explore this idea more. I just question whether this forum is an appropriate medium for that exploration, the signal to noise ratio is pretty dense.

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Moving to a completely decentralized system would make yearn more anti-fragile.

This is overkill for a problem we don’t have. Governance is working via this forum, snapshot, Discord, TG and already decentralized staking/voting.

Perhaps in the future we can code up a solution to limit or veto the actions of the multisig if it get’s to that point but right now I don’t see this as a pressing issue.

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I agree with this. I think we need some more input from people who are actively involved in yearn governance to balance out opinions from those who only see it from the outside (myself included). I’ll add in here that my professional background is in governance of complex adaptive systems, specifically looking at capturing and maintaining wide ranges of value. I comment from this perspective.

I think there has been a misunderstanding here. I am not suggesting that you should offer your product or services for free. That would be entirely unreasonable.

I am saying that the current tradeoff you make to discourage illegitimate actions, by making an attack prohibitively expensive, is directly at odds with your principles of free and fair access. In this case I would argue that free and fair access means free from overly onerous capital requirements to participate.

As things currently stand, decision making power is heavily skewed to those with the most amount of capital. This means we have the same problem as traditional finance, that in order to be able to participate effectively, you need to have amounts of capital unattainable by large proportions of the userbase or system. This power imbalance skews governance decisions to benefit them, rather than the userbase. In the long term, you create a system with a vicious cycle where the wealthy have the most power, who use that to increase their wealth, and their power.

It also exposes a large risk area where one persons actions could cause a significant risk to the sense of community if the actions are seen as self serving.

This is completely contradictory to purported values and stories referenced in the original post.

The post that @0xBoxer linked covers this argument in more detail. It is well worth reading for anyone interested in this proposal.

I do not believe it is unreasonable to request a governance system that does not explicitly reward those with the largest amounts of capital, with the most power. In fact, this is exactly what many in this space, including yourselves, are trying to prevent.

This is why I suggested quadratic voting as a potential solution. Why would this not be sybil resistant? I would appreciate a technical summary of why this is not implementable. I do not claim to be an expert in this area, but would like to understand the complexities involved (if any).

One could also set a number of requirements such as: X number of people, X amount of capital, with no one person staking more than X amount of capital.

This both crowd-funds disputes, and allows for a more fair community oriented process which would incentivise discussion.

As things currently stand, I do not believe you’ve adequately addressed this flaw.

I also want to acknowledge that the flaws that I am pointing out here are also currently present in the current voting system. My opinion is that if we are to move to a different governance system, then existing critical flaws should be addressed during the transition.

I do believe that governance issues are critical in this space, and I think these discussions are highly valuable. I agree with the values and principles that your organisation espouses, and I hope you can succeed in what you set out to do. But as it currently stands, I think there are some critical flaws.

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Hello Yearn! I’m an Aragon community member. Super excited about this discussion, we love governance and think a lot about it so I thought I might try and help out by answering some questions.

The court’s parameters for these mechanics are configurable by the yearn community. This allows the community to decide their own balance between discouraging illegitimate actions and making participation prohibitively expensive. All of the power of these mechanics lies in the hands of the yearn community.

I could not agree more, and this is exactly the problem this proposal is trying to solve. Seriously, so much yes to this. Well put.

By allowing anyone with X capital to raise a dispute before an action gets executed, it can be evaluated by an impartial 3rd party whose only incentives are to uphold the agreement the yearn community has laid out that all proposals must abide by.

In other words, once an agreement is set, anyone with X capital can dispute and potentially stop an action from passing even though X is significantly lower than the amount necessary to sway votes through a simple stake weighted voting system.

Finding X will be a very, very interesting discussion. But just keep in mind, whatever X is, it will be an order of magnitude (or several) lower than the amount needed to have an impact on voting as an individual currently.

At the simplest level, the court system forces all proposals to abide by certain conditions provided by the community, no matter how many votes certain interest groups have. This protects the values and power of the community, making even the largest capital holders abide by the agreement laid out.

Quadratic voting is vulnerable to sybil attacks. Quadratic voting increases the relative voting weight of individual voters as compared to their stake. Sybil attacks involve creating an arbitrary numbers of accounts due to the low cost of creation. Quadratic voting in a non-sybil resistant system results in single actors splitting their voting weight among many accounts, which is arguably worse than simple linear stake weighted voting.

All the best! Wonderful discussion happening in this thread.

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Thank you very much for this clarification, that clears up many issues that I have with this. I appreciate the way that your community has responded to the questions in this thread.

I had thought through this to an extent, but I now realise that any stop gap measures, including what I proposed, are vulnerable enough to gaming as to make them worthless in the long run.

I guess the only antidote to this is KYC, that a provable individual is voting. And the only way that will be acceptable is if it can maintain complete privacy. One exciting solution to this, in my view, is DECO. The general idea being to use ZK proofs to prove private data such as identity without actually revealing that private data.

As things currently stand, I would support this proposal. I think this is the most that can be achieved with current governance tools available.

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I think this is super reasonable. I would actually love to hear the personally perspective of multisig signers and to what extent they have appetite for making the change soon, as the responsibility and potential legal liability is growing by the minute.

I would love quadratic voting as well and Optimistic Snapshot can support it.

The issue with QV, is that in order for the system not to be gameable, you need something to ensure that each voter is a different entity (probably not worth it to get into the philosophical discussion of what should be considered a different entity now).

If you don’t have a system that guarantees individuality, someone owning 100 YFI could either vote honestly and get √100 YFI = 10 votes or split their YFI among say 10 accounts and get 10 * √10 YFI = 10 * 3.1622 = 31.622 votes. Someone that splits their stake into the same number of accounts as their number of YFI will have their voting power be equal to their stake. This makes the system linear effectively, but only for those willing to go through the hustle of splitting their tokens, which makes it worse than just having basic token-weighted voting.

From this we infer that a mechanism to ensure individuality is a requirement for any quadratic mechanism. Individuality is a complex topic even for humans, let alone a smart contract. There are solutions like BrightID that could be used, but everything I have seen brings too much subjectivity and attack surface for my taste.

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Pickle.Finance is just starting out and they have successfully implemented it. So Snapshot support is definitely given.

I would guess when you say “conditions” you mean agreements as described on your website. Is there any resource to see in how much level of detail these have been implemented in other projects?
I would assume that given the scale and scope of this project it would be quite hard to formalize an agreement and make it so well written such that it doesn’t have any hidden loopholes or room for misinterpretation. If you could give insights for the creation and implementation for such agreements it would greatly be appreciated.

I am open to exploring Aragon-related governance tools and how they may benefit Yearn; however, I would be absolutely against turning over jurisdiction of Yearn to the Aragon Court for reasons that have already been mentioned in this thread.

Yearn is chartering new ground as a DAO with substantial cash flows with a generally engaged and informed set of active owners. I think the current community governance process is adequate and we should bolster it iteratively as we learn more, but it’s too early to remand it to another app. I believe the current mulit-sig construction provides a good balance of adequate security and the ability to still move quickly to adapt to a rapidly evolving market. If more decentralization is desired, I would recommend instead moving towards more multi-sig signers for now.

There may be value in looking at elements of the Aragon stack in the future, but for now, I would personally prefer to keep things clean and not add unneeded complexity to DAO operations.

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EDIT: I’ve updated this post to reformulate my thoughts. What I get for posting while tired :sweat_smile:

I think this point of view is more than reasonable.

I would love to hear how multisig signers feel about the OP and the discussion. We plan to submit a formal proposal based on all of the excellent feedback we have received thus far though I can’t help but think the input of the signers is among the most relevant feedback for us and the rest of the community to hear.

Some in this thread wish to maintain the status quo. Some have said they support our tentative proposal. Andre happens to support it, which we’re grateful for, and value highly, but understand what the community wants is all that matters. That includes the signers. What do they support?

It has been suggested we’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Make no mistake, it exists, it’s called multisig governance.

Kicking the can down the road to transition away from multisig governance will always be a temptation.

When would be the appropriate time to begin transitioning to community governance? When there’s a disruption to the status quo? What sort of disruption? Is that when we want to start transitioning?

Starting this transition sooner than later is what’s in the best interest of yearn, despite how uncomfortable that may feel to some. I hope the community can recognize the excellent position they are in to start this process.

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Aragon is one of the most trusted and well-formulated Governance pertaining in the Blockchain space. as we all know.

Would be more than happy to have Yfi integrate with them.

Just being a bit formal here… would be nice if Andre could actually make decisions on futuristic proposals relating to the governance model.

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Disclosure: Jose here from Delphi Digital. Delphi Ventures holds positions in both YFI and ANJ

I totally agree that governance in itself is a library to import rather than a product to pay for. That said, while “governance as a service” is what Aragon provides (and it is indeed free), it’s not what Aragon Court provides nor is it the point of this proposal.

Simplistically, courts in the traditional world act as an external, independent third party which individuals/organisations can access in case others act in a way which doesn’t abide by either: a) their predefined contractual relations b) the governing law. While b) doesn’t exist in crypto, a) does, representing the wet and dry code individuals agree to when coming together to form a DAO.

I understand the concerns regarding sovereignty, but from my perspective Yearn’s governance would still be self-sovereign. The Yearn community defines the rules and values by which it seeks to operate while the Court merely enforces them in case they’ve been broken. Crucially, it seems to me that this enforcement role must always be played by an independent, neutral, external third party since it is effectively a bug in the governance system and thus cannot be solved recursively by the very governance system where the bug lies. For a simple example of this, see the link on DAO 51% attacks that Jorge posted.

To use an analogy from the traditional world, Yearn would still remain the legislative and executive branches, creating the laws, making decisions and executing them. The Court would be the judiciary, an independent branch acting as a check on faulty governance decisions. In the long term, separation of powers ensures Yearn can be run optimistically, with an agreement specifying Yearn’s values and by-laws, and a few appointed people making decisions quickly, all held in check by the possibility of being taken to Court.

To be clear, Yearn should still ensure its governance is as robust as possible such it is mostly self-sovereign and the Court is called upon as infrequently as possible. Court cases and decisions will also help this by providing data to the Yearn legislative branch (i.e. the DAO) which can be used to alter the by-laws to ensure cases don’t happen again… That said, I believe the Court should still always be there as a safety valve or governance insurance layer to protect from governance bugs, i.e. actions that aren’t in accord with Yearn’s values/by-laws.

In terms of rent-seeking, similar to a Layer 1 PoS system, the Court’s security is based on its market cap and it’s pretty important that a robust fee market develops to sustain this (as well as to prevent Sybil attacks in the form of spurious claims). Over time, the fee market should trend to the cost of security with minimal to no rent extraction on top of this. In addition, as should be clear above, the Court should be used as little as possible and merely exist as an insurance layer, with the agreement being altered by Yearn holders in response to each case to prevent future disputes. That said, I agree its current market cap is a serious security issue and would endorse gradual adoption where multi-sig users retain veto power.

Further down the line, I also see the Court as potentially playing an interesting role in facilitating inter-DAO collaboration and agreements. Given the size of YFI and the number of verticals in crypto that it touches, it seems to me the Court could be a pretty important piece of infrastructure to enable it to keep growing synergistically alongside other DAOs and expanding the design space for potential collaboration.

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Governance is a feature, not a product…Aragon trying to sell us to pump their bags…unless there’re specific use cases this would enable, and I’d be more comfortable with our multi-sig as the judicial branch than a bunch of people we don’t know with their own incentives

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Finally read through all of this. What a delight to read such a thoughtful discourse.

@jorge thanks for such detailed and considered posts and for sharing your insights here. DeFi’s community is our superpower, the composability and camaraderie. I am inclined to work together and support each other.

I also don’t think any partnership needs to be equal as long as it’s mutually beneficial positive for DeFi and the world. DeFi needs conflict resolution processes, every multi-person system does. I’m not sure Aragon court is the best one but I sure as hell want to help it if we can, so no problems here paying jurors and helping Aragon grow if it provides benefit to yearn too.

That being said, I also agree with many of the counterarguments here. I don’t think we need to rush this. I don’t see an immediate need for Aragon Court yet and would rather evolve our systems and take on the workload and stress of change and growth based on present tensions, not speculative assumptions.

But the beauty is this does not need to be a binary decision. I think we can modify this proposal in way that does solve immediate pain points and allows us to experiment and learn at a natural pace.

I think 1 is already in our YIP template, though perhaps needs more emphasis. And 2 is a great addition and I love the wisdom in foregrouding this now.

Current Problems to Solve

  • Guiding Principles
    • We don’t have a clearly written set of guiding principles to aid in aligning and cohering our collective intelligence.
    • why now? many have asked for this and it would help with everything from our copywriting to strategy creation
  • Conflict Resolution
    • We don’t have a conflict resolution process beyond reliance on trusted elders. I have to say though I think with our community and elders this is like 99% fine for now, but it would be nice to start experimenting with alternatives
    • why now? less pressing but worth starting to think about and experiment with now
  • YIP Process
    • Our current UI for YIP development is github and requires a lot core team support, team members spend a good deal of time checking the forum for proposals that could become YIPs and working with authors to create them
    • why now? save a lot of time, make it easier for anyone to participate in governance
  • Execution Automation
    • We need to add automation to the YIP process and snapshot execution
    • why now? hmm, not certain actually but I defer to Andre and the team on this

I can’t imagine a better partner than Aragon to work with on a lot of this stuff. Let’s find a way to do this.

The Court Problem

I’m not going to repeat the many wise posts concerned with adding the courts and jumping into an untested system. I agree with them. And I want to play with Aragon Courts! And I think they could come in handy.

Modification to this Proposal

  1. Implement the Aragon DAO for the UI
  2. Draft Aragon Agreements to hold and iterate on our principles
  3. Work with Aragon and Balancer to add execution automation to Snapshot
  4. And keep the multisig as it is but give it a new option: send to Aragon Court.

Mutlisig would still be empowered and it would still have the capability to execute and veto as it does now. We’d just be giving it a 3rd option. If a case arises where there is a conflict and the mutlisig feels it’s appropriate for Aragon Courts, they can pay from the treasury to send the conflict to there for adjudication. This would give us a nice fallback in case a sticky issue comes up we can’t deal with on our own and also let us test out the court system by sending some stuff there even if we could solve it ourselves just to experiment.

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maybe u are comfortable with this but are the people in the multisig comfortable taking on this liability for an extended period of time? and anyways shouldn’t we be striving toward trust minimization rather than relying on trusted third parties? in this case the multisig is the trusted third party, we only have their word to go on that they will be honest while aragon court jurors have an incentive to issue correct ruling.

the multisig has been great for removing power and liability from andre as the centralized founder. and as jorge proposal says the multisig will still have a role to play for the forseeable future. but imo this move toward more decentralization, more direct control by yfi holders with aragon court as neutral third party arbitrator in case of a dispute is important to strengthen the resilience and therefor the value of the project.

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Echo @aliatiia’s concerns, in particular the security assumptions. While absolutely for decentralizing governance and removing the need for Multisig, I am against adding this many external dependencies to the governance process.

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I want to reiterate that yearn would not use Aragon Chain at all. 100% of the interactions and dependencies are native to Ethereum.

The implementation of the current proposal would depend on Aragon Court indeed, but that’s a protocol running on Ethereum mainnet.

Does Aragon have a plan for layer 2 scaling?

Would we be able to stay that way? What are your plans for Aragon Chain?

If we started using Aragon for governance and liked it, would we have to switch to Aragon Chain sometime in the future?

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Aragon Court is our layer 2 scaling strategy for now. I will write more on this soon.

Yes, always.

No, this will not be forced. Aragon on Ethereum will always keep on working and be at feature parity with Aragon in Aragon Chain (except for potential improvements that we can do because we control the L1, but those are not planned for the short term)

Yearn could decide to migrate, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Currently planning to launch mainnet before the end of the year. The idea is that it will be a completely different environment targeted for another user group: new communities that are not necessarily crypto native.

Aragon One’s strategy is to focus supporting projects like yearn on Ethereum. We have two devs (out of ~10) part time helping ChainSafe getting Aragon Chain ready for mainnet right now, we will probably ramp up a bit before launch and the idea is to scale down before the end of the year. Ideally in 2021, no Aragon One developer will work on Aragon Chain since someone else will own the effort completely.

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