Deescalating Escalations in Ethereum

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Some ethereum developers have signed a letter which in its leaked draft version spoke of an angry mob and said the undersigned “believe Ethereum community is a progressive community.”

The final version speaks of “a wave of verbal violence.” It has removed the description of eth as a “progressive community” and rightly denounces any personal threats.

There apparently was one reddit comment which was quickly removed. We don’t know what it said as it had been removed by that point, but some say it went too far.

Personal threats, of course, are completely unacceptable and they should be forwarded to the authorities. Moreover anyone who makes a personal threat is intimidating both sides to any given debate – even if they are aimed at just one side – because both sides usually have public figures.

People must feel safe to speak out and/or to continue being a public figure. That takes priority over everything else.

It is also the case that some of the language used after a tweet by Afri Schoedon of Parity Tech was way over the top.

The letter says “contributors are entitled to express personal opinions through any medium they choose” and of course that’s very much right.

Schoedon, or anyone else, is entitled to think Polkadot is everything ethereum 2.0 hopes to be. Just as ethereans are entitled to wonder whether that might not complicate matters in regards to ethereum and the Parity client.

The latter has just merged ProgPoW, a proposal that is currently undergoing a holders vote. That doesn’t necessarily have any effect on the ethereum network itself, but it’s a curious action.

Parity Ethereum

About 30% of ethereum nodes are currently running the Parity client. That is maintained by Parity Tech, even though it is the Ethereum Foundation (EF) that is paying for it through a $5 million grant.

The grant is paid gradually, based on reaching set milestones. Who is in charge of giving these grants or of analyzing whether a milestone has been achieved or otherwise, is not clear.

Nor is it clear how the launch of Polkadot might complicate matters in regards to the parity client. Gavin Wood, co-founder of Parity and Polkadot, said “friendly competition is always good.” While the letter says:

“Many ecosystem members have voiced valid concerns regarding influential players’ perceived or potential conflicts of interest…

We also believe these concerns are valid, though designing a solution that the community can rally around will take time and lots of input.”

Parity Tech itself has made no official statement in regards to whether there might be any conflict of interest and how they aim to address it. Nor has the Ethereum Foundation in an official capacity.

Parity does however manage clients for other networks, including bitcoin, but effectively no one runs their client there.

Ethereum, of course, has many clients, including Geth which is managed by the Ethereum Foundation. In many ways thus, any potential conflict of interest might not matter as people can simply run a different client if they so wish.

But there can potentially be situations where it does matter as all clients have to be in sync. When the Metropolis testnet was launched in October, it was found that Parity and Geth were actually not in sync.

Parity and Geth, A Game of Thrones?

The matter had something to do with how they calculate certain results. At the time Parity devs complained about lack of communication from EF which they said manages the specification process.

There may be certain assumptions made, they said, and those assumptions might lead to small differences which might cause consensus issues.

That small difference delayed the fork for about three months, even though arguably it could have been done within a week or two as the guy in charge of testing said he could finish it before Devcon4.

The much anticipated fork and eth issuance reduction, thus, had to wait. Likewise, almost nothing was revealed about Devcon 4 save for three days or so before the actual conference. Even then, the agenda managed bu Hudson Jameson was in draft form.

These pages, of course, wanted to talk about what are the topics, who will speak, but we couldn’t gain any clarity in a reasonable time-frame. So we, and plenty others, covered Polkadot.

Szilagyi, who is in charge of Geth, was asked for clarification, but he did not provide any. There have, however, been tensions between the two clients, and sometime they get out in the open.

Dismissing Criticism

The failure of the signed letter to address any of the fundamental issues, with the letter authored by someone who admits she is biased, has been met with criticisms of being tone deaf.

The letter, moreover, conflates different matters and at points reads like an attempt to silence criticism. It says, for example, “Lane Rettig’s thoughtful post on increasing diversity in the space sparked unnecessary ad hominem comments.”

Rettig’s lengthy and thoughtful statement on eth governance last month, diverges at the end into political issues. He says:

“My vision of Ethereum is that it matures into a platform for humans everywhere to build, transact, and participate in the technology and economy of the future. Despite our best intentions, there is simply no way that a room full of privileged, Western, white men can envision, design, or build such a platform without a much broader set of stakeholders.”

Plenty had different views and they expressed them. The signers of that letter, however, apparently thought those views are adhominem as the letter links to an entire thread, rather than any specific comment.

Dismissing criticism as adhominem doesn’t help to create a more civilized level of discussion. It would be much more helpful, instead, to get an official response on how this perceived conflict of interest can be addressed or whether it will be addressed at all. So far it looks like the latter.

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