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Witness Update - Running my own softfork (22.3)

When a super-majority of the top witnesses moved forward with soft fork 22.2 on Sunday, I made it clear that I was opposed to the fork. At the time, I was fairly confident that I would drop out of the top 20 as a result, but I opposed it anyway. Well, here I am :)

Now that I am out of the top 20, I have had some time to reflect - and I still 100% stand by my decision. In my mind, Tron's stake belongs to Tron, and I am fundamentally opposed to forcefully restricting the way they use their stake.

That said, we as a community still have some very serious issues we need to address, including:

Security

Tron acquiring this much stake does pose a very real threat to the security of the blockchain. (I'm not saying they will do it, but doesn't it bother you that they currently have the power to elect 20 new top witnesses and freeze all of your accounts?) It is a HUGE concern to me! Again - I am not trying to paint a picture that this is their intent, but the fact that they could do this is a really big problem.

Autonomy

Whether they plan to follow through with it or not, Tron has publicly expressed plans to do some sort of "token swap". I have absolutely no idea what this actually means (or if it is still even being considered) but the thought of it really scares me. We have spent years of sweat blood and tears building this place. I am not about to throw it all away and just cash in my chips and move to a new blockchain.

Past Agreements

Whether Tron was aware of it or not at the time they purchased Steemit, Inc. - the stake they acquired had strings attached. There are many members in the community who bought into Steem (whether that be with time, money, or both) under the premise that the "ninja mined" stake was to be used for a specific set of purposes. Steemit, Inc. selling it to another company so that their shareholders could profit and then allowing the new owner to do whatever they want with it was not part of that original deal.

Trust

We know very little about Tron's intentions. They say they are here to help, but what grounds do we have to trust them? How do we know they will actually use their stake for the good of Steem, and not just line their own pockets and cannibalize what we have built? How do we know they will not just string us along with roadmaps and plans to "make Steem great" - all the while pillaging whatever they can from the community?

My Views

These are all concerns that stakeholders have contacted me with over the past few days, and I assure you that my "no" vote on the soft fork proposal in no way signifies that I do not care deeply about every one of these issues. These are all things that actually keep me up at night, and I am very intent on finding a path forward to address all of them.

Security

The security aspect of soft fork 22.2 was the one thing that almost convinced me to vote 'yes' for it. At the time, I was faced with a yes or no decision. Support the fork or not. As I stated above, I could not get myself to support the fork due to the fact that it placed restrictions on Tron's accounts that I could not support, in addition to addressing the very real security concerns.

Now that things have calmed down a bit, I realized there is another option that I didn't think of before. I have decided to run my own soft fork that blocks some of the same operations as 22.2, but not all.

My 22.3 soft fork will be blocking:

account_witness_proxy_operation
account_witness_vote_operation

(only)

This means that the rules on my node still allow Tron full access to their funds. My node allows them to do whatever they want with their stake except vote on witnesses.

Technical Note: In the current state, if Tron takes any of the restricted actions on their accounts that my node is not blocking - my node will fork and split from the "longest chain" held by the other witnesses. I am a single witness, and by myself I am not able to overthrow the will of a super-majority consensus (by design).

Now many of you are probably asking - how is blocking witnesses votes ok with you? Isn't that a violation of your principles you just talked about above? Aren't you still "forcing" restrictions on Tron's accounts?

My answer to that is 'no'. Justin from Tron already publicly agreed (on the AMA) that he would not use his stake to vote on witnesses. All I am doing is holding him to his word on something that he already voluntarily agreed to.

With this patch, I am effectively preventing Tron from going back on their word. I have no moral qualm with that.

For those of you who are worried about them just powering down their accounts + transferring their stake in order to get around the security measures placed on their current accounts, please see the Trust section.

Autonomy

To me, the answer to this is simple. If Tron makes moves to dissolve Steem, or use us in a way that is exploitative - we should pack our bags and leave. We are 100% able to split the chain and go off on our own without them. Now that is not my desire or intent, but if they want to try and mess with us - bye, Felicia.

Past Agreements

This is a hairy issue. I get that there are a very wide range of views on this, and I'm accepting that I'm in the minority on this topic. I get that there are a lot of old strings attached to the Steemit stake based on the way that it was acquired and the assurances that were made around it. Even though in my mind they are still valid (you can make a decent 'legal' case to justify that the terms are still in place), I am not going to use my witness pursue a forceful enforcement of those terms.

It is my view however that Tron and Steem have a LOT to gain by coming to a mutually agreed to plan for how Tron will steward these funds going forward. I would like to see them honor the spirit of the original agreement, while at the same time give them the autonomy to decide how they plan to act as a stakeholder with their funds. I plan to try and work with them to come up with a solution that everyone can feel comfortable moving forward with.

Two things that are crucial for me to feel comfortable are: a permanent block on all of their accounts to prevent them from voting on witnesses and SPS proposals, and sufficient transparency to prevent them from circumventing this.

Trust

To me, all of these issues circle back to trust. If we can't trust Tron (our largest stakeholder) to act in our best interests, then we are going to continue spending our energy fighting these battles and building up walls.

Trust is the key that we cannot proceed forward without. If we can't get to a point where we trust each other to work together, then this partnership between our two communities is dead-on-arrival.

Let me make it clear, I am not in any way shape or form saying we should just put our faith in Tron and hope everything magically works out for the best. No. What we need to do is sit down with them and have some very real conversations about how this relationship is going to work, and come to agreements on the issues that are important for both sides.

Agreements mean nothing without ways to enforce them. To the extent possible, we should expect that whatever terms we agree to will be enforced on the blockchain by the witnesses going forward (similar to how I am enforcing the agreement that they already made with regard to witness votes).

Things that can't be enforced directly on chain should have checks and balances in place along with courses of action to take in case of violations.

The discussions that we have with Tron over the next several weeks are going to be crucial. I am very bullish on the potential that exists between a Tron and Steem community partnership, and I think we will be able to do great things together. I am going to work very hard to try and turn this opportunity into the best possible outcome for Steem.

All of that said though, there is no guarantee that this "partnership" will work. If Tron and Steem are just too far apart on key issues and not able to bridge the gap, we will have some difficult decisions to make as a community. I hope I have made my position clear in that I will not be doing anything forceful with Tron's stake, but I also don't need to stick around and support their actions + chain either. The Steem community can fork and leave Tron behind. Let's hope that doesn't happen (and all work as hard as we can for things to work out) but never worry that we are going to be trapped here or forced to stay and live out another four years if nothing is going to get better.

Closing Thoughts

Backup witnesses

There are three backup witnesses that recently have been under-appreciated (IMO), and I want to use my little soap box here to highlight what they are up to.

  • @steempress (run by @howo) has been putting in some serious work to test the SMT hardfork. Stakeholders often complain about how witnesses do not do enough testing prior to hardforks. Here is somebody who is actually putting in a lot of work to ensure the SMT hardfork is bug-free, and he's not even a top 20!
  • @ats-witness (run by @ats-david) is somebody that I have known since my early days as a witness. I find that I disagree with him on pretty much everything, but one thing that I can't dispute is his passion for Steem.
  • @netuoso has been essential to the success of the softfork over the past several weeks. He has provided leadership to a diverse and divided group through a very difficult decision process. He also did the heavy lifting to actually develop the soft fork change.

If you have some extra witness votes, I encourage you to consider voting for these witnesses.

My Witness Statement

Whether you agree with my decision on the soft fork or not, I hope that my actions have at least demonstrated the type of witness that I am. I carefully consider proposed changes, and I will do what I believe is right thing for Steem - even if it is an unpopular decision. If you feel that I am the type of witness you want representing you, I would really appreciate your witness vote!

Looking Ahead

Can you imagine if a stakeholder came and bought millions of dollars worth of Steem with plans to improve the ecosystem and community in order to make their stake go up in value?

The next few weeks will shed some light on what type of new stakeholder just entered our community, but I really hope that we have that new stakeholder in Tron.

If they really are here to make things better, then I think the future looks really bright for Steem!

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