DotLeap - Dot Leap 2024-9: How much for a soul?

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Dot Leap 2024-9: How much for a soul?

Should we pay a surveillance apparatus to get the world to pay attention to us?


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My soul for a pump

The crypto analytics giant Chainalysis recently posted a treasury proposal to integrate Polkadot for a whopping 10 million USD. After a bit of back and forth they reduced this to 7.5m USD.

The DOT community rallied and managed to NAY the proposal, preventing this colossal waste of money, but friendly neighborhood whale Giotto had other plans. In a mutinous attempt to push this through for the sake of widespread industry perception of legitimacy, he recommended to Chainalysis that they post the proposal again - this time on the Root track.

This is where OpenGov drama reaches soap-opera levels: the previous rejection was only successful because of Decentralized Voices being the voices of reason. However, DVs cannot vote on the Root track - the Root track is purely plutocratic on the VC and Founder level. Since Giotto is a power player in that regard, and due to his ties to other top DOT holders, the proposal was expected to pass with ease, but Giotto had a change of heart due to community pushback and organized the ability for the DOT holders to cancel this referendum and so they did.

This spiderweb of refs has for now been resolved, and the root referendum is canceled - CA will not be grifting the treasury... for now.

Let's look at this story from a few different perspectives.

Is Chainalysis necessary?

The argument for the necessity of CA integration is that "serious players need CA support". When encountering such outrageous claims, it helps to remember Hitchens' Razor: "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence".

Even if some megacorp would express marginal interest in Polkadot and even if they were to quote the need for CA as the absolute requirement to start building in the ecosystem, surely expressing this demand publicly would help Parity, W3F, and the DOT holders in general accept the fact that CA is needed, if this is indeed the kind of adoption we need (I say it's not).

Sourabh had the absolutely outlandish idea that CA integration will somehow eliminate child porn and terrorism and other evils from Polkadot, and that the absence of CA will therefore doom Polkadot to such a fate.

Apart from being a rather emabrrasing Think of the children attempt at steering the conversation, this is also a functionally retarded claim in that it asserts that a protocol should or could have such measures somehow built in. CA will do nothing to police the traffic of Polkadot. They might tag addresses and help with doxing, but such tools are not hard to build - it's the data that costs money. My reply here was:

"Polkadot is centralized enough to ref-out anything unpleasant.

With all the "enterprise" leanings, do you think if I put up a "let's paint mohammad" decentralized remark-based picturebook, or a " > πŸ‘©β€πŸ¦°" billboard, the root track wouldn't nuke it out of the chain's history immediately in order to make sure the DEI infested USA-based megacorps or sharia-powered entities from the middle east could use Polkadot?

My point is, polkadot has censorship methods built-in, and chainalysis will help with none of the problems you fear, while at the same time draining the treasury epically, preventing anyone new from coming in in the hopes of getting paid to build something, because the treasury which is much emptier will also be much more conservative."

Is Giotto acting in good faith?

I have no doubt that Giotto, as a very prominent DOT holder, is acting in good faith towards his bags. This is important to realize. He does not care about the technology, idealism, freedom, censorship resistance, or any web3 values whatsoever. All he cares about is getting that pump out of Polkadot, because for every dollar DOT rises in price his holdings increase by several dozen million dollars.

And, if I am being honest, I would be doing the same thing. People are loyal to their biggest comfort, the provider of their longevity, to their own skin in the game of their choosing. They are loyal to their investments and hopes, and not to some idea - e.g. see Bitcoiners for whom centralized entities or smart contracts are only evil until they "adopt bitcoin", then they become the best ever.

As such, I admire Giotto's transparency in all things Polkadot. He has an agenda, and the agenda is: number go up. Nothing wrong with that. But is he acting in good faith towards the ecosystem or towards web3? No. I don't think he's acting badly, he just doesn't even notice it.

Is a lack of industry-standard AML tooling what's actually holding Polkadot back? No, of course not. The problems of Polkadot have been identified many times over.

Unshackled and enthusiastic hackers and devs are driven away by sub-par DX and techno-elitism attitudes from HQ.

Users are mainly driven away by a lack of UX efforts and the creative bankruptcy of the ecosystem, coupled with the paralyzing fear of trying something new in the userland level. Couple that with the fact that these clones of whatever exists in Ethereum have 1% of the TVL, and realistically no user has a reason to pay any attention to Polkadot.

XCM's arcane interface and its bugginess lag behind solutions like those proposed by Polygon, and still offer no novel use cases beyond "move token here, move token there".

Finally, anyone who would like to make a difference is immediately driven away by the completely captured governance system which has devolved into a playground of half a dozen whales.

Polkadot's problem is not a lack of industry level AML. It's the lack of focus on developer experience, lack of focus on UX, lack of creativity and active pushing-out of creative endeavors, and the naivety of the "if you build it they will come" attitude. They will not, because there's maybe 30000 users in crypto total.

Granted, many of these problems are being worked on. DX efforts are underway, UX efforts are also in full gear. I do fear it may be too little too late, but I guess we'll see if we can turn the ship around.

What is the way forward?

Now that we've seen the problem of OpenGov in action and how it can easily be corrupted with enough voting power (and how easy it is for a whale to completely drain the treasury using the Root track), is OpenGov really the way forward?

I've been espousing the brokenness of OpenGov for a while, even going so far as to propose an alternative. But how do you implement something that asks those who need to vote for it to relinquish their power? OpenGov is, in my opinion, unfixable. We will not get to where we need to go with OpenGov or its modifications.

The way forward is not definable because Polkadot has no idea whom it wants to cater to.

Gamers? Then don't push out the ultimate data structure for games.

DeFi degens? Then don't push out the ultimate chain abstraction layer which would allow unprecedented TVL influx and cross-ecosystem DOT utility!

Mom-and-pop investors? Then by all means, keep funding bottom-of-the-ladder Indy500 racers from a country which is borderline homicidal towards any kind of crypto gambling or utility, but I think we all see how that's going to end up.

Builders? Then stop introducing breaking changes, keep a tightly focused set of tutorials and forkable prototypes up to date, and incentivize experimentation. Run a public good ink! chain and incentivize building on it, while maintaining a task force of prototypers and tinkerers whose only mission is to come up with creative stuff on that chain.

But above all - pick a target audience. With a maximum of 30000 active users in crypto globally across all ecosystems combined, the PMF does not exist. Target outside it, but target. Casting a wide net makes no sense here, because anyone can promise that their megacorp needs a particular service only to be wooed by a competing protocol with a grant.

Just as Polygon acquires its third company of builders creating exactly what they need to grow further, it's sad to see this complete loss of focus from Polkadot which should, frankly, be on top of the world given the tech it's put out so far.

We can do better than sell our soul to a surveillance apparatus for a short term micropump.

Let's do better.

Polkadot and Kusama Updates


β›“ Connected Parachains, dApps, and others

🌎 Community & Ecosystem

That's it for this week - I hope this was as useful for you to read as it was for us to write!

Many thanks to Bill Laboon for his daily digest which helps us not miss some important updates!

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Wednesday, March 20, 2024

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