cycle_dao Community Sentiment Report

Arthur Falls
Arthur Falls
12/7/2021

Summary

This is a loosely categorised reference document compiled from a survey of Internet Computer community members and “focus group” interviews with representatives of different sectors of the community. The focus was on uncovering tensions experienced by community members, thus most responses can be perceived as negative. This is a deliberate result of the focus of the interviews. Included here are individual opinions and desires for action.

Purpose

This study is intended to enhance the discussion within the “Governance” and “Roadmap” categories in the DFINITY Developer Forum (DDF). As such, community members were approached outside the forum.

This post outlines the tensions we discovered and some solutions put forward by the community. Tensions that were raised but have since been addressed by adopted NNS proposals have largely been removed. Some tensions included here are addressed by proposals nearing submission or initiatives already underway at DFINITY. This is meant as a reference document of the opinions of some members of the IC community. It does not claim to represent the whole community and opinions represented here should not be assumed to be statements of fact.

Methodology

On the 8th of November, cycle_dao sent a survey to all subscribers to the Internet Computer Weekly Newsletter. The survey asked respondents to share their views on the Internet Computer. Individual members of the community were then interviewed - node providers, developers, investors, enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and DFINITY team members. The focus of these interviews was derived from the community survey so as not to bias results. Interviews aimed to identify a tension experienced by the individual and explore that tension. 

All survey and interview data was given privately but with the understanding that it may be made available to individuals, where appropriate, to provide independent validation of the claims of this report. 

Developers

Developers regularly raised issues with the ease of starting out deploying applications to the Internet Computer. They found support lacking and documentation out of date or incomplete.

Developers reporting these issues described several things that could help:

  • Example code for copy/pasting

  • Templates to help bootstrap application development and hosting

  • Plug n’ play frameworks to get simple apps running

  • Improved documentation

  • Improved Chinese documentation

Blockchain oriented developers were concerned that the SDK was not geared toward their use cases and as a result, there was a perception among their peers that the IC could not perform basic functions like deploying tokens. They suggested that the foundation:

  • Ask blockchain developers what they need to be included in the SDK.

Blockchain developers also indicated the paramount importance of being able to run Ethereum Virtual Machine code on the internet computer. The term “EVM Equivalence” was used in reference to this Medium post. Ideas such as EVM subnets or Ethereum sidechains were raised. It was stressed that integration, as described in the existing Ethereum Integration proposal, was insufficient to achieve their goals. One respondent leading a social media team reported advocating for People Parties but said that if they had to choose, would prefer EVM Equivalence.

  • Implement the ability to run EVM code in an Ethereum equivalent environment on the IC.

One respondent disagreed with EVM integration. Their perspective is covered in the strategy section below.

Governance & Economics

Seed participants have a dominant role in governance and so their needs are the most strongly represented, particularly in relation to neuron related tools:

  • Enable neuron merging in Axon

  • DFINITY should support the development of Axon

  • Enable Ledger to interact with neurons on mobile

A clear divide between those active in the governance and roadmap categories in the forums and the rest of the community was present. Many described understanding the importance of different proposals and recognising them in the NNS as difficult. Across the board, participants indicated they were not receiving enough information to make what they felt were sufficiently informed governance decisions. Transparency of the prioritisation of features was also raised as an issue.

It was felt that the UX was too hard to understand and the DFINITY Foundation did not effectively communicate when significant proposals were being submitted. 

  • Need better demarcation between motion proposals and protocol changing proposals and general maintenance proposals. Demarcation must be very clear.

  • Resourcing and expected timeline needs to be included with motion proposals

  • It would be useful to have a clear picture of the workload of the foundation and an understanding of the opportunity costs of a motion proposal.

  • Improve transparency of NNS proposal creation

  • Group significant proposals into regular fortnightly tranches so that the community can pay attention and does not miss out.

Some respondents felt that governance participants should be rewarded for manually voting. Others indicated that followees should receive a cut of the voting reward of their followers to help pay for analysis and reward representative decision making. 

The DFINITY Foundation and Internet Computer Association serving as default neurons were raised as an issue pertaining to centralisation.

  • Incentivize manual voting on motion proposals

  • incentivize following neurons other than DF and ICA

  • Require confirmation of followees every quarter

There were complaints about the economics of the NNS. Some preferred to incentivise longer lockup periods with greater financial incentives. Others were concerned that the economics of the NNS would lead to centralisation of control over time. Some believed removing voting and rewards for the final 6 months of Neuron lockup was preventing new participants from entering the NNS and believed that 8 years was too long. Effectively creating a “forever neuron”.

  • More research into the ICP economics the community preferrs.

  • Education about the economics of the NNS, particularly pertaining to the effects of new token issuance on the investments of current holders. 

Finally, there was a pervasive sentiment that the NNS was not very democratic

Engagement

Across the board, the community felt engagement with the foundation was lacking. A preference for empowering community organisations like ICDevs or DFINITY Community as opposed to directly executing DFINITY Foundation initiatives was expressed. They identified the following solutions:

  • Parties. Internet Computer parties with beverages and food.

  • Dedicated Investor support

  • Regional hackathons

  • Fund external organisations to perform functions rather than executing internally.

 One respondent felt that pre-launch, the interests of seed funders, strategic funders, community organisers, and the foundation were aligned. Today they felt that “everyone is confused and angry”. 

Investors felt under-engaged and requested:

  • An online workshop for seed neuron holders showing how to use Axon, the command line, Quill, & ledger

  • Dedicated support staff.

Communication & Education

Repeatedly focus group participants and survey respondents indicated a preference for communication that put products front and centre as opposed to discussion of performance or team credentials. Plain English explanations were preferred as well as a preference for focussing less on other blockchains in communications.

Crypto-native observers of the world of the IC reported scepticism of the datacenter-hosted model. They are distrustful of the people running IC nodes. There is concern the IC is pitching itself as a settlement/transaction layer when we already have lots of those. Crypto natives report being “pissed off” by the IC narrative as it is currently presented. One individual commented:
“Stop talking about how much it costs to store data on-chain. No one cares”

Respondents appreciated the opportunity to free themselves from Google/Amazon. 

Frustration with a lack of beginner content and a perceived lack of audience awareness was expressed.

Suggestions:

  • Clearly identify the audience we are communicating with.

  • Define the IC product clearly.

  • Define the IC as an application hosting platform. Do not focus communications on the IC as a transaction layer. Leave that to other blockchains for now.

  • Prioritise communication around DSCVR, Entrepot, OpenChat, Distrikt, ICME. Reduce team and performance discussion to the background.

  • Expand marketing department and communicate more broadly in traditional and crypto communities.

  • Do not compare the IC with other blockchains.

Project Support

There was a feeling expressed that the DFINITY was biased toward tools it developed itself, like the Internet Identity System over things like plug & Stoic Wallet. Additionally, some viewed the Foundation as having selected some external projects for special attention while deprioritising others. This they found demoralising.

Suggestions:

  • Outsource maintenance of things like the Internet Identity system, or spin-off into new organisations.

  • Provide transparency into the degree of engagement the DFINITY Foundation is offering different teams

  • Ensure equity of support for external teams or clearly explain the reason for inequity

  • Each of Jan & Dom individually spend one full hour every day with an external project.

  • [Editorial Context:  Not just to offer support, but to understand the recurring problems these projects are encountering, and the way developers are using the IC. Also to make it clear that DFINITY leadership is focused on helping projects in the ecosystem succeed as it is not clear what they are focused on right now.]

Strategy

Some respondents believe that there are too many grand projects fragmenting attention. One outlying individual expressed that in their view, Chainkey and its ability to allow smart contracts for Bitcoin was an “open space in the market with no competition”. They viewed an IC hosted EVM execution environment as conflicting with this position. 

Their concern was that not only would this confuse the message but it would fragment the IC development community and bring an onrush of copy/paste projects from the Eth ecosystem that would crowd out the emerging Motoko/Rust developer base. They pointed out that Solana was successful without EVM integration. 

They believed that the emergence of layer 2 from the Ethereum community ensured those projects had loyal followers. The IC was unlikely to experience the same degree of adoption as a layer 2 because it did not have that loyal Ethereum user base.

Furthermore, this individual stated that it was impossible for the IC to succeed on the general smart contract narrative because it was a highly contested space.

A clear and explicit DeFi strategy was desired describing a path to providing the features required for AMMs, yield farming, investment DAOs, and other primitives.

Suggestions:

  • Push the Chainkey<>Bitcoin Smart Contracts narrative

  • Do not push the EVM narrative

  • Create a DFINITY DeFi Strategy

Organisational

Respondents were appreciative of the DFINITY organisation and its team. They were impressed by the innovation taking place internally on the protocol, and externally, in the ecosystem.

Considerable frustration was expressed about the perceived lack of transparency.

Respondents wanted better information on the process by which the DFINITY Foundation allocates its funds and what projects or startups get funded and how much they each receive.

There was a desire for the Foundation to orient itself to a more open and collaborative development model. Respondents were impressed by the open sourcing of code.

“There should be the same standard in project management as there is in cryptography”

Suggestions:

  • Each motion proposal that allocates development resources within DFINITY should have an open fortnightly call and Q&A with the community to update on progress.

  • DFINITY leadership should have a fortnightly call and Q&A with the community to update progress.

Interface

The non-crypto friendly interface was raised repeatedly. Weak ledger support was frustrating and there was confusion about why Yuibikey support was prioritised. The NNS and Internet Identity Interfaces were both frustration points.

Using the web browser to serve interfaces was seen as a problem because the strange URLs were suspicious and the mobile app model of serving application interfaces is dominant in the world.

It was felt that it was too hard to become a Node provider.

Sentiment

When asked to provide overall sentiment, responses were mixed. The technology, team & creativity was appreciated. The NFT space was a source of enjoyment and levity in the community. The community itself was described as “supportive” & “collaborative”. Social applications were viewed as a breakthrough. Some respondents said they felt DFINITY was realising their dreams for blockchain technology and the ecosystem had excellent growth potential.

However, useability was raised as a serious problem. The launch was felt to have permanently tainted the image of the Internet Computer and this was exacerbated by perceived centralisation and ongoing lack of transparency.

In addition, investors did not have access to the information that they needed to invest and the perception that a group of insiders had an information advantage that they had historically leveraged was seen as a serious issue. This was exacerbated by a perceived hostility to existing investors.

There was a strong feeling that DFINITY “does not have its finger on the pulse”

Respondents disliked what they perceived to be an elitist culture of the IC.

Conclusion

There are a lot of opinions here to unpack. cycle_dao will continue to canvas the community to understand its needs and communicate them with the DFINITY Development Forums.


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