Editorial 23 May 2017Eli Afram
What Real Leadership Looks Like
When developers build an open source community project that ends up being backed by millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars, there comes a shift in responsibility. A developer of any major crypto-currency becomes entrusted to lead the way, to improve, to enhance, and to galvanize the support of those invested.
It’s no easy feat. The level of responsibility that developers take on, and the burden they carry, can sometimes be overwhelming. It is therefore not a job for the faint of heart, but let me also stress it is certainly not a job for those who simply lack good leadership skills.
Ethereum’s market share recently passed 50% of Bitcoin’s total and it should be noted that Ethereum has also recently become more profitable to mine than Bitcoin. This change in dominance, and the move in network effect, has been termed as the “flippening”.
It never needed to happen.
With solid leadership, Bitcoin could have been everything it is today and much more. To be a part of a lead development team for a multi-billion dollar community project means that you need to have skills that extend far beyond mere coding. This means listening and taking feedback from users, businesses, investors, economists, and the greater eco-system. Forging relationships can build integrity. Perhaps one of the most important attributes, however, is trust. Without establishing trust, like in any structure requiring some leadership, there is no direction, and hence no progress.
So we find ourselves in limbo on the Bitcoin front. We are eternally trapped at an artificial 1MB blocksize, which doesn’t appear set to increase any time soon. Segwit and Lightning Networks seem even further away. No matter the direction of Bitcoin, one thing for certain is that Core have failed to unite and galvanize the community.
Although Bitcoin is heavily losing its marketshare, the true extent of the fallout has yet to be realized. And it won’t be pretty.
Ironically, Ethereum’s leadership has had its share of challenges. It wasn’t too long ago when “The DAO” smart contract was deployed and then revoked with all funds restored to investors through a hardfork deployed by the Ethereum Foundation. The ‘refund’ hardfork was initiated after it was discovered an ‘attacker’ started siphoning investor’s money after identifying a loophole in the programming of the contract. The “Code is Law” catchphrase was now suddenly in question. Ethereum was no longer immutable it seemed, and “Ethereum Classic” was suddenly born from a minority forked chain. While it was a community decision to enact the hardfork, questions remain over the approach, and the default option on the client which was preselected to hardfork.
So what does real leadership look like?
That answer landed on my lap a week ago, when Monero developer Riccardo “fluffypony” Spagni, posted a full disclosure of a major bug discovered in Monero’s software. I wasn’t so much impressed with the disclosure of this bug, but moreso, as to how it was handled, and particularly with the efforts and communications undertaken with the wider crypto community.
It was in February earlier this year in fact that a member of Monero Research Lab discovered an exploit which affects all CryptoNote-based currencies which allows for the creation of an unlimited number of coins in a way that is undetectable to an observer. The Monero team immediately took the appropriate steps and scanned the blockchain to see if it was compromised – thankfully it wasn’t. A vulnerability quickly then patched along with a host of other changes which did well to conceal its criticality. The patch was rushed out under the guise of preventing a DoS attack (in order to urge miners and exchanges to upgrade). Once Monero’s network was updated, Monero’s dev team took charge of the issue and notified dev teams of all affected coins – that is, all cryptos based on the cryptonote protocol. These dev teams were given a one month timeline to upgrade their software, and last week Monero devs disclosed all the details of these events.
This was a large vulnerability which could have compromised the Monero blockchain, as well as the integrity of every other Cryptonote coin out there – which no doubt would have sent investors panicking. Monero Core’s measured response, however, kept the entire drama under cover, did not raise suspicion, ensured no damage was done, and furthermore went on to make sure that other competing coins were also not affected. At the end of it all, a full disclosure was made by Riccardo Spagni on Monero’s official blog.
It is this sort of behavior which yields trust, and confidence. And as I mentioned “trust” is pivotal in leadership.
There need to be no “secret meetings”, back-door deals, uncompromising positions on roadmaps, and scalability efforts.
Sadly, with the current Bitcoin Core dev team, cries for change, or compromise in scaling, fall on deaf ears. Recently CEO of BitPay Stephen Pair tweeted “a typical #bitcoin transaction costs $1.80 now, >200k unconfirmed transactions, time for a hard fork to larger blocks … 8mb please”.
In today’s modern age, leaders cannot be dictators. Leaders need to listen, sometimes compromise, adapt to changing conditions, and ultimately unite a community. Monero dev’s approach is truly an example to the greater crypto-community. One that we hope can be learnt from.
Eli Afram M.IT
Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as BTC coins; tokens on the Bitcoin Cash ABC chain are referenced as BCH, BCH-ABC or BAB coins.
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