Proposal: Nouns funding the Protocol Guild Pilot

Authors: Trent Van Epps (PG Member), Tim Beiko (PG Member)

Useful links

Summary

This is an invitation for the Nouns community to fund Ethereum public goods with 500 ETH through the Protocol Guild: a collective of protocol maintainers.

Abstract

Nouns has established itself as a prominent Ethereum project for a number of reasons. These include the use of novel mechanisms, passionate membership, and a compelling long-term vision through its commitment towards funding and creating more public goods (here, here and here). Underpinning it all, the community has tapped into the collective power generated by bundling individual motivations into a well-designed coordination mechanism.

Similarly, the Protocol Guild is purpose built to incentivize individual contributions through a collective mechanism. This parallel alignment could be enhanced by engaging each within the other: Nouns should fund the Protocol Guild Pilot. This “engine to engine” relationship:

  • expresses the Nouns vision in new contexts
  • facilitates a mutually beneficial exchange of narrative value and financial value
  • weaves deeper meaning into the Nouns community story while reinforcing positive sum norms

“Ethereum is an unprecedented arena for playing cooperative games” (Griffith, 2019): we should manifest the collaborative opportunities enabled by this arena.

Existing Mechanism / Funding Context

Watch / listen to this Funding Ethereum with the Protocol Guild presentation or read below.

In Nov. 2021, a group of core Ethereum contributors started exploring the incentive mechanism proposed in this tweet via this framing: What mechanism could help us better attract/retain talent and fund core protocol contributors?

We surfaced three challenges to address:

  1. Curation is hard
    • Interested sponsors don’t have a single mechanism which curates all protocol contributors
    • Protocol contributors interested in receiving funding aren’t sure how to self-organize
    • Existing solutions bias towards teams & can’t surface all contributors
  2. Incentives are imbalanced
    • Financial incentives are skewed towards newer projects with upside/tokens
    • Existing public goods funding solutions usually don’t consider exposure to upside to applications/L2s - eg. soliciting tokens from initial allocations or recurring revenue from existing projects
  3. Churn is bad
    • Steep learning curve for new contributors to meaningfully contribute
    • Contributor value grows over time, but there is less incentive to stay once they are experts

Protocol Guild

Through a lot of discussion and iteration, the Protocol Guild was formed: a collective of protocol contributors which actively maintains an onchain registry of its membership.

In response to the challenges above, the org was designed to carry out specific activities:

  1. Self-curate an onchain registry of individuals
    • Sponsors only need to know a single contract address instead of many separate team addresses, they can trust that there is quality backing it
    • Members now have a single mechanism to coordinate around and solicit sponsorships to
    • Domain expert members can surface part time contribs or lower profile collaborators which may be missed by other existing mechanisms
  2. Solicit sponsorships to balance financial incentives
    • Bootstrap with high profile DAO treasuries
    • Longterm, build norms around pre-allocation of a % of initial token supply
  3. Incentivize long-term contributions
    • 6 month min before eligibility
    • Vesting gets people to stick around
    • Time weighted allocations to recognize the importance of long term contributors

To date, the membership includes over 110 Ethereum protocol contributors, including researchers, client maintainers, upgrade coordinators, tooling maintainers. This is a broad-based ecosystem effort: members come from 22 different teams and 9 organizations. Only 40% of members are directly employed by the EF. The membership is continuously curated through quarterly updates to the split contract - we expect the membership to grow over the next year.

The Guild contracts are an autonomous value routing mechanism, operated independently from any existing institution, purpose-built for incentivizing long-term core protocol work. At no point does PG take custody of funds on behalf of members, it is all handled trustlessly. Learn more about the smart contracts we are using for the Pilot here.

2022 Pilot

Since starting the project in Nov 2021, we’ve built norms around member onboarding , refined the splitting and vesting mechanisms, and created extensive documentation on how it should be operated.

We’ve kicked off a test of the mechanism’s efficacy with a 1 year / $10mm Pilot. So far, we’ve raised $5.4mm (as of June 28 2022) from a number of notable communities, including:

Secured funding can be tracked onchain through the Pilot vesting contract. We are currently engaging with a number of other notable projects to secure the remainder of the $10mm target.

Proposal

We are inviting the Nouns community to contribute 500 ETH (2% of the treasury) to the 1 year Pilot vesting contract deployed at theprotocolguild.eth (0xF29…f1a9).

The ETH will vest to each beneficiary members listed on the underlying split at 0x84af…8ea1. Each recipient will make an independent decision about how to use the ETH once vested.

There are a few reasons why supporting the Protocol Guild Pilot benefits the Nouns community:

  • Nouns’ long-term success is tightly coupled with the continued evolution and maintenance of the Ethereum protocol. These are projects that often have multi-year timelines:
    • The Merge: moving from PoW to PoS, increasing security and sustainability
    • EVM improvements: new functionality for application developers like EOF
    • Statelessness: sustainable management for state growth as the network scales
    • Supporting Layer 2 scaling: EIP-4844, EIP-4488
    • Proposer Builder Separation: reducing centralizing incentives for consensus participants
    • Continuous client maintenance: improving sync, exploring new database types, researching and improving modular clients
    • Coordinating network upgrades: making sure the community helps to shape and is aware of network upgrades
  • Pilot participation introduces a new facet for Nouns as a public goods funder
  • Early support of a new mechanism recognizes another “fellow traveler” pushing the boundaries of incentive frameworks
  • Diverse funding sources from the community further decentralizes protocol governance and prevents influence from pooling with any single entity

We hope that a successful Pilot will pave the way for future funding collaborations between Nouns and the Protocol Guild as we scale up. To that end, we think it’s important to demonstrate impact before we scale: learn more about how we will evaluate Pilot outcomes here. We want to make sure the mechanism operates smoothly before graduating to a full-scale fundraising round with longer vesting periods.

Next Steps

Discussion on this forum post - we’re very interested in feedback from the Nouns community.

1 Like

Strongly support! Would love to see NounsDAO take a leading role in funding ecosystem public goods

3 Likes

Thanks @trent for this Proposal. One thing we’ve been talking about is whether something is Nounish or not. So my challenge to you would be to how to make this contribution or relationship Nounish. Yes, I think Ethereum public goods are Nounish and existential, but I want to go deeper, especially for 500 ETH. Ideas?

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big fan of ethereum good project thanks for maintaining love to see nouns lead the way on making sure the stewards are taken care of

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i support Ethereum related funding as a public good. interested to hear thoughts or ideas related to 12’s question on how we might be able to make the proposal a bit nounish to garner dao wide support for such an initiative

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I personally would be extremely happy to see this go through as an example of Nouns funding relevant public goods. Nouns lives on Ethereum and therefore it seems sensible to play an active role in stewarding the network.

We only continue to have one Noun a day forever if Ethereum continues to exist. Supporting the runtime the protocol exists in seems Nounish to me, and if it isn’t I’d like to see the definition of “what’s Nounish” expand to include more relevant public goods projects like this.

One of my main critiques of Nouns is that a protocol proliferating itself, while elegant and intellectually interesting, is not inherently “good”. I understand the reluctance of Nouners to support tangentially related socio-political causes but in this case the cause is clearly related and relevant and given the nature of Ethereum, credibly neutral. If nothing else I would love to see the discussion continue of what good Nouns can do in the world beyond being a self-perpetuating protocol for it’s own sake.

6 Likes

Strongly support this proposal in its current form and would vote FOR.

The Protocol Guild is such a Nounish project—trying to create a novel mechanism to fund public goods—and the DAO voting to fund PG would further align these two projects. Since there is value not only in providing the funding but also value in publicly signaling alignment, I think this case is categorically different from the charity-related discussions we’ve had in the past (e.g. “funding through the DAO is a tax inefficient way of making a donation”).

I also don’t think we should ask for additional features in this proposal. Trent and Tim have tough enough jobs as is. Their effort in coming here and writing this proposal in itself is already a fair amount of work, and they have to do so at many more DAOs. The mechanism as an experiment doesn’t scale / work if each DAO asked for customization or more features to the proposal beyond the mechanism itself.

The intention around PG is to provide a simple API for DAOs that already want to contribute to Ethereum protocol development to do so. I think we should essentially make up our minds about whether we want to contribute or not (rather than ask more from Trent and Tim). I’m strongly in favor of making the contribution asked here since A) we rely so heavily on Ethereum’s operation & success, B) PG is such a Nounish project that we want to align the two projects at an early stage.

5 Likes

appreciate the question - at least for the Pilot we’re trying to keep it simple. would love to consider future proposals of Public Goods funding X cutural artifacts X Nouns collabs tho!

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Agreed with Trent that our goal for the pilot is just to show that Protocol Guild can work …! I think longer-term, there could be a cool opportunity for more involved collaborations using either derivative work, a mix of physical items/bonding curves, etc. !

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The proposal is now queued for voting, live in 2 days. Thanks again for the support, looking forward to future experiments!

2 Likes