The Ballad of Doug the DAO, Part II: Project Ðouglas

Some of you may have heard I am part of a three-man team working on a project to win the Bitcoin Foundation Replacement bounty (as stated in an interview with Stephan Tual given on Sunday night (will link here when it’s up) (EDIT: Here it is.)).

Over the next two weeks you’ll be able to see updates on projectdouglas.org . In the meantime, though, before Stephan’s video is out we wanted to provide a bit of explanation as to what we’re doing and why.

1) What the Bounty is

For those of you who don’t know what that is, shortly after Bitcoin2014 (where I was in attendance), a number of Foundation members expressed concerns with the extent of transparency (or alleged lack thereof) with which it conducts its affairs.

Not having many bitcoins to my name (I’m long on Dogecoin) and not living in California (and therefore not being involved in any Silicon Valley Bitcoin politics, characteristic of the European crypto set) none of us has any beef with the Foundation. We are cognizant, though, that there are those whose opinions on the subject are rather stronger than our own.

Olivier Janssens is one such individual, which a few weeks back inspired him to post this message on /r/Bitcoin:

For example, we need a project to fund the core development of bitcoin, and put our money straight to that. We need a project to have lobbyists in Washington, to fight the anti-bitcoin lobbyists from Mastercard, and to prevent the government from destroying the currency. Basically, we don’t need another intermediary. We can do this ourselves. Therefore, I want to announce today that I am organising a contest and giving $100k USD in BTC, to the group that can come up with the best platform to make this happen. I am thinking of a system where prominent people can voice their opinion, where people can propose projects, and where the core devs can actively show their roadmap with detailed features + costs, and where we can vote on the features being implemented by sending bitcoins towards the feature of our choice. This will allow the core dev team to expand by being able to add/pay more devs for feature requests which are fully funded. Maybe we can even evolve to a system later where anyone can work on a feature, which, when programmed properly (approved by the core team), will receive the bounty. The same applies to lobbyists, we just send bitcoins towards the one that we consider the most competent for the job. This will allow Bitcoin to grow and expand at a rate it deserves, a rate that a political organisation such as the foundation can never accomplish.

Sounds like a job for a blockchain.

2) The Project Ðouglas Dev Team will be submitting an entry

That was roundabout 17 May. Dennis McKinnon (inventor of DOUG), Casey Kuhlman (inventor of C3D, managing partner of Watershed Legal) and I (a corporate lawyer) have not really slept since 19 May.

Cognizant of a 16 June deadline, we will be working our tails off to attempt to respond with a formal written proposal (plus code) to Olivier within the next two weeks. Without giving too much away, we are developing an autonomous blockchain-based communications and accountability platform incorporating a number of oversight safeguards, which will be exercisable either by the community on a supermajority vote or, in certain limited cases, by corporate action.

Such a software platform is known as a Decentralised Autonomous Corporation/Organisation, or DAO for short.

We will pair this DAO with a non-profit corporation that will exist “to advance the state of cryptocurrency and decentralised computing technology, educate the public as to its utility, disseminate knowledge of it openly and promote its use for the benefit of all.”

It is envisioned that a small one-off donation ($25) to the charitable non-profit would be required before access to the DAO is granted to disincentivise spamming; provided our testnet units are used the access functionality will be trustless. Notably:

  • no equity, dividend or profit share will be issued by the platform, and no purchase of tokens (apart from gas) is required to use it;
  • the platform will be fully decentralised;
  • the platform’s code will be open-source;
  • the platform will run itself;
  • the users will be able to change the platform; and
  • ongoing use of the platform will be completely free of charge, so long as the Community uses its power to keep it that way.

The platform will act as a testbed:

  • for the technology,
  • for the community to learn how to administer decentralised governance, and
  • for businesses, organisations and governments to observe a DAC in action within a formal setting and for fully legal applications. We are not building Silk Road 3; both the non-profit and the Community will each possess the ability to wall off the DAO from illegal use.

3) You’re going to be invited to this party

It’s a DAO; it’s open-source. Everyone’s invited, and as they say – peer review is the better part of valour.

4) A note to the Bitcoin Foundation

As I mentioned, we’re cool. I very much enjoyed meeting you all at BTC2014. We’re doing this because (1) there’s the possibility of getting the funding to do it well, and (2) because it’s there to be done. We see no conflict between your aims and ours, and as I said – everyone’s invited.