How can we make onboarding of new communities permissionless?

Currently, the Encointer Association runs an onboarding program for new communities and decides who is allowed to register on mainnet (and what communities should be purged). Permissioning is necessary for bootrstrapping the network because, otherwise, an attacker could squat entire geographic areas and prevent real communites because of minimal distance requirements of cycle gathering locations. However, we have always envisioned this process to be unpermissioned and most likely based on a web-of-trust among communities.

Here, I’d like to put one idea up for discussion, how this could work:

Onboarding Process

  1. an emerging community newCC signals the intention of registering on mainnet by submitting their CID to an onchain onboarding pipeline. The CID includes the geohash of the bootrapping gathering location along with the hash of the bootstrappers’ accounts. Therefore, submitting a CID allows prospective bootstrappers to prove membership and location claim to others, without already registering the community
  2. A global quadratic vote among all active communities is taken out. If approved, newCC is whitelisted
  3. newCC registers its community and can start bootstrappingg

Why quadratic voting?

Encointer is committed to subsidiary democracy. Onboarding of new communities is a global-scope matter, so all the communities should have a say

If we vote based on one-person-one-vote, that means that the decision is dominated by the largest communities and the interests of minorities might be harmed.

If we vote based on one-community-on-vote, we treat communities of 10 members the same like communities with 1M members, which will make it hard for the big communities to accept new ones in the first place, because they will have to consider the weakened security of global decisions

Quadratic voting is a very powerful way to protect the interests of minorities while still leveraging the security coming from large communities. “Quadratic” is actually just one possible choice of tradeoff on a continuum of exponents from “one community one vote” all the way to “largest community decides”, so the exponent could even be a protocol parameter.

The suggested design up for discussion would be:

Each community decides on the matter with its own decision making process (we should assume that not all communities will have the same process of decision making). The design which is currently implemented would give each reputable a vote weighted by the number of attendances withing the reputation lifetime. Therefore, more active members have more say (currently proportional, but also here, sqrt weighting could be interesting)

The global balloting is based on the results in all active communities, weighted by the square root (or any exponent to be set by governance) of the total number of reputables per community.


Technically, we’d need an implementation of global democracy and onboarding whitelisting on Encointer parachain and UI. This should be possible with reasonable dev effort. The complexity lies in the education and behaviour of users, not in its implementation

What is at stake?

Voting power without any skin in the game would not be legitimate. So, why should one deny/approve new communities on the other side of the world? Decisions will likely come down to just endorsing Encointer as such and always voting Aye without doing due diligence on the people that want to start a community.

The most obvious attack would be to register a bot community and growing it at no cost to millions or billions of bot members, effectively taking over global democracy on Encointer and possibly jamming the network with transactions. Therefore, there is a real interest for everyone, to do due diligence on new communities.

But: There is no way how one can verify future behavior of a bootstrapper set of 10 real people applying to register a new community. Therefore, trust should not be one-off, but rather continuously re-established.

We may need to make voters put their money where their mouth is: Just accepting a new community on the network may not be sufficient. People should accept each other’s community currencies, then there is a real risk and motivation to do due diligence continuously. We could require communities to establish exchanges among their community currencies. If a community grows without establishing any exchanges with other communities, we could curtail their tx quota (or not allow to pay tx fees in that currency) or put other restrictions for that community.

As this is still a relatively unbaked braindump, I’d like to open the discussion on this IMO very important but not very urgent topic

Even in a small distance, an attacker cannot squatt areas because of minimal distance requirements if the encointer community uses a simple method (invented in ancient Athens) that is called perischoinisma (an open area ceremoniously designated by a rope tied to wooden stakes fixed in the ground )

If perischoinisma occurs concurrently to all encointer assemblies, this prevents for a person to participate in two concurrent assemblies, even in case the assemblies are close enough. Because when the ceremony starts and until the end of it, nobody is allowed to go outside the rope.

the approach you propose is computationally more involved than what we have now. We need to be very careful with any algorithm that runs onchain. in the best case, we’re at O(1) operations. For diving deeper, see “Scalability of Encointer – a
Proof-Of-Personhood Cryptocurrency”

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Perischoinisma does not rely on any complex geolocation algorithm.

Perischoinisma relies on the strict concurrent meetings that occur into a town, and on the unanimous testimony of all the attendies that nobody enters inside the fenced area when the procedure already started, and nobody leaves the fenced area until the procedure ends. Several fenced areas could be allocated in specific points into a town. Besides the unanimous testimony, it is said that the rope was also covered with fresh paint, so whoever tried to enter or leave the perischoinisma area was marked, and thus was not accepted to another nearby area.

Perischoinisma could be translated as “rope’s periphery” from peri(phery) and schoini(σχοινί)=rope. Perischoinisma has already been succesfully implemented in ancient Athenian direct democracy. Ruins of a perischoinisma area is preserved until nowdays, so have a look at it as an alternative/supplementary option for the encointer community.

Google translate from the spanish text.

With this scant information, not much could be expected from the archaeological remains. In the 70s, to the north of the agora, a series of holes were discovered in the ground, arranged in order; it was thought that they could have served as a light barrier that formed the entrance to the agora. The stratigraphy allowed establishing the dating in the first half of the century V BC A line of five bases, more or less square, of limestone also appeared. 47 cm on each side and 38 cm deep, separated from each other by a space of 1.85 m. A smaller hole could be seen in the center into which they could have been inserted. wooden poles to support a light structure. These bases, which date from around the year 450, were initially interpreted as elements of the starting line of a racetrack, an aphesis such as those of Priene, Corinthos or Epidaurus (Valavanis, 1999).
Connecting it with the 10 tribes, ten spaces were restored. An Italian archaeologist, Enzo Lippolis, in the year 2000, sensed that it could be part of perischoinisma and raised the hypothesis of the existence of a zone to the north of the agora destined to the operations of vote in the fifth century. Excavations carried out between 2011 and 2013 have uncovered other bases of the same category, this time delimiting a rectangle of 12 m x 15 m. HE can now more precisely date this device, which would date back to the years 475-450 and that it probably stopped being used around 430-420 (Agora reports 2012 & 2013). E. Lipollis reiterates in a recent study (Lipollis, in press) his hypothesis favorable to identification of perischoinisma, although I don’t think it can be said with total certainty.
The 180 m2 space is too small to accommodate all the magistrates who directed the
ostracism operations, the archons and according to Filocoro, the Council, which would be rather the pritans, who would already be quite numerous; and this taking for granted that they did not fit into the once the 6,000 citizens of the quorum to validate the process. You should also store the containers to deposit the ostraka. It could be a place of transition that does not correspond, however, to the imperatives of the organization of the civic body in ten tribes, since only 9 entries can be restored among the 10 posts (López-Rabatel, in press-a)

Obviously 6000 persons do not fit to a 180 m2 rectangle. But what if many Perischoinisma existed, each one in every neighborhood, and the procedure was concurrent? In that case it makes sense, the perischoinisma method both scales and prevents for someone to participate in two or more meetings. (and this is an hypothesis, an extended hypothesis of E. Lippolis’s one, that more perischoinisma ruins could be discovered).