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Offline Ander

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This post is my reaction to the posts of DecentralizedEconomics on the bitcointalk forums, about Bitshares.  While I believe that Bitshares is much greater than the straw man version of it that he attacks, and our devs are far more honest than he believes (and more honest than most in crypto), I also believe that he has an important point, and he highlights one important weakness of Bitshares that we must correct. 

We must harness this criticism and make Bitshares even better!

I believe that having a known, fixed, future supply maximum is absolutely critical to a successful cryptocurrency.  This is the essential 'promise' of Bitcoin: There will eventually be only 21 million Bitcoins.  There is no central authority which can increase this limit.

We took a huge blow when we went from a 2 billion supply cap to a 2.5 billion and growing supply.  I'm not saying paid delegates are bad (they are amazing), and I'm not saying inflation is necessarily bad (it is necessary).  What I am saying is that not knowing for certain what the maximum possible number of coins will be at some point in the future undermines everything that it means to be a cryptocurrency.


Paid delegates are amazing, and they will sustain Bitshares going forward.  Paid delegates are the way that we hire talent, and reward them with equity.  If the price goes up, they scale and support even more development/marketing/promotion.  If the price goes down, and we have to cut back, and allow several paid delegate slots to support one developer, then we cut back. 

Paid delegates are not a problem, they are not what I am talking about here.  With paid delegates we have a known, fixed future maximum supply, as shown here:
https://bitsharestalk.org/index.php?topic=11213.0
Investors can look at this possible future supply and make rational decisions based on it.
I love paid delegates and think we should elect even more of them to promote and build Bitshares faster.


So what is the problem?

What we can never do again is to have another share supply increase like "the merger".  What this looks like to pretty much everyone is the following:
* Bitshares is clearly too centralized because the core dev group decreed by fiat that the share supply would increase, and it happened.  Therefore there is no guarantee of a supply limit in the future.

You can see this though in posts by people like DecentralizedEconomics and NewMine.  And while they only show one side of the story, their side of the story has a significant grain of truth to it.  We must change such that this is no longer true, and can never happen again, if we want to claim to be decentralized.


In the past, the dev team has said things such as "It is important that we are able to pivot, and that might require increasing the share supply". 

I think this stance must be abandoned publicly, and we as a whole community must decide that it will not ever be allowed, to the point that if it occurred we would all simply rebel and continue to support the old chain.

Paid delegates are enough.  If funds are needed desperately for a task, and the community agrees, then we could elect a bunch of paid delegates and fund it.  No additional unexpected inflation, ever again.  We must all agree that this poorly named "merger" was an event that happened in Bitshares past, but which can never happen again under any circumstances.  Because if it can happen again by dictates of a core group, then what DecentralizedEconomics says about Bitshares is actually true.


I say all of this with the utmost respect and admiration for our developers.  You all are the best!  It is okay to experiment and try things, but we must also analyze the consequences and make sure that we do not repeat mistakes.

So here is what we should all agree to.  A new social consensus, stronger than the last:
We will never allow any extra additional inflation of the BTS supply for any reason, and we will never increase the delegate payout above the amount in the current plan (Max 50 BTS per 10 second block, halving each 4 years).  Paid delegates are sufficient to fulfill Bitshares needs, and no other inflationary mechanisms will be added.

I am well aware of the idea that we do not think of Bitshares as a currency, and that BitAssets are the currency in our system.  Yet BTS must still remain a store of value, and it is important for a store of value to have a known, fixed supply limit.  This limit can increase over time, provided that it does so in a way that is known in advance (which we achieve with the paid delegates max block pay).


In any hard problem there are tradeoffs.  If we trade away the ability to create an increase in the supply of BTS in order to achieve <X>, we might lose flexibility.  But we also gain a lot of perceived stability, and a corresponding increase in market value.  And a higher market value makes the paid delegate inflation go a LOT farther and buy us much more.   I believe this tradeoff is worth it.  If we attain a higher market cap and get to where a paid delegate position can sustain a core developer, or even a team of developers, or a huge marketing campaign, then we will not be in a position where we will have to emergency inflate (and ruin the BTS value) to pay for something we need.  We could also run some 'emergency fund' paid delegates who would store up BTS which could be used for such events if the community approved. 


I believe that we gain more value (ability for Bitshares to pay for things it needs), with a hard limit on its inflation rate.  We would have such a hard limit with the 50 BTS per block pay limit, and a community consensus to never add any other inflation.  The previous 25% inflation, and the panic it caused, resulted in a price drop form the 8000 sat range to 4000 sat, before recovering to the 5000-5500 range now.  (For this purpose I measure in satoshis in order to remove the effect of the crypto bear market form the calculation).  Inflating cost us about 1/3 to 1/2 of BitShares purchasing power, thus making paid delegates 1/3 to 1/2 less effective than they would otherwise have been at the higher cap.  The best way to achieve the goals of Bitshares is to support stability, growth, and a higher cap, which in turns increases the power of paid delegate positions.  We cannot achieve that desired stability if the threat of another big inflation forced through by a centralized power group in Bitshares looms over investors heads.

For this reason, I believe this is important to regain the trust of those we lost in the "merger", and to help grow our community going forward.  In the coming weeks, with the website relaunch, the release of version 1.0, etc, it is a good time to broadcast this message to the wider crypto community. 


Bytemaster can create whatever blog posts he wants about Bitshares being decentralized, and in terms of the technical specifications, this is true.  But one fact remains: If a centralized power group within Bitshares is capable of pushing through an inflation in the share supply, Bitshares is still too centralized! 

This is the problem we must remedy. 

Bitshares must become "sufficiently decentralized".

Devs should think about this and agree that paid delegates are enough to secure the future of Bitshares, and agree that they will never attempt to add more inflation.

The community should forge a new social consensus that we will not allow any powerful group within Bitshares to add more inflation to the share supply than the current known, fixed amount, for any purpose (even if we want to merge with Ethereum or whatever our silly dream is!)

We must vow to remain on the chain with the known, fixed supply cap, and not the fork where the supply has been greatly inflated.   Chalk the "merger" up to growing pains, and part of Bitshares history, just make sure it doesn't happen again.

A Bitshares with a strong consensus that the future supply cap is a hard cap is a Bitshares that is more stable, a better store of value, which attracts more investors and has a higher cap, which allows it to better support more growth efforts through paid delegates.

This Bitshares is one that can say truthfully that DecentralizedEconomics complaints are incorrect, and that the community of all stakeholders has the power here, not any centralized group.


Thank you for reading, and I appreciate your thoughts and feedback!
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Offline Ander

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I'd like to add a response to what will be a likely objection: "Its still possible for an inflation to occur even if you agreed otherwise previously".


Yes, its possible.  Anything is possible!  Bitcoin could be changed tomorrow do have a supply cap of 1 billion bitcoins if everyone agreed.


The goal here is to make that outcome far less likely, by imposing an additional steep cost on doing so.


With Proof of Work, it is still possible to attack the network.  You just need to acquire 51% of hashing power, and then be malicious.   Its just EXPENSIVE, and not worth it.

With Proof of Stake, and Work, it is still possible to attack the network.  You just need to acquire X% of total stake, and then be malicious.   Its just EXPENSIVE, and not worth it.

With a strong social consensus and committment from the developers to never add more extra inflation to BTS ever again, its not impossible.  Its just EXPENSIVE, and not worth it.  In this case, it the cost would be in reputation.  If you say you will never do anything, and then you go back on your word, that is a harsh cost for your reputation.  If you never promised not to do it in the first place, there isnt such a cost.

If in order to inflate BTS, you have to beat a community rebellion, because we all agreed to do that, thats a higher cost than if lots of people would agree.


The goal here is to make it so that adding inflation to BTS would be such a high cost that it will never be worth it.  And since everyone KNOWS that there is now a high cost and that it wont be worth it, they know that it probably wont happen, and then they can make rational investing decisions based on the idea that the future supply limit of ~3.7 billion BTS is in fact a very hard cap, just like Bitcoin's 21 million limit is a very hard cap. 
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Offline toast

I disagree completely. Go read my "last credible consensus".

The new consensus should be "BTS holder stake-vote decides anything and everything". It is the only thing present holders can enforce against future holders.

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Offline toast

Everything you wrotr has the right motivation and reasoning, but comitting to a fixed supply schedule isn't the answer.

Once we get around to getting proper bts governance I would imagine shareholders would vote to *reduce* inflation.

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Offline bytemaster

It is really kind of a catch-22 on the community.   Imagine for a moment that BTS value fell down to $10M because Bitcoin fell down to $80.    At our maximum dilution rate of 50 BTS per block (~6% per year) your development budget would be crushed to $600,000 per year which is enough to pay about 5 developers each with 20 delegates.   

Who would we let go?  Toast, Nathan, Vikram, Valentine, Ben, Me, Stan, the entire marketing team?   

So while I think it is safe to say that we will never dilute by more than $3 million dollars per year of capital infusion I doubt the stakeholders would want to cripple our team which is the only hope we have toward long term viability. 

As it stands right now, we will need 101 fully paid 100% delegates to maintain our current burn rate.   The community would have to start making tough choices on who to let go. 

Many developers would take "equity" in place of salary (ie, not contribute to sell pressure) but if you cannot offer them equity then they will go work someplace else and support BitShares part time if at all.

On the other hand by the time we grow to be the size of Bitcoin it is inconceivable that we should need any additional dilution.   So I would be sure to caveat any "rules" on dilution to only apply at market caps above $250M because below that point we are still in the "bootstrap" phase.   

Not saying I want to dilute, I would much rather have us grow faster than we are diluting, but we can never guess how Bitcoin's fate could impact us.
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Offline Ander

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Thanks for the replies!

Its definitely a tradeoff, losing flexibility and the security of being able to inflate more, in exchange for the stability of known supply that investors desire.


I definitely agree with Toast that "whatever the stakeholders vote in favor of wins" is a good rule in general.  And truly, this will be the deciding factor in the end.


My idea is that a higher market cap of BTS results in greater funds for paid delegates, which results in stronger growth of the Bitshares project, which helps us to avoid needing to inflate as much in the first place. 

Higher market cap (via investor confidence) might be achieved simply by making a strong commitment to not inflating more, this could catalyze us back to levels we were at before investor confidence was shaken.


If you are trying to win a game of chicken, what is the best move to make?  If the other people know for sure that you will swerve to avoid them at the last minute, they will drive straight ahead, force you to swerve, and beat you.

The best move is to visibly remove your steering wheel and throw it out of the car in a way that everyone can see what you have done.  Now they know that you CANNOT swerve, and they must swerve instead.  You win.


Having a strong community agreement in place against more inflation is such a move.  It imposes a high cost to inflation, which therefore reduces the likelihood of inflation, which therefore results in greater investor confidence and higher BTS price, and more money for paid delegates.


Lets keep discussing and thinking about it and see how we all feel after reflecting on it some.




It is really kind of a catch-22 on the community.   Imagine for a moment that BTS value fell down to $10M because Bitcoin fell down to $80.    At our maximum dilution rate of 50 BTS per block (~6% per year) your development budget would be crushed to $600,000 per year which is enough to pay about 5 developers each with 20 delegates.   

Who would we let go?  Toast, Nathan, Vikram, Valentine, Ben, Me, Stan, the entire marketing team?   

It would be hard, competition would increase.  Voters would have to decide.

Of course, if investors knew that BTS had a hard supply cap, with a large cost to break it, it would decrease the likelihood that this scenario occurs.  (But it might still occur, of course).

If that scenario did occur and there was a sustained low price, I would say vote 4 paid delegates for each core dev and marketer, and would try to convince the community to do this.

Fortunately, I think the bear market is done and we have better days ahead for all crypto projects.  I believe that we gain more from convincing investors in the stability of the BTS supply than in the option for an emergency inflaiton.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2015, 11:16:21 PM by Ander »
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Offline theoretical

Many developers would take "equity" in place of salary (ie, not contribute to sell pressure) but if you cannot offer them equity then they will go work someplace else and support BitShares part time if at all.

Rather than having an income of X BTS per round, I'd rather have an income of $Y per round.  The dilution of BTS holders necessary to sustain that level of income will change as the BTS / USD exchange rate rises and falls.  It makes more sense to pay developers fiat-denominated salaries.

The problem is that if you directly use the exchange rate to determine how much BTS are printed to pay people, it could result in an arbitrarily large printing which blows the inflation envelope.   In addition, shareholders should be able to set bounds for particular uses below the envelope -- they may be willing to tolerate N new shares in total, but want to further limit core developers to get no more than M, where M < N.

So I think we should have multiple trusted community members create a multisig UIA, then give everyone who deserves to be paid $Z but is only getting $W from their personal delegate(s), Z - W shares of the UIA.  We don't care that this is arbitrarily inflationary, it's a UIA.

Then we vote in multiple 100% delegates to buy BitUSD with their BTS, then buy and burn shares of the UIA for 1 BitUSD each.  If cap is too low, then the buy-and-burn wall won't be able to sate demand, some developers will be SOL and have to either hang onto their UIA or liquidate below $1 to a speculator at some market-determined discount.  If the cap is high enough, then everyone can cash out their new UIA immediately and start working on their stockpile of UIA representing back pay they couldn't get at the time due to the cap being too low.
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Offline theoretical


TLDR of my previous post:  I'm a developer and I'd rather have debt, not equity, if we can make the debt USD-denominated and have a reasonable plan for having delegates elected to pay it off over time.

Many developers would take "equity" in place of salary (ie, not contribute to sell pressure) but if you cannot offer them equity then they will go work someplace else and support BitShares part time if at all.
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Offline bytemaster


TLDR of my previous post:  I'm a developer and I'd rather have debt, not equity, if we can make the debt USD-denominated and have a reasonable plan for having delegates elected to pay it off over time.

Many developers would take "equity" in place of salary (ie, not contribute to sell pressure) but if you cannot offer them equity then they will go work someplace else and support BitShares part time if at all.

All debt would be backed by equity.  If the equity doesn't grow enough to pay off the debt then the debt is worthless.  If it does grow enough to pay off the debt, then you end up with greater upside. 

In this case, equity == debt. 
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Offline Ander

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Rather than having an income of X BTS per round, I'd rather have an income of $Y per round.  The dilution of BTS holders necessary to sustain that level of income will change as the BTS / USD exchange rate rises and falls.  It makes more sense to pay developers fiat-denominated salaries.

Measuring inflation in terms of $ value instead of BTS quantity provides stability for delegates like a salary at a job does, so I understand that desire. 

But it also leaves open the vulnerability of a death spiral in BTS.  If the price of BTS drops, then to cover expenses a greatly increased number of BTS are created.  These BTS are sold causing the price to drop, which causes even more BTS to be created, and so on.

In that situation, if the price decline is sustained and not just short term, I feel that the Bitshares project must cut back, in the same way that a government needs to cut back its spending when it is facing hyperinflation, instead of trying to continue to pay its current expenses with an ever increasing quantity of fiat money.


The developers need to resist the temptation to be like an irresponsible government, willing to inflate their currency to fund their projects.  We must stick to the sustainable, fixed inflation plan, fixed as a percentage of BTS like we have now.





Also, I think that this plan would open up an attack vector for BTS, which is the following:
* Buy up enough stake to elect most/all of the delegates.
* Using your control of the delegates, give bogus price feeds saying that BTS is almost worthless.  As a result, give massive block rewards to all your delegates, taking away the stake of everyone else. 

(Of course, the response to that attack could be to hard fork back to previous snapshot, just as the response might be to any such attack which controlled all of the delegates, so I dont know if this is actually any worse than before).
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Offline Ander

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I think that theoretical's desire to be paid in debt instead of equity is a problem that will be solved in Bitshares, in the current system, as soon as our price goes up 10x to the point that a paid delegate represents more than just 1 person.

At that point, a delegate will be more like a team, and it will collect BTS, raise funds, and hire people, probably with bitUSD.  Then you will get the desired stability as a developer, but we will not have needed to change how BTS block rewards work.


The critical thing, I believe, is to break through to that level.  We need to get through this risky period, to get to the point where BTS is valued high enough that paid delegates are a large source of funds that support all our plans to grow BTS.

I believe that a firm commitment to a hard cap on supply helps us greatly in achieving that.  If BTS languishes as below current prices for years to come, no amount of massive inflations will let us really do anything special.  If we repair investor confidence in BTS as an eventually deflationary store of value, it helps us a great deal in getting there. 
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Offline Empirical1.1

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I didn't read past your first paragraph.

Inflating BTSX heavily damaged our value and network effect. The income derived from fees at a higher valuation may well have been comparable to what we currently access via dilution at a low CAP. Losing profitable DAC status but more importantly crypto-money status especially given the way inflation is distributed will be our main marketing & PR headwind going forward and it's possible no amount of dilution spent on marketing can offset the marketing cost of dilution.

Also looking at the big picture, long term outlook, BitAssets will take you only so far and then the future belongs to a very large defined supply crypto-currency.  It will be hard for BitShares to play that role vs. a money that defines a supply, which builds trust, confidence and increasing value in it over a period of time as well as stickiness. (Ie. Future investors wouldn't change by consensus because of the loss of crypto-currency status and BitShares has already given them an example of what happens to your value when you do.) Now we may just be seen as a crypto-equity whereas other options established by more far sighted investors can play a dual role.

BitShares is still best places to replace Bitcoin in the near term imo.

Offline Ander

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I didn't read past your first paragraph.

Based on what you wrote, I think that if you read it all you wouldve seen that I was agreeing with you. :)
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Offline ticklebiscuit

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I didn't read past your first paragraph.

Inflating BTSX heavily damaged our value and network effect. The income derived from fees at a higher valuation may well have been comparable to what we currently access via dilution at a low CAP. Losing profitable DAC status but more importantly crypto-money status especially given the way inflation is distributed will be our main marketing & PR headwind going forward and it's possible no amount of dilution spent on marketing can offset the marketing cost of dilution.

Also looking at the big picture, long term outlook, BitAssets will take you only so far and then the future belongs to a very large defined supply crypto-currency.  It will be hard for BitShares to play that role vs. a money that defines a supply, which builds trust, confidence and increasing value in it over a period of time as well as stickiness. (Ie. Future investors wouldn't change by consensus because of the loss of crypto-currency status and BitShares has already given them an example of what happens to your value when you do.) Now we may just be seen as a crypto-equity whereas other options established by more far sighted investors can play a dual role.

BitShares is still best places to replace Bitcoin in the near term imo.

People like rune came when inflation was added

Offline Empirical1.1

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I didn't read past your first paragraph.

Based on what you wrote, I think that if you read it all you wouldve seen that I was agreeing with you. :)

Yeah I meant I saw the first bolded paragraph and it was basically the conclusion I'd also already drawn so I presumed the rest of the long post was in a similar vein. I'll definitely read the whole thread a bit later.

I didn't read past your first paragraph.

Inflating BTSX heavily damaged our value and network effect. The income derived from fees at a higher valuation may well have been comparable to what we currently access via dilution at a low CAP. Losing profitable DAC status but more importantly crypto-money status especially given the way inflation is distributed will be our main marketing & PR headwind going forward and it's possible no amount of dilution spent on marketing can offset the marketing cost of dilution.

Also looking at the big picture, long term outlook, BitAssets will take you only so far and then the future belongs to a very large defined supply crypto-currency.  It will be hard for BitShares to play that role vs. a money that defines a supply, which builds trust, confidence and increasing value in it over a period of time as well as stickiness. (Ie. Future investors wouldn't change by consensus because of the loss of crypto-currency status and BitShares has already given them an example of what happens to your value when you do.) Now we may just be seen as a crypto-equity whereas other options established by more far sighted investors can play a dual role.

BitShares is still best places to replace Bitcoin in the near term imo.

People like rune came when inflation was added

He came before it was added I think and pushed hard for it. I seem to recall some heated debates. I think he's a big asset, very competitive, hostile take-over mindset, but like many weak on the psychology of money and therefore the impact of the move.

It's close though. Now that we have dilution if we maximise it and continue adding value at a pace that outstrips existing competitors, then there's no reason BitShares can't rapidly grow bigger than Bitcoin. Bytemaster has also suggested that over time fees should outstrip the need for dilution anyway at which point BTS may be the equivalent of a no inflation crypto-money and with enough time spent sticking to that it could become viewed by the market as a crypto-currency & one that future consensus would be unlikely to try inflate/change the supply of.

Edit: Ok I read the second part of Anders post. Yes you can basically enforce a supply curve by just explicitly stating it. Even though it doesn't provide a guarantee, it makes it harder to change because of the loss of value changing it would cause & so immediately gives more confidence and certainty to the market in terms of future expectations. I agree with this and have been in favour of something like that.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2015, 12:34:50 AM by Empirical1.1 »

 

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