Let’s talk about Development
By Timothy Stebbing - Tuesday, Feb 15, 2022
I know that for non-devs (or ‘not-yet-devs’ 😉), it can sometimes be difficult to make sense of technical talk. I think that a part of my job as an Engineer at the Dogecoin Foundation is to explain technical things in terms non-tech folk can understand. Because of this, I’d like to ramble a bit about the Trailmap, about the goals we have and the projects that we’re hoping will fulfil them. I want to chat a bit about what the Foundation has achieved and why it exists because I think those are important. I want to talk about the projects I see as important and a bit about the motivation around why that is. So, make yourself a hot beverage and strap in for a fairly boring, but hopefully informative, walk through my last four months at the Dogecoin Foundation.
Who am I & what am I doing here?
Hey folks! My name is Timothy Stebbing, and I’ve been involved in F/OSS development since the late 90s as a full-time engineer working in startups and open-source projects. During this time, I’ve spent many years helping to run open-source dev conferences and meetups to encourage new folk to get into coding. I’ve run the gamut from technical leadership in companies with thousands of devs, to leading senior engineering teams at small-scale startups.
Late last year some good folk from the old Dogecoin Core project re-invigorated the Dogecoin Foundation and hired me as the ‘Product Lead’ - which is just a fancy way of saying they wanted me to look at the problems Dogecoin faces, examine the prospects, and propose a path for the Dogecoin Foundation to enhance the Dogecoin developer ecosystem (AKA: make Doge more successful from a technical and community POV).
As a professional, I take my role seriously, and given that the assignment of ‘Make Sense of a Joke/Meme Project that’s Accidentally Become a Success, and Help Steer it Toward Better’ is a pretty ephemeral task, I started by breaking the problem down into a few logical steps:
Define what Dogecoin is and what it means to its stakeholders.
Extract a core set of principles to guide decision making.
Use those principles to set some goals.
Create a plan that delivers on those goals (based on current resources).
Clearly articulate the plan and gather support from #BUIDLrs.
Set that plan into action and see it through (to the moon!)
Defining what Dogecoin means to millions of Shibes
During this step I spoke with folk throughout the entire Dogecoin community. I learned the history of Dogecoin, I spoke with the devs, with HODLrs, and with people in the community who were angry and felt unheard. I spoke with folk who were happy and with folk who felt like Dogecoin was a scam that had stolen their life savings. I spoke with Elon, I spoke with Vitalik, I spoke with Billy. I listened to Dogecoin’s detractors, I read the material from the SHIB folk who wanted to “KILL DOGECOIN”. I explored dozens of $HITTOKENs, some funny, but some horrible with a lot of hostile people. I got on r/dogecoin and, digging through a lot of spam, found the bones of a community that values fun, values helping others in need, and values people.
Conclusions I drew from speaking with you
Dogecoin is not a joke. It is true that it started as joke, and still maintains its LOL attitude – but it is a lot more than a joke to millions of people. My typical response to people who claim that Dogecoin is just a joke is: “Dogecoin started as a joke, but we’re no longer just joking”. We have the same strong technical fundamentals as Bitcoin, but with much better parameters that make a lot more sense as a global currency for everyday use. Folk who can’t see past the ‘funny dog’ logo as their main criticism are lazy researchers, or too heavily invested in the old system to be honest about the facts.
The Dogecoin Community has a terrific ethos and strives towards worthwhile ideals. It is absolutely a currency for the People, by the People, and the Do Only Good Everyday mantra is at the heart of that.
Dogecoin—as a brand—has the goodwill of the world right now. At a time when perceived global corruption, and a sense of distrust with authority and a general unease permeates society, Dogecoin holds a promise for everyday folk to regain some control of their destiny. This is a hugely powerful phenomena that must be kept safe for the world.
The project has been maintained by a tiny group of individuals we affectionately call the ‘Core Devs’, who kept the project alive for years when nobody else cared. I also noted that this team were fracturing, burnt-out and no longer 100% united, although they still hold a very strong sense of care and protection for the project and don’t want to see it die.
I saw that Dogecoin has been used as a football by greedy and secretive corporations who see it as a means for greater profit. Attempts to operate Dogecoin as a ‘pump ‘n’ dump’ machine, where the little folk invest and the big folk take it away (robbing the poor to give to the rich), became obvious the deeper I dug.
I saw a world of hurt coming against crypto from the established financial monopolies, backed by Governments with ‘skin in the game’. I saw that PoW could present a serious risk to the project, as we are seeing happen now as countries start to ban crypto mining.
In sum, I saw that great risks and possibilities defined the problem space and provided the context to propose actions.
The next step was to establish some primary principles to encapsulate what I’d learned. These principles would act as universal guidelines that we could reflect on to ensure that we stay aligned to the mission. To that end, I created The Dogecoin Manifesto and shared it with the community. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Some astute observers may recognise the format of the Manifesto as being heavily influenced by the Agile manifesto. This is true, with the points aimed at summarising many more detailed principles that guide the creation of the Dogecoin Trailmap and Dogecoin Foundation projects generally. The Trailmap remains strongly allied to the Manifesto’s four pillars:
- Being useful, we value utility over technical brilliance
I’ve spoken about this elsewhere, but it’s worthwhile emphasising that Dogecoin has real utility as a currency, and we value that utility over ‘doing clever tricks’, which is best left to other blockchains. Could we add DAPPs and a heap more smarts to Dogecoin? There are people who want that, but I believe that focusing on the fundamentals of being faster, more reliable, and more useful as a currency that is available in more places globally is where we need to be spending our energy.
- Being personable, we value individuals and interactions over profit-driven economics.
Dogecoin is a currency by the People, for the People. One of the things that really impacted me when I joined the
project was a thread in r/dogecoin where thousands of regular folk were talking about their hopes and dreams:
“I’m a mechanic and I sold my Doge to pay for my doggo’s operation”,“I’m a nurse and I’m saving my dogecoin to pay for my daughter’s dental”.These are real stories, by real people. That thread was a major influencer for why I accepted this role in the first place; it showed me how Dogecoin could be a positive change for regular folk, and to me that’s more important than any other metric.
There are many folks who ask,“Why don’t the devs burn Doge to make the price go up?” or“Why not cap supply?”.These kinds of questions belie the intent of folk looking to make a quick dollar at the expense of others. There are many ways Dogecoin could potentially make a small group of folk rich (just look at all the ‘pump ‘n dump’ scam tokens out there trying to do just that), but fundamentally Dogecoin needs to be a currency and not a ‘pump ‘n dump’ scheme – it needs to be something that People throughout the world can depend upon.
- Being welcoming, we value collaboration and trust over competition and exclusivity.
This goes straight to my life-long passion of building lasting open-source communities. I’ve seen some toxic behavior out there from other crypto communities who feel they are the only project entitled to exist, but this is not the Doge way. This principle was written because Dogecoin needs to grow beyond ‘one project’ managed by four exhausted people who don’t get much but yelled at for their contributions.
Dogecoin needs to make some friends with industry, with governments, with NGOs of all shapes and sizes, and prove itself useful before we have a chance of taking over the world and that can only happen through collaboration, not distrust and pushing folks away.
I talk a lot about the ‘Dogecoin Ecosystem’ with people and have spent the last 4 months engaging with and welcoming some really cool groups to the Dogecoin space. Hack Club is a world-wide network of teens and young folk who are amazing devs looking to engage in exciting projects. The Foundation has been exploring projects with them, some announced and others still in the works (you may have seen the recent TeamSeas project that saw us work in collaboration with some amaze Hack Club teens that saw the Dogecoin Community unite for the good of the planet).
We’ve also been engaging with and encouraging startups and investors who are looking at building-out the next ring of services that sit atop L1 by supporting them as they build. Recently we’ve had interactions with governments about the viability of Dogecoin as a currency for everyday use. We’ve established friendly relationships with the Ethereum community, and are looking at ways that Dogecoin can learn from and support other crypto projects.
These activities promote the principle of being welcoming and trusting, of favouring collaboration over competition.
- Being reliable, we value working solutions over speed of delivery.
This is another fundamental. If Dogecoin is going to be taken seriously as a global, useful currency it needs to be reliable; it needs to work and it needs to be accessible where people want to use it (one of the Foundation projects Michi is leading, “RadioDoge”, will make transactions available in places without the internet, is a good example of this). All of this is going to take time. Creating a new currency for humanity goes a lot further than being a theoretical store of value. If we expect a global financial system to take us seriously, and if we want to see retail stores accepting Dogecoin, it has to work every time, without delay. This is more important than ‘wen moon’. Although velocity is important, it cannot be at the expense of stability.
Setting immediate goals
With the principles mapped out and an idea of some of the major issues, it was time to set some goals for the Dogecoin Foundation. The Foundation’s purpose when it was established by the Core Devs was to ‘Promote, Defend and Develop the Dogecoin project and community’.
With that in mind, the first goals that needed to be tackled were for us to look at the )major existential threats. That is, what are the biggest problems that Dogecoin faces that could lead to its demise, and how do we mitigate them?
Existential Threat 1: Bad faith actors are trying to claim Dogecoin branding for their own unrelated projects. Some are attempting to register Trademarks for Dogecoin which would be cataclysmic on many levels for Dogecoin.
Goal 1: Establish a legal Foundation to defend against this threat by registering and holding the Trademarks, and establishing mechanisms so that they can be used by legitimate projects that enhance the Dogecoin Ecosystem.
Existential Threat 2: The Core Devs themselves are a critical single point of failure (SPOF). Under significant pressure, especially this past year, and with the death of one of their members and recent disagreements, their implosion could badly damage or scuttle the entire Dogecoin project.
Goal 2: Drastically expand what it means to be a ‘Dogecoin developer’, mitigate the SPOF by championing projects that lower the barrier for many new people to get involved at different levels; through libraries, documentation, mentoring and community engagement. Essentially foster a ‘Dogecoin developer ecosystem’ of hundreds of new people so the #DogeDevArmy is strong, spread across many projects.
Existential Threat 3: Global pressure against cryptocurrencies from governments and lobby groups who represent the incumbent financial establishment. Lead primarily as a two-pronged attack framed as (i) PoW is killing the planet and (ii) crypto is used for sex, drugs and terrorism (oh no, save the children!)
Goal 3: Establish possible paths forward that defuse these attack vectors by: (i)Tackling the FUD by arming the community with facts they can share (see Dogepedia/new website project); (ii) Discussing greener alternatives to PoW through technical proposals; (iii) Significantly widening the use of Dogecoin through integrations with mainstream retail and services to water down the accusations of ‘shady usage’; and (iv) Build in charitable purposes and NGO usage that would make Dogecoin indispensable to well-loved global charitable organisations (essentially making attacking Dogecoin an attack on good deeds and charities).
Although there are many other issues, we identified these three as the most urgent items to tackle. Subsequently they have been the focus of the Foundation for the past 3-4 months as we’ve been establishing plans, making connections, and fighting legal battles on the community’s behalf.
Creating a plan for the Foundation (Dogecoin Trailmap)
Goal 1: Establish a legal Foundation to defend against this threat by registering and holding the Trademarks
The Foundation has come a long way in recent months in the service of this goal. We’ve incorporated a not-for-profit organisation in the United Kingdom through which the protection, defense, and advocacy of Dogecoin is enshrined in its Constitution. We’ve established good governance and compliance principles and worked closely with Legal Shibes to prevent hostile parties—including large corporates—from taking over or claiming ownership of Dogecoin through, for example, bad-faith trademarks registrations or misleading the community by pretending to be Dogecoin or be affiliated with it. This is to ensure that the Dogecoin name, logo, and memes remain available for the community to use freely.
Goal 2: Expanding the development ecosystem
A very real risk to Dogecoin is the current centralisation around a very small and dwindling number of Core developers, in addition to Dogecoin being a single project with a high barrier to entry for new developers. Currently, in order to become a Dogecoin developer, tutoring is necessary by one of the existing Core developers (due to lack of documentation about Dogecoin’s specifics). Moreover, the current platforms for developer discussion provide little incentive nor encouragement for new Developers to the space, owing to the oftentimes hostile and argumentative nature of ‘discussions’.
The Foundation has proposed several projects that attempt to fix these issues:
Creating projects that welcome beginner devs through creating robust documentation and projects which provide higher level interfaces for folks who operate at a level above C++ (see Libdogecoin / Dogecoin Standard).
Creating welcoming spaces for Foundation projects, through the application of our Code of Conduct and use of communication channels that are well moderated and full of helpful people.
Engaging with fresh new engineers, especially the good working relationship we’ve established with Hack Club, exposing thousands of teen hackers across the globe to Dogecoin Dev.
Creating higher level interfaces for Dogecoin, aimed at providing simple integration for payments for the millions of devs out there who would traditionally reach for a high-level payment API such as Stripe, Square, PayPal, etc (see the GigaWallet project).
Goal 3: establishing defenses against government regulation
It’s clear that the pressure is on for crypto mining around the world, with country after country imposing regulations. Furthermore, we’ve seen mining becoming less profitable for individuals as the difficulty has risen, and indeed the average home-miner cannot compete with warehouse-sized mining companies, leading to centralisation.
The Foundation has set out to begin a conversation on how we could provide a path away from PoW to a fairer, more sustainable proof mechanism that rewards regular folk, as well as sees a portion of the yearly Dogecoin issuance distributed to charities around the world to further the Dogecoin goal of #DoOnlyGoodEveryday.
We have reached out to Vitalik, has suggested sharing solutions for Dogecoin that would see part of the issuance handed to charities. We’ve been gathering some really smart allies in this space and working toward a goal of proposing a detailed, on-chain proof of stake method that would see more smaller HODLrs getting involved in the network.
Fundamentally this would be through an on-chain, decentralised ‘pool’ mechanism which would be an ID with some config that describes the rules of the pool. The idea is that you could find one of these pools and understand the rules ie: 20% of the reward would go to the pool’s creator (such as a charity or NGO), and stake any amount of Dogecoin into that pool. The network would assemble a multi-sig wallet via short-lived leader-election with all staking wallets holding the keys, which would then process blocks and pay back the reward to the stakers as well as the charity at the end of a short window of time (a few minutes).
While this proposal has a long way to go, we believe it could potentially incentivize a broader section of Dogecoin users to get involved in running nodes on the network, without removing the ability for current miners to manage their own staking pools, so that everyone wins, and a significant portion of funds is allocated to charities.
One major psychological benefit of this approach is that by building dependence on Dogecoin into the charity space, with large NGOs reaping the rewards for the Dogecoin Network being operated, we can simultaneously provide a political disincentive for governments to attempt to shut-down Dogecoin. An attack on Dogecoin would become an attack on The Cancer Society, WWE, Greenpeace, etc.
As we’ve said all along, we wanted to start the conversation with the community, and I’m happy to see folk have really been talking about this (and other potential proof mechanisms) in recent weeks. We’ve also been invited to Amsterdam to chat with the Ethereum crew early this year and find out what issues they have faced along the way so that we can avoid them as the plan comes together.
Despite this being the flagging of a proposal that we want to investigate through discussion and prototyping, there has still been an angry reaction from some folk for us even suggesting we investigate these options.
Phew! This has turned-out to be quite a lengthy blog post. As you can no doubt tell, the first few months of the Foundation’s existence has been pretty wild. We’ve had a heap on our plate, but I’m pleased to say that we’ve accomplished a lot. Now that we’ve successful ‘found our feet’ and established a legal framework as a multi-national not-for-profit organisation—one in which the protection, advocacy, and development of Dogecoin is literally enshrined in our Constitution—I’m super excited to now be moving into the #BUIDL phase as we progress the projects on the Trailmap and welcome new developers to the projects and ecosystem.
By the way, if you missed our first AMA you can check-it-out here. This also has some more detail about the great work we’ve been doing, and we expect to be running more of these AMA in the months ahead with a range of faces from the community.
Timothy Stebbing is Product Lead at the Dogecoin Foundation. He can be reached on Twitter via: @tjstebbing or Dogecoin Discord via tjstebbing#5250.