Chainflow's 2020 Recap

Introduction

Chainflow feels fortunate 2020's been a year of growth for us. We realize this good fortunate has manifested in year marked by suffering and loss at levels never experienced so deeply, by so many.

This post summarizes many of the ways we've been able to move forward. I personally feel grateful for this progress, while also being able to keep my family safe as the pandemic raged around us and at home.

Like many of us, I experienced some pretty scary times on a personal level during 2020. I feel grateful my family and I emerged OK for the most part.

It's through this lens of gratitude I present the following recap.

Welcoming Alex

Chainflow's been a one person show since I founded it a few years ago. As 2020 began, it became clear to me I needed help to fully manifest Chainflow's potential.

This realization set me on a co-founder search in February. As you can see from the co-founder description, personal and values alignment was as important to the role as the right technical skills.

I spoke to a number of people about the role over the next few months. Some seemed promising. Nobody really resonated with me as being the right fit though.

This changed in May. Game of Zones launched that month. Chainflow participated on the Regen Team. I recruited a couple other members to the team from the Staking Defense Telegram Group.

This is how I met Alex a/k/a Novy. He was one of the Staking Defense volunteers. His GoZ work impressed me, so I sent the co-founder search post to him. He expressed interest and we started a trial period working together.

This period went well. It went really well. It was clear we connected as colleagues and as importantly if not moreso, as human beings. Alex joined over the summer as Chainflow's devops lead.

I feel grateful he did 🙏

Networks

Staking networks continued launching fast in 2020. This trend culminated in a way with The Graph's surprising December launch.

We participated in many testnets. We went live on the mainnet of many others, including -

  • Akash
  • Celo
  • Flow
  • Matic
  • Microtick
  • NuCypher
  • Oasis
  • Pocket
  • Skale
  • Solana
  • The Graph

Thank you to everyone who's placed their trust in a smaller, independent, yet very capable and dedicated Web3 infrastructure operator by delegating to us.

If you'd like to delegate to us on any of these networks, please contact me directly. We're working on a more user-friendly delegation flow for 2021.

More on that later in this post. For now, I'm glad to walk you through the process.

As a smaller and independent operator, we also realized the need to become more selective about the networks we support. Along these lines, we took down our infrastructure on a number of projects.

We will continue to refine our process for selecting networks as 2021 progresses. The most important criteria we use is whether the project aligns with our core values and truly supports decentralization. A secondary criterion is whether the project allows us to at least cover out of pocket costs.

Tools and Products

This year we also began developing tools and products to support staking communities. For validator monitoring and alerting, we developed Cosmos Mission Control and Oasis Mission Control, along with our development partner Vitwit. These were funded by the Interchain Foundation and Oasis Foundation.

We also developed a Livepeer Orchestrator business model with Gleb Dudka. We self-funded the original version, then received a Livepeer grant to expand it.

Finally, we began offering Pocket Network node hosting services. Pocket is a use case we feel very optimistic about. We're excited to support the network by running our own nodes and helping others do the same.

We don't see node running and staking as a zero-sum game. Helping others run infrastructure is one contribution we're making to help increase network infrastructure participation.

While not necessarily a tool or product, I also continued contributing to the Staking Economy newsletter. Staking Economy also hosted our first panel discussion, which covered Eth2 validating from multiple angles.

Advising

I continue advising projects on validator related topics. These topics include validator program development, incentivized testnet development and governance.

Networks I advised in 2020 include Flow, Matic, NuCypher, Regen, Solana and SKALE, among others. I'm currently advising POKT and Matic governance development and will be doing the same with SKALE. I'm advising Stakebird too.

Contact me if you'd like to discuss how he can work closely with your project too.

Staking Defense

Chainflow continues to actively support stake decentralization. One way we do this is through Staking Defense. Staking Defense started as a discussion forum in 2019. Since then, we've added a Telegram group and podcast.

Right now, the staking ecosystem is heavily centralized. Staking Defense is intended to facilitate conversations about how proof of stake can REALLY happen and what prevents it from happening.

If things continue to progress this way, all we'll end up doing is recreating the current financial system and power structure it enables, which is controlled and manipulated by a small number of wealthy stakeholders.

And if that's all we accomplish through this decentralized revolution, then, what's the point?

Right now, many pay polite lip service to the importance of stake decentralization, while actually contributing to the problem of centralization. Many are afraid to have the tough conversations required to prevent centralization from taking permanent hold.

It's our hope that Staking Defense continues to provide a forum for these difficult conversations. It's only this way that the full power of a truly decentralized future may manifest.

What's Ahead

Expansion

We're not doing a great job keeping people updated on what we're doing at Chainflow. Right now, I'm doing what I can.

Yet telling people what we're doing takes a back seat to actually doing it. As a result, we feel that some of the interesting things we're doing to support the networks we work with, as well as stake decentralization, go unseen and unheard. Many of the larger validator companies, with their big marketing budgets, capture the spotlight and drive the important conversations.

So the time has come for us to increase our marketing, community building and light business development activities. We hope to increase our visibility by doing this. We also hope to increase the visibility of smaller, independent operators as a viable alternative to the larger staking companies through these efforts.

If you're interested in helping us with marketing, community building and light biz dev, please contact me.

Continuing to Get More Selective

We'll continue to optimize our processes to choose which networks to support. This applies to networks we choose to support at the outset, as well as continue to support over the long haul. First and foremost, we'll only support projects and teams that align with our values.

The most important of these is supporting true decentralization by walking the walk and not only talking the talk. After that, we look at the network economics, to see if we can actually afford to spend our scarce, self-funded resources to support the network in a sustainable way and without compromise.

In 2020 we took down infrastructure and withdrew support from networks that didn't meet these criteria. We anticipate continuing to do this over time, as part of a constantly evolving and adapting iterative process.

More Products and Tools

We also hope to expand our product and tool contributions. We'll be expanding on the theme of validator alerting and monitoring. We'll do this by building tools to support new networks and building new tools.

Governance

We'll take an active role in network governance. This is still a wide open area that's in its infancy. After a network launches, governance will shape the network's direction and values, which ultimately drive long term sustainability. We feel it's critical to be involved in these efforts, to help represent the small and independent voices that currently go unheard.

Without these voices, governance will likely be shaped by larger, well capitalized stakeholders. This will further exacerbate the centralization problem, pushing staking toward a mirror of the legacy financial industry and the power structure it enables.

We'll provide the feedback we can on DAOs, pulling from Chris' real-world experience leading the Aragon product team to their first mainnet launch. We'll also apply his real-world experience gained as the PM at ENS for three years, from pre-launch through the first three years of the project's lifecycle. During which he and the team faced the governance challenges of a project with and actual and real user base.

Conclusion and an Invitation

Chainflow sends our best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy 2021.

Our two primary hopes for the staking ecosystem 2021 include -

  • Validator set diversification, to include more smaller, independent operators
  • A more rapid stake decentralization across existing and new networks

We invite you to participate in making this happen with us.

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