We believe that the time is ripe to develop a standardized technology that enables collaborative open source communities to govern themselves in a flexible, transparent, accountable, and verifiable manner.
At its core governance is a protocol shared between the members of a group to make decisions — on some subject or on governance itself — continuously over time.
To embody this definition into a technology, we view governance as a digital protocol shared amongst the contributors to a git repo, whose purpose is to arbitrate the decisions governing which code commits can be merged into a distinguished
main branch, representing the current state of the world.
We envision governance as an application-agnostic, public protocol which dictates how to make and record changes to a git source code repository. This protocol would ensure that the entire governance history of an open source project is embedded in the git history of the project itself in an immutable and verifiable manner.
Our aim is to develop tools that enable any community of non-expert git users to organize and conduct themselves according to application-specific governance logic of their own choosing, while providing the key promises of governance (transparency and accountability) generically and out-of-the-box.
We undertake this project today in collaboration with Glen Weyl (opens new window) (Founder of RadicalXChange (opens new window) and Audrey Tang (opens new window) (Minister of Digital Affairs of Taiwan).
This week Audrey and Glen unveiled (opens new window) an ambitious new effort, aiming to demonstrate and document "plural technologies" — how they have been used and can be used to build healthy, diverse and democratic communities. We at Protocol Labs are proud to be a technology partner in this innovative effort.
Audrey is a leader in open governance at scale in the real world. She has helped create a variety of systems for open governance and public discourse in Taiwan, based on open source technologies, community engagement and web3 infrastructure. Notably Audrey's Ministry of Digital Affairs is an active user of IPFS. Her efforts have made real impact ranging from citizen-driven policymaking to effective management of the COVID epidemic in Taiwan. These initiatives have resulted in the now-famous vTaiwan (opens new window) system and have earned Taiwan the status of most innovative digital democracy.
Glen is known for his pioneering work in the realm of technologies and mechanisms for building plural, inclusive and democratic communities. He has helped introduce and steward ideas like Quadratic Voting (opens new window), Quadratic Funding (opens new window), Soulbound Tokens (opens new window), and other architectural components of decentralized societies.
Today Audrey and Glen are undertaking the project to document the blueprints for building plural communities in a book, whose writing will itself be a community effort supported by the same technologies and mechanisms that it describes.
Protocol Labs plans to contribute some key tools and protocols that will support this large collaborative community effort to create for the public good. We hope that a variety of our technologies will find impactful applications in the lifecycle of the book project. IPFS and Filecoin are ideal substrates for distribution, while impact- and hyper-certificates are promising new tools for memorializing and rewarding contributions.
While the scope of our contributions is yet to unfold in creative ways, we plan to undertake one significant new technology in support of the book: A new and practical take on governance for open source projects (opens new window).
Our hope is that this experiment will accomplish two technical goals. First, it will result in a practical and reusable framework for augmenting git-based code projects with governance. Second, it will demonstrate that sophisticated decentralized applications of significant scale can be built entirely on top of the git protocol and naming services (like IPNS, ENS or DNS).
Both of these goals have potentially very impactful consequences for the web3 ecosystem.
Our first goal is motivated by the observation that flexible and secure tools for source code governance could unlock new business models for building and maintaining technologies for the common good. Governance for open source projects today is mostly ad-hoc or informal, which inevitably poses frictions for large and diverse groups of contributors to form productive and fair cooperatives. We believe that standardizing the tools and workflows of governance will go a long way to enable new creative communities.
Our second goal aims to substantiate the observation that large and complex decentralized social applications can be built on top of two cheap and available-to-everyone substrates — git and naming services. We think this is a big deal, because it implies that the decentralized and plural versions of the staples of social networking (like messaging, emailing, tweeting, and so on) can be rebuilt and experimented with at a low cost by following this architectural paradigm.
We are excited to partner with Glen and Audrey to build the tooling needed to pursue their vision.