Minority Report: Justin Sun, TRON, and our STEEM Blockchain
Black Monday! 2 March 2020 ... Given all that has happened over the last 24 hours concerning momentous changes to our Steem blockchain, I would like to get some thoughts on it down. For those of my readers who might find them of interest ...
And ... As I have written before, serving as a "log" of sorts, for my own purposes, when the day comes when I may wish to look back on them.
I want to write specifically about the "hostile takeover" of our Steem blockchain.
Having written a number of posts since choosing on 14 May 2018 to "jump in" to actively being involved and engaging here on our Steem blockchain, my dear readers will know of my reference, from time to time, to "the road less traveled." And to my references to "the good, the bad, and the ugly" ...
This post will be written in the same way, straight down through the middle of the non-technical issues, to the heart of the matter, from my perspective. Not ducking and weaving around what, certainly in my eyes at least, others seem to prefer to avoid.
And what's that @roleerob?
One of the painful realities of life in this world. We all have a free will to do as we may wish, in whatever way may seem best to us. None of us, however, have the power to determine the consequences of our free will choices, however valiantly and resolutely we may strive to pretend we do.
For your reference, in reading what follows, here is a brief, "official" time line of events, leading up to the present:
- Feb. 15th: Justin Sun's initial post about having purchased SteemIt from Ned. And with it, the largest single source of Steem Power on our Steem blockchain.
- Feb. 23rd: Post from the "Steem Consensus Witnesses" who had just completed Soft Fork 22.2, blocking Justin Sun's use of this Steem Power, in an attempt to enforce this "social contract" reached with Ned in 2017.
- Feb. 24th: Open letter response post of Justin Sun to learning about Soft Fork 22.2 "we weren’t expecting" and proposing a Town Hall meeting with the Top 50 Witnesses on Mar. 6th.
- Mar. 2nd: Open letter post from @steemitblog announcing Hard Fork 22.5 had been completed. And with it, reclaiming control of Justin Sun's "frozen" Steem Power. Along with the Steem blockchain, by replacing the Top 20 Witnesses, to prevent it happening again ...
- Mar. 2nd: Same day resignation post of Senior Blockchain Engineer @vandeberg and the resignation post of Head of Communications @andrarchy, both highly respected members of SteemIt's team.
- Mar. 3rd: The resignation post of SteemIt Blockchain Engineer @gerbino earlier today ...
TLDNR: The ❤ of the Matter
Trust is an essential aspect of a mutually beneficial business transaction. And trust is a fragile (very?) aspect of our human interactions, far too easily taken for granted, until it is too late. Good, clear and consistent communication, based on honesty and integrity, goes a long way toward establishing it. Secured by actions matching (exceeding?) the expectations raised by what is communicated.
There are always costs associated with any business transaction. Execute them in the absence of or a deficiency in trust and these
costs will go up! Count on it! Full stop. Period. If you want to argue with me to the contrary, "save your strength" for a better use of it ...
So, the key points leading us to where we now find ourselves.
- After his buyout of Ned, Justin Sun failed to meet the need for good, clear and consistent communication from the beginning. Particularly important in light of some of his history. Arrogance? Negligence? Incompetence? Delegated to someone else who "choked?" Who knows ...
- Nonetheless, the "Steem Consensus Witnesses" failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Justin Sun was not trustworthy. Given the extraordinary steps taken and their almost guaranteeed consequences, the reference to this essential element of the due process of law is very international! Given the charges and counter charges being hurled back and forth, this issue may well end up in a courtroom ...
If this proof does in fact exist, unbeknownst to me, where is it? I would assume it would be "shouted from the rooftops," if it did. All I have "seen" written about are suspicions and allegations, not proof!
If this proof exists, then "Steem Consensus Witnesses" should have followed through on the strength of their evidence proving Justin Sun was "guilty" and taken legal steps to protect our Steem blockchain. Taking irreversible steps to protect our Steem blockchain via coding / hard forking would most likely not have been legally defensible. Which assumes (a big assumption!) that Soft Fork 22.2 was ...
- Justin Sun's resolve to "right" the "wrong" of the "maliciously structured" actions taken under the heading of Soft Fork 22.2 was camouflaged by his "olive branch" initial reaction. Likely intentionally designed to buy him time to achieve his real objectives. Restoring his control over his purchased stake and iron-clad control of our Steem blockchain along with it.
His resolve was demonstrated by the extraordinary efforts he exerted in his own right, including the bending (breaking?) of "norms" associated with centralized exchanges. "Shrouded" by all the technical details associated with them supporting hard forks, etc. etc. ...
One thing should be crystal clear by now. All of the condescending comments made (which certainly would enhance trust right?) about his lack of knowledge about our Steem blockchain, how it works, etc. should be laid to rest. He now controls it ...
All of the above underscores a lot which could be written about international rules and regulations to govern how all of this played out. Which typically start out in response to some great public outcry from the "little people" ... To be protected from the injustice of the "big people" ... And in the absence of them (at the moment), what recourse or lack thereof we have for redressing this "wrong"...
No time for that ...
Setting that aside, put these three points above together and what do we have?
In this face of the inevitably high cost of whatever unfolds from here, I want to pay my respects and show my admiration for two of our fellow Steemians - both Witnesses:
- @blockbrothers wrote a post about their opposition to Soft Fork 22.2, followed by @exyle's clearly explained and more detailed reasoning in his post the next day.
- @timcliff wrote a post about his opposition to Soft Fork 22.2.
Setting aside whatever one may think about the details of their arguments, one aspect of them stands out very clearly to this Steemian. In the face of the almost certain cost to them of taking the positions they did, nonetheless, they had the strength of character to stand on the principle of their convictions.
"May their tribe increase!"
However loudly others may wish to argue to the contrary, the cost to each and every one of us over the coming weeks and months is almost guaranteed to be very high. It has already been high.
The loss of "blood and treasure" is often referred to in times of war. Thankfully skipping the "blood" portion of this phrase, I would like to insert loss of time in its place. Uncompensated lost time, the worst kind ...
Time will tell how much of both will have to be "shed" in this unfolding war, before any sense of peace and prosperity (at least the promise of the possibility of it ...) can be fully restored.
"Tale of a Takeover"
Others may (and likely have) written about this in more detail than I have either the time or interest in doing. But I do want to capture some brief highlights of what this time in history looked like. As stated in the opening, it will serve as a "log" of sorts, for my own purposes, when the day comes when I may wish to look back on it.
After a very long and eventful day and before turning in last night, I decided to do a little amateur forensic research. Using the Steem Witnesses webpage of @drakos, the Steem Database website of @roadscape (?), and the Steem World app of @steemchiller, I came up with this brief list of timeline highlights:
- The @congcong account was created by @blocktrades on 29 January 2020.
- In turn, @congcong created the @dev365 account on 27 February 2020. The @dev365 account was the single source of all of the millions of SP used to vote in Justin Sun's hand-picked list of the 17 "Top 20" Witnesses.
As a curiosity sidenote, as this is written, the @dev365 account still only has a whopping grand total of only 50 SP in it! It's sole purpose appears to have been to provide the vehicle account through which the takeover followed ...
- Delegating their proxy vote for Witness voting to the @dev365 account - @huobi-withdrawal (Huobi CEX) on 2 March 2020, @ 09:40:27 UTC. Followed by @poloniex (Poloniex CEX) and @binance-hot (Binance CEX). These were the exchange accounts, with the biggest portion of the SP needed to take control of the Steem blockchain.
What happened "behind the curtain" to cause them to do this? How were these efforts of supposedly "independent" centralized exchanges coordinated like this?
- In addition, delegating their proxy vote for Witness voting to the @dev365 account - @timothy2020, @imadev, @ben (Ned?), @bitdev100, @pacemaker, @joe767676, and @geos.
- With these proxy voting delegations made, @dev365 had sufficient SP voting power to begin taking control of the Steem blockchain. The first Witness approved was @goodguy24 on 2 March 2020 @ 10:08:27 UTC So ...
The total time elapsed to get the needed proxy votes in place for this first execution of a Witness vote? 28 minutes! The sequence was almost certainly laid out very intentionally ahead of time, then carried out ...
- In very quick succession, another 16 Witnesses were voted on, ending with @toke249 on 2 March 2020 @ 10:09:15 UTC. So, in less than 1 minute, from start to finish, the needed "consensus" 17 Witnesses were in place ...
- While I do not have access to technical details, almost certainly the change to Hard Fork 22.5 took place moments later (see below). With the almost certain primary objective of restoring access by Justin Sun to his "frozen" Steem Power. And then protecting it!
All of the details of getting this coding written and in place had to have obviously been completed in advance.
- Three additional proxy voting delegations were made - @goku1, @tigerfound, and @steem (huge!). With this final account, one of those purchased by Justin Sun, delegating was executed on 2 March 2020 @ 10:13:51 UTC.
In other words, the transition to Hard Fork 22.5 took a little over 4 minutes, from the time the needed 17 Witnesses were in place!
- Three additional Witness votes were made, followed by the final two proxy voting delegations made - @steemit and @misterdelegation - both huge accounts now owned by Justin Sun. The latter completed on 2 March 2020 @ 10:23:21 UTC.
From start to finish, the time elapsed for taking over our Steem blockchain, with a whole new "Top 20" Witnesses in place was less than 45 minutes!
Do we still think Justin Sun and his cohorts know nothing about our Steem blockchain?
The final result?
- Note: While each of these Top 20 Witnesses show more than one voter supporting them, by clicking on the highlighted icon, it was quickly determined only the @dev365 account mattered. The rest of them literally had a MVest total of 0.000 ...
Justin Sun's twitter comments give you his personal summation of what is detailed above. Note well, dear reader, the reference to "hackers," "criminal activity," etc. No subtlety. No interpretation needed ...
An important highlight, for whatever the future holds? In (5/9), Justin Sun says:
"Shoutout to all the exchanges & parties
who helped us save STEEM!"
who helped us save STEEM!"
Do we still think Changpeng Zhao aka "CZ" of Binance can accurately claim to have known nothing about this in advance? As well as the other exchanges? As notable a global figure as Vitalk Buterin, founder of the Ethereum blockchain, felt these questions were worth commenting on ...
Whether STEEM was saved or not, Justin Sun certainly took decisive action to reassert control over his portion of it. And for protection against any reoccurrence of any future "malicious actions," control over our Steem blockchain along with it ...
Nope. I think we've got it!
Do I know anything about coding blockchains? No. Do I have a keen interest in human nature, having been a careful observer of it for over 60 years? Yes. Successful in 5 different industries, representing my employers internationally at times over my career, do I have a little bit of experience with the business world? You be the judge ...
"For the record," here are a couple of the comments I made leading up to yesterday:
"... but wonder at the SF 22.2 approach, as to how wise (most people do not respond favorably to "negotiating" with a gun held to their head) that was ..."
"In my view and experience in life, no matter what the future holds, Mr. Sun has an opportunity to learn from a costly mistake. For the inevitable next time ..."
"... in instances like these, I'm prone to say, 'I hope to be proven wrong!'"
... and ...
"I am not a fan of softfork 22.2. If you or I had invested millions of $$s into something, which was subsequently threatened by actions taken against it, what would your reaction be? Favorable?"
"Mr. Sun might have saved himself from some of this, had he been more prudent in how he chose to handle effective communications. He wasn't. As a 29-year old, in my view he made a major mistake. Trust, which is always fragile, was broken ..."
Life is full of opportunities to learn from our mistakes. "For the inevitable next time ..." For the sake of us all, I hope there are some serious "post mortem" discussions underway globally. From which concrete steps are taken to avoid others ever ending up where we are ...
All of this is "water under the bridge" now. We can only go forward. To close out this long day, I focused on my Steem Witness list, before going to bed last night. Ensuring I had the +18.4 MVests under my control supporting 30 of our Steem Witnesses dedicated to trying to get this mess reconciled in the best manner possible, under the circumstances.
With that, my small part in responsibly doing what I can to effect a positive outcome has been done. Now, with you, dear reader, I wait ...
- Note: If interested to see my slate of 30 Witness votes, I'd highly recommend the use of SteemWorld. Click on the "Account Details" button on the left, then the "Witness Votes" tab on the far right.
Procrastination and In Memoriam
As a "professional" procrastinator ... 😏 ... I have learned over and over the painful lesson that any notion the tempting thought "never do today what can be put off until tomorrow" works out well, I will close this post openly acknowledging I am often really slow to learn these lessons. And, as a result, condemned to suffer the consequences again. And again ...
Here are a few brief references to what this means to me this morning:
Partiko and @crypto.talk
"Out and about" it is not uncommon for me to open this "indispensable app" on my phone that I wrote about early on in my journey - Partiko. Created by one of my earliest Steemian friends - @crypto.talk.
About whom I wrote this description: @crypto.talk and his team made the ”go the extra mile” sacrifice to forego the comparative ease of writing their code in one language and introducing one or more translation layers in between it and our “user experience.”
The result was an awesome app for helping us day-to-day along our "journey" on our Steem blockchain.
Well, it has been almost a year now since he suddenly "disappeared," with some speculations he went to China. And is still there ... The truth? I have no way of knowing. A brief response he provided to me, on a comment I left for him on Partiko in May 2019, was never followed up on ...
As an incredible testimony to how well this app was made, it is still in use! Or was until yesterday ...
I chose to never "cash out" my points on Partiko. Thinking to do so would somehow be disloyal to the idea @crypto.talk might come back sometime. And pick up where he left off. Not to be. As of yesterday's developments, Partiko no longer appears to function at all. "Collateral damage" - a "casualty" of the "war" for control of the Steem blockchain, now underway ...
R.I.P. Partiko App
You will be missed!
You will be missed!
Witnesses and the Infamous "Ninja-Mined Stake"
Almost anyone who has been on our Steem blockchain for any length of time will have heard reference to the infamous "ninja-mined stake" of the early days of the Steem blockchain. Primarily benefiting Ned, from all accounts, although others benefited as well. As part of the justification for the "hostile" actions taken under the heading of "Soft Fork 22.2", control of this power represented by this stake was central to the argument.
How many times, from Steem's beginnings in 2016 to 13 February 2020, were there opportunities to have handled this "problematic" issue in a different way? Resulting in a peacefully negotiated and, therefore, mutually beneficial outcome?
I cannot answer the question. But ... I am certain there are those who can. And all but certain they would confirm it was possible. What were the factors preventing acting on these opportunities? Yeah, too late now for our Steem blockchain, but I would love to know the answer. For the inevitable next time ...
Very thankfully, there is one key area in which I have not procrastinated - backing up all of my hard work. I have stored all of the HTML code, from each of my posts, starting on day one. In a database. As a "hard wired" benefit of how I ended my career - as a Business Systems Analyst.
If a future hard fork requires the rebuilding of all of my posts in some new domain, while I would not relish the thought of all the work involved, I am fully capable of doing it.
In one way or another, we likely have all suffered the consequences of procrastination. Among many other aspects of it I could've shared, the above brief bit about Partiko is a comparatively simple part of my own story of feeling loss this morning.
The "Steem Consensus" as well as the other Witnesses"? They will have their own stories to tell. Each in their own way. About what might have been. Had they chosen differently, when time was on their side ...
There you have it, dear reader. Straight "from the heart" of one of your fellow Steemians, who has invested a lot of time into my original decision to get involved. And openly questioned, from time to time, how wise that was. Including this morning.
My "minority report" on what has taken place is about to be posted. Obviously I have serious reservations about the wisdom of the Soft Fork 22.2 decision made by a comparatively small number of us. Done now and no "do overs" in life, so we go on from here. Maybe we learn something for the next time. Maybe we don't. We'll see.
That said, I am still here. And committed, with many of you, to seeing what's next. We'll all find out together what those "high over our heads" decide to do about the future of our Steem blockchain. And what the resulting cost to each of us individually will be to "keep on keeping on" ...
I’d love to hear any feedback you may be inspired to provide. "The good, the bad, and the ugly"is all welcome. All I ask is that it be kept civil and respectful.
P.S. Intentionally choosing not to needlessly complicate this post with an essential detail of the "cost" question, we would all do well to have a least a basic grasp of what is likely an overlooked but unavoidable cost - the servers to host all of the text, images, videos, etc. which make our Steem blockchain what it is.
If a hard fork is in our future, we may well find the cost to us individually of bearing that cost will also go up! The oft maligned monthly sale of the "ninja-mined stake" of SteemIt will no longer be covering it ...
Interested in reading more of my related posts?
|Lead Image||Title, Link, & Summary|
|Reflections: Justin Sun, TRON, and STEEM ... My $0.02 ...
Summary: After a few days of reflection, wrote this post about my thoughts on the big Valentine Day 2020 announcement of the buyout of SteemIt by Justin Sun.
|SPUD XI - My First SPUD Post!
Summary: Ever heard the old saying, "Timing is everything!" Yeah, well I posted this on 1 March 2020. Then I woke up the next day, to all covered in this post ... My 1st SPUD post. And my last? We'll see ...
SteemPeak: An awesome interface for our Steem blockchain.
Check it out!
I have found this post by @jarvie and this post by @eco-alex to be very helpful!
🔥 💰 🔥 ⏰ 🔥
While I almost never edit my posts, given the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the "hostile takeover" of our Steem blockchain, I will make a notable exception. A lot has happened in the past 24 hours:
- Senior Product Engineer @roadscape posted his resignation - the 4th of the 7-person SteemIt team "inherited" by Justin Sun when he bought the company.
- Held earlier today, the first official meeting between Justin Sun (and his representatives) and a team of top Steem blockchain representatives is captured here on YouTube.
Distilling a 1:10:17 hour long video down to two words, in response to the case made by the "Steem Team," Justin Sun said, "
- A follow-up PAL Discord meeting contained repeated appeals for help to find whatever documentation might exist which covers the "social contract" referenced at the beginning of this post.
- Pressure mounted on the global exchanges helping Justin Sun in his "coup," since they used custodial funds. Steem's 13-week power down feature is a major problem for them. Rumors of Binance halting withdrawals of STEEM were not checked out, but highlights the problem.
- The giant "tug-of-war" between mystery account @proxy.token, with details here on SteemD. I did not take the time to investigate this further.
- A lot of global crypto press is covering the story. Example from Crypto Briefing.
- Social media is weighing in on the news of CZ, CEO of Binance, and Justin Sun's "collaboration" ... Example on Twitter.
So ... As succinctly as I can state it, what I wrote about in this post is "playing out" in my view. The "Steem Consensus Witnesses" [SCWs] have been challenged to prove they have a legally binding case to make for the "hostile actions" they took with SoftFork 22.2. Showing (to some) a surprising resolve and resourcefulness in getting his "private property" back, Justin Sun managed to ensnare global exchanges in this messy drama.
While "battling" to retain control of the Steem blockchain, Justin Sun intended to reduce the power-down period to a few days. Why? He needed to fulfill his "behind the curtain promises" to these exchanges to get their custodial funds returned, once he regained control of his SteemIt stake.
Big problem. A "white knight" (?) has suddenly appeared on the scene - the mysterious @proxy.token (Korean community?) account. Which has thrown its weight behind some of the SCWs. Some? Yes, it appears behind just enough to stop Justin Sun from reaching the minimum of 17 out of the top 20 needed to execute the needed change to the blockchain code. Yet ... By not voting to put a sufficient number of the SCWs back into the Top 20 to execute their preferred code to block Sun, effectively this account has created a stalemate ...
There is always more STEEM to buy, for those with sufficiently "deep pockets" and interest in tipping the balance one way or the other. Stay tuned ...
Meanwhile, the costs to us all - the principals and the rest of us - continues to increase.
☝ "risen from the dead!" 👍
Is @crypto.talk still
working on it "behind the curtain?"
☝ "risen from the dead!" 👍
Is @crypto.talk still
working on it "behind the curtain?"
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Another eventful day yesterday, with some highlights captured here:
Justin Sun wrote his 3rd post about using his 70 million STEEM, bought "with my hard earned money" to vote for witnesses supporting his Hard Fork 22.5, with a list of uhhh ... "qualifications!" 😏
Then he deleted / edited it to this post. Since he should know how blockchains work, I have no idea what he was thinking in making these changes ...
When last checked, this post had 1,467 comments! A new Steem record?
In response, @blockbrothers decided to "apply" for consideration! 😧 Wow ... What a mess ... 😞
My response? Commented on and removed my support of @blockbrothers. Sad, for me, as it was the second Witness vote I made in 2018. Voted in support of @someguy123.
Ned's "weighs in" on Discord (captured on YouTube) about SteemIt's "ninja-mined" stake.
[Note: Fumbling, bumbling start, with the real content beginning at 14:30] ...
TLDNR: Does not provide any encouragement there is any sort of legal basis for Soft Fork 22.2 ...
"Steem Consensus Witnesses" meet with Roy Liu, Tron Foundation's Head of Business & Corporate Development. Captured in 2:54:19 long YouTube video ...
TLDNR: Nothing I have seen indicates much progress was made, with references to Tron being "stubborn" ... 😧 Is this surprising? 😏
Learned more about the @proxy.token account from this post from the SteemCoinPan Korean community, via the @sct account, about their role and wishes in wielding their combined pool of almost 13 million Steem Power for Witnesses.
Appears to reinforce their intention to take a "middle of the road" position to keep either side from moving ahead with a hard fork. At least for now. This view was further reinforced by this sensible "middle of the road" post by @glory7.
While there were reports seen that Binance has stopped STEEM withdrawals, I did not have time to track down an official confirmation of this. Likely because it is being "hidden," while frantic efforts are being made to get this resolved ...
Another "mystery" account, created on March 3rd, has 2.5 million Steem Power in it, from Binance transfers. All voted in support of the Sun Witnesses ... With huge transactions showing between it and Binance, Huobi, and Poloniex?
An alt Sun account?
Very likely. Justin Sun is reportedly a billionaire. He certainly has additional personal resources to bring to bear on this mess, should he chose to do so. Appears he has already started ...
So ... Struggles to find a legal basis for Soft Fork 22.2 continue. In the meantime, "negotiations" have begun with Sun's "personal representative," Roy Liu. Too bad our Steem blockchain couldn't also be represented by a "personal representative," as the lack of professionalism shows in far too many places, to this "old warhorse." How much damage that is doing to the long-term prospects for a mutually beneficial resolution of this mess is hard to say ...
Hard to imagine there is much flexibility in Sun's stance. Why? For one thing, "behind the scenes" pressure is almost certainly growing (understatement of the year award?) to get another Hard Fork executed to shorten the power down period to days. So that the exchanges in "collusion" with Sun can get their customer's STEEM back. There must already be very serious discussions underway on what legal options are available to these customers.
Challenges / Problems:
- Short-term: Justin Sun has daily mounting pressure to solve his legal and public relations nightmare with 3 global exchanges, one of which (Poloniex) he reportedly controls. Specifically, their "borrowed" custodial funds bound up in the Steem's blockchain's 13-week power down protocol.
Even if he personally "powers up" enough Steem Power to implement a hard fork in minutes, as he did on March 2nd, does he have access to the programming talent to make this change? Presumably. What will the unintended consequences be, if this is done? Particularly if executed by a "new" team, who are working under ridiculous time pressures and make a mistake?
- Longer-term: People who have achieved the financial status of Justin Sun are "in it to win it," specifically continuing to make money. And with it, accumulate more power and influence. He can be counted on to do whatever he deems is in his best interest to see his investment in the enormous STEEM stake of SteemIt make a profit.
- SMTs for our Steem Blockchain: This functionality has been promised for years. And long thought to be a key part of realizing the full potential of STEEM.
With the resignations of all the key players at SteemIt, who knew all the up-to-the-minute details about getting this done, where does that stand now? What conversations are going on "behind the curtain" with these people?
- In the looming hard fork decision of the "old guard" Steem "Classic" Witnesses / Developers, what cost impediments do they face in supplying all of the server power to pull it off? Beyond the blockchain itself, there have to be huge costs associated with the image and video servers.
Anyway, on and on it goes ... Tick, tock, tick, tock, the drama continues ... And the costs continue to go up ...