Alright, I’ve kept my mouth shut for a long time as to not stir up any drama in the community but this is getting silly. I’ve seen so many distortions, half-truths and sophistry pass by that I’ve had enough.
I apologize for the tone in advance, I probably should calm down first, but I’ve remained calm for months now, and it’s time to give my perspective on this whole situation.
I started working on Foldit in my spare time because I was interested in the Threefold tech. I dug through their libraries and started making a POC for my own use, just to get a better understanding and to develop my own skills. Once that was done, I completed the challenge I set for myself and was ready to move on to something new. Until I saw that it’s possible for community members who develop applications on the grid, to actually make a bit of money from the work they did. So I decided to continue developing and to apply to become a Solution Provider.
I applied and the response was fantastic. I got so many messages from people who were over the moon that we created this, including from the Threefold team and Kristof himself basically saying that we need to get everything we need to make this successful. Great, I thought, I got the full support from the Threefold team and the community. This quickly changed.
Next day all communication stopped. I still got tons of messages from the community, but Threefold stopped communicating with me. Fine, I thought, I’ll wait. So I did. One week later the DAO vote cleared, the community gave its approval for Foldit to become a solution provider. For those who don’t know, this does not happen automatically. After the vote, someone from Threefold has to manually approve the application, which did not happen. Fine, I thought, I’ll wait. A week passed by without any communication, until a very nice person from Threefold contacted me to have a call.
In the call the person informed me why Threefold refused to approve my application, despite the community approving it. Two issues:
- Foldit is not open source, we want SP’s to be open source
- Receiving 50% of the revenue is too much, we can’t give you that
A lot more was said, but I’m trying to keep this as succinct as possible. Let’s address these issues:
Foldit is not open source.
Technically this is not true, although in practice it is. Because I was planning to make a decentralized app, Foldit is completely client-based, which means that my web server sends you the application and after that there is no communication between the Foldit web server and the application running locally in your browser. Anyone with a minimum of technical know-how can check this. All code is sent to your browser and can be inspected, althought it has been scrambled and obfuscated. You can track all network requests, which only go to Threefold services (and one to coingecko to fetch the TFT price).
First, some context: I have a full time job and made this in my spare time. I coded this all by myself, with a bit of help frome someone to create the server images. I am not a company, I don’t have a lot of resources or time to fully dedicate myself to this project. Once I applied, I got a lot of messages from people who wanted help with their code. From individuals, but also companies, who have been struggling getting their applications up and running, some of them basically making the same thing I am making. Why are they struggling? Because developing on the grid is a shitty experience. There is (or at least there was when I started) zero developer documentation. Everything had to be figured out by studying the library code or reverse engineering the playground code. That is not an easy task, perfectly doable with enough perseverance, but it does require quite a bit of experience and effort. As a side note, this is not meant as criticism of Threefold staff, I have high levels of respect for them, and especially the developers. They do an excellent job and create some really awesome tech. I’m sure the lack of documentation is because of the same reason I rarely write any documentation for my code, because of a lack of time, or because we’re not given the time.
Threefold was now asking me to make all that work, which I did with the idea in mind to make a bit of money for my efforts, available for anyone (including companies with multiple developers who are basically making competing products) to just copy/paste, dissect and skip over all the tricky issues in making an application like this work on the grid. I have no problem with people making similar services or products on the grid, I welcome it. This can only mean good things for the grid, but to ask me to help everyone for free and basically give up on Foldit (because I don’t have the same amount of resources) is a bit of a stretch. There is a huge difference between a company (Threefold) asking people to develop applications on their services, and therefor making their libraries open source (which if they didn’t, no one could develop anything because there was no documentation, reading through code is your only option.) – and then asking the people making those application (after they have been approved) to now also make all of their code open source. Saying that people who use open source code must also build open source is but one disingenuous argument made about this topic, another was that it even might be illegal to do it closed source because of licensing. I won’t address them all, they’re so misguided that they’re not even wrong.
I made this point in the call, and the person from Threefold understood this and suggested a compromise: Make your code available for the Threefold team to review, so they can ensure I’m not up to anything nefarious. While I was still very annoyed that these stipulations are only made now, I said that maybe I’m open to that if everyone is treated equally. I asked whether Zonaris has had any code reviews, and the response was “no but we can, we have access to their code”. I have sincere doubts that this was always the case (I mean at the point of their approval), but I can not prove it.
One of the arguments they used was that Threefold was promoting Foldit, which is kinda true. They did make a tweet and made some announcements on Telegram, but I never asked for that. While I appreciate them doing this, (in all fairness, they have a vested interested in doing so, so it’s not entirely altruistic) I have never asked to be promoted, nor was it ever a condition for applying as an SP that you have to be promoted by Threefold and therefor have to make your code open source.
But fine, let’s say I agree to code reviews, which (in principle) I’m not against. The main argument used for this is security, but this is very misleading. Doing a code review provides zero insurance that the code actually served by the webserver is the code that’s being reviewed. I can give Threefold access to my code repository, they can see it’s completely clean, and I could just serve up another (malicious) code base if I wanted to. If the goal is to protect users – doing a code review, or making it open source, provides absolutely no security guarantees about Foldit “being clean”, whatsoever, and anyone claiming it does is either being untruthful or is very misinformed.
Another suggestion was to sign some kind of agreement/document where I swear to be a good boy, also not something I’m against. I know I have good intentions, so that’s fine by me, but it (again) serves no actualy security purpose. If this was an official legal document, maybe it could hold some power, but I don’t have a company so I’m not entirely sure how that would work.
Foldit should not receive 50% of revenue
Now we get to the juicy part, and what is (I suspect) the real deal breaker for Threefold. I have no way of knowing or proving this, but I suspect that seeing an actual, concrete price coupled to an actual server application on Foldit (eg: A Minecraft server for €10/month) triggered (or retriggered) a realisation that maybe Threefold’s pricing model was a bit off.
I don’t follow every little bit of news within the community but I did follow stuff about Solution Providers, and all the small print and conditions about promoting, selling, sales channels etc… was just never a condition for applying. Yes, there have been occasional mentions of those things, in a lost wiki page, or a random forum post, but nothing concrete or clear. The idea that all these things were conditions from the start, or at least that they were communicated clearly to people, is utter nonsense, and I’m glad that that’s being admitted. Doesn’t change the fact that changing the rules, after an application, after a year of development on those pretences, is a shitty thing to do.
I agree, 50% is too much. I think everyone agrees, and everyone who saw that from the start probably agreed. Yet those were the conditions. My reasoning was that they’re probably keeping those rates so high to attract developers, and that after they got a sizeable pool of devs, who are all building stuff, that these rates would go down. Lots of crypto project offer high rates to early adopters, after which those rates go down, seemed like a simular situtation to me. Nope. As soon as I applied, after a long silence, I was informed that it’s not okay for me to get those rates.
For those who don’t know, when you apply for an SP on the grid, you can set your own percentage. The person applying for the SP, can choose how much percentage goes to which wallet (with a maximum of 50%). So I did, it’s on the blockchain, clear as day. Anyone could see the application, including everyone who voted to approve the DAO proposal, and people still approved it, but Threefold decided otherwise.
In the call, about this issue, the main focus was on “Sales Channels”. If you want a high rate, you also have to be a sales channel. So I asked what that was, and it’s basically “a person/company/entity who brings in new people to the grid”. Okay, so how do I become a Sales Channel? How do apply for it? How many new people do you need to bring to the grid to get a certain rate? How are you going to measure the amount of people? How do you know these are new people? The reply: There is no application proccess atm, there is no way of measuring anything, it’s still a concept and we have to think on how we’re going to do this. So I can’t get my SP approved under the originally promised conditions because I’m not a sales channel, and I can’t apply for a sales channel because it’s not a defined thing yet. Great.
I don’t even know where to begin in criticizing the comparison made by Kristof between Zonaris and Foldit, especially when pouring it into this format of “roles”. I think it’s misleading and completely misses the point, but I’ll let everyone make up their own mind about this.
When Kristof says that I’ve been contacted to redo the DAO vote with 25%, that is not true. The person from the call asked to have another call, but since I have a full time job, I haven’t had the time to accept this during working hours, so you could say it’s my fault that his proposal hasn’t reached me yet. But to say that they have offered me this compromise and I didn’t agree, is misleading at best. During the first call there have been several ideas, nothing concrete, and everything cushioned in “we can talk about this, we can discuss this, we’ll get your feedback to Kristof and we’ll see how it goes from there”. At no point has there been a concrete proposal “Foldit can get 25% with a DAO vote”.
One of the issues I struggle with, and I mentioned this during the call, is that this is all happening in private. For all the talk about openness and community involvement, it felt very backroomy to make these kind of decisions and deals between me and Threefold, without anyone in the community, especially those who voted, to be involved. I’m glad to see this is improving as of now, at least about this situation.
Foldit is broken
It’s true, Foldit is broken now, because of the API changes. I started on implementing these changes, but since there’s no technical developer documentation about the changes AFAIK, it was again a matter of studying existing code and figuring out what changed and where. This is again something that annoys me. I got a clear message when I applied: “get this guy everything he needs, we need to get Foldit prepared for 3.9”. Wow, great. Didn’t happen. Which is fine, I can figure it out by myself given enough time. I never asked any Threefold person for any help before I applied, but it’s another example how it’s become very hard for me to trust anything that Threefold tells me. I got completely demotivated and just stopped working on it. Why would I bother, if the next day the rules can just change. Maybe next week the rates drop to 10%, without a DAO vote. Who knows. Because this stuff keeps happening.
When people in the community started complaining about this situation (I tried to keep myself out of it, because I thought I was too involved to try and steer it), the reply was very disappointing. I won’t address every litte (wrong) thing that was communicated but eventually the consensus was: Let’s make a forum post and discuss it together what we should do. This post didn’t come (one did, from a community member but there was no dicusssion), for quite a while, until people started complaining again. Starting to sense a pattern?
Yesterday I was contacted by a staff member who basically said: “Sorry for how this process went, we understand you’re probably disappointed, but we reached an internal consensus that we’re moving on with the original motion as it stands on chain.”
Okay… I was incredibly surprised (I had basically given up at this point), very skeptical, but cautiously optimistic.
Today I wake up to this forum post, which although not stating outright that Foldit is not getting the promised deal, is heavily implying that it won’t, or at least shouldn’t.
I’m not sure what to think anymore at this point. My position is quite simple: Honour you deal. Even if it’s a shitty one. And I agree it’s a shitty one, and it needs to be altered. But you alter it through a DAO vote and GEPs, and let the community decide. You don’t override the process and nullify my work and the votes of the community because you made shitty design choices. If you really believe in these lofty words of community-based decisions and openness and building a new internet together, you honour your word and if it turns out to be wrong, you change it through the community. Out in the open, from day one. Right now, I suspect there will be weeks of either discussion or silence, at the end of which no progress will have been made. My SP will still not have been activated, and any changes to the procedure or rates or whatever won’t have been decided or implemented. Call me a pessimist, but I’m done holding out hope. The decision making process is volatile and clearly flawed.
This is not just about me or Foldit. I haven’t spoken a word about this publicly, for several reasons. I didn’t want to cause drama, I didn’t want to call people out, I didn’t want to be labeled “negative” as seems to happen so often when someone offers criticism, valid or not. But I’ve had enough. In my opinion, one of the most crucial things Threefold needs right now is utilisation, which means it needs an application layer. If you’re wanting to attract developers and create an eco-system where hobbyists or companies want to create stuff on your infrastructure, this is not the way to go about it. It really isn’t. It’s counter-productive, demoralising and seriously unprofessional.
Several people have asked to buy my code base. Again, if you don’t understand why I don’t make this open source, you probably have never been a professional developer. Time and effort like this is worth money to people. Threefold staff gets a salary from their work on TF, I don’t. I hold almost zero TFT, so this was my only path to actually invest in Threefold. So maybe I’ll do that, just sell it. I hope there’s still a way out of this, but I can’t see it evolving very positively, at least not for me. I hope the application process changes as soon as possible, so other people won’t get screwed over like this anymore, and everything is clear to everyone from the start. I still love this project, still love the community and I’d still love to help make it grow using Foldit, but I’m done waiting and trusting.
I want to thank everyone who have shown me and Foldit support, complimented my work or was just plain nice to me. Your kind words mean a lot, and hopefully we can work together in the future to make Threefold the success it should be.