HIP-25 - Validator DAO Bootstrap Initiative

This is a very good initiative. Great work to VDao.

Please consider redelegating the bootstrapped One to new validator(s) when the elected bootstrapped validator is able to independently be elected in the next epoch without the bootstrapped One (even prior to 100 epochs.)

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there are multiple places where new validator register and interact, so it is possible to identify the genuine ones, at least to some degree.

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Yup! We’ll be undelegating from them once they hit 1.2xEMS back down to 1xEMS and using the freed up funds to bootstrap others :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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I love this idea! This should definitely help us reach our goals faster in regards to getting validators online. I’m all for it :blue_heart:

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We will get there together :heart:

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Great point validity. And it was discussed at length in the VDAO meetings. We came to a consensus that it was better to assume the best rather than assume the worst.

As @RhythmValidator stated below, the VDAO will be keeping close tabs on the prospective recipients of bootstrapping funds.

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Right on @frwrdslosh!

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Congrats to the VDAO, to our fellow validators and to Harmony. This will benefit all of us. I have a few minor concerns/doubts, though:

1.- 10k as the minimum required to receive the VDAO delegation seems too low and could attract unscrupulous people to benefit from this. If I had 50k ONEs I could set up 5 validators and I could easily fool you (no offense). Instead, if the minimum required was a little higher (self-stake + delegations), you could make sure that the validator is making an effort to attract delegators and engage with the community, and you could probably keep most bad actors at bay because of the “increased effort”.

2.- Allowing 10% fees is an even greater incentive to make an effort to game the system. Also, if your idea is for people to able to get delegators, a 10% will make it more difficult. I suggest 5%.

3.- Assuming that you have already considered the previous points, could you share some more details on what your screening process will look like?

4.- From what I understood, you’ll be taking validators from 0 to heroes in ONE go. This is great, but from my experience, people get most of their delegators when they have a higher than average ER. It’s just a thought.

5.- For each new validator that gets the delegation, either one smaller validator will have to go unelected or a “big guy” will have to give up one of their keys. For this bootstrap initiative to be effective the idea is that bigger validators give up their keys rather than already elected validator getting pushed out of election. Otherwise, it’ll become a zero-sum game. I know this is not in your control, but hey, it’s just another thought.

6.- Given that this proposal is ready and you’ve already posted it here, in case you’re open for feedback, which is the best medium to make suggestions? Here, Telegram, Discord?

Again, congrats, guys! I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. A well-intentioned devil. Also, I’m not considering HIPs that haven’t been voted yet.

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Really exciting to see an initiative like this going live!

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Hey @HarmonyValidatorDAO great proposal! Should we require the validators also have a presence on the Testnet to qualify? Wondering instead of raising the bar of the 10K ONEs, we can leave that there, and just add a training-wheels pre-qualification to require applicants to also have a Testnet validator launched. Thoughts?

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I love the initiative! This will really help to get more validators elected in the long run!
But we should have an eye on @Rutilant_Hub 's point 5 (Pushing out small validators).

@Jacksteroo from a financial perspective, if a validator is far from election as I am, a training wheel would be no problem. As it wouldn’t hurt to modify their current infrastructure to not run mainnet for some days. Setting up a separate node would add even more financial pressure. I personally ran mainnet for a week, but it doesn’t represent mainnet very well, as the requirements are much lower for the node. I think first election is kinda a shot into the dark, relying on the feedback on fellow validators.

If a validator has been elected once, I don’t think it’s necessary at all (unless it was a shipwreck, which should show in the ER)

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We discussed including some requirements for testnet, but there were differing opinions on how helpful it would be. I was originally in support of a testnet requirement, but here were some of the concerns that were raised by the group:

  • It wouldn’t prepare people for two of the main problems that usually cause people not to sign when they get elected:
    • Running out of disk space because of db0
    • Running on shard 0 with underpowered hardware (we’re going to ask about specs/shard in the sign-up form to help prevent this issue)
  • It may require people to either rent another machine or run a node from their home, which might not be a great option for some people
  • Making it harder for people to become eligible might prevent the program from being as successful as it could otherwise be

Again - those aren’t my personal views or concerns, just a summary of some of the concerns the governors discussed. I see merit on both sides of it, but our approach for now was to keep the program simpler and potentially flesh out those details in the future if we could agree on something. If it’s something the core team really wants to see I’m sure we could come to an agreement on the requirements.

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This is a nice initiative, and I think it’s great the VDAO is acknowledging there are limitations in the current process. I appreciate that you all have agreed to assist the community in this manner

That said, this initiative does nothing to address the root cause of why the VDAO has to do this in the first place: Access to BLS keys for aspiring validators is restricted. They are not easily attained for new/smaller validators, and the protocol does little to assist in making it more accessible

So while I think this bootstrap initiative is a positive gesture/step forward, I hope we don’t think this is going to solve the issues that are currently afflicting Harmony’s BLS key process. I would prefer we build a bigger boat in order to incorporate more/all validators, instead of tossing only a few life preservers overboard and asking the other validators to tread water while waiting their turn

My suggestion is to bypass all of this. Automatically assign all eligible validators one key. After which point you can either continue the automated key-assigning for all additional keys, or allow the larger validators to continue utilizing their current bidding strategies. If you want to have more elected validators - which is explicitly mentioned in the summary section of this initiative - then auto-assigning keys to all eligible validators is a much more effective method

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@Rutilant_Hub made a few points that I agree with and want to add to (using their numbering system):

#2. Allowing 10% fees seems a bit high when the bootstrap validator will be largely subsidized by the VDAO

I agree with Rutilant that if you allow the fee to be set too high, it will discourage delegators from staking with them, inhibiting the benefit of the VDAO’s support in the first place

#4. I also agree with Rutilant that it will be hard to grow the Bootstrap validators beyond the level that the VDAO is investing in them. For starters, the high APY of “new” validators is definitely an attraction that helps them grow their delegation/delegator count

And secondly, a lot of validators simply hit a “ceiling” that is very hard to break through. You suggest ending the bootstrapping of a validator if they reach 1.2x EMS (6.27M) before the end of the 100 epochs. But out of the 161 elected validators listed on staking.harmony, 87 (54%) of them are below that 1.2x (6.27M) threshold! So I think it will be incredibly rare that you would ever need to end the bootstrapping prior to the conclusion of 100 epochs. It goes to show how difficult it is to grow your delegations as a new/smaller validator

Also, if I’m reading it correctly, if a bootstrap validator doesn’t reach a large enough delegation to remain elected without VDAO support, and there are other validators waiting to be brought into the bootstrap program, that the currently elected validator will lose 100% of their VDAO support after 100 epochs? I think there’s a high likelihood that many of these validators (perhaps 100%) won’t achieve the necessary level of delegation required to remain elected once the VDAO pulls its support. They’d be starting over at square one. These validators will just keep cycling through the bootstrap program every few hundred epochs, imo

Are we ok with resigning ourselves to that reality? Is there a better way to get validators elected and to keep them elected? Shouldn’t we be looking at those options? Again, this initiative is better than the status quo. But I think auto-assigning a key to all eligible validators would be a much more effective means of achieving Harmony’s goal of 1,000 validators

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I’m unable to edit the original post from the VDAO account for some reason :frowning:

  1. We discussed and voted on the minimum delegation and the vote went in favor of a 10k minimum. Personally I think a minimum of 50k-100k makes sense, but we’re going to proceed with the proposal as-is and fine tune it in the future if it turns into an issue.
  2. The VDAO governors voted to reduce the maximum fee in this proposal to 5% (the proposal currently says 10%). Thanks for your feedback! We originally were on the fence and went with 10% as that’s what Terra and Solana have as their max fee in their bootstrap program.
  3. We’ll ask some questions on the signup form and reach out to prospective validators. Ideally they’ll be in our telegram group and actively participating in discussions, but we’re not going to spell out any hard requirements for that sort of stuff. We don’t want the process to be subjective or political, so we would only remove someone from the program if it was clear they weren’t acting in good faith.
  4. Yup, you’re right that they’ll skip the possibility of having a high APR by accepting these bootstrap funds. We discussed the possibility of having them specify the amount they want, or progressively adding more over stake time to give them that chance at a high APR, but since the funds will remain in control of the Harmony Foundation for the initial launch of this program we wanted to simplify the delegation/undelegation scheme as much as possible.
  5. Yup! This is another consideration we had to make. From my observations, though, the only reason people make it into elections with a stake significantly lower than 0.65xEMS is because large validator(s) dropped a bunch of keys at the end of an epoch. Large validators will still have that option when we launch this program, so having 10-15 keys taken up by bootstrapped validators hopefully won’t have much of an impact on getting smaller/newer validators in.
  6. For visibility this is probably the best place to post feedback. We also have the #validator-dao channel on the official community Discord, and the Harmony Validator DAO Chat group on Telegram.
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Great discussions here.

We must ask ourselves here, if we don’t require the Bootstrap graduates to run Testnets, are we going to be lowering the bar here? Also, having the graduates mess around with Testnet is what Testnet is for. They get to see how it’s being run and what it looks like, how each epoch transition happens, and many more behavioral incentives.

We are not in a rush to move to 200+ validators. Our network is secure enough with 150+ validators. Graduating more well versed validators will also help reduce the VDAO and community’s burden of answering newbie questions, where these could be flushed out in the Testnet environment, hence strengthening the newcomers. This is important since next year, there’ll be upgrades that will be automatically assigning shards, 1-second finality (devops kung-fu to tackle bandwidth and p2p), zk-rollup, possibly state-expiry pruning, etc.

We will also benefit from having additional Testnet validators this way

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IMO we shouldn’t set such a tight restriction. In fact, we shouldn’t require any max fee, or set a higher limit like 20% max for them to take in some rewards (see ONEs actually show up in their wallets, cherish those moments, let it sink in) and recommend going towards 5% before the end of the 100 epoch delegations from VDAO. Let’s see how human behavior kicks in.

Will the new validator keep it at 20% in all 100 epochs and hurt their chances of gaining new delegators early on then fall off being elected? Or will they move to 0% quickly to gain more delegators? We’ll let the delegators vote with their wallets. That’s how delegated proof-of-stake models work. Harmony CTO @rongjian crafted the chain decentralization and security model this way, with EPOS, as he loves to see how people will react and interact with one another in these game theoretical scenarios.

Hope it makes sense

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Great remarks @Jacksteroo
We had debates on the minimum fees and the testnet validator requirement.

  • For the minimum fees, I personally was in favor of 10% to be less restrictive. My point was if the validators need to raise their fees to cover the server costs, they should have the freedom to do it.
    But on the other hand, the arguments in favor of the 5% were to prevent the validators to “abuse” the system by raising the fees too high. Also a new validator, raising his fees to 20% right away, will probably have more difficulties to attract new delegations and be independent.
    There are definitively pros and cons, 10% might be a good compromise here?

  • For the testnet validator requirement, we were also a bit divided on the question, like @RhythmValidator already said.
    First of all, the testnet is helpful for new people to get the basics, how to get elected etc. My question is what if a validator is already running on mainnet ? Should they go back to the testnet to qualify?
    In the interview, we definitively want to ask questions about the experience on testnet.

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Thank you for all your remarks!

1). I get your point but if we make the minimum 50k and you have 250k, you can start 5 validators so the problem is not really solved.
There is a thread (Discussion: Lowering Entry Requirements (Currently 10,000 ONE) - #40 by WhitePeach) open with discussion to lower the minimum to start a validator so in the meantime we cannot ask a validator to have at least 100k or more to apply here I think.

5). Yes this is a great point you made there, that’s why other proposals made recently (such as in Pre-HIP) are important imho.

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Hey @ONE4All, thanks for replying. I agree that a self-stake of 10k should be the minimum. What I meant was that on top of the minimum self-staked amount, the candidate should already have some delegations (50k-100k). This would show the candidate’s commitment and that they made an effort to get there. This requirement would probably also reduce the amount of people willing to put in the time to game the system. Does this totally solve the problem? No. Does this work as a filter? Yes.

Hey @Jacksteroo, that’s an interesting point, although I disagree. IMO the argument of “let’s see how human behavior kicks in” would certainly be valid if a validator was acting independently. It would also be valid if there was an unlimited amount of slots. However, given that there’s a limited amount of keys, for every candidate that is funded by the VDAO, other validators will get affected. Thus, I don’t think that a lax approach to the commission fees is the right one.

If a candidate fails after 100 epochs because of his commission choices, not only it’ll be detrimental for him, but also for the rest of validators that were affected during 100 epochs only to see someone fail because of some poor choices that could’ve been avoided from the start. Once the validator is no longer funded by the VDAO, then they can take all the risks they want.

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In conjunction with this initiative, I’d like to highlight a group of Harmonauts that are passionate about helping small validators to get elected. I ran across them from a recent tweet and this group is putting their mission in action one new validator at a time. I would like to bring this group to the attention of a larger community as well as some really big fish in the harmony sea to aid them in their mission. It appears that they are working with the validators they sponsor with a support structure that will help them sustain their elected status once elected. All which fall in line with this initiative, in my opinion, but it doesn’t require a long process and funding approval from the Harmony Team. It’s just every day delegators trying to get to the goal of decentralization faster, One validator at a time. More if the group were to grow more quickly. Reddit Group Name: Harmoforce | Twitter Handle: HarmoforceONE . Thanks for reading.

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