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It's time for a break: About the recent mess & temporary new rules

Posted by4 years ago

It's time for a break: About the recent mess & temporary new rules

Unfortunately, I was on vacation this weekend, so I was unable to prevent r/Bitcoin from becoming messy. Sorry about that. I and other moderators more-or-less cleaned it up. Report anything that we missed.

Because people are still probably in a "troll-happy" mood from the lack of moderation, moderation will be increased for a while. Everyone needs some time to calm down. In particular, posts about anything especially emotionally-charged will be deleted unless they introduce some very substantial new ideas about the subject. This includes the max block size debate (any side) and r/Bitcoin moderation. Also, people are continuously spamming links to inferior clones of r/Bitcoin and the XT subreddit -- these links will be removed and the posters banned unless the links are remarkably appropriate for the given situation. When this sticky is removed, the rules will return to what they were previously.

It is possible that some people have been or will be banned too readily due to the increased moderation. If this happens to you, mail r/Bitcoin with a justification of your actions, then wait 2 days and mail again if there's no satisfactory response, then wait 4 days, then 8, 16, 32, etc. If your mail to r/Bitcoin is too high-volume, we may block all further mail from you, which will make it impossible for your to appeal your ban.

About XT

r/Bitcoin exists to serve Bitcoin. XT will, if/when its hardfork is activated, diverge from Bitcoin and create a separate network/currency. Therefore, it and services that support it should not be allowed on r/Bitcoin. In the extremely unlikely event that the vast majority of the Bitcoin economy switches to XT and there is a strong perception that XT is the true Bitcoin, then the situation will flip and we should allow only submissions related to XT. In that case, the definition of "Bitcoin" will have changed. It doesn't make sense to support two incompatible networks/currencies -- there's only one Bitcoin, and r/Bitcoin serves only Bitcoin.

If a hardfork has near-unanimous agreement from Bitcoin experts and it's also supported by the vast majority of Bitcoin users and companies, we can predict with high accuracy that this new network/currency will take over the economy and become the new definition of Bitcoin. (Miners don't matter in this, and it's not any sort of vote.) This sort of hardfork can probably be adopted on r/Bitcoin as soon as it has been determined that the hardfork is not absolutely against the spirit of Bitcoin (inflating out-of-schedule, for example). For right now, there will always be too much controversy around any hardfork that increases the max block size, but this will probably change as there's more debate and research, and as block space actually becomes more scarce. I could see some kind of increase gaining consensus in as soon as 6 months, though it would have to be much smaller than the increase in XT for ~everyone to agree on it so soon.

There's a substantial difference between discussion of a proposed Bitcoin hardfork (which was previously always allowed here, even though I strongly disagree with many things posted) and promoting software that is programmed to diverge into a competing network/currency. The latter is clearly against the established rules of r/Bitcoin, and while Bitcoin's technology will continue working fine no matter what people do, even the attempt at splitting Bitcoin up like this will harm the Bitcoin ecosystem and economy.

Why is XT considered an altcoin even though it hasn't broken away from Bitcoin yet?

Because it is intentionally programmed to diverge from Bitcoin, I don't consider it to be important that XT is not distinct from Bitcoin quite yet. If someone created a fork of Bitcoin Core that allowed miners to continue mining 25 BTC per block forever, would that be "Bitcoin" even though it doesn't split from the Bitcoin currency/network quite yet? (I'd say no.)

Can I still talk about hard fork proposals on r/Bitcoin?

Right now, not unless you have something really new and substantial to say.

After this sticky is removed, it will be OK to discuss any hardfork to Bitcoin, but not any software that hardforks without consensus, since that software is not Bitcoin.

If XT is an altcoin then why aren't sidechains or Lightning altcoins?

r/Bitcoin is about the Bitcoin currency and network. Lightning allows you to move the Bitcoin currency. Sidechains are on-topic in general because they are a possibly-useful addition to the Bitcoin network. It is possible that some specific sidechains might not be on-topic -- this isn't clear to me yet.

XT is programmed to create a separate currency and network, so it is not Bitcoin.

How do you know that there is no consensus?

Consensus is a high bar. It is not the same as a majority. In general, consensus means that there is near-unanimity. In the very particular case of a hardfork, "consensus" means "there is no noticeable probability that the hardfork will cause the Bitcoin economy to split into two or more non-negligible pieces".

I know almost for certain that there is no consensus to the change in XT because Bitcoin core developers Wladamir, Greg, and Pieter are opposed to it. That's enough to block consensus. And it works both ways: if Gavin and Mike are strongly opposed to Pieter's BIP, then this will also block consensus on that BIP.

Other than the core devs, big Bitcoin companies (especially Coinbase, BitPay, and exchanges) could block consensus, as could large groups of average users who are collectively capable of making reasonable arguments and exerting economic force (probably not just random unknown people complaining about nothing).

Even though consensus is such a high bar, I think that in practice any hardfork that gets consensus among the Bitcoin Core devs and makes it into Bitcoin Core has a good chance of succeeding. But again, the developers would just be spearheading the effort, and many others could block them if necessary.

But with such a high bar, 8 MB blocks will be impossible!

If consensus can never be reached on one particular hardfork proposal, then the hardfork should never occur. Just because you want something doesn't mean that it's ever reasonable for you to hijack Bitcoin from the people who don't want it, even if your side is the majority (which it isn't in this case). This isn't some democratic country where you can always get your way with sufficient politicking. Get consensus, live without the change, or create your own altcoin.

Hard forks are supposed to be hard. While some hard forks will probably be necessary in the long run, these hard forks will need to have consensus and be done properly or Bitcoin will die due to the economy being constantly shattered into several pieces, or as a side-effect of forcing through technically unsound changes that the majority of experts disagree with (like XT's 8MB block size).

Don't most experts want 8 MB blocks soon?

Not by any reasonable idea of "most experts" I can think of. For example, among people with expert flair on /r/Bitcoin, AFAIK any large near-term increase is opposed by nullc, petertodd, TheBlueMatt, luke-jr, pwuille, adam3us, maaku7, and laanwj. A large near-term increase is supported by gavinandresen, jgarzik, mike_hearn, and MeniRosenfeld. (Those 12 people are everyone with expert flair.)

I've heard concerns that some experts who oppose any large near-term increase have conflicts of interest. But many of them have been expressing the same concerns for years, so it's unlikely that any recent possible conflict of interest is influencing them. Also, if they believed that increasing the max block size would help Bitcoin as a whole, what reason would they have to prevent this? I don't see the incentive.

We don't need to trust the above list of experts, of course. But I for one have found the conservative position's arguments to be much more convincing than the huge-increase position's arguments. It's not reasonable to say, "You know a lot more than I do, and I don't see any fault in your arguments, but you must be trying to trick me due to this potential conflict of interest, so I'm going to ignore you."

Who are you working for?

I am not an employee of anyone but myself. As far as I know my only incentives for engaging in this policy are to make Bitcoin as strong as possible for ideological reasons, and in the long-term to increase the Bitcoin price. When I make policies, I do so because I believe that they are right. I am not being paid for my work on r/Bitcoin or for creating certain policies.

It would have been far easier for me to simply allow XT. If I was a politician or a business, I probably would have bowed to community demands already. And on several occasions I have very seriously considered the possibility that I could be wrong here and the community right. But in the end I just don't see any way to both reasonably and consistently deal with XT and cases similar to XT except to ban them on r/Bitcoin. Additionally, I am further motivated by my knowledge that a "hostile hardfork" like the one in XT is very harmful for Bitcoin no matter what the change entails, and that the change in XT is in fact amazingly bad.

See also

See my previous posts on this subject and the discussion in their child comments. Keep in mind that my comments are often downvoted to the point of being hidden by default.

Also, someone who could be Satoshi posted here. This email address was actually used by Satoshi before he left, and the email apparently did come from that email address legitimately (not a spoof). Whether he's actually Satoshi or not, I agree with what he's saying.

About majoritarianism

Just because many people want something doesn't make it right. There is example after example of this in history. You might reasonably believe that democracy is the best we can do in government (though I disagree), but it's not the best we can do with private and independent forums on the free market.

If you disagree with r/Bitcoin policy, you can do one of these things:

  • Try to convince us moderators that we are wrong. We have thought about these issues very deeply already, so just stating your opinion is insufficient. You need to make an argument from existing policy, from an ethical axiom which we might accept, or from utilitarianism.

  • Move to a different subreddit.

  • Accept r/Bitcoin's policies even though you don't agree with them. Maybe post things that are counter to our policies in a different subreddit.

Do not violate our rules just because you disagree with them. This will get you banned from r/Bitcoin, and evading this ban will get you (and maybe your IP) banned from Reddit entirely.

If 90% of r/Bitcoin users find these policies to be intolerable, then I want these 90% of r/Bitcoin users to leave. Both r/Bitcoin and these people will be happier for it. I do not want these people to make threads breaking the rules, demanding change, asking for upvotes, making personal attacks against moderators, etc. Without some real argument, you're not going to convince anyone with any brains -- you're just wasting your time and ours. The temporary rules against blocksize and moderation discussion are in part designed to encourage people who should leave r/Bitcoin to actually do so so that r/Bitcoin can get back to the business of discussing Bitcoin news in peace.

The purpose of moderation is to make the community a good one, which sometimes includes causing people to leave.

This thread

You can post comments about moderation policy here, but nowhere else.

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level 1
Meni Rosenfeld - Bitcoin Expert
550 points · 4 years ago · edited 4 years ago

Sorry for being the odd one out in theymos' list, not having my stance on the issue clear :). I will clarify it, but only after I explain at length why I reject the whole premise of the question.

This used to be a technical debate about block sizes. We were presented with two bad choices: Keep it at 1MB which is obviously too low, or increase to 8MB/20MB which is obviously too high (obvious to me anyway). As a community we've failed to reach a compromise, and I think that if more people pushed for a reasonable number like 3-4 MB in the short term (including also Gavin and Mike on one extreme, and Peter on the other), things would be different now.

Given that compromise failed, Gavin and Mike went ahead to push Bitcoin-XT, and now the real issue isn't about technology, it's about the philosophy of Bitcoin evolution. To me, Bitcoin-XT represents a somewhat reckless approach, which in the name of advancement shatters existing structures, fragments the community, and spins the ecosystem into chaos. Whereas Bitcoin Core represents a frigid approach, where no technology improvement will ever be made because consensus can't be reached, and where we can't do anything about the fact that we can't do anything, because of the delegitimization of attempts to change the status quo by forking and letting the best currency win (and make no mistakes, there will be many necessary technology improvements down the road; the block size limit pales in comparison).

Both choices are bad.

I had plans once to write a paper about the game-theoretic aspects of changing the Bitcoin protocol, the contingencies in case of a fork, and how the mere threat of a fork can create a Schelling point which would prevent it from happening. I regret never getting around to it, because it might have been illuminating in the current debate. (For that matter, the other paper I had plans for writing was about transaction fees and how they relate to things like a block size limit; I regret that too, but again the block size is no longer the real issue).

But anyway, I do strongly believe that the possibility of forking Bitcoin - even if at first it has no consensus - is vital to Bitcoin's health, growth and survival. It's the glue that holds everything together and makes sure the Bitcoin economy has a say in case something goes wrong with the development. Ideally a contentious fork would forever remain a theoretical possibility - but if it is possible it means it can happen, and that's what we're seeing right now. Rejecting a fork on the grounds that it's a fork is wrong.

Of course, there are reasons to reject Bitcoin-XT on the grounds that its timing and method are wrong. The objection to the technical change was too strong to just gloss over it. We're definitely not anywhere near the point where Pieter, Greg or Wladimir can be conceivably considered rogue and we should break away from them. Mike and Gavin have, quite arrogantly I would say, assumed that this is just like any other software change and that virtually everyone will just automatically follow them, where the reality is far from it. They didn't properly consider the consequences of making this move without enough support. (They might reply that they have been fighting for this for a long time and exhausted all other options, but I don't accept this - they made many attempts at persuasion, but not enough at compromise).

So here we are, having to choose between two bad alternatives. The mere act of choosing commits, in my opinion, the logical fallacy of privileging the hypothesis. There are millions of possible approaches, and "someone" out there restricted them to just 2. Most of the decision process (culling from millions to 2) was made for me and I'm left rubber-stamping one of the choices that remain. (See also

But hey, even a noisy bit contains some information, and the question was asked, so...

Given the choice between short-term sticking with 1MB or going all the way to 8MB, I am in favor of going to 8MB.

Given the choice between sticking with Bitcoin Core or switching to Bitcoin-XT, I am in slight favor of sticking with Bitcoin Core, but that could change any time.

All that said, the parent post explaining theymos' policy makes no sense to me. As explained above, the possibility of forking is an integral part of Bitcoin. As long as Bitcoin-XT has non-negligible support as the true Bitcoin implementation, even with nothing resembling unanimous consensus, it is a part of what Bitcoin is, and of course is on topic on a Bitcoin subreddit.

Even if for some reason we take a purist approach that Bitcoin = Bitcoin Core, I'd imagine that most posts about Bitcoin-XT would compare it in some way to Bitcoin Core, and as such are on-topic (just like a post comparing Bitcoin and Litecoin would be on topic).

I'm considering upgrading the above to a post, but honestly, since it includes a discussion of Bitcoin-XT, I'm not even sure it passes the moderation rules...

level 2
107 points · 4 years ago

All that said, the parent post explaining theymos' policy makes no sense to me. As explained above, the possibility of forking is an integral part of Bitcoin. As long as Bitcoin-XT has non-negligible support as the true Bitcoin implementation, even with nothing resembling unanimous consensus, it is a part of what Bitcoin is, and of course is on topic on a Bitcoin subreddit.

If I may, Meni, I think here is the crux of the matter. Of course neither position is ideal, each with its own flaws. But if we are not able to discuss these issues in the main Bitcoin fora for fear of being banned or having our posts deleted, then how on Earth are we ever supposed to hone in on the one solution that is the least flawed?

I too was on the fence on whether to switch to XT, but Theymos made my decision for me. If I cannot speak to the issue itself in the most popular fora on Bitcoin, then the only "voice" I have is to add XT nodes to the network.

As you, I am very much hoping some intermediate solution will present itself (though how we're to find out about it if the fora are censored is beyond me). I am hoping that a strong enough presence of XT on the network will persuade all devs, Mike and Gavin included, to try and work towards that least flawed solution.

level 2
83 points · 4 years ago

What I can't stand about the naysayers, those who would try to keep Gavin and Mike's ideas out of view, is that ... ONLY Gavin and Mike stepped up to the plate and worked on CODE to address an issue everyone knows should be addressed at some point. Everyone else just talked, and apparently censored.

IMHO, Answer with code, or STFU. The resolution for this problem is in algorithms, not politics and community censorship.

level 2
49 points · 4 years ago

they made many attempts at persuasion, but not enough at compromise

I think Gavin tried to compromise and has compromised. Remember this started with 20mb and 50% growth, now it is 8mb.

Really, if this was a sort of negotiation which is what a compromise would entail, one side started with 1mb, Gavin with 20, the other side moves to 2, Gavin to 8, they go to 3, Gavin to 6 and they meet somewhere in the middle 4 or 5mb. Gavin would probably think this is a bit too low, the other side a bit too high, but both would find it acceptable considering that a compromise is necessary.

Same with % increase. I do not think we would want another fork over this debate again seeing how it has developed. So one side would start with 0%, Gavin with 50%, the other side 5, Gavin 40, the other side 10, Gavin 30, and meet somewhere in the middle of 15 - 20%.

4mb with 15-20% is the compromise solution really. I wouldn't compromise any further on that and I think that almost everyone would be happy for it except for a fringe hardcore tiny minority and unfortunately there will always be a hardcore tiny minority with any change either due to ideological or financial reasons.

Unfortunately the other side did not want to compromise. I hear for example that Gregory Maxwell is against intentional hard forks in general and as long as he says nack then there can be no "consensus" and there would be a "contentious" hard fork. Pieter was willing to compromise, after a 4 months debate, but instead of going to 2mb to start with some % increase, he suggested 1.04mb in two years! We can't be debating forever seeing as this matter has been going on for years and, as they are unwilling to compromise then Gavin is right to go with his original proposal which has been modified to take miner's concerns into account.

If we don't move ahead then we basically give one man or two, that being nullc or pieter, veto powers which would be quite a dangerous precedent.

Finally, BitcoinXT is not set in stone. If miners or the community has any concerns with the size or the %increase, then they can raise them and their concerns can be addressed as they did for example by saying a jump to 20mb was too much, but 8mb was acceptable.

level 2
7 points · 4 years ago

I had plans once to write a paper about the game-theoretic aspects of changing the Bitcoin protocol, the contingencies in case of a fork, and how the mere threat of a fork can create a Schelling point which would prevent it from happening. I regret never getting around to it, because it might have been illuminating in the current debate. (For that matter, the other paper I had plans for writing was about transaction fees and how they relate to things like a block size limit; I regret that too, but again the block size is no longer the real issue).

This is what is needed I think, and I have ideas but I know I am not capable of it. I suspect that bitcoin as a highly transactable low cost currency requires a highly optimized change/solution that we cannot foresee or predict. We can get "better" but not best. On the other hand, bitcoin as a high cost lower transaction settlement layer is something that doesn't rely on such foresight but rather stability of its parameters.

Not all parameters will be un-evolvable, but the more parameters that are locked in the more stable bitcoin is for the purpose of, for example, a new digital gold standard.

From there the best, easiest, most stablest solution would be to show with game theory, that there is not incentive for change amongst the community. Or in other words with so many different options available for the community, and the entropy on not reaching a consensus seemingly growing more and more assured, it seems we could more quickly get to a point where no change can happen.

I think this could be shown, where as proving the possibility of consensus might only be possible in practice

level 2
Comment deleted by user4 years ago
level 2
25 points · 4 years ago

You say there are only two options being offered... and that is currently true. But no one is prevented from creating actual code to support other alternatives.

So far, no one has. The easy ones would be for supporting BIP100, and/or BIP102.

Or just create a fork the backs out the original Satoshi 1MB limit - go back to unlimited - another option.

Then let the market decide.

level 2
4 points · 4 years ago

The mere act of choosing commits, in my opinion, the logical fallacy of privileging the hypothesis.

Meni, can you explain this further? Thank you.

level 2
3 points · 4 years ago

Thank you Meni. This post very much reflects my position.

I hate that we're only presented with two choices and forced to select one - a false dichotomy and strategically a bad choice by Mike and Gavin.

However, I find it even more troublesome that people prefer an developer oligarchy over the build-in democracy of bitcoin (however centralized this may have become). Forking must be part of bitcoin, because this is the only way stakeholders ever get a vote.

level 2
3 points · 4 years ago

As a completely ignorant outsider who has been reading a little of the current controversy, this comment brings up a question that has occurred to me earlier. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation, but: Why doesn't someone actually code a fork with a 4mb limit?

Assuming this is more complicated than just wishing it, would an at least credible intention to do so have a good chance of becoming a popular compromise even if some would choose it simply as the lesser of evils?

level 2
10 points · 4 years ago · edited 4 years ago

My fear from this is that after XT fails (I believe it will, but I don't know for sure), we will be in a worse position. Not because XT was the better option (it isn't), but any future proposal of a hard fork change will be harder to compromise on. Any contention will be later argued as "trying to XT the debate."

Alternatively, if XT does succeed it opens up whole other can of worms... including legitimizing potentially dangerous hard forks in the future.

Essentially, we've been made to choose between a douche and a turd sandwich.

Something that I've been playing with in my head is actually using XT to show that Core devs can compromise on an unrelated (to the block size issue) hard fork that is much less contentious and implement it before the XT hard fork. Show that the process to get a hard fork done is possible without threats of going nuclear.

Alternatively, I think sipa's proposal is the best, and it's only contention would be the "too conservative" numbers he used. Perhaps a proposal with a hard fork with higher (but reasonably agreed upon) numbers with the intention of soft forking down to sipa's numbers - it essentially provides a "checked" amount of ability to break his number within reason if (yet nebulously defined) metrics of decentralization improve.

34 more replies

level 1
381 points · 4 years ago

Please change this sub to r/bitcoincore if that's all that will be discussed here.

Calling it r/bitcoin but banning discussions about alternative clients and consensus rules is misleading.

There will be a lot of new clients in the coming years and one would expect r/bitcoin to be the place where cross client issues would be discussed.

level 2
35 points · 4 years ago

There will be a lot of new clients in the coming years and one would expect r/bitcoin to be the place where cross client issues would be discussed.

They are setting the precedent for this to be the norm. Why? That remains to be seen, but I think it's worth discussing the possibility that the mod team has become compromised and banks (or whomever) could stand to make money controlling the discussion.

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Created Sep 9, 2010
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