Article 0 preamble/context for the constitution

Hey all, as many of you know there has been a lot of discussion, starting before the airdrop, about adding an #Article0 to the ENS constitution which tries to capture more of the context from the existing ENS community within which the constitution has been launched. Here is the phrasing of the latest draft, written mostly by myself but with some feedback and edits from @Nick.eth as well as lots of useful comments and endorsements from various community members on twitter, discord, etc such as @brantlymillegan @AvsA @lefterisjp @cory.eth @Pop and more:

0. The token is not the community

The articles listed here, even as eventually amended, can neither embody nor enforce the entire consensus around what ENS already is, or what it should continue to be and become. Instead it is the responsibility of every ENS community member, and especially those granted higher powers and responsibilities by this constitution, to protect:

  • the predictability and legitimacy of the consensus around how ENS names work;
  • the legibility and credible neutrality of the ENS system for as many users and stakeholders as possible;
  • and the positive social trust and goodwill which exists among the present and future set of ENS stakeholders.

It is not the intent of this constitution to confuse the mechanisms by which the ENS community expresses its consensus for a definition of that consensus itself. Only the active, considerate, and collaborative actions of the broader ENS community can maintain, grow, and improve the ENS system throughout the coming years.

I would welcome any feedback on the current phrasing (or just general words of encouragement and endorsement!) as we move towards an official draft proposal and then a proposal for approval.

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I strongly support something like this. I’d suggest though that “even as eventually amended” is a little pointless; anyone wanting to neuter this could just amend out that phrase!

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That’s true of any part of the constitution. Given that Article 0 is more about what isn’t in the constitution, the main reason I included “even as eventually amended” is just to communicate the idea that the constitution will never be perfect or complete, and that’s okay!

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I support this preamble. The only part I’m still wrapping my head around is

It is not the intent of this constitution to confuse the mechanisms by which the ENS community expresses its consensus for a definition of that consensus itself.

Does the “expresses” here refer to the actual on-chain DAO vote, or was that meant to be more of a general “people in the community expressing their opinions online” sort of thing?

I suppose my only concern here is that I wouldn’t want someone to read this and get the impression that the actual, practical consensus of the DAO (the on-chain vote) may not actually amount to being the final decision of the DAO. As if the “community” could come together and “define” a different “consensus” than the actual consensus that resulted from the DAO vote, and override the results. But that wouldn’t and shouldn’t be possible since code is law, right?

Obviously the above would really only apply to the actual on-chain executable proposals. Everything else that can’t technically be enforced on-chain is ultimately just a social contract among us all anyway.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs though, maybe it’s just me. :slight_smile:

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Hey Jeff,

Yes indeed I also support this. Above all else the phrase “The token is not the community”.

As for phrasing:

even as eventually amended,

I also think this does not make much sense as mentioned by Nick.

It is not the intent of this constitution to confuse the mechanisms by which the ENS community expresses its consensus for a definition of that consensus itself

I am probably a dumb dumb. But I can’t parse this sentence. Do you think it can be simplified a bit?

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I think the idea is to legitimise things like social forks in the case of a hostile takeover, if I understand correctly.

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On-chain (or off-chain) voting is definitely the main “mechanism by which the ENS community expresses its consensus” that I had in mind, though of course there are also others such as these forums, the discord, etc. I believe the constitution only formally refers to the voting, however, so it seems like the most relevant one.

Perhaps it’s the opposite, and the sentence has been simplified too much? The idea is that we don’t want to pretend the constitution is capable of capturing all scenarios and situations. There are definitely scenarios where the vast majority of people would be in consensus that there has been a bug or exploit, but where the exact fix is something that people can coordinate on even though it’s not specified in the constitution. Those things are always impossible to define mechanically in advance, but they are still important tools that we have always used. I think it’s important that we mention that, but I am definitely open to other ways of wording this that are more readable.

I sure hope people have that impression, because it has always been the case that the notion of “what the actual ENS system is” is socially defined, and there are plenty of powers specifically NOT granted by the $ENS token or the proposed constitution which might apply, some of which it can NEVER grant.

But to break out some examples of what those are, practically:

  • Sure, the entire Ethereum community could fork the chain if something went wrong with ENS, like it did after the original DAO. Realistically, though, the odds of this happening for the concerns of individual projects (even ENS) seem to be going down over time, and I don’t personally expect this. But hey, I could just be failing to imagine an appropriately unusual scenario. Maybe ENS really does replace DNS and it becomes a “whole internet breaking” issue that’s extremely time sensitive or something? I dunno. Seems unlikely to me.

  • Much more realistically, if a major bug or exploit were to permanently cripple a large swathe of present and future ENS names, perhaps by blocking registrations/renewals of all names beginning with a certain range of bytes, or something like that, then it seems pretty obvious we would all just socially coordinate over to a new registry. Tools like token voting could be a very important part of that social coordination, but in mechanical terms this isn’t actually something the constitution grants power over (because the constitution doesn’t control it to begin with, it’s a social construct to decide what the “real ENS” is). Even adding in a rule in the constitution for this specific scenario still wouldn’t guarantee that people would follow what that rule said. It’s unenforceable, like the proposed Article 0. But that’s exactly why I think it’s useful to mention in general that the community is aware the constitution can’t cover everything, and they’re working to make the constitution (and ENS generally) as useful as possible anyways. That’s exactly how legitimacy is achieved in practice: when you successfully design systems that genuinely reflect the goals and values of those affected by them, in a sensical and legible way that resolves people’s concerns.

  • Forking the token lands somewhere in between these as I see it. Sure, this is always something that can be done and I can even imagine “hostile takeover” situations where there might be a wide consensus it needs to be done. Steemit did it, for example. But in a technical sense forking the token wouldn’t automatically fork the treasury, so this would be a pretty costly move. Maybe it would be worth it if the situation was really egregious, I don’t know. Or maybe $ENS token holders will eventually vote in a “treasury forking” procedure like the original DAO had. Who knows? Just hope it doesn’t have bugs :slight_smile: And that’s the point: you can’t always pre-specify the exact mechanical instructions for every possible situation. Sometimes there’s new information that people need to use, and all you can do is fall back on broader principles. That’s the norm for how ENS already works, as we’ve seen with bugs and auction exploits in the past. But explicitly writing that into the constitution just helps everyone remember that specifically when a crisis goes down. It won’t magically provide the answer, but I do think it helps a little on the awareness, reminding, and encouraging side.

  • Forking the legal entity behind the ENS DAO is…a question for a lawyer. I’m guessing you can’t do it without an order from a judge in the Caymans and I have no idea how that would work. Out of my depth. But intuitively seems unlikely unless the court is ruling on a crime or fraud or something.

  • Forking a Layer 2 where part of the ENS records are held. Most rollup designs aren’t intended to allow for inconsistencies between the Layer 2 and the main chain, but it could still happen with an active attack, a break in a zero knowledge system, or something like that. The practicality of executing a fork in response to something like that would be extremely dependent on the situation and on the exact design of the Layer 2. But it seems hard for most Layer 2 designs I can think of, unless the fork is in the main ETH chain. TBH, a clear break in a Layer 2, especially a widely used design, is probably more likely to merit the kind of all-chain response needed to coordinate an ETH-wide fork, much like there is a social contingency plan for forking Ethereum in the event of a quantum attack on the underlying cryptographic primitives (one I’ve helped advocate for making more practical by things like every beacon chain validator having a quantum secure public key). So it really all depends which Layer 2, how, and when. But again this is something the constitution can’t grant control over, because it doesn’t even belong to ENS. Anything it says is unenforceable and it all depends on what people actually do.

So it seems pretty clear that the existing case with ENS is that there are many types of consensus not captured in the proposed constitution. People might not think of this kind of stuff, and to some extent I hope they never really have to. But if one of those situations (or more likely, a different one I didn’t list here) do come down, I do think it helps to have explicitly identified the broader values which the ENS community uses to fall back on when the mechanisms in place fail.

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Okay I think that all makes sense. The important takeaway is that this constitution is primarily for “ENS”, not necessarily for contact 0xc18360217d8f7ab5e7c516566761ea12ce7f9d72 on the ETH blockchain.

This preamble is really just a reminder to everyone participating that despite the power and immutability of decentralized contracts, we’re all still just humans and ultimately we’re the ones who will decide what “ENS” truly is.

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You put it much better in much fewer words. Sorry if I was too verbose there!

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Oh not at all, it was all good information, and a lot of stuff to think about!

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Strong agreement on the key points being made here: we have to ensure that we maintain the legitimacy and credible neutrality of ENS and so any actions taken in the DAO should consider that meta-objective.

A lot of this seems relevant to almost any DAO that is governing a public good, similar to what Toby talks about in positive-sum worlds we want to ensure that token holders are making choices that benefit the broader ENS and Ethereum ecosystem:

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I agree with the spirit of this proposal.

But I also feel like the existence and nature of the DAO itself is the biggest statement supporting the proposed paragraph. The constitution documents the ENS values. The DAO provides a method for expressing and modifying them as needed.

A method, yes. But there are also and will always be methods outside of just token voting needed to inform and improve the ENS system. We can’t codify these methods, or at least not all of them. I’m sure that over time we’ll come up with many new and useful mechanics to add into the constitution and technical architecture of ENS. But it’s the non-formalized, and often unenforceable, parts of a community that really make it succeed: the time, care and thoughtfulness its members put into how they use mechanisms like token voting, the way they respond when new forces, good or bad, begin to impact or drive those mechanisms.

The world is always changing, and we don’t have to pretend we’ve got it all figured out right at the beginning. But for those things we have figured out as a community, but just don’t have any mechanical way of encoding or enforcing that doesn’t seem like it will introduce problems of its own, expressing them in plain language at the head of the most central document is a critical way to preserve and prioritize them. Any “constitution” involved with a system that people care about is eventually going to be picked apart word by word to see what cracks and loopholes it allows. But when you write out some of the core values that the original mechanism was trying to capture, it helps empower those in the community who push back against distortions and exploitations of the mechanisms in place. It helps give context to how those words are supposed to be interpreted.

That’s why I think Article 0 matters even more than the just the DAO. Article 0 is about the bigger purposes the DAO is supposed to serve. We can’t guarantee those purposes are served just by writing them down. But we can call attention to them by doing so, and by clearly communicating them here to all who read this document going forward. It’s not magic. But it’s still a worthwhile message for us to send to ourselves both now and in the future.

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Maybe making this an amendment is better than calling it Article 0. In the US constitution, the amendments have equal if not more significance than the constitution its self. I think calling it Article 0 make it sound like there was a mistake in the constitution, which I don’t think is the intent here.

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First, just to make sure you have the same context, there’s two references/nods being made with the Article ‘0’ thing specifically:

One is to Asimov’s famous “Three Laws of Robotics” which are originally 1, 2, and 3 until the robots figure out that really there was a bigger implicit condition all along which they label the 0th law and explicitly come up with a wording for, even though it didn’t originally have one.

The second is to the general convention in computer science of numbering things from 0. Most constitutions don’t have an “article 0” so it gives it a more techie feel to have that numbering in the document.

With those here for reference, let me respond to your actual comment. Technically, any change we make at all can be called an amendment, sure. But there’s still the question of how we format the changes we make.

Realistically, “Article 0” is of a quite different category than the other articles, because it doesn’t add any specific mechanics or enforcements. Instead it talks about the context we apply to the constitution as a whole. Essentially, it’s a preamble. So just making it “Amendment 1” or even 2 or 3 is a really weird place to put it. It’s not one of the items in the list, it’s a description of what the whole list is about. The beginning is really the only place it makes sense to go.

There’s also another thing here that’s more nebulous, but let me say how I see it and others can offer their feedback as to whether it’s a good frame. But in my view, this proposal is to write Article 0 in the constitution, not to add it to the constitution. What do I mean by that? For me personally, I would say that the things in Article 0 are things which were already part of the ENS community before the constitution was ever proposed. This is true in a technical sense, that the effort to add an Article 0 started before the airdrop and hence before anyone had voted on anything. But it’s also true in a much bigger sense, that this whole token thing is something being added to an existent, vibrant community rather than being defined into the ENS system from the start.

So the way that I think of it, Article 0 is about taking the less tangible, less strictly enforceable things that were part of the ENS community before the constitution was even proposed, and making sure they’re written down. Article 0 is really the pre-existing standard by which the community is deciding how legitimate the idea of a constitution even is in the first place. If the constitution and the token and all of this succeeds in becoming the central mechanic by which the ENS community governs the ENS system (and looking at things so far, I think the chances of this are growing), then it will be specifically because the whole idea of adding a token and a constitution and all of these mechanics succeeded in doing what Article 0 says.

You can interpret that as saying that the constitution had an omission in it. But the constitution will never capture everything, so in that sense it will always be incomplete and imperfect, no matter how many times we amend it or how successful those amendments are in serving the ENS community and the world. It’s more like (and I think this is the literal historical truth of what happened) the proposers of the constitution just didn’t think at the time to write these things down. If they had, they may not have come up with this exact phrasing, just like if someone else had written the constitution proposal they might have worded things differently. But I think any constitution with a good chance of succeeding would have had to touch on concepts very similar to the articles included in some way. And in the same way, any pre-amble that someone had thought of including would have had to touch on the ideas in Article 0 somehow too.

So the symbolism of Article 0 I’m going for, and that I think most supporters of it are going for, is not a whole “this constitution is broken and we need radically alter it with an amendment”. It’s more of a “let’s write down more about how this all happened, so that when people are debating specifics later they can read that part too and be reminded of the bigger picture.” And also wink at Asimov and at every array indexing argument that any programmer has ever gotten into :slight_smile:.

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I like it being named “Article 0”. As far as whether it is “really part of” the constitution or not, well the constitution is just a social contract and this would be just a social proposal anyway, so I don’t think it matters too much. Either way we’re just playing around with semantics here I think.

But it would go on the actual constitution page in our documentation right? ENS DAO Constitution - ENS Documentation

So in that sense yeah, you could say something new is being added to the constitution and therefore it is being amended. I don’t think all amendments necessarily mean “something is broken and needs fixing” though, they could also mean just adding additional clarification/context, like this preamble is doing.

With all the long comments and thoughts on this thread, we’re already well on our way to drafting the ENS DAO Federalist Papers :wink:

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I would strongly support such a proposal, you got me at “the token is not the community” :100:

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@jeff.eth - thanks for pioneering this initiative.

Echoing the comments above, the line below is well-said.

This mindest should be adopted for other DAOs to come. By adopting this as a goal of ENS DAO it is healthy innovation in the space.

I will mirror the sentiment that the final lines could be simplified for readability. In particular this line:

Could it omit the words “considerate”, “broader”, and “grow”? They seem to be redundant and take away from the agency of the statement. Minute change but would help readers such as @lefterisjp and me :slight_smile:

This sort of community-sourced feedback on copy is interesting. Could it be applied for the production of other important documents such as press releases and whitepapers?

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I think this is probably ready to advance to a draft proposal. Would you be prepared to write one?

I support this preamble :grinning: and appreciate Jeff’s efforts here.

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