Retrospective on Solana Retroactive Public Goods Funding Round 1

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Introduction

Public goods are the cornerstone of human prosperity, playing a pivotal role in the stability and growth of civil society. The effectiveness of these goods hinges on a simple yet profound concept: the collective benefits derived from them often surpass the sum of individual contributions. In this context, the modern democratic nation-state emerges as a key orchestrator in providing these essential services.

In the digital realm, the Solana blockchain mirrors this principle. The public goods developed within Solana's ecosystem are vital to its economic vitality, benefiting every builder and user involved with the chain. The Solana Foundation's history of substantial grant funding for these public goods underscores their importance.

This essay serves as a reflective analysis of the inaugural round of Solana's Retroactive Public Good Funding, a pivotal initiative in the Solana ecosystem. Such a model aims to redistribute the value generated by public goods back to the builders, fostering a sustainable environment that recognizes and rewards the contributions of these goods. Our goal is to devise a system that combines market efficiency with equitable distribution, sidestepping the pitfalls of the free-rider problem. We explore the impact and key learnings of the first round of Solana’s Retroactive Public Good Funding.

What is RetroRPGF?

Retroactive Public Goods Funding (RPGF) is a novel funding mechanism designed to sustainably support projects that have already delivereda significant public good to the Solana ecosystem.

Funding Details

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Timeline

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Analyzing the Results

ProjectCategory% recieved
OpenbookUser Experience and Adoption9.73%
CubicDeveloper Ecosystem7.70%
SOLfees.fyiUser Experience and Adoption7.21%
CódigoDeveloper Ecosystem6.46%
AnchorSolana Tech Stack6.23%
CandyPayUser Experience and Adoption5.63%
SollinkedUser Experience and Adoption5.54%
MarinadeSolana Tech Stack5.41%
open-clockworkDeveloper Ecosystem4.61%
Solana PlaygroundDeveloper Ecosystem4.61%
The SleuthUser Experience and Adoption4.26%
Dual FinanceGovernance4.14%
Solana PaymentsDeveloper Ecosystem2.48%
Magic BlockSolana Tech Stack2.29%
SolLightningUser Experience and Adoption2.14%
ArgonUser Experience and Adoption1.98%
Protocol GuildSolana Tech Track1.84%
CollectorUser Experience and Adoption1.74%
WC Solana PayUser Experience and Adoption1.74%
CSR DAOGovernance1.74%
SolanaHubUser Experience and Adoption1.59%
TachyonDeveloper Ecosystem1.52%
Web3 Data DegensDeveloper Ecosystem1.47%
Use SodaSolana Tech Track1.27%
HowRare.isDeveloper Ecosystem1.26%
Stacks.jsDeveloper Ecosystem1.14%
Space OperatorUser Experience and Adoption0.76%
Lava SuiteDeveloper Ecosystem0.65%
Synesis OneUser Experience and Adoption0.63%
Albedo_SDKSolana Tech Stack0.61%
The Solana BridgeUser Experience and Adoption0.56%
SpireDeveloper Ecosystem0.46%
AtlantisUser Experience and Adoption0.40%
solana.blogUser Experience and Adoption0.28%

Out of the 37 projects nominated for voting, 36 of them received votes (and funding!). The majority of projects receiving funding demonstrated an engaged delegate cohort, as well as passed the high bar of initial vetting of projects.

There was decent variance amongst the types of projects that were voted for:

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Encouraging the community to nominate more Governance and Solana Tech Stack projects in future rounds could increase the variety of projects that receive funding!

Community reactions to the initiative were generally positive, with several excited replies in the OpenBlock Labs X thread announcing the top ten projects. Community members were congratulating the projects, and celebrating the initiative.

“Congrats to all the hardworking teams! 💪”

Nezah.fi

The project owners who received funding were excited as well, one project owner mentioned that they “truly appreciated the process and initiative”, and several others expressed their delight in being selected for funding. Some project owners were actually surprised they received funding, because they were under the impression that only the top 10 projects were receiving funds, and were pleasantly surprised by the blog post.

“I think it’s a very cool initiative!”

Joe, Tachyon Math Library

Delegates

Delegate Selection Process

Delegates were selected based on their substantial activity and noteworthy contributions to the Solana ecosystem. Here is a list of the delegates that were involved. These individuals possess in-depth knowledge, are actively involved in the community, and demonstrate a genuine commitment to the prosperity of the RPGF initiative.

Analyzing Delegate Voting Behavior

Delegates were selected based on their substantial activity and noteworthy contributions to the Solana ecosystem. Here is a list of the delegates that were involved. These individuals possess in-depth knowledge, are actively involved in the community, and demonstrate a genuine commitment to the prosperity of the RPGF initiative.

ProjectValue
Total Number of Delegates27
Average Number of Categories Voted per User3.3

On average, each delegate participated in 3.33 categories meaning that the delegates tried to participate in all of the categories and did not limit themselves to a specific category. This can be a sign of good delegate selection.

CategoryAverage Projects Voted by DelegatesTotal Projects
User Experience and Adoption3.8315
Developer Ecosystem3.0011
Solana Tech Track2.096
Governance1.422

Delegate Feedback

  • A survey was sent out to all participating delegates in order to gather feedback on the voting process and project selection.

  • Out of 27 delegates, 11 delegates responded for feedback (~41%).

In regards to those the delegates that replied:

delegates behaviour

Projects

From the pool of nominated projects, a subset were chosen based on adhering to the following two requirements:

  • Open Accessibility: Projects must be open source or free to the community.

  • Active Contributions: Projects must show continuing contributions, with the last commit or maintenance date being less than 3 months ago.

We learned two big lessons on how to improve our project review process:

  • Get the Right Info from the Start: We didn't ask for all the right details when we first looked at projects. We had to go back and ask again for more useful information. Going forward, we'll make sure to ask for the right stuff right away, and double-check that the information we get is reliable.

  • Better Project Screening: Even though we checked projects at the beginning, some that didn't really fit still got through. To fix this, we're going to use a two-step check. First, a small team will quickly look at each project to see if it meets the basic requirements. Projects that pass this first check will then get a more detailed review by a larger group. This way, delegates spend our time only on projects that really deserve it.

We learned two big lessons on how to improve our project review process:

  • Get the Right Info from the Start: We didn't ask for all the right details when we first looked at projects. We had to go back and ask again for more useful information. Going forward, we'll make sure to ask for the right stuff right away, and double-check that the information we get is reliable.

  • Better Project Screening: Even though we checked projects at the beginning, some that didn't really fit still got through. To fix this, we're going to use a two-step check. First, a small team will quickly look at each project to see if it meets the basic requirements. Projects that pass this first check will then get a more detailed review by a larger group. This way, delegates spend our time only on projects that really deserve it.

Project Areas of Focus

  • Solana Tech Stack: Prioritizing projects that aim at refining performance, bolstering security, and promoting decentralization.

  • Developer Ecosystem: Projects that produce resources and tools that both support and attract developers to the Solana platform.

  • Governance: Endeavors that focus on refining governance participation and enhancing its processes.

  • User Experience & Adoption: Projects committed to elevating the user experience and catalyzing widespread adoption.

Project Owner Feedback

A survey was sent out to all project owners who received funding in order to gather feedback on the RGPF.

Out of 34 project owners who received funding, 16 of them responded for feedback (~47%).

delegates behaviour

A new initiative will always have some growing pains, and it’s great that we were able to capture this feedback so we can index where to put more structure and efforts into future rounds. Having dedicated and planned out communications/communication channels will help our project owners feel in the loop and valued!

Improvements

Impact evaluation Improvement for future rounds:

In refining our approach for future rounds of funding, our focus is on enhancing the delegate experience and ensuring their contributions are effectively utilized.

Proposed Improvements

Simplification of Metrics: We propose adopting a two or three clear metric for each category to streamline the evaluation process. This approach will aid delegates in understanding precisely what is being measured and how. Some examples of well-defined and verifiable metrics include:

delegates behaviour

We don’t want to just pick one for the fact that different types of projects may optimize for different outcomes.

Each metric should be accompanied by verifiable data to ensure authenticity and prevent manipulation.

To further refine the evaluation process, we propose integrating a comparative analysis tool within the UX. This tool can show projects side by side after initially providing votes to the projects asking them if the delta in votes between the projects is justified and reflects the difference in impact to Solana. This should help in ensuring votes aren’t just based on which projects are familiar to delegates.

By focusing on clear, verifiable metrics and a robust comparative framework, we can enhance the impact evaluation process, leading to more informed and effective funding decisions in future rounds.

Communication Improvement for future rounds

In upcoming rounds, we seek to create more direct and streamlined channels of communication with both project owners and delegates. Having centralized places where delegates and POs can view information and updates can keep them informed, and also help us to gather information and keep a high bar of selection for projects.

New Funding Sources

The Solana Foundation has played a pivotal role in exclusively sponsoring this initial funding round. However, the positive impact of this funding extends far beyond the Layer 1 infrastructure, benefiting a diverse array of application developers and protocols thriving atop the Solana ecosystem. This year, many of these entities have initiated airdrops and community rewards, underscoring the vibrancy and engagement within the network.

Looking ahead, a key objective in upcoming funding rounds is to broaden the spectrum of funders, shifting focus towards these very protocols built on Solana. We believe that redirecting a portion of protocol rewards and airdrops into RPGF will be an astute allocation of capital. Such a strategy aligns with their goal of directing resources towards the most dynamic and productive elements of their ecosystem, essentially rewarding those who are making significant strides in development and innovation that bolster their communities. This approach not only fosters a more diversified funding for RPGF but strengthens the Solana community by supporting and encouraging the creators and innovators who are the lifeblood of this ecosystem.

Overview of Improvements

The proposed improvements for the Solana Retroactive Public Goods Funding can be categorized into three primary buckets:

Evaluation Enhancements:

  • Streamlined Project Review Process: Implement a two-tier system for project evaluation to enhance efficiency and delegate focus.

  • Refined Project Selection Criteria: Tighten the nomination criteria and be more selective in accepting projects to ensure higher quality.

  • Comparative Analysis Tool: Integrate a tool within the UX for systematic project comparison, aiding in balanced and equitable assessment and make sure project cards/profiles are clean and clear and useful.

Category Redesign:

  • Rethink Project Categories:The current ones don’t completely satisfy what we're looking for exactly and can be re-worked.

  • Simplified Impact Metrics: Adopt 3 well-defined metrics for each category to streamline evaluation and ensure understanding of impact among delegates.

  • Verifiable Data Requirement: Require projects to provide verifiable data to back their impact claims, ensuring authenticity and reducing manipulation risks.

Communication and Transparency Improvements:

  • Improved Delegate Communication: Introduce a notification system for comments and a general forum to facilitate better communication among delegates. We’d also like to perfect the upfront communication with delegates, whether it be TG or email or slack or something else.

  • Enhanced Project Owner Engagement: Improve communication channels with project owners, including timely updates and organized feedback mechanisms.

  • Clearer Voting Process Explanation: Provide more clarity around the voting process and fund disbursement mechanism to all participants.

Strategic and Inclusivity Focus:

  • Funder diversity: Ensure the funders of subsequent RPGF rounds are further diversified from just 1 source to other Solana protocol teams giving their tokens as rewards for RPGF.

  • Focus on Underrepresented Categories: Encourage more nominations in less represented categories like Governance and Solana Tech Stack to diversify project types.

The Retroactive Public Goods Funding (RPGF) initiative stands as a testament to the commitment towards recognizing and incentivizing projects that have significantly contributed to the Solana ecosystem.As we reflect upon the workings of this program, it's evident that RPGF Round 1 was quite successful, but also that there are many areas to improve in subsequent rounds.

On delegate experience: 100% of delegates understood the voting process, showing the platform's user-friendliness. Further, all delegates reviewed every project and all of them are eager for more RPGF rounds, reflecting the initiative's success and potential for growth.

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