Leveraging pol.is for improving Spending Governance discussion

Recent reports indicate that Polkadot spent $87 million on DOT in the first half of 2024, raising concerns about the sustainability of this spending rate. Two main groups are emerging: those defending the spending as necessary for ecosystem growth and those criticizing it as potentially unsustainable.

In light of recent discussions surrounding Polkadot’s treasury spending, I set up a pol.is conversation:


We can use pol.is to facilitate a structured, transparent discussion on treasury governance. Pol.is is an open-source platform that allows participants to submit and vote on statements, helping to identify areas of consensus and disagreement within large groups.

Participants can write a statement that is randomly shown to other participants. They can vote whether they agree, disagree, or are indifferent to the statement. This creates groups of participants with similar voting behavior among themselves and different voting behavior towards other groups. On the other hand, the system also identifies statements that both groups agree with the most and even ranks them. As a result, the system extracts consensus among groups of people who usually disagree on many other things.

By leveraging pol.is we can use our different viewpoints to improve the current debate, ensure that all voices are heard and let unseen consensus emerge. This initiative will also strengthen our commitment to open governance and community-driven decision-making.

This feels to me a little like the Esperanto Problem (aka xkcd problem): There are too many places to discuss something, so let’s try to solve that by adding yet another place to discuss it.

And while pol.is is a cool structure for this kind of discussion, without a representative cross-section of the tokenholding community I expect that any discussion there will be ineffectual.

You have a point about the Esperanto Problem. Ideally, we should integrate this consensus-finding tool directly into subsquare rather than create a separate standalone forum.

Regarding representation, pol.is has some unique strengths even without full community participation. As a consensus-finding algorithm, it also works with a subset of the community. Even if only 2 opposing groups vote, while not necessarily comprehensive, it identifies areas of agreement between these 2 groups. And this is an improvement

That said, I agree broader participation would enhance the value of the results. If this trial run shows promise, integrating pol.is into Subsquare could help increase engagement from a wider cross-section of tokenholders over time.


Nice :slight_smile:
Using pol.is myself from time to time… one thing you could add to the pol.is is the direct link to the report, so folks can see how things have been voted upon

I reckon experimenting with pol.is is a great idea.
I think there will be problems with encouraging migration, and there is the issue of what @mister_cole calls the Esperanto Problem.
(BTW, not everyone knows what the Esperanto Problem is. From here on, I suggest we call it the ‘15 standards problem’ :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: )

@BastinJafari you have touched on the benefits and mechanics of pol.is but not really why it is valuable to us.
I will try, but please do add to this:

Our governance system is based on referenda with time limits to reach a binary outcome.
This means that and nuance in participants’ preferred outcomes is pretty much lost (yeah, you can seek to get a proposer to modify their proposal but then that’s only one person’s opinion and anyway they can refuse and force a binary choice).
This loss of nuance in possible outcomes leads to a loss of nuance in the discussion - there is little point in trying to push for a more acceptable third way between ‘fully aye’ and ‘fully nay’ unless the improvement is a minor concession that the proposer may be willing to accept.

So if, for example, I agree with funding marketing but disagree with the scale or the fundamental approach of a (hypothetical) marketing proposal, then trying to get the scale down to a sensible level, or trying to get the approach fundamentally rethought, are simply not worth arguing for, cos there is no route to get the proposal modified to that.
My only option (as well as voting nay myself), is try to convince others to vote nay. There’s no point, in terms of the proposal, in trying to get voters to agree on my nuanced position because, even if they were convinced, they also can only go ‘aye’ or ‘nay’ on the proposal.
If I do try to convince people on ‘nay’, then the original proposer, who generally has more of an interest in whether the proposal passes or not, enters the convo to defend their proposal. And they also have no benefit in negotiating or taking a nuanced position so they argue for ‘aye in full’.

And here’s the thing, ‘nuance’ in the case of proposals right now is not a nice-to-have, it means ‘anything which is not fully aye or fully nay’.

Many of our proposals are badly thought out, or have numbers based on guesswork, because they are usually the product of one single proposer (sometimes with help from their team), so it’s quite natural that they express one singe perspective without much taking into account others. (that’s not even counting the ones which are simply corrupt, and hoping to trick the binary governance mechanism)

As an alternative way of discussing, pol.is is designed specifically to improve this way of discussing (because we are not the first to encounter this problem - pol.is was built in order to solve it).
Though it is not perfect, it represents probably the best technical attempt so far devised to get around the bandwidth, cognitive bias and game-theoretical problems posed by the ‘binary proposal’ means of decision making that keeps governments doing all the stupid shit that they do. Don’t let’s be like them.