Skepticism Sundays - raising the standard of debate, argument and critique of ideas in the ecosystem

Without being able to debate ideas, to critique thinking and to kick concepts, echo chambers form as power and social consensus hardens around established norms. Power, intentionally and more often unintentionally vests in founders, creators and those we would naturally expect to have all the answers.

More often than not, these experts do have the answers, but often they don’t, especially when it comes to complex adaptive systems.

Critique and skepticism is therefore at the core of sustaining a consistently innovative culture - a culture that isn’t aiming to be right, but gets consistently less wrong.

Quoting Wei from Polkadot Forum.

There’s only one community I’ve seen in the cryptocurrency space that handles criticisms well – Monero. Their Reddit mods hold an event called “Skepticism Sunday” weekly, where only “negative aspects” of the coin are allowed to be discussed.

That really worked. In many other places, things just deteriorate, grow confrontational, and eventually lead to pure personal attacks. Then you have no other choices but to at least temporarily ban them, so that things can cool down.

This creates a vicious cycle where things become even more confrontational next time negativity is expressed. We ought to allow some form of skepticism, otherwise Polkadot falls.

It’s not just about “constructive criticism”, because for most of the time, people that point out the problem don’t have the expertise in providing solutions. Still, we must have a way to know the problems, especially if things get serious.

Tim Urban, author of WaitButWhy talks eloquently about the difference between Echo Chambers and Idea Labs:

“In an Echo Chamber, falling in line with the rest of the group is socially rewarded. It’s a common activity to talk about how obviously correct the sacred ideas are—it’s how you express your allegiance to the community and prove your own intellectual and moral worth.”


“An Idea Lab is an environment of collaborative high-rung thinking. People in an Idea Lab see one another as experimenters and their ideas as experiments. Idea Labs value independent thinking and viewpoint diversity. This combination leads to the richest and most interesting conversations and maximizes the score of group discussions.”

Skepticism Sunday - what are the negative aspects of the ecosystem?

Each comment if warranted can become its own thread, each thread can become its own debate. Each debate can drive forward interesting conversations.

Will prompt every Sunday.


I’d very much like to try this. And I think another good practise within teams is to challenge ideas and products by specifically asking for ways they could have negative impact on humans or society. Scepticism Sundays could help in this regard as well


This is a fine discussion, but doesn’t belong in the Polkadot Digest topic.


I strongly support this initiative.

I created a tag Topics tagged skepticism to help categorize these.

Some topic suggestions for future weeks:

  • DOT inflation rate
    • what is an appropriate inflation amount?
    • when should it be adjusted (what kinds of signals would imply a change up or down would be good?)
    • what are thoughts on deflationary systems like ETH, which seem to make token holders very happy. What are the long time-scale effects?
  • Parachain Allocation
    • Learnings and feedback from crowdloans
    • The auction algorithm (how it favors continuous slots)
    • Locking tokens instead of burning them for a slot
  • Parachain voting
    • Should paracahins be able to participate in governance with their locked tokens?
    • how about if those tokens are part of a crowdloan?
  • Wasm as a backbone of the ecosystem
    • Is Wasm still the best technological choice today?
      • For runtime? (for example versus ZK options)
      • For contracts? (for example versus EVM, MOVE, etc…)
  • Liquid Staked Tokens
    • Should we encourage or discourage protocols which attempt to re-stake tokens.
    • Relevant: Don't overload Ethereum's consensus
    • If we should discourage it, should there be protocol level things to stop this?
  • Adding further utility to DOT token
    • Should we look to add more utility to the DOT token, for example system level parachains for contracts paid in DOT.
    • What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a token with many different utilities versus one with more specific utilities?

There are many more topics I could come up with, but let’s start here.


It’s interesting because Shawn brings up only technical questions, while it’s not at all what came to my mind and I would have brought up mostly “philosophical”/“fundamental” questions such as:

  • Why am I still not using any software built upon a blockchain in my day to day life?
  • Why did we fail to attract the communist hackers type of people to blockchains?
  • Given that most users are technically and economically illiterate, will OpenGov not lead to wrong decisions and a sabotage of the network?
  • Would you be sad if Polkadot suddenly disappeared tomorrow?
  • Is it really a good thing to build something unstoppable?
  • What would happen if a silk road parachain appeared tomorrow?
  • What would happen if a social media parachain used by a hate group appeared tomorrow?



The parable of the Blind Men and an Elephant is a story of a group of blind men who have never come across an elephant before and who learn and conceptualize what the elephant is like by touching it. Each blind man feels a different part of the elephant’s body, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then describe the elephant based on their limited experience and their descriptions of the elephant are different from each other. In some versions, they come to suspect that the other person is dishonest and they come to blows…

Polkadot is the elephant and we are all blind. Realising we are blind is the first step.

This is the essential challenge of developing an ecosystem - or even an organism rather than a technology, the insight that no one can possibly have the full picture.

This is a coordination game - we’re all still figuring out the rules, the playing field, and this is before the whistle even blows. We need to work to get the most people to contribute their perspective, share their views and then to ultimately use this to distil the ‘reality’ of the game.

This is also why trigger happy flagging Polkadot forum moderation, flagging and policies, is massively detrimental to the process, this needs to stop, flagging should be done by moderators, referees who punish the most egregious acts.

1 Like

lol Pierre, I got the same reaction. None of my skepticism comes from technical questions, but mostly about processes in places and the community/parity part of it at the moment :slight_smile:


Hmmm, from things I’ve seen on the intertubes, potential topics:

  • DOT is a security (SEC) a.k.a Proof DOT isn’t a security
  • Gov votes carry liability a.k.a Proof Gov voting is safe
  • Shared-security model is a rent extraction model a.k.a … you get the idea
  • Polkadot=HTTP/S is pronounced: ‘monopoly’ …
  • Polkadot has found its niche: Blockchain incubator …
  • Fool me once: Parachain re-auctions as intricate rug-pulls …
1 Like

I initially didn’t want to answer to this, but I want to address something that I read between the lines, and maybe get a discussion started.

where a (hard working) non programmer could plausibly conceive the outline, if not the MVP, of their ideas

There’s no such thing as a non-programmer who writes software. If you write software, you are a programmer, by definition. Don’t get fooled by things such as the “no-code” movement, it’s just marketing bullshit. You need the exact same skill-set and you’re facing the exact same problems when creating something with a “no-code” software than without. It does indeed look way less intimidating to create something simple with a “no-code” software, but that’s just to catch users.

Sure, there are people who have programmed 10 hours a day for the past 2 decades, and who obviously can write code faster and better than someone who has just started. But the knowledge of the experienced programmers is freely available on the Internet for the beginners to be able catch up. Contrary to many other fields such as plumbing, civil engineering, or even mathematics, there are absolutely zero barriers for non-programmers to be able to become programmers (and that’s thanks to communist hackers). Assuming you have a computer and an Internet connection, it’s purely a matter of efforts to become an experienced programmer.

There are people who spend their time doing programming work in silence. There are also people who spend their time talking and not programming. It turns out that there aren’t enough hours in the day to properly do both at the same time. The former tend to think that the latter are completely useless, while the latter tend to think that the former have nothing interesting to say and exist just to receive orders.
Which group should be incentivized/rewarded in which proportion and which one should have the most clout is a century-and-a-half old question that we’re not going to answer here.

However, there’s one important thing to point out: the people who program in silence can easily understand the point of view of the people who talk (like, by definition), while it takes a lot of effort for the people who talk to understand the point of view of the people who program in silence. I don’t know how to phrase this other than: “this shit is hard”.
But as I’ve mentioned above, the knowledge is free on the Internet. In the case of Substrate/Polkadot specifically, while decision making was indeed a bit opaque a few years ago, it is in my opinion now open enough that there’s no barrier to entry anymore.
If you have no experience programming and think that you’re not being listened to for this reason, it’s up to you to get some experience.


If we’re going to cut, then lets cut deep. Some provocations:

  • No one has any clear idea of what ‘Polkadot’ even is.

    • Is it the relay chain?
    • Is it the relay chains and the system chains?
    • Is it the relay chains, the system chains and the parachains?
    • Is it everything built on Substrate including solo-chains?
    • Is it every DOT holder?
    • Is it everything funded by DOT?
    • Is it Kusama?
    • Is it all of the contributors?
    • Is it the brand?™
      • Trademarks of Polkadot and Kusama are owned by W3F on behalf of ‘the community’.
      • When ‘the community’ suggested launching a new Kusama website, we were initially told we can’t - we can so lets put that to rest, we’ll just wait for the PR disaster that is a ‘cease and desist’ letter.
      • On further prodding with W3F lawyers on this topic (among others see below) it seems there could be support if ‘the community’ supported it.
  • Why should we respect the opinions, design strategies and vision of anyone employed at Parity/W3F who have never actually been a part of the process that is on-chain governance systems?

  • How can you possibly hope to design A Better Treasury System when you do not step inside the mechanisms you are designing and experience what it’s like to sustain work, a business or a project through funding?

  • What is the legal status and liabilities of the treasuries, and of the DAOs built on and around Polkadot and Kusama and indeed DAOs such as KappaSigmaMu and The Fellowship?

  • Why do we continually feel the need to kneel at the feet of the ‘bold visionaries’ who are cower at the sidelines of the systems they design or move their operations to some legal/tax haven letting ‘the community’ act as the true canaries in the coal mine?

  • Why is there not some basic consideration regarding a duty of care of the sort you would expect with a truly public minded endeavour, especially given the lack of experience of most contributors?

  • There is an ever increasing bureaucratic state - a box ticking culture that has zero understanding of the incentives and design systems required to cultivate the chaos that is essential for creative invention.

  • Media output has to date has been myopic - thinly veiled attempts to market a token, through the theatre of independence and the hope of continued token holder benevolence when it comes to consistent funding.

  • There is vanishingly little independent thinking, critique or challenge that is required for genuinely ‘public media’ that exists to hold the powerful to account, not bend down and shine their shoes.

  • Polkadot is corporate. It is boring. It is everything it claims to critique, resist and subvert.

  • “Web3” is a disaster as it is currently marketed and implemented - a slow moving car crash that will compound and accelerate all the worst aspects of the attention economy, adding direct financial incentives on top of social media creating increasing division, tribalism and a civil-society dumpster fire.

Much of Polkadot is unfixable - “distribution is destiny”, but the people, talent and ideas are fluid. In the end the only constant is change, its all just a story, it just depends what story we want to tell - what matters most, the mission or the marketcap?

1 Like