In the latest entry into my All about Pools series here, I had a chance to get some insight into OpenChia, a pool whose value proposition in complete transparency. More than that, however, they launched their pool with a Reddit post insinuating that other pools cannot be trusted because their back-end code is not open source.
This is an interesting argument. but one I honestly don’t find particularly compelling. I don’t think a github repository is what is going to instill long term trust in farmers. The Chia Plot has been pretty consistent on this, that the mechanism for pools to ensure trust is going to be through transparency of the people involved, not the software. There is no real way to ensure that OpenChia is doing what they say they will other than the kind of audits that render their point moot, but I do think they will run their open source back end exactly as they say. There are also plenty of competitive reasons why a pool will want to keep their back end software closed source, and we will indeed likely find ourselves in a situation at some point where selling pool software or consulting on the setup of pools is a viable business opportunity. I maintain that the way to instill trust in your farmer community is to be a registered company with a path to contact and some human names attached to the endeavor.
The good news here is that I also think that OpenChia will provide that kind of transparency as well, with William from OpenChia providing me his actual email address and so far no attempt to deceive. I do think the rest of that process, going fully legit as an enterprise has some real costs associated to it and is difficult to launch that way but my hope is that is the direction OpenChia takes if they are successful.
My conversation with them shows that they are very committed to their ideology and that they do believe that enough pools will screw over their farmers over time that having a fully open source back end will attract people that have been burned. William was very up front that this was a project that he hoped would attract people, but that he was doing it for fun and that he knows its going to be a long road. He seemed very pragmatic thinking that no, he wasn’t going to immediately siphon off a lot of people from the off-chain pools or pools that jumped in early. That was refreshing, because I think that has borne out to be true and that people that were pooling with their OG plots on Hpool or Core-Pool or FoxyPool were basically happy with where they are at. The expectation from a lot of the other pools has been that Hpool would be drained because of trust issues but that doesn’t seem to be happening.
Their approach to the legal challenges is pretty interesting, they are operating from a country where they don’t expect any issues at all but they understand that doesn’t apply to all their farmers, so they are looking into ways to help their community around the world with tax issues and such. I don’t know how that will look when its done, but its definitely a nice thought at least.
These guys came on to the scene with a splash and accusing some other pools, some of which I am confident are trustworthy, of being sketchy for not meeting their standards of radical transparency. I don’t agree with that, and I think there are other ways to audit and confirm that pools are doing their job properly, but I do think that OpenChia is going to put their money where their mouth is. And I know a lot of the open source community will tend to agree with them, many threads have been flamed over this exact issue over the decades. If you really are the radical transparency type, this pool might just be for you. I suspect that if you want to work on the pool and contribute to the project while farming these guys are a good bet if they stick to their philosophy.