Decred’s Politeia Challenge: An Overview of the Winners

Following the second birthday of Decred (DCR) on February 8, 2018, the Politeia challenge took place on February 10 in Austin, Texas, which showcased use cases of Politeia from contestants. The timestamped file system allows data and proposals to be stored off-chain (but anchored to the Decred chain).

The Politeia platform was launched December 8, 2017, heavily inspired by Peter Todd’s OpenTimestamps and addresses governance issues. Anyone will be able to submit a proposal for funding to develop or market Deced. Stakeholders will then vote on these proposals. For every submission to Politeia, a cryptographic token will be received that provides proof of censorship, if required, and a small fee will be paid in DCR to prevent spam. Some example applications include financial/health record keeping, insurance policies, and asset tracking.

Here, we outline the top three entrants of the recent Politeia challenge, which saw a showcase of potential uses from the community. The submissions were judged by Marco Peereboom, Kevin Spiers, and Bitcoin developer Jimmy Song, with prizes of $2,000, $5,000 and $10,000 worth of DCR for the winners.

Third Place: Effective Software Distribution

Donald Adu-Poku presented his application of Politeia for distributing software. Adu-Poku stated that current software distribution systems deliver software with the expectation that end users will verify its authenticity before using it and, as a result, they have been successfully used to distribute malware and steal data.

To solve the problem of delegated verification, these distribution systems should verify the software being requested is authentic and only deliver if this condition is satisfied.

Politeia records allow storing metadata enables the storing of software releases records with specialized metadata needed for data integrity verification. Furthermore, users of the system are required to have unique identities, that is the public/private key pair, which allows software teams to use a dedicated identity for posting release records, making it easier to verify the source of a software release record.

With governments using spyware and cybercriminals utilizing malware to steal private keys, the effective software distribution use case could put a dent in the costs of cybercrime, which are estimated to have cost organizations approximately $11.7 million in 2017 alone.

Adu-Poku’s presentation can be found here.

Second Place: Democratic Reddit or ‘Decreddit’

Sudoscript, the developer behind ‘Decreddit’ said that Politeia is both an experiment with governance in crypto and outside crypto; in his submission, a twist on social media that brings power back to users is presented, what he calls “Decreddit.”

Providing a real-life example, Sudoscript points to how a new user asked a question on r/bitcoin and ended up getting their post and themselves banned from the Reddit channel for asking a question on the difference between the channels of r/btc and r/bitcoin. He stated that this is not a problem with bitcoin or Reddit, just a problem with social media, which are structured like dictatorships.

Users cannot prove they have been censored and cannot take any action.

With Politeia, you can prove that you have been censored, as it provides cryptographically secure censorship token for anything that is submitted to it. Since you’ve proved that you’ve been censored, you can call a referendum, and if you get enough members to agree that the censorship was not warranted, you can take some power back.

Sudoscript provided a demo, where if a post is censored, the user can use Politeia to see if the post is censored. Other users can also see if the post has been censored. The user can then submit a referendum, with users signing with their public keys they can vote. Once the vote is over, and say more than 51 percent agree to reverse the post that was censored, the server keeps track of the votes, and Politeia implements the outcome.

Afterward, by searching the post, we can see it becomes visible again, and moderators will not be able to take it down. The status will change from public to public final, making it impossible for an admin to overturn the decision.

Sudoscript had to make some minor tweaks to the Politeia backend to make this possible but offers an excellent solution to censorship on social media. The presentation on ‘Decreddit’ can be found here.

BTCManager spoke to sudoscript via Slack, and he said that Politeia’s use case could extend to journalism as well, “…in fact I think Politeia could do a lot for journalism. Authenticating the author is one thing. But actually, I think it could be a public version control system for articles. So as they get updated or revised, anyone can see and track that history, rather than media secretly updating articles or retracting them without people knowing.”

“For example, imagine someone writing about the recent school shooting in Florida. You could see the story evolve as more information comes in, with previous versions maintained forever. Almost like a timeline of how the news was made.”

First Place: Titan Seal

Philip Dhingra won the top prize of $10,000 worth of DCR with his presentation on Titan Seal.

Titan Seal puts government records on the blockchain and is trying to replace paper seals. For example, suppose we obtain a short-term rental license; they provide a piece of paper and fix a gold seal, what Dhingra calls, “security by graphics.” Many cases of fraud have occurred with scammers using the seals of government agencies. In an attempt to overcome this problem, a digital version was created, and the idea for Titan Seal was born.

Based initially on Ethereum, the rising price of transactions go up motivated Dhingra to start looking at other blockchains and eventually came across the Politeia challenge in his hometown of Austin. The Titan Seal applications work similar to the effective software distribution scheme mentioned above, as Dhingra explained, “Let’s say we have a marriage license and we want to get it digitally certified. It works similar to how software is being verified in the previous presentation.”

What is unique about Titan Seal is that it solves a usability problem with creating digital seals, namely the problem of infinite recursion.

With Politeia, a proposal can be created ahead of time and attach it to a document, and then attach the hash of that document into the proposal itself. Then when you create a proposal, you get a token, which is then inserted in the pdf. Then before publishing the proposal, you can insert metadata for the hash, and that’s how you preserve the linkage between generating and getting the hash of a document.

You can view the presentation on Titan Seal here.

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