Why we should encourage feedback on NO votes – Ocean DAO Governance

Photo by Isaiah Rustad on Unsplash

Recently the Ocean DAO had a round which was heavily swayed by NO votes very late in the piece, essentially blocking 2 projects from receiving funding this month.

It brought the NO vote back into the spotlight after it was introduced (to mixed reviews) a few months ago.  

A discussion among Ocean DAO members identified some key concerns. I’ve done my best to summarise them here but a full recording of the conversation can be found here.

  1. People should provide reasons as to why they are voting NO on projects.
  2. People should be discouraged from voting at the last minute. 
  3. Whales have a huge influence over funding outcomes. 

I’m going to do my best to explain why I think point 1 above is the most important problem to be addressed and that solving the rest will have a smaller relative impact when it comes to building great products. 

1. People should provide reasons as to why they are voting NO on projects.

The DAO is a small community of builders wanting to build the best products for themselves and the Ocean DAO. Feedback is a critical part of this and the better the feedback we receive, the better the products we can build. 

NO votes send a very clear signal to the project that your project is not valuable in the voter’s eyes for whatever reason (I received some NO votes in this round too). 

Not getting any clear feedback as to why I got no votes, I was naturally curious and pondered over the comments and questions that people posted on my proposal and came to my own conclusions. I may be wrong but I have taken some of the feedback (I think I was getting) onboard and will implement changes in the future.

I have no idea whether or not I was right or wrong and that’s kind of the point. If we give people the option to add a message to their NO votes, we might increase the chances of getting that valuable feedback, and improve the overall quality of projects and products being built in the Ocean DAO. 

Here we don’t need to over engineer it but, just introduce some DAO ‘cultural expectations’. 

Something simple like, If the wallet votes NO, then request feedback with a message like: 

“Thanks for your vote. You can help the Ocean DAO community even more by sharing some thoughts on why you are voting NO on this proposal. It helps the builders and it helps the Ocean community (this is entirely OPTIONAL).

Obviously the voter can still vote NO without providing feedback but we’re establishing a cultural norm where feedback is not only seen as valuable but is encouraged (we could do this for YES votes too).

Key Metric – % of votes with useful feedback (as the voter could enter useless information too).

2. People should be discouraged from voting at the last minute. 

We already introduced a rule to allow more people more time to read and review proposals to make informed voting decisions. Making people vote early would just reintroduce the problem we appear to have solved.

Getting a bunch of votes at the last minute is disheartening, especially when they are from big wallet addresses (see point 3 below). 

But, ultimately you should always put your best foot forward and both vote with your tokens and encourage others to do the same. Overthrowing a large vote against you (i.e. trying to overcome a few million NO votes) would be just about as hard 3 days out as it would be 3 minutes out.

3. Whales have a huge influence over funding rounds.

An Oligarchy isn’t too bad a description of the political structure of many of these DAO projects (and finance, and crypto in general for that matter – as much as we try to ignore it!). However the skin in the game narrative is relevant here too. 

Yes these whales have a massive influence over the funding outcomes of projects and there are many different ways to try and solve this but ultimately the problem remains in some way or another. 

At the end of the day, reducing a whale’s voting power doesn’t translate into better feedback for the builders (or necessarily better projects and products in the DAO).

The one thing it does do though, is disenfranchise those with a smaller stake and therefore smaller voting power. If I have a few hundred or a few thousand Ocean tokens it’s probably not even worth voting in some cases. And if that’s the case it can be an uphill battle getting more smaller holders actively voting among the community. 

Still, those willing to invest the time and effort to read through proposals and cast votes do get to determine the outcome of the DAO so hopefully their incentives are aligned. 

Final thoughts…

The other side of this is that we are human and getting no votes kinda sucks. You put your genuine efforts into these proposals and having someone come along, vote NO and not give you any reason why doesn’t make it any better. 

I don’t think that giving NO voters the ability to rationalise their votes will magically make receiving NO votes feel any better, but hopefully it would help us build better products.