Now that the pre-voting period for ICON public representatives (P-Reps) has started, I have seen a number of people ask for recommendations on who they should vote for. This article doesn’t provide any specific answers, but rather aims to serve as a guide to help make it easier for people to make an informed decision.

Actually, there is one recommendation: as part of the RHIZOME team, I can’t help but asking for your vote. If you enjoy content such as this, along with everything else we’ve done (and are working on), please consider delegating at least some of your ICX stake our way. You won’t regret it, I promise!

Ok, now that’s out of the way:

What exactly am I voting for?

You’re voting for who you wish to represent your interests within the ICON Network and who you think will contribute most to the long-term growth and health of the network.

At a fundamental level, P-Reps are given the responsibility of voting on future policies that may have an impact on the network.

Beyond that, they’re also responsible for creating and validating blocks through nodes, which is a required activity for any blockchain. Without computing power generating blocks, there is no blockchain.

Finally — and this is where you’ll have to do the most consideration — is what a given P-Rep intends to do with the rewards they receive for being a P-Rep. As you may know, since ICON is a “Delegated Proof of Contribution” model, participants in the network — including those who simply vote — are entitled to rewards.

Due to their responsibilities and costs, P-Reps receive the most rewards. A portion of these rewards will go toward operating costs, including running the server node (important!), employees, and other fixed costs; beyond that, most teams should have extra funds available that they can use to contribute to the ICON ecosystem in order to help grow the network and project over time, generating more value and — ideally — more demand for ICX (meaning an increase in token value). I’ll do a deeper dive on how they can do this a bit later in this article.

To see a complete list of P-Rep proposals, please click here.

So how do I decide?

The first thing you should verify with any P-Rep candidate is that they can competently and consistently operate a node. As I alluded to in the beginning, without the ability to generate and validate blocks, there is no network. If there is no network, there is no ICON — at least in the eyes of those who may consider using the network someday. Accordingly, being able to run a node is a minimum requirement, but should not be seen as the only requirement.

When you review a team, you need to do what you can to ensure they will be able to operate their node consistently. Not only is this important for the network, but it’s important for your own ICX. If you vote for a P-Rep and they fail to achieve at least 85% node productivity, you face a 6% ICX burn. So it’s important you not only ensure they are competent from the beginning, but that you also monitor them as time goes on to make sure they stay competent. (Note: During the pre-voting period, P-Reps are not yet generating blocks, so the 6% penalty won’t be in effect yet. Additionally, I personally think it’s very unlikely that a P-Rep will reach 85%, so this concern is minimal, but still important to consider).

How do you determine if they are able to run a node? There are a few ways:

  • A team may have documented experience operating a node for another project. A history of accomplishment is always a helpful indicator of future performance, and this is no exception. Only a handful of teams have this, so it’s by no means a requirement, but it is a helpful data point.
  • Over the past several months, ICON has operated a “TestNet,” which is essentially a simulation of how the “real” ICON network will operate when the time comes. This not only helps ICON work out any potential issues on their end, but also provides an opportunity for P-Rep candidates to test their own nodes to ensure uptime and address any issues before “primetime.” It is an encouraging sign if a P-Rep successfully participated in any of the TestNet phases.
  • Many teams have provided descriptions regarding their node operations. Some have gone above and beyond minimum requirements and have established multiple servers, so if one goes down, another is in its place. As an example, RHIZOME has taken several steps to build a stable node infrastructure for both our voters and the ICON ecosystem as a whole. Firstly, we are utilizing Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services — two first class cloud providers that allow us to easily scale up our infrastructure as needed. Secondly, in addition to operating a primary and backup P-Rep node, RHIZOME also operated a globally load-balanced fleet of citizen nodes, which allows us to further secure our P-Rep node even further. Lastly, all our nodes are constantly being monitored, have strict security policies, and can only be directly accessed from a select number of bastion servers.

If you’ve taken these steps and you’re still unsure about whether or not a team is able to run a node effectively, be sure to reach out to them and ask any questions that may address your concerns. If you’re unable to find a way to get in contact — or if they don’t respond — that may be a red flag for a number of reasons, beyond simply not providing information about your node.


ICON Ecosystem Growth

If you feel confident that certain P-Reps are capable of running a node, you can move onto the next step of evaluation — determining which candidates will do the most to grow the ICON ecosystem. Here are the primary ways they can do that:

(Note: P-Rep candidate Pocket/Figment has developed a convenient tool to filter P-Rep candidates based on a number of factors, including the categories below. I’d encourage you to utilize it to help you focus your research efforts.)

Marketing / Communication

Several teams are focused on promoting the ICON project on a larger-scale to spread awareness and build excitement within the cryptocurrency community and the public at large. Rhizome is one of the teams focused on this area, for instance.

As the ICON project continued to make progress in the areas of business partnerships and technological development, many in the community have expressed a desire to see greater efforts to market and promote the project. Accordingly, this is a task that a number of P-Rep candidates are willing to take up.

Each marketing team is different; some may be focusing on written content, others on generating video. Some have plans to build relationships with members of the media to provide information about the project, while others may wish to take on mass-marketing activities such as paid advertising.

Additionally, other teams may have specific audiences in mind. For instance, spreading awareness about ICON among the developer community would help draw developers to the project who could work to build the DApps and tools we’ll need to ensure the network has utility.

Overall, marketing encompasses a number of different activities and strategies. If this is a priority for you, you should vote for teams focused on this area, and even vote for a certain team if you prefer their marketing “style.”

Application Development

While the slogan of ICON is to “Hyperconnect the World,” the project actually has far greater capabilities than just connecting private chains to a public network (although this one is still the most important).

To explain simply, you can view ICON as an “operating system,” similar to Windows, OS, or LINUX. It serves as a platform for developers to build applications, tools, services, games, or other types of “software” that can add all sorts of value to the network — these can all be loosely described under the “DApps” label.

By creating different types of DApps, developer-focused P-Rep teams can create the applications that generate greater value for the network and draw in more users. More users means more ICX must be used to participate in the network, leading to greater demand and a higher price.

Ultimately, you may decide that there is more than enough content being pushed out by ICON, and that you’d like to see more development. Accordingly, you could vote for P-Rep teams with a focus on development.

Network Development

In addition to building applications that run on the ICON network, teams can also focus on the development of the network itself.

This would include tools and services that make it easier for developers to build on top of the network, or utilize it for other services.

For instance, a handful of P-Rep candidates have banded together to build a price oracle for those who want to develop on ICON. The oracle is programmed to gather prices from major exchanges in a way to establish the “true” price of ICX at a given moment; developers can then connect their smart contract, built on ICON, to this oracle, so it automatically feeds the price into their smart contract.

That way, if their contract requires the price of ICX to operate, they have an objective representative of what the price actually is at that moment.

This is a relatively small project, but an example of the types of tools that can be built to make it easier to develop on ICON, and entice developers to build on the network, adding value (and users!).

Business Development

If you’ve been following ICON for any significant amount of time, you’ve likely seen the announcement of several MOUs, partnerships, joint ventures, or other projects with other entities, organizations, or companies.

This is the business development work that ICON is currently doing to work toward ensuring more enterprise use of the ICON network.

Business development is the key to long-term mass adoption, so it’s important the work gets done. While ICON has done a great job thus far, it’s going to be critical that more and more effort go toward this area over time.

Accordingly, supporting teams with a clear vision for business development — along with the experience and relationships to execute — will be important to the long-term growth of the ICON ecosystem.

Other Ecosystem Goals

Teams may have other ideas to grow or contribute to the ecosystem other than what’s listed above. Some of these other goals may be good ideas; others not so much.

Ultimately, when evaluating proposals or plans from P-Rep candidates, ask yourself: “Will these activities bring greater awareness to the project and/or lead to more users over the long-term?” In my opinion, those should be the most important factors to consider when evaluating proposals.

A quick note

While many teams may be primarily associated with one of the categories listed above, that doesn’t mean they exclusively focus on that activity. For example, RHIZOME has hired a developer to start creating resources on the network. Other marketing-focused candidates have a development arm as well, or vice versa.


Strategic Voting

Beyond deciding which individual P-Reps to support, you may also want to take into consideration some strategic voting in order to support and strengthen the network.

Here are some examples:

  • A diversity of goals and experiences among P-Reps will be critical to the long-term development of the ICON network. Dedicating a portion of your ICX equally to the groups described above would hypothetically be a smart way to vote, as it would help ensure all activities are being implemented. If we end up with P-Reps who specialize in marketing, business development, and network development, that would certainly be great, but not having any team dedicated to application development would be a detriment to the project.
  • The entire reason for ICONSENSUS and the P-Rep elections is to decentralize the network, removing control from any central entity or individual. Ideally, people should vote in a manner that prevents any sole P-Rep — or even small group of P-Reps — from controlling a significant portion of the network. Since voting power (as a P-Rep) is weighted by the % of votes received, those P-Reps who receive more votes have more voting power and control over the network. With that in mind, if you have several P-Reps who you support, it might make sense to delegate more of your ICX toward the teams with fewer votes, and less of your ICX to teams that may be toward among the top vote getters.
  • As a result of ICON’s economic model, P-Reps who receive more votes will ultimately have greater resources available to fund their operations and activities. If there is a team who you believe has some great ideas to implement that will help the network grow, providing them with more votes will have a direct impact on the amount of rewards they receive, giving them the resources they need to hire developers, marketers, business development experts, or whoever they need to accomplish their goals. If a team is comfortably going to be among the Top P-Rep candidates, you may still wish to support them, knowing that doing so will help provide them with more resources.

Conclusion

Determining which P-Reps to vote for isn’t an easy endeavor, but it’s an important one. Without quality P-Reps, the ICON is at risk of the following:

  • Insufficient ability to operate the network due to inconsistent node operation. While this would be the most fatal, I also think the odds are fairly low, as ICONists have the ability to quickly remove P-Reps who are performing poorly before they can have an impact on the overall network.
  • Inactivity regarding efforts to grow the ICON ecosystem. If P-Reps aren’t helping build on the network and helping it grow, the project will be useless over the long-term.
  • Governance decisions that hurt the network either over the short or long-term. While it’s harder to determine whether a P-Rep will govern responsibly at this point in time, it’s still something that should be considered.

Hopefully you have better clarity regarding how to pick your preferred P-Rep teams. Happy voting!