Weekly Updates

The Ethereum Social Layer

At the core of all peer-to-peer systems, there are coordination mechanisms. Crypto networks and applications employ innovative techniques to define and enforce these mechanisms in code. 

Many talk about “code is law,” trustlessness, immutability, and other concepts that create a comforting sense of unambiguousness. These attributes could be accurate if peer-to-peer networks existed in isolation, but they don’t. 

Implicit in the coordination efforts of these networks are the people that exist outside the system who create the node hardware, write the software, and choose which system(s) to use. This acknowledgement isn’t an existential threat for the blockchain space. Denying it is.

While the trust we can put in properly implemented blockchain systems/apps can be dramatically greater than those controlled by centralized, opaque rules or rulers, none are or ever will be “perfect.” They must evolve because static systems can’t survive in the world of entropy, competition, and new knowledge. 

The Ethereum community largely acknowledges this concept. Vitalik and many leaders in the community embrace the reality and power of the social layer of blockchains (aka Layer 0). The social layer is the true source of legitimacy, security, and perhaps most importantly, evolution.

In the last few weeks, there has been a lot of talk about intentional (paid) block reorgs in Ethereum circles. Small reorgs within Ethereum’s PoW consensus mechanism occur naturally even without malicious actions. 

The idea of actors reorging blocks intentionally for their own gain flies under “code is law” ethos. But the social reaction to racing to make this behavior easier to accomplish was largely negative because of the destabilizing effects it could have on the network. The impact of this Layer 0 pushback was real—the project that jump started the controversy is shelved (for now) and miners publicly stated they wouldn’t be participating in such games (for now).

Was this an example of the Ethereum community showing weakness or strength? While undoubtedly some took their negative reactions/actions too far, I see this as a sign of Ethereum Layer 0’s strength.

In the short-term, it appears that Layer 0 upheld social, assumed norms important to the current implementation of protocols. It also animated thoughtful public reasoning and research educating about reality of reorgs while laying out the long-term mitigation strategies. Because of its Layer 0, Ethereum will get stronger and create new, better “code is law” in the face of a threat.

The F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function,” seems relevant here. On one hand, the Ethereum ecosystem is attempting to build cooperative systems that transcend the fickleness of people. On the other hand, these systems are doomed without occasional extra-protocol social coordination. That’s hard to meme, but in the end it’s the mindset that will win out.



  • On August 4th, we’re going to lead a Geo Web demo/workshop at Denver University. The event is part of their “Blockchain, Crypto, & Web 3.0” class, but it’s open to the public with registration. If you’re in the Denver area, you should definitely join us. We’ll provide a Zoom link for those that register, but are unable to attend in person. 
  • Optimism committed to donating all profits made from their sequencer (basically MEV on their L2) to funding public goods. Their first experiment is a “Retroactive Public Goods Exit”—basically mimicking the incentives of a traditional liquidity event for a startup, but for a public good project. This is obviously right up our alley on the Geo Web! We’re excited to see how this plays out.

On Deck

  • Cadastre map optimizations
  • Exploring complex parcel shape claims
  • Media gallery pinning UI clean up

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