Aragon Product Development Guild Funding Proposal - 2023

Description

The Product Development Guild is requesting $3,522,325.72 from March 1, 2023 to February 29, 2024 to support the development and launch of next-generation decentralized governance products, including the launch of an upgraded version of the aragonOS smart contract protocol, new governance plugins, a developer-friendly SDK, developer portal, an Aragon design system, and a user-friendly app for creating and managing decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) and more.

This funding will allow the Product Development Guild to continue its work across the entire software development lifecycle, from product design, UX/UI, user testing, engineering, and quality assurance, as well as supporting functions such as developer advocacy, technical support, and data analytics. These efforts are crucial to delivering a user-friendly, flexible, and secure product that will drive the growth of the Aragon ecosystem and solidify Aragon’s position as a tech leader in the decentralized governance space.

Objectives

The Product Development Guild is endorsing v1.0.0 of the Strategy to Become a Governance Hyperstructure.
Our goal is thus to boost the adoption and success of DAOs running on the new aragonOS protocol, as well as increase compatibility with the protocol across the ecosystem. To achieve this, we are building the necessary tools for both non-technical users who need a no-code solution for launching their DAO, and for existing projects to integrate the capabilities of our protocol into their product or service (or visa versa).

During Aragon Association’s 2023 annual planning, in collaboration with other Aragon Association guilds, we set the following cross-guild objective and key results:

  • Objective: Reach defensible PMF for App & Protocol.
    • Key Result 1: 10 active DAOs [DAOs that have had $10k AUM and have executed at least one financial transfer with a binding vote] have been built on Aragon’s new protocol
    • Key Result 2: Top 6 user needs, as determined by user research, are fulfilled via integrations
    • Key Result 3: Voters in Aragon DAOs have the option to vote anonymously

To support this objective of reaching a defensible PMF for our App & Protocol, we are prioritizing the successful launch of our new products in Q1 2023 and we are expanding the supported governance functionality with new plugins, post-launch. The following elaborates on the objectives as well as the key results for measuring them, that we’ve set and are following in Q1 (January 1, 2023 - March 31, 2023).

  • O1: Officially and successfully launch the product
    • KR1: >$480k in bounties and honeypots have been publicly published
    • KR2: At least 1 mainnet DAO is launched by an external user in the App
    • KR3: Developer Portal is launched
    • KR4: Key product health metrics are available for launch
    • KR5: Design System (Comp Lib + Figma Lib + First Documentation) is launched
  • O2: Provide essential governance types to new and existing DAO
    • KR1: Aragon DAOs can use existing tokens
    • KR2: Implement two OVOTE components (census generation and TypeScript BabyJubJub libraries)
    • KR3: 5th governance plugin is audited and available in the SDK
  • O3: Implement a Quality Management program in Product Development
    • KR1: Automated test coverage for 100% of the newly added user flows
    • KR2: A dedicated Technical Support Specialist has been hired into Product Development
    • KR3: Key product health metrics are available for monitoring
    • KR4: A unified issue reporting process been defined and implemented (e.g. externally discovered issues live in main backlog)
  • O4: All Aragon guilds stewards [or leads] are aligned on and operating to support a single Product strategy
    • KR1: All Aragon guilds stewards [or leads] and Product Development leads endorse a cross-squad Product roadmap that spans the current and upcoming quarter
    • KR2: All Aragon guilds stewards [or leads] and Product Development leads endorse a cross-squad Product strategy for 2023
    • KR3: >80% of the Product Development team feels like their personal work is helping realize Aragon’s vision
    • KR4: All Product Development leads are satisfied with a new cross-squad collaboration process, including discovery and delivery

Details

DAOs are often represented as a community that manages shared resources through a governance token. However, in reality, many DAOs rely on centralized entities such as a multisig (or even a centralized exchange!) to hold and manage their funds, trusting those with the keys to act in accordance with the signals of the token holders. As the DAO space has grown and evolved, more organizations are turning to Aragon to move their treasuries (some who have recently come to us have over a billion in assets) to a fully on-chain protocol, where decentralization plays a security role in permissioning financial transactions rather than just a moralistic one. This is essentially account abstraction and DAOs are increasingly being seen as a safer layer to abstract transaction permissions, protecting the trillions in assets that we expect to move on-chain in the coming years.

Aragon has historically been a top choice for organizations seeking decentralized governance solutions because of its brand recognition, reputation for security, and the lack of alternatives to the flexible aragonOS protocol and Aragon Client app. Despite the success of these products in the past, limited development and maintenance in recent years has left many of the largest DAOs in the ecosystem relying on legacy versions and extending functionality on their own. This has presented an opportunity for our Guild to take ownership of the development of a new aragonOS protocol, capitalizing on the opportunity to be a lower-level infrastructure player building out the foundations of on-chain organizations and a broader Aragon ecosystem.

The specific initiatives being invested in fall under (1) bootstrapping end-user protocol usage on the demand side, and (2) bootstrapping plug-in integration on the supply side. From the Strategy:

  • Deliver an updated aragonOS (name to be announced), easily accessible via a JS SDK, based on the previous aragonOS releases, which have been rebuilt to improve developer experience, composability, flexibility, and minimize unnecessary gas consumption.
    • Provide ready-made plugin examples developed by Aragon with popular protocols or services.
  • Deliver the most human-centered app for creating and managing DAOs, focused on the needs of the “intermediate builders”.
  • Invest in developer relations with advocacy, interviews, and a new Developer Portal aimed to increase the ease of third-party developers integrating to Aragon DAOs.

The new aragonOS has already passed rigorous security audits, launched on testnet, and the team is now eager to ignite the “flywheel of growth” with the launch of the new App, SDK, and developer portal in Q1.

A new Aragon Protocol

Some of the largest DAOs have been deployed on legacy versions of aragonOS, but had to fork and continue building on it themselves as it wasn’t being maintained or flexible enough for their needs. While composability is a central thesis of web3 tech, it has so far resulted in a fragmented governance ecosystem where individual protocols are difficult to integrate with each other and it leaves developers building the applications to do most of the heavy lifting, often resulting in bad UX.
In order to make progress toward solving this problem, the Product Development Guild has refocused to launching a new architecture that flips the current model upside-down, while maintaining the core foundation of aragonOS. We have developed a framework in which everything an actor can do on the DAO is permissioned. Every feature is packaged into a plugin, with features, permissions, services, and user interfaces encapsulated in a self-contained bundle. We believe that a flexible and modular architecture like this will be a fundamental building block of the incoming wave of new digital organizations, supporting the strategy’s thesis that the hyperstructure for governance will be a permission management system.

No two DAOs are the same and a single DAO’s needs may change over time. Instead of covering 60% of the most typical needs of a DAO, the new design relies on a plugin ecosystem where third-party developers can create plugins that perform just one task, but does it exceptionally well. A digital organization will be able to start with a base setup, and then combine and compose plugins in order to create a custom solution that meets their specific requirements. They can continue to evolve by installing and uninstalling plugins as they grow. This will accommodate both highly decentralized web3 requirements and on-chain organizations that require more focused and efficient execution.
The main components behind the new architecture are:

  • Simplified DAO contract: It holds all assets, executes operations, and grants and revokes conditional permissions to external components.
  • Universal DAO factory: It creates your DAO, assigns a unique ENS subdomain to it, and specifies what plugins you need and their settings.
  • DAO registry: A census of the DAO’s that have been created using Aragon.
  • Plugin registry: Developers can publish new plugin releases that DAOs can install, with a plugin factory to publish them, also with their own ENS name.
  • Plugin setup processor: allows any other governance plugin to apply plugin installs, upgrades, and uninstalls.
  • A standard library of governance plugins: Initially including an admin plugin, multisig, address list, token voting, and many more to come.
  • Ready-made base to build new plugins: Allows for quickly implementing any custom feature as a plugin so that they are upgradeable out-of-the-box. Features an installer, update manager, and uninstaller.

The new protocol can be reviewed in the Aragon github. It is designed to be adaptable to future features and flows that are currently unimaginable. It is built to empower the next 10,000 DAOs.

A human-centered no-code Application

With market sentiment and regulatory pressure muting much of the excitement that we saw toward DAOs in 2022, the time is now for Aragon to push DAOs into the mainstream before it becomes too late. We have the opportunity to make it safer and easier for increasingly more organizations, even traditional institutions, to move their funds on-chain and easily govern their assets via a DAO. If the social stakes are sufficiently high then it will be impossible for them to be stopped by antagonistic actors.

Our research with non-technical users interested in building their own DAOs, who we refer to “intermediate builders”, suggests that the builders of the next 10,000 DAOs will not be technically or crypto savvy (see research here and here). These users want a more flexible platform that allows them to start their DAOs prior to knowing which governance model is right for them and without needing advanced coding skills. They want a self-contained user experience that allows them to make proposals and manage their DAOs without having to navigate multiple services to complete recurring tasks.

Although Aragon Client was one of the first front-end applications to make building DAOs more accessible, it is still perceived as challenging by many users. Other DAO tools available are still in their early stages and, during our interviews, have been criticized for being limiting and cumbersome. Additionally, the current market conditions have made it increasingly difficult for teams building DAO management tooling to secure funding and maintain their products, reducing the available options for non-technical users to launch and operate their DAOs without a dedicated developer.

The new Aragon App is being developed to solve real-world use cases for DAO builders. The initial features are being launched part of the MVP this quarter include:

  • DAO Creation Experience with included educational layer and a clear, human-understandable onboarding process
  • Proposal creation with all necessary content and metadata, as well as any optional corresponding actions
  • Token-based Majority Voting and on-chain multisig governance mechanisms, both with a proposal threshold
  • On-chain actions for withdrawing funds from the DAO treasury and updating DAO settings, such as minimum participation or adding new members to the multisig
  • Explore page for onboarding and learning about DAO governance, our protocol, and our app. In addition, they are able to explore existing Aragon DAOs and see their proposals.
  • Subgraph-supported dashboards for quick fetching of on-chain data about your DAO, proposals, and votes.

The MVP launching in Q1 offers easy-to-use governance, managed as a single permission layer, curated into a simple user experience. In other words, the initial release of the app will not allow governance plugins to be chained or reference one another. Subsequent releases will aim to generalize these functional UI patterns into extendable “touch points” for plugins in the UI, allowing the app to take advantage of the modular design of the new aragonOS. This allows for a smooth transition for newer organizations, who can start with a simple, trusted multisig setup and later add any desired token-based governance plugins, all without having to move their treasury and community to a different framework. With this approach, Aragon becomes “the DAO framework that grows with you”.

Developer Resources

The blockchain industry’s open-source nature encourages collaboration and integration between projects, which is not just desirable but expected by the industry. Our research on developer personas shows that engineers choose tools that are widely used and easy to integrate with, in order to benefit from the network effects of established projects. They also prioritize the security and long-term stability of the tools they use to ensure their own products are not impacted by future issues.

We are building the resources so that engineers will need to be successful in each of the funnel: discovery, evaluation, learning, building, scaling. At the center of our Developer Experience stands our Developer Portal - where engineers will go to evaluate, learn, and build on our stack.

The Developer Portal will include code snippets, a sandbox environment, clear information architecture, how-to guides, use case examples, and links to boilerplate repositories that engineers can simply fork and use to start building. Additionally, it will be equipped with embedded data analytics to improve the user experience and documentation quality. The initial version of the Developer Portal and the protocol documentation have already been built, and we will continue to improve and update both the design and documentation throughout Q1.

The next critical piece of the Developer Experience is the SDK, which serves as the gateway for JavaScript engineers to build on-chain organizations. Currently in use only by the Aragon App, it will be the main point of interaction between developers and our protocol, providing access to configuration parameters, essential functions for applications to operate, and clients for specific governance plugins.

These resources will provide developers with the resources and support they need to to easily leverage our protocol to build their own front end dApps, plugins, or other integrations. They are part of an education strategy that will include tutorials (both written and recorded), example demos of what is possible, workshops (both online and at events), and partnerships with other developer education organizations. We will do this in collaboration with the Growth Guild.

Our in-house Developer Relations expert is dedicated to helping developers quickly get up and running on aragonOS, encouraging best practices from the start. An excellent developer experience is essential to our strategic play to “commoditize the complement” on our path to becoming a governance hyperstructure and to inspire and enable developers to build new features and integrations that unlock the full potential of what Aragon DAOs can accomplish.

Upcoming Features

After the initial launch, we plan to implement the following tentative list of features, pending feedback from our users:

  1. Smart Contract Composer and WalletConnect:
    The Smart Contract Composer and Wallet Connect features will make it easy for users of all technical backgrounds to add new external actions to proposals, which can be executed after a proposal is approved or voted on.

  2. Support for existing tokens:
    With the initial release, only the creation of a new token for MajorityVoting is possible. In the future, we plan to implement a solution for validating ERC20, ERC721, and ERC1155 tokens, determining their compatibility and if not, providing a wrapping solution.

  3. Private Voting:
    We seem to be at an inflection point where voter protection is at risk. More and more DAOs are expressing their intention to use and even fund Private Voting solutions. We are exploring multiple solutions to provide users a different range of solutions that are tailored to their needs, through the productization of the PoCs the AZKR Guild is building.

    • On-chain Private Voting: This product, which is our first collaboration with AZKR, will not only provide a trustless private voting platform but also help us build experience in creating production-ready zero-knowledge products. By using a proof of belonging in a Merkle tree plugin, we can authorize voters to participate. Moving from proof of concept to release will require not only technical efforts but also solutions to challenges such as census creation and relying on services to improve the UX. By addressing these issues early, we can provide better feedback to AZKR and ultimately build a more user-centric solution, which is often lacking in ZK-related products.

    • Off-chain Private Voting: A close relationship with other guilds enables the creation of products that cannot be developed by a single team. CeresVoting, as it’s known internally, is a massive project that enables voters to participate anonymously with just a signature. No transaction is required, as a rollup aggregator will take care of the rest. Bringing this product to the wider community will require a joint effort, but it will also provide a significant boost to the security of the crypto industry.

  4. Off-chain Voting:
    It’s been proven already by existing tools that not all votes require the same level of security and scalability. Providing the connection, support and productization of different tools that enable off-chain decision making, such as Vocdoni’s voting, will drive adoption and a much needed participation in DAOs.

  5. Granular Permission Management:
    DAOs are ruled by permission management systems. With this new release we are aiming to provide a more granular version that enables roles to be attached to conditions and filters that will make executions more defined. We plan to enable users to take action into these measures in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming, while still enabling new use cases that have never been possible before.

  6. Modularity Framework:
    To truly unlock the potential of the plugin system, we will create an additional layer of abstraction in the framework that allows the application to represent plugins in a plug-and-play, intuitive way, with an easy-to-understand plugin management system and a common language across the app that users can understand. This requires defining patterns and “touch points” where the app can have functionality inserted as an extension in a consistent manner across the app. For example:

    • Widgets: Extensions that provide users with relevant information, such as protocol status, internal statistics, or latest posts on Mirror as well as initiating actions from the DAO.

    • Governance plugins: Plugins that alter the decision-making process, participation, and consensus calculation. They require logic through smart contracts and may also alter the UI.

    • Integrations: Connections to external services that allow the DAO to interact with them. They may require both UI and logic changes.

  7. Guilds, Sub-DAOs, Safes:
    As organizations grow, they often need to divide themselves into smaller, specialized units. We’ve seen this happening with DAOs creating functionally specialized sub-DAOs, which are often called "guilds’', “squads”, “pods” or similar. We want to make it easier for users to manage these subunits by using token-based permissions to assign specific roles and responsibilities to their governing addresses. This will help address scalability issues that DAOs have faced and provide a solution that can more flexibly support traditional organizational design principles.

Ways of Working

The Product Development Guild is responsible for the entire software development lifecycle, including analysis, design, implementation, testing, deployment, and maintenance. The Guild is made up of squads that have their own ways of working. The unified structure of the Guild allows for better communication and coordination to help ensure the product has a cohesive vision and user experience.

It is divided into three main functional areas:

  1. Discovery track: This includes product management, product design, UX/I, support and analytics. It focuses on understanding what problems we should try to solve by collecting data, identifying opportunities, and exploring potential solutions before building them.
  2. OS team: This engineering squad is responsible for building the new version of the aragonOS smart contract protocol, SDK, and developer portal.
  3. App team: This engineering squad is responsible for delivering the new Aragon App.

The engineering squads follow an Agile delivery process, inspired by Scrum, to provide some predictability around the delivery of new features and updates. Working in parallel Sprints, each squad manages their own Product Backlogs in Jira, while coordination between teams is managed by the tech leads and support from product leadership. The discovery track has its own Kanban workflow that moves ideas through exploration, design, and results in User Stories that are ready for implementation by the engineering squads.

Product Development works closely with other guilds within Aragon, such as the Ops Guild who provides DevOps and Agile coaching support, the Growth Guild who handles go-to-market strategies and ongoing marketing and communications, and the Aragon ZK Research Guild to who we provide strategic direction regarding the needs of DAO builders and potential future product integrations.

Guild Lead

  • Head of Product Development: Steward of the Guild, leads the coordination between the teams and Guilds, while ensuring the objectives being met bring Aragon forward.

Product Discovery

  • Product Manager, App: In charge of product management for the App, defining corresponding roadmap and leading the team to deliver on a continuous basis while responsive to the market changes for optimal success.
  • Design Lead, App: Design Lead that oversees both the user experience for App and discovery process for Product guild.
  • UX/UI Designer, App: To support UX/UI design for App.
  • Data Scientist: To provide support in product analytics by working on data across multiple disciplines.
  • Tech Support Specialist: To provide assistance and troubleshooting to customers or users experiencing technical problems with products or services.

OS Team

  • Tech Lead, OS: In charge of leading the OS Team’s development, leads architecture discussions, professional growth paths for our engineers, and work team estimations.
  • Developer Advocate, OS: In charge of designing the developer experience of Aragon products, as well as building technical content, representing the organization at conferences, and working closely with the developer community.
  • Software Engineer, OS: As a Software Engineer of the OS Team, mostly leading the smart contract development of our Protocol.
  • Software Engineer, OS: As a Software Engineer of the OS Team, focused on the smart contract development of our protocol.
  • Software Engineer, OS: Software Engineer of the OS Team, mostly focused on building the SDK, as well as the Developer Portal.
  • Software Engineer, OS: Software Engineer of the OS Team, supporting the smart contract development of our Protocol, as well as with the documentation of our products.
  • Software Engineer, OS: As a Software Engineer, support in building smart contracts for the Aragon protocol. Also in charge of the DevOps infrastructure of all Aragon products.

App Team

  • Tech Lead, App: In charge of leading the App Team’s development, leads architecture discussions, professional growth paths for our engineers, and work team estimations.
  • Front End Engineer, App: To support on developing UX/UI of App that enable users to manage their DAOs with ease.
  • Front End Engineer, App: To support on developing UX/UI of App that enable users to manage their DAOs with ease.
  • Front End Engineer, App: To support on developing UX/UI of App that enable users to manage their DAOs with ease.
  • Front End Engineer, App: To support on developing UX/UI of App that enable users to manage their DAOs with ease.

Funding Breakdown

Team Expenses $227,000.00
Total Other Opex (audits & bounties) $480,000.00
Third Party Providers $0
Total Salaries $1,965,559.03
Performance Bonuses 12% $235,867.08
Open Positions $240,000.00
5% Buffer $122,071.31
Total Season 2 $880,581.43
Total Season 3 $880,581.43
Total Season 4 $880,581.43
Total Season 1 $880,581.43
Yearly Budget (before tax) $3,270,497.42
Tax 7.7% (DAO has this reimbursed) $251,828.30
Total Proposal $3,522,325.72

*Please note that the 7.7% other opex will be reimbursed to the DAO at EOY. Thus the actual budget for expenditures is *$3,270,497.42.

Risks & Dependencies

  • Hack of an Aragon DAO: To ensure the safety of funds, we are taking extra precautions with our new products and protocols. These include audits, extensive testing, and incorporating the learnings of those who have come before us. We are also following the Strategy’s advice by initially focusing on new DAOs with lower total value locked (TVL). As our new contracts become “battle tested” over time, we will feel more confident in onboarding DAOs with higher TVL. Additionally, we will set up significant bug bounties and honey pots to proactively discover and fix any security vulnerabilities. (For more information, refer to the related OKR.)
  • A competitor exploiting our lack of strategic defensibility: The new version of aragonOS and the new App are both open source, meaning they can be forked by anyone at any time, diverting traffic from Aragon. We need to work closely with the Growth guild to ensure Aragon remains top-of-mind, and with any existing and future customer success roles within the Aragon to offer the level of support Aragon DAOs need to be successful, attracting builders to Aragon even if there are other forks available. In the longer term, our strategy hinges on the plugin ecosystem, ideally with ANT staking on plugins, establishing our defensible network effects.
  • Team member “bus factor”: Aragon has experienced the negative effects of having a concentration of knowledge among a few key individuals, which can act as a single point of failure if they leave the project. To mitigate this risk, we are investing in cross-functional developers who are proficient working on multiple components of our stack. In addition, we are investing in building out an educational program for external builders to better contribute to the broader Aragon ecosystem, thus spreading knowledge more widely, encouraging innovation on the edges and making everyone interested in decentralized governance highly knowledgeable of Aragon’s stack, not just our own engineers.
  • Aragon DAO governance overhead: It is no secret that coordinating is one of the biggest struggles in DAOs, as coordination and alignment can be difficult to achieve without a clear vision and decision-making structure. To mitigate these risks as we transition into the Aragon DAO, we are explicitly endorsing a single strategy for the guild and working on initiatives that directly support it. This allows us to better collaborate with support guilds such as Growth, who need to be able to consistently and accurately represent Aragon’s product when interacting with potential partners and DAO builders. Additionally, we have integrated our App and OS Teams under one overarching guild to minimize interdependencies and to reduce overall governance complexity.
15 Likes

I also want to mention all the help received by the different Guilds and team members into bringing this Proposal to live. Thank you for you continuous support, couldn’t have been without you.

8 Likes

Prisma will vote “yes” on this proposal. As you probably know, Prisma explicitly endorses the Strategy to Become a Governance Hyperstructure. The Product Development Guild serves as a central player in this strategy and is responsible for its most critical initiatives. Our intention is to provide the team with the resources needed to build the protocol that will serve as the foundation of the governance hyperstructure we seek to build and create a human-centered Aragon App that will onboard the next 10,000 DAOs and beyond.

We believe that, first and foremost, Aragon is a technology organization. We must prioritize efforts to create an environment for success for our engineering and product teams. We acknowledge the challenges faced in the past with shipping velocity and bringing a product to market. As we approach this upcoming product launch, we anticipate seeing the Product Development Guild transitioning into a more sustainable and predictable delivery cycle, focusing on iterative development with high stakeholder alignment and reducing distractions from noise. By focusing on what the ecosystem needs, ensuring the team is staffed with the talent that it needs, we have confidence in the team’s ability to make significant progress. This is in contrast to throwing more resources at the problem; so we very much agree with the recent adjustments to the funding proposal, including a nearly 20% reduction in requested funds.

Product is the backbone of Aragon’s vision, so we eagerly anticipate the launch of the new app and feedback from our users.

2 Likes

OnChainCoop thanks @juareth and the Product Development Guild for the elaborate proposal. OnChainCoop will vote “yes” in support of the proposal.

Initiatives within the proposal are consistent and fit well with the Governance Hyperstructure Strategy. Our vote speaks to our trust in the guild, and we look forward to the successful launch of the new Aragon Protocol and Aragon App.

We are also excited to see the Product Roadmap and the 2023 Product Strategy. One of the most important questions we would want to see answered is, “who are the target users of the Aragon stack in 2023”. While DAOs remain niche today, they are pretty heterogeneous, and the needs and wants vary substantially across organizations’ types, sizes, and maturities. This question is specifically relevant to the second Key Result for the guild “Top 6 user needs, as determined by user research, are fulfilled via integrations”.

2 Likes