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Why Do We Need a Bounty Adjudicator? Fairness and Efficiency.

Why Do We Need a Bounty Adjudicator? Fairness and Efficiency.
Photo by Conny Schneider / Unsplash

This is a featured article by the Resolvr project, a bounty dispute resolution system being built for the Bolt Fun Hackathon running from October 5 to December 17.

On a recent episode of Rabbit Hole Recap, Matt Odell highlighted a major trade-off with open-source development bounties: grantors have unlimited discretion over payout.

As Odell pointed out, where bounties have broad wordings with limited criteria specified, "it's up to [the grantor] if [they] approve something or not."

The example given was the Human Rights Foundation's bounty for "End-to-End Encrypted Nostr Group Chats," which gave only a short description of what solution would satisfy the bounty:

A bounty taker provided a solution that satisfied the stated criteria. But because it was not interoperable between all nostr clients, the HRF decided to grant only half of the reward to this bounty taker. It then amended the bounty criteria to add additional requirements, including that the solution had to be accomplished through a standardized Nostr Improvement Proposal (NIP) that was merged into the protocol:

This episode illustrates why removing grantor discretion and giving it to a panel of neutral, third-party developers is necessary. HRF is not a bad actor. But it nevertheless failed to provide adequate instructions to bounty takers, and then amended its instructions after bounty takers had already put in the hard work. In the law, that's called a failure of adequate notice. And it's a violation of due process.

Resolvr's panel of neutral reviewers would have given the bounty taker assurances that their work would be evaluated based on the publicly listed criteria, not unstated desires of the grantor. In this example, the reviewing panel may well have agreed that the first bounty taker satisfied all the listed requirements and was entitled to the full bounty.

And, since the third-party reviewers would have been guided solely by the publicly listed bounty criteria when deciding whether to release the funds, HRF would have been incentivized to include more detail in its bounty criteria in the first place.

In this way, Resolvr doesn't just provide assurances to bounty takers of payment, it incentivizes clarity and detail in bounty listings. This gives all bounty takers adequate notice and makes the open-source bounty market more efficient and fair.

Check out the discussion of HRF's bounty at 1:23:

Matt & Marty explain the problem of bounty grantor discretion.

To learn more about Resolvr, check out the GitHub repo, or join the Resolvr community Discord!

Want to post a bounty, get paid to solve a bounty, or earn fees for reviewing bounty solutions? Join the Resolvr alpha waiting list here.