ROTA, post mortem.

Tuesday, 22 January, Year 5 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

Well that didn't last long.

By way of thanks for having received a scrapi of attention in the shape of a pretty simple case, the judges have decided to really prove themselves by means of constructing an entirely new scam through which MPEx may be defrauded. Here's how it'd work :

  • Step 1 : Anonymous person sends 100 BTC to MPEx public address. There's obviously nothing MPEx can do about it, it's not like you can refuse BTC transactions.
  • Step 2 : Anonymous person sues MPEx before ROTA, and pays his 10 BTC fee. If MPEx is stupid enough to respond,
  • Step 3 : Court awards anonymous person 100 BTC originally sent + 10 BTC it paid as fees. MPEx ends up short 3 BTC x 3 judges = 9 BTC.
  • Step 4 : Anonymous person and judges split the 9 BTC, which isn't that bad for what may well be ten minute's work. What's worse, this blueprint can be repeated literally an infinity of times, for infinite BTC siphoned away from MPEx.

Obviously I can't in good conscience allow this hole to stand. Consequently, MPEx FAQ has been altered to read


This had always been stated policy. I had erroneously thought that it may be beneficial for everyone to perhaps relax it, and at the same time promote the ROTA. I repent this sinful notion.

The total damage steming from this latest naivity of mine is 150 BTC in owed salaries which become due in December, and I will be taking as a one time charge in the MPEx financials for that month, as well as 9 BTC due now, which I will be taking as a one time charge in the MPEx financials for the current month. My time is obviously free, as it's right and proper in any self-respecting socialist state, and certainly having come up with the entire thing is not worth the mention - and that at the very best!ii

After this spectacular failure it is very much beyond me how the ROTA may be salvaged or repaired. I have taken the time to think things through but I do not see how it could be done. I feel I'd have to be insane to ever answer process from it again (and certainly irresponsible to my shareholders), and if I can't even sell it to myself I very much doubt anyone could sell it to anyone else. As best I can determine the ROTA is dead as a going concern. If anyone wishes to prove the contrary by all means, go right ahead. I for one am spent.

The exact lesson in all of this is perhaps debatable. The lesson I walk away with is that the general public has no business being involved into anything as human beings. The correct behaviour of any business, institution or corporation is to simply put up the fences in the desired patterns and shock any strays into submission. It's how civilisation is, was and apparently forever will be built.

There's periodic discussions about the dangers of cronyism and the virtues of public participation in various circles, online and off. I can tell all those people about my first hand experience with public participation : the public is lazy, the public is not interested in thinking (but always has at the ready a vast array of shockingly stupid & inappropriate preconceived notions to guide itself by). Consequently handing anything to the public should always be matched by a write-off of that thing, whatever it may be. If the thing is for instance a full steel ball you should fully expect in due time complaints about how it was a broken steel ball which meanwhile "was" lost.

I will also be taking a much more conservative approach to CSR. MPEx is currently the only Bitcoin business with such a program, and I am starting to believe it is wrong to thus waste shareholder funds. All the others are probably right, there's no S to be R to as a C.

Overall a rather bitter experience, but honestly I am thankful that this nonsense exploded sooner rather than later. At least we know how we stand.

  1. It's really hard work to try and make other people matter, and as an unpleasant bonus everyone berates you for trying. Somehow it's perceived as a bad thing, I have no idea why. []
  2. I notably do not consider the 130 BTC sum in dispute a loss, nor do I think the case at hand actually is a playout of the scam described above. That, of course, does precisely nothing to protect us in the future. At any rate I will be paying it, just as soon as the OP provides an address. []
Category: Rota
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21 Responses

  1. Sturm Drang`s avatar
    Sturm Drang 
    Tuesday, 22 January 2013

    Mircea, you've made me a lot of money with MPEx, and I highly respect you, but I think you're dead wrong here.

    You're upset because the Rota judges don't think like you, which isn't surprising given that you have an unusually rigid view of procedures and the Way Things Ought To Be in general. I can't imagine you'd ever find a collection of volunteer judges who would share your unknowably obtuse worldview.

    The Rota was an interesting experiment. I thought you were just getting the thing going with a trivial first test case. The judges made a reasonable and obvious decision, and it looked like a successful trial. I didn't think you'd take it this seriously (given that it's just the first case), and I'm blown away that you'd give up on the whole thing simply because the judges awarded the plaintiff for costs! That's crazy!

    You claim that this decision would open the doors to fraud from the judges (by allowing them to collude with depositors and collect judgement fees). This conclusion is paranoid in the extreme. In fact, it's madness, especially since you vetted the judges!

    The insulting manner in which you treated the judges in #bitcoin-assets is perhaps the most outrageous part of this silliness. You invited them to volunteer their services (for which they'd receive token compensation), and then you berated their honest decision because they didn't share your strict philosophy on how things should operate in the world of Bitcoin (no "fiat court"-like decisions, etc).

    The 'failure' of the judges to come up with a decision more to your liking is entirely your fault for not clearly outlining the Rota judgement guidelines beforehand. Jpcham and Pigeons acted honestly and in good faith, and you owe them an apology for your rude and condescending behavior.

    Your adherence to principles is one of the reasons I invested in MPEx. I tolerate the weirdness (the unnecessary and bizarre MPOE-PR character, the antagonism towards potential customers, the terrible website, etc) because you've demonstrated integrity, your system works well, and you can't argue with success.

    But outbursts like this really make me wish you'd get some perspective, admit that you can be wrong, and tone it back a bit.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Tuesday, 22 January 2013

    So maybe I'm dead wrong. It wouldn't be the first time.

    I don't care if the judges (or anyone else for that matter) likes me or doesn't like me. The liking game is not a game I play. I absolutely understand the argument from ridigity, and let me tell you that if I perceived more options, I'd be less rigid (and in the places where I do, I am). Sometimes, through no fault of our joint or several own, there's just not that many options.

    What I do care about, however, is that some people trying to be judges go by what they like or not like (if indeed this is what happened there, which I am not particularly persuaded to be the case, honestly). As a judge you don't have that luxury.

    Maybe my worldview is unknowable and obtuse, maybe it's plain and obvious that you can't have a system whereby the passive party is also the responsible party in any endeavour (for the obvious reason that this spells out an extraction engine - someone else then can actively extract value). I fully agree, for what it's worth, that the entire experiment was sunk on an iceberg that from some angles appears tiny and nobody (including myself) expected. That doesn't make the problem go away, sadly.

    You are right that I was just getting things going with a trivial test case - that is exactly what happened. The trivial test case blew up massively and in a totally unexpected way. I no longer consider the experiment safe and honestly I have serious trouble convincing myself the experiment even is a good idea : empowering nonsense never is, for instance.

    I agree the judges made an obvious decision. It was not reasonable by any means. The only way it may appear reasonable is through the following process "it sorta looks like what they do irl, and therefore should be ok". This, sadly, is not how Bitcoin things work. I know it's disconcerting, I know it'd be easier if it weren't the case, but it is the case. To quote (myself, heh)

    Both “stocks” and “bonds” as used in this discussion are logically derived from the same root as their everyday equivalents, but do not function exactly alike. It is very important to read carefully and fully grasp the specifications of their working as described here, and it is very dangerous to rely on the theory that you understand based on your general experience with other stocks or bonds.

    Apparently that includes judging too, and yes, had I the chance to do things over again I would put that note prominently everywhere, and herein lies an excellent argument against doing things. In retrospect, the ROTA was too soon, and I should have waited. Years, maybe. If anyone is looking for ways and means to pin the failure on my own arrogance, this certainly is one line that'd work : I had no business starting it in the first place. I guess the infrastructure wasn't yet ready.

    Very bad that you didn't think I'd take it seriously. I take seriously all sorts of stupid shit, usually what you least expect. The problem is not that the judges awarded the plaintiff costs. It's that the judges allocated the cost of mistakes to the party not making the mistake, which simply may not stand, and more importantly that the judges judged one side. This isn't judging. Judging is judging both sides, and the complete shock resulting from discussion of the case (after three days during which judges forewent any discussion in the proper venue for such - the comments section of that case) pretty clearly shows that they didn't even as much as consider the other side. The simple "well, is this actually fair to the other side ?" point never came to live, it'd seem. That's not judging, that may be WoW playing or forum posting or absolutely any other Internet activity, but not judging.

    Paranoid in the extreme ? Listen, the engine as described works. This is a fact. What is your argument, that we should trust people to not misuse a broken system ? How about not making the system broken and then you won't have to trust anyone! Isn't that the very idea of Bitcoin ? Isn't the notion that governments and banks are bad for you paranoid in the extreme ? Maybe I'm paranoid. Maybe it's actually better to make things in such ways as to minimise trust.

    I did invite them as volunteers. There were five million volunteer victims in World War I. Shit happens, regrettably. It may be entirely my fault, for all I know. What's that help ? Does it make it less of a failure if it's their fault or my fault ? Maybe it's Gavin's fault, maybe Nefario did it. Does that help anything ? I fail to see how.

    They probably did act in good faith, they probably were honest. They did act unintelligently (as the simplest example, through not discussing the case) and the end result of their good faith, honest effort is abominable. This happens, a pretty girl and a honest boy love each other very much, have a baby and it comes out a cyclops. What's one to do ?

    Maybe perspective comes in time.

  3. I think Mircea fails to notice the overwhelming amount of good faith put forth by the claimant, Wences. The decision was not rushed, I assure you.

    Simply put, and I stated this yesterday, if you wish to relegate me to customer service, I will service your customers.

    If you wish to monetize the act or punish the mistake in itself, please charge a fee to return funds and insulate yourself from this. MONETIZE THE MISTAKE, enforce your own penalties for shit you can verify yourself. "the bounced check argument"

    You had plenty of opportunities to return the funds without rota involvement. It should be your sole prerogative to return funds, pre-emptive to any rota involvement. It is your business, your reputation. It is my opinion that Mircea could have prevented this at any time.

    This was not a punitive action against Mircea, althought the fee structure certainly makes it seem that way.

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Tuesday, 22 January 2013

    Dude, srsly, both parties were paragons of good faith in this debacle. That you name one is probably cosubstantial to the problem, but anyway.

  5. Public Note: Mistakenly sent 130.00 BTC to MPEx instead of the correct 130.04256216 on January 15, 2013. To be used in ROTA court proceedings for recovery of said sum.

    Seeing the case was brought before ROTA two days later, I'm curious to learn what dilligent effort was spent in that meantime by Wences to recoup the sum without involving third parties.

    It should be your sole prerogative to return funds, pre-emptive to any rota involvement.

    So, to my understanding (as a simple bystander), the judges have decided two days is a sufficiently long waiting time. I wonder, had Wences filed his claim with ROTA immediately after the mistaken transfer, would the judgment be any different?

    I, for once, wonder why did the judges rush to a decision without asking for proof of prior attempts of communication/resolution from Plaintiff. Are we to understand that indeed any and all passive receivers of unwated funds are to incur overhead in promptly returning said funds, penalties notwithstanding?

  6. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Tuesday, 22 January 2013

    Nah, this is going down a blind alley. The case being brought before the ROTA is in no way a failure of "other communication". The idea is that with a well functioning ROTA you don't really need other communication.

  7. I do not believe you acted in bad faith, please do not put words in my mouth.
    I do not believe you should place yourself in this position in the future.

    If you don't want to return funds, the wording needs to be clear, I looked for the sentence that said: "I'm not returning funds", but it was nowhere to be found.

    Now that the sentence is back up and the wording is clear, I'd say you are no longer under any type of fiduciary responsibility to return funds, correct?

    Who knew a sentence would be worth so much?

  8. This is so much fun.

  9. From all the discussion i remember this argument best:
    if i'd have a policy saying to clients "if you make a mistake, screw you" and there's no real reason why it has to be so, it's only reasonable the court would say "screw your policy"
    jurov no, it's not. the court isn't above the contract
    the court isn't above the contract... who decided, you?
    rota just decided else
    jurov yes.
    well rota is well fucked then.

    So Mircea, if MPEx was a building with open hole in the middle of the foyer, you consider your sacrosanct right to leave it as is and refuse to put railing or any safety net there? Just cause it's your property and on the wall is a "contract" stating that you're to keep everything that falls in, and whoever falls in is just a dumb noob that deserved it anyway?

  10. FIXED, sorry

    From all the discussion i remember this argument best:
    [jurov] if i'd have a policy saying to clients "if you make a mistake, screw you" and there's no real reason why it has to be so, it's only reasonable the court would say "screw your policy"
    [mircea_popescu] jurov no, it's not. the court isn't above the contract
    [jurov] the court isn't above the contract... who decided, you?
    [jurov] rota just decided else
    [mircea_popescu] jurov yes.
    [mircea_popescu] well rota is well fucked then.

    So Mircea, if MPEx was a building with open hole in the middle of the foyer, you consider your sacrosanct right to leave it as is and refuse to put railing or any safety net there? Just cause it's your property and on the wall is a "contract" stating that you're to keep anything that falls in, and whoever falls in is just a dumb noob that deserved it?

  11. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Tuesday, 22 January 2013


  12. I can't help but wonder where this ideas comes from that somehow 'society' (in the form of companies or property owners etc.) are expected to protect fools from their own stupidity.
    Some reasonable precautions make some sense but somehow it has grown into a requirement and that makes no sense at all. It reminds me of the insane McD case where woman got millions because she burned herself doing something stupid. Yeah its stupid - would you put a hot cup of coffee between your legs? Do you really need a notice telling you not to? Too much labels/notices/warnings/fences ....the whole world is back in kindergarden.

  13. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Wednesday, 23 January 2013

    In general failed states perpetuate themselves through deeply entrenching mistaken notions in the heads of people unwilling, unable or uninhabituated to question things.

    Isn't the whole Allah business nonsense ? Sure it is, but it's convenient nonsense : it keeps the arab states more or less together, and as clearly shown in the recent experience of ex-civilised European states (France, UK, Sweden etc) a group with a rallying point will always trample a group without one. The confused/aimless postmodern white Frenchman is no match for the foolish yet concentrated olive Muslim.

    The English speaking colonies have no Allah, but they have the Holy Welfare, and rally around that. Nonsense, sure, but it's convenient nonsense : it can get nitwits like Obama a cozy nice job, for instance.

  14. Chett, look up the details on that McD's case. The coffee was way hotter than the restaurants own policy said it should be, the lid was not secured properly, and when it spilled as it was being handed to her, it gave her third degree burns over her thighs and genitals. She needed $10,000 worth of surgery, including skin grafts, to repair the damage. She then asked McD's to pay for just the medical bills, since it was McD's screwup for making that coffee so dangerously hot, against their own policies on what temperature the coffee should be kept at, and only after McD's blew her off did she take them to court. She was awarded millions in punitive damages, which was appealed, and was later settled in private. Needless to say, she DID NOT get millions of dollars (maybe a few $100k), and she did get her genitals burned off. The stupid "woman spilled coffee on her lap and got millions for it" bullshit story still persists, and needs to stop.

  15. Well I would be happy to read the case, got a pointer to the court documents? How true it is doesn't really matter to me, thee days you can't buy a cup of coffee without a label warning about it ... thats the result that annoys me (who cares what McD had to pay - what difference does it make).
    Well it makes this difference every single cup of coffee, and a thousand other things are X more expensive because people have to be warned about everything.
    And now BIg Sis is telling everybody to walk careful because winter ice may be slippery ... guess they haven't figured out how to label that yet.

  16. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 25 January 2013

    I for one am eagerly awaiting the mandatory warning tramp stamps on all teenager ass (both genders, obviously). After all, if you hit it you may go to jail.

  1. [...] This sort of behavior simply can’t stand just because transactions are irreversible (the customer could not simply go to his bank, explain the mistake, and have the funds recredited to the proper account). In this case, the argument escalated quickly and resulted in an ad-hoc court (which was created by the exchange operator) being called upon to decide who should rightfully possess the said bitcoins. As long as there are operators like that, then yes, bitcoin will need regulation from outside parties. And incidentally, the exchange operator lost the case in the court he created. The question is why it even had to go to “court” in the first place, then had the gumption to complain that he was the victim of the case and disbanded the court. [...]

  2. [...] conduct outside reviews resulted in expensive, flawed and ocasionally nonsensical reports. You know, just like ROTA worked out. [↩]As noted above, VaR is a metric that attempts to estimate the risk of loss on a portfolio [...]

  3. [...] the deployment of novel ideas in Bitcoin has turned out poorly, and so you are very well advised to bear in mind that this is alpha stage Bitcoin finance and [...]

  4. [...] OpenBSD. [↩]One time expenditure, related to the closure of the ROTA system. This completes that debacle. [↩]Currently this means BitBet. [↩]As described in March 2013. Fortunately the [...]

  5. [...] and equitie"; James draws upon the account of a young Cyrus the Great24 to illustrate this point also meanwhile very well lost on the masses. Ancient people25 learned these lessons as children, you realize. We're stuck with adults who still [...]

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