Yesterday, ETC Cooperative Executive Director Bob Summerwill uninvited Core Scientific CTO Kristy-Leigh Minehan to speak at the upcoming ETC Summit over concerns about her professional connections to CoinGeek, an ostensible Bitcoin news source that primarily exists to espouse Bitcoin SV propaganda. Minehan is best known as one of the developers behind the controversial ProgPoW, or programmatic proof of work, a proposed change to Ethereum’s hashing algorithm that would benefit GPU miners.
The ensuing firestorm has thrown a new wrench into the ProgPoW debate just days before Ethereum core developers are set to discuss the results of hardware and software audits on the proposed algorithm.
In a blog post, Summerwill noted that Core Scientific CEO B. Kevin Turner advises Squire Mining. Also an advisor? Craig Wright, the primary force behind the Bitcoin Cash hard fork that resulted in Bitcoin SV, a coin that several exchanges have since delisted, seemingly due to Wright’s, er, less than stellar reputation. Wherever Wright goes, his financial backer, Calvin Ayre is usually close by. Indeed, CoinGeek, which Ayre owns, is a major stakeholder in Squire.
To Summerwill, Minehan’s professional connections are disconcerting. He wrote:
“Craig Wright is a fraud, serial liar and perjurer, and Calvin Ayre is not much better. I cannot have the ETC Cooperative and the ETC Summit associated with such disreputable individuals and companies, so I chose to withdraw my invitation.”
Minehan told Decrypt that she respects Summerwill’s decision but defended Core Scientific’s professional relationship with Squire Mining: “Core Scientific is a professional service provider, and as long as our customers comply with US law, pass mandatory KYC checks, uphold their contracts and pay their bills, they are allowed to use our services—the same as any other customer.”
As for her speaking gigs for CoinGeek, she said: “It is normal for companies to attend conferences of their customers and business partners.”
Yet it goes beyond business for Minehan. She is an educator on blockchain technology and cryptocurrency adoption. In an ETC Discord chat on Monday, after Minehan had been removed from the speaker list but before it had been made public, Summerwill tried to determine where Minehan drew the line for speaking gigs.
Would she attend a blockchain conference hosted by the mafia? Minehan answered, “Sure, if the mafia is holding a conference that’s public, and somehow they are not arrested and it’s all above board—why not. I’d accept a PR from Hitler if it was good.”
To Summerwill, such choices have made Minehan the Leni Riefenstahl of Bitcoin SV. Indeed, he pointed in his post to a CoinGeek on-camera interview with Minehan with the header “Bitcoin SV listens to and empowers miners.” Delve into that particular video, however, and Minehan uses phrases like “BSV has the opportunity to do this right.” From her perspective, she’s doing advocacy work on behalf of miners in a chain-agnostic way.
Still, Minehan is a known entity within the Ethereum community, where she is the public face of ProgPoW. The project, proposed by a developer team going by the name IfDefElse, would effectively wipe out the advantages of expensive ASIC mining rigs over GPU setups. It’s controversial, with several prominent developers speaking out against it.
Though ProgPoW has been tentatively accepted as part of the second phase of the Istanbul hard fork, it keeps finding its way back on the agenda. Last week, the results of software and hardware audits were put on the agenda. Now, Summerwill and others believe the entire proposal should be scrapped.
“Given [Minehan’s] public and Core Scientific associations and complete lack of discernment about those associations, it just looks very risky to me,” Summerwill told Decrypt.
The Wright and Ayre connections are just one part of the issue. The other is that the 40-odd developers that comprise IfDefElse are mostly anonymous and have not signed contributor licensing agreements, which Summerwill believes are “necessary to protect Ethereum from potential future lawsuits for unrevealed patent claims, trademarks or copyright claims.” Depending on who wrote ProgPoW, he said, employers could make a legal claim on the code.
Incorporating code that isn’t really open source into a public blockchain could be disastrous for Ethereum. (Decrypt reached out to a lawyer specializing in cryptocurrency. He declined to comment about the intellectual property argument lest it be considered legal advice.)
Hudson Jameson, who leads the core developers meetings, saw it both ways. He tweeted, “Political and personal associations shouldn’t rule out a the [sic] technology, especially if it is likely to achieve [its] goals.” But, he continued, “The IP issues are concerning and need to be addressed.”
Whether or not that will come in Friday’s meeting is not yet certain. Seeing an opening, SpankChain CEO Ameen Soleimani asserted that it should be. “It's that time again! That's right, it's time to BLOCK ProgPOW!” he wrote on Twitter.
ProgPoW has been the Ethereum Improvement Proposal that refuses to die. While this latest controversy might not kill it, it’s clear that it will be contentious right up until its adoption—and perhaps beyond.