[Bitcoin-development] Revisiting the BIPS process, a proposal

Pieter Wuille pieter.wuille at gmail.com
Wed Oct 23 21:07:18 UTC 2013

On Wed, Oct 23, 2013 at 10:27 PM, Peter Todd <pete at petertodd.org> wrote:
> On Wed, Oct 23, 2013 at 10:05:56PM +0200, Martin Sustrik wrote:
>> On 23/10/13 21:40, Peter Todd wrote:
>> >The reference implementation is the specification - the "specification"
>> >on the wiki is best thought of as a set of Coles Notes on the real
>> >specification. If you don't already understand that and the nuance of
>> >that statement you should assume the protocol is fixed in stone and
>> >doesn't evolve at all; that statement is not quite true, but it's very
>> >close to the truth.
>> Does that imply that the notes are deliberately obscured to force
>> everyone to check the source code?
> What's on the wiki is mostly the work of people who aren't working on
> the reference implementation, so no, you can't say that.

Indeed, I know of few people who are familiar with the source code
that use the wiki.

I do think that is a pity. The openness and transparency of the
protocol is essential to trusting the system (and shouldn't be limited
to those digging through the source code), and for that reason alone I
think it needs to be well-documented.

I also do agree with earlier comments, that due to the nature of the
consensus problem Bitcoin solves, it will always be the network that
dictates what the actual rules are - anything else can result in
inresolvable forks. If a "formal" specification were written, and we
would find out that the majority of nodes on the network deviate from
it in a subtle way, those nodes would be buggy in the sense that they
aren't doing what was expected, but it would be the specification that
is incorrect for not following the rules of the network. In short,
consistency is more important than correctness, and for that reason,
writing alternate implementation will always be hard and dangerous.

However, I do not think that making it hard to find information about
the details of the system is the way to go. Alternate implementations
are likely inevitable, and in the long run probably a win for the
ecosystem. If effort is put into accurately describing the rules, it
should indeed carry a strong notice about it being descriptive rather
than normative.

If someone is willing to work on that, I am (and likely many people in
#bitcoin-dev are) available for any questions about the protocol and
its semantics.


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