What is Public Good to You

If you are active here and/or on discord, you might have seen some discussion on Public Good. I have been thinking about it and in last few days, after reading, learning and discussion within my circle, my definition of Public Good has changed a lot.

I have came to realization that its scope is much bigger than I initially thought and when we add RPGF to it, its gets more complex.

What is public good.

By definition public good can be anything that has two properties, non-rivel in consumption and non-excludable[1].

Non-rivel in consumption:- If I consume the good, it must not have any effect on other’s opportunity to cosume the same good.

Non-exludable:- We can not deny each other the opportunity to consume the good.

Another defination that I like “Public goods are “…things [that] do not lend themselves to [private] production, purchase and sale. They must be provided for everyone if they are to be provided for anyone, and they must be paid forcollectively or they cannot be had at all.” [2]

There has be different thoughts on Open Source Software, by definition Open Source Software, OSS is a public good[3] but only and only if the complete code is issued under open source license agreement[4], to extend this, the license should falls under Free Software Foundation (FSF) GNU, GPL, or GNU LGPL licenses, which ensure that the source code of software can be copied, modified, distributed freely and that – most importantly – all derived work has to be under the same open source license (FSF (2004))] [5]

Knowledge is a public good[6] too but it depends on how you choose to use it.

Other example would be someone or group of people translating complete Optimism related documentation in their local language such as Chinese or Japanese.

Lighthouse is an another example, once built its available freely to all the sailors.

What is public good to you ? If you could provide your view with one example it would help us all.

I also want to touch RPGF quickly and here I will focus only on Ethereum and Optimism ecosystem, anything(individual/group of people/project) that is publicly available and has a positive impact on the ecosystem is a candidate for RPGF.

Impact is the key word, in my opinion, when we talk RPGF to public good and to give you an example, candide-wallet will be an OSS which is a public good but its not a candidate for RPGF as its not live yet, hence no impact. What is your view here? How you see public good and RPGF.?

TL;DR:- What is public good to you?

Note: I have permission from @marc to use his proposal as a reference.

  1. https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/stantcheva/files/lecture8.pdf
  2. https://www.bu.edu/eci/files/2019/10/PublicGoods.pdf
  3. https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/49926/1/668836490.pdf
  4. https://www.uky.edu/~drag222/research/Agrawal_OSS.pdf
  5. https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/49926/1/668836490.pdf
  6. https://www.uky.edu/~drag222/research/Agrawal_OSS.pdf

Edit 1:- Added Tl;dr


You have defined public good pretty well; I’d also add that stuff funded by Optimism & blockchains in general have the potential to be global public goods. Today, blockchains are not public goods but rather common goods because they are rivalrous - but hopefully Optimism & other rollups change that long term. When it comes to RPGF, we’ll probably have to broaden the definition a bit to include common goods etc. - anything that positively contributes to Optimism, Ethereum and the space at large, but may not have had capital incentives upfront. While this doesn’t adhere strictly to the definition of public goods, what matters is it’s in the right spirit.


Hey @polynya , I am glad you agree with my definition of public.

blockchains are not public goods but rather common goods because they are rivalrous

With this line I need some more help, are you calling blockchain as rivalrous because of network congestion for example, in cryptokitties days, because of network congestion some of us were not able to use the chain. So by definition “If I consume the good, it must not have any effect on other’s opportunity to consume the same good” today’s blockchains are rivalrous.

When it comes to RPGF, we’ll probably have to broaden the definition a bit to include common goods etc

Totally agree with you on this, long term this should be our goal. I have screenshot that I took from one of the governance call which can summarize this really well.


This is a healthy debate. Especially if we have it before we open the RPGF proposals.

Yes, just a reminder that it’s not always at the same time. Only one person can sit on a public park bench at a time. I feel this needs to be specified somehow into this definition. Otherwise, we will end up targeting only to projects with infinite space/resources.


A refreshing read. Thank you for this fren.

I too wonder this very thing and I read a very many of your replies. I still need to go through each of your references and think more about what exactly makes something retroactive and deserving of funding. I’d like to think it’s progress, history or measurable insights— but these are hard things to quantify without just handing over a bulk list of txns.

I do have an opinion on:

What is a Public good?

It’s a slippery slope trying to make sense of a public good and what makes a ‘public bad’ or a good that simply exists because we are used to it being so.

If a public good brings real value, it should excel and grow easily. Independence and autonomy within an organization that provides services to the public— should foster appreciation and motivation for helping communities expand. (Not always the case though)

We have under-funded public goods. There is a lack of appreciation, and ultimately some organizations are less-valuable in their current state. We often brandish an operation as a ‘public good’ because of societal norms.

Public Good or Public Bad?

How do we sort public goods? How do we identify when they’re a ‘detriment’ or ‘enabler’ for the public?

A ‘public good’ can be misleading. Organizations take advantage of the public under the wrong wording. It may be more fitting to use ‘public bad’ in some cases. Especially when public goods are no longer efficient or useful— goods & services that are for the public can become a burden and less helpful for everyone even if they are labelled as good —sometimes they are only beneficial for some of us.

The dark, segregated and/or ‘dangerous’ communities of society need education, positive encouragement and properly funded systems— the most. Not legislation, restrictions, additional rules and harsh judgment. We need to be mindful of the compromises, sacrifices and situations. There is a chance we will face similar situations when our opinions and beliefs are rejected or scorned.

Ways to encourage a better perspective, this is to be more ‘OPtimistic’ then we get real public goods that do good for the public. Not more enforcement, gentrification and sequestering. This exacerbates the problem by putting it on a shelf.

Most things placed on shelves stay put. Collecting dust if there are no attentive caretakers.

What makes a something good for the public?

When a good or service is offered in earnest to the public— completely free of charge. The only ask, is that the patrons all contribute towards the sustainability of the offer. (Whether by financing, consuming, recommending or respecting the good/service)

Here is a thread I wrote about the human capital of a DAO. Preserving and conserving human capital will lead to stronger more robust, block-powered organizations in the long run.

Yes, exactly - blockchains are rivalrous as users are competing to get transactions included in a limited space

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Hey @OPUser thanks for writing this. I will take the conversation from Dope Wars here to not be off-topic there!

For reference the convo is here: [[READY] [GF: Phase 1 Proposal] Dope Wars - #88 by OPUser

Public goods are things like parks, roads etc. They are goods that are free for all to use without any discrimination. But those same things require lots of funding. That funding in the real world comes from taxes. So we all pay for them, but indirectly.

I think “public goods” as a term is a bit loaded and overused and started appearing in our field when gitcoin wanted to pivot from opensource funding to grants for everything. So for me opensource software is “the” public good. It’s the very definition of public good. There is other stuff that can be considered public goods but it’s really hard to define and can be challenged so when I think of public goods I think of opensource software. I like to keep things simple. (my entire career is based on opensource so I am a bit biased here though)

Your definition of opensource software is correct but let me direct you to the exact definition seen here. This is the most widely accepted definition (OSI and FSF) and also why it’s pretty much impossible to “just sell” a product that is opensource. You can sell support, a version with some added goodies but not simply sell the software.

I dont agree with you on this one, I will apply Mean-Test here, successful projects might have other source of income/funding so we cant put them in same bucket with new project and/public good. Its not fair game and will raise this concern once we reach at that point.

It’s not about agreeing or not. This is what has happened so far with RPGF in both Optimism (notice most top projects are already funded in one way or another) and Gitcoin grants.

Being a gitcoin steward and grantee for years now this is what I have noticed there too. And it’s not bad to give recognition to projects that already have some funding, but yes I agree with you projects the most in need of it should get it.

But what I believe in is transparency and auditability. Two pillars of opensource. I believe also in transparent funding. So a project should simply say how much it needs and get it if it’s doing good and is useful. Not just get “as much money as possible” like with the current gitcoin grants model.

I am already proposing a funding cap per quarter for projects there too.

And yes this won’t be done in one go! We will try, we will make mistakes, we will try again and so on and so forth.

Same thing we have been doing with gitcoin. Learning as we go. This field does have the capacity to do a lot of good and we should use it to its full potential.


Hey @lefterisjp

Thank you for sharing this, this was last year when I was not involved with OP and hence was not aware of this. It took me some time to go through all them.

I am glad you have mentioned this

But what I believe in is transparency and auditability

as I wanted to talk about this, I assume this will need to be done from project receiving the grant, so,

  1. lets say the said project is getting funding from more than one grant, so should we consider that too while evaluating the grant, for example if a project need X amount and they already has Y from some different funding, so should we give the project X or X-Y amount ?

  2. and this one is more towards transparency, how do you suggest we can do this ? public ledger ? After going through the project website, I could not find any details on their last spending ? So how would you know which project is the right candidate, because it might happen that a well know projects getting funding from different source and hence over-funded while others, although they need it, are underfunded.

  3. I also saw that Bankless is there too, they are leading the web3 education and knowledge movement, keeping us informed with different tools and technology related to whole ecosystem. But they also have hell lot of private sponsors while a similar website like ETHGlobal are running without any advertisement. How do you see such cases, my personal opinion is supporting website like ETHGlobal(regional community run website like this) is more aligned towards public good because without any advertisement running a complete website need infra, dev and constant tech support.

Think a simple place to start is to ask all projects their sources and amts of funding to date, split between private investment, self-funding/bootstrapping, and grants

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