Thanks for your thoughtful reply, I do believe this topic deserves an in-depth discussion.
One thing that makes such a discussion difficult in my opinion is the lack of real data on which to base decision making. Secure nodes are still as of this writing more than a week away from going live with the current rewards in place so we don’t even really know how the current setup will actually play out. Since this configuration is unique in the crypto world, I don’t think anyone can really give an answer based on anything but speculation.
Here are some of the questions I would want answered before changing anything:
What is the current and expected demand for secure shielded transactions?
I’m guessing that most of the secure nodes setup for this project have not seen any real transactions other than challenges from the tracking system. The infrastructure we are building now seems to be for expected future growth which is fine, but how much capacity is really necessary? It would be great to see some stats for secure transactions and actual load on the network.
What are the goals and priorities of secure nodes?
Secure Nodes serve several functions, some are network and technology driven and some are community participation and incentive driven. It seems to me there needs to be a balance to the different goals. I do not believe that just covering costs is a disincentive since there are so many other ways to participate. If anything the narrow margin of profit on node rewards means only those operators who are dedicated to the project will continue and those just looking for larger profits may be dissuaded. Ultimately secure nodes are a large centerpiece of what makes ZEN unique among cryptocurrencies, they are a very important differentiator and should not just be treated as profit centers.
What are the impacts of changing the reward structure?
I do not actually know for sure if changing the rewards would require a “hard fork” - I think people have different definitions of that term as well. Before making any decisions or changes I would like to know what exactly has to change. I believe the current rewards for mining and node operation are very basic decisions that are coded into the zen daemon, but I don’t really know what I’m talking about. Wherever the changes are made, hard fork or not, there are sure to be impacts. At the very least I would think that every thick wallet and node software would require an update?
I believe the founders of this project had a lot of previous experience with cryptocurrencies and wanted to setup a system that was more fair and accessible to more people. I will not presume to know their complete motivations, but it seems like they were striving for some higher ideals such as complete financial privacy, a distributed governance system and a global secure network accessible to all. I would like to see their vision play out for a while before making changes, especially when the changes would enrich only a few.
I am also operating a few secure nodes and as much as I would like to personally profit from the undertaking I would hate to see the ZEN project derailed by what I can only characterize as greed at an such early stage.