A Hands-on Guide for Kusama’s Open Gov Governance System

8 min readDec 15, 2022

The initial version of Open Gov, Polkadot’s second-generation governance system, is now live on the Kusama network. This article is a report on PolkaWorld’s experience with Open Gov and will cover the following.

  • Changes to Open Gov relative to the first version of the governance system
  • Parameters of each referendum track
  • The stages of the proposal
  • Proposal adoption thresholds
  • Basic operations: how to propose, vote, and vote by proxy

Note: The current version of Open Gov is still the initial version and is under constant change and improvement. In fact, the latest of them, referendum #14, is about the Kusama v9340 version update, and this update will modify some parameters and improve some features of Open Gov. The content of this article is based only on experience with the original version of Open Gov.

Changes in Open Gov

Compared to the first version of the governance system, Open Gov eliminated the “Council” and DOT holders directly holding the real power of governance, deciding on large and small changes in the network and treasury spending through on-chain referendums.

  • set up different referendum origins (Origin) and tracks (Track), with the more significant impact referendum tracks running slower and with less capacity
  • Instead of processing 1 referendum every 28 days, multiple referenda can be processed in parallel, up to thousands of referenda simultaneously.
  • Eliminated the “technical committee” and created the Polkadot Fellowship, a 10,000-person panel of experts that could speed up the passage of emergency referendums
  • Modified the voting mechanism, abandoning the adaptive voting bias mechanism and using both “approval” and “favorable” metrics to measure whether a referendum passes or not.

Overall, Open Gov is more decentralized (probably the most decentralized governance system in the blockchain today), increases the power of DOT holders, and can handle more motions at the same time.

Initial parameters for each referendum track

There are several different referendum tracks in Open Gov, each with its own authority, capacity, speed, and threshold for passing proposals.

Currently, there are 15 referendum tracks as follows.

Root: general network improvements, runtime upgrades, etc. Up to 1 bill can be processed at the same time.

Staking Admin: Remove slash penalties, up to 10 motions can be processed at the same time.

Auction Admin: Manage slot auctions, and can handle up to 10 motions at the same time.

Governance related.

Lease Admin: Manage slot leases, up to 10 motions can be processed at the same time.

General Admin: Manage registration related, can handle up to 10 motions at the same time.

Referendum Canceller: Can cancel the referendum, and can process up to 1000 motions at the same time.

Referendum Killer: Can directly “kill” referendums, and can process up to 1000 motions at the same time.

Treasury-related: Treasurer

Treasurer: Spend (any amount of) treasury money to process up to 10 bills at once.

Small Tipper: Small amount of bounty, up to 1 KSM from the treasury at a time, up to 200 tip requests can be processed at the same time.

Big Tipper: Larger amounts, up to 5 KSM from the treasury at a time, and up to 100 tip requests can be processed at the same time.

Small Spender: Small amount of spending, up to 50 KSM from the treasury at a time, and up to 50 spending requests can be processed at the same time.

Medium Spender: Medium Spender, up to 500 KSM from the treasury at one time, and up to 20 expense requests can be processed at the same time.

Big Spender: Large Spender, up to 5000 KSM from the treasury at one time, and up to 10 Spending Requests can be processed at the same time.

Fellowship Related: Fellowship Admin

Fellowship Admin: Manage the composition of Fellowship, can process up to 10 motions at the same time.

Whitelisted Caller: can send whitelisted calls, and can process up to 10 motions at the same time.

The following parameters are available for each track

The meaning of these parameters is as below.

After the creation of each referendum bill, four periods need to pass before its final implementation.

Preparation period: the period that must pass before the referendum officially starts, during which people can learn about the content of the referendum and vote. The purpose of this period is to prevent attackers from voting in large numbers immediately after the bill is created and to get the bill passed in a short period of time before everyone is able to react.

Deciding period: The period during which DOT holders vote on a bill. If both support and approval rates reach a certain threshold during this period (more on this later), the bill is in a state of imminent passage and enters the confirmation period; if it is not approved at the end of this period, the bill is rejected. The deciding period is currently set at 28 days for all referendums, but in theory, each track could have a different deciding period.

Confirmation period: Once a motion has reached a certain threshold of support and approval rates, it enters the confirmation period. These two rates need to remain above that threshold throughout the confirmation period, and if they fall below the threshold during the confirmation period, the decision period needs to be hit back up again.

Enactment period: A cooling-off period between the passage of the referendum and its formal implementation. The implementation period can be specified at the time of the proposal but needs to meet the minimum implementation period requirements set for each track.

So what is a decision deposit? After the referendum is created, you need to pay a Decision Deposit in order for the referendum to enter the deciding period. This deposit can be paid by yourself or by others and can be considered as a deposit to take up the pit (each track has limited capacity). As you can see from the table above, the decision deposit required differs from track to track, and the more significant the track, the higher the deposit required. If a motion is forced to be canceled by Referendum Killer, then the deposit is non-refundable, otherwise, the deposit will be refunded regardless of whether the motion passes or not.

Note that a 100 KSM deposit is currently required to create any referendum, which is not a decision deposit, but may be a deliberate limit due to Open Gov being in its experimental phase. Under normal circumstances, creating a referendum should be cheap, requiring only a fee to store the motion file on the chain.

The threshold for passing a bill

As mentioned earlier, there are certain Approval and Support thresholds that need to be met for a bill to pass.

Approval rate = conviction-weighted affirmative votes/conviction-weighted affirmative and negative votes combined

Support rate= number of votes in favor without conviction/number of votes available

in the system Interestingly, both of these thresholds decrease over time, meaning that the requirements get lower as you go along. The threshold can be different for each referendum track, and we can plot the threshold curve for approval and support for passage over time.

Example: Passing threshold curve for Big Spender track

For a complete list of threshold curves, see this table: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1vU15a-y_pLR3_3difDxNyhZD_JkehldvnOin7ideW1g/edit#gid=310803467.

Experience Open Gov

After learning about the above, it’s time to really experience the Open Gov system! I have to say that the builders of the Polkadot ecosystem are really fast and now these sites/wallets already support Kusama Open Gov Polkadot.js:

Polkadot.js: https://polkadot.js.org/apps/?rpc=wss%3A%2F%2Fkusama.public.curie.radiumblock.xyz%2Fws#/referenda

Polkassembly: https://kusama.polkassembly.io/gov-2

SubSquare: https://kusama.subsquare.io/referenda

Nova Wallet: https://novawallet.io/如果你想要给公投投票或者委托投票 I recommend

Polkassembly and Subsquare because the interface is easier to understand and the experience is better. If you are used to mobile operation, you can use Nova Wallet, which also works well, and this time we use SubSquare to experience it. If you want to create a referendum (proposal), currently you can only use the official UI — Polkadot.js.


Visit SubSquare: https://kusama.subsquare.io/referenda and select the bill you are interested in (on the left side of the page you can browse the bills by referendum track).

After learning about the bill, click the Vote button in the bottom right corner.

Select the account you want to use to vote, then select whether you want to vote “yes” or “no” and select conviction. conviction means you can choose to lock the DOT for a longer period of time to get more weight on your vote, which translates to See the following table.

Proxy Voting

f you are too lazy to vote yourself, you can delegate your vote to an address you trust, and you can choose a different proxy voter for each track. Visit SubSquare: https://kusama.subsquare.io/referenda and select the track you want to delegate.

Click on the “Delegate” button and select the address you want to delegate to, the amount to delegate, and the conviction.

Submit a Referendum

Open Kusama Network on Polkadot JS and select Governance, Referendum. https://polkadot.js.org/apps/?rpc=wss%3A%2F%2Fkusama-rpc.dwellir.com#/referenda

Submit the original preimage image first. Let’s use the example of requesting 100 KSM from the treasury here. (Note that the Value unit here is Plank, i.e. 1 followed by 12 zeros of Plank equals 1 KSM, so to claim 100 KSM, you should enter 1 followed by 14 zeros here)

After generating the original image, click on submit a proposal, fill in the original image just now, and select the medium expense track, please note that a deposit of 100 KSM is required here (initial parameter, expected to be adjusted later). Just click submit.

As you can see from the current initial parameters, a deposit of 100 KSM per proposal (initial parameters) is required to apply.

Go ahead and try it out! Let’s practice Kusama’s slogan — Expect Chaos — and play with this new governance system!

About PolkaWorld

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