The Process of Choosing a Validator when staking $AKT

This is a brief guide focusing on the key points that delegators/token holders should pay attention to when staking on Tendermint based blockchains and AKASH in particular. Choosing the best validator boils down to personal preference but this could be useful to users who would like a starting guide.

Introduction

This guide is made for people who have an understanding of staking through Tendermint based chains. If you are not confident with staking within the Cosmos Ecosystem please refer to this guide:

Explorers on AKASH Network

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There are three main explorers via which a user of the AKASH Network can explore several options such as: general information on the network, number/percentage of staked tokens, circulating supply, current proposals, active validators, market cap, addresses/wallets etc.

Not every explorer offers all of the above options so it is advisable to visit all of them and decide which one is the most appropriate for you.

Big Dipper Explorer

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Aneka Explorer

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Mintscan

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www.mintscan.io/akash

Validator Set

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Before moving with the suggestions, it is important to note that the initial voting power on the genesis block was distributed equally among 64 validators on the AKASH Network. Currently there are 77 validators but only the top 64 can be active in the process. Increasing the number of validators, is subject to future governance, yet, since the network is still young and needs to mature further, the option of increasing the validator set may be explored later in 2021 by the AKASH team.

Choosing a validator

The following passage is taken from the author’s general guide on staking within the cosmos ecosystem found here:

At the time of writing this article there are 64 validators on Akash Network. How does one choose between them?

This section is dedicated to the end of providing some basic guidance/tips on choosing the validator that matches your needs more closely.

This topic has been discussed and analysed through articles in the past. I found one article particularly useful, written by Mira Storm.

Mira has compiled a validator Selection Criteria Checklist in order to help you when conduct your due diligence on who is fit for this purpose, to which i have added three points namely: the uptime of a validator, the ability of delegators to participate on governance and vote and finally slash protection offered.

Selection Criteria Checklist

  1. Technical setup of the validator
  2. Amount of self-bonded coins of the validator
  3. Current commission rate, commission change rate and maximum commission
  4. Total amount and number of delegations
  5. Community Involvement and Longevity
  6. The level of network decentralisation
  7. Uptime of the validator
  8. Ability of delegators to vote and participate on governance
  9. Slash Protection

Technical setup of the validator

This is the most compelling part when choosing a validator as it involves some form of technical expertise. Some validators offer detailed info on their technical set up whereas others don’t. As Mira Storm advises:

We encourage you, reaching out directly to validators to get more details. Some things that you should pay particular attention to:

  • Is the software run on a physical server or in a cloud? (Listen carefully for the reasons why the operator choose one over the other)
  • How is validator private key secured? Do they use a hardware security module (HSM)? How about the Key Management Service (kms)?
  • Do they have a reliable way to restart the node if the software or hardware fails?
  • How are they making sure double-signature doesn’t occur?
  • What will happen if the node is censored or under the network attack?

It has also been recommended to check if a validator node is shielded behind a layer of private and public sentries. This type of set up is recommended by the community to protect the node against malicious blocks and network attacks.

Some projects within the Cosmos ecosystem have stricter requirements for node operators. One such instance is the Secret Network where — in order to enable Secret Contract functionality — validators are required to run nodes equipped with the latest version of Intel SGX.

Amount of self-bonded coins of the validator

This is another important criterion providing a clear view on how serious a validator is, how much trust they have on their own infrastructure, or even whether they can deliver their warranties (e.g. when offering slash protection/refund)

Current commission rate, commission change rate and maximum commission

Commission rates are important and a determining factor to a majority of people delegating their coins, but it is equally important to review the finer print i.e. what is the commission change rate and how much the maximum commission. For example you may be delegating to a validator charging 5% commission. If they have a max rate of 20% and a Max Change Rate of 10% you may wake up to a 20% commission in no time.

Total amount and number of delegations

People also seem inclined to delegate to node operators that have a large number of coins or delegations although this should be counter-balanced by a spread of delegations among more validators in order to decentralize the network.

Community Involvement and Longevity

Validators that are involved in the community, spend resources on improving the network’s infrastructure or provide educational material, apps, dApps are the ones most likely to stay in the network longer.

The level of network decentralisation

It has been argued that a centralised network could be prone to double-spending attacks whereas at the same time the overall value of a staking token that by design is supposed to be part of a decentralised network may be reduced. It is thus important for delegations to be spread to more validators. One tip that may be given here is to spread your delegations over more than one validators.

Uptime of the validator

The uptime of a validator is also another important metric that delegators take into account. Most validators usually have a 99–100% uptime on the Cosmos ecosystem.

Ability of delegators to vote and participate on governance

If you stake through an exchange, or through wallets that do not support voting on governance proposals you are left out of one of the most important features of the Cosmos ecosystem: voting. It is quintessential that you opt both for wallets that support this feature while steering away from staking through exchanges (that by default have the voting feature disabled) and finally ensure that your wallet provides access to all validators (some don’t). Luckily, on AKASH Network, both wallets supported namely: 1. Cosmostation 2. Keplr provide full services (voting, access to all validators etc.)

Slash Protection

There is an increasing trend among the Cosmos ecosystem’s validators to offer soft or even hard slash protection. This is an important new feature that has been attractive to people who delegate their coins and need the peace of mind that a. their coins will not be slashed and b. their rewards will be guaranteed. It is currently not offered by any validator on the AKASH network.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this brief guide and please feel free to comment or ask questions below.

Written by

Blockchain advocate & sceptic | Cøsmos denizen & degenerate ⚛️ | Organic grower & physiolater 🍃

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