The Zen of Relaynet

  • Id: RS-020.
  • Status: Final.
  • Type: Informational.


This document describes the guiding principles of Relaynet since its conception, which will help explain the rationale for many design decisions and future direction of the project, from both technical and non-technical perspectives.

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Aphorisms
  3. Acknowledgements


Relaynet’s goal is to become the computer network on which humankind can truly rely. In more concrete terms, that means providing all human beings with uncensored and timely communication anywhere in the universe without impairing the fundamental rights of other human beings.

Realising such an extremely ambitious goal will require many years, collaboration with a large variety of stakeholders and a great deal of sustained discipline. It is therefore crucial to lay out the general approach to realise the full potential of the technology.

This approach is described below in the form of aphorisms from the point of view of the author of Relaynet. These aphorisms have been employed since the early conceptualisation of the technology, although most of them were tacit initially.


  1. Pragmatism can change the status quo; dogmatism never does. But don’t confuse pragmatism for a licence for unethical action or inaction.
  2. Wars can only be won by picking the right battles. We are surrounded by problems, but resources are always limited and each desideratum involves a series of compromises (including some which we won’t anticipate), so we must often say “no” to things we wish we could do.

    Another facet of picking the right battles is to collaborate with parties with whom we share a common goal but not necessarily other goals.

  3. Effective solutions are driven by real problems. We technologists are particularly susceptible to get carried away by the potential of a new technology, but that often leads to projects whose impact doesn’t match their hype because the problem was either made-up or an afterthought.
  4. Necessity and convenience drive large-scale changes; ideology alone doesn’t. The only way to reach mass adoption is to give people and organisations a convenient solution to their problems, not an ideological reason to use a solution.
  5. Embrace the enormous power of financial incentives. Reducing costs or making a profit are always good reasons to adopt a solution.
  6. An acceptable solution today beats a potentially perfect solution tomorrow. Plausible solutions become effective by partially solving the problem at the earliest opportunity, and then gradually evolve into a more general solution.
  7. No idea is too ambitious as long as there is a credible plan to realise it in small steps.


The Zen of Relaynet was inspired by the Zen of Python.