Can curation be automated and is it good for Steem? The @curx Curation Bot Experiment

in curation •  last year

curx_header.png

If you followed my blog recently you may have noticed that I’m currently into curation aspects of Steem. It is super exiting to see how a well placed and timed vote can generate curation rewards that exceed the value of your own vote. Unfortunately, finding suitable posts and voting times is not straight forward and depends on several factors, many of which are not known at the time the vote has to be placed. The perfect time can be calculated retrospectively, but that also only helps slightly without knowing the future.

Since I have a life outside of Steem, surfing through steemit all day and waiting for the perfect catch is not really a suitable approach for me. Auto-voters are OK for a few author I like "unconditionally", but this doesn’t bring many curation rewards (at least in my case…). Attaching to one of the curation trails may be better than not voting at all, but is boring – don’t we all want to be in front of the big curator and its trail?

For that reason, I decided to give automated curation a try and let a machine do what they’re best at: "read" each and every new post on the blockchain and repeat simple actions based on given conditions.

The CURation eXperiment – @curx

I created the @curx account a week before Christmas 2017 and delegated around 250 SP to it as a start. I set up a steem-python script to stream all new posts from the blockchain and eventually place a vote. I put a few simple rules in place to select post candidates:

  • a few metrics on what I expect to be a reasonable "blog" contribution on steemit (sorry zapplers, dtubers, memers, ...). This is because it was the easiest start. Having a bot to analyze a dtube video for original content is not a thing for an hour, and if you can do it you'll probably have a job at google. I've picked the rules based on my preferences, not backed by analyzing any previous posts.
  • a few blacklists for things like NSFW tags, prior downvotes or if cheetah was already there
  • no “OMG [coin-XY] is at [ATH|ATL]” posts
  • the bot tries not to drain its voting power

And of course, @curx doesn’t vote if the post payout is already way above its own vote value at the potential voting time.
I did not vote with my main account on any post where @curx left a vote, in order not to influence the curation stats.

Who is @curx voting for?

In the time range from account creation mid December until 7 days ago, 169 votes were given to 138 different authors, the maximum number of votes a single account received from @curx was 4. Having a wide spread over different authors is a good thing I think. I would certainly not achieve the same spread with my current manual voting approach.
The reputation of the post authors receiving the @curx vote is spread across the range from 40 to 60 as shown in the graph below:
author_reputation.png

Who is voting after @curx?

The following bar graph shows the most frequent voters after @curx.
trailers.png

You may notice that a couple of well known bigger player accounts appear in this list. @hr1 seems to have a similar post selection strategy, this account also voted on more than 50 of the 169 posts voted by @curx. Apart from that, I’m pretty proud to be front-running @curie on more than 30 of the 169 votes :) @banjo and @minnowsupport are no big surprise, these MSP bots are usually triggered by the post authors themselves and do not vote within the first 30 minutes.

How does it perform curation wise?

Actually better than I initially expected! The first curation rewards came in as Christmas presents. The following graph shows the accumulated curation rewards that were received by @curx over the past two weeks. The VESTs are calculated into STEEM/SP at "today's" rate.
rewards_sp_vs_time.png
You can see a few “holes” in the graph, mainly during the first days – this is where the bot script crashed ;)
Out of 169 votes from the account creation until (now – 7 days), 163 curation rewards were received. This means only 6 votes did not yield at least 0.001 SP curation rewards.
The following graph shows the distribution of the curation rewards received per vote. The majority of rewards are in the range of 0.001 - 0.050 SP, with a median value of 0.031 SP per vote.
rewards_distribution.png

Is this a good thing? What’s next? Does is scale?

I initially started this as a fun project out of interest for curation and hacking with steem-python. Now that it seems to work unexpectedly well, I’m not so sure how to go on. My main @crokkon account with more than three times the SP of @curx makes not even half the curation rewards of @curx.

But is bot curation actually a good thing?
I especially like that I reach so many different authors from a broad spectrum of user reputation. And the SP is actually used and not idling at 100% if I’m offline for 2 days. In this regard it is definitely better than my main account. However, I have not read any of the voted posts before the @curx vote. On the other hand, going through the @curx votes I discovered some really awesome posts where I was tempted to vote with my main account. I did not, in order not to influence the curation experiment, but the authors would definitely have deserved it, at any voting time.
I think bots can never replace human curators, simply by the fact that a bot only looks into the past and cannot imagine a future. If bot curation takes over, Steem will be very different IMO.
By heart I think the current version can also work with like 2 times its current SP or a bit more, but I don’t expect it to work effectively way above. Even with major reworks and way more sophisticated post selection criteria, voting times and voting percentages I'm not sure it will work out. I’m planning to double up the bot SP to around 500 SP as a next step to see how it goes. This should give a first feeling and some estimates...

Am I doing good or bad to the steem community? Is this something that should be followed up or shut down? I'd be happy to hear about your opinion on this topic, please leave a comment below and share your thoughts!

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My thoughts...

Amazing work and uh oh! curation!

As you will find out shortly, this bot has annihilated the competition in my curate for rewards league this week!

Honestly, I hope it does not scale but am also very interested if it does and have to applaud the skill here, before I go away thinking, uh oh! curation!

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Thanks @abh12345! I'm super excited to see how well it performed in comparison to the other (probably mostly manual/human) curators.

Very nice @crokkon!

It's pretty incredible that you're hitting so many curie posts. Particularly without any historic analysis of previous upvotes. Your bot obviously has good taste!

What would interest me from the "how does it perform curation wise" section is a graph of curation reward per post, showing whether the bot is hitting consistently good returns, or doing extremely well on some posts and missing on others (but still averaging out really well overall).

Fascinating stuff and, as always, pushing analysis to a higher level!

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Thanks @miniature-tiger!!
Great remark on the rewards per post - I've just added a graph with the distribution of the rewards per vote. So it seems it's a bit of both: With only median rewards per vote the bot would already achieve ~80% of its current curation rewards. Having a few big hitters on top makes up the remaining 20%.

I will be looking close at your experiment. I would like to use my little steem power to curate better so the whole platform can look more interesting for newcommers.

I’m going to present the other side of the coin for you.

Personally, i think it’s extremely bad. Bots and automation absolutely kill the spirit of a social community supporting quality creators and content. I see more and more people - and bots - here strictly to game and generate maximum returns.

This is supposed to be more than cryptocurrency staking; it’s supposed to be a place where we connect, support, network, and grow as creators.

I’ve been lucky enough to be supported by some of the bigger curators. But it’s a double-edged sword. It’s false in many ways. Because too many of the votes I’m getting are bots and hustlers who aren’t actually reading my content or supporting my hard work. I’m not gaining a following or an audience...even though it appears so on the surface. I’m simply being swarmed be “curators”, most of whom couldn’t care less about what they are casting their votes for.

I discovered you and this post because you upvoted a friend’s comment on one of my posts. (Not my post, mind you.) So I decided to check out your blog and possibly connect. Imagine my surprise upon learning that it was likely an automated vote based on whatever bot you’re running. I have to tell you that from my perspective, it’s pretty insulting. It’s like those people who set up 18 bot accounts that do nothing but comment and upvote each other’s comments.

This just makes me incredibly sad.

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Hi @outrayjust,

thank you for your honest opinion, this is highly appreciated! I understand your frustration and I think I and probably a lot of other users are actually in a similar situation as you. There are a couple of bots and a few "real" people with an auto-vote list. The fraction of voters that actually read and interact is probably small.

it’s supposed to be a place where we connect, support, network, and
grow as creators.

I think the main problem is that this is not enforced in the current implementation. Steem has way more aspects and I'm pretty sure this was intended by the creators. Some aspects clearly go against the principles you listed above and make this a stake-weighted place with closed communities and strong financial interests. But not all are "bad" IMO. I wouldn't be where I am today without utopian, rewarding "work" much stronger than the social aspects you mentioned. Still I think it's a great application for Steem. I don't see Steem without bots or automation to happen in the near future, no matter what I do.

For curx, you've probably read my motivation for doing it above. I have limited time to spend on Steem. I could leave my VP idle and let the few big players earn even more. I could set up an auto-voter and vote for the same 10 accounts in my "inner circle". I chose to at least spread some of the votes with curx. There are some returns, and it's more than my main account makes with curation, but it doesn't make me rich. I don't take money for votes and the votes aren't worth very much. I still like the fact that I reach way more authors than with my manual votes. I can say that I at least briefly read most of the articles curx votes on, some of them I read carefully and I definitely found authors with it that I wouldn't have discovered without. Still, I read them only after the vote.

The comment voting is a new thing since a couple of days and highly experimental. I'm not sure if this works out and if I'll stick with it. Things are a bit more complicated there and you might guess that the vote was not because the comment picked up a great aspect of the main contribution. On the other hand it probably didn't add much payout value to the comment.

I'm very sorry that you feel insulted by this automated vote.

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@crokkon, I appreciate your response.

I’m a professional writer and artist. And as I’m sure you know, these talents and skills are less and less coveted and rewarded in the modern world. So this little experiment is extremely exciting for me. It’s dripping with potential.

I just don’t want to see it become a generic, automated shadow of what could be; the Fiverr of the crypto-world. But often that’s how it feels.

I’d like to see it flourish as a true community of creatives. Or maybe one needs to be built and monitored as such. And while I’m not a technophobe in any way, this is one place I’d like to see real people doing real work. And it’d be amazing if quality actually was the measure of merit.

What can I say...I’m a hopeless dreamer.

This initiative is great. Just jumped unto your account after seeing you have upvoted me. Thank you by the way.

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Thanks, great you like it. Leave a vote as well :)

I am really not an expert here on Steemit, but from my limited understanding (being so new here) I feel the Steemit community will be the loser if these voting bots and now your curation bots are used by a lot of users. The social aspect will be ruined and quality will degrade.

If Steemit were ever to reach even a sizable percentage of say the facebook userbase, most of the users will not be technically savvy to use these bots, then why will they join this uneven playing field?

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Thanks for your opinion, your points are absolutely valid. I agree on paid upvote bots and try to mostly avoid them myself as well. I wouldn't say bots in general are bad and especially content based approaches like utopian can bring a completely new aspect to steem. For my curation experiment here with the time I'm willing to spend on steem, I would never reach such a broad user base with manual curation. It feels slightly better than setting an auto-voter to always the same people. On the other hand I haven't really "read" what this account votes on. You see, I'm myself still undecided...

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Yes, I understand that it may become difficult for someone to curate content from tens of thousands of Steemians... it will be interesting to see how things work out eventually. I have learnt in the past few days that without paid upvoting, its very difficult for minnows to become hot or trending, so that tempts me as well....

Well, as a manual curator, this sucks coz a bot outdid me :D but this is certainly an interesting experiment. Not sure what the future implications would be, but I would certainly like to know the timings of the votes... This does allow a way for idle accounts to do curation and not only spread some love, but gain some cool SP.

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Thanks for you comment, @jznsamuel! I just looked up the data, at least @curx didn't vote before any of your votes :D
I'd like to keep technical details low here at the moment, I hope you understand. But I guess you're long enough on steem to know the tools to find the information that you're asking for... ;)

Hello, your 'curx' bot is stealing people's curation rewards. It is not acceptable.

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Dear @monajam, with all respect, but this is not true. The steem reverse auction system ensures that each voter, human or bot, has a chance for curation rewards by choosing a trade-off in the vote value wrt to the post age. My bot even votes after the reverse auction time, leaving all options to people. In your case, you actively gave up all curation rewards by changing your vote. This was your decision, you threw money on the street for the public, don't blame others for picking it up.

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This is not true.
I have observed that when you upvote a comment, that has not been upvoted by anyone, you get all the curation rewards. And, in caseyou upvote your own comment, you get 3 rewards (i) 2 rewards in the form of SBD and SP, called author rewards, (ii) 1 reward in the form of SP called curation reward.
I am trying to grow my account, and when I self-voted my comment, curx immediately upvoted my comment, and after the payout, I saw that I got 2 rewards only (author rewards), and all the curation rewards were taken by curx. Curx is following me, and I don't want that. Please solve this issue.
I had a look on the steemd of curx and I have noticed that it is upvoting comments that has a large payout, and take the curation rewards of the people. It is a serious issue which you need to resolve.
Thank you.

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I think there is a misunderstanding how the curation system works. If you change your vote, no matter if it is a self vote or a vote on a comment from somebody else, you give up all curation rewards for that. You would not receive curation rewards even if curx wouldn't vote on that comment. It is not taking curation rewards of the people, it is taking rewards people declined. If you want curation rewards for votes, don't change the vote.

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Yes, I know that. I did not change my votes before. It was only yesterday that I discovered that all my curation rewards went to curx. So after that, when I self-vote and curx vote after me, then I un-vote. In this way, I lose my voting power. I have this SP from someone and I have it not for ever. I just got a chance to grow my account, and now, I am stressed because of this. I would be grateful if you have a look at the issue; may be check your code, and test it for yourself. At least, help me stay away curx from me :)
Thanks a lot for understanding.

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There is no issue. The screenshot you showed above are both situations where you changed your vote.

edit: here are the details:
#1: you unvoted here and revoted here.
#2: you unvoted here and revoted here.
You lose any curation rewards once you change your vote, no matter what you do afterwards.

If you vote once and keep that vote, curx will never vote on that comment.

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Thanks a lot. Curx didn't follow me after that. I appreciate your help :)
One thing I would like to mention is that I know that I unvoted, but when I 're-voted', curx came after that. Curx was not there when I was unvoting.
Anyway, I am glad curx didn't come again :)

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thanks @monajam, glad we could figure this out :)

One thing I would like to mention is that I know that I unvoted, but when I 're-voted', curx came after that. Curx was not there when I was unvoting.

Keep in mind that you give up all curation rewards once you change your vote, no matter what you do afterwards. So even after the revote, you aren't eligible to curation rewards. This means that the curation share of your vote is distributed between all other votes who didn't change their vote, even if they vote only after you.

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OK, then I wait, and when it happens again, I let you know. I don't change votes, and this is not one, but 2 votes.
Anyway, I will let you know if it happens again, and you will see that curx vote AFTER me, not before me, and that, I didn't change the vote.
Thanks and have a nice day.

hi @crokkon @curx thank you so much for making an innovative move thru Steemit. I wish you good luck and more power

thanks

thank you for your initiatives...

Amazing work here. Just jumped into account. You really are moving this experiment.

i get to know about you when you have upvoted me i am so lucky as i can se ou have 283 sp+more than 700 sp on curx account and you are making more than 7 steem average per week can you tech me how can i do the same and also how can contact you

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@curx is available to trail on steemauto.com if you wish.

@crokkon can you explain how to create a upvoting bot in feture post

wow! and my post was upvoted! thank you so much @crokkon..
happy author here