Mind Your Votes! II - A guide to maximizing your curation rewards
Oh, how time flies! Over ten months ago, I wrote the first Mind Your Votes! article. As a new curator back then, that post was all about investigation and discovery. I then followed that up with my personal curation workflow at the time in Minding my Votes. Ten months on, it's finally time for another Mind Your Votes! The basic system remains the same, though with Hardfork 19 and a massive influx of new users, it's time for a sequel. This will be a completely new document, written from scratch, focusing more on recommendations from my experience curating tens of thousands of posts over the last 11 months. It will focus on maximizing your curation rewards - not necessarily being the best curator. The intended audience for this post is new manual curators. Fair warning, this is an in-depth article - don't bother reading unless you're interested in curation. It also meant for Hardfork 19, so some information hasn't taken effect yet.
In a nutshell, Steem curation is a predictive game for Steem Power stakeholders.
This means, to increase curation rewards -
- Power up.
- Don't vote on trending posts. I repeat, never vote on trending posts. Look for undiscovered posts instead.
Of course, there's a whole lot more to it. Let's get down to it!
Each vote you make consumes voting power. This means you have to carefully ration your votes, and only vote on worthy content. Voting power regenerates at a fixed rate.
Right, the numbers then.
When your voting power is at 100%, each vote will cost 2% voting power. However, as your voting power decreases, the cost decreases too. So, at 70% voting power, each vote will cost 1.5% voting power instead. As your voting power decreases, so does the influence of your vote, and consequently, your curation rewards.
Voting power regenerates at a fixed rate of 0.83% per hour or 20% per day.
In effect, you can make 12-15 votes every day while maintaining your voting power near 100%.
Note: These numbers are post Hardfork 19. As of 3rd June, a vote costs only 0.5%. I'd recommend preparing for the new voting power costs though, as it will be a dramatic change that could catch out curators.
Checking your voting power
Voting power is displayed nowhere on Steemit.com. The best way to do this is by visiting https://steemd.com/@yourusername. Look for "Voting power" in the left hand column. Another option is Steemdb.com - however, the voting power doesn't update in real time there.
Frontends other than Steemit.com may display the voting power. For example, ChainBB, currently in beta, takes an interesting approach - bringing voting power front and center to the curation experience. (They call it "voting effectiveness") For the purpose of this guide, we'll assume you're using Steemit.com.
If you're an active curator, you could easily make 12 votes in 12 minutes if you stumble upon an interesting comment thread.
All accounts holding above 483 Steem Power gain access to a voting strength bar on Steemit.com. (Note - some call voting strength "voting weight" or confusingly even "voting power") This offers a curator a way to ration votes. For example, a 10% vote will only consume 10% of the usual voting power. You would also earn 10% of the curation rewards, of course.
My recommendation would be not rationing, however. As mentioned previously, due to the quirk of vote cost reducing with voting power, your overall influence is maximized by utilizing as much of your voting power as possible. Hence, making 100 votes at 100% strength would offer greater curation rewards than 100 votes at 10%.
That doesn't mean you should always vote at 100%, of course. It depends on your curation objectives and workflow. For example, it may be advantageous to throttle voting strength according to what you feel may be the probability of curation rewards. If you are confident a post will make it big, go for 100%. If you feel a post has only a 33% chance of being profitable, go with a 33% voting strength.
The predictive game
Here's the ideal scenario - you discover an awesome post sitting at $0.00. This post then goes viral and tops the Trending page at thousands of dollars. You'd then stand to make a killing off curation rewards! The curation rewards algorithm very strongly favours early voters.
Of course, ideal scenarios are just that, but it is absolutely imperative to get into the predictive mindset if you wish to be a successful curator.
Don't vote on a post that has already earned a lot of money and is already high up on the Trending. That's largely a waste of your voting power. Similarly less profitable is voting on successful authors. Don't vote for them unless you can time it just right. Instead, dig for great undiscovered posts, promising new authors, and get the word out about them. Needless to say, that is hard work, but ultimately an order of magnitude more lucrative. I would earn maybe 0.001 or 0.010 Steem voting on a trending post, whereas it can be easily be 1 Steem voting on a completely fresh post.
Perhaps a more efficient way would be finding a balance. Follow upcoming authors, who already have a growing following, and vote for them in a timely manner.
The 30 minute rule
There's one last complexity to the voting system - for the first 30 minutes of post creation, a proportion of your curation rewards are donated back to the author.
At 0 seconds after post creation, 100% of your curation rewards are forfeit to the author. At 30 minutes after post creation, you get to keep 100% of your curation rewards. In between 0 and 30 minutes, your rewards increase linearly. Thus, at 10 minutes, you get 33%, 50% at 15 minutes, 67% at 20 minutes, etc.
So, you can't just pile on the votes the moment a post is made. At the same time, waiting till 30 minutes could mean other curators would have voted, by which time it's too late - most of the lucrative curation rewards have been taken.
It is imperative to be first in line, so take the time-bound penalty. As for how early? It depends on the quality of the post, the popularity of the author, and traffic on the site at that moment (by extension, time of day).
Curation is a skill
Curation is a skill that is learned through experience and honing your instincts. An experienced curator will know which post to vote on, when to vote and with what strength. There's no formula - there are far too many variables. Instead, an experience curator can instinctively recall -
- Who the author is, who votes for them, and when they vote.
- How likely the post is to be popular.
- Given the time of day and day of week.
Let's say, a curator sees author @x make a post at 12 PM GMT on a Wednesday with some awesome fiction. The curator will know author @x is an upcoming author without much of a following, but has bot votes hitting at 22 minutes. 12 PM GMT on Wednesday is a pretty slow time. Since this is a new author, not many others will be voting. Fiction is not as popular a topic as crypto, Steemit or photography, but there's an audience. So, instinctively, an experienced curator will know that they can afford wait till the 21 minute mark and vote with a 70% strength.
Over time, an experienced curator develops a mental database of thousands of authors, how popular they are, the content they write, and who votes for them, and can access most of this data instantly, instinctively.
If this is too much stress for you, like it is for me, just look for posts beyond the 30 minute mark. There's a shocking amount of excellent content nowadays that goes completely undiscovered - plenty of room for curation here!
Getting the word out
You have found an exceptional post sitting at $0.00. You have 10,000 Steem Power and have managed to vote it up to $0.10. That gives you a curation reward of 0.03 SP, which is already more than you would have received had you voted for some Trending post. But how do you maximize your curation rewards? Of course, you could wait for others to discover it, but you can also force the issue.
The key is letting other larger curators and SP holders know. Befriend whales and dolphins, share exceptional posts you come across with them. Post them into #postpromotion on Steemit.chat. Admittedly, I'm very poor at this and have never approached anyone for a vote.
My method of getting the word out is resteeming the post. I only do this 5-6 times a day, though. On average, I'm able to see around $10 rewards on posts I resteem, which brings my curation rewards up to 0.6 Steem Power per vote. On posts without a resteem, the reward is 0.1 SP or so.
Look out for initiatives that reward you for discovering content. For example, if it's a new author, you could submit the post to Curie. This will increase your curation reward to over 1 Steem Power, plus you'll receive 10 Steem directly from Curie as Finder's fee. That's $15 for discovering a good post!
Self-upvotes, unvotes and downvotes
On Steem, you can upvote your own post or comment. You earn curation rewards as usual, as you would on any other post. If you check the "Upvote post" box when creating a new post, you instantly upvote your own post. This means 100% of the curation rewards are auctioned back to you as author rewards.
Unvoting a post means you forfeit all curation rewards, irrespective of whether you upvote the post again. There are no curation rewards for downvoting a post either. In both cases, you still spend your voting power as usual.
Bots used to be a menace, but not anymore. As Steemit grows, bots will be forced to get very smart or give up. Today, most long-term bots have either downscaled significantly or given up and left. There are still plenty of auto-vote bots piling on the votes for popular / high-Rep authors. But as I have covered earlier, popular authors are unprofitable to vote on anyway.
In short, manual curators don't need to worry about bots anymore.
Steem Power delegation and curation trails
This brings us back to the #1 way to increase curation rewards - powering up. If you don't want to buy and power up your own Steem, you could instead request delegations. Put simply, Steem Power delegations are temporary donations large stakeholders will make to curators they trust. With a delegation, your vote is worth more, as are your curation rewards. Your SP delegation is shown in brackets under your Steem Power. All new accounts start off with a temporary delegation from Steemit.
You don't even need to be a good curator to get a delegation, just befriend whales, and convince them you're one!
Another way to increase your curation rewards are by creating your own trail. This way, other accounts will follow your votes, effectively increasing your curation rewards. It's not as effective as SP Delegation - you still share your curation rewards with your followers - but due to the early voter emphasis you still stand to make most of the curation rewards, relatively.
@acidyo has a great post about both. If you want a more details about Steem Power delegation, check out my guide to delegating Steem Power. Currently, the easiest way to delegate Steem Power is to use the Vessel app. Be warned, though, that this is an unstable pre-release.
Shameless plug - I have a curation trail at Streemian, feel free to follow.
How I curate
Just a brief personal note to close off this post. My curation priorities evolve alongside the Steem community, and I write about these in the occasional Curation Update post. Currently, I dig through the New feed, looking for posts with interesting titles, that have not earned more than $0.10. I start looking at posts at least 45 minutes old, curating over three or four sessions in a day, each lasting half an hour.
My general objective is to look out for promising new authors who engage with the community. Posts that meets Curie's guidelines, I submit to Curie. Others, I vote personally and resteem exceptional posts. I do occasionally vote on Trending posts if they are exceptional, but I'd say 90% of my votes go to promising new authors who have joined within the last month. Particularly during the month of May, we have seen hundreds of seasoned bloggers and vloggers join. Not only is this an order of magnitude more profitable for a curator, it's also critical for the health of the Steem community.
I don't use steemstats anymore, which was a crucial part of my curation 10 months ago. Currently, I'm eagerly anticipating Esteem.life which could significantly improve my curation workflow.
As you can tell, I don't follow most of my own recommendations, and neither should you. Every curator has their own objectives and motivations - feel free to develop your own methods.