We just got done with hardfork 19 and the next one is already in planning. While it's great to see developers being active, I have to say I'm not fully satisfied with the proposed changes.
It's not yet a time to focus on getting millions of users onboard
We have seen a lot of new users coming to Steem lately. That has brought up the problem that I've written about a few times: the signal-to-noise ratio is getting worse. There is just too much stuff to see, it's getting harder and harder to find content that I actually like.
It's bad for readers: they have to spend more time to find something enjoyable.
It's bad for writers: they have a harder time to get followers.
If the user experience is getting worse because we are getting more new users, why we would want to focus on getting even more new users?
That's why I'm not very excited to see plans of getting millions of new users to Steem. We just don't have yet any tools to filter all the content and customize it to create a great user experience. The UI just can't handle a big userbase at this point.
Instead of getting as many new users as possible, I suggest focusing on getting better users. Instead of getting comment sections flooded with "nice article, please follow me" comments, let's try to create more meaningful discussions.
In short, we can't focus on quantity yet. First, we have to focus on quality.
I understand the desire to get as many users as possible – it's very common for startup firms – but it's really not necessary. Steem is still in beta and at this point, we need more high-quality users who are willing to invest their time and money to the platform to make it better.
One way of getting a higher quality userbase is to make users pay for their own account. When people invest their own money, they take the service much more seriously. They care much more about their reputation. They want to see the platform to be successful in the long term.
I'd love to see an easy way to buy a new account. Especially we need a way to buy an account with fiat currency.
If we tell clearly to the new users that a Steem account is valuable cryptoproperty, I don't see much harm that they are required to pay for it. They are getting value for their money, after all. It's like buying a lifetime subscription to a service.
More decentralized alternative for user signup
While I prefer new users buying their accounts, I admit that there are still a lot of potential users who don't want to or can't afford to buy an account. The Steem ecosystem needs a way to get them onboard, too.
The HF20 proposal isn't very good. It's quite complex and creates a many ways of misuse potential. Especially removing the dust vote threshold seems dangerous. If automated spam was a bad thing earlier, isn't it still bad? The intention is good, to give new users a chance to interact with the blockchain always, but it also means that spammers will have the same chance.
I'd love to see Steem trying more viral user acquisition strategy: let existing users invite their friends. To be able to do that, we need an easy way for users to create an account for a friend.
I suggest a new kind of token that can be used to create one account. It's almost like SBD: the blockchain makes sure that one SAT (Steem Account Token) is always backed with enough steem to let new users have enough Steem Power for their account.
SAT will be transferable. Users can buy, sell and donate them.
SPOW instead of OPOW
One of the great innovations of Steem was to introduce the concept of subjective proof of work. It's different from objective proof of work, like mining, because it's based on subjective opinions of users instead of objective measurements like hashing power.
SPOW is the way of distributing rewards in Steem. It's calculated by upvotes of users.
The benefit is that with SPOW we can use the blockchain to fund all kinds of stuff, not only incentivize block production.
From the whitepaper:
In effect, the criteria by which work is evaluated is completely subjective and its definition lives outside the source code itself. One community may wish to reward artists, another poets, and another comedians. Other communities may choose to reward charitable causes or help advance political agendas.
The value each currency achieves depends upon the demand for influence within a particular community and how large the market believes each community can get. Unlike prior systems, subjective proof of work enables a community to collectively fund the development of whatever it finds valuable and enables the monetization of previously non monetizable time.
The obvious question is then: Why not use SPOW to create new accounts?
When a developer or a community leader wants to create new accounts for new users, they just need to write a post describing what they are doing and choose to get the reward as SAT instead of SBD, steem or SP. If the community likes the idea or effort, they will get lots of upvotes and they'll be rewarded with SATs that they can use to create accounts.
Much better alternative for OPOW
I really, really dislike traditional proof of work mining. It wastes huge amounts of energy and computing equipment. I happen to care a little bit about the environment so I strongly oppose all OPOW mining blockchains.
Seeing a proposal to include wasteful mining back to Steem blockchain was a very unpleasant surprise. I hoped that we would have a consensus by now that it's really bad thing in every way.
Let's sum up the negative sides of proposed account mining:
- It wastes energy and incentivizes the production of mining equipment. All that is taken away from actually productive work so it's negative for the whole society.
- Because accounts can't be created for free, somebody is always paying for them. With mining, the miners are paying for them with fiat money that they use to buy electricity and mining equipment. So the value will flow outside of the Steem ecosystem for electricity and mining equipment producers.
- Using Litecoin's algorithm means that there exists a huge amount of mining power outside of the Steem community. It's like giving away all the new accounts for people who have already scrypt mining equipment.
I really can't see how the Steem community could benefit from having OPOW-mineable accounts, especially with an algorithm that's already used by another big blockchain.
Instead, using SPOW-mineable accounts will be much better choice. No wasted electricity and accounts will be given to the members of the Steem community. Because Steem accounts are valuable cryptoproperty, it means that the value won't flow outside our community to Litecoin miners and electricity companies.
There won't be any changes to the inflation model. Basically the current inflation is just allocated differently. Instead of steem, SBD or SP, new tokens created by inflation will be allocated as SAT.
There is another problem requiring immediate fix
One thing that I want to see fixed in the next hardfork is SBD.
The pegging mechanism is completely broken which makes SBD unusable as a currency. It needs to be redesigned or removed. It's not wise to keep broken features in the blockchain.
This might be a little bit controversial proposal, but I think the best solution would be to replace Steem Backed Dollar with Steem Account Token.
Anybody could earn SAT by blogging, just like they can earn SBD. If they don't need SATs, they can use the internal exchange to sell them to those who need them. If we remove SBD, the internal exchange could have a new life as an exchange for SAT.
Backing SAT would work basically the same way as backing SBD. There will be a virtual supply that is used to fund a new account with SP when SAT is used to create the account. I'm not a programmer but I think this is pretty much the same thing as using SBD to steem conversion.
Replacing SBD with SAT would be double beneficial: we would get rid of broken feature and get a new and needed one instead.
With more viral user acquisition, I suspect that we will have higher quality users. When more new users come because their friend asked them and gave them the account, they will care more about the platform than random people who heard about this somewhere and made an account just because it was free. This will make the whole platform more attractive for other potential users and, of course, creates better user experience for old users.