What Narrative's Recent Update Means for Future Narrators

in #narrative5 years ago (edited)

Narrative recently made some big changes, rolling out its first major upgrade since launching into beta on April 2, 2019. Here's what those changes mean for current and future Narrators.

Anti-Troll Measures

Narrative trolls
Image from Pixabay.

Narrative wasn't a week old yet before it had a troll problem. Interestingly, this problem was set up by Narrative itself. A long-identified problem with niche suggestions and approvals by early and late alpha power users led to a conflict over the active niche titled simply "BLOG." The problem is in the description:

Publish your passions in your own way. Share your knowledge, experiences, ideas or latest news. Create your own words and thoughts, your own universe. Live your life and share it with the world.

Niches on Narrative are intended to be like buckets where Narrators can "drop" their relevant content. The niches are supposed to serve as easy categories for specific topic-related content, but this particular niche is viewed as a "catch-all" niche by several top users, myself included. Growing consternation led to several Narrators appealing to Narrative's governing body to reject the niche. Why that wasn't done earlier, since the niche was approved in April 2018, is anyone's guess. While all members of the Tribunal who commented agreed the title and description were inadequate, all but one of them voted to keep the niche's approval status. Bugger for them because the niche owner then created several user accounts and began trolling his antagonists with them. This led to users calling for a ban on troll accounts, which Narrative staff refused to do.

All of this became much more interesting when a Narrator by the name of Gage wrote a post criticizing other Narrators for upvoting low-quality content. I found the post to be a bit innocuous at first, though I questioned the wisdom of leading with it. However, there was this little nugget of WTF stuck in the middle of the post:

People with high point value tend not to actually contribute value, so stop affording them so much authority and respect. Their posts would have zero claps on Medium. Yet look at how well junk content flourishes

After some tit-for-tat, Gage decided to suggest a niche titled Trolling. That inflamed the crowd. When asked by several Narrators to include wording in the description that would make it clear that the Trolling niche should not be used for trolling, Gage refused. The community rejected the niche with a 94.08% downvote on the basis that Gage himself appeared to be a troll. In an ironic plot twist, the trollees became the trolls (I'm ashamed to admit I was one of them). Gage appealed, and the Tribunal approved the niche unanimously. It is up for auction right now. Gage has apparently lost interest. To date, it's still unclear whether Gage was acting alone or if his account may have been connected with the previously mentioned gang of trolls. It's likely that he was acting alone.

Narrator's response to this brouhaha was to introduce Medium Reputation. They also now require bidders on niche auctions to pay a security deposit of $25 if they don't already own a niche and don't have at least a Medium Reputation. Both of these are positive developments.

Narrative also tweaked its upvote and downvote weighting so that niche moderators have more influence in the niches they moderate, and post authors, as well.

Another improvement is an adjustment to the trending page formula to ensure comments are weighted based on a Narrator's reputation to ensure that low-quality content doesn't appear on the trending page. On niche approvals, adjustments were made to ensure trolls can't unduly influence the process by stuffing the ballot box, and a Narrator has to have a minimum Medium Reputation score to suggest niches or file appeals to the Tribunal. Again, all of these are positive developments.

One final troll-fighting measure worth noting is the requirement for at least two niche moderator nominees with at least Medium Reputation before a niche moderator election will begin. While this won't guarantee that Narrators with low reputation, or trolls for that matter, will not get elected to moderator positions where they could potentially sabotage a niche, it will make it more difficult for them to do so. I'm proud to announce that my own niche, Speculative Fiction, currently has two Medium Reputation Narrators other than myself who have been nominated for the moderator position. Therefore, I intend to withdraw my own nomination so that one of them can serve as long as neither of them are nominated for a niche with one of the aforementioned controversial issues (and, yes, I'm talking about the BLOG niche).

5 Other Noteworthy Improvements

Troll-fighting measures are not the only improvements the Narrative staff tackled, though that might have been the biggest. Other improvements include:

  • Addition of canonical links - Canonical links tell the search engines, primarily Google, that content has been posted elsewhere verbatim and directs the search engine to use the one designated as "canonical." This is very important for search engine traffic. Since many people cross-publish on various blogging platforms, I think it's a necessity for any social media site to include canonical links. This is one of my beefs with Steemit, and @SteemPress. Whenever I post to Steemit using #SteemPress, most often on my professional content marketing blog, my Steemit content is usually the one that gets indexed by Google. That's not acceptable. To prevent that, I have to remember to designate the post on my professional blog as the canonical URL. SteemPress could make that easier by making it an option in Settings. I'm glad Narrative added support for canonical links.

  • Comment ratings - Narrative is also showing comments ratings sooner than before. This wasn't all that important to me, but it was to some Narrators, and I think an improvement.

    Narrative comment rating

  • Rejected niche names are released to be used again after 30 days - This was entirely unexpected and one of the best improvements overall. It means niche suggestions that were rejected due to sub-par descriptions can be resubmitted with better descriptions after the probationary period ends.

  • Low quality content exclusion - Low-quality content will be excluded from trending lists going forward.

  • Embedded media content - Narrators can now embed media content from anywhere on the web and not just YouTube. This is HUGE, in terms of user engagement and offsite promotions. Thanks Narrative!

Narrative's Reputation Score

Narrative's improvement to reputation scoring gets its own category because, quite frankly, I find it a mystery.

Narrative reputation score

Evidently, there was a bug in the platform's reputation scoring mechanism, and that's why many of us were stuck on reputation scores of 68 and 69 for over a week. Now I'm at 98, two below the max, and asking what the hell happened? I went from 68 to 98 in milliseconds.

I think reputation scores aren't very useful, overall. They can be gamed. One of the things I appreciate about Steemit is the way Steemians have to earn their reputation. Sure, from 25 to 60, it's fairly easy to rise in score. After 60, however, it's much slower and requires serious activity to push up the levels. That's the way it should be.

With Narrative, it doesn't take much work at all. In only 22 days, I've managed to rise from the lowest possible reputation score to almost the highest. We haven't even begun moderator elections yet and I've got one of the highest reputations on the platform. Of course, I'm also one of the most active contributors.

Just to be clear, I'm not complaining about having a high reputation score. What I am saying is that it's too easy to acquire a high reputation score. It shouldn't be that easy.

I fully expected the process to take months to go from a low reputation score to a high reputation score. Maybe it's easier now due to currently active Narrators being early adopters. It's possible that later Narrators will have to work harder, but I think the reputation scoring system should be a challenge for Narrators right out of the gate. Otherwise, the platform runs the risk of raising entitled brats among its first-level user base. If that happens, it could develop a whale-supporting-whale mentality that has some Minnows on Steemit put off by the upper crust (not me, because I'm not into status symbols, but there is some chatter).

Bottom line: While I appreciate being in the top core of Narrators with a high reputation score, I think it's too easy to get there.

Where Is Narrative Headed?

There are other improvements I'd like to see on the platform, most of which have been suggested to the staff. Nested comments, for instance, is one that I think most of us would like to see.

Narrative logo

I'd also like to see support for tagging within posts. For starters, Narrators should be able to tag other users within their posts. This is a no-brainer. Currently, if a Narrator wants to tag another user, they have write their post then comment on it to tag another user. This is impractical and inefficient.

Narrative also needs to support hashtags. A hashtag is not like a niche and can be an additional way to organize content within the platform. It could also end the discussion to allow content creators to tag more than five niches. If a Narrator uses a hashtag, that hashtag ought to be searchable using the Narrative search feature. And there'd be no need to compete with niche tags. A Narrator can max out her niche tags with three--and let's say one of them is Steemit--and include hashtags in the post that allow her to notify followers of specific hashtags that her post mentions. The hashtag could be completely irrelevant to any of the niche tags. I think hashtags add an additional flavor to content and should be supported.

Overall, I'm pleased to see the Narrative staff making improvements. At this point, any development that adds new features or facilitates better engagement is welcome. It's a lesson that Steemit can learn from its #NEO counterpart.

Still, let's not forget that Narrative is in slow--very slow--growth mode. Almost a month into beta, active members in the last 30 days is only about 400 more than it was just before beta. That's not a good sign. And when you consider that there are more absent or inactive niche owners than there should be, the picture could be bleaker than I'm making it out to be. As one Narrator says very clearly, it's looking like a ghost town. Many Narrators have shown up to make one post then not return. That is not a good sign.

So, all of that to say, Narrator staff can make all the improvements they want, but if they can't get people to show up and use the platform, it won't matter. It will die. And if a recession happens next year as some business economists predict, the whole shebang could go belly up. And the problem could be the business model.

Currently, Narrative staff is relying on niche owners to sell the platform. In fact, the incentive for them to do so is baked into the rewards strategy. But at this time, no one has seen any rewards. We have no idea whether they will be good, modest, or terrible. And we won't know until the end of May. That's a long time to decide whether we want to stick around or not.

This could be one reason why Narrative founders are handing out reputation scores like candy in a kindergarten playground. Quite frankly, I'd rather have to claw my way to the top of the reputation heap and see a huge first payout based on my faith in the platform than to be lured into sticking around by a high reputation only to see a modest first payout that doesn't motivate me. I'm not saying I need to strike it rich at the end of May, but I am saying the payout needs to give me some hope that my future time investment will be worth looking forward to. If that doesn't happen for a good number of Narrative's current 7,442 members, I think we'll see a mass exodus by the end of June. And Narrative can't afford a mass exodus.

Narrative members

There are five things Narrative can do to invest in itself to improve its chances of long-term survival and to attract more users right now:

  1. Reduce the cost of registration - The current registration cost is $15. Narrative tried to bolster the value of registration to alpha users by charging only $10, but that didn't work. Some of us ended up paying $15 anyway because the first attempt to upload documents failed. $15 is a barrier to entry for some people. Narrator should eliminate that barrier to entry by charging only $5 for registration, or, promise a rebate in NRVE to new Narrators when they achieve high reputation status.
  2. Have a fire sale on niches - There are only 906 active niches out of 3,180 approved. And giving high reputation Narrators unlimited suggestions will only increase that difference. Narrator should reduce the price of currently approved niches in a 30-day window to encourage a buying spree so that when new Narrators arrive they will have more content publishing options.
  3. Further incentivize niche owners to promote the platform - Niche owners are currently incentivized to promote the platform by getting a percentage of rewards based on the activity within their niches, but offsite activity cannot be tracked. If Narrative boosted niche owner rewards for providing updates on their promotional activities by publishing those to their personal journals, and in niches, that might spur more promotional activity.
  • Advertise - Narrative itself should spend some of its own rewards to promote the platform beyond the walled garden they've created. There is currently 2,909,796.74 NRVE in the Narrative rewards pool. The price of NRVE, according to CoinMarketCap, is $.020539. That means there is about $59,764.32 USD in the rewards pool, and Narrative is slated to get 15% of that. That's almost $9,000. There are numerous ways Narrative can promote itself on other platforms. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all support native advertising or PPC options. How many new users could be gained with a $5,000 advertising investment, the returns of which, after content creation, would pay for itself in short order. Narrative needs to invest in itself. Resting on its own laurels sets a bad example for niche owners, niche moderators, and content creators to do the same. If you can't eat your own dog food, you shouldn't have your name on your water bowl.

    From CoinMarketCap

  • Finally, incentivize non-Narrators to join and share content. With a non-invasive cookie, Narrative can determine whether a site visitor is visiting for the first time and, if so, encourage that visitor to share an article and join the website with a NRVE airdrop that will activate upon that user creating their first piece of content. If the user doesn't return to Narrative or engage in any meaningful way within 90 days, the NRVE can be retracted back into the rewards pool. This would be way less expensive than advertising and a good way to encourage current Narrators to incentivize their friends to join.

I think Narrator is on the right track with its recent platform developments, but it needs to attract more users faster. To do that, they'll have to get more creative in the way they reward Narrators and promote the platform. Quit relying on niche owners, because that isn't happening.

While you're here, check out the backside 5:

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speculative fiction writers of steemit
Created by @EdibleCthulhu


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Join me on Narrative


Great, balanced write up on the Narrative Eco-System. I particularly enjoyed the story about the niche of trolling getting some poetic justice.

Reminds me of those massive political fights that happen in Eve online! :)

Yeah, there for about a week-and-a-half it was super-exciting.

Now I know where I can find an insightful post about Narrative 😄 @blockurator

Posted using Partiko Android

I write about these things on Narrative too.

Thanks for the update. I signed up for Narrative some time ago, but after looking at it, it seemed to be way too oriented toward extracting money from users. I haven't logged in for a long time. Perhaps if it improves I'll try again.

Proud member of #powerhousecreatives

That Narrative team does seem interested in improving the platform. I'm taking it day by day.

It does seem that the Narrative crew is open to making improvements, but it will be interesting to see if it's too little too late. I think I've logged in once since the beginning of the month, but I might take a meander through sometime soon. Thanks for all the info, @blockurator!

Yes, they are interested in improving. They've shown that from the beginning. They responded to the troll situation quickly, but there are other improvements they could be making. I don't think it's too little too late. They're just three weeks into beta, so there's a long way to go. Everyone is on the edge of their seats waiting for first payouts at the end of May. That will be the tell-tale moment, I think, for many.

@felt.buzz, I don't know why I keep getting an error trying respond to your comment, so I just started another nest ...

If you ever do decide to go back, I'll be there waiting for you. :-)

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What does it take to join narrative?

You just sign up. There's no payment, or anything. Unlike Steemit where you have to pay 3 STEEM or pay in resource credits to set up an account. At Narrative, you just sign up.

I did sign up and found that I am already on there. Not posted yet though....

Ha ha. Yeah, a lot of people in that boat. The community, as small as it is right now, is quite interactive.

Greetings dear friend @blockurator.

Lately I've heard a lot about Narrative.
To be honest I am not familiar with this platform. But taking the opinion of a friend, Narrative could be displacing Steemit as a space for writers.

Something that powerfully captures my opinion is the methodology of creating niches. I think it works better than the ** labels ** of Steemit.

Now with the information that you bring us today I realized that there is also a governing body and that the creation of spaces can be put to a vote and even revoked. This is great.

All best, Piotr.

I wouldn't say "revoked." Niches can be approved or rejected by the community. But those decisions can also be appealed and overturned by the Tribunal. So far, I'm enjoying Narrative. There are some interesting dynamics.

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