Minding My Votes - A personal journey deep into Curation

in steem-help •  2 years ago

Curation and curation rewards were a bit of an enigma when I first joined. The Whitepaper was clear enough, and the Steemd Advanced Mode laid out the internal metrics. But it was still impossible to actually see it in action. Three weeks ago, everything changed when @jesta's SteemStats (you'll hear a lot more about this awesome app!) added a Vote Inspector. Finally, there was a clear and easy way to see how Timing, Steem Power and Voting Power had an effect on curation rewards. 

That inspired me to investigate how the curation rewards work, and share my learnings in the Mind Your Votes post. Mind Your Votes was about a general guide to maximising curation rewards. This post - Minding My Votes - is about my personal journey being a curator. I'll assume that you are well versed with the curation system. If not, do check out the Mind Your Votes post first, including the comments which fill in some of my oversights. 

Note - I have my own priorities which may not be most lucrative. Neither is this is a guide to how you should curate content. It's just a personal account of how I do it, and my results thereof. Many will disagree with my choice of tools, and that's OK - I'd love to hear about your workflow! 

Motivation and goal for curation

It's really simple. I wish to do my bit in pushing diverse content on Steemit to the Trending page. My vote is worth very little, but it counts - it helps the post catch attention of more influential curators. I also intend to time the vote optimally in order to maximise my reward.

Curation takes time and effort

Serious curation takes time, dedication and effort. Yes - there are ways to make a quick buck upvoting posts - but if I really want to grow the platform through curation, then I must be pay attention.  

The key to curation is being attentive, being early - being one of the first people to notice good content after it's posted. 

Voting Power

I can't control my Steem Power. It is what it is. So I have to rely on timing and voting power to maximize my curation rewards. 

On average, I cast approximately 40 votes per day. This keeps my Voting Power around the 75% mark. Sometimes it drops to 65% after a busy day of voting, but heals back up to 75% overnight. 

The Sources

Rather obviously, the two popular sources for finding posts are the "New" page and the authors I follow. 

Once you follow people, the easiest way is to find their posts is the new "Feed" page. However, I follow a different workflow using SteemStats. Reading and curating posts from my favorite authors takes up most of my curation time. I follow 85 people at this time, and I read out about 50 posts every day from them alone. There are many more I want to follow, but this is the most I can cope with right now! 

However, it's important to head out to the New page and find new authors with great content. For New, I just use the New page. It is impossible to read every new post, or even consider them. So, I look out for topics, titles and that intrigue me. The other indicator are posts which have already got a few upvotes in a short time. 

This is the type of post that stands out among the "New" crowd. 

And of course, there's the all important third source - Steemit.chat #postpromotion. Just don't ping @all. ;)

SteemStats - the Curator's Boon

I can't stress how crucial SteemStats is to my curation workflow. I use it with Windows 10 and Microsoft Edge. This section will be about how this trio is a killer combination which gives me an edge (pardon the pun) in getting the timing right. 

Notifications

The first thing I do in SteemStats' Settings is to Update every 5 seconds, and check both Website and Desktop notifications. 

The end result, using Windows 10 and Edge, is an OS wide tie-in to SteemStats. Every time an author I follow submits a post, I get a toast notification pop up, no matter where I am or what I'm doing on my PC. By going into my PC's Settings, I can customize the notifications. 

If I miss it, the posts leave a badge on the notification icon and populate the notification center (action center in Windows 10). 

This way, I never miss a post and get to it as quickly as possible. As a bonus, you can even have these notifications sync to your Android, iOS or Windows phone through Cortana! However, I keep my phone out of the curation process. 

Once I click on any of either of these notification banners, it takes straight t0 SteemStats, where there will be a website notification waiting. 

Clicking this takes me directly to the post on Steemit.com. 

The Activity Page

The Activity Page on SteemStats clearly lays out both posts from your followers and other posts you may have voted on. To time my vote right, it's important to see how the latest posts are progressing. So, I keep an eye out on time elapsed since post, the upvotes and SBD generated. The icon to the top left of each post is the Vote Inspector, which lets you drill into details of how the curation rewards are distributed among upvoters. 

The Watched Interactions section is another little gem for curators. It indicates which posts you have upvoted, followed by your share of curation rewards and even your estimated curation reward! A handy panel to see how your curation rewards are shaping up. 

Right under my handle is my Voting Power and votes cast in the last 24 hours. Sometimes, it's easy to get carried away - this helps keep my Voting Power in check. 

Reading, Voting and Commenting

Once I have opened a post, it's time to read it. This is the fun part of the process, of course! 

It's an ostensibly simple decision - whether the post deserves my upvote or not. There's no algorithm here, I go purely by instinct. To put it bluntly, most content ends up being derivative and banal. But sometimes, you get a gem of a post that gives me a dopamine hit. Those deserve my upvote. 

However, I also need to see things in context. My goal is to promote diverse content, and to that effect, I'm always more lenient with posts and authors who work in topics like science or gaming, which don't have much of a following yet. The idea is to populate these niches with great content, so that it drives more people interested in them to Steemit. This is the central tenet behind Reddit's success - there's a sub for everything! 

Original content is a must for me. I appreciate well presented and written posts, but I'm willing to overlook lapses in presentation if the ideas and thoughts are compelling

Finally, commenting is a crucial part of curation for me. There's usually no rewards involved, but it's important to continue the discussion where the author leaves off. Particularly for authors indulging in niche topics, it's important to encourage them and let them know that someone appreciate their work. I admit, in the last week, I have been so deep into curation I've often forgotten or ran out of time to comment where I intended to. 

The Timing Gamble

So, we come back to Timing. As hinted throughout, this is the most crucial parameter in maximizing your curation rewards. Fair warning - this section is going to get complicated very quickly, so if you aren't up to speed with how the curation algorithms work, this may not be for you. 

It comes down to a very simple gamble - how long can you hold till the valuable upvotes start dropping

In practice, it is a complex matter and only as much of a gamble as trading or poker. There's definitely skill and craft involved here. 

Certain posts trend very quickly, while others are slow burners. Let's say, I make up a metric called TTW (time-to-whale). :) High TTW posts trend within minutes, low TTW posts take hours, if ever. 

In my experience, there are three major patterns that dictate the (totally-made-up) TTW. The time of day, the author and the subject matter. With experience, it becomes pretty easy to predict which posts are headed straight to Trending. I'm deliberately not going into some of my specific observations as that's a whole different can of worms. Another tool that helps me with this is @blueorgy's Catchawhale.

High TTW posts often need a vote within 5 minutes, whereas it might be worth holding on for 20-30 minutes for some low TTW posts. On average, I tend to vote around the 10 minute mark

Once I've decided to upvote a post, it's a waiting game. @bitcoiner has a cool Chrome bookmarklet, Steemit Countdown, which brings the post time elapsed to the tab. I hadn't used Chrome in years, but I have installed it now just to track time for posts from authors I don't follow. Can't wait to see it come to Firefox and Edge. For authors I do follow, I keep a close track on Steemstats' Activity Page to see progress of votes. If I see upvotes starting to come in, it's probably vote time. 

Finally, I tend not to vote for posts which are already trending. Instead, save my Voting Power for posts that need it more - the rewards are also potentially more lucrative. However, if the post really is exceptional, I go ahead and vote anyway. 

The most profitable posts are those that are from an unknown author, a niche topic, but with killer content. Sometimes they take several hours to be picked up by an influential curator before going big - and that is when they are immensely rewarding. 

The Rewards

As you may have noticed, my end goals mean I compromise a lot on maximizing my curation rewards. That's not my target. That said, it has still been wildly lucrative. Since I got deep into curation about 10 days ago, you'll see my rewards have gone through the roof. 

Courtesy: Steemwhales

You'll even notice that I'm getting better at it, the graph is getting steeper (though some of that is due to increasing Steem Power). In two short weeks I've gone from near zero to among the top 170 curators on Steemit. 

Forgive the brag - the point is anyone can earn about 2%-3% their Steem Power every week if they are skilled curators. It is entirely possible to double your Steem Power within a year just through curation! 

It's still early days! I know I have a lot to learn still - hope this post starts a discussion. I'm sure as my Steem Power grows my habits will evolve as well. So, what's your workflow? I'd love to know more about how fellow curators operate. Happy curating! 

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I curate a lot myself...and one of the things that stands out for me is that a lot of posts are good, but i am not sure that good enough.
I wrote this https://steemit.com/steemit/@razvanelulmarin/help-me-upvote-you to help everyone out.
I so want to give my upvote [ althought my VP is at <70%!! ]
Great post man!

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Yes, good is not good enough! It has to be something that adds unique value to the platform.

Nice post! I remember seeing the title as I follow you, but never got around to it. I notice this happening more often - already seems like I'm following too many people. Might need to scale back. Wish I could afford to hire a curation team - inspired by @smooth of course.

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dude, you are inspiring a whole lot of people. that's as good as hiring a team and in the future IT WILL BE.
that is a post I wrote just so i can c/p every time I see some stuff that has potential.
, Razvanelul [ testing the heart here, curtesy of klye ! ]

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I hope so - you keep up the good work too!

By the way, I'm much more lenient about presentation than you. I don't mind if the grammar is a little off or the images are poor. Or if there's no images at all.

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eh, i give the upvote anyway :) but i'm also thinking about steemit, in that good nice articles are appealing!

Yes !! great post indeed !! thank you for this one !! im up voting this a little late, but better than not !! ; - )

Thank you for a well laid out post. I like to interact with interesting content but haven't taken timing into consideration to my commenting at all.
So much to learn about these finer points of Steemit. This is such an exhilarating adventure. Imagine how much cool content there will be when we have 1 million users let alone 1 billion.

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You can comment any time you like. The sooner the better. :) It's voting that is time sensitive.

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Did not know that about only been sensitiv to the "30 mins law" the voting, thought also comment was in. Good to know :) Indeed was am instructive reading,

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yes well then that will be an awful lot of stuff to wade through eh?? lol But yes for sure just imagine !! ; - )

Nice!

Nice writeup! I've spent the last couple days deep in the mathematics of voting power, and I will hopefully have some solid analysis to add to your strategy. In particular I'm going to ask "what average voting power maximises the value of your votes?" Vote too much, dilute yourself; vote too little, miss out on opportunities to vote. I don't know offhand what the number will be, but I wouldn't be surprised if your 75% is not far off. Keep an eye out for my coming post!

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Look forward to it! My range is pretty much between 65% to 80%. I have found 70%-75% to be the sweet spot - but would love to see that backed up by numbers.

How is the best way to find low ttw material. I have had my best success here voting at 30 minutes. I am good at predicting the other winners but at 10 minutes rarely make anything

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So I guess you are good at finding low TTW material. :) Like I mentioned, usually posts by new authors, an off-beat but not completely niche subject. But killer content. These often take time to be discovered. That said, many of them are never discovered, so it's always a gamble there.

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My old method was 30 minutes low rep score (under 5) lots of comments and votes but no money.

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Ah, that's one way to do it. I find myself voting much earlier than 30 minutes.

Very helpful post. Thanks for the advise.

I like your style and analysis a lot. Merging the game and the value into a single strategy is efficient both ways. Might be hurdles ahead as your share grows to a certain amount, but there's curation teams for that.

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Thanks. Curation is going to get harder once there's more activity! Will have to prioritize then.

The 1 in 10k solution


I posted this suggestion on improving curation
https://steemit.com/steemideas/@dennygalindo/fix-curation-rewards-with-less-rounding

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The 0.001 threshold is there for a reason. The platform can't afford to start offering rewards to people who have just signed up. There'll be potential for rampant abuse then where thousands of bots will start upvoting posts.

Newcomers are encouraged to post and comment, earn some Steem Power that way, if they don't want to invest in the platform.

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i think something should be done to encourage active users. The Bot question is interesting but the 30 min rule and the voting power rules still helps prevent bot abuse.

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Bots can vote after 30 minutes, that's not an issue, and also there can be many bots.

Perhaps more can be done to encourage active users, but I don't think lowering the curation reward threshold is an option.

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Bots vote whenever they want - @wang, @jl777, and all their clones consistently vote my posts at 15 minutes.

I like to ask this question and take responsability. Is it good vs is it going to make it to the top? we should be responsible
https://steemit.com/steemit/@dumpa/curators-dilemma-is-it-good-vs-is-it-going-to-make-it-to-the-top

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That's a good question, and I have kind of addressed it, but not directly. I wouldn't upvote a post I don't like but is going to the top. Most of the trending posts turn out to be pretty good though.

@liberosist, thank you for mentioning my tool Steemit CountDown! I will definitely create a version for other browsers! Glad it is helping Steemians with their curating! =D

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I look forward to it :)

Thanks for sharing this info. I'm not gonna lie. I absolutely suck at curation.