We are the Prisoners

in steem •  2 years ago 

Today I want to focus on reiterating a nice quote from the white paper:

The naive voting process creates a N-Person Prisoner’s Dilemma whereby each individual voter has incentive to vote for themselves at the expense of the larger community goal. If every voter defects by
voting for themselves then no currency will end up distributed and the currency as a whole will fail to gain network effect. On the other hand, if only one voter defects then that voter would win undeserved
profits while having minimal effect on the overall value of the currency.

I don't know why people have stopped talking about this and not seeing the larger picture here. This is still relevant, and talks specifically about selfish behavior and effects on the long term. The same applies to delegations and vote selling. If everyone does it, nobody would want to be here and we all lose, reflected in market value of the currency.

But deviations happen all the time, and as the quote hints, it results in larger gains for those that do, but we just all can't do it. Moreover, it's all weighted by stake, so it's not about individuals, but about how much stake is driving the behavior.

Even the little plankton stake being used to indulge in this behavior are part of it, because the stake of a million plankton still adds up. Although if my memory serves me right, still is nothing compared to larger stake holders due to the skewed distribution, so it's probably negligible.

An aside: Self voting, delegations to bid bots, and vote selling are all a problem, and are actually all forms of self voting in disguise. You need to treat the seller + bidder as one unit, and together they constitute a greedy self voting pair from the perspective of the rewards pool. And chase where the money ends up once the dust is settled. The answer may surprise you (aka not the bidders). We'll talk about the "promotion" aspect later though, as the single defining difference.

I want to take the time to address specific claims that I've heard thrown around.

(Not) Draining the Reward Pool

There have been some posts claiming that there is no "draining of reward pool", but they are simply wrong: votes control how the reward pool gets allocated, so of course bid bot voting behavior is affecting how much of the reward pool could otherwise be spread.

And not only that, the bots are voting in a way that optimizes the usage of voting power, a la haejin-ranchorelaxo. So you see, both systems extract from the rewards pool with ruthless efficiency. Well actually, there's a group that diminishes the efficiency of one of those systems with flags. The other can't actually be diminished because flagging can only affect the bidders, not the bot delegators / runners.

Many defending arguments seem to boil down to the claim that the funds in the rewards pool are already split in proportion of delegators, and that the state where everyone just self votes should be the baseline for measuring profit. They may even go as far as to claim they are doing us all a service by not self voting instead, and bidding allows for further distribution of wealth. Except that it doesn't. Not in a significant way. (Numbers post coming soon!)

In any case, I think when viewed through the Prisoner's Dilemma, it should be obvious why using self voting as a baseline is flawed. Because the market pricing of the network in that situation would not be the same.

Controlling the Investors

A question I've heard pop up repeatedly: "If you control what investors can or cannot do, why would they want to invest in the first place?"

A smart potential investor wants to be convinced that the platform will hold value and grow in the long term. This goes back to the network effect. The platform needs to attract new money; the money that's already in the platform matters little for growth. Sorry current whales, thanks for early investing or ninja mining the coin, but your current holdings aren't relevant. But your collective behavior has a large impact on outside perception. And now we are back to the Prisoner's Dilemma.

Think about that quote, and the situation in which everyone is just self voting. The dumb investors come in and follow suit. Guaranteed returns? Yeah right, congratulations you have invented a money printing machine with little else happening. Ok I'm pretty sure we're all in agreement on that one.

But the fun part about it: is even this state sustainable? If you believe it could be useful as a cryptocurrency itself, and the inflation is capped, then the answer may surprisingly be yes. Then it's a plain old vanilla staking cryptocurrency.

But yeah, we got 8% inflation used to pay the platform participants, and the problem of mass adoption. How do we get adoption? I know! Why don't we make it social? Wait... Why does this sound familiar....

Anyway, investors chasing maximum rewards extraction are not helping the long term prospects of the platform. But I'm not saying they shouldn't be profit seekers. My problem is that they are chasing a local minimum, and not seeing the global potential.

So am I telling them to just sit on their stake and do nothing? Absolutely not (but actually... it certainly could improve matters). But they really should have their game focused on initiatives that will get more on board, as many have already been talking about. Sure, we can do without them because we anyway have such initiatives going on, but imagine how much faster we could be going!

And nobody likes a freeloader. Speaking of which... Money whales might view platform users as freeloading off of money they injected into the platform, but in reality it's a symbiotic relationship. However, money sucking whales are absolutely freeloading off of value creating whales. Selfish people are freeloading off of the platform.


The single best argument in favor of bid bots is that they offer a way to do paid promotion. There should be no doubt that it works: the trending and hot pages do have a lot of eyeballs.

Those that say they don't use trending, that's great, and I'm with you. But it's like saying I don't bother looking at display advertisements on websites. Plenty of others do, enough for advertisers to take their fat wallets out.

But why should this service come out of the rewards pool? Why can't it be done by the platform, with the income of the bids going back into the platform to be distributed more widely, with higher impact?

When you view the bid bots from this angle, you can then see that if we simply got trending to work slightly differently, we can nullify the only real argument that bid bots have going for them.

If there's a witness that actually had this focus, I'd give them my vote, and frankly, so should the rest of you that claim to love the platform.


If you haven't gotten a chance to read the white paper around the section discussing voting, you absolutely should check it out (bonus: crab bucket story and flagging). It is well written and easy to follow.

It all boils down to the fact that we all can't be selfish or else the platform falls flat. And the intention of flags is to fight this behavior. Also, we aren't all being selfish, for a clear reason that even profit maximizing reasoning folks can't argue with. And why do the rest of us stay silent while the selfish ones act?

Oh wait, actually we aren't silent. We are actually annoyingly loud about it. For good reason.

For those of you already making noise about this, don't stop. Despite being repetitive and rehashing much of the same arguments time and time again, they aren't wrong, and they need to be voiced. For those that try to silence this voice and are getting annoyed, those aren't appropriate uses of the flag. Don't be childish and actually refute the arguments. Or agree to disagree and let the rest of us work it out.

Somebody (more people) think of the Prisoner's Children!

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First off, I admittedly do not yet have the same level of understanding of the Steem economy as you do. But, I see an opportunity to perhaps "fight fire with fire"—although the plan would pivot off of diligent 'quality controls'.

The trending page is our advertisement to the outside world; the users on the outside world are the people we need to engage positively with this platform to see it grow into the mainstream. If there were a way to use the bots in tandem with scrupulous quality control standards so that high quality creators could pay to have their works featured on the Trending page, while low-quality bot-promoted content would be shoved back down into the depths with flagging—the content seen and shared by the outside world would then hopefully get Steem recognized as being a platform that houses unique and high quality content—which would then motivate the creation of new accounts and garner new investors.

That's a VERY quick and dirty thought bubble; I realize the practical application of it is complicated. Perhaps it could be something like "Whitelisting," where only approved accounts and creators would be allowed access to the bots to be used just as paid-placement is used on other platforms; if the accounts abuse their privelage, they would be blacklisted or placed on probation.

Ah, you are touching upon a slightly separate aspect, which is just the quality of trending itself. I remember arguing in the past that the way we would actually achieve the quality is by actively downvoting, and I can't find links now but plenty of people have argued for doing so. If enough stake is used to downvote trending, it will clean up trending, and would have the effects you are talking about. And funny enough, re: fight fire with fire, check out @bid.bot which amuses me very much.

The other part I'll touch on is that the trending page is an advertisement to the steemit world too, which is why plenty of people are taking initial losses to gain a lot of attention on trending.

I don't think using stake for promotion in the form of bid bot economy is the right way to do promotion. It shouldn't take anything from the reward pool. Trending is owned by the platform, not by bid bots, they simply took control of it because no other promotion form exists. And the other aspect of that is that the payout values don't mean anything with bid bots. It's just a mess. One way I saw that is interesting to me, and would address the concern about taking from the reward pool is what @freebornangel is suggesting in their comment, which is that all bid bots simply should focus on the promotional aspect and require all posts to be declining rewards. The problem is... well, fat chance getting any of them to budge.

Hello @douglasbalmain it seems you have a pretty good grasp on the whole. Let me throw in a little wrench, how about we just form a group ((i do not care where) discord maybe)) where the more angelic whales (if there is a such thing) could by chance take up a few slots in key time placements.
Also, we must keep remind ourselves that roughly 500,000,000 will come back into this market and we will have to push blockchain only platforms. Now, I know...you guys are not all hip and trendy with b#i#t#t#u#b#e but they are a friend. More so than big brother google, OK. Just wanted to add my two sense, as a full steem ahead type good white hat wearing wanna be sixty recognition score. I just followed you and resteemed this post. Thanks to all.

I know it probably really isn't that difficult, but I'm having a hard timr understanding all of this. I suppose I will stick to making an effort to create content and reading/ commenting and then worry about everything else. At this point, it sounds like I don't even know how to vote correctly and that my vote may actually do harm. I'm so confused. Haha. Oh well. I will figure it out eventually. Thanks for all this super informational stuff. :)

Yeah in your case I wouldn't worry about it since our stake doesn't make a dent compared to what's happening. My argument boils down to...

Can't all self vote, because the platform will be stale and nobody would stay. Then if we can't all self vote, why are we condoning self voters at all?

I am fairly certain I haven't self voted and I guess I see that people would do that if their position or whatever afforded them a reward for that? Idk. But I'm also pretty sure I wouldn't anyway. Kind of self serving and I don't know, not really my style.

I have read this five times trying to make sense of it all. You referred to the white paper and brought out this paragraph that would only happen in a perfect steem world. I believe this is why Dan left the project and moved to taking young dumb and full of a substances money, 4 billion for a matter of fact. Then he left that project to a bunch of kids that are doing some sort of new dangled dance. A matter of fact there are only 21 and I think they are all in on it. I have to say that I have lost a lot of trust in the original creator of this monster.
So here we are, the monster is hungry and self digests its sell. Eating hits own blubber, how disgusting.
So, Busy.org gives you the option to upvote your own stuff. I so happen to agree, they saw the writing on the wall. That is also why they have an option to make Busy your primary page.
All these bots, greedy people, self righteous demigods that would not even contemplate upvoting anyone.
Kind of funny that I have only been here since April and I am already aware of the stupidity of the whole thing. I had a conversation in the real world about Steemit, this also was with a female, so I was really intrigued to hear her take on it. She start the same time has me, but she kept her big bother accounts and involved a bidbot. She put no money into powering up and purchased no steem. She currently brings in quite the load of upvotes and followers. I check her page out, wow! Everything on her page was not even hers, it belonged to other youtubers. No flags on her account. Next, and you can find this right now, there is a page on here that has a 59 rating. On this page there is a a post with a full Steve Miller album. WTF....holy copyright batman...no down vote.
Those are two examples, and has you know there are lots more. I just did a live stream on Dlive pretty much losing my cool on the whole thing. I would say go watch it but, you may not be ready to hear my take on it.
It is refreshing hearing someone else with a high rep bringing up the issue. A lass, I feel that it is way out of our control. I really believe that Dan knew this and later we will find out.
The last paragraph my friend.......wow. I can only yell and scream so much because doing it in a mild manner seems to not work. A lot of people on here are not even past 25 years of age. So there brains are full of gamey time situations that promote the destruction of other human beings. This is because they are sociably awkward and have no remorse.
These kids are from the parents of my peer group. I do not have children because when I was in high school I saw that my peers were really [email protected] up. The younger adults today were not taught manners, compassion, or empathy.
Sorry, for the downer but that is what it is.

I always say that I upvote everyone, but this time I will wait for the other. Sorry, been burned to many times on here. I am following you

Well, at least for taking other content / plagiarism it can be reported to e.g. @steemcleaners or @steemflagrewards who will take out the flags for you and reward you for it.

I'm not the only one vocal about these issues. Plenty of high rep folks talk about it. I would be pretty damn worried if it were not the case. That's why I'm still optimistic about the platform.

Really, you think @steemcleaners and or @steemflagrewards are going to do this to God @ned? You think @teamsteem will do anything about it? Do you think another witness will take the plunge.
Thank you for being optimistic, I am normally optimistic, these days all of the countries of the world are turning into communist states because the people are ok with it. I feel so sorry for my nieces and nephews!

Is it remotely possible to get an upvote from any of you out there? Unbelievable!!!
You see, I will give myself one and you one---freely! Even though your answer is quiet spiffy.

I will say one thing, I can see by this article that there are peeps out there that are just as concerned as I am.
Be well all, I hope I can come down from my mountain and be grateful

In @dan's defense he left because he didnt want to make the changes that enabled #rewardpoolrape.
That is all ned's doings.

Hello @freebornangel,

Disclaimer, I have not looked at any of your content. So what ever I am going to say right now would be like I was in front of you with a newspaper in my hand pointing at an article that goes toe to toe with your use of the term #rewardpoolrape. At least I think it does, that is because I have a 40 rating and a small following so what I say on this platform is referred to minnow bait. Here is the link:

I read it, it is sickening, that I have to read stuff like this after the fact of investing in my vests.

Take a look at my last two posts, you tell me if I am a poser.



Also, furthermore......


all my video work on this platform, the ones that @dtube censored. Check out the lead one, it shows that I am fully 21 st century man. Is Dan!

Thanks for reminding me why i dont bother reading that guy.
His status as a steemit golden boy is cemented by his not having offered any evidence to support his affirmation.

The reward pool is being raped.
Any rewards gained by any means other than being voted by the community is raping the pool.
But if he said that they would pull his golden boy card and he would have to earn his rewrds rather than have them gifted by stinc, et al.

I read your content, dlive doesnt load for me, your 5 min video was going to take an hour to watch.

You will not find getting rewards easy here.
You dont kiss ass well enough.
Ill add you to my vote list so you can not have to watch your rewards round down.
Upvote your posts and i will, too, at 15 minutes.
This way you earn something, at least.
Any vote showing less than .03 will probably round down, so dont vote anything unlikely to get more votes, ie, your own comments, or any other comments really.
Stick to voting posts and commenting to get known.
Good luck.

See there, I learn things all the time. You earned a follow my friend. I see that you are just as opinionated as I am. I give you a deep Japanese bow, in respect for detailing my demise. The real people of @steemit please standup.
Today I shall raise my glass for I think I have found someone that just game me a clue. You see, for you....be happy.
I stretch my smile, and show 50 years of catholic guilt. God is merciful? Right?

Get out there and give'm hell.
Just dont expect rewards from the pansy asses that control them here.
You can get rewards but it will depend on you saying things folks want to hear.

Nice work and plenty to digest , I had always been against using bots, but have lightened my position on that. I won't go use a bid bot to try and make it to the trending page but I am in some groups that use them and I think they are appropriate for that.
The reality is there are two sides to every coin, and no matter what side you favor, the other side will always be there, it is just a fact of how a coin is made.

Yes, they are appropriate for that, simply because there is currently no alternative to promotion. I want to make promotion actually more valuable to everyone.

Bidbots could decline rewards, still trend, give better returns to the sellers, and have no impact on the pool, but that would make too much sense to be adopted by morons that will cut their own throats for another dollar today.

Well, this is true, but doesn't address the concern over whether the sellers even deserve it, so I lumped the bid bot and sellers into one camp (which in some cases are the same whale heh). I assume you mean the bid bot operators could return all but operating costs to distribute to sellers? Powering down any curation rewards as well.

The decline rewards feature is in settings.
If bidbots/vote sellers required customers to select this option they could charge more while negating any impact on the pool.
I wouldnt see votes selling for less than what the vote would have gotten in curation rewards, and could go even higher.
That would be selling visibility.

Ohhhh now I see! Require the posts themselves to decline rewards. Now I get it. Hum... that's very interesting.... So that has the effect of increasing the cost of promotion for bidders while keeping everything else the same. That's odd, so if all the bid bots did this it would have resolve all problems anyone ever has. But bid bots are unwilling to do it individually because the bidders won't use their bot, so they would all have to do it together.

Hum. Well you certainly removed that reason from my list of "valid arguments for bid bots" lol. hops fully onboard change the bid bots train. So they have no solid ground or excuses after all, really.

Thank you for validating my suggestion.
I proposed it in two different bot owner discords and got booted from them.

You bring up great and valid points.
I’m new here and will be reading more of ur stuff👍

Thanks, and welcome to Steemit! We have a wide diversity of opinions as you will soon find out. But I think it's a very interesting space to be in.

I'm also from NYC, so it's fun to see a fellow few new Yorker here (unless NYC stands for something else ;))

Self voting plakton/redfish will never drain the reward pool. Any one that thinks they will or can are not well informed. Likewise a self voting plakton/redfish is never going to grow, even if they devoted 100% of their votes to themselves. If a person's vote does not add to at least $0.020 their vote is never going to pay for anything. At 80SP your vote becomes almost $0.010, at 160SP you are at the $0.020 level, but not for more than a couple of votes. When you reach about 250SP then you can give out the above dustlevel vote, and then maybe a self vote initiative on that person's part would take a miniscule portion out of the reward pool.

To get to that 250SP level is not an easy thing, you have to put comments and votes on other people's content before yourself. Or have a sugar daddy/momma.

Right, and that's why I put the disclaimer that it is negilible. The focus should rightfully be on where the stake is.

The language on my part could probably be tweaked further as to not single out plankton like that but I did want it to leave some sort of a mark, even for them. At least just to think about.

Language on your part was fine, I just wanted people to see that saying the problem is redfish/plakton related is not true. I also wanted to bring out the plight of the redfish/plankton trying to get a start on steemit. They are not the ones using bid bots, they have no money, they can not afford them, once again they have to wait till that are halfway to the slider before they can actually afford to try and buy votes. Or to save every single SBD penny until they can put a bid in, in maybe a month or two. Then you get to read their horror story post about bid bots. Seen it far to often.

Oh gross... They even lost a lot from it? That is horrifying indeed...

actually, i have seen many "new" accounts being created JUST for bid botting and i traced many to those that are already on the platform and moving up as in fat minnows and dolphins, some whales. so the perception is that they are planktons and quick baby minnows. just peruse the introduction, introduce me pages and monitor over an extended period of time and you will see the pattern. further, watch who cashes out ...

okay, so i read this but would rather talk to you in private about things since there are mutual groups we are in that bot. does that mean we should leave? what about delegating or curation trailing these groups too? support is support right? does that take away from
the platform too or is it supporting groups that then support the community. recently, inwrote a post sbput how to help steem and that was the bottom line i deduced. support the community through unselfish behavior, many are selfish even noobs bc they see whales doing what they do. its up to all of us to carry our load and set an example. i stopped self upvoting for about 3-4 weeks now. i baby bot, usually no more than $5-8, its usually the $20-200 and up that greed apoears. yet many i know have delegated to these types of ppl and see nothing wrong with it. is that not supporting selfish behavior and a tendency to “rape the pool?”

That's an interesting subject you bring up, because a giant community bot has a similar effect. However, if the community has the effect of increasing engagement in the platform, or some other way of providing value, I wouldn't see that as a bad thing. So in short, yes, it's the same too. But at least communities strive for engagement, and that I think that already provides value. I also rather like the idea behind SBI because it encourages participants to spread it around, e.g. engagement. So I'm not condemning all bots, I am questioning whether funds earned from supporting a bid bot are justified. I don't believe it is (well, assuming we can get rid of their promotion justification, which I also think is possible)

But yes we can of course chat in discord as well.

yes, i've been struggling with the bid bot thing and groups that openly use them. some condemn them and claim they "hate" them yet many create them. i feel they are good in a group as it assists with engagement. since i learned how to use them, i feel as long as they are not abused then why not, its our money to do with as we please, right?
i see people misusing these tools on the daily and no one says a word, even to some that are our associates. i dunno, its something i struggle with but try not to go too deep as to be discouraged. everyone who helped me on here (along with a lot of hard work), got me to where i am in 6 months time. it was people like you who gave me excellent advise, so most things you write or are written that makes sense I'm definitely going to take into consideration. thank you for always putting good work out. from, your admirer. Eagle

I would hesitate to say "it's our money to do as we please" as a general argument because people argue similarly "it's my stake to do what I want", to which I say, well of course it is, but in aggregate the behavior (self voting, vote selling, and delegations to bid bots) is bad for the platform (because we all can't do it).

I would also say that I don't believe bid botting really assists in user engagement. It's really more like a nasty wart that behaves in unpredictable ways unless you know exactly what you want to get out of it.

i did preface that to say "no to abuse." i see people that we have supported botting from $20-$200 a pop and people delegate and support that. so are we really checking to see we support because then are they or are they not supporting what "we feel is right?"
there were many in our groups initially supporting bid botting and vote selling. that was the only reason why i got into bid botting to begin with. i have never sold my votes.
we get back to the delegating to those groups that bid bot and that is what i meant by "user engagement." and you stated above with the following:

However, if the community has the effect of increasing engagement in the platform, or some other way of providing value, I wouldn't see that as a bad thing.

"increasing engagement" ...

that sure is a funny way of saying it "a nasty wart."

if this is the case then does that mean we need to stop supporting groups that has Warts? Haha

I wanted to point out that "do what we want because it's ours" isn't necessarily justified.

But one other quick thing: I'm more sympathetic to bidders because they usually don't make anything from it.

And as I mentioned elsewhere, groups using bid bots for promotion purpose have no alternative for paying for exposure right now. I want to change that.

i see, very good points and of course i listen to you wholeheartedly. :)

i'd ban self voting. it makes no sense.

i'd also ban all auto-voting. anything that is repetitively is most likely abuse.

so we could target patterns of behavior that promote good posts and remove those people that are clearly just biased voters.

yes I do think your vote should be nullified if it is used automatically in anyway that isn't a human behind a computer.

people love extremes, but moderation would be needed. people downvoting just because without justification... i see that as another area that needs to be addressed, expecially since we have whales that can flog someone in revenge. i think there should be repercussions to violence (downvotes) cast without justification.

yes I think we should all be required to write an explanation.

I tried not autovoting for a week and turned it back on because those authors are authors i want to read/support and couldnt remember 150+ names.

hmm. while i laud you efforts to support so many, I question if it is the best thing for content promotion. i like people but i don't always upvote things they do. it isn't always good.

imagine then, a world in which people work hard in the beginning then just shitpost to grab the autovotes. that is the world I see, unfortunately.

i think it is just life if you don't see it, don't get to it...

I agree, although I'm currently on a few curation trails to spread my vote around (though with a fairly low percentage). Also it adds weight to a few curation projects that I trust to curate. Besides that I am manually voting so far.

In terms of the layers abuse I don't consider handling automatic voting for people you support as a top priority. Especially since it distributes the rewards more widely than not anywho.

The other point is some people auto vote to send rewards back to the author as much as possible. (Early curation window). I suppose it really is on us to audit these continuously though.

people get busy, lives move on. i love the idea of auto-curation. but I am afraid of its implications. I like the idea of curation projects (more people, less likely to fall apart or change without notice).

I have had folks do that, but then i unvoted them.
Mostly they stop posting when they dont get more support than just me.
Ive got plenty of dead accounts in my steemvoter list.

i agree that it doesn't sound like your a problem. you are so active. if everyone was as active as you we wouldn't be having this conversation!

but i'm imagining a system that isn't dependent upon people to perform their duties as they should. any system will have issues, problems.. seeking to minimize the dependence how individuals interact with the system, so no matter what they do, it is within the realm of what the platform was intended to be.

I always wondered about that actually. They could really prevent a lot of problems by not allowing it to begin with. Because just because one can easily get around it with just two accounts doesn't mean it wouldn't reduce the abuse (from people that are too lazy to do this for example).

I don't expect explanations to help very much since most people would simply write "disagree with rewards" or something. But who knows.

the idea that people will just go around it rotten indeed.

agreed that downvoting moderating would be difficult.

well. changes are needed