Fundamental Steem Issues and How to Solve Them - Reputation
The ongoing discussion about Steem matters has reached the most engagement I have ever seen from the community during the past two years (in my highly subjective opinion of course). I’m working tirelessly on my own ideas and proposals, but it hit me recently that I need to structure the whole processing better in order for the information to be easily digestible.
Last week I started off with my opinions about the Steem value and what could we do (and do NOT) to further boost the direct monetary value of our token. It was a good start I guess. At least I have something to drive forward from.
Fundamental Steem problems
Now it’s time to take a look at our fundamental problems. It’s of course impossible to improve anything without knowing what the problem is or what causes the problem. At the same time every system has millions of problems, ranging from the really small ones to the fundamental ones. Now I’m not going to pretend that I fully understand what Steem is and where it can still evolve but I think that I have quite good overall understanding. Thus said I probably won’t be able to pinpoint all the fundamental problems (or even those that still may arise) but I believe that those that will be stated truly are a huge problem for our community if they remain unsolved. The very next article from this series will tackle the worker proposal problem (or rather lack of it) to contribute to the most pressing and online discussion we currently have on Steem. But let me finish the one I have been analysing for a while now first – the reputation.
Table of content
Broken reputation system
The importance of reputation system
Let’s face it. The reputation system that Steem uses is totally broken. Let me though start with an explanation of the importance of having a good working and trusted reputation algorithm. Decentralized communities by design lack any monopoly-like authority that would “guard” its users from “evil” actions. Our systems are fully opt-in/opt-out, or in other words voluntary. In voluntary systems the users can do any imaginable action that is not in direct contradiction with the protocol’s code that they “signed up” to (those would be consensually denied).
Now it is of course our goal to create a protocol that wouldn’t allow any actions that could harm the platform as a whole. Frankly speaking we are very far from that goal (if it even is reachable), even though we are reaching it at a faster pace than the current analog governance models. When we make peace with the fact that bad actors are still going to be around for a while, we should realize that efficient reputation system is a must have.
For those that do not find this statement so obvious, here is an explanation. Reputation system allows the users to personally distinguish between good and bad players where the code itself lacks the ability. Users can then with minimal effort contribute to the reputation system and allow others to learn, who is not support-worthy, or on the other hand who has been a valuable asset to the system. There really is no limit to the depth of the reputation algorithms. Technically they can be very complex and hard to digest systems. The more complex they are the more options for the users they unlock and the harder they are to game.
In a sense, reputation systems can be perceived as an extension of the code that (ideally partially) gives the ability to decide whom is good and whom is bad for the platform back to the users.
Gimmicky reputation system
Steem’s reputation system could be a definition of a gimmicky system. Every decentralized social platform needs a reputation system, therefore it wasn’t unexpected that Steem was introduced with a reputation system of its own. In fact, it used to be effective. It actually was a great system that could have been further improved. But Steem evolved somewhere, where the reputation system no longer remained effective.
Back then with a non-linear reward curve, it did seem like it could do its job well one day. It quite accurately showed, who was engaging on the platform frequently and who was admired by early investors. Those with higher reputation influenced the reputation even further which was also a great addition to the algorithm. It wasn’t perfect but every algorithm has to start somewhere. The problem was that the founders and ninja premines could have been influencing the numbers way too much. Nowadays the reputation system is totally destroyed by bidbots. You know that the reputation system doesn’t work when any user can buy ANY amount of reputation points by cycling liquid funds through bidbots. Ever since the introduction of bidbots current reputation system became a gimmicky one with minimal use cases.
Its current use cases
There are currently minimal use cases for our reputation system. I personally came up with only one. Current reputation system can be used to analyse who remains active on the platform and receives some rewards for their troubles over time. When I analysed with whom I interacted 2 years ago I learned that old reputation numbers were not recognized by the Blockchain. I learned that vast majority of the users I interacted with back then have currently reputation over 65 – meaning they mostly remained active on the platform. Only handful of them got stuck below reputation 60. It’s possible to learn something from the data, but that “something” is in no way connected to what could be perceived as reputation.
Is there any substitution?
For quite some time the community didn’t feel the need to work on a new (and ideally working) reputation system. Who could blame us anyway? There are and were more pressing issues. I would though argue that the sooner we have new and working reputation system online, the sooner our whole platform will look more reputable for new investors and users in general. There would be more ranks to climb (motivation for users to behave on the platform). It would make the life of every single user on the platform easier (finding collaborators, entrusting someone with delegations, or even upvoting someone).
Currently there is only one project that tried to come up with new reputation system - @steem-ua. It basically gives the strength to decide who is reputable to the block producers (witnesses). A “reputation network” was thus created. Follows casted by block producers entrusts the followed users with reputation. Then again, those with higher reputation can bestow more reputation to other users. Follow is therefore not only used to improve our feeds anymore, but to entrust users with reputation (I use words like entrust or bestow because one can at any time unfollow the user and remove his reputation immediately). Early premines and founders can theoretically still influence the reputation a lot, but they cannot do it directly anymore. They can vote witnesses in, but they cannot control the actions (follows) of those witnesses.
I would highly recommend Steem interfaces to test @steem-ua out. There is really no use for the current reputation system. It doesn’t represent anything nowadays. We should give new projects a chance. If we want others to arise we need to implement the current efforts. The interfaces can trully only gain something by testing out new reputation models, for the old one doesnt provide any value whatsoever.
I am also working with academic colleges on a new reputation system for scholarly communication via Steem and Academia project. The system will be complex, robust and will use metrics that do not have on-chain representation. Nevertheless it could be customized to suit the Steem’s needs. The project will soon be presented to Steem community and I would love it to gather engagement in discussions about potential future Steem reputation like it does now regarding the worker proposal!
What do you think about reputation in general? Do we need such a system? Do you have any old proposals or new ideas? Share them with me:).