Why Steem WitnessMinerGate is a Big Deal and Why You Should Care

in steem •  last year

Some weeks ago, when I wrote about several Steem(it) projects for Steemians to track their perfomance, I wrote:

We have no problems with ads ourselves, and may or may not use ads on some of our projects, but as they so eloquently say in Flemish: Trop is te veel.

Too much is too much. Which in this case not necessarily refers to the insertion of ads, but the integration of a website coin-miner. Without opt-in, albeit with opt-out.

As a Steemian who uses ad blockers, we honestly couldn't care. As a pro-user warrior, we struggle to promote projects which unsolicitedly hijack CPU cycles. Which is a pity because we actually do like Steem.supply's functionality a lot.

Surely, for developing Steemians and witnesses, there must be more creative ways to use small projects as side-marketing, rather than hijack CPU cycles.

Since, the story has finally caught the attention and several people have written about it and were upvoted en masse and resteemed by influential Steemians.

Go check out the two most popular posts about this: @julienbh's post and @themarkymark's post.

As can be seen in the comments on each post, public opinion and also the opinion of both influential Steemians and top witnesses is damning.

Damning, to say the least.

The operator of the service and bowser coinminer himself though, witness @dragosroua, is remorseless and even offensive about it:

Now, back to our intro: did I announce this publicly? Yes, it's in the blockchain. Is there a full disclosure about this? Yes. Go check it out, but try to have the ad-blocker disabled. An ad-blocker kinda defeats the purpose of letting announcements like this passing through.

So it's public and fully disclosed. And it's more than 2 months old. It's immutably stored in the blockchain.

What he doesn't highlight though, despite pointing at a footer banner, is that his script by default implies that each site visitor opts in.

Jar Meet Cookies, Imply Hand


Which means that those operating on older desktop systems are hit by a higher electricity bill when visiting @dragosroua's site. Without being asked if they want to consume more electricity. Because the website hijacks CPU cycles and less powerful systems will operate at higher load if like most browser coinminer scripts JSEcoiner taxes only x% load.

Now imagine you are running a super powerful octo-core CPU system and a browser coinminer taxes your system for 90% of all available processing power. You better not live in the country with the most expensive electricity in the world.

As mentioned before already, all this happens without prior consent given by the user because the script operates on an opt-out basis alone. When simply visiting the site, without needing to adhere to any terms whatsoever, the site operator, and Steem witness, considers a form of consent. De facto.

An ethical form even because some months ago he actually wrote about his experiment, somewhere down the feed of his post archives and eternalised somewhere on the blockchain.

So it's public and fully disclosed. And it's more than 2 months old. It's immutably stored in the blockchain.

Then what are we talking about here?


I'll let you be the judge over whether that is ethical behavior or not. I'm sorry if you missed his announcement posts because you don't follow him or landed on his mined site via a link from another Steemian. He did post about it.

You suck. Simple as.

Opt-out for you it is. Or pay with CPU cycles. Simple as, again.

Update: A pop-up notification about the implementation of the coinminer has been added now. Yet, it is still based on an opt-out only method and to be entirely honest, the wording is such that the non-technically inclined user will not necessarily understand what is happening.

Why This Matters to the Steem Ecosystem

Things are of bigger importance than an implied consent upon site visit and some hijacked CPU cycles though.

We are talking about a witness, a witness who on his service Steem.supply actively advertises as witness and asks for witness votes.

What are Steem witnesses?
The Steem blockchain requires a set of people to create blocks and uses a consensus mechanism called delegated proof of stake, or DPOS. The community elects 'witnesses' to act as the network's block producers and governance body. There are 20 full-time witnesses, producing a block every 63-second round. A 21st position is shared by backup witnesses, who are scheduled proportionally to the amount of stake-weighted community approval they have. Witnesses are compensated with STEEM Power for each block they create. [Source: Steemit FAQ]

Key terms: The community elects 'witnesses' to act as the network's block producers and governance body. Emphasis mine.

This means that Steem witnesses need to, and do, decide over the future of the Steem blockchain, as a democracy. As such we, Steemians, need to be able to blindly trust witnesses, especially because this is an economy and one which always more people depend on.

Transparency matters.

Transparency matters, by which, of course, I mean: doing the right thing matters. Not black hat, not grey hat, not assuming. The g*dd*amn right thing and only that.

If we allow our witnesses to operate on a basis of if you had done your homework you would have seen I wrote about this somewhere and on the assumption that we are de facto OK with this, then we are doomed.

If we popularize that witnesses promote how to get larger returns from curation than most Steemians ever will, and as such allow and promote that other Steemians get less from the rewards pool everybody shares, then we are doomed.

Doomed because we allow those who form our governance body to put their own profit ahead of the health and future viability of the Steem ecosystem. Short-term profits at that.

We allow them to create and cultivate a culture in which, eventually, everyone will be forced to look only at short-term gains. Eventually undermining the longevity of the the Steem blockchain.

It's like fighting for years for social progress and then electing some super greedy, self-centric being which ruins every progress ever made within weeks only.

The Steem community and ecosystem are a society on and around the Steem blockchain. Just like in real life you are free to chose who you elect, we are free to and insist that each candidate and governing official is held accountable.

We are obliged to hold our candidates accountable. Obliged because unlike in the Prisoner's Dilemma the Steem blockchain, as is, rewards short term profits exponentially mid- and long-term.

Hold them accountable correctly, transparently and ethically. This means we shall not insult them, call them names but we shall at any given time call them out on so-called grey- and blackhat behavior and let their constituents know.

Because if we don't, the Steem ecosystem is doomed.

Because transparency and ethics matter. Not short-term pofits and most definitely not arrogance nor attitude.

Witnesses should report to us and listen to both our needs and complaints. We shall, and need to, hold them accountable in every step of the process because they are in position, and hold the power, to define the future of the Steem blockchain.

To define Our Future.

Let's do the right thing and lest we not forget to hold our candidates, witnesses accountable.

Leadpic photo credit: Gabriela Rodriguez on Unsplash

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I'm all for transparency. If the witness has somehow mislead the punters it should be noted. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

Awesome post! I should be more informed into what the witnesses are doing. I know they explain and give reports but I'm not participating in the discussion