STEEM vs EOS - Build Bridges not Fences?
This post began as a comment on the post below by @donkypong but it was getting out of hand, so I decided to create a new post.
Basically it's a post about not voting for Steem Witnesses if they are also EOS Block Producers.
I understand the argument (s)he makes but I think that in many ways it and the arguments posed by many of the commenters confuse two related but ultimately separate reasons why you might vote for a witness or upvote a post. Technology vs Community.
In my day job I work for a large multinational as an infrastructure architect/engineer, over the years I have operated and built infrastructure for many companies. These days I’m more focused on designing the underlying infrastructure on which to run various services. I’m telling you this because I think looking through that lens, the lines between Steem, Steemit the website and the Steemit community may be a little less blurred for me than for many. Let me try to briefly explain the difference as I see it. Then I’ll get into why I think individuals working with EOS or any other blockchains are not being disloyal to, or creating a conflict of interest with the community.
What is Steemit?
From a technical point of view the Steemit website is a glorified block explorer for the Steem blockchain but that’s the cold technical view.
The real Steemit that we all know and love is less tangible, it’s a community or perhaps it could be better described as a group of communities existing together in (relative) harmony. It’s about getting rewarded for your work instead of giving it to corporations for free, letting them reap the benefits if that work and enriching themselves by bombarding us with advertising. It’s a few others things to other people too but you get the point.
What is Steem?
Steem is a blockchain, it is part of the infrastructure behind the scenes that make the Steemit community possible. To boil it down to its core, it’s basically a fancy database application but with one important difference from the databases behind most websites. It’s immutable! Regardless, it’s software and as such it is nothing more than a tool…a means to an end.
I could go on all day about this but that is not the point of this post, if you want to take a closer look at the difference between Steem and Steemit I would strongly encourage you to read the excellent post by @lukestokes below.
What is a witness?
As I have said, at the end of the day Steem is a software application and like any other software application it needs server hardware to run on. Unlike most other software, immutability is a core feature, there is also a requirement in this context for decentralisation. That is where the witnesses come in, they provide the hardware and expertise necessary to run this software application. By having many witnesses running it on multiple servers in multiple places controlled by multiple independent entities, decentralisation is achieved and immutability is guaranteed. (Yes, I realise the system is not perfect in that regard but that’s a different conversation altogether)
What is EOS and its Block Producers how does that differ from Steem and its Witnesses?
EOS will be just another blockchain like Steem on many ways, it along with the block producers (the EOS equivalent to a Steem witness) will provide the backend infrastructure for other applications and/or communities. Without getting into the various features the main difference is that EOS is designed to be general purpose, where it could run a website & community like Steemit side by side with a decentralised exchange like Bitshares as well as a multitude of other DAPPS all providing vastly different services to their respective communities, users or customers.
WTF does all this have to do with voting for a Witness?
In my opinion in addition to having a reputation for being reliable, there is an overriding factor that should be taken into account when choosing to cast a vote for a witness. They must have the technical ability to provide the infrastructure in a reliable and secure way. If someone does not have this ability or can’t at least partner up with someone that does, then they have no business putting themselves forward for the job. It doesn’t matter how good of a community champion that they are.
However, there are far more people that do have this capability then there are witness slots that can at least break even after costs. So for me, once the above boxes are ticked, I look for people that also bring other skills to the table. Maybe thats the community related work which appears to be the forte of @sircork for example, for others it’s creating or maintaining tools that add value for everyone @jesta is the example that springs to mind here.
The arguments against voting for people that perform the task of being a Steem witness and an EOS Block Producer
From what I have seen there are two basic arguments
Conflict of interest.
This appears to be the core argument against voting for a “double dipping” witness put forward in the aforementioned post by @donkeypong can be summed up from this quote
“Finally, witnesses are not merely running some esoteric code. They are the governors of our blockchain, who vote (or >not) to adopt any proposed updates. They are trustees who have a fiduciary duty to uphold the best interests of Steem.”
I understand where this argument comes from but I think in reality it vastly overstates the position of witnesses when it comes to governance. Others in the comments likened witness to board members in companies or politicians, again this vastly overstates the power that witnesses appear to actually have. Board members and such make decisions and set policy, it seems witnesses in practice do not. @timcliff has alluded to it in one or two of his recent posts, Steemit Inc holds all the keys. The witnesses can lobby them to go in a particular direction and maybe they listen. Those with the requisite skills can put in the work to code a feature but that code will only go live if Steemit Inc allows it to.
The only other thing they can do is refuse to allow a hard fork to go ahead but that can’t be stopped by one or two witnesses and any conflict of interest that exists at that point would be very obvious to all. At that point the tick gets removed from the "reliable" box and they should be dropped off the witness list like stones. I really don't expect this one to come to pass.
They can’t have enough time to be a witness and a block producer.
This mainly came up in the comments and I have to call bullshit. Being a Steem witness requires you to operate between one and a small handful of servers. If that is taking up all of someones time, they are doing something wrong. AFAIK many witnesses have day jobs, if anyone has issues with time it's those. The other examples of the voting criteria that I used above also take a great deal of time but it’s not the time people put in that matters, it’s results. If some genius of a witness can build an amazing tool that will bring value to the community for the next 10 years, it doesn’t really matter if it took him weeks or he did it in the lunch break while simultaneously curating good content and baking a cake. It’s either a valuable tool or it is not. If the extra value they bring to the community that made me vote for them dries up, I will remove my vote then, in the meantime they get the benefit of the doubt.
In conclusion & the thing about techies
In many professions you can learn your trade and plod along learning the odd new thing as you go. For any real techie that is not true, we must always learn new things and work with the latest tech because new tech turns to old tech and becomes obsolete so fast you are always working to keep up, or you too will become obsolete. It is also important in my opinion not to focus entirely on a single technology…or work for the same company for too long. For innovation to continue, these people need to be exposed to different environments or they just get stuck in a rut. That’s part of the reason I like to work for a professional services company, I get exposed to different customers environments, see different tech, or the same tech deployed in different ways and get to experience first hand which way works better in which situation.
Forcing the tech types in particular to choose between Steem and EOS or whatever will do far more harm than good in my opinion. Without these people to build tools like steemdb, essentially adding features by the back door, the community would be 100% at the mercy of Steem Inc…now maybe they will release the mythical SMTs, redesign the UI, fix the on boarding process and the user retention problems along with a slew of new features but I’m not holding my breath. I’ve been around for almost a year now and I have not seen any progress whatsoever that didn’t come from the community. A year is a long time in any part of the tech sector, in the crypto space it’s an eternity.
Given the history, maybe there is no hope for Steemit Inc and BlockOne to ever be anything but competitors. The communities don’t need to be in competition though, this is global there is room for two pieces of software and room for people that use and work with more than one too. You can use Steemit and not even be aware you are using a blockchain, maybe we will end up supporting this community using bits of both blockchains in the background while many are not even aware of it. Build bridges not fences.