[Vlog] Hardfork 20, Paper Witnesses and Appeal to Authority

in steem •  17 days ago


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Full disclosure

First off, full disclosure I’m a big fan of Steem and DPOS blockchains. To my mind Steem is one of a handful of decentralised Blockchain protocol that has begun to deal realistically with the challenges of scaling.

Greater scrutiny

There is one problem. In dealing with these big ticket items Steem makes itself vulnerable to criticisms that other Blockchains don’t need to worry about.

To draw a football analogy, other Blockchain are playing Sunday league kick-about in the park whilst Steem is figuring out how to implement VAR. If you don’t watch football, real football not the American stuff, go look it up. Suffice to say that if I’m critical of Steem it is from a viewpoint of Steem being in the Premier League of Blockchain technology. Anything I say against it should be viewed through that lens.

Niceties out of the way... let’s get into it.

Necessary evil

I’m not going to get in the micro details of 'Resource Credits' and 'mana' and why these things are needed for Steem to scale. Neither am I going to get into how users have been crippled in terms of posting on Steem recently.

I’m going to take that as a given.

Things mess up in technology projects and when things mess up on a public Blockchain you can’t just roll back to the previous iteration. Steem is more than just a blogging site where a few posts may be lost as a consequence of rolling back. It’s a financial transaction system. All confidence will be lost in the platform if it is known to have rolled back and undone transactions.

So we’re left in a position where Steem needs to soldier through the existing issues and it looks to be doing that.

Helicopter view

What interests me about this is a bigger question around the friction that exists between lead developers, large stakeholders and custodians of the Blockchain. This issue isn't unique to Steem and exists across many Blockchains as they mature.

In Steem, the Witnesses are the custodians and Steemit (the company) plays a duel role as both the de facto lead dev team and the largest stakeholder. Steemit also has big changes it wishes to implement on the Blockchain, most notably Smart Media Tokens (SMTs).

Paper Witnesses?

We’re therefore left in a position where the role of Witnesses is vulnerable to being seen as a rubber stamping exercise when it comes to governing changes that Steemit wants to implement on the Blockchain.

This has to change at some stage in the future if Steem is going to be considered an effective decentralised Blockchain. A mature Blockchain should be difficult to change. It should be burdensome to reach consensus on a hard fork. It shouldn’t be that the boss says “Jump” and everyone else says “How high.”

There is a danger of too much appeal to Authority on Steem that begets a centralised mindset. It's not just Steem, I've seen it with Etheruem and an appeal to the wishes of Vitalik. With EOS and an appeal to the the wishes of Dan and Block.One. Hell people in Bitcoin still appeal to the words of Satoshi even though he existed 'stage left' a long time ago. And so in Steem we need to be careful that Witnesses are just seen as conduits through which Ned and Steemit's wishes are funnelled.

Baby steps... for now

Look, in these early stage in Steem’s development we can get away with a Hardfork 20. On the basis of the ends effectively justifying the means. We can also (possibly) get away with doing everything possible to see that SMTs get implemented. We’ve come so far with SMTs that to go back would be 'as difficult as to go over' (Macbeth).

Robust governance

However beyond that I think, as a community, Steem need to up the ante on governance. As stakeholders we need to hold Witnesses to the highest standard. Running a reliable node is the base level requirement. Providing value should be a given. Due diligence and review of code changes should a minimum expectation. It should be a matter of selecting those who do this the best.

Being the largest stakeholders Steemit must resist the urge to railroad Witnesses into becoming patsy to their wishes. Even the perception of that happening is a sure fire way to diminish the value of the platform.

However having Witnesses that are visibly independent, accountable, transparent and bastions of the Blockchain strengthens Steem’s place at the forefront of public Blockchain development.

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Greetings, nanzo- scoop

Excellent post man. I think the hard fork was an introductory step to the SMT placement. I always stay here for the development of the steemit !!!

Amen. I find this post a very good summary of what I've been saying in comments all over the platform the past few days. We need away for the masses of little guys whose collective power is increasing with the ongoing STEEM inflation to organize and counterweigh the few individual heavy hitters. We have witness proxies. Further decentralization requires more political activity among the small stakeholders.

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I agree however I find that (in crypto) people are reluctant to get involved (directly) in Blockchain governance.

I saw this when The DAO was created on Ethereum. Despite all the hype around the project people weren't engaged when it came to looking at proposals.

I think having some well-versed Witness voting proxy that people can reliable use may be the best way for the 'little guy' to utilise that collective power.

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I don't think most people are even aware of what a witness proxy is. It falls on us middle-tier users to inform the rest and activate them to the extent that is realistic.

Posted using Partiko Android

I agree with this entirely and have been outspoken about not only the process of hard forks, but the perception of how they are crafted, proposed, and always accepted. (You can see my official witness posts about this on my @ats-witness account. I know you approve me, so thank you for your continued support!)

The attacks against Steem have always been centered around the notion that it’s centralized (due to the ninja-mine and the development history) and having rubber-stamping witnesses pushing through untested code pretty much validates that criticism. Whether you like the changes or not and even if the hard fork was rolled out smoothly, the perception of Steem would not be affected in any way. The concerns/criticisms are simply never addressed.

I have tried to offer views and suggestions from an investor’s/businessman’s perspective, but there seems to be little interest in attracting these types of people to this blockchain. I’m currently working on an actual project for commerce that will utilize the Steem tokens, but I’m getting practically zero interest/support from those who claim they want added utility and actual businesses.

There’s a major disconnect between what most people here say they want (decentralization, token utility, commerce, and investment) and what they actually do/support. And I think it all starts at the top with Steemit, Inc. and our witnesses.

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I agree with you about the disconnect.

I also think it is systematic of where crypto is at the moment... in the rush to create perceived value the key tenant that makes public blockchains valuable in the first place is forgotten, decentralisation. For Steem/ DPoS consensus this puts extra scrutiny on the role of Witnesses.

I think Steemit are locked into their development path, however as the largest stakeholder it is important they don't overplay their stake, else they feed the perception of Steem being centralised.

Hi @nanzo-scoop

Firstly, I can't believe this post is over 4 hours old and not a single Witness has commented so far. Allow me, speaking for @steemcommunity to be the first.

As a lower ranked witness, I must admit that the importance of code review was lost on me. I do come from a development background, but can only read python and JavaScript at a basic level. I feel this must improve if I am to take the role more seriously.

I do wonder if the issue two weeks ago regarding a vote after 6.5 days not being understood by an older version, and thus forking the chain, could have been spotted with more eyes, or thinkers. Realistically, you wouldn't need to be a coder to asses 'rule changes' like this, and how they could impact a system in which some machines weren't aware of the 'new' functionality. 'We' all had plenty of time to ponder potential effects and both Steemit inc and Witnesses, have to take some responsibility here.

Being the largest stakeholders Steemit must resist the urge to railroad Witnesses into becoming patsy to their wishes

5 patches in 5 days following the fork meant code reviews would have been brisk, and it really was just a case of following orders and the actions of the top witnesses. This didn't sit well, but I felt we had no choice here but to follow the lead.

Recent events have been a wake up call for all of us, and I hope we can learn plenty to make the blockchain stronger in future.

Cheers

Asher

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Thanks for your reply Asher. Your honesty is refreshing.

For me the issue was the degree of due diligence prior to the code being released into the Production Environment. Once issues are found, it is kind of all-hands to the pump to expedite fixes so I can understand if patches being hurried through.

While we all want to see improvements that had aid the growth of the platform, it is in my view more important that Steem doesn't become an oligarchy. If that means changes take longer to implement as a consequence than so be it.

this is what I want to hear, not the 'oh take it as you see it' approach most large stakeholders are propagating. I do understand that these measures taken are neccesary but how it was done has been the major issues. Another issue is the independence of the witnesses. we don't need witnesses who would accept anything steem inc suggests. There is need for transparency and people who have not just the interest of the blockchain but the people who use it. Everyone should be carried along. Although I have my skepticism about decentralising, only time will tell if we are making the right move as a community.

Thank you for this write up bro 👍

I agree. Although I lad the witnessing for all they do, they should be doing so much more. We are lucky we can still get away with some errors, maybe not so in the future

Through conflict arises progress:)

Great write up

Alternatively we could try coming up with a more accurate description of steem....

'A blockchain whose architecture is centrally controlled by a white male neo-liberal techno elite; while social relations on the blockchain can best be described as a dystopian fusion of capitalism and feudalism.'

Could probably be improved on....

Posted using Partiko Android

Aloha,
Thank you for writing a post on the recent Hard Fork that helps us keep things in perspective and remind us of things “under the hood” of Steemit as a “financial instrument”, which affect how and why things are done. It reminded me of when my parents would say “the adults are talking”. The adults in this case being those who understand how this blockchain and this platform work, along with the balance of power between Witnesses, Investors and Steemit, Inc. There have been several passionate and critical posts on Steemit about this Hard Fork and the negative “temporary” effects. But you acknowledge the problems and explain why there was no quick rollback and why the block chain needed to be allowed to balance itself out or equilibrium. But you also proposed how the witnesses and the Steemit might avoid such an issue in the future. I also like you pointing out that this blockchain is light years ahead of so many other altcoins. I have only been involved in crypto for 8 months and the spectrum of crypto currencies is vast with Steemit really being on the good side of the spectrum. It’s not perfect, but there are hundreds of much worsely run coins. Steemit actually stood out to me like a beacon of “innovation and progress” because of its multiple use cases, security features and Dapps. I think we expect a lot here and that’s one of the things which made HF 20 so disappointing.
Anyway, I may have written to much already. Thank you, I learned something about the “macro picture”, the “balance of power” and “keeping things in perspective”.

Stay awesome
@shortsegments

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This picture is how I feel about this platform, this blockchain and cryptocurrency in general. I feel like I am peering into a great expanse like the sky. There is much to learn and much to comprehend. Thanks for giving me some insight into a portion of the sky here above Steemit.
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Nice comment and thanks for resteeming this post, so I could find it.😊

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Your welcome

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Damn man, you write a really good review on this article which made me come here to see for myself. And dam Nanzo-scoop stood up and delivered the real deal. But then you write this kick ass comment. Shit Man you write to well and work to hard. You going places if you stay on the straight and narrow !!!! I am feeling inadequete here compared to you and Nanzo man. I mean Nanzo is a damn Orca and he sounding all like Solomon and shit. No offense Nanzo man, that’s a compliment. Then you working your ass off here. I gotta up my game, keep your eyes peeled on my blog, cause you two done shone me the light.
Later

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I hope nobody minds me hitting all the posts here man, I am just a Plankton try to collect some curation crumbs.

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Hello
I couldn’t post or comment when the hurricane Hardfork20 hit the platform. 😡
It was like a Minnow blackout! 😱
We couldn’t even complain cause the powers that be had us muted.🤯
But hey it was just a hiccup, and they gave me? Enough RC to get back in business.
So I am trying to accentuate the positive here👍
I understand what your saying, these bitter pills were necessary to make us stronger to withstand the trials to come. We are strong enough to shrug off these small scrapes, but we need to learn so we don’t take larger and more serious falls in the future.

I hope people with power are listening cause the world doesn’t get any easier to deal with and the problems we encounter don’t get smaller.
Thanks for keeping it real and helping me stay on point.
Stay awesome

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Hello @shortshots,
I am @smallbites, and I must say I found your post very interesting. Your language is very colorful and at times your prose is for adults only. But it is clear to those with eyes to see and minds to think that you are a very bright man. I enjoyed your colorful, yet insightful writing. I do hope you will continue to write because your writing is not just colorful, but insightful. While I must admit that I may not grasp the full meaning of your metaphors, the spirit and intent is clear.
Secondly, I share your admiration for the achievements of the author Nanzo-scoop as an Orca on Steemit Platform and I thoroughly enjoyed your King Solomon metaphor. I am sure that one as wise as Nandi-scoop would take no offense at the comparison.
Lastly, please allow me to be so bold as to say your wallet size, your prose, your diction and your volume of posts don’t make you inadequete, they just make you a smaller stakeholder and the owner of a shorter publication list. You can be great if you develop your current talents and skills and I for one think that the platform will be a better place when you realize your potential.

Hi @nanzo-scoop,
I am @smallbites and I watched your video and read your article.
Thank you for writing this piece, it helps reassure us new little Steemians that these Hardforks are not always smooth, but we get through them.
I like so many small Steemians experienced a loss of functionality. My experience was I could post and comment, but it was very limited and after some “transactions” I was out of resource credits and I could no longer pay to play. It was a bit annoying, but I am new, I still feel like a guest, so I don’t wish to complain. But I certainly understand why others do.

I also liked the way you explained the three heads of our leadership and explained why each should respect the roles of each other. I hope that as you allude to in your article the administrators of Steemit have been watching, listening and learning. I hope Hardfork 21 will be more of a celebration.
Goodbye for now.
@smallbites

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Hi
I followed a link from another blog, where the writer wrote a commentary about this article. I greatly appreciate you explaining things about Steemit and the three branches of leadership here. I trust your calm voice, which assures me that problems happen, we try to learn and move on.
I experienced some shocking difficulties with this Hard Fork: I couldn’t post, I couldn’t comment and couldnt complain 😃
But it has worked itself out and here I am posting again.
I will remind my friends that that this is a good platform and it may one day be a great platform, it just needs to learn from its experiences and get better.

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I am upvoting and resteeming this article.

This is awesome buddy! Love this shot!

Great video to check out and lot of thing to learn for steemit for a bright future ahead we are in the early stage development and the road ahead will get more complicated time to start learning

Hi @ nanzo-scoop have you joined the new Weku.io platform exactly the same as Steemit
Almost all steemit users join there

Re-steemed

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This is the reference if you want to see
https://deals.weku.io/pick_account?referral=siatteuk

I am relatively new to Steemit and never really been interested in the cryptocurrency side of things really. But the blockchain does interest me and so when back at the LCC I started asking about how it works and @breadcentric explained to me about witnesses I was initially skeptical because it did sound very centralised and not how I imagined a decentralised system should be.

Essentially I see the solution as being a cross between sortition and election. in so much that if you can prove you are a good steward because you have demonstrated it to be so then you weighted in favour of remaining that way, but that demographic should not control all aspects of the chain and random people should have the opportunity to demonstrate , with some help, how the too can fulfill that role.

I know it is not quite as simple as I make out but coming from an point of view that if those who want to rule really ought not to be able to rule it is better to share the power so no one person can derail things for everyone else.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts and good to know people are thinking and talking about it.

hard fork 20 looks like the rc thing is finally calming down :-) steem is the most productive chain I think :D

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