This is a follow up to a post I made a couple days ago. The idea was very well received by the community which encouraged me to dig even deeper into it and explore different possibilities. Some feedback and comments have been very useful for me to come up with what I believe would be the best design for steem.
Before we get into the actual proposal I want to explain why I think steem in its current form will have a very difficult time to go viral and reach mainstream adoption. I will then explain how the proposal addresses all of these issue.
Steem is still very complexe and difficult to understand
Steem is still very confusing and hard to grasp for people. These are the kind of questions users often ask themselves: Why do all the votes on my post come up at the 30 min mark ? Why does this post with 20 votes have higher reward than this one with 180 votes? How can my post have 4 views and 70 votes? Why did I receive a smaller payout than what was advertised on my post? Why do most comments have no rewards? What is a curation guild and why should I care ? Why isn't counter moving up when I upvote things ? Users shouldn't have to ask any of this.
Steem price is held back by flawed incentives
Like I said in part 1, the current set up is totally meaningless to the average user. The incentive to buy steem and power up in order to gain more influence is clearly not working. 99.8% of steemians have basically no influence in the system. They would have to spend huge amount of money to be influential.
I like to compare steem power as upgrades and power ups options in video games because they have a lot of similarities. These options are how game developers get paid, they are the source of their revenue. Now imagine if these things would cost a fortune to acquire nobody would buy them and game developers would go broke. Steem is no different, it needs a revenue model to sustain itself, if no one buy steem power steem the token will end up worthless.
Steem is not scalable
The vast majority of the steem power is held into very few hands, 0.2 % of steemians own 85% of the total voting power.
The narrative has always been , just give it time it is going to redistribute itself. This is false. I have written an entire article explaining how the redistribution of power will be a perpetual issue due to the price increase. You can read more about it here
https://steemit.com/steemit-ideas/@snowflake/what-if-i-told-you-i-ve-uncovered-a-top-secret-community-this-community-is-so-secretive-that-if-you-want-to-work-your-way-up-its . The higher the price of steem the harder it will be for people to gain influence in the system, this also reduces the incentives for people to buy steem power which is another problem.
Also one thing that has been overlooked is the fact that whales will often sell their share to buy it back at a cheaper price.
Here is a quote from @abit which is very telling :
If I see there is an opportunity that I can buy back same stake at a lower price, or I think the price will go down and have little chance to come back in the future, I'll sell some for sure.
By doing this whales increase their power and influence in the platform. I quoted @abit here but he is definetely not the only whale doing this. This is the mindset of pretty much every trader, but whales are more successfull doing it because they have the money to move the market.
Curation guilds are a good initiative, they have done a lot to improve reward distribution but they are not a real solution. These guilds do not incentivize people to buy steem power, they make the system even harder to understand and they take the natural process of upvoting away from users. They are also a centralized solution and not accessible to everyone. Don't expect people to submit post so they can be voted on , this concept is flawed for mainstream adoption.
A scalable design also means that the system can accommodate all users. More specifically that users are able to send themselves a few cents without having a whales swimming around.
Facebook records about 40k post every second, can you imagine 200 whales or maybe a few thousands going through 40 000 post per second? The day this happens this is how they are going to look like
Steem is run by bots
Bots are just the manifestation of a broken system. To me a bot vote is like a fake vote, it is meaningless especially to the content creator. You might say it is not totally insignificant because it adds a payout but when you get 100+ votes and a mere couple cents added...most people would take 100 real views over a few cents any day of the week.. How can steemit earn the reputation of being a site for quality content when most of it is voted by bots?
Steem is not fun
There is no real excitement in being part of steem because 99.8% of users can't play the game or don't understand the rules.
Steem is like playing a video game , being stuck at level 8 and being required to pay $10 000 to get access to level 9. Actually it's even worse than this because on steem you never even get to go to level 1, you are just stuck and so you leave the game.
Here is a quote from @son-of-satire who definetely gets it
I really like your line of thinking, and empowering the minnows would most definitely have a positive effect on the community. It must be so satisfying clicking the upvote button and seeing that you have given someone else a reward. I imagine that would get addictive before long, and people would want more and more STEEM power to increase how much of a reward they can give.
Give the minnows some power, some purpose, and they will give so much more back to the platform. More minnows will arrive wanting a piece of that power for themselves, and they will stay once they have had a taste of it. Many of them will love it so much that they will invest their own money into STEEM so that they can award people with a dollar, or two, or three, achieving a higher level of gratification each time.
People are sick of centralized power. It's all around society and people have had enough. If Steemit can find a way to decentralize the influence, then we will see people swarm in by the millions. That's what I think at least.
I totally agree with @son-of-satire and he is 100% right. Steem has the potential to be something so much better, we could create a whole different dynamic where steem power becomes addictive to people, the more they buy the higher the steem price goes, the bigger they can give with it and so they will want even more. That's how you create a steady demand flow.
The steem power token was meant to be a tool to enable people to reward each other so why are only 0.2% of people able to use this tool?
I want to propose a totally different design, one that will re-align the incentives with the vast majority of steem users, create a more scalable system, fuel demand for the steem token and make steem more fun and engaging. This proposal will also address the bot issue and make the system a lot easier to understand for newbies.
The idea is very simple.
2 categories of user will be created : Users and moderators.
Users (all accounts < $8000)
Users can upvote/downvote as usual
Users won't receive any of the inflation nor will they receive curation rewards.
Users will just upvote for the things they like and downvote for the thing they don't like.
Users's voting influence will be proportional to the steem power that they have.
Moderators (all accounts > $8000 )
Moderators can only downvote ( moderate ) content
Moderators will receive inflation proportionally to how many steem power they have.
Funds that were previously allocated to curation reward will be distributed to moderators in proportion to their steem power.
I don't know what exact inflation percentage should go to moderators but we could always increase it if the incentive to remain in that category isn't strong enough.
Basically only moderators will receive inflation, they will have a financial incentive to use their account to moderate only.
Moderators who still want to use their steem power to upvote content will be able to do so by splitting their account, but they won't receive any financial reward when doing so and their vote might get moderated ( especially if they abuse it).
What interface changes would be needed to accomodate the new system ?
- First of all I think we should replace the word downvote with moderation vote.
At the blockchain level a downvote has only one purpose, reducing the rewards, which is why I think a moderation vote is more suited. It is also important that users do not misinterpret the action of moderators. Downvote has a bad connotation that I think we should get away from. Moderators will be the guardians of the platform, they will ensure that the best content gets the best reward and that everyone is fairly compensated, this adds tremendous value to the site and has a lot of merit.
- Payout amount information should not be visible on the interface until it's actually paid out, the only information visible on a post during voting period should be users's upvotes/downvotes and the amount one’s own vote added to the payout. The purpose of this feature is to hide moderators's action during voting period.
Moderators vote should not be visible on the interface at all, not even after reward was paid out.
A post during the voting period would look like this. Below you can see I have added 5 cents to this post but have no idea what the payout is or will be.
The total payout will be revealed only when voting period ends.
- A report button on posts would be useful to facilitate moderators's work. This is not really needed right now but when moderators are hit with 40 000 posts per sec you will understand its usefuleness.
I'm sure you have noticed that in the proposal curation rewards have been removed entirely. Let me explain the reasonning behind the decision. First let's see what steemit says about them.
Earn STEEM by being the first to upvote popular content
Every post submitted to STEEM is voted upon by users. These votes help other users identify content that is worth their limited attention and bring significant value to the platform. Steem recognizes that sifting through the abundance of new submissions is work that deserves to be rewarded.
So essentially curation rewards have been created to help sort good content from trash content. But is this really a problem? When you go on other forums are you overwhelmed with garbage that you can't view the great content? No. Do you usually see crap articles on the reddit trending board? No. This is because upvoting good content is a natural behaviour, people will do it regardless of the incentives. To me curation rewards are trying to solve a problem that really don't exist and they bring with them a lot of bad incentives.
For example curators are encouraged to vote early, more precisely around the 30 min mark in order to earn the highest curation reward, this has turned the platform into a completely fake system where everything is run by bots and driven by money.
Curation rewards is also the cause of the general users confusion
See what I wrote earlier
These are the kind of questions newbies ask themselves: Why do all the votes on my post come up at the 30 min mark ? How can my post have 4 views and 70 votes? Why do most comments have no rewards?
All of this is caused by curation rewards.
As you can see a problem also caused by these rewards is that nobody votes for comments because users have no financial interest in doing so. What once used to be a natural behaviour has now become a restricted one..steemit created curation rewards to improve content selection but the incentives made it worse.
If you want the best content the last thing you want is have bots sort it instead of humans. Bots are programmed to vote for posts that will earn the highest curation rewards not the highest quality content. The only reason bots havn't turned this place into complete shit yet is because there are still real humans running them. You know what curation rewards remind me of? A bribe. You basically vote for something not because it's good but because you will earn something out of it if you do, a bit like lobbying a politician.
So how does this proposal address all of the issues referenced above. Let's go through them one by one
- steem is still very complexe and difficult to understand
It will remove all the complexity, particularly the one introduced by curation rewards. It would make the system a lot more familiar to what users are used to on other forums and social media site.
- steem price is held back by flawed incentives
The proposal will re-align the incentives with the vast majority of users, they will finally have a good reason to buy steem power and understand the purpose of buying it.
- steem is not scalable
It will allow steem to instantly adapt and handle any increase in the amount of posts/users. Not a single quality content post will be left without payout because at least a few people will see it and vote for it ( every vote will now make a difference) The report button will facilitate moderator's work by bringing overpaid content to light.
- steem is run by bots
Most bots will go extinct the minute curation rewards are removed. Some users may still be running them to make sure their favorites authors gets their votes everytime but bots won't be a nuisance like they are today.
- steem is not fun
Following the analogy made earlier in the post, new users will be at level 1 by default. In other words their vote would and should be worth at least 1 cents when they register so they understand the rules and get a real taste of the game straight away. Steem power should be like a product that you want to sell, you give users a free degustation or a free trial so they come back for more.
The proposal will also solve a few other issues :
It will increase comment voting, no longer will users want to preserve their voting power to vote for something that will earn them curation reward. Voting power will be seen as something that you spend and buy more of. The devs wouldn't have to create a seperate pool for comment reward (which I consider band aid solution similar to curation guilds), people would just upvote comments instinctively.
It will solve the issue where a steem price increase would make gaining influence more and more difficult which would reduce incentive to buy steem power overtime. The $8000 number that seperates users from moderators is an arbitrary number and could be increased or decreased, this will allow steem to realign incentives if necessary as the platform grows and always meet users expectations.
Hidding payout amount as innocent as it seems, will turn out to be a big positive for steem. It will make the site a lot less focused on the money aspect and a lot more fun to be part of.
I've been thinking about these issues a lot, I've tried to offer some alternative solution but most of them were vulnerable to sybil attacks. I am convinced that such design would work as intended.
Everyone needs to understand that a system like this would benefit us all including the whales. Whales really will not lose much as they could still split their account if they really wanted to use their voting power to vote. It's just that the incentives will be constructed in a way that makes it not the most attractive option.
I've always said that if we want steem to evolve there will have to be some trade offs along the way. I believe this one is very good because it doesn't take away much from anyone . Essentially what the proposal says is that you either curate and have power or moderate and have money, but it also gives power to moderators because they will still have the same voting weight that they currently have that they can use to moderate content.
A design like this would be really easy to implement and could be tested on the real network without any code modification, all it would take is 'moderators' to stop upvoting for 24 hours and see how users vote and moderation is handled.
Users sceptical with regards to the motives behind me wanting the change just need to look at my wallet, this proposal would put me in the moderators category and I am also subscribed to biophil's bot so you would think removing curation rewards and bots from the system is the last thing I want to do. It is NOT because I understand all the positives that would come out of that and see the bigger picture.
Devs want to make steem as simple as possible, you can't get simpler than this and the fact that the proposal happens to solve so many issues all at once tells me it's the right path forward.
People use social media spontaneously as a way to document their lives or share experiences and moment with friends,etc..social media is all about natural interactions, to me it was always a bad idea to mix money with social media, because I thought it would take away some of the authenticity and genuineness. If you want money to be integrated in a social website it needs to be abstracted as much as possible so it doesn't become the primary focus of the whole site. Steemit has turned the social media experience into a weird thing where people discuss, flag, bots, whales,etc....sure some people may like it here but in the current form steemit is not ready for prime time.
Please share, resteem and make your voice heard if you want to see this happening. I am only one voice among many.