I was just pondering on how I would change Steem or recreate the Steem world differently if I was the lead developer of Steem. There are so many things to love about Steem but there are always going to be things that can be improved upon or I would do differently just out of preference.
I have seen quite a few different social media platforms. Most of them are fine but I could never really put my heart into them. Steem is about as close to any social media platform that I feel comfortable spending my time on. I don’t have a large following but to bring value to just a few people is still rewarding.
The greatest strength of Steem, in my opinion, is the possibility of being rewarded for adding value. Content can add value in so many different ways. Content can be informative, entertaining, beautiful, inspiring, thought provoking and many other things. Sadly, other platforms do not reward this content. The rewards end up with those running the platform and not with those that create the content. It is the content, after all, that attracts people to the platform in the first place.
I recently authored a post ‘bid bots and the possible economic implications’. In this post I discuss a solution to the excessive amount of Steem Power tied up in bots and the lack of meaningful curation. I proposed increasing curation rewards to 50%, I strongly believe this will encourage more curation simply because the rewards are higher for curators. This is a solution that fits the existing Steem paradigm of maximising returns in Steem. I want to explore a world outside this paradigm. This world, in most parts, does not exist but it is nice to play around with ideas.
What I would change
I have brainstormed a few things that I would do differently with the platform. Many of these are probably quite unrealistic but that is fine as it just a thought process in my mind and these ideas could spring something more realistic. In this post, I want to discuss changes I would make to voting and rewards. A big problem Steem faces is that the retention rate is very low; users give up very quickly. Many users feel like they don’t have a voice or cannot get noticed and therefore leave. Steem has hundrends of thousands of accounts with maximum upvotes of less than 0.01 SBD per vote. Any vote from these accounts seems insignificant and a waste of time. In my little fantasy, I want to be able to give these smaller accounts a voice without necessarily taking opportunities away from those more heavily invested.
Earn your stripes
I am calling this idea ‘earn your stripes’. I believe in demonstrating a sense of commitment and dedication to something. I think new users should be required to meet certain milestones before they can start earning on the platform. I remember when I first joined YouTube and there was a requirement to get to a thousand views before being allowed to earn money from advertising. I was not put off by this but instead I became determined to get 1000 views. I made more videos. I went to great effort to promote these videos wherever I could. I promoted these videos on both LinkedIn and Facebook. Eventually I got to the 1000 view milestone. I felt a proud sense of accomplishment and I was also happy to be able to start earning.
What I was not prepared for was the level of censorship I would face on both YouTube and Facebook (I used Facebook for much of my promotion). My videos were often considered controversial. YouTube responded by temporarily restricting advertising on these videos. YouTube eventually changed the rules on monetising to something completely out of reach. This has completely pulled my attention from YouTube. A slight barrier to earning encouraged me while a larger barrier completely put me offer. I think Steem should have some requirements in place before users can start earning but these requirements must be achievable.
So I have a few ideas regarding these milestones. If a new user acquires over 600 Steem (I will explain why this number later in the post), they can gain access to all of Steem’s earning facilitates. If the user is unwilling to buy Steem, they can instead meet several other milestones. These milestones could include the number of upvotes received on posts as well as the number of upvotes given to other content (self-votes do not count). New users could generate hundreds of posts or comments in attempt to reach these quotas; I therefore propose new users are restricted to two posts and five comments a day until all milestones are completed in order to gain full access to Steem. If a user receives a downvote that should be treated as a negative upvote (upvote requirement is then increased by 1). A flag should be counted as multiple negative upvotes (I will discuss how I would define flags later in the post).
The ‘earning your stripes’ requirement will probably reduce the number of users joining Steem but I believe this will improve the retention rate. This is because investing more time, effort and possibly money should improve commitment to the platform. The ‘earn your stripes’ idea also plays a role in my following idea in regards to voting.
Change how Steem Power affects voting
Some people support the existing stake-based voting system and some people support account-based voting. They both have their strengths and weaknesses. I am generally in favour of stake-based voting as I believe those with largest stake should be entitled to the largest say in regarding the distribution of rewards. What I propose in my version of Steem could be considered a hybrid version of stake-based and account-based voting.
The way Steem is currently setup, the value of upvotes are determined by the size of a person’s stake. A person with barely any stake has upvotes (I want to focus on upvotes for now, I will discuss downvotes later in the post) that are worth almost nothing. With upvotes worth so little, there is very little incentive to upvote or participate in the platform. At the end of the spectrum, there are accounts that give out upvotes worth over 100 SBD. This difference has created quite an imbalance in the system and a very uneven distribution of rewards.
I propose, instead of increasing the value of upvotes based on stake, to increase the number of upvotes. Currently, a new user is allowed as many upvotes as their Voting Power allows. This results in many very low value upvotes. I propose that those with the minimum Steem Power to function (free delegation of 30 Steem Power from Steemit Inc) start off with just one upvote a day. This full upvote would be worth about 0.025 Steem (I am choosing to measure upvote value in Steem rather than SBD, I did not want to complicate my explanation by including two currencies; though to be honest, I rather payouts are made in Steem and Steem Power and not SBD). As that user’s Steem Power increases, the value of that one full upvote per day increases until it has a value of 0.5 Steem. I am guessing that will occur somewhere around 600 Steem Power (this could be a bit off but let’s pretend this is accurate for the rest of this post). After this, the value of a full upvote will no longer increase. Instead the number of upvotes will increase. For example an account with 60,000 Steem Power will have 100 full upvotes a day worth 0.5 Steem each.
How it could work for whale accounts
A whale account with 600,000 Steem Power, for example, will have 1,000 upvotes a day. This appears absurdly high. It is very unrealistic to expect an account to use 1,000 full upvotes every day. I would therefore create a pool for unused upvotes. Let’s use the example of the whale account with 600,000 Steem Power. If the whale account only makes 10 full upvotes in a day. The remaining 990 full upvotes go into a pool. This pool can be accessed by any account that has ‘earned its stripes’ (see previous section) plus some additional requirements which I will discuss a little later in this post. The curation rewards for these upvotes will be split between the curator and the pool. I would recommend that the split should be about 10% to the curator and 90% to the pool. If the account holder with unused votes feels uncomfortable about letting their votes fall into a voting pool, there should be an option to delegate these votes to another account.
What should the curation rewards split be between the content creator and the curator? I will stick by my 50% curation rewards as presented in my ‘bid bots and the possible economic implications’ post. Therefore, for posts upvoted by curators using upvotes from the pool, the rewards split will 50% to content creators, 45% to the pool and 5% to the curator. The pool curation payout will be paid back to the account that supplied the unused upvotes. For example, if the pool contains 50,000 upvotes and 30,000 upvotes are used, a total of approximately 6750 Steem (30,000 × 0.5 × 0.45) would be collected for that day. If an account surrendered 990 full upvotes to the pool, this account will receive 133.65 Steem in rewards.
How it could work for minnow accounts
What about from the perspective of a smaller account. For example, an account has 6,000 Steem Power. This account can only make 10 full upvotes of 0.5 Steem in a day using the account’s Steem Power. Let’s assume those upvotes are made. The eleventh upvote will come from the pool, for this upvote the account will only receive 5% curation rewards (45% goes to the pool). This provides an incentive for smaller accounts to curate more content. There is a risk that accounts will abuse this and just upvote uncontrollably. Therefore, I propose placing a cap of 100 upvotes from the pool in a day. This number is just an example, do not take this as being definitive.
So how much in curation rewards could this account with 6,000 Steem Power earn in a day. The account will earn approximately 2.5 Steem Power (10 × 0.5 × 0.5) from own Steem Power and another 2.5 Steem Power (100 × 0.5 × 0.05) from upvoting from the pool. This works out to be about 35 Steem a week. Not many accounts with 6,000 Steem Power can earn this much from curation in the current system.
How about account’s with very little Steem Power, for example 100 Steem Power. This account, if it has earned its stripes, can make one upvote a day using its own Steem Power. This will be worth 0.083 (0.5/6). These accounts will be limited to only 10 full upvotes from the pool. It is important to encourage investment in the platform. Once an account has 600 Steem Power, the account will then become entitled to use up to 100 full upvotes from the pool, if that many upvotes are available. An account with only 100 Steem Power can still earn approximately 0.33 Steem a day; this is also considerably higher than the current system. The 10 full upvotes of 0.5 Steem will also give more meaning to this user’s experience on the platform as well.
Downvoting and flagging
I’ve talked about upvotes, how about downvotes? I think there should be an option to downvote and an option to flag. Downvoting should be used for content that the user is in disagreement with but is not considered abusive or offensive. I suggest downvotes should have equal weighting to upvotes. If an account is entitled to 100 upvotes with their own Steem Power, they should also be able to make 100 downvotes instead. I suggest curation rewards be offered to downvotes but at only 25% and not 50%. In regards to downvoting from the pool, I suggest each account is allowed only a maximum of just 5 downvotes.
So how will flagging be defined? A flag should only be used for content considered in violation of Steem community rules. Such things include using wrong tags, plagiarism, spam, scams and anything else abusive in nature. I recommend flags to not only remove rewards but to be incorporated in the trending formula. Even if a post has a very high payout value, but has received multiple flags, it will move much further down the trending lists. I do not think flagging should earn curation rewards.
Upvoting accounts that have not ‘earned their stripes’ should earn curators rewards like upvoting any content. This should apply to both upvotes and downvotes.
Promotion of content
If upvotes are going to be worth just 0.5 Steem, bid-bots are not going to function. It is still important for a reliable form of promotion to exist. Steemit has a promotion tag but that is rarely used and has been very unsuccessful. I think this has mostly to do with the layout of the platform. Users appear to go to their own feeds or the trending page rather than the promotion page. A new layout may actually help redirect users to promoted content. Another suggestion is for promoted content to appear in the feeds of those that use the same tags. For example, I use economics and contest tags very frequently. A post that has been promoted using these tags could appear in my feed. If people use the wrong tags, these posts can be flagged. Promoting using wrong tags could happen but is less likely as the promotion would be targeting the wrong accounts and could lose more rewards from downvotes and flags.
I have described the above suggestions in a rather utopian environment. I have assumed people would come here with the best intentions in their heart; sadly many do not. A minnow account with great curation opportunities could go on a self-voting spree. This could be combated by placing a limit on the number of votes an account can receive. For example, we could apply a rule that an account can receive a maximum of just two votes a day from its self or from another account; a person could be self-voting through a second account.
Someone could create multiple accounts and upvote each account. The ‘earn your stripes’ idea will make this more difficult as multiple accounts will be required to ‘earn their stripes’. By the time a user has enough accounts that have ‘earned their stripes’, the community should have become aware of this undesirable behaviour and can use downvotes and flags to combat it.
How about circle voting? All of the above described should reduce circle voting within small groups. Circle voting within large groups is going to become considerably more difficult to combat. The blockchain holds all activity on the Steem platform. A vote diversity score can be established to determine accounts that only vote within the same group. We could express this over a month for example. An account could upvote 117 accounts in March, this account could then upvote 103 accounts in April. If 65 of those accounts are the same, the account will have a diversity score of 59 (I have just assumed the following simple equation: ((117+103)/2-65)×100/((117+103)/2), this of course is very simplistic and is only being used to demonstrate my point in this post). This score could be used to affect the curation rewards obtained by that account. If an account has a diversity score below 50, a portion of their expected curation rewards will be returned to the rewards pool (this is like a declined payout). For example an account with a diversity score of 30, will only receive 60% of the curation reward (30/50). This account will only receive a curation reward of $0.15 instead of $0.25. If a pool upvote is used, the account will only receive a curation reward of $0.03 instead of $0.05. The diversity score should be displayed next to an account’s reputation score. This will give observers an indicator of both quality of content as well as diversity of curating for that account.
These are just some of the possible loopholes I see in the system when applying my suggestions out of my utopian world. Of course there are probably many more loopholes that I have not been able fathom. I welcome any comments that propose how the voting system I describe can be exploited.
Outcome in this new world
Honestly, I cannot say with any certainty what would happen if anything like what I am proposing ever got put in place. I am hoping the ‘earn your stripes’ suggestion will put off scammers and spammers as they are unable to make quick rewards but instead are either required to invest or meet particular milestones before they can fully enjoy Steem. I am hoping that my suggestions in regards to voting will greatly stimulate curation and help the best content rise to the top through a more inclusive process. These are just ideas popping out of my head. You are welcome to smash them in the comments section. All types of feedback are welcome.
I have several more ideas as to how I would change certain things in Steem. I will write a few more posts regarding these ideas. I hope you enjoyed my musing. Who knows, maybe theses ideas might actually be workable or some variation of them can become workable with the input of the Steem community.