Interview a Steem Stakeholder Series - Interview with @donkeypong (500,000+ STEEM Stakeholder)
The Interview a Steem Stakeholder Series is a project to help inform the community about the views of the largest Steem stakeholders. The goal is to help "regular users" better understand the views of the largest stakeholders on the platform, so they can better align their actions with what the stakeholders are looking for.
In this post, @donkeypong (a stakeholder with over 500,000 STEEM) answered several questions about his views on the Steem platform and community. Below are the questions that were asked and responses from the interview.
Keep in mind that the stakeholders are individuals, and not all of them will share similar views. The views expressed in the interview are the views of the one stakeholder conducting the interview. They are not intended to represent the views of all stakeholders.
The Interview with @donkeypong
How did you become a part of the Steem project?
Early in my journey through cryptocurrency, I decided that Bitcoin and the Litecoin clones would not be the ones. The mining is too wasteful and that’s not sustainable. Instead, I gravitated towards proof of stake projects and was active in BitShares. When Dan and his team moved over to Steem, I followed them and haven’t regretted it.
When did you join?
A few weeks after Steem launched.
How did you acquire a majority of your stake?
Posting, investing, and curating. I’m not sure which one accounts for a majority, but I’m guilty of all three.
How many STEEM tokens do you currently hold?
Is this the part where I have to disclose which accounts are mine? Let’s go with 500K. It’s higher than that, but don’t tell anyone. Whenever the STEEM price gets low, I can’t help buying more. People see my main account. Other accounts are curated or delegated or voting on trails. Keys are locked in cold storage and I don’t even vote all of it on my own posts.
Do you have a large stake in any other tokens besides STEEM?
I have truckloads of something called SounDAC (XSD). It was formerly known as MUSE and its original name was BitShares Music (which was when I acquired most of my stake). It’s basically like Steemit for music. After going dark for years, the project’s development came back to life and the first app (Peertracks) has been working really well. The CEO there is a music industry veteran and has agreements in place already with some labels; you can stream Beyonce and Snoop Dog right now if you want. There are other music blockchain projects out there also. I’m hoping someone gets things right with the blockchain in that space, because the music industry could use a shakeup. A lot of independent musicians deserve a better economic model that works for them.
What else do I own in crypto? I collect physical Bitcoin tokens (such as early Casascius and Kialara coins), as I’ve written about on my blog. Other than that, some of the usual well-known cryptos, plus modest stakes in a few promising smaller projects like Sportspodium. I bought some EOS early on as a hedge and am sorry that I did; it’s a train wreck. I don’t mean the price, which I’m sure will rebound at some point. The project itself was never well defined and EOS governance is a mess, so it’s coming to mean very different things to different sets of stakeholders on a chain that will largely be centralized and expensive to use. Those groups probably will end up on separate forks eventually.
What Steem apps do you use on a regular basis?
I’ve dabbled, but Steemit is the only one I use regularly. Label me lazy.
What would you say repels investors or otherwise discourages investment in the Steem blockchain and STEEM tokens?
For outside investors, there’s very little understanding of what the development team is doing and where the project is headed. That’s probably why the outside world values us at the bottom of the Top 40 crypto projects (though to be honest, even the scant communication here is more than you get from devs at a project like Ethereum). I believe Steem is still the best project in crypto, but I don’t see how outsiders could possibly dig enough and learn enough to trust this team and feel anything close to my level of faith. In other words, there’s been little communication and a complete absence of marketing so far (which is probably deliberate as they complete the development of some key pieces).
Most people see the Steemit site as the ecosystem’s flagship and yet the site has changed little since it first debuted 2.5 years ago. The main page is a cesspool of bidbot-supported posts, though if you dig deeper there is plenty of good content. I’ve been very disappointed that Steemit Inc has ignored content and failed to make a few simple changes that could have improved the user experience there. Some of the other Steem-powered sites and apps may do a better job, but most are subject to similar limitations and may not be quite ready for prime time.
One big limitation: it can take weeks to get a new account approved, which is a great way to kill anyone’s excitement. That also makes it very difficult for community members like us to conduct or support meaningful outreach/marketing. And the concentration of voting power into the hands of a few SP holders creates inequity in voting, making it difficult for normal people to earn much from posting.
Ha ha. Now you’re wondering if I still believe in Steem. I do! More than ever. See the next part.
What would you say attracts investors or otherwise encourages investment in the Steem blockchain and STEEM tokens?
In time, Steem will be huge. Combining cryptocurrency’s monetization with social media is the most powerful idea to hit the Internet in a long time. It has taken the development team at Steemit many months to solidify this as an industrial strength blockchain, capable of handling larger growth. The work they are doing is groundbreaking.
While I’ve been unhappy with how long the development has taken, it’s more important to remember that these brilliant engineers are tackling and solving problems that are cutting edge. There is no blueprint because no one has ever done this before. The work they are doing does not focus primarily on Steemit.com, but on positioning this blockchain to be able to power a ton of other apps and sites. (I would have preferred they had done both, but in the long run, the latter will make more of an impact.)
Once this work is truly ready, I think we will see that Steem provides modular monetization to any content site, app, or project on the Internet. Smart Media Tokens (SMTs) with Hivemind’s tools will allow anyone to plug right in and essentially create their own custom crypto economy under the umbrella of Steem. And apps like DTube, eSteem, and others should be able to command large audiences.
With Steemit.com, we’ve seen how hard it is to build something truly new and find the right balance of content and interests. It’s difficult to make something new that works. But all over the Internet, there are other sites and apps that have been around for decades and already work very well. Their problem is monetization, since ad revenue is the only thing that has ever really financed the Internet (with an honorable mention for subscriptions, which can work for some niche content). So from YouTube to Reddit to the New York Times and a lot of smaller providers, there is a lot of content out there on platforms that already work.
What those content sites and apps lack is monetization. Steem may be content-challenged, but it has monetization (Steemit.com and others have proven this use case). So on paper, it’s a perfect match for much of the Internet. When some of those sites and apps realize they can plug in with Steem’s SMTs, customizing and branding their own tokens … watch out! Investors: there is nothing else like this in crypto. I’d love to see the masses come to Steem, but before that, Steem can come to the masses.
In addition to holding tokens, how else are you involved in the project?
I’ve worked with a lot of communities to help them build around good people and content. I co-founded Curie and Steem Guild as curation projects to help support good content creators; Curie is still very much active. I also became concerned early on that there was an imbalance of voting power in the hands of people who were English speaking or clustered in other developed countries. Early on, I helped ensure that Spanish and Korean language posts gained some early voting support, worrying that their posts would not get many votes otherwise. And look at them now! (Those became two of our largest sets of communities on Steem, due to their hard work).
Since then, I’ve worked with some topical content areas as well as Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, Brazil, Italy, Nigeria, and other parts of Africa, while also assisting to a lesser degree (mainly with voting power) in places like Poland, the Czech Republic, India and Malaysia. Once Steem is positioned for massive growth, much of its user base will come from these regions, because the developing world is a large source of potential users. We have great community builders on the ground there and talented curators who know how to spot and reward great content. Steem can change a lot of peoples’ lives in regions where employment prospects are limited and hope should be encouraged.
What types of things do you do specifically to get a ROI on your investment?
STEEM @ $100 = my ROI. Until then, I don’t check the price every day and I’m not paying much attention to the money part. I still work a full-time outside job and have never gone full-time with crypto. Therefore, I can laugh at the crypto price swings and have a casual attitude rather than stressing out about the whims of the market. I sympathize with people who depend on this, but am fortunate that I can take a long view.
What are ways that "regular users" have potential to affect your investment in a positive way?
The more regular users we have and the more adoption, the better STEEM will perform. We don’t have to think about the money part; we just build and support good people, content, communities, and apps. Over time, that will have a positive effect on our investments. One of the great things about Steem is that these interests should align, so there’s no reason anyone needs to choose money over people or projects. We can row the boat in the same direction.
What type of contributions do you consider to be adding value to your investment?
Any good content improves the site and its ecosystem. Eventually, I’d like to see some real outreach and marketing, which we’ve lacked so far. Hopefully, that will come as SMTs and post-Hive communities come online, assuming that the account creation bottleneck also is removed as a limitation (which I think it will be).
How do you discover and reward those types of contributions?
Click, click. The site needs good curation/moderation. We have some, but not nearly enough if we truly care about the people and the product.
Do you delegate SP to any projects? If so, what types of projects do you support?
Yes, I delegate from minor accounts to a few apps that are promising. I love what @princewahaj has done with the @super8ballclub app. I think Steemhunt shows promise. The @c-squared project is a very talented group of curators with Curie experience. There are other great projects also, but those I support partly because I think they deserve more than they’ve gotten.
In general, I don’t like making delegations. They are rigid and tie up the SP for too long. I am active enough that I prefer to use an account’s voting power and retain that flexibility as needed. Delegations are useful for people who want to set and forget it for a while, which isn’t my preference.
How "hands on" do you expect to be in projects you support?
Quite hands on at the beginning and then let someone else take things over completely. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a mean to fish and I can trust that person to take on a leading role, which frees me up to help on other projects. Once things are established, I’d rather they handle things and not bother me so that I can devote myself to other useful projects. There are usually people close to the project who have the skills to manage it overall and run (or supervise a team to run) the day to day operations.
What type of accountability reporting do you expect to see from a project that you support?
It depends on the project, but I want to see budgets, timelines for achieving benchmarks, and 100% honesty. If someone comes to me and has a project they’ve already been working on with very little support, I’m far more likely to support that than to help someone who comes to me asking for support before they have created anything. All of the best people I’ve worked with would fit in that first category. They put the community first and started working hard even before they were earning anything for it. Those are the people I’ll support.
What do you look for when casting witness votes?
100% dedication to Steem. The technical ability to keep a server running (preferably not in Germany, as we are overly centralized with too many witness servers located there) and update it as soon as needed. A minimum of politics.
And I don’t want to see divided loyalties. It’s fine to invest in other projects, but if you are earning money as a witness here, then invest your energies in Steem. When someone asks me for a witness vote, I want to know how they plan to use the income. If they’re just supporting themselves with it and running some code, that doesn’t excite me. Top witnesses make plenty of income even with low prices (no, your server doesn’t cost that much); they can use some of it to help fund communities, app development, marketing, etc.
Each top witness should be important to this ecosystem. Some are developers who need to finance their work on the code or on certain apps, etc. Others may have other niches, such as marketing, though we’ve seen precious little of that so far (and that’s not all the fault of witnesses, since Steem hasn’t been quite ready for a mass audience yet). Some witnesses represent particular communities or curation projects (e.g. @cervantes or @steemstem), some of which are very important.
Witnesses need to communicate with the members of the community and their constituents. @timcliff is one of the best in this regard, actively seeking to fill gaps in the community’s understanding. It still shocks me how few others communicate at all about their work or plans. If not, then why on earth should I vote for you? There’s a sense of entitlement. If I vote for a new witness, I almost never receive a ‘thank you,’ but the moment I unvote anyone, I hear from that person in about 5 minutes. Why didn’t you keep me up to date about your work for the last 6 months or year? Why didn’t you ever ask me what I want to see on the platform or share your ideas with me about what you’d like to see (and perhaps collaborate with me on)? Please communicate.
Some witnesses are either scamming voters by overstating the cost of the servers they run (making a lot of profit) or they are misguided conspiracy theorists who think that the lizard man got stoned on chemtrails and ate the white queen. They’re all welcome to their theories and communities and niches, and I appreciate that each of these people does do some useful things in the ecosystem, but voters should exercise their power responsibly. I’ve supported enough of that junk via witness votes for long enough. The witnesses I trust still have my votes. But as to the others, I’m comfortable maintaining some blank spots on my voting slate and saving those for better witnesses in the future. We’re through most of the forks, so the code stuff won’t be as big of a deal going forward. I’d love to see more witnesses who focus on supporting promising communities and/or working on outreach/marketing.
If that sounds reasonable to you, feel free to set @donkeypong as your voting proxy and I’ll try to keep up to date with the best witnesses to support. It doesn’t cost you anything and I don’t make money if you name me as your proxy. Then you don’t have to worry about researching the witnesses or voting. Researching them thoroughly is quite difficult when so few communicate regularly.
Do you have strong views on any of issues that are frequently discussed, or any upcoming changes?
The tech stuff should be left to people who are smarter than me. My general view is that we’re getting where we need to go, though it is taking longer than some of us had hoped. Getting it right is important; good coding takes time.
What would you like to see more/less of from "regular users"?
Regular users are great and they deserve more attention from the rest of us. Since my time is limited, I tend to focus on helping visionaries, community builders, and curators rather than merely good content creators, but I strongly appreciate the content creators also and vote for some of them.
Some of the best ideas I’ve encountered have come from regular users. If you have a community or app that is promising and need support for it, feel free to contact me. Sorry, I will NOT work with anyone new or who hasn’t built up a track record yet because I don’t have the capacity of voting power to help everyone. But if you represent an existing community (even a small one, regional or topical) or have started to build an app with a strong potential use case, feel free to contact me and I’d love to hear more about your plans.
What sort of profit margins do you hope to see for your investment?
STEEM @ $100.
Do you have a time frame for how long you plan to hold STEEM? Or a price target?
No. Maybe I’ll sell some before it hits $100, but at these prices, I’m buying.
Do you believe that the delegating of SP to bid-bots as well as self-voting/circle-jerking is harmful to long-term ROI?
Self-voting is human nature, though it would be nice for content consumers if some accountholders would hire authors to put something engaging on their blog before clicking the upvote button. Voting for one’s friends is the essence of how social media works, provided they are adding value with their own content.
The bidbot stuff is selfish and short sighted. Steemit’s main page looks like crap, and how will that help your long term investment? But in defense of the people gravitating towards bidbots, it’s also a function of the free market under an economic scheme that still has some flaws. We’ve been waiting a long time for development on the site to mature and it’s hard for me to blame accountholders for trying to make some money in the meantime, even if they are placing their own interests above those of the project.
Steemit Inc still controls the vast majority of Steem. That entity should have deployed its stake during this time to achieve a better balance and manage the content on the site. Steemit Inc’s completely agnostic attitude towards the decline of quality on the site has been one of the most puzzling things I’ve witnessed. Social media with no moderation? It’s like having a fish tank and choosing not to filter the water, letting it get dirtier for the fish in there (and for any potential investors to see) as you construct a bigger tank.
The Steem chain is decentralized; Steemit.com is operated by Inc and does not need to be decentralized. If it were my site, I’d want to exercise good stewardship and implement some healthy moderation to keep the site usable and attractive/palatable to potential investors. Hopefully, we’ll get real moderation with post-Hive communities, since it’s long overdue if we care about having something we can use.
What factors affect your decisions to go after short term returns that may hurt Steem in the long run vs. decisions to take a longer term strategy?
My horizon is long term, so that informs most of my decision-making.
Are there other forms of obtaining a good ROI from STEEM that you think will be possible in the long-term?
I don’t think about ROI. SMTs and communities should be fun and they should introduce new possibilities and potential income streams for active users. I’m looking forward to watching those develop as I support a few promising things.
What do you think is the biggest disconnect between stakeholders and "regular users"?
Regular users expect that good quality content will be rewarded. Instead, rewards are clustered around big accountholders or those they support. Aside from the handful of curators who are out there looking to reward good content and being supported for their trouble, Steem’s economic design has not promoted content discovery efficiently. Again, I’m hopeful that better-moderated communities and SMTs will help shift that balance soon.
If you strike it rich from STEEM, what do you plan to do with your money?
When, not if! I’ll be working on a project that I’ve been planning for some time. It will help people in many communities and it will help the environment where they live. There may be a Steem connection. When the time is right, I’ll move into working on that project.
Is there anything else that you would like to add that wasn't covered by the questions above?
Thanks for having me on your blog.
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If you are a stakeholder with 100,000 or more STEEM and would like to participate in an interview, please reach out to me on steem.chat or Discord.