On Voting Bots
In response to a post describing why, in the author’s view, paid content promotion services are bad for the Steem platform, I was asked to share my thoughts on the matter. That post made some sweeping allegations against the owners and operators of such services, including that we have “remained silent” and refuse to answer questions posed by the community about these services and how they benefit the platform.
These allegations are blatantly untrue as myself and many of the other owners and operators of content promotion services are always available and open to discussion about these topics which are of key importance. I am not only open to, but also genuinely excited for, the opportunity to discuss the topic of paid content promotion services and what role they play in the future of the Steem platform.
The key is that those discussions take place in an open-minded, civilized, and respectful manner. I refuse to participate in any discussions characterized by personal attacks and disrespect for those with differing opinions as is unfortunately so often the case with online communications.
With that out of the way, I would like to start by discussing the two primary ways in which paid content promotion services benefit the Steem platform:
- Providing real utility, and therefore value, to the STEEM token; and
- Providing passive investors with attractive returns on their investment in Steem Power
Utility for the STEEM Token
Currently, the market value of the STEEM token is almost completely driven by speculation - as is the case with all cryptocurrencies right now. That is not sustainable however, so for Steem to succeed over the long term it needs to have real value, derived from real utility.
The STEEM token has a few different things that give it utility and therefore value, however the primary utility of the token is that it allows one to promote content on Steem-based websites. @ned says it better than I could starting at around the 5:25 mark in this video:
The transcription of the relevant segment is as follows (emphasis mine):
The 5th thing, and probably the most important aspect of the value cycles in all of this, is the idea that STEEM and SMTs really are the world’s advertising network. These are tokens that get laid across applications and they have these functional properties underneath everything that cause interfaces to basically sort order posts in terms of their value, and once you have posts sorted in their order of value, then any blogger curator content creator video creator or straight up advertiser can look at that sort order of value and say well you know if i just buy some more SMTs or STEEM i can promote my post higher up in that sort order and thereby get more attention which may help me sell more of my products, so that’s a good thing for me, there’s a return on investment.
So there’s a very natural, very sustainable, flow of value that’s caused by these tokens where value is coming in to buy or rent STEEM to promote content that causes sales in other places. That’s a value flow that’s very analogous to what we see with traditional advertising businesses like Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter. So all that is happening behind the scenes where there’s no company and that’s what’s so new about all of this and what makes it so possibly pervasive across the internet.
Paid content promotion services, currently in the form of voting bots, provide this utility for the STEEM token. Publishers can buy STEEM (and hopefully soon SMTs) and promote their content in order to sell more products, get more brand recognition, increase their followers, etc.
This is just like like advertising on traditional media sites, like @ned has said, but instead of this value going to the company that owns the site, on Steem it goes to Steem Power holders and helps increase the price of the STEEM token.
Some people have questioned whether or not this type of promotion actually provides these stated benefits for content publishers. Obviously that depends on the content that is being promoted, but @spiritualmax ran an experiment that clearly showed that using these services “increases your profit, your follower growth rate, and the SP value of your account.” Generally advertising works, which is why it is so prevalent, and there is no reason to believe it would not work on Steem-based sites as well.
Returns for Steem Power Investors
All of this content promotion is provided by holders of Steem Power. The returns are currently very attractive and therefore provide a very good incentive to invest in, and hold Steem Power, which I think we can all agree is a good thing for the platform.
I know of well over $100,000 that has been recently invested in Steem Power specifically for this opportunity and I expect that is just the tip of the iceberg for what is possible as the Steem platform grows and the word spreads.
I know one of the main issues people have with this is that it’s a small number of “whales” that are earning the vast majority of these returns. That is a distribution problem with Steem which pretty much everyone is aware of. It really has nothing to do with voting bots at all.
It’s just the way that Steem works that these accounts control the vast majority of the reward pool. It’s naive to think that they will give it all away and not seek to earn a return on their investment. If there were no voting bots they could still just as easily take the same portion of pool they are taking now, if not more! At least by selling their vote they are allowing everyone the opportunity to benefit through what is effectively free advertising.
I want to be clear that I am not trying to say that everything is all sunshine and roses and that people are complaining for no reason. There are absolutely a number of issues with the Steem platform and with content promotion specifically.
My point is simply that paid content promotion services such as voting bots are not the cause of these problems, and getting rid of them (were that even possible) will not really change anything. Additionally I do believe that they add value to the platform and token as I described above so getting rid of them, in my opinion, would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
I would love to discuss each of the problems in detail, but then this post would turn into a book and I would never get it finished! Perhaps I will try to address some of them in future posts if I can find the time and in those posts I can show how getting rid of paid content promotion services doesn’t solve the problem and also offer some potential alternative solutions.
For now though, I urge anyone who thinks getting rid of voting bots will solve whatever problem they see to really take some time and think through (a) how they plan to actually get rid of voting bots; and (b) whether anything would really be solved if they were successful.
Witnesses who run content promotion services
Last, but not least, I want to address the people who do not feel that witnesses or other respected community members should be running paid content promotion services and actively campaign against those that do. Let’s consider what would actually happen if those campaigns were successful…
There is clearly a large demand for these services both by content publishers and Steem Power holders, so if a campaign was successful to either force witnesses to stop running these services, or have them lose their position / respect in the community, then others who are not witnesses, or otherwise respected community members, would pick up the slack and run these services themselves.
Witnesses, especially those at the top, are typically very active in the Steem community, are trustworthy, and are truly doing what they can to make the Steem platform the best it can be. Some people might disagree with me, and there always may be a couple of exceptions, but I talk with many of the top witnesses on a regular basis and I wholeheartedly believe this to be true.
So the question you should ask yourself is: who do you want to be running the content promotion services on Steem? Who can we trust to run them in a proper and responsible manner? The top witnesses with the traits I described above, or random people whose intentions are unknown and who may not ever engage with the community or care about its long term success?
I know my answer, and I work every day to do what I can to ensure that the paid content promotion services on the platform are run responsibly and in a way that will hopefully benefit the platform as a whole.
There are three main points that I hope my readers take away from this post:
- Paid content promotion services create real utility and value for the STEEM token
- The problems that exist are not caused by paid content promotion services, nor would they be solved if paid content promotion services did not exist
- It’s highly preferable to have these services run by top witnesses and other well known and respected members of the Steem community who will run them responsibly and have the best interests of the platform at heart.
Lastly, you - the reader - may disagree with the things that have been written here, and that’s okay - in fact it’s great to have different opinions and people who see things from different perspectives. The important thing, like I said at the beginning of the post, is to present your differences of opinion in a respectful and constructive manner.
I expect this post may stir up a good number of lengthy discussions in the comments, which, again, is great. I will do my best to try to read, upvote, and respond to each one that adds value to the discussion. It might take me a while to get to them all though, so please be patient with me!
For those of you who made it this far, thank you for your time and I look forward to continuing to discuss these topics as the Steem platform grows and evolves!
Banner artwork by @nateaguila