SteemFest²: Bridging the Gap Between Perception and Reality
What we perceive is only a glimpse of reality. Our strongly-held position can change in a moment with more information and a new perspective (if we let it). Other than connecting with so many amazing friends I've made here since July of 2016, my main goal in attending SteemFest was to better understand the Steemit team, their vision, and their communication style.
I was not disappointed.
The first day of the hackathon I got a chance to sit down with @sneak to better understand what was going on with the site issues I blogged about here and here. Many of the team were sitting there as well and at one point, @justinw turned to me and said, "Do you like how the site's been working the last couple of days?" I replied with, "Yeah, it's been much better!" Justin continued passionately with, "That was 180 hours of my last two weeks!" Later I'd learn he was once called back early from a vacation. The team had been working hard on performance improvements for months and were almost ready to deploy them right as the DDoS attack hit. The continued growth in signups and usage was also stressing the system and what started as a few front-end servers was up over a 100 to handle the load.
It was the perfect storm, and we all got caught in it. On top of that, during the panel discussion with the Steemit development team, we learned about 3 different bugs which could have caused the STEEM blockchain itself to freeze. Things like this we never heard about were prioritized and fixed while other less important issues, like site notifications, were left for a later date. The more I spent time with the development team, the more I started to realize there was a large gap in perception between what we as users of steemit.com think they are doing and what they are actually doing.
(Photo credit: @andrarchy)
I hung out with my friend @andrarchy for hours on that first day talking about all kinds of things from company culture, to vision, to prioritization. I got a better understanding of how the team thinks about communication and how important it is for them to get things right. I now better appreciate the position @andrarchy is in. As one of Steemit's first non-developer hires, he feels the burden and need to communicate more about what's going on, but can't publish technical information before clearing it past the team who has been working endlessly on mission-critical code changes and often doesn't have the time to break away to explain the details.
When a social media site has site notifications that sometimes work and sometimes don't, and there's no public word from the team about the issue or what's being done to fix it, it's easy to think the team just doesn't understand what's important to us. When posting or voting fails and requires multiple tries, it's easy to think they just aren't doing much.
That's simply not reality. They've been very busy as you can see from their github repo for condenser, steem, and the many other projects they created such as jussi, hivemind, yo, and overseer not to mention the framework for Smart Media Tokens. They've been working to build the most active blockchain on the planet. That's the reality.
This team is doing phenomenal work, even if we can't see that in a way we can all understand.
The more I hung out with them, connected with them individually, and heard their in-the-trenches stories that only other SaaS veterans can appreciate, the more impressed I was with not only what they are doing but the quality of these individuals as well. I happened to sit down for dinner with @roadscape one night at a table which then filled up with much of the team. I had a fantastic time learning more about what they've been up to. During an evening event, @justinw apologized for being so passionate the previous day about the work he had been putting in to get the site functioning again. I was thankful to tell him, "No! Don't apologize at all. That was exactly what I came to see!" I'm so encouraged to know the Steemit developers are not only as passionate about the site and blockchain as we all are, but far more so, and they are proving that with the work they are putting in every day.
As the gap between my perception and reality closed, I even began to think developer burnout could be a future issue, with how hard everyone has been working.
I eventually got a chance to interact with Ned, which was interesting. I was hoping to get to know him a little better, but I think he was thinking of me more as a journalist who should just ask questions. @andrarchy at one point described me as a journalist which surprised me, but I think it's accurate. I want to understand and reveal the truth, as best I can. I'm working to improve how I interact with people to ask better questions instead of just talking in the hope they will jump in and contribute something valuable. So I asked Ned about the company's vision which he quickly replied was to "tokenize the web," something he also mentioned during the fireside chat event. I also asked about developer burnout, to which he ensured me the health of the team is of the utmost importance. He then said something I've been considering which has to do with the best way to communicate with Steemit. I had incorrectly assumed the blockchain was the best way as we're all here and everyone is interested in the conversation.
I've come to realize Steemit prefers more direct, private conversations either via email or slack. During @sneak's talk, he put up his personal email address which is connected through iMessage to his phone. On some level, this bothers me. I prefer open, public dialogue. The more I thought about it, the more I realized my preference may not make the most sense for a company whose words can directly impact the price of the STEEM token, significantly changing the perceived wealth of thousands of people immediately. If someone holds a lot of STEEM, the price going up or down just one penny is a really big deal.
Ned also mentioned the importance of witnesses. We need more solid C coders and blockchain developers in the top 20. If Steemit was to go away tomorrow, we need enough people being paid by the blockchain who can quickly pick up where they left off and continue moving forward. This got me really encouraged to dig into the github more and better understand the codebase and the changes that are coming.
So though I may not prefer the way @ned or @sneak communicate, I can appreciate what they've accomplished. Steemit.com is the only social platform on the internet which runs on the blockchain and pays users with actual cryptocurrency. It is on the path to disrupt so much more than just social media.
The Big Takeaway
For me, the biggest takeaway was realizing steemit.com is more like an example of what Smart Media Tokens can do. We might even consider it a reference implementation and the first example of tokening the web. SMTs are the future of the STEEM blockchain, and I think we'd all have a better understanding of where things are going to realize that and reset our expectations about steemit.com as we do.
Yes, I love this site, and I want to see it topple Facebook, Reddit, Medium, and Twitter. I also have to step back and realize Steemit is playing a long-term game here which is much bigger than just social media. From now on, if I get frustrated with the way something is working or how I perceive something should be communicated or prioritized, I'm going to try to look at the big picture. I'm going to ask Steemit direct questions via their preferred communication channels. I'm going to do my best to evaluate the situation based on what's actually being done and less on perceptions of what's being done.
I don't know what the future price of STEEM will be, what economic challenges vote-buying or spammy, noise-creating self-voting will bring. I do know what has already been accomplished is amazing, and I'm excited about the future.
I still don't feel I know @ned or @sneak very well, but I hope that will change over time. I do think I've got a better understanding of their development team, and that's what I'm most impressed with. These guys are passionate about this blockchain they've built and the site which we all enjoy every day. One of my goals as a witness is to continue to bridge the gap between what we perceive and what is reality when it comes to the hard, dedicated work of the Steemit development team. I'll work to support them by highlighting and explaining their contributions which benefit us all as best I can.
This platform really is changing the lives of people around the world.
That's what really matters.
That's why I'm so excited to be here.
Big thanks to @andrarchy for reviewing a draft of this post. He asked me to make it clear he's available to you directly if you have questions or concerns about Steemit. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or as @andrarchy on steemit.chat. You can also connect with me directly as your witness, and I'll be happy to discuss your concerns with the Steemit team as well.
If you think it's important to have an active top 20 witness working to explain technical things in simple terms, please consider giving me your vote. I'm currently in position 22 as @lukestokes.mhth and would love to be in the top 20 again soon.
Luke Stokes is a father, husband, business owner, programmer, STEEM witness, and voluntaryist who wants to help create a world we all want to live in. Visit UnderstandingBlockchainFreedom.com