My Steemit Mental Model (proclaiming the Initiative for a Sustainable and Innovative Steemit)

in steemigration •  2 years ago

In last week's What's your Steemit Mental Model?, @razvanelulmarin rightfully asked how to make a model, a picture of Steemit, how to grasp it.

No matter how often, to explain my utter lack of disappointment, I have to tell the story about how first I read the Steem Whitepaper, then read the hype and then registered via steemit.com and was completely lost, spent three days observing, voting, reading, sorting the streems this way and that way, attempting to browser-bookmark tags and articles and people to "follow", to make sense of the chaos unfolding there and in the slack chat channels before daring to post an intro a minute before steemit.com powered down:

it doesn't work this time without the story of the culture differences between IRC, Dreambook, Bulletin Boards (vBB, phpBB), reddit, Facebook, Stackexchange, MySpace, Twitter, Google+, studiVZ and Wordpress, so here 18+ years of hands-on experience and hope for "the internet" shall have been told in short form.


The whitepaper said it is an experiment, but remained shy on which hypothesis it is meant to support or falsify, so the scientific mind naturally inquires what is going on here.

In a sense, the surprise was spoiled for me: I was prepared there'd be an elephant.


based on this one

Steemit, as it is, can't be reddit, or BB, or even FB. Admittedly, longchains are largely cumbersome no matter which (except chronological BBs that allow &page=all), but they are the life and spirit of these platforms anyway. Steemit doesn't allow that nesting depth, users have to circumvent it and without protocol, the discussions become unreadable to others and dry up within hours and days. Meanwhile, BBs host epic threads that rage over years and thousands of pages. Steemit is designed and intended to be hot and fast. Nothing of timeless beauty and lasting value will ever be recognized where the best content out of thousands of posts must be elected every 24 hours.

Steemit, as it is, can't be a "I have a problem/question help plz" forum. Nobody frigging cares if you need a simple conversion to add a gravity effect to a rotation matrix of Euler angles for a more realistic L-System tree generator you're coding in POV-Ray, and if someone knew it, he wouldn't tell you for your measly minnow upvote.

Steemit, as it is, can't be a 160-character feed or "heres my breakfeast xoxox" aggregator, as a posting frequencies greater than 4 submissions/ 24 hours are heavily penalized.

Steemit, as it is, can't be a tight-knit artist network like MySpace, as it doesn't allow a profile page that can be mightily personalized, costumized, CSStyled to no end and made a feast to the eyes and ears, a true representation and business card of one's virtual self.


Steemit, as it is, is in Beta.

Many of the restrictions imposed by the interface can and have been overcome in the meantime by external tools which are almost indispensable to browse content somewhat intelligently and analyze statistics and trends. These should be easy to implement into the interfaces yet to come, and many questions and problems that plague the community today - how to treat spammers and plagiarists - will be answered by "Enhancement Suite" analogues to reddit's RES. They can implement curated banlists and provide visual cues as to the "trustworthyness", "meta-reputation", "cashout susceptibility" and other little interesting statistics of a user.

Complaints like "the trending page suxx0rs" and "I can't find sh1t" and "I don't have time to wade through 100 pages of created trash to find a nugget worth my attention" need not be if an interface remembers the favorite tags, just as redditors used to subscribe to their favorite subs and thusly created their own front page feeds to sort by hot, trending, new, all, controversial. So no more about that. Steemit is not the blockchain.

The change from the payout frequency from 1/24h to 1/12h and back and the implementation of the "attack curve" envelope over the first 30 minutes showed how malleable the backbone still is. The implementation of the reputation feature showed how quick and sudden things can go: without forewarning, without discussion.

Nothing is set in stone.

Community consensus on best practices and habits is changing swiftly and remains constantly open for heated debate. Most intro guides were deprecated before their readers found them.

You will have to build your house on sand.


All technichal considerations pale in comparison with the philosophical and economical aspects.

What is fairness?

Jesse the carpenter rabbi had something important to say about this:

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.
But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ [...]


Jacob Willemszoon de Wet the Elder, Gleichnis von den Arbeitern im Weinberg, 166?, PD


Steemit is not the kingdom of heaven

Larimer's vineyard works differently. The denarius is a network that cannot be censored: everyone gets it. But this time, everyone additionally gets a chance (!!!) to receive a percentage of the vines they picked. And it works so that those who have "borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day" are disproportionally more likely to wheel home a few basketsful.

Suddenly, it is those who were late to the party who perceive the deal as unfair, since they are pretty much unlikely to win big in that lottery.

This time, it is the early birds that scold the stragglers:

Are you envious because the whales are generous?

The Gini coefficient of Steem is astounding. The power differential is extreme. Those who started to work at nine are happy for every grape they get. Are the complaints justified?

Hearken the words the landlord speaketh:

[...P]erception often matters more than reality and we must design systems that are perceived to be fair even if they are logically and “objectively” less fair from the perspective of mathematics, deductive reasoning, and first principles.

Perception is Reality. Change your perception and you change your reality.

~ Dan The Man, Our Corrupt Sense of Fairness

My hypothesis is that the (financially) "rich" serve a valuable purpose in any economy: they spend a lot to stay "rich" and keep the currency in circulation.

If, however, the difference is too great between the super-"rich" and the huge majority of the "poorest", and the "poor" notice that however they struggle, they will always be classless and powerless, and that the "rich" merely hoard, they will react accordingly. You can fool some people all the time, all people some of the time but you can't fool all the people all the time.

Have you ever tried telling a woman giving birth to a child that her pain is purely subjective, that she only has to change her attitude towards yeaning and her perception of the signals her neurons are firing, that it is all in her head and the result of the evolution of hormonal biochemistry, that she has objectively, in the grand scheme of things, no reason at all to complain, bitch and scream? Pro-tip: don't.

Likewise, there must be better ways to address the concerns of those who did the math and found that a single powerful user could easily override the "will" of tens of thousands of "minnows" at a whim. If only anarchocapitalism had the answer...

Praise the prophet of the teachings of the Free Market, the Holy Witness to the Invisible Hand! and open with me His Scripture in Book I, Chapter VIII, p. 94 where it says:

No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the greater part of the members are poor and miserable. It is but equity, besides, that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, clothed, and lodged.

~ Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, 1776

The "unfairness" is not merely a matter of perception, it is objective and measurable and has very important practical implications, as it is in direct contradiction to the stated aim and goal:

Without free discussion voters cannot be fully informed, and uninformed voters are a greater threat to society than losing the right to vote. Censorship is a means of stealing votes through limiting public discourse. Steem is committed to enabling free speech and building a free society.

~ Steem Whitepaper


If a "whale" downvotes content upvoted by thousands, the post may technically not "disappear", but practically, it turns invisible (without the yet-to-come filters specifically designed to highlight "censored" posts); if the whales as a class were threatened (hypothetically speaking, in a post-dan-year 2135 scenario where a user finds evidence for witness vote manipulation or another form of corruption among the whales), they could suffocate any resistance and public opinion with ease. Will there be free speech? As free as in the Western World: you can say the vilest thing about your government and head of state without fear of repression - or the slightest chance to be heard. Will the society be free if under such pressure/tension?

From that admittedly somewhat cynical perspective, all the warm welcomes, all the "help", all the "community-building" and finding of "new friends and great authors", all the "mutuality" might well just be the "upper class" of "dolphins" courteously forming old-boy networks and staking claims in gentlemen's agreements before the storm comes. The spirit of competition oozes out of every corner. Even well-earning dolphins are now filing complaints about the "undeserved" payouts of lesser dolphins.

I once joked, when two users made a pact about featuring/upvoting each other and sharing the rewards in slack's general channel (no newcomers could be invited anymore at that time!), about typically crony-capitalistic "backroom deals". I never did that again. "Ooooh, sooo secret, in an open channel, hurr-durr-durr!" Hornet's nests want to be poked from a safer distance.

Another time, we shall get into the dilemma that tendencially, only posts that say what we want to hear will be upvoted - those who say what we need to hear will go under, by and large (although I found you can serve severed heads all day on Steemit - as long as you put them on a silver platter).


Jan Adam Kruseman, Salomé met het hoofd van Johannes de Doper, ~1861, PD


Ponzi Scheem

One could think that St. Charles Ponzi is the patron saint of Steemit, so often is his name invoked.

Clearly, the comet-like rise of the market cap - 1000% growth in one week! - indicates it's a scam! Look, the price is dropping at free fall acceleration, that clearly indicates it is a scam!

Had not the price crashed perceptibly after the excesses of the "weeks of the peaks" beginning July 13th, the smell of bvllsh1t should have caused an instant mass evacuation. Instead, the price indicates how free the market really is: investors saw where the money went. Video and photo and screenshot evidence featuring happy girls in front of ATMs flashing pocketsful of money and a Bitcoin debit card gave them all the reason in the world to be disappointed and desist from throwing more money after them for dumping plastic balloons in the ocean, painting their faces and wiggling their assets.

On the other hand, who can blame those poor souls for mis- or not-understanding the imperative "Power Up!"; a cumbersome process that takes a week, requires multiple steps and having the active password handy, where a single click of a button - maybe even at a bargain of 1.05 U$ worth of Steem per BSD - would clarify that "Power Up!" is what you want to do, not "Cash Out".

On the other other hand, this might have been an expensive, but powerful marketing campaign to strengthen the value of Steem long-term, and without doubt spread the word so that today, you will probably nowhere find a greater density of "stars" among "alternative culture" advocates and "truth" activists - @falkvinge, @barrycooper, @corbettreport, @dollarvigilante, to name just a few - within cuddling distance than on the Steem blockchain.

It also heated the debate "where does the money come from", which was enlightening wherever it was had, as it can't be had without going into the philosophy and nature of money and currencies as such. It can impossibly a bad thing to educate as many people as possible about alternatives to central bank fiat money.

While these tidings should quieten the worst of fears, Defenders of the Steem are too quick sometimes to handwave away the clear indications of cultish behaviour, including cognitive dissonance and outright reality denial. Take this comment, for example:

Did Bitshares live up to its potential so far? No.
Did Dan over promise and under-deliver? Probably.
Does that make it a scam? Definitely not..
Bitshares is still alive with lots of exciting developments, so there's still hope there.

Sincere faith or seething sarcasm? You decide.

There were articles - I'm sure I bookmarked them, but I'll never find them again among the hundreds - that literally said "have faith!" and "have trust!" when the Steem price began to plummet. Another example are the toxic comments some users received when they shared how discouraged they felt from the huge wealth differential and perceived unfairness - low-effort posts with cleavage and/or YouTube celebrities congest the trending page at four-digit figures, while posts that took hours and days to compose go unnoticed. "Go back to Facebook then! Nobody is forcing you to stay! Bye-bye! Don't get hurt on your way out!" As a cult escapee, I am extremely sensitive to such patterns.

Or the common argument "The devs have worked so hard for this to become a reality, how can this be a scam?" - well, IF it is a scam (and we are talking about a few hundred thousands in hard cash, I think), the scammers better have put at least a little work into their setup! And maybe I am getting old and time is running faster, but the "one year of experience" that is so often referred to with respect to Bitshares is not quite the qualification that imbues one with the greatest reverence. Apprenticeship in most professions takes longer, how can any statement be made about the stability and sustainability of a platform after a few mere months?

The saviour cult around these persons is pretty disturbing sometimes, but maybe I'm just blind to the wunderkind picture that is drawn of the vineyard landlord.


I herewith proclaim

the Initiative for a Sustainable and Innovative Steemit

(ISIS, after the old Egyptian fertility goddess and patroness of nature and magic),

with the goal and aim to keep the critical and objective eye of a blockchain noob and Web 2.0 veteran on the development of Steem, Steemit and its community and to interject, when necessary and applicable, where it strays from its directive:

Steem is committed to enabling free speech and building a free society.

(applications welcome)


tldr; This is my mental model of Steemit:


A denarius from the time of Jesse the Carpenter and Tiberius Caesar (42BC-37AD), PD


Previous posts in #steemigration:

  • A Realistic Integration Crash Course For Social Network Migrants To Steemit.com / http:://steemit.com/steemit/@akareyon/a-realistic-integration-crash-course-for-social-network-migrants-to-steemit-com

Vote! Comment! Follow! You know the drill.


//edit to add link to @xtesters article Open Letter to The Community: Why Equality of Opportunity Matters, not Equality of Outcome

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you just had to go with ISIS :D

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It's not my fault it's such a popular name for girls!

Enjoyed your article, many thanks!