In the last few weeks there have been a number of interesting and provocative articles written by Steemers discussing the current curation/distribution system. Some have fixated on the fact that some writers get upvoted more than others. Some seem to be upset that bots are present. Some are upset that curators earn money from the platform.
We have been through all this before!
I've been here since June 2016, and pretty much all these arguments have been raised before and they resolved themselves naturally.
In the "olden days" some authors used to get blindly upvoted by bots. That has stopped, most bots owners review their lists regularly to optimise them, and there is now a better distribution of rewards. Some bots have evolved, @biophil's bot for example tries to be "smart" and predict successful posts based on content. We also have bot streams where some people follow a highly regarded manual voter and auto-vote all the posts the manual voter upvotes. The various curation guilds also play their part. The curation side of things is getting more complex, varied and interesting by the month.
The only problem that still remains is that lots of the authors who post on the platform neglect to vote. The feeling is "I'm too small to make a difference" so they don't bother. But votes from the little people often bring good content to the attention to other bigger accounts. All the votes add up, and for the system to be healthy the small accounts need to vote too. The more users who engage in voting the more stable this platform becomes.
But my main point is that the system self-corrects naturally and does not really need it's basic structure to be tweaked. Focusing so hard on the rules and calls for the rules to be changed misses the bigger picture.
So what is the bigger picture?
Steem needs to be different from all the failed social media platforms out there.
Lets look at some of the failures:
There have been umpteen pay-for-content sites that have emerged and died in the last decade. Most relied on advertising for revenue and on ranking on Google for traffic, and what usually happened is that parasites flocked to the platform, gamed it, Google then gave the site a penalty for ranking in their engine with rubbish content, and when the traffic died, so did the advertising revenue and the site. These sites failed because there was no incentive by members to bury poor content. And there was a lot of incentive to post loads and loads of rubbish because people were being paid per article.
Reddit The reddit model is that people can post content for free and upvote for free, and Reddit tries to make money with adverts. But why pay for an advert when you can easily game your content to the front page and gain vast exposure for a fraction of the cost? Poor old Reddit is a fun place to be, but at some point the owners will probably shut it down because it is not profitable.
The micropayment model. Long before bitcoin got invented some people talked about a micropayment model where users would pay small amounts for good articles. The idea was people would pay 5 cents here, 5 cents there, and at the end of the month their credit card would be debited for what they used. When bitcoin and doge arrived, it seemed that this model would really take off, because now you had a mechanism that could handle really tiny payments (especially when using doge). But the micropayment and tipping models have failed. For the simple reason that it is too much hassle. And people don't like paying, they have got used to a web that is "free".
Advertising. Most news sites (and fake news sites!) employ people to churn out stuff (sometimes they do this really cheaply by using an automated "spinner" to reword press releases or reuters articles), and they monetise with advertising. The big problem with this is that the only good quality traffic comes from the search engines. Someone searching for "blue widgets" and clicks on your article on "blue widgets" is likely to also click an ad about "blue widgets" if it looks interesting to them. The bored reader browing reddit who finds your article likely won't click the ad. So you need to do serious SEO to get your pages ranked on Google, which is expensive. The other problem is that what you can earn from advertising is dropping. The hey-day of earning through online advertising was probably 2004, and it has been on a downward trajectory ever since. Most news sites are close to being broke and are being supported by their print editions.
Steem solves many of these problems. The curation aspect is essential to ensuring that the real dross doesn't get any money. People moan about the trending page, but at least it is free and clear of badly written/badly spun content. It solves the key problem with tipping/micropayments because when you upvote, you arn't sending money from your wallet, you are allocating the newly minted coins from the next 24 hours distribution on the blockchain. Because this site doesn't depend on advertising, it doesn't depend on Google either, so the whole make-or-break thing whenever the Google algorithm changes doesn't apply.
What we really need to focus on
Lots of businesses use social media for Branding. We need to persuade the big boys of the cryptocurrency world to set up accounts on Steemit to both post stuff and to upvote stuff. @Blocktrades pioneered this, people often discover him and his service because he has given them a big fat upvote. His brand is growing. There is no reason Coinbase, Kraken and others can't do the same. Branding through upvoting could be a way for these companies to advertise by paying a one-off payment to purchase SteemPower, which is way cheaper than other advertising methods. I can see a future where other brands decide to upvote mentions of their brands on Steemit.
Steem needs to be about more than just writing, curating and using curation/writing to advertise. This isn't the first cryptocurrency that decided to reward content. One of the very first alts was Devcoin, which allocated coins from the blockchain to content. It got gamed despite strenuous attempts by committed members to curb abuse, and if you read their old thread on bitcointalk, it degenerated into a sad endless discussion where they constantly discussed and rediscussed how the coins were being allocated (sounds familiar?). This went on for years till the coin died in 2016. In order for Steem to escape this, there needs to be other things you can do with steem. I know that initiatives like Peerhub have sprung up, but there need to be more things you can do and buy with Steem. I'd like to see a freelance employment market, where people can hire people to do design or coding and get paid in Steem. If Steem is to rival bitcoin, it needs to have a lot of small business ecosystems within it.
Stop focusing on arguments about distribution. Stop saying things like "Reddit does this, we should do it" or "Medium does that, we should emulate them". They are failed platforms.
Focus on developing things other than writing and curation. In an ideal world we should be able to play games that use steem as a token, buy groceries with steem, earn steem in an employment marketplace, set up businesses using steem. If the ecosystem really develops, there should be umpteen ways to earn steem apart from writing and curating.