Despite being a little tuna by power in our society, as the operator of one of the more successful bots I feel like I have some weight to chime in on the current bot issues we face. So I split it into three topics, and here are my ramblings.
Topic 1: Reputation and the Bot Crisis
There recently was a back and forth between @dantheman and @williambanks, on the reputation system, the respose here, and then the last response on vilifying bots here.
Here are some thoughts I had while reading this back and forth.
- Restrict access to the web socket: This didn't quite make sense to me at first; you cannot restrict access to the blockchain so doing this won't change anything for long. If the suggestion was for the website steemit.com to only reveal content that was transacted through browsers using steemit.com, then I understand the argument, and agree that this could be a way to "stop" bots. (Not that I agree this is a good solution.) It will also mute cheetah, however, and I am not sure if we are ready for that (topic 3).
- Focus on vote count rather than vote weight: This, as dan suggested does not work due to Sybils (topic 2).
- Help people improve their bots: I do not think this will work, unfortunately. Bot operators are not going to follow leash codes, if they have no incentive to do so. As much as I appreciate the effort from @williambanks, and wish it success, I am not leashing cheetah.
In addition, I, and it seems some other anonymous members (p.s. I would like to chat strategy with these people if they are willing to come forward, I am anyx on steemit.chat), will continue to attack spam bots or one-liner bots with extreme prejudice in the meantime. You will notice most spam bots are already getting hidden.
- (Unwitting/stupid) people causing accidental harm: Not really about bots, but this is actually a funny problem that I encounter often, most notoriously when people upvote plagiarism. Perhaps cheetah didn't respond fast enough, or it was an article that slipped though. I try to remove the payouts (I need help to do it as a tuna), but I am not always successful in this. The best way to fix this is with reputation -- not just the system that dan proposes, but in general people need to watch what they are upvoting. Perhaps look at an accounts history of posting, before you decide.
Seriously, just look at this post, and check the user's history. The same person even copied my own post, here.. We all as a community need to think harder about our upvotes, or we are going to incentivize this garbage to continue.
As it stands, all these bots are harming our ecosystem and hurting our chance for mainstream adoption. Overall, I hope we can limit or remove bots by decreasing post rate somehow -- perhaps setting more restrictive bandwidth limits on replies, limit replies per day, and definitely reduce the ease of creating sybils -- reputation does not matter if one can continue to create new accounts.
I also look forward to gaming and breaking the reputation system that dan is suggesting (or better plan, I hope to chat with him first to see if we can stop problems before they occur with it).
Topic 2: Sybils
Sybils are becoming an interesting and increasingly important problem, especially if they remain easy to create when the reputation system is active. You may have noticed the low-weight downvote spambot, which was visibly removed from the website. The same user is now upvote spamming posts. Fortunately, that user does not have many accounts.
On the other hand, there are some of us with many accounts, that actually do not want to cause harm, but are forced to if we want to use all our stake. The main source of this is the way that mining works; we essentially are required to make multiple accounts in order to mine continuously, or we are penalized. As a result of this, I have many accounts, and if I want to upvote with all my VESTS, I cause a sybil attack and can immediately start trending on hot (it is quite silly). But of course I want to use all my VESTS to upvote!
One way to help us is to disincentivize the use of multi account spam by offering a more "official" means to the end. We currently have witness vote proxies, wherein the power of an account is applied to the leader, and their votes are funneled through. It would be nice to allow the same thing for upvotes too, so I can link my other accounts, and only upvote "once". This makes it not only easier to use all my stake, but also lets me do so without feeling guilty at abusing the system. For curation rewards with this, I suppose it should all go to the proxy leader, but some people may want to use this to follow curators as well. I look forward to other's thoughts on this. (I am sure I am not the only one who has thought of this, too.)
Finally, I have a few suggestions on account creation:
- Stop allowing POW to create accounts.
- Stop allowing reddit to create accounts.
- Perhaps allow accounts by invitation only (and they still must use Facebook to sign up).
I think it is necessary to invoke some harsh restrictions before it is too late. This is an actionable band-aid that we can do even before we begin reputation calculations. Oh, and change the hot algorithm...
Topic 3: Cheetah bot
It will be interesting with a reputation system if cheetah will be able to stay alive (not everyone is fond of what I am doing). We have recently solved plagiarists (at least of the minnow variety) from downvoting the cheetah posts out of existence, thanks to some a few members auto-upvoting cheetah posts, and whales taking notice and increasing her power. She also got some power for the satire post we just wrote here (good for a quick laugh). Thanks for the support guys!
I know some people would be interested in some statistics regarding catches that cheetah bot makes, especially with the 4 post payout change. Unfortunately, I still catch 100's of posts in a day, but at least the overall rate of posts has decreased. As I feared though, the change made little difference to spammers and plagiarists -- perhaps they are unaware of the payout changing after 4 posts? I am not sure if there a notification that warns them of this (if not, there should be)! Or perhaps we need to have a hard limit that simply prevents more than 4 posts, not just a soft one.
Also, I have begun to notice Steemit reposts are being caught, and many users don't like this. I am leaving the cheetah comments; I think it is useful, as many users are duplicating their "introduceyourself" post, especially if their first was unsuccessful in getting thousands like some people get. I know I will continue to get hate for tagging the resposts, but I don't care. People should be aware it is a repost, and then they can vote accordingly.
Finally, I am also seeking out some web dev help if possible. It is quick for me to spit out a log of catches, but I would be interested in displaying them on a website -- this way, users interested in cheetah catches and wanting to help manually curate could do so easily. I already have a server to host the website, just need the web interface and link to the logging.
EDIT: It looks like I have some help on this, thanks to those who offered!
Thanks for reading, this is just a bundle of thoughts from this week. I was hoping not to do another post until my last one came off trending (seriously, even I don't want it there for that long, stahp it), but I had enough thoughts piling up.
As @williambanks points out, @cheetah is basically my pet, and I agree. So this will be my picture for this post.