There's an interesting survey being carried out by @inquiringtimes to determine what appropriate use of voting bots is and what constitutes an abuse of these bots. It basically invites people to be part of the discussion in the comments section and he will gather all the opinions and publish an update a week later. I have promised him to comment only after I am done sharing my detailed opinion on the matter. This post serves as my detailed opinion as well as an invitation for you to read his post and participate in the discussion in his comments.
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I have read a lot about abuse in general and voting bots abuse in particular. In fact, I have been successfully reporting abuse cases to get them blacklisted and prevent the abuse from happening. A huge discussion happened on this post by @zombee, the founder of @dMania. The post was flagged heavily and criticized greatly. But I credit it a lot for starting a discussion on abuse through voting bots. Just yesterday, I found two amazing posts on the topic; a take on bid bot abuse by @michaeldavid (owner of @sneaky-ninja) and a guide on how to use bid bots properly by @valorforfreedom.
What is Appropriate Use of Bid Bots?
I am going to list a few cases in which, I think, using bots is perfectly fine. Sometimes, it may even be necessary. Here is what I think is appropriate use of bid bots.
1. Promotion of Good Quality Content
You may have your own idea of what quality content is. I have my own. This is another debatable point but my detailed opinion on quality content, as also asked in the survey post, is included later in this post. If your content is of good quality but you are not getting significant attention, it might be a good idea to boost your content enough to have some visibility. It may bring you more upvotes.
Another case of promoting quality content with bid bots is when you are sure that your content is absolutely valuable for people and promoting it will certainly bring more votes and you will hit the trending page. I promoted my detailed guide on Steemit Reward System with MinnowBooster and it paid out at $648. The initial momentum from considerable votes was topped by @minnowbooster vote and the rest of the community responded with more votes. Using a voting bot certainly helped.
2. Spreading an Urgent But Important Information
This takes me to another post which was based on voting bots abuse. Owner of @buildawhale (one of the bid bots), @themarkymark, wanted to inform the community that a plagiarist was about to with $2800 in rewards. He sent a 100 SBD bid to @postpromoter immediately to get the post hot and trending. It ruined my 50 SBD bid at the same time though because I was hoping for a good vote on my guide about bad commenting habits (and that's how I spotted his post).
The information reached the community and immediate action was taken by concerned people. All the active posts which were work of plagiarism were absolutely sunk to zero, preventing the plagiarist from abusing Steemit reward pool through bid bots. Here's the screenshot of the consequences.
So, it can be very useful to use bid bots to spread information of urgent but important nature.
3. Promoting Your Content in Specific Tags to Reach Focused Audience
This is something I learned by reading the how-to guide by @valorforfreedom that I already mentioned. I post a lot using #steemiteducation and #tutorial tags because of my content being educational in nature. If I promote my content with these specific tags, the people looking for content on these tags will find my posts. They may choose to read my posts and end up voting it and following me. I think this is an incredible use of bid bots to reach a focused audience. I am going to work on this strategy more often.
I think the whole point of using bid bots and content promotion bots should be to gain visibility to your important content. It can be good quality content, important information of content tailored for a specific audience. I see no problem with using bots to promote yourself on Steemit.
Inappropriate Use / Abuse of Bid Bots
The most concerning part of the discussion around bid bots is the abuse that frequently happens despite all the efforts to curb it. The amount of effort being put into stopping bots abuse is huge. I have been discussing things closely with people in charge of bots and promotion systems lately; especially @therealwolf of @smartsteem and @reggaemuffin and other team members behind @minnowbooster. However, the abuse still happens; more due to inherent ignorance of new users than due to faults in the system. Introduction of spam detector by MinnowBooster is one big step forward though.
Here are some cases of bid bot usage which I consider abusive. The degree of abuse may vary. Some even may consider it normal but they are cases of abuse in my opinion.
1. Using Bid Bots on Plagiarized/Spam Content
One example of folks using bid bots on plagiarized posts has already been discussed. I have seen many. Bid bots are maintaining lists of thousands of banned accounts for spam or plagiarism. I once saw a person from my own country getting $200 worth of upvotes on a single picture with no text or description. One of the votes on it was my own because I was selling my vote through MB. I was checking the posts my vote was used on and found the useless post. It was reported, unvoted, banned and all the reward retrieved.
2. Getting Massive Votes on Low-Quality Content
Again, quality is a subjective thing. The same post may be a quality post for one user and low quality for another. I am going to narrate my opinion of quality of content in a dedicated heading. Generally, a post containing one or more of the following features is considered bad quality content; at least by me.
- Very less substance in the post. I can be lack of necessary details about or too short text.
- Bad formatting.
- Copyright violations or failure to cite source where needed.
- False information on a topic.
- Use of irrelevant tags.
There can be more detail on what constitutes low quality content. However, the scope of this post does not necessitate that. Getting votes of too much value on below average posts will result in flagging by people who find out the quality.
3. Voting Late on Your Posts
Late voting has been a topic of discussion lately. I can surely think of @grumpycat who warned bot owners not to vote on posts later than 3.5 days of their life. This warning has resulted in a lot of bots changing the age of votable posts to 3.5 days. Why is voting late a point of concern?
- The bots were created to help users in promoting their content. Promotion works best in early hours or the initial day or two at best. After that point, no amount of votes can ensure a spot in the trending section.
- I can think of nothing except abusive thought behind voting older content because it may keep spam/plagiarized/low-quality content out of sight even with significant votes on it. The abuse is prone to escape from any punishment.
- Although I have discussed it exclusively below, the use of bid bots late also serves as a way to earn perceived profits. This might not be the case in actuality but the users do have an intention to do so.
I do not approve voting late on content through voting bots.
4. Using Bots for ROI
If you create high-quality content and hit the trending page with the help of some big but deserved votes, your initial promotion was surely a great investment. However, using bots to get profitable votes does not work at all. Let me explain it to you.
I used 50 SBD bid on a post and got $1oo dollar vote (it's actually a little less than $100 but I used this number to simplify calculations. Seems good? Let's see.
- 5o SBD = $100 Vote
- After Minus 25 % Curation = $75
- 50 % of remaining amount converted to SBD = 37.5 SBD
- Rest 50 % (37.5 USD) converted to SP = 10.62 SP (@ $3.53 per Steem)
So, I will get less than 33 SBD (Steem price has fallen lately and vote's value is just $87 right now) by spending 50 SBD. No one will call it a good ROI even if you take into account the 9 SP I am going to get. Bots are not ROI tools. While using bots as ROI tools may not be called abuse, it is clearly a stupid idea. I would call it inappropriate use of bid bots.
5. Abuse of Reputation Score Algorithm
Any reputation gained via the abusive tactics using bid bots is an abuse of the reputation algorithm. I have so many times asked this questions in discussions related to bid bot abuse. Let me formally share it with you.
How would the Steemit accounts look like in terms of reputation score acquired through bot votes is removed?
I know I will drop back to 62 only because I am not a massive fan of bid bots. I never used them for months but as the quality of my content and my knowledge of Steemit increased, I felt the need to promote myself through bots. It has worked in most cases.
I would like to request people to discuss the effects of bid bots on reputation score system and its repercussions on Steem blockchain. Reputation is only reversible through flags and simple banning won't undo the abuse that happened on an account through bid bots.
6. Excessive Use of Bid Bots
How much is excessive is debatable. But I can surely say that using bid bots on every post, regardless of the value it may create, is excessive use of bid bots. If a post gets $400 worth of votes from bid bots in its initial hour and pays out at $405 (keeping Steem's price constant) after 7 days, it certainly was not a post worth promoting. Promotion should generate engagement and it should be evident.
7. Using Bid Bots Too Early
I won't call it abuse but it is an inappropriate use of bots in my opinion because it deprives your voters of good curation rewards. I had a funny incident today on my friend @jbn post on how vote value is determined by Steem blockchain (I admit it educated me from the scrap on vote value and you must read it!). It took me some time reading his post. By the time I finished commenting, resteemed and upvoted it, the post had already received a considerable vote on it from a bot. I was amused because I had this point in my mind at that time. I conveyed my feelings to him too. Haha!
I think the first hour is what should not be used for bot votes. Let your regular readers vote in 20-60 minutes window so that they can collect some SP as curation reward. Use of bots after that will enhance their curation rewards.
What is Quality Content?
Quality is not measurable. We can't quantify it. Furthermore, different people have different perceptions about quality content. But since this question is part of the discussion and I talk about quality content a lot, I am sharing my thoughts freely. You can add yours.
In my opinion, quality content is the content which fulfills most of the following conditions.
- Regardless of the topic or type, the content formatted/presented in an excellent and organized way is quality content.
- Quality content always addresses an issue or solves a problem for its audience. A well-taken photograph may be pleasing to the eye of a person who appreciates good photography. A detailed guide to doing something is of educational value. Just examples.
- It contains references and links to more quality content. The images and resources used are well referenced.
- The information presented in the content is useful and correct. It must be well researched before publishing.
- After being published, it generates engagement. Such engagement is visible from social signals like shares, upvotes, and comments.
- Quality content never fails to be appreciated and its author can never stay unnoticed forever. If you notice a Steemian progressing rapidly on all important fronts, he or she surely is dishing out great content on a regular basis.
These are general guidelines and do not rule out other possible perceptions. Some of the examples of quality content on Steemit are:-
- An incredibly well written opinion.
- A great work of fiction.
- A photograph well taken and all the information about camera settings etc included in the post.
- A Dtube video containing valuable information or guidance.
- A cryptocurrency signal given based on technical analysis and charts.
- A thoroughly detailed guide on how something works.
- A personal story.
- An update on homesteading.
I can go on with the list. But the point is; we have different tags and categories because each of them has quality content on that tag. It may not be useful for all the people but it certainly is useful people who follow that tag.
Also, different people like different types of content. I do not curate photography posts much but it does not mean that these posts are not quality content. They are not just quality content for me. My content may not be quality content in many people's thinking and it is absolutely fine. But anything formatted and presented well never be flagged, if not upvoted.
I wanted to keep this opinion post short but there is so much to share, and on different fronts, that it has turned into another full blown post. However, recording my opinion on bid bot abuse and content quality is an important exercise. It also adds to my efforts to educate people about Steemit and its ecosystem.
I personally loved writing it. Do let me know how you feel after reading it. Resteems will generate healthy discussion and also educate your followers so I request you to resteem. Upvotes are always a source of great encouragement.