Self-Voting: Scammy Behavior, Rational ROI, or Something Else?
I've jumped into a few interesting discussions about self-voting and wanted to put my thoughts down as they are today.
I'll be up front with some of my own biases. I get frustrated by an entitlement attitude. I think improper expectations breed frustration. I think Steemit has always been designed as a lottery, though the flattened reward curve has changed that a bit. I don't think trying to make everyone equal is how we can improve the world, because equality of outcome can't exist between people with radically different ambitions (though equality of opportunity is certainly something we should aim for as a compassionate community).
So right up front, I know Steemit isn't "fair", and it probably never will be, much like life. It's not fair that I was born in a wealthy country to intelligent parents. Yeah, at times we didn't have much money and had to sell the house and live on a boat, but I've had a lot opportunities, more than many.
With all that said, let's jump into a Pros and Cons list for self-voting. To be clear, self-voting is when you vote up your own post or comment.
Cons - Why Self-Voting Is Bad
You're essentially adding noise to the system.
I forgot where I first saw this argument in conversation, but I think it's potentially the best reason not to vote for your own posts. The rewards mechanism here is designed to increase the signal and decrease the noise. Votes from Steem Power holders determine rewards pool distribution. It's supposed to be a signal from stake-holders to indicate the best authors and posts. Now by "best", I acknowledge this is a subjective concept. Not everyone agrees on "best", but hopefully all Steem Power holders at least try to vote for things they think should be repeated and supported in order to increase the value of their holdings. Unfortunately, I think many fail to consider timescale in this process and go for short-term gains.
You're signaling to the community something important about your intentions. Are you greedy?
This one's a little more controversial. If you regularly participate in behavior which ensures you get more than your "fair share" (whatever that might be), then the rest of your tribe may begin to resent you. In some tribal gift economies, to take more than you give out is considered a terrible offense. People who are overly concerned about their own wellbeing are difficult to trust. Trust is hugely important when building strong communities.
You're gaming the system.
In its worst form, some people add valueless comments just so they have another post they can vote up. This is similar to the early days where the bandwidth constraints weren't working properly and many were spamming the network looking for rewards. Steemit implemented a "4 posts a day" target with decreasing rewards beyond that. This limitation has since been removed, but the idea remains: If you're spamming the network just to increase your own rewards, are you really adding value to the entire network? Should the network be rewarding your behavior?
Pros - Why Self-Voting Is Good
You're a serious STEEM investors who needs to see a good ROI to remain engaged.
The way I like to think about this argument compares Steem Power holders to bitcoin miners. If someone invests $10,000 in a miner to obtain their "fair share" of the bitcoin rewards pool, no one complains at all. No one cries foul-play or considers that person a bad actor, even if their actions and investment decrease the rewards for everyone else. If that same person invests $10,000 in Steem Power and starts posting, commenting, and voting all their own stuff up with a similar mindset that a portion of the rewards pool is their "fair share" based on their investment, are they actually wrong? Just as the Bitcoin protocol allows for ASICs, the Steem blockchain allows for self-voting (and there is no real way to stop it anyway). If a Steem Power investor doesn't see an ROI incentive here, they will go elsewhere and the value of the entire network could go down. We all have an incentive to see Steem investors gain rewards, stick around, and bring in more Steem investors.
You're sending an important signal about the quality of your voting.
If the network agrees with your self-vote, they may join in (especially if they are follow voting you via a voting trail). If the network does not agree, you've given them important insight into your process of determining quality. A self-vote on low quality content may provide more signal than any other action, potentially leading to unfollows, lost trail voters, loss of perceived status and reputation, etc.
You've invested real money and time into Steemit in order to have power here.
Some people are afraid of the concept of power. I am not, only the immoral misuse of it. I see power and influence as closely related. I greatly appreciate power used voluntarily to benefit humanity. For me, I see this influence/power dynamic play out in the comments or in the newly created posts page where high Steem Power authors who self-vote get to have their ideas, their influence, stand out and rise to the top. That's a good incentive to purchase Steem and power it up. It's part of the design of this system.
With that said, I'd like to mention another point. To me, it's arbitrary to be okay with self-voting on a root post but opposed to self-voting on a post with a parent (i.e. a comment). The blockchain doesn't really care or make much of a distinction. Each comment can be viewed as a standalone post. In my opinion, much of this thinking comes from the default action on Steemit.com which votes up a newly created root post immediately. Notably, ChainBB does not vote on your new posts by default.
So now that we've unpacked all this, where does that leave us?
Could it be that the Pro and Con list above is too black and white? What if the ideal behavior for everyone is somewhere in the middle? Maybe we shouldn't demonize those who upvote themselves without first understanding their justifications and asking the tough question of whether or not their actions, over the long run, will increase or decrease the price of STEEM and the mass adoption and use of the Steem blockchain. Maybe taking a hard stance either way isn't beneficial.
As this discussion has taken place since hard fork 19, I've been thinking about my own actions a lot more.
The last week or so, I've stopped voting up my own root posts (note, one of these is a Resteem I did vote for, so ignore that).
I was curious how not voting on my posts would impact the rewards and number of votes I get. When I compare to the week before, I see what looks like a pattern:
I seem to have had more votes (and thus, higher payouts) when I voted up my own posts.
I've been thinking about that, wondering why that is. I know some people follow vote my account meaning they've gone to Streamian's Curation Trail system and added
lukestokes. Could it be when I don't vote up my own posts, those accounts also don't vote and any accounts following them in turn miss that vote as well? By not voting on my root posts, are they losing out on curation rewards they'd otherwise get and could that mean I could lose vote followers?
From this perspective, maybe a root post and a comment are actually different. Maybe we should continue to vote up own root posts but keep the self-voting on comments to a minimum? Or maybe I'm imagining a pattern and creating a narrative when neither actually exist. Maybe we should use our new 4x voting power to support other authors instead of ourselves.
Maybe we're back to the original discussion about fairness and (dare I say it) privilege. If someone's just starting out, their own vote might be the only vote they get until they build a following. Someone like me who's been building a following for a year still does very well without my own vote (though I may be leaving something on the table by not voting up my own posts).
I don't have the answers, but as always, I enjoy tinkering with the system to find what works, what doesn't, and what benefits the community.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
When is self-voting okay, if ever?
Why the stigma towards how investors use their Steem Power but no stigma towards how miners use their mining rigs?
(image source, CC0 public domain)
Edit: Looks like the default policy on new posts will be changing as this PR was merged in: https://github.com/steemit/condenser/pull/1541
Luke Stokes is a father, husband, business owner, programmer, and voluntaryist who wants to help create a world we all want to live in. Visit UnderstandingBlockchainFreedom.com