The regret-filled pivot, or how Steemit learned to relax and discard their designs

in #steemit6 years ago (edited)

Yet another reaction to the latest news from Steemit Inc. CEO @ned. Yawn. So I'll try to keep this to what people aren't discussing as much to try to draw attention to some of the things I think are important and this juncture.


😂forgive the crudeness, the format isn't my speciality 😜

Ned indicated strongly that fair rewards and censorship resistance are no longer part of his goals from the perspective of Steemit Inc., calling them part of what was a "patch on the flag" of Steem. He said this to make the implied claim that since fair rewards and censorship resistance were not part of his original plan of getting crypto into peoples' hands around the world, that it was added later, it can be abandoned while still staying true.

It would have been good spirited to plainly admit that the social media bootstrapping, if that's all it was / is, is fundamentally baked into the blockchain, and the very means by which STEEM gets into the hands of all those people around the world, those who have little or none invested in themselves. It's disappointing to see the core and central use case casually dismissed as well I didn't like that part anyway as the company belt tightens.

Pivot, realityism and real talk

Pivoting is good, necessary even in today's business climate, but the narrative matters, and it tells it's own tales about what to expect here. Let me make my divinations explicit: with SMTs on prenatal life-support, and ideological principles of fairness and anti-censorship dismissed, we are to make the best of the platform as it in a marketplace of dApp-ish tools, and expect changes to the protocol which discard the failed experiments.

I can't help but read into @ned's core statement on this particular matter as shade towards @dan and a further moving away from that partnership. It was Dan who was the more idealistic one, concerned with ethics (in the scholarly sense), principles of social organization and of course - money. Perhaps the network of influences needs to be unpacked more, and some are digging around for their own amusement on that, but I think my reading is likely true. I don't mean to be overly harsh but Ned's statements compared with Dan's on these subjects are pragmatically bland. That might be a good thing. For all the talk of not appealing to investors I think that kind of thing generally does.

I'm one of those folks who held on to the aforementioned parts of the blockchain design as originally stated as worthwhile achievable aims. I've argued for and created tools to help staying to this course (although admittedly my contribution has been small, others have done much much more). These were elements that drew me deeply in and that excited me to the system here above other ones. That position has become more and more untenable in the environment as things have shifted in the community, and it has in part trickled down from the top. This latest video was solid confirmation of this environment, and I'm holding on the last straw of tenability.

Prepare for restructuring

If ever there was a wonderful ephemistic term, it's this! Expect it to be used hither and yon as statements are made about changes. Changes to almost every organization and conclave on the platform. Like all others I too must take this into account.

Chief among the changes I am making is leaving the @sadkitten project as irrelevant in the current and likely future climate (it has been inactive since HF20 in any case). It's clear that thinking about how rewards are meted out are not proritized over that rewards go out at all. That's right --- I admit defeat.

That doesn't mean I'm closing up shop though. There are newly invigorated opportunities to be sure. For all the talk of whales, dolphins and minnows it's really the sharks to which we all should have the greatest inspiration. Not in their singleminded savagery (though some do great imitations), but in their need to stay ever moving, ever active, ever vigilant.

Addendum: partial transcript of Ned's speech

From about 9:00 in the video, emphasis in original:

Along the way, as was put up, other concepts have been adopted into this ecosystem as a sort of "patch on the flag". For instance, rewards for content creators, or, bigger, fair rewards for content creators. Another one that was adopted later, censorship resistnce for social media content. Let me be clear that both of these patches on the flag were adopted after - the founding - of - the company, and not that I don't that they're noble causes but they are not part of the true founding. And another thing is they're not even, you can't even say that they're 100% valid, you know. The algorithms of Proof of Brain to this point, they're not devined by God in a way where you can just contribute content and be rewarded fairly, and I think people have seen that. And it would be amazing if they did reward "fairly" [scare quotes acted in video] according to quality of content but that's never really been the case. As much as many of us wanted it to be, once we realized it sorta had the potential for that, and I do have ideas where that could actually work, but it's just not there [...]. The point is there's kinda three things here. There's distribution of currency, that's the first and founding principle of what's going on here, there's the second and third things, which were adopted later which is this "fair" rewards for content creators and the "censorship resistence" of content. Censorship resistence needs to be addressed too.

That's up to about 10:40. He goes on to say show there is too much reliance on Steemit Inc. run nodes and that censorship resistence hasn't really been tested as a result, and some other things you can get form watching yourself.


The image File:Home Care Transfer Pivot.png by BruceBlaus was accessed on WikiMedia Commons.

It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license, which allows for the "remixing" I've done above.

EDIT: corrected a typo in the image since time of original posting and added "Patch on the Flag"


It's easy to abandon the initial vision and go for an 'everything goes' type of project in the face of adversity. I can say from experience that selling an everything goes project to investors is a whole lot harder than one with specific goals; ie. blockchain that provides a censorship-free outlet to content creators whilst allowing them to monetize work. Doing an elevator speech about a blockchain where you can build some random dapp (which barely passes the threshold of logic) and incomprehensibly profit is a lot harder.

I understand why the shift took place: to allow for massive growth. We've seen the same change in virtually every project or product aimed for a narrow (or a wide swath of a narrow) market. Think video games.

Are you on Discord? You probably know I lost Slack access a while ago now.

Interesting take, I'd love to read your thoughts on that at length.

Yes I'm on Discord, feel free to connect.

Which Discord room are you in? Can't find you. I can write a damn essay about this if you want.

Come to mine, at least to make contact, Nth Society

Something sad about all this... reflected by the fact that I have reached the point of simply feeling too tired to go on a rant.

My first question on finding Steemit wasn't about rewards, but about whether the premise was sustainable in the long (multi-year) term and it was pretty much brushed aside in a cloud of idealistic pink unicorn sparkles. So much for 20 years experience in being part of user-generated content venues...

I'm not entirely sure what Ned's skill set it, but the psychology of social marketing and human nature ain't it. Metaphorically speaking, you can build the finest shopping mall known to humankind, but UNLESS you understand the psychology and needs of end consumers that doesn't amount to a hill of beans.

I'm not giving up on this place, though. The core idea of bringing cryptos to a mass market through an easily understandable and familiar means (social content) is still brilliant.

Very true. I do however feel that they are listening to users but privileging developer users over the average end user. The latest statement confirms the focus on fundamentals of the system (we are a blockchain company, etc.) which is to say they are focused (or will now be focused) on the platform, not the "app" of social media.

Interestingly also Ned indicated that this kind of thing is normal, citing Twitter's not so far back decision to close of developer APIs. The case of Steemit is not the APIs, it's the opposite case, shutting of the flagship app (probably) of and the very taken for granted RPC nodes, leaving it to third party developers to make the apps and run the nodes.

It's definitely wise to not give up at the first sign of trouble. Or the second. And keep going as long as makes sense. But really, no further. Drawing that line is a highly sought after skill.

Poor sadkitten. I forgot I had put support for that a while back. I believed that much of the more noble goals would have to come from the community to begin with, so I can only hope that more and more of the community/stake find ways to elevate content and curb behavior that inhibits growth.

To my knowledge there is no evidence that self voting inhibits growth, and I do not know how one would attempt to establish that. My basis for sadkitten was primarily on the use case of the platform, specifically to evaluate the contribution of others. This pillar has been progressively eroded and while the latest statements do not create a further action they send a powerful message and notice of intent for the de facto leaders of the blockchain.

If this leadership changes it would be time to revise my position here but I don't see it happening any time soon, though I'm inspired by the talk of community devs lately.

Yes, with the interpretation that voting in principle is for crowdsourcing the evaluation of content. And self voting in most cases is an inefficient allocation of where rewards "should be" going, e.g. in a way that promotes growth of the platform. Admittedly this isn't evidence based thinking though.

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I've no longer got a dedicated internet connection, and my presence hereabouts has been spotty at best lately. Things seem to be changing between my few opportunities to access, and I feel like I've missed the boat. Then the boat began sinking.

Hope I'm wrong.

However, I've but rarely found fault with your logic, never your intelligence, and this is a matter I know you have deep, personal knowledge of. I'm actually kind of shaken at the tenor and content of your post, left hoping somebody does something to restore a vibrant, strong future to the platform I have grown to love.

If this censorship-resistant crypto faucet dries up, I'll have a sad. 4chan died a decade ago, and Gab is too short form oriented. The other alternatives I've heard of and visited lack much of the promise Steemit offered, and yet may honor.

Interesting analogy of sharks. One thing I know about apex predators is that they need a thriving ecosystem. If the blogging platform dwindles, it'll be like a forest without trees, a sea without fish. Sharks cannot live in such places.

Thanks very much for keeping me as informed as possible given my rare ability to get on. You've given me much to consider in relatively few words, and Imma do a lot of considering, right directly.

Thank you, you're always so kind, I don't deserve it.

I don't think that the censorship resistance is going away right now, the chain is still fundamentally resistent to censorship once data is actually on chain and unaltered along the way. That's the point Ned is making, that RPC nodes can censor etc., but it is striking for him to say that it wasn't part of the original mission, and that they're getting back to the original mission (and we are just finding out now, which I find suspect), which means we can assume that feature will not be prioritized and indeed does not seem to be important.

Very true about sharks, though I hadn't meant the metaphor to go too far 😄

@personz Did Somebody Mention SHARKS ??

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