This article is a follow up to my last article, "Central Premise & Proposals" - A Series About Fixing Steemit - Part 4.
By Day 2, that article was ranked 7th on the blockchain for "Most Comments." While I'd like to say it was because of my ingenious ideas and impeccable diction, in reality, it was because the post was "swarmed" by the Witness Group, @noblewitness, comprised of @sircork, @gmuxx, @rhondak and @anarcho-andrei.
Between them, they left 100+ comments, often long and rambling, regularly insulting and belittling anyone daring to show support for my proposed reforms to Steemit. To paraphrase @sircork, all you Steemians with rep scores of 50 or below: You're stupid, lazy morons who don't put in the work and don't deserve to be compensated ... and, by "the work," he's not referring to creating "great content," but rather not figuring out how the "game works." If you're getting raped, you deserve it. Loser. If you don't believe me, go take a look ... and don't forget the sidechain comments.
The comments section on that post is now so long, and venomous, that it would take hours to read through and, as such, many of the legitimate exchanges (look towards the bottom of the comments section as the @noblewitness group upvoted each others' posts to the top) get lost in the garbage. And, that was undoubtedly the intention of the swarm. Shut down the conversation by making it unpalatable. Hence, this post is meant as a summary of, and answer to, the cogent comments expressed in that post's comments section.
Obviously, to understand this post, you will first have to read that one. Please do. This is a very important matter for all of us and, if nothing else, many people have said that the article was very well written. And please, folks, don't let these goons, or others, intimidate you. My DM is filled with supportive commenters afraid to comment in public, or even upvote, for fear of retaliation. If this is what Steemit has become, is not worth preserving.
For or against my proposals, find the courage of your convictions ... and speak your mind.
A Recap of My Proposals
1. Proposal No. 1 ... Ban the Bidbots
2. Proposal No. 2 ... Limit Self-Upvoting
3. Proposal No. 3 ... Mandatory Disclosure of Real World Identities
4. Proposal No. 4 .... Sheriff & Jury System
5. Proposal No. 5 ... Clean Up The Accounts
Two other proposals have yet to be published. Given the length of the original article, I decided to discuss these in future posts, but neither are related to, or dependent upon, the implementation of the proposals in the original article.
Bidbots & Multiple-Account-Self-Upvoting ... Destroy Curation
In my original article, I mentioned that bidbots alone deplete the Reward Pool by 25-30% of its payouts. This is a huge amount of upvoting capital that is being channeled away from legitimate curation, a process which is every bit as vital to the blockchain as is quality content creation, and which makes a joke of Steemit's Central Premise, that: Content Shall Be Compensated Commensurate With Its Quality.
It is impossible to know precisely how much multiple-account-self-upvoting (by large stakeholders) is further depleting the Reward Pool as anonymity of account ownership camouflages the process (which is the reason for my Proposal for Mandatory Disclosure of Real World Identities ... but accessible only by the Sheriffs). There is, however, little disagreement amongst those who have studied the phenomenon that the amount is substantial.
While most discussions about upvote-gaming focus on the short-term effects (i.e., the 25-30% daily depletion by bidbots), the medium- and long-term effects are even more pernicious. (In the following discussion, I will focus mainly on bidbots because their operations are well known, but the same applies to multiple-account-self-upvoting and other "reward-pool-gaming" mechanisms.)
1. Force Multiplying Effect of Page Ranking. When a post appears on the Hot or Trending Pages as the result of bidbot usage, it is displacing another author's post that would have appeared but for the bidbot usage. And so, that other author does not receive the additional exposure, and compensation, that the Hot and Trending Pages were designed to provide as part of the overall "quality content curation process." The intended force-multiplying effect of such Page Ranking never occurs.
2. Building A Following. The displacement of said author, and the exposure it would have provided, also slows, or prevents, he/she from building a long-term following of engaged users. You can't Follow or interact with someone you don't know exists.
3. Manual Curators' Compensation. Manual Curators are as important to the operation of Steemit as are quality content creators. But manual curation takes time, and a lot of it at that. Such curators are supposed to be compensated for finding the gems early on in the process and elevating them so that they get additional exposure via the Hot and Trending Pages.
Their compensation is largely derived from the fact that many other small Steemians, and/or a few big ones, will see and upvote their curated posts, thereby increasing their curated posts' Curation Awards. But, as explained above, the process of attaining Hot/Trending Page status has been hi-jacked by vote-gaming systems such as bidbots. Such status is now almost exclusively bought, not earned. Manual Curation of quality content, therefore, becomes unprofitable and otherwise willing curators, desist.
4. Steemit Super-Stars. Steemit has been functional for almost three years. Why aren't there any Steemit Super-Stars? Becoming a Super-Star would mean consistently creating quality content that is in demand by a large number of people. On other social media platforms, that has inevitably meant making content creation your full-time job. With respect to video productions, it may also mean hiring several staff.
This requires money. The problem is that quality producers can't make any, or at least not enough, to justify quitting their jobs. Why can't they make enough money? Because the content-compensation-system has been hi-jacked by low-quality-content-producers who are gaming the Reward Pool.
This effects everyone adversely. It is not realistic to assume that 1-2 hours per day, what most people have to spend on Steemit, will result in Super-Stardom. But only Super-Stars have the ability to, regularly, go viral. Super-Stars would be the magnets that would attract off-blockchain audiences in droves, if for no other reason than their fans' desire to "personally interact" with them. This "personal interaction" phenomenon explains why several dozen Super-Stars make $50-100,000 per month on Patreon ... fans making donations in exchange for the personal interaction that the Super-Stars don't provide on YouTube and other social media platforms. Super-Stars would also generate a massive amount of free advertising for the blockchain. (I will discuss how to, realistically, "manufacture Super-Stars" in a future article entitled, "Capital Formation.")
Such dynamics are crucial to the long-term success of the blockchain.
STEEM is an inflationary cryptocurrency with a present inflation rate of approximately 9.25% per annum. So long as there is a growing user-base, that additional money supply gets absorbed by new users and has no deleterious effects upon the price of STEEM.
But, if the user-base remains the same, or decreases, that increased money supply MUST HAVE, and WILL HAVE, a price-lowering effect upon STEEM (this is very likely already happening). This is the Law of Supply and Demand, the most basic principle of economics. At present, Steemit's growth in "active users" is almost non-existent. Indeed, it may be decreasing slightly. Steemit's inability to attract, and retain, new and existing users is a disaster-in-the-making.
5. Outside Opinions Matter. One of the Witnesses who seems to command a wide measure of respect is @timcliff. Here is an interesting post, Proposal: Paid Advertising on Steem (with a twist), he recently published respecting his proposal to introduce advertising to the blockchain.
This was my reply:
[-]quillfire (50) · 17 hours ago
@timcliff, I have run an advertising agency for a decade. I think your idea has great potential. I do see, however, a problem.
Experienced advertisers long ago stopped believing in artificially inflated "views" and "follower counts," which is endemic on other major social media platforms. They want "real viewers who are honestly engaged."
1. The existence of bidbots and multiple-account-self-upvoting make any "post-payout metrics" on Steemit useless.
2. Large Follower counts are all but meaningless in today's Follow-for-Follow environment and, on Steemit, people follow fat wallets ... simply because they're fat.
3. And, Whales producing "sub-standard" content, but nevertheless attracting hundreds of fawning commenters, is unlikely to convince advertisers that "legitimate engagement" has been achieved.
The theoretical curation process of Steemit (Hot, Trending) would have solved the metrics problem beautifully, but 15 minutes of due diligence uncovers the fact that such rankings are bought, and almost never earned.
My views on potential advertiser reactions is not speculation. If you look on my blog, you'll see a two month absence. During that two months, I approached a very well known Fortune 1,000 company with the idea of sponsoring an almost two-month-long Contest on my Steemit Blog (my company creates poetic advertisements).
The Contest would have paid out USD $100,000 in SBD prizes.
I presented them with 3 poetic ads to choose from.
They LOVED all three, and so, my proposal soon tripled in size. Three Contests at USD $100,000 apiece in SBD prizes. The Contests would also have had the company open an account and deposit six figures. This account was to afford them additional "prize-giving capabilities" during a Contest and, between them, was to have been delegated to me.
Of course, large advertisers don't do anything without doing due diligence and creating a set of metrics to gauge success. The company's enthusiasm soon cooled. To quote one of the senior marketing execs, "Steemit is a Den of Thieves ... everyone's cheating." I corrected him saying that most people didn't cheat. He replied, "And those are the ones who leave."
And so, I set about the Herculean task of attempting to clean up Steemit. I did a ton of research and a ton of thinking. I decided to publish a Series of Articles to gauge the reaction of the community and attempt to stimulate a conversation.
Here's an article that was posted 3 days ago. By Day 2, it was ranked 7th on the blockchain for "Most Comments." Take a look to see how it achieved such august rankings. Your fellow Witnesses figure prominently. https://steemit.com/steemit/@quillfire/central-premise-and-proposals-a-series-about-fixing-steemit-part-4
At present, no major advertiser would touch Steemit with a ten-foot pole. Any advertising Steemit could attract, without major reforms, would be so low-paying that it wouldn't be worth the effort.
Steemit has to make a decision: Either act like a legitimate blockchain with a commitment to curating quality content, or, remain a cheater's paradise where the name-of-the-game is gaming the Reward Pool.
Steemit's "quality curation system" was designed to be a series of feed-back loops, each force-multiplying the other. It's intent was to quickly discover high quality content and raise it to prominence within a matter of days. Because of the vote-gaming mechanisms widely employed across the blockchain, many of which are owned and operated by Whales and Witnesses, the system is broken to its core.
This WILL prove a fatal flaw to the blockchain unless it is quickly remedied.
Competition is coming and once a viable competitor exists, there will be a mass exodus from Steemit of quality content producers, like myself, and those who just want to play a fair game, also like myself. Such an exodus would involve liquidating huge amounts of STEEM, depressing the price and, very likely, triggering a "bank-run." A bank-run occurs when a large number of people start selling, at any price, to get out before yet even more people decide to do the same ... creating a self-reinforcing downward spiral. Panic selling.
If you are a Steemit Whale, this should be keeping you awake at night. Do something about it, or it WILL BE DONE to you. Markets are ruthless.
Bidbots Were Demanded By The Market
Argument was made on my original article that bidbots were "demanded by the market" and therefore their appearance was simply giving the community what it wanted. And, only a Commie/Dictator/Nazi like myself would seek to deprive the community of such legitimate demand.
As I responded, lots of things are demanded by the market: Crack-cocaine; murder-for-hire and thermonuclear weapons. Just because a demand exists doesn't mean you should fill it, nor, that you shouldn't prevent it from being filled. Bidbots were not part of the design of the blockchain, nor, was there a referendum of users (effected parties) to weigh the relative benefits and adverse consequences of their introduction. Because there were no rules against them, bidbots were created by some clever fellow who figured out how to automate the gaming-of-the-system. And, only a small percentage of Steemians, use, or have ever used, bidbots.
Technically, Bidbots Can't Be Banned
Arguments have been made that, technically, you can't ban bidbots.
In order for a bidbot to operate, potential users have to know about its existence. Hence all the $0.001 donations (solicitations) in your wallet made by bidbot operators seeking to convince you to use their services.
My proposals, once implemented, would shut down bidbots in a heartbeat. Here's the required process:
1. The community would hold a Referendum about my proposals [a non-binding Popular Vote ... one person/one vote - not "one account/one vote" (because there are people with multiple accounts ... some with hundreds or thousands) and not stake-weighted].
2. If they passed, each Witness would be asked whether they intended to implement the proposals (including the banning of bidbots).
3. The community would UnVote Witnesses who said, "No," or "Won't Say," and Vote for Witnesses who said, "Yes."
(If the Whales attempted to block such Popular Vote with their stake-weighted votes for Witnesses, they'd be committing Steemicide.
STEEM has NO INTRINSIC VALUE. It's only value derives from the existence of a user-base and the presumption that such user-base will exist (and grow) in the future. The surest way to lose such user-base is to ignore their demand that the vote-gaming stop. Within months, Steemit will have numerous direct competitors, all of whom will be directly targeting Steemit's users, as they are the most logical "initial user-base" for such alternative crypto-backed social media platforms. Active recruitment of Steemians is already well under way.)
4. The Witnesses vote to "ban bidbots and their USAGE," and formalize the blockchain's Rules of Conduct.
5. A Judiciary Council is elected, on the basis of one person/one vote (not stake-weighted) who would be responsible for hiring and overseeing the Sheriffs. The Sheriffs would be paid from the Reward Pool, ensuring their complete independence from Witnesses (and hence, Whales, with their stake-weighted ability to elect, or unelect, any Witnesses they want).
6. The Appeals Button is added to all UI's and an automated system for randomly choosing Jurors implemented.
7. The Sheriffs' computers start scanning posts, starting with those appearing in Hot & Trending, for upvotes by known bidbots (new bidbots would be added to their list as they're discovered). Dossiers are created for violations and the Dossiers submitted to three randomly selected (and anonymous) Jurors.
8. If the Jurors find that a violation has occurred, the bidbot upvote(s) is/are sent to the Reward Pool. The Jurors might also decide to temporarily suspend the author's posting abilities (for say a week) in the case of repeat offenders. Especially egregious offenders may be permanently banned from the blockchain.
9.Respecting the latter consequence, one could argue that banned individuals would just open up a new account. And hence, my Proposal No. 3 ... Mandatory Disclosure of Real World Identities.
10. Such Real World Identity Disclosures would be kept confidential and be accessible only to the appointed Sheriffs.
11. Knowing Real World Identities would prevent new account openings by banned users. They could, as I acknowledged in my article, open up a new account (starting all over with a rep score of 25) under their kid's name. Fine. Hopefully they'll have learned their lesson and cease their Offensive Behaviors. If not, repeat the process. Sooner or later, they'll run out of kids and neighbors. In any event, violations would become much more difficult, and costly, to perpetrate. While this may not solve the problem entirely (cheaters can be very creative and determined), it will dramatically reduce the problem and the adverse consequences it has on the Curation System. A 1 lb problem is preferable to a 100 lb problem.
12. Such Mandatory Real World Identity Disclosures would also identify the multiple-account-self-upvoting violators (my proposals allow for one, 100% upvote/day/person (not account) ... whether on one post or multiple. This would also include self-upvoting of person's own comments). Now that the Sheriffs know who owns what, self-upvoting abusers with multiple accounts could no longer use anonymity to camouflage their activities. Software already exists that identifies the "network of voting activity" between accounts.
13. All UI's would be obligated to comply with the aforementioned Rules of Conduct. If they didn't, and their access could not be automatically blocked by the blockchain (I'm not an IT guy), then they too would be banned and their usage made a violation of the Rules of Conduct ... subjecting their users to sanction.
And there you have it ... both bidbots and multiple-account-self-upvoting banned and a pragmatic and effective system implemented to enforce against violations.
Our Problems Are Ideological ... Their Solutions, Pragmatic
The comments section of my original article makes my case: Steemit's problems are primarily ideological, not technological. Instead of arguing point-by-point refutations of why my proposals wouldn't work or pragmatic reasons why they ought not be adopted, critics immediately descended into ad hominem attacks and personal insults ... the hallmark of ideologues trying to defend ideas that are indefensible.
Commie. Dictator. Fascist.
These are POLITICAL insults. These are the insults hurled by people attempting to implement or preserve a political agenda. Anarchists. People who believe in "No Rulers, No Rules." No matter how inefficient or self-destructive to the blockchain, they will always resist any solution that requires laws, and their enforcement. Of course, such insults are also the "ideological pretexts" used by people trying to preserve a "rigged system," but unable to use such language to say so.
Personal Note: As I explained in my original article, although I disagree with its tenets, I am not attempting to deride anarchism as a political or economic theory, nor anarchists for believing in it. Criticism of the philosophy, however, becomes unavoidable when its adherents become ideologically blinded, refusing any measure of common sense constraint based upon nothing more than trying to preserve a Utopian ideal. This, however, DOES NOT apply to all anarchists. To the contrary, I've had many productive conversations with Steemians of such persuasion who agree that the blockchain has some huge problems and that Rules, and a mechanism for their enforcement, will be necessary.
Similarly, and again explained in my original article, I don't blame people for the creation or usage of bidbots, as I consider them to have been a logical adaptation to an adverse environment. That said, they are adaptations that have had, and are having, extremely deleterious effects upon the blockchain. They are part of an Arms-Race that is causing a Tragedy of the Commons. Both they, and other upvote-gaming abuses, must be banned before they destroy the entire system. This will require adopting community-approved Rules of Conduct and implementing a system of enforcement for said Rules.
As I've explained elsewhere, cryptocurrency developers are finding out that if they wish to succeed, they're going to have to play by the Rules of the Real World. ICO's will have to comply with Real World government securities laws. Know Your Client (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) disclosures will have to be made if a cryptocurrency wants access to regulated exchanges. The SEC and the CFTC ... well, developers will either comply with their regulations or go bankrupt (and potentially to jail) in the process of their defiance. Neither institutional services providers nor institutional investors will even look at a cryptocurrency not in compliance with Real World laws and regulations.
Wherever you have a concentration of capital, you'll have a concentration of crooks. Rules and regulations will have to be implemented and enforced to minimize their effects. This is how the Real World works and it's how the crypto world will work as well.
This reality is why anarchism, as a political and economic system, has never once, in all of human history, been implemented. Amongst the masses, common sense prevails and the overwhelming majority of people, including Steemians, realize that in the absence of laws, and law enforcement, you'll have lawlessness. Anarchy. Chaos.
Most people simply want a Steemit that works as originally designed:
1. When high quality content is created, it is quickly recognized by one of many human curators.
2. Small and large stakeholders alike follow the most talented of the curators' curation trails and upvote whatever they do, earning Curation Rewards in the process (passive income on their principal).
3. Such curated posts get bumped into Hot & Trending where they receive yet additional exposure and additional upvotes.
4. Curation of quality content, in the collective opinion of a large audience, is thus achieved.
5. Both "quality content creation" and "quality content curation" is incentivized, encouraging all authors to create their best work and attracting new quality content creators to the blockchain.
6. The existence of a large number of quality content creators attracts outside audiences and new users.
7. These self-reinforcing feedback loops increase the price of STEEM. And hence, even small post-payouts increase in value. Almost everyone benefits, and no one more than the Whales who see the value of their principal investment increase ... perhaps dramatically. Real world actors, such as institutional investors and service providers, take note. SMT's become an attractive option because the bedrock underlying STEEM, Steemit, is sound.
The only ones who lose are the cheaters who seek to preserve a system that, in the short-term, enriches themselves at the expense of everyone else.
My proposals are practical, non-ideological solutions to problems that, if not fixed quickly, will cause the collapse of Steemit and the loss of substantial sums by a large number of good people.
Bidbots, Witnesses & Fiduciary Responsibility
In this brave new world of cryptocurrencies, it's often difficult to know what anything "is." But, as we're finding out, it's not "Dev's" who gets to decide. It's the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that decides whether your ICO is a security (it almost always is). And, irrespective of jurisdiction, the SEC will have tremendous influence, as they always do, on the securities regulators of other nations.
I am not a lawyer, but having run a couple of hedge funds for years, I am very used to thinking like one. Here's an extract from a comment I left on another post discussing bidbots (lightly edited):
... A gnarly legal question arises respecting the Witnesses.
Do they have a "fiduciary responsibility" to protect the best interests of all Steemians? Steemit is not a corporation ... but neither is a Trust. (A Trust is not a "thing," but rather a "relationship.")
Courts the world over have found, repeatedly, that Trustees do have a fiduciary responsibility to protect the best interests of a Trust's beneficiaries. If a similar line of thinking were to be applied to Steemit, the Witnesses might very well have substantial legal liability for allowing mechanisms, such as bidbots, that self-evidently violate the financial interests of non-bidbot using Steemians. Given that numerous Witnesses are actually bidbot owner/operators ...
No institutional lawyer in the world is going to miss something so obvious and not a one would involve their institutions in such a potential mess.
Steemit is a brilliant idea. Play the game STRAIGHT and everyone will prosper.
Those of us who've spent some time in high-finance learn a healthy fear of plaintiffs' lawyers.
Securities laws are extremely complex and judges are given wide latitude in interpreting the "essence of a thing."
"Fraud" is not a "specific thing," per se, but rather a behavior that possesses certain qualities, called "badges of fraud." The "Prudent Man Rule" (what would a Prudent Man think or do in a similar situation) is applied to people is positions of responsibility trying to hide behind "legal technicalities" and what the definition of "is," is. They've heard it all and seen it all. They're very used to "piercing the corporate shield" and "pass through arrangements" to assign personal responsibility to bad-faith actors.
Bidbots, and all the other vote-gaming mechanisms, not only tolerated by the Witnesses but often run by them, strike me as "begging for a bullet."
I will close by referring you to two other cryptocurrency-backed social media platforms: Minds.com and Narrative.
Minds.com is a well developed social media platform that has just made its internal tokens exchangeable for Ethereum. It has 1.25 million+ registered users (probably more "real users" than Steemit, given that many Steemit users have multiple accounts).
Narrative is a highly polished crypto-backed social media platform that will be fully functional in December. It has already signed up a great many Steemians in anticipation of its launch. Here's an excellent summary of the blockchain by a fellow Steemian.
Both platforms are hybrid crypto platforms, combining the best aspects of decentralization with the best aspects of centralization, to create the most efficient and effective systems possible. Their developers set aside their anarchist ideologies (a seemingly near-universal philosophy amongst cryptocurrency developers) and focused on building something that works. Both incorporate similar constraints as those I've proposed.
They're not communists, dictators or fascists.
And neither am I.
Needless-to-say ... I WILL NOT be responding to any of the members of @nobelwitness (@sircork, @anarcho-andrei, @gmuxx and @rhondak). Decide for yourselves if you will ... but giving them more attention just perpetuates their behavior.
And ... you might also want to check to see if you've voted for them as a Witness.
You guys know the drill. Be verbose ... but articulate.
And remember ...
Go Love A Starving Poet
For God's sake ... they're starving!