We are entering an interesting time in the evolution of the Steem ecosystem. A number of new apps are developing into solid platforms; the issuance of SMTs (Smart Media Tokens) also encourages further development of niche communities. Whether dealing directly in Steem or in convertible SMTs, the number of applications interacting with the main blockchain is due for a major increase. In this new landscape, what is the role of the flagship Steemit website?
What is a Post?
Steemit is promoted as the primary Steem application and as a blogging environment. Users are encouraged to create original and engaging content in the form of articles. But there has always been some tension as to what can legitimately be called “original content”. Communities such as photographers and artists seem happy to accept single images as the products of their creativity; the blockchain does not store images directly, so such “posts” appear merely as a title and an image URL. At the other end, authors and bloggers expect to see properly crafted articles, diligently edited and with a professional-looking layout.
Beyond that, we see probably too much plagiarism and copypasta that can honestly be consigned to the dustbin, but we also have snippets of information, links to longer articles and even “thought bubbles”. Should these latter posts be considered as “adding value” to the Steemit community? Before answering that, let’s see what is happening beyond Steemit itself.
Steemit is the primary User Interface (UI) to the Steem blockchain, but we are now seeing a growing number of posts being made from outside the Steemit website. Busy is also a blogging platform, chainBB is a forum, DTube is a video platform, Zappl is a microblogging app, plus other apps that facilitate interactions with the blockchain. I chose those examples because they all provide different kinds of posts compared to the traditional blog – and all of their content also appears on Steemit.
The idea that the perfectly crafted blog post is the only legitimate form of post has already been eroded, and will further disappear. A chainBB discussion can be initiated by a simple question; that question will appear as the original post (OP) with comments below it. A Zappl post has a limit of 240 characters; impossible to write an essay. You get the idea. The format of a legitimate post depends on the platform that is used to generate it – but, I repeat, all posts are seen on Steemit.
Steemit as an Aggregator
All of this means that Steemit is no longer just a blogging platform, it is the aggregator of all the steem blockchain activity. Sure, the real aggregator is the blockchain itself, but people need a more natural interface. I think that Steemit as the hub of an individual’s disparate social media activities is a really useful development.
Every website has the obligatory social media icons of Facebook and Twitter, possibly Google+, Pinterest, Reddit and others. There are ways to integrate them but they are not natural and certainly not seamless; you can’t see your Facebook timeline on Twitter, for example. People appear to accept that these are different websites run by different companies and create their own individual form of integration as they flip between different kinds of interactions.
But Steem has developed the other way round. The integrator – the aggregator – is already there at the very beginning: the blockchain. Rather than trying to merge fundamentally different websites, new social media experiences are fanning out from the one blockchain. Ironic that a decentralized system performs the task of centralizing different apps, but so be it. I think that in the coming months this could potentially be the most powerful function of Steemit.
Development of an Aggregator
However, there is one key feature that the Steemit UI should implement so that it is a seamless, fully-integrated social media aggregator. This is something I have seen many people ask for in many different contexts: the ability to see different content streams.
We already see different streams for Blogs, Comments and Replies. One extra stream often requested is to separate author Blogs from Resteems. But here the issue is wider: to stream different sources of communication. There could still be one master stream, but to allow the UI to add dedicated streams from, say, chainBB, Zappl and even Steemit itself would make the user experience far more manageable and meaningful. The irony here is that fragmenting the sources leads to a more integrated experience.
Some years ago, I used Stumbleupon a lot precisely because it was easy to create different content streams, mixing my articles with external sources I found useful. On one page, I could glance at each stream and pick whatever I was interested in at the time.
The key for Steemit is that all sources are already integrated via the blockchain and all one is doing is allowing the user to select the form of integration they prefer; there is no need to pull different feeds from across the web. This shouldn’t be difficult to code; in the footer of chainBB messages, one can already see the source of each message.
Indeed, the relationship between Steemit and chainBB is a good example of the utility of an aggregator. Every post made on Steemit can, in theory, be seen on chainBB, but the forum structure means that if you only use chainBB then you will not see many messages posted on Steemit. Similarly, the chainBB forum structure encourages use of specific tags to define each forum; these tags also appear on Steemit, but would be difficult to find by pure chance. The two sites currently serve slightly different complementary functions and would be really useful for a user on their aggregated dashboard to see if a comment was part of a long discussion or a response to a blog post.
So, moving forwards, what is a post? It seems like it is any communication that engages an interaction between people. Just as our senses are integrated into a holistic experience so different online expressions can be aggregated into one social media experience.
What do you think?
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