I had what I felt was a really great talk with @whatsup last night, and we touched on the subject of vote buying bots. She also discussed them with other people, and I read her comments.
@whatsup has been a proponent of the bots for a long time, and I do think she makes good arguments. Those who know me know that I'm pretty ehh about them, personally.
But let's have an objective look.
In 2016 when I joined Steemit, the gimmick of the site was presented to me as follows:
It's a stake-based platform; the more STEEM Power a user has, the more influence he has over the reward pool. It's gamified version of social media. Content creators compete with each other for the whale votes every day, so you need to learn what each whale likes and dislikes and work on your content accordingly.
I was fascinated by the concept.
Before making my first post, I learned about Dan Larimer and his philosophies because he was obviously a huge whale at the time. My goal was to get a vote from Dan.
So, I made a post entitled "What if Facebook was Regulated Like the Job Market". It's an old analogy of mine that I still think is the best thing I've come up with in terms of societal articles. The point being that if Facebook was under similar regulations as the labor market is, people would have less Facebook friends as the Facebook friend market would suffer in a number of ways.
My devious plan was successful, and my very first post on the platform got a vote from Dan.
Since then, I had times when I actually actively decided to have a trending post. I went out of my way to write a post with the goal of getting it to trending. Not every time was successful, but most of those times I managed to pull it off. I would have a few whales in mind who I wanted to target, made a post with them in mind and boom.
That was the concept that hooked me at first: the idea of just using your brain smarts to succeed. It was the gamification aspect of the whole thing that attracted me.
I realize not everyone is capable of doing that, but I viewed Steemit as a meritocracy; the smart would swim, while the rest would sink.
I also realize that all of the above may be absolutely infuriating to some, and I may have just earned a few new haters, but I also know that the people here who like me, like me for my honesty. So there's some honesty for you.
Now it's the middle of 2018, and a lot of hardforks later, things have changed quite a lot.
Steemit is an entirely different landscape than it once was. The entire "Try to attract a whale" aspect of Steemit that I once enjoyed so much is all but gone. It's no longer a game of wits, not really.
The whales have delegated their SP to the vote bots, and for the most of us, it doesn't matter what we do or how we do it, we will never get that big whale vote. It's pretty much impossible.
And with all the STEEM Power going around through delegations, the votes by non-whales are probably the least valuable they've ever been.
Though I do want to add that when I talk about value, I'm merely talking monetary value. Votes by humans who manually went through something I created and felt like it was worth their time to upvote - no matter their SP - are infinitely valuable. I guess I'm endlessly insecure like that and need some kind of validation for the stuff I create. So, don't think for a second that just because you don't have a million in STEEM Power that I don't appreciate each and every person who actually genuinely follows me.
Obviously enough, as I got "older and wiser" in terms of Steemit age, certain realities of the platform became apparent to me; a lot of the content that got big support never really had anything to do with the content, but the support was the result of "good brother" networks, under the table deals, "I'll scratch your back, you'll scratch mine", vote trading, all that good stuff.
Furthermore, the political reality of the site is such that you say one wrong thing and your account is dead. You're ignored by all the major stakeholders, which results in your content being practically invisible forever.
You're too negative, you're toxic. Yada yada.
Followers don't mean much as most of the links aren't discovered through the Steemit feed, but are shared privately in chats. I have 3000 followers, and my content is regularly read by approximately 3 people. Give or take.
So, there are definitely "issues" from the viewpoint of an average user. With that in mind, it's easy to understand the allure of the vote-buying bots: no longer is it a game of luck whether or not your content gets seen or not.
@whatsup made what I felt was a very, very good point about the bots: now it's completely up to you to invest into your content directly, and have it become visible to everyone.
That's an excellent point, and I'll be the first to admit that.
With the bots, even someone like who has alienated the community could theoretically get into trending automatically.
And I get the point. It's advertising. You create something, you pay for advertising, you hope it pans out. It's easy to understand on paper.
I don't have an objectively true argument to make against the bots. That's why I'm destined to fail the debate because the "free market" argument is an automatic win card, especially on Steemit.
I can't tell people what to do with their stake.
No matter how much I would want to be one of the lucky ones on those delicious whale autovote lists.
Though honestly, I'd probably feel awkward. My wallet wouldn't, but I would. Would I complain, or would I shut up? I'd like to stay I'd stay true to my beliefs, but I also realize that I'm human, so who knows. We always say one thing in Situation A, but in Situation B, we go out of our way to rationalize our sudden change in stance. And we don't even notice it, our brain tricks us into not noticing. That's why we never realize our hypocrisies.
But that's offtopic.
In our conversation, @whatsup assumed that I wanted to "hang the bots", but I'd like to clarify that that is not the case. Not really. I don't even "blame" people for "using the evil vote bots" because I totally understand their use. It's an advertising service.
In my opinion, not a very good one, though, since I'm not convinced that a spot in trending really benefits anyone anymore since the whales don't curate anyway, so the additional votes you get are from minnows with the profit made totaling to the couple of bucks you would have made otherwise anyways.
I can't recite to you the amount of times I've had a post somewhere on trending (it used to be pretty regularly a year ago) and I had a lot of new faces on every post complimenting it, only to disappear forever after. I never saw them again.
So it seems to me that the additional support is not very genuine, and definitely not long lasting.
Perhaps I'm wrong, maybe there is a former minnow out there who has the bots to thank. Someone can comment.
My not using the bots is simply a personal choice, based on personal taste.
Me, personally - me as in the individual known as @schattenjaeger - had more fun and more success on this site before the vote bots became a thing.
So, for selfish reasons, I dislike them and the current landscape of things.
I don't want to crucify people for using them. Some people feel that it's necessary to use them in order to not sink here. And I can understand people wanting their stuff to be seen and appreciated. I do, too.
For me, it's no different than not going to McDonald's since I'm a vegetarian. I don't morally support what the company does or stands for, so I choose not to use their services.
Doesn't stop me from being friends with people who either go to or work at McDonald's. Though I would like to talk about priorities in life with the latter group, especially if they're over the age 18, but be that as it may.
I just liked it better before. And of course it has to do with the fact that I was successful under the old rules. Anything else would be gross bullshiting.
I used to be one of the semi-big shots, and now I'm dead in the water. And I'm bitter, no question.
A few people have pointed out the fact that I powered down which is very unpopular here, but I powered down only after it became apparent that I wasn't going to be accepted as one of the golden boys, so why bother trying. I might as well take what I can, right?
It's easy for a person making triple digits automatically - sometimes several times a day - to be holier than thou and preach about never powering down. Well duhh? It's a completely different landscape.
Why would I ever power down if I was one of the golden boys? Or girls, for that matter. I can especially think of one example who's openly stated to not giving two shits about the platform, the people, the chain, anything, and I mean anything, that has to do with the site other than the amount the person can dump. And my God it's infuriating to see the community bend over backwards to throw money at that person's way just because the person is so good at playing everybody. The person has told me all of this privately.
That said, I can't force anyone to like A) me or B) my content, which is why I've settled to just focusing on what I like to do and would do for free. And the people who like to support me and follow me, I appreciate to no end.
The funny thing is. After all my complaints, my rants, my despair, my whining, you name it. I still somehow care about this place and want to see it do better.
This post really lost focus halfway through, but whatever.