A Tale of Two Steemits

in steemit •  5 months ago

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of fiat, it was the epoch of cryptocurrency, it was the season of Hodl, it was the season of Dumping, it was the spring of upvotes, it was the winter of self-votes, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Whale-dom, we were all going direct the other way—



Allusions aside, I can't help but notice a rising comfort level with some of the recent changes and trends on this platform, and they are beginning to disturb me. It seems that there are now two Steemits living side by side in an unhappy harmony. One of these paths allows Steemit to continue to grow and develop in an organic way. The other appears to me a recipe for disaster and ruin.


1: AUTHENTIC STEEMIT

The first tale of Steemit is the authentic one. Members join to engage and write and share themselves with the growing community. They create solid content and seek out help on the various Discord channels. The whales and curation class actually seek out and celebrate great content. Everyone's underlying goal is contributing to the platform and reaping the rewards from that contribution. It is a tale of people using Steemit authentically which allows an organic robustness to the platform.

THE INCENTIVE AS MOTIVATOR


Ultimately, greed may still be driving these authentic users, but its the type of greed that drives all capitalistic systems. As a user chases the twinkie, or the payouts, they are indirectly supporting the community through content creation, content curation, and strengthening the amount of active users, engagement and marketing of Steemit. Authentic users are driven by the rewards, but their actions make everyone better off. This is the long-lasting engine of capitalism that makes everyone in the community better.


2: AUTOMATIC STEEMIT


Which leads us to the second tale of Steemit - the automated version. New members join to automatically invest in bidbots that allow them to self-curate. Their posts are spam at best and plagiarized at worst. Whales, investors, and the curation class are just chasing an ROI their early investment which means they sell their voting power to bots to let people self-curate. The underlying goal is no longer about contributing to the platform, but searching out every loophole possible to make sure the piles of Steem, SBD and Steem power keep going up. It is a tale of people using Steemit automatically which makes for a very fragile system.

THE INCENTIVE AS END-GOAL

And this image immediately highlights what happens when the incentive system is broken. Now, it doesn't drive positive behavior. It drives behavior that makes the twinkie, or reward pool, the end goal in of itself. When you let people self-curate, you break the fundamental role of those with Steem Power to act as defenders and arbiters of quality. They are purposely chasing a short term return at the cost of quality distribution of the reward pool. Almost prophetically in the Family Guy episode shown, Chris Griffin shouts, "I'm going to turn you into poo," when he captures the twinkie. And unfortunately, the automated tale of Steemit has the same end destination with self-votes, spam, bidbots, and self-curation turning Steemit into a large, steeming pile of poo.

So, now instead of indirect benefits, a post has the following lifecycle:

  1. Spam gets posted.
  2. Spam gets self-voted.
  3. Spammer gets paid.
  4. Bot-maker gets paid.
  5. Delegators get paid.
  6. New spammers hear you can easily get paid with Steemit, and the cycle continues.

Ultimately, none of it builds or promotes the platform in any way other than the underlying price of Steemit. And if you really look at Steemit in this way, it is easy to see how the platform so easily draws the comparison to the dreaded P-word: a Ponzi scheme.



A BALANCED CONCLUSION


So, where does that leave us with our story? Which tale of Steemit will win? Which one is winning now? I realize that there needs to be a balance and there will always be a little of both. Selfishness can be good. It drives the engine of authentic Steemit to cause people to act in their own self-interest and the interest of the platform holistically. However, that engine simply does not work if there is no benefit of a Steemian's labor. If investors can simply do nothing but invest and encourage the worst behavior in spammers and new 'investors', then you'll quickly find the content worth absolutely nothing except the votes that are purchased for it. And worthless content means one day or another that the underlying system will be worthless too.

Ultimately, I belief in an authentic Steemit. What about you?

SOME CORRECTIVE IDEAS

And I'm an engineer, so I am not one to highlight a problem without suggesting some possible ideas to fix it:

  • Limit the total amount of SP that can be delegated by an account to some percentage (10, 25, 30%)

  • Reduce the value of delegated SP in some way (1/2, 1/3, 1/20). i.e. Power in your hands is worth more than power loaned to someone else.

  • Improve the discovery capabilities in Steemit.

  • Adjust the payout duration to reward longer lasting content instead of just more ephemeral content.

  • Compare and contrast why 'Promoted' posts are less effective than more complicated vote bots.

  • Adjust the Promoted page to improve discovery and surfacing of promoted posts.

  • Build out new features that mimic the capabilities that cause people to drift to Discord rooms.

  • Adjust payouts to better reward minnows. In many ways, the concept of a few whales acting as gatekeepers to content is also antithetical to Steemit's ideals as a decentralized blog. The core idea from my perspective is that hard-working and solid content creators can find the long-tail audience that supports them without the need for a dolphin or a whale to throw them a mercy upvote, for them to buy bid-bots, or for them to speculate their way into actual discovery.



What do you think, Steemit?


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Sorry I got here so late but I upvoted anyway! This is one of the best narratives I've seen recently describing the "pathogen" that resides within Steemit. I just called out another BOT today (on my most recent post) and it has become annoying to me to see so many nefarious players showing up on the platform. I am with you on this... if some of your above ideas are NOT addressed, we will witness a continued demise of Steemit. Steemit will be the horse in the race that becomes forced to the back and along the rail where it will be unable to run - all the while a competitor sneaks up and takes over. I can't resteem this post but will include the link in a recent post for more visibility. Thanks.

I appreciate your post. Truly. While waiting for change I will continue to honor people like yourself and myself by creating good content. However, I'm optimistic that either Steemit will get their steem together or another better platform will appear. I'd be reluctant to bail on Steemit since I've grown attached, have community here and generally support it. I think it is very whacky that you create a good post, like this one, and so far have less than $2. If I had the Steem I'd give you way more than a paltry .15. Blessings.

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Thank you for the support.

The indecisive payouts are one of the reasons my longer posts are now more rare. Short throwaway content has a more consistent return on content.

I'm optimistic in the long run, and hope that steemit will let me retire early if I continue to live and share an interesting life.

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Yes, Amen to that. I've recently retired but due to a long term (20+ years) chronic illness ended up with zero retirement. So, yes, I'm pinning the tail on this donkey and hoping to prosper.

This is a good article and well written, it does also highlight my fear of this platform. I only joined a few days ago. And I have already noticed the cracks in the system. I’m an optimist and believe in the good of most, but I do fear of the greed of people. I do feel that most on here do want add good content.
Thought it is a tricky platform to start to understand. But I think I’m getting there. Understanding what people want on here is what I’m currently working on. But has with anything set up in a system of capatiliziam there will always be corruption.

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Welcome to Steemit and best of luck. I'm not losing hope quite yet that the people that want to abuse the system are winning.

My best advice would be to just engage and produce consistent content on something you love, something you can share that is uniquely your own. It may take some time, but eventually an authentic audience will build up.

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Thank you very much!!! I’m Also reading and watching the community grow and see what is needed and what a can contribute on a consistent basis!!! I believe in the greater good myself let’s see where this goes!!!!

Very well thought out. Your point about discovery of content got my attention. Its hard to find good content. I over followed in the beginning and have been unfollowing people lately so I can enjoy my feed again but its so hard to find more good stuff. Something like you tubes algorithm would be nice.

Im very concerned when i see pictures of people showing large groups of people how to use steemit cause im sure they are just telling them how they can make money. If this platform doesn't keep making decent content it's doomed.

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Glad you enjoyed. Yea, I've been espousing for better discovery features since I joined almost a year ago. Its way too easy for great posts to get completely lost in the noise of the platform.

I actually barely use my feed compared to just checking Hot and Trending on topics I enjoy. That tends focus on better content, but it also limits the scope of writers since the only folks that make those pages are the old 60+ reputation users or new writers spending $50-100 USD on their posts to hit the Trending page.

I've been trying to follow people a bit more and get a bit more engaged with a small handful of writers. Its a bit tricky due to work, life and other time commitments, though.

I found your blog when I checked out who gave me a nice upvote, and that led me to read your post from yesterday. You address many of my concerns exactly. I'm fairly new to Steemit, and like the concept of a decentralized and uncensored community. I also worked hard for my first 100+ posts and felt like I was getting nowhere fast. I looked at how Steemians with a wider following and higher returns on their posts did it, and almost every single one was buying upvotes from bots. I've started to do this, and it is leading to far more genuine uproots, readers, comments, and followers. I think that's just what it takes at this point in time. I like many of your ideas, especially the ones about limiting or devaluing delegated SP. Forcing, or at least incentivizing us to do our own curation would go a long way to rewarding quality content. Another idea would be to make it less valuable to upvote your own content than to "give away" the uproots. Not sure of how this would look, maybe limit to one self-upvote a day, or make self-upvote only 25% as much return, or some better idea someone more intimate with the finances of Steemit than me thinks through. Anyway, overall I think you are on the right track. Hopefully someone in a position of power sees your ideas and takes some of them to heart. Followed and upvoted. Thanks.

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Thanks for the amazing thought and comment.

Yea, maybe there is a time and place for bots. The problem is when they become a necessity. Once they become a requirement to visibility and success on Steemit, then success will only be available to those that can afford it and those without means that may deserve it and yet will rarely earn it.

I guess we'll see and time will tell. Unfortunately, those with means are making a profit off this system, and they won't ever really feel the need to change it, which makes it seem more and more like a ponzi and not some some egalitarian blogging utopia.

Adjust payouts to better reward minnows.
I've been saying this forever! :-) I hope it catches on one day. The problem with a lot of these ideas including minnows getting a weighted reward in their favor is that people who want to abuse the system can always open multiple accounts. I don't want to push for a system where we all need to give all our information to steemit but perhaps having an option to authenticate your account with KYC details and then authentication would give you some benefits and some others would be reserved for people with interaction with a wide variety of authenticated accounts (so even if you remain anonymous, you could still benefit if you had the trust of enough authenticated people. Benefits could include self voting to a certain extent (limited) and delegation of a high % of SP, and only 2 authenticated accounts would be able to upvote each other regularly etc. It could still leave people with the choice to remain anonymous while helping to cut out some of the abuse and allow some changes in the algorithms to actually work.

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Yea, economies are tricky, and you don't want one corrective action to just cause people to abuse a different system. On the other hand, just because abuse will always occur in some form doesn't mean we shouldn't take small, gentle and careful action to reduce that abuse in some way.

The problem with lots of multiple but non-contributing accounts is that they are ultimately just shrinking the value of a vote. In the same way that bidbots are taking the opposite approach of making 1 vote worth an extremely over-valued amount.

Some of your ideas may be worth exploring to produce a goldilocks, 'just-right', vote value.

I could not agree more. Yes we have to find some balance to make steemit self sustainable in the long run. You have made some sound suggestions for improvement. Hope that the powers that be take them into consideration.

Following, upvoted and resteemed. Have a nice day.

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Thank you. Glad you enjoyed. Here's to hoping we can make the system work for everyone, bloggers and bots alike.

As a new user I've been careful watching the culture here to understand how one gets their content noticed. I don't see any easy way, particularly if you are writing to a niche topic.

In my opinion the challenge is to build the audience, the user base. If I wanted my content to be seen, but not be paid, then YouTube is much more effective, but I'd like to be both. If not for YouTube's recent behavior toward the small creators I'd probably have simply stayed there.

The bad behavior of investor users, in my opinion, limit the audience growth here. I mean, the signal to noise ratio is very small, so getting to real content involves wading through so much garbage.

Back to YouTube... the reason for their changes in 2016, which basically removed small creators, was to improve the overall content quality. It didn't exactly work... there still are dozens of low content posts, but they are much better edited because the producers need to make professional quality work.

My conclusion is that here, survival is about both producing quality content, using the economic tools such as bots to promote videos, using curation tools, such as flags to kill plagerized content, and hopefully builda userbase that will appreciate the content.

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Yea, I think the discovery aspects are most missing on Steemit. Its very difficult to find the best people to follow on certain topics or to discover taste makers. I hope communities will help, but Steemit is still pretty myopic around payout, and there aren't great systems to branch out from that.

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I'm starting to get the big picture of Steemit, I think. This is all just transient. In the long run, years out, the noise is going to get cut down and the value is going to come from external links to the real content. The economics of the present day is about paying to have valued content added. I try to imagine how Wikipedia would have evolved had there been pay for those that contributed. To this extent, I'm not too worried about all the weeds in the garden, since this will be taken care of over time.

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You may be more of an optimist than myself. It doesn't take much for weeds to overtake a beautiful garden.

We shall see with time, and I hope you are right!

Thanks for the read and comment.

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I don't know if I'm an optimist, but I'm trying to understand what Steemit is about. As it is, people just seem to post lots of random "stuff" most of which is low quality. If this is all that Steemit is, then it might as well not exist. (I don't like reading most of what is on this site.) However, if we pay for curation, possibly collection, and at some point start hiding the garbage, we could have some very nice content.

I'm imagining Steemit kind of like the room full of monkeys and a typewriter that given enough time will produce Shakespeare.

In the case of Steemit, we (sort of) have a means to train the monkeys. We also have slightly more talented monkeys that are trained to curate content. Lastly, we have developers and possibly machine learning tools, that will develop algorithms to clean up some of the mess left by letting the monkeys bang on the typewriter.

Is that optimistic? Maybe? Perhaps delusional. :)

I should mention that my research is in the use of machine learning and informatics methods to study materials science and engineering. I take low quality, busy, noisy, messy data and use algorithms to find order and understanding. From my perspective, there are likely some real gems that can be refined from this mess of content.

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I think that this hits the nail on the head. It is why I'm on Steemit. I wish I could promote this comment so its read outside this post. I'll write a post tomorrow referencing this discussion. Thank you @somethingsubtle for the post and great conversation!

Hahhahahh i like your post and love it how you explain in funny way and give us the feelings which we have.

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Glad you enjoyed. I like to bring humor into most my posts.

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Yes i like it and any can get better understanding of a thing when it give in a homor way.

Congratulations! This post has been upvoted from the communal account, @minnowsupport, by SomethingSubtle from the Minnow Support Project. It's a witness project run by aggroed, ausbitbank, teamsteem, theprophet0, someguy123, neoxian, followbtcnews, and netuoso. The goal is to help Steemit grow by supporting Minnows. Please find us at the Peace, Abundance, and Liberty Network (PALnet) Discord Channel. It's a completely public and open space to all members of the Steemit community who voluntarily choose to be there.

If you would like to delegate to the Minnow Support Project you can do so by clicking on the following links: 50SP, 100SP, 250SP, 500SP, 1000SP, 5000SP.
Be sure to leave at least 50SP undelegated on your account.

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Thanks MSP.

You've been there since day 1 for me. Even when no one else read my posts on career advice or my crappy poetry, you supported me.

I think its less a tale of two steemits and just a tale of life...isnt the world built the same way?

In the end i have to search my soul on what i want...if i want to find quality content to read...it is certainly easy to do by following folks who write stuff I like and check in regularly onto my home page...I am easily overwhelmed by the powerful content I find....If one has been around a while you can create a nice pool of writers to follow that more than stimulates my mind each time I check in...

Unfortunately....the lure of the community that one writes stuff others enjoy....gets rewarded and ends up feeding our egos and our piggybanks....has been overbrun by those who find ways to exploit the capitalistic aspect in lieu of the soul....

So I can be saddened that once again a pure concept gets dirtied by the mechanisms of greed meanwhile doing what I do in the "real world"...take what I like and leave the rest keeping my values in tact...

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Aw, an interesting concept. Steemit as a microcosm for life.

That certainly is true. You can pick or choose when version of Steemit you most want to engage with.
I think the crux of it. However, just like in life, you could get overwhelmed by something outside of your control.

If one side 'overpowers' the other, then the entire system may not survive. Its like if there are more predators than prey in an ecosystem. The predators will have a nice run, but eventually the predators will eat up all of the food. They will starve and their population will decrease, but the ecosystem may take forever to recover - or may never recover at all.

I appreciate your insight and thank you for reading. Keep encouraging the good content, and hopefully Steemit will survive and thrive.

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