Witness Questionnaire - A Solution for Voter Confusion?

in steemit •  2 years ago

Introduction

Steem uses a consensus mining system that is different from most conventional cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.  As stated in the whitepaper (p22):

With Steem, block production is done in rounds. Each round 21 witnesses are selected to create and sign blocks of transactions. Nineteen (19) of these witnesses are selected by approval voting, one is selected by a computational proof-of-work, and one is timeshared by every witness that didn’t make it into the top 19 proportional to their total votes. The 21 active witnesses are shuffled every round to prevent any one witness from constantly ignoring blocks produced by the same witness placed before.

As stated above the top 19 witnesses are "elected" by voting.  The voting page can be seen here.  This brings us to the problem:


The Problem

Due to the nature of Steemit it is attracting people who are not necessarliy familiar with cryptocurrency concepts and the difference in the way that mining works can be confusing even to those who are familiar with conventional POW (proof of work) or POS (Proof of Stake). 

There is understandably a lot of confusion in the community over the role of witnesses as well as who to vote for. There is also inconsistency in the information that witnesses and witness candidates provide to potential voters.


A Potential Solution?

Knowledge is power.

With an appropriate set of questions and answers voters should be able to make an informed decision.

With this in mind I have crafted a questionnaire for witnesses and prospective witness candidates. This is a draft framework for community discussion.  

The aim is to have a standardised set of questions that all witnesses and witness candidates answer in order to facilitate the process of witness voting for community members.  

The questions are designed to be voluntary. 

It is up to individual candidates/witnesses if they answer them or not.


THE QUESTIONNAIRE


A) Technical Questions

1)In a few sentences or less please explain the role of a witness in the Steemit/Steem ecosystem as you understand it.

2)What are the most important qualities for a witness to have?

3)How do you fulfil those qualities?

4)Is there anything beyond this that you feel makes you a better witness candidate than the average person?

5)What kind of hardware setup are you using and is it your own local hardware or rented?

6)What if any contingencies do you have in case of an emergency or server failure?

7)Do you think the current compensation for a witness is fair?  If not what do you think would be fair compensation?

8)What percentage (or fixed amount) of witness earnings should be kept and what percent invested back into the steem platform? 

9)How do you intend to use your witness earnings?

(Thanks to @geoffrey for suggestions for modifying the last 3 questions here.)


B) Current Witness Questions

1)What challenges or problems have you faced in your role as witness?

2)What other types of decisions do you think as a witness you should be involved in voting on?

3)Are there any changes to the witness/mining system or structure that you feel would improve the system?  Why?

(Thanks to @jesta for suggesting question 2.)


C) Community Questions

1)What do you think makes Steemit special and worth supporting?

2)How much do you use Steemit on average per week?

3)What is your favourite type of post?

4)Do you have a specific favourite post you would like to mention or link to?  (Feel free to give a shout out to the author)

5)What kind of posts do you dislike?

6)How do you feel about the Steemit governance structure?

7)How would you improve Steemit?


D) Personal Questions

1)How did you get into cryptocurrencies?

2)What hobbies or interests do you have outside of Steemit and cryptocurrencies?

3)What is your favourite movie genre?

4)What is your favourite movie or movies?

5)What is your favourite musical genre?

6)What are you favourite bands/albums?

7)What is your favourite book (fiction or non-fiction) and do you have a favourite author?

8)What is your favourite TV show?

9)Which is your favourite Star Wars movie from the original trilogy?

10)Margarine or butter?

11)The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?

12)Have you ever tried Marmite?

13)Are there any weird facts that you would like to share with everyone?

14)Is there anything else that you would like other people to know about you?


Conclusions

Thank you for reading.  

As I have stated this is a starting point for community discussion.  All the questions are voluntary - there is no way to compel people to answer, neither should there be.  

The witnesses have a priviliged position in the Steemit ecosystem which gives them considerable power. Since people are required to vote for them it is in my opinion to be expected that people would like appropriate information in order to make an informed decision. 

The "personal" section is designed to be fun and to help "humanise" candidates.  I can understand if some people find the questions frivolous or irrelevant to the job of being a witness.  

In regards to this one must consider the dilemma of the voter who may need some kind of alternative criteria to decide between different candidates who are equally capable from a technical standpoint. 

Whether people feel that this makes voting a popularity contest or is in some way unfair is for the community to decide.


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I think eventually Steemit will have profiles where everyone fills out some information about themselves. A profile with a "vote accountname as witness button " would be a good idea. Witnesses are NOT employees of Steemit inc. but employees of Steem the blockchain. Witnesses are elected delegates by the community tasked to perform certain jobs, such as maintain servers/backup servers for the blockchain on 24/7 basis, vote on the next fork or code change, discuss ideas to improve Steemit, in addition to many other tasks. By witnesses not being employees of Steemit inc. the blockchain remains decentralized. Witnesses are paid in SP (SteemPower) which means a promise of future pay, in return they have to be available almost 24/7 to perform their job.

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Thanks for such a great response and clarifying some of these issues. Yes I think a more detailed profile page is pretty much inevitable.

Witnesses are NOT employees of Steemit inc. but employees of Steem the blockchain......By witnesses not being employees of Steemit inc. the blockchain remains decentralized.

Exactly. It is important to make this distinction since people will cry collusion and scam otherwise.

Witnesses are paid in SP (SteemPower) which means a promise of future pay, in return they have to be available almost 24/7 to perform their job.

This needs to be made clear too. I think most people think that being a witness is basically a job with no work and massive payouts. Like most cursory assumptions this is completely wrong. It is a specialised job which requires a huge commitment and is likely pretty damn stressful.

That is what the compensation is for but unlike a job in real life they don't get payed in liquid currency so they are taking an extra risk because of this.

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I could possibly become a witness, but
a) I wouldn't be doing it for the money, I'd be doing it to help the network.
b) My server is good but my internet is not. If my connection goes offline, how badly does that "hurt" other users? I would hate to cause a bottleneck or make people's lives difficult.

Hey @thecryptofiend

Thanks for presenting this questionnare. I do believe that witness should be held accountable by the community who elected them. Witnesses are a central part of steemit but most users dont really know about them or why they get rewards.

Some of the problems I see with the witness system is that: 1) Rewards for the top 19 are very high which contributes to the current inequality of SP distribution; 2) Witness list can be controlled by a few large holders, 99% of user's vote are insignificant.

However I will try to talk about this and some other points on a full post answering some of your questions... will link it here when I finish.

Regards,

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OK thank you:)

I think I will get started on a series of posts to answer these questions and prepare the community for when I decide to take the leap and become a witness. FreeBSD for the win!

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The whole witness thing still confuses the heck out of me.... Though your article is great. The questionnaire is awesome, but I don't know that I would be able to adequately judge the responses.

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No problem. Take you time. As I stated in on of the other responses there may be a post soon to help clarify this.

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Why have you posted this link here? It could be considered link spamming and get you flagged.

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I'm not spamming links.

My comment is related to your post above.
If you don't like it on your blog, I will delete it.

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No no problem. It is just that some people just produce link spam. It might be better if you just put a little note with the link explaining that.

OK I have copied your comment here in case people don't want to go to the other thread if that is OK?

my thoughts:

The witnesses get paid a lot for their job;
It's their responsibility to explain their decisions.
From my perspective, the witnesses operate too much behind the scenes and only with post like these they get involved.

There are at least 19 people who must understand those forks, because Steemit voted them as delegates.
And they all seem to support this update ...

For the future I would like to see more involvement by the witnesses;
Some seem to do a good job - Some don't seem to post anything on the frontend.

They don't have to agree with dan, ned or anybody.
Investor relations should be part of their job, as they run this place.

It's a decentralized plattform, please keep that in mind.

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Sorry, that was just lazy of me.

Thank you.

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It's OK the comment does relate to this somewhat. I have copied it into my reply above for clarification.

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I think it's related ...

Excellent idea! Thanks for putting this together. I'll be interested to see the results.

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Thank you. Hopefully people don't find it too boring a topic.

I bookmark this post because it will be helpful for a long time! I will find here the right questions and search for answers! Thanks for sharing this with us man!

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You're welcome. Glad you find it useful. Is there anything you would like to add or change?

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For now, I need more time to process them, because are a lot of questions and I'm still a beginner!
Anyway, if I will have some questions, I know who to ask, right? Thanks again.

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No problem take your time:)

Thank you so much for posting this! I can't wait to read the answer to "1)In a few sentences or less please explain the role of a witness in the Steemit/Steem ecosystem as you understand it."... because I literally have no idea what a witness even is. I feel like the voters of England who voted for the "brexit"... and then looked up what the "brexit" was... the next day.

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This summarises it quite well:

On the Steem blockchain, witnesses serve a role of validating signatures and timestamping transactions by including them in blocks. A block is any group of transactions (posts, votes, transfers, etc) which update the state of the database. Each time a witness produces a block, they are paid for their service. If a witness fails to produce a block, then they are not paid, and may even be voted out.

Every round of block production begins with the shuffling of 21 witnesses: the top 19 witnesses (by vote), plus one randomly-selected standby witness, and one miner witness. Each is given a turn to produce a single block at a fixed rate of one block every 3 seconds. If a witness does not produce a block in their time slot, then that time slot is skipped, and the next witness produces the next block.

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Thanks. Sorry for making you do this legwork. I probably should have looked it up. LOL

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No problem. It's on the Steemd witness page.

Love your idea, @thecryptofiend. There should be as little user segmentation in terms of classes and groups in Steemit as possible. And right now, that's how it seems to be looking. New users joining may well have feelings of alienation as well as confusion of the Steemit system and how it all works, which need to be addressed.

The questionnaire you suggest should serve as a medium to bring these groups together somewhat and offer some kind of transparency between them. Opening up more topical debate and discussion about Steemit that will try to involve everyone instead of a select few and offer some clarity concerning the issues you outlined.

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Thank you for your very considerate answer. Yes that is my hope but I think people may find this topic a bit too dry or boring:)

I wish this post would get far more than $1.36 This is a very important issue. I consider myself pretty knowledgeable in most cryptocurrencies, but the witness feature has gone over my head for quite some time.

I think even this well crafted post may need to be broken down further, since this is not an easy topic to understand for those with no cryptocurrency knowledge.

I really have only voted for people I know as witnesses, but this may be unfair to other qualified witnesses who I do not hear from.

I wonder if there could be some sort of reward for selecting witnesses early (similar to curation). I don't think enough people are knowledgeable about the topic yet, but many thanks for your clarification.

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Thanks. Looks like @smooth and @joseph heard your call - thanks to them and everyone else who voted for this because I agree it is an important issue even if it isn't very exciting:)

The witness issue is poorly understood. I was speaking with a few people on the #witness channel last night and @someguy123 is currently working on a post to cover the witness topic in a brief and easy to understand way for non-technical people. Hopefully that will help.

I wonder if there could be some sort of reward for selecting witnesses early (similar to curation). I don't think enough people are knowledgeable about the topic yet, but many thanks for your clarification.

That's a good idea. I'm not sure how feasible that would be but would be worth looking at. I'm not sure what the "turnout" is in terms of people voting for witnesses - I suspect the number of people voting is tiny compared to the number of accounts. This might help.

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There are many who have no idea that they can vote for witnesses at all, so I would expect a very small number actually do vote.

I am also not sure about the feasibility witness voting curation, but to reward voters for voting and voting in a way that the majority deem to be good seems to be something that would be wise.

Glad this post received some love!

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Yes you are probably right. Thanks.

I do not understand what a witness does . Is a witness a miner . And if you are a witness are you paid besides mining .

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An active (top 19) witness is a special "elected" form of miner and earns more rewards. With Steem the POW mining is separated from the the actual production of blocks. The majority of rewards come from the block production which needs to be very consistent to keep Steemit working properly - this is what the witnesses do. The regular miners take care of the POW component. This is my understanding but please correct me if I am wrong.

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In analogy, the top 19 witnesses are the police squad that control the blockchain to prevent it doing unwanted things, like, for example, forking.

Therefore witnesses are rewarded to compensate their own time, money and resources in having their nodes running 24/7 without any excuse on a low-latency server. The rest of the network has to follow those witnesses, and to avoid corruption, every round, a random backup witness is chosen to monitor the witnesses themselfs.

If for example, with the next upcoming hardfork, none of the witnesses upgrade to the new chain, steemit will remain on the old chain, or things will get very messy soon. Witnesses have the responsability to accept upgrades and updates for this community and the blockchain, along with controling multiple parameters like SBD intrest rate, account creation fee, publishing on regular intervals the current price feed, and so on.

According to the whitepaper, a witness could be considered an employee of steem working around the clock to keep the motors running.

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Thanks for providing a proper explanation:)

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I'm sure it's not proper like for example smooth or ned would explain, but it should help clearing things up :-)

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A common phrase thrown around is:

A miner is a witness, but a witness is not a miner

During the 21 block round, a miner is chosen to become a witness for 1 block via mining, it's a rather odd procedure that involves "mining" an account, and then producing a block with that account (don't quote me on that).

A witness on the other hand, is a more permanent "miner". A witness is always a witness, they're constantly generating blocks, and do not have to "mine" them. Witnesses help to make decisions for the network, e.g. we produce a price feed, which is how the network knows how to turn 1 SBD into the equivalent US Dollar value of STEEM; we also tell the network how much we think accounts should cost to be created.

Witnesses are paid 1 STEEM POWER for every block they "witness", and a witness gets more blocks proportional to their ranking in the witness list (apart from the top 19, who are included in EVERY 21 block round). They may also earn rewards from normal posts and curation just like anyone else.

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Thanks for explaining it. Yes according to the white paper the top 19 witnesses get a consistent block in every 21 block cycle.

For the remaining 2 blocks "one is selected by a computational proof-of-work, and one is timeshared by every witness that didn’t make it into the top 19 proportional to their total votes".

With there questionnaires, better witness can be selected. I have yet to vote for any witness yet as i am not sure how the system works.

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I think a lot of people are in the same situation. @someguy123 is working on a post to better explain the system.

I have quite confused ideas about witnesses myself, but I think it would be a good idea to create such questionnaire.

The problem is: will the average user take time to answer it?

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You are not the only one. Most of the regular users I have spoken to don't understand it and don't even know how to vote, who to vote for or why.

The questionnaire itself is not for the average user to answer it is for the witnesses. I have presented it for everyone to discuss and help refine if they think it needs to changes.

As for whether witnesses will answer it and to what degree - that is up to them. There is no way to force people and I don't think that there should be anyway.

Hopefully this will provide more consistency and accuracy for voting as well as giving the witnesses a starting point for putting their witness posts together - almost like an #introduceyourself for witnesses.

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Steemd has a nice summary here - at the bottom of the page as well. Here is the quote:

On the Steem blockchain, witnesses serve a role of validating signatures and timestamping transactions by including them in blocks. A block is any group of transactions (posts, votes, transfers, etc) which update the state of the database. Each time a witness produces a block, they are paid for their service. If a witness fails to produce a block, then they are not paid, and may even be voted out.

Every round of block production begins with the shuffling of 21 witnesses: the top 19 witnesses (by vote), plus one randomly-selected standby witness, and one miner witness. Each is given a turn to produce a single block at a fixed rate of one block every 3 seconds. If a witness does not produce a block in their time slot, then that time slot is skipped, and the next witness produces the next block.

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I just found this post thanks to @bitcoiner. I completely agree that the community needs to be informed about their witnesses and candidates before placing a vote. I've been searching for their statement of intent, but I also look to see how engaged they are in the community. The 3rd thing I look for is how they curate and if they have an active blog. This is not to say I would withhold my vote if they don't visit my pages (I'm not that shallow) - but I do want to see that they practice what they preach. :)

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You have the same philosophy as me and that is why I looked at creating the questionnaire. It's great that @bitcoiner has made use of it:)

We need solid steamers to build this platform to the moon, i plan on renting my servers. I just took jerry ban fields class on line on how to do it. It does sound profitable but not easy to become a well payed witness.

Excellent information. Thank you for explaining complicated concepts for us @thecryptofiend

Thank you for this, as I’ve been researching becoming a witness myself, so this gives me something to strive for. Much appreciated 🙏 Namaste...
236435F6-12EA-44B5-BD4E-ADD2E100D676.gif

I'm basing a massive project off this general idea, with the idea to improve relations, communication and legitimize witnesses with verification

And that's a 100% proof that I'm not the right person to be witness on steemit.
To be honest, I don't understand 1/2 of things that's going on here :-)
Best wishes to all witnesses here :-)

muy lindo post, me ha hecho pensar. muchas gracias por compartir este material

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Thank you. It seems you read it very fast but in case you aren't a bot. Thanks.