A Suggestion For Ending The Vote Buying Era On Steemit!

in #steemit2 years ago

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I believe that steemit has amazing potential for changing our world but I also believe it has some problems that need sorted. I believe that in all things and all areas of life we should celebrate the positive without shying away from dealing with the negatives. I’ve made several posts celebrating the positive aspects of the platform but in this post, I’d like to offer a solution to one of the negatives I see within our community, the buying and selling of votes.

The word ‘decentralisation’ is one that is promoted and celebrated at every turn on the platform and is a big part of the reason behind the creation of the site and blockchain that supports it. We are all advocates of moving away from centralised forms of control and the abuse that is inherent in the current system yet, the first chance we get to take responsibility for our own actions and affairs, we start emulating the behaviour of those we blame for bringing our society to ruin in the first place.

Large, multi-national corporations and governments are two of the biggest problems facing us and this is because the corporations buy the votes of the politicians that we trust to do a job honestly for us and the politicians are happy to sell their votes to the corporations, not because it’s in the best interest of everyone or because they’re providing a useful service but because they are doing it for themselves, being the greedy, self serving men and women they have been programmed to be, as we have. At the moment, we can’t claim to be any better. We can't be moaning about the buying of votes by corporations from politicians and then log on to steemit and buy our own votes. Not unless we're hypocrites.

I’m not here to judge anyone who uses the services of those selling votes, partly because I don’t feel that I should judge anyone but also because I think that a lot of those who are using these services now aren’t doing so because they want to but rather because they feel they have to just to keep up with the @jones’ and would prefer to let their work stand on its own two feet on a fair and level playing field. I don’t think there's any denying that there's a price of some sort to be paid for not using vote buying services and that there is actually a benefit to using them besides the obvious rewards on posts.

But as well as this, I also feel that this behaviour and the increase in such over the last several months has caused some members of the community to lose heart in the platform and feel they can no longer be a part of what the place is becoming. I've noticed a lot of people missing from my feed lately and some I've not seen for a while now. I have no idea why that is but it could be because the place has changed somewhat lately.

For all of these reasons and more, I think it’s important to try and find a solution to what I see as a problem. I know there are plenty of others who see no problem with it at all and I respect that but personally, I think the place would be much better without it and so, here’s my plan for reducing it if possible in future. I don’t know a lot about the technicalities of some of the suggestions I’ll be making, so this may not actually be possible but here goes.

I’d like to create a community bot.

The function of this bot would be to comment on the posts of those who have bought votes.

On the first occasion of vote buying, the bot would visit the post of the author and leave an automated message to them directly suggesting that they might want to rethink their actions because many of us feel they aren’t good for the platform or it’s eco-system overall. It would be a very pleasant and courteous message of course and would hopefully have the effect of causing the author to give more consideration to their choices in future.

The second time the author buys a vote for a post, the bot would visit again, this time with a message directed at the viewers of the post and with a message to the effect of...

‘To the viewers of this post, the author has decided that they did not want to take any chances that this post would not be considered valuable by the steemit community, so they have decided to reward themselves by buying votes from someone else. There is no need for you to reward them or give them a complimentary pat on the back since they have already done so themselves. Please consider saving your vote for someone who has more confidence in you.’

Hopefully this will have the effect of reducing the rewards that the author will receive for their ‘efforts’.

I’ve enjoyed a post a number of times and been ready to freely give my upvote in good faith before discovering that the author has rewarded themselves already and this has caused me to withhold my vote. I would imagine this would be the same for others and would wonder how much in real votes these vote buyers are actually losing, or in fact gaining for that matter, by indulging themselves in this way. There may actually be an argument that it could be costing you, especially when you consider the money you’re actually paying to buy the vote.

Should this second message be ignored and the author decides to buy a vote for one of their posts for a third time, the bot will return again but this time, instead of generating a single message, it would generate an indipendent message from every member of the community who agrees to put their name to the bot. If that’s 10 of us, then there would be 10 messages generated. If there were 1000 signed up and backing the bot, it would be 1000 messages on the authors post imploring them to reconsider.

Spam??

Well, no. Each message would be created by the member of the community that the bot is leaving the message on behalf of and would be a genuine and sincere request in relation to an aspect of the post, so I don’t think it could be classed as spam. But if you do feel it could be, I would make the argument that anyone indulging in behaviour that some find damaging to the platform can hardly be in a position to throw stones. Maybe it is spam but do those who buy votes deserve our protection from it?

This would have the effect of making it pretty obvious to anyone visiting the authors post that they have bought their own upvotes and that a large part of the community do not support these actions. It would also have the effect of showing any potential viewer of a post whether or not the author has bought a vote because it would be pretty obvious when looking at the feed that a post which has 20 or 30 votes (if it’s lucky) and 1000 comments must obviously have bought an upvote. This would become readily apparent over time.

A less obvious but perhaps still as effective alternative could be to leave a single comment with all of the usernames of the bots supporters countersigning it. This would still be a substantial and obvious message to anyone viewing the comments section if there was enough support behind the bot.

I also understand that to generate 1000 comments might not be possible, especially given any bandwidth limitations, which I’ll come to now.

I see three ways of using the bot.

One

It could be sent out into our little online world with limited SP and can perform its function by leaving comments and hopefully that will have an effect in reducing the behaviour but I see this as being very limiting and no more than a symbolic gesture. I don’t think it will have the desired effect in eliminating vote buying completely. It will also limit us in terms of bandwidth etc for posting the comments I just mentioned.

Two - Delegated SP from the community with a return on investment.

If we could ask the community to delegate some of their SP in order to make the bot more effective and also offer them the chance to make a return on their investment, I think there would be more people willing to get involved and give their support. By using the delegated SP to upvote all comments made by the bot, we would increase the SP within the bot account over time and make it more effective in dealing with the problem. It would also force the author to use up their own voting power to downvote the comment if they wanted to hide it.

Initially the bot wouldn’t be used to downvote anyone or any posts but as it gains more strength and hopefully as the problem reduces over time by our efforts in causing vote buyers to rethink their actions, we will reach a point where only the most stubborn of users that continue to act in this way and at this point we should have enough SP to downvote the fuck out of these posts and their authors if we choose to, or just leave them to themselves in their own little circle-jerk while we all get to enjoy our platform again.

When the problem has been eradicated completely, all of the SP in the account will be redistributed to those who invested via delegation and the balance would be split amongst investors in relation to the size of their delegation.

Three - Delegated SP with generated profits being donated to a charity.

This is pretty much the same scenario as number two except the balance of SP when delegations have been returned would be used to fund a good cause or donated to a charity to be agreed by all who invest their delegation.


Like I said, I'm not sure if this is possible at all but I'm sure if it's not you'll let me know in the comments section. :)

Thanks for your time and have a great day!



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Kudos for raising this issue and your solution proposal. The analogy between Steemit governance and the real world governance is to the point. I had that analogy too.

Unfortunately, what you're proposing here is already being done on Steemit by several accounts and they can't deal with the abuse on Steemit.

As long as there is $65 Million USD of investor money distributed in a year, people will find ways of getting a share of that. There's no way around that.

The only solution to this problem is to eliminate the reward money altogether and let the users decide which content they want to tip with their own money and how much.

I explained the details of this solution in a blog post called How to Solve the Reward Pool Abuse Problem Once and For All and the solution is being discussed in the comments section by other Steemians.

Everybody's opinions are welcome on this solution proposal. Let's get together to eliminate the abuse on Steemit before it is too late.

I think getting rid of the rewards structure is definitely one way of ridding ourselves of the abuse that the platform is becoming known for but not one that would find much support from those influential members of our community that you mentioned who have a lot of money invested and are making a lot more besides from that investment.

I've just upvoted your comment and rewarded you with 13 cents. we both know that's worth about 5 times more atm in usd so about 65 cents. I know I couldn't afford to tip you 13 cents let alone 65 myself so while I like the idea in theory, I'm not sure how it would work given the users we have at the moment where few are wealthy enough to take advantage of the getting while the getting is good and most are using it as a means of survival rather than a luxury.

Thanks for the great comment mate. I also had a look at some of your other posts and you seem to really care about the platform, which I appreciate. :)

Have a great day @bbilgin.

I think getting rid of the rewards structure is definitely one way of ridding ourselves of the abuse that the platform is becoming known for but not one that would find much support from those influential members of our community that you mentioned who have a lot of money invested and are making a lot more besides from that investment.

There are two types of Steem investors, the abusers and the abused. This doesn't have anything to do with the account size either, because it's easier for the small accounts to abuse the system and the ROI is the same.

It's a matter of time that the abused realize that they are getting abused or the whole system collapses because there is no more inflow of money. This is what happens to systems like this all the time.

The big accounts are either going to realize that and switch to a sustainable business model, or they are going to loose their capital when the crash happens.

I've just upvoted your comment and rewarded you with 13 cents. we both know that's worth about 5 times more atm in usd so about 65 cents.

Thank you for the upvote! I appreciate it.

I know I couldn't afford to tip you 13 cents let alone 65 myself so while I like the idea in theory, I'm not sure how it would work given the users we have at the moment where few are wealthy enough to take advantage of the getting while the getting is good and most are using it as a means of survival rather than a luxury.

There will be two options: tip a post/comment and/or tip an author. If you think someone is a valuable person for the Steemit ecosystem, they add value to the Steemit ecosystem, and as a result, they add value to your Steem investment, does it not make sense to tip them to keep them involved in this platform?

As a Steem/SteemPower investor, you're paying 6.5% of your investment in a year to authors and curators (including yourself) in the current system already. In the new system, you're going to decide on the percentage and to the people and posts.

Thanks for the great comment mate. I also had a look at some of your other posts and you seem to really care about the platform, which I appreciate. :)

Have a great day @bbilgin.

You're welcome, @tonyr! I appreciate it. It's my pleasure. I really like this platform and looking forward for its success!

I think it's a cool idea. However, I think 2 warnings should be made to the user especially if new ones. Most people I've seen use it are quite new. Personally I even tried one when I first came back coz it was something new I had not seen before, and because I can't help but try stuff first then read about it later :P
I actually thought it was similar to community bots that I've delegated to so far (silly me)
Most importantly explaining why it's bad, I think will help lower this trend with the means you proposed :)

I agree with you completely Kristy. It is so prevalent and widespread now that anyone new to the platform would not only see it as acceptable behaviour but might mistakenly believe this is the way everyone uses the site and that it is a route to success within the community, which in truth at times it can be. Personally, I don't see rep score as an indicator of someone's reputation or success but many do and are being misled by numbers that have been bought and paid for. The sooner we can find a solution to the problem the better in my book. :)

I agree.

When we place our Heart first then the money will naturally come and stay, but when we put the money first then the Heart falls off track eventually.

Regarding the vote buying by politicians parallel to here on Steemit, again, I fully agree. It is so hypocritical to complain about something but not doing it any better. It's like putting on a blindfold and pushing the memory reset button of one's past, erasing all empathy.

Thanks for your sophisticated input! :)

Thanks a lot for the lovely comment @alexadventuria. I hope you're having a lovely day my friend. :)

Well, I don't know a lot about the voting power and buying votes from the various bots that are out there.
As such, I don't know what the downside is to using bots. I use them. It not only helps me achieve my goals but for all the people that are voting and commenting on my posts. They get a larger payout if the post makes more money so that should make them happy too!
Like most human things that start off with good intentions, like the upvote bots, there is always the possibility that people will find a way to take advantage of them.
From what I understand, you don't like people using the upvote services for their posts. How does this impact on you?
The other thing I am skeptical about is who makes the rules for this bot you suggested?
One of the big reasons I like this platform is there are not a lot of "rules" and also the transparency.
Please let me know your thoughts.

Hey @acwood. Thanks for the great comment mate.

There are many issues I see with using voting bots. The first is a personal one which I'd like to highlight by showing you screenshots of 2 of your latest posts here.

Screenshot (78).png
Screenshot (79).png

Here we have a combined total of 1458 votes for the two posts with a combined total of 28 page views. That to me is not a good thing. That means that of the 1458 votes, 1430 were given without even looking at your work. I wouldn't be pleased with that if it was me.

The second reason is that the votes you are buying are supposed to be used by the person you are buying them from to reward quality content, which your posts may well be but so many others are not. While I respect everyones right to use their votes how they see fit, I don't agree with how these users sell their votes or those that buy them from them because I think they should be using their votes to improve the platform for all of us to benefit from long term instead of using it simply for them as a means to profit in the short term. I don't like rules either or being told what I can and can't do but if we want to live in a free society we need to stand up to those who would use their existing power to strengthen their own position further and that is what is happening here also.

There are many reasons given by many different members of the community and I have many more that I could list but it is something you will have to investigate fuirther on your own and come to your own conclusions as to whether or not it's in your interest or the interest oif the community to continue.

Thanks again for the great comment mate and I hope you have an awesome rest of the day! :)

Thanks, my friend. That does make it clearer for me. I just noticed in the last couple of weeks that my posts are getting a lot of votes. Is this an epidemic that is starting? I have never had so many votes before. I will have to look into this as there seems to be something else going on.
What of the members that run the voting bots. Is this their livelihood we would be stepping on?
I must look further into it.

Yes, I do believe something has to be done and not just about vote buying but also about those who selfishly and daily empty the reward pool into their own pockets at terrifying speed!
Your suggestions certainly offer a starting place and might highlight to new users how the system can serve us as a community instead of simply being self-serving.

You may or may not be referring to a user by the name of @haijin but if you are I would have to agree with you that he and others are not playing very fair by the rest of us and I would love it if they would all reconsider their actions but I also think that all of the attention drawn to this user by another user called @berniesanders is very clever and useful in distracting some members of the community from his own efforts in abusing the reward pool. :[)

I forgot to add that the bot could also be programmed to send a message to all new accounts greeting them and suggesting that vote buying may be frowned upon by a large part of the community. That might be a good place to start as well. :)

Hope you're well mate. Thanks for the comment as always. Bloody freezing up here lately, eh? :)

I don't know @berrniesanders but, the husband of a friend @lyndsaybowes is losing money daily trying to stop it. These are the caring selfless people here who need support. I saw a statistic recently that put Lyndsay at number 43 out of the then total membership of steemit in terms of genuine connectedness with this community. She is amazing and it is freezing where she is too. Maybe that is what makes us warm hearted; )

I was thinking about this article for a long time.

I think the quickest way to stop all of this over voting would be to take the voting button off the blog page and have it only at the bottom of the article. At least that way these voters would have to open the article to vote on it and maybe something would stick.
Just a thought.

A suggestion my brother made was to make all posting anonymous on the feeds and that way potential viewers would be able to decide what they want to look at based on the content rather than the celebrity of the author or their reputation score. In terms of opening the article to vote on it, a lot of the voting is done manually on the site and whila a lot of this manual voting is negative, there are some positive aspects to it so it might not be a perfect solution but the more solutions we come up with and rule out the sooner we'll find the one that works. Hopefully. :)

Your brother may have a good point.
I quickly went through the white paper and although they did mention some problems this problem was hardly addressed. And they way it was addressed was not really adequate.
Cheers.

so they have decided to reward themselves by buying votes from someone else. There is no need for you to reward them or give them a complimentary pat on the back since they have already done so themselves.

I might support something like this if there would be a way for you to prove it to be true. I personally have waned back and forth between vote buying and not (mostly not), but recently started checking it out again. The fact is that the vast majority of those who buy votes do so at a net loss. So that particular statement would be wrong most of the time. If I buy a vote, I plan it out and do so with the expectation to lose on my investment. I do it because it is extremely difficult to break into the trending page because Steemit tends to reward those who upvote the authors who typically trend. This creates the vicious cycle that generates demand for vote selling services. So perhaps a better, more direct way to deal with the problem would be to suggest a better algorithm to raise quality content to trending.

Please consider saving your vote for someone who has more confidence in you.’

Chances are the people reading the boosted post would not be doing so if it had not been boosted. So maybe if there was a way to filter this from anyone who came to the post from the trending and/or hot I might agree, because if they are seeing it on those pages, it is probably because it was boosted. That is also an indication that the lack of confidence was justified. If people simply browse the trending pages, you can have 100% confidence that they will not see your stuff. They are not interested in it, regardless of the quality of the content it contains.

Now, I do think there should be a question right next to the voting button which asks if you feel the post deserves more, less, the same as it has already earned. Then have that selection affect the post payout appropriately.

So you want to make it to the trending pages, I understand that. I've never been there myself and it would be nice because then you actually get a chance of some people who don't already know you seeing your work and maybe earning some good rewards but if you get there having bought a vote, no matter what the environment, then it must take some of the shine off it I would imagine, at least for me. Better to struggle through adversity and make it there offf your own back, especially so in this environment. That would make it even more of an achievement.

I mentioned in my post that those who buy votes should give it more consideration because it may actually be costing them in the long run so I did mention the fact that some votes bought mean a net loss, which makes it even harder for me to understand why so many support the behaviour.

Personally, I've never bought a vote. I don't even upvote my own posts and yet, while many have come after me and would appear to be more successful in terms of rewards earned, reputation attained and followers gained, I would consider myself to be more successful than they because I know that every vote that has beeen given to me has been given freely and my rep score is a truer reflection of my time here than theirs.

While I'd like to be more successful as everyone else would, if and when I reach the trending pages, I don't want it to be because I paid somoene to be there but rather because I deserve to be.

Thanks a lot for the great comment @moeknows and for sharing your thoughts on the matter. I hope you have a great day my friend! :)

if you get there having bought a vote, no matter what the environment, then it must take some of the shine off it I would imagine, at least for me.

It's not about shine. It is about exposure, and no matter how you slice it, the ones getting the most exposure are not the ones creating the best content. They are usually folks with millions of dollars invested in Steem (or friends with millions of dollars). So, vote buying gives a method for folks to temporarily level that playing field.

Better to struggle through adversity and make it there offf your own back.

Because it is often a net loss, one cannot simply purchase upvotes for all of their posts. In my case, I saved rewards for 3 very active weeks and one of my biggest payouts ever (not bought) in order to save enough SBD to purchase upvotes to get me to the trending page. Even then, I did not profit off of that post. I have never invested any outside money in Steem. I have, however, put a ton of time into it (sweat equity). If that's not making it there off my own back, I don't know what is.

when I reach the trending pages, I don't want it to be because I paid somoene to be there but rather because I deserve to be.

That is a reflection of the assumption that posts on the trending page "deserve" to be there. In my experience and that of many others, that hasn't been the case. I actually boycott the trending page myself for that reason and don't see getting there as an achievement at all.

Thanks for the great conversation.

You make some excellent points which highlights the fact that this is a complicated issue and there are other issues besides this one that need a lot more discussion around them as well.

Thank you as well mate. Best of luck in future. I look forward to checking out your posts. :)

The way the system is designed currently there will always be vote buying/selling, it is simply easier for the wealthiest accounts to sell their votes and earn STEEM rather than create posts to earn STEEM or a combination of both...

The simplest thing to do would be to put a max cap on what a post can be upvoted to, this could be determined by average real world salaries. Once a post reaches max payout there is no reason to keep voting for it anymore... this would force the large accounts to spread their wealth more....

Would this solve the vote selling issue, nope but it would help...

Another thing that could be done is creating free voting bots to compete with vote selling bots, to become a member you would have to delegate X amount of STEEM power (which costs nothing because you can always undelegate) and to be a remember you can never buy votes from other bots. Once you got enough members eventually you would get more STEEM power than the vote selling bots... this would provide a consistent revenue stream for steady post creators...

Another thing that would help is anonymous downvoting, this would prevent retaliation, I am sure some people would abuse this but it would make it much easier to downvote people with large accounts who abuse the reward pool by getting large payouts for posts that do not deserve a large payout...

The STEEM blockchain works similar to the real world economy, the more money you already have the more money you will earn. The wealthiest just use their existing money to extract more money for themselves from the economy. The only way to stop that is to create rules/laws that create a more equal distribution of wealth...

I dont like vote selling accounts but I do use them sometimes, simply because the way the system is designed, if I don't use them someone else will and get that share of STEEM that was created...

Sorry for the delayed response @dksart. You make some great points and I especially like the idea of anonymous downvoting, though with all other potential remedies to the problem, this also has some downsides and could lead to other kinds of behaviour that's just as unwelcome.

Thanks for the awesome comment mate. I hope life is treating you well. :)

Yep there are always pros and cons, there is no perfect system and human behavior is unpredictable, sometimes there is no way to know what will happen until you try and keep trying... The benefit of anonymous downvoting is it would allow people with low sp to downvote crappy content without fear of retaliation

Interesting article @tonyr, and I understand your sentiments completely. I don't like the idea of people buying unlimited votes, creating false impressions of their input and taking chunks of rewards. Not sure of the solution though, but I'm sure those with the know-how and experience will provide feedback. I have a question ... does the SBI (#Steembasicincome) count as one of these?

If you introduce SBI, you'll turn Steemit into the game of who can create more accounts faster than others.

The solution explained here is already applied by several accounts and doesn't work, because abuse is inevitable in the current reward distribution scheme.

The only way to overcome abuse is to get rid of the reward pool for authors and curators and let people tip with their own money on the post they choose and how much.

The regular content creators agree on this, because in that way the quality would be placed high, in this way, the more you pay, the more you get.
I don't know how to react about that, I decided just to play with my digital programs and paint some scribbles.

I think this is an interesting idea but in fact it is too passive. I don't think it will change behaiour, whereas there are more direct possibilities that would. Having said that, if you can gather support for an initiative that seeks to address issues, why not try it out? We might learn something useful.

Thanks a lot for taking a look and sharing your thoughts. I understand what you're saying but with so many other approaches having failed already, I thought it might be worth looking at the problem from a different perspective. I have no technical, coding or programming skills whatsoever so wouldn't be able to create a bot myself but thought I'd share the idea in case anyone out there liked the idea and was able to make it a reality. If we keep giving the problem some thought, I'm sure we'll find a way of dealing with it soon.

Cheers mate. Have a good one.