My Thoughts on Steem-UA (And Why I'm Not Delegating)

in #ua6 years ago

People who have been following me may have noticed that I delegated 250 Steem power to @Steem-UA last week. Today, I ended that delegation.

Some of this is because I wasn't really planning to keep the delegation on a permanent basis when I went into it, but some of it also has to do with some of the experiences I've had and seen.

Steem-UA has been a pretty big deal on my feed this week, and I want to talk about my further thoughts as I've found out more about it.

What is Steem-UA?

Steem User Authority is an ongoing project to create a better version of the reputation system on the Steem blockchain. I agree with a lot of those assertions: just having upvotes does not necessarily equal creating value.

The way it works is simple: delegate some SP, and you'll get votes on your content in relation to your rank in the Steem-UA system. This makes it function like a bidbot, but one that ideally rewards good community members. This is something I'm 100% behind, at least in theory, and it's one of the reasons why I've purchased a lot of Steem Basic Income shares (both for my own benefit and that of other content creators).

However, the exact method by which Steem-UA goes about calculating this new reputation score is a little fuzzy, and that's the number one reason why I ended my delegation. From what I've seen, it doesn't necessarily seem to be incorrect, but there are a few concerns I have with it that I'll get to later.

Vanilla versus UA

One of the things that I'd like to point out is that I'm fairly experienced with reputation systems. I've spent a lot of time on the StackExchange network and playing games like Eclipse Phase where the benefits and flaws of reputation systems come into play and are discussed at length.

The default Steem reputation system is pretty light, but it's functional. You do have problems with bot accounts and a complete dissociation between quality and reputation, but I don't think that for the majority of users who are just worried about what their reputation says about them that this is a major issue. There may be some people with very high reputation scores that are not people who would receive those scores in an ideal world, but we don't live in an ideal world.

Steem-UA, on the other hand, tries to monitor activity. In a recent post, they talked about how to increase your score.

Becoming an interesting content creator, interacting right, attracting followers using the dynamics we already understand: Interact with your audience, curate your comments, comment on other people's post, etc.

Example given in the article linked above

The problem with this is that Steem-UA doesn't seem to publish the exact mechanics by which their reputation system works, nor do they go into a whole lot of detail about what exactly you can do. Let's take a look at a recent comment that they put on one of my posts:


This is where the image ends, if you're like me and can't see the break clearly.

My rank dropped here, but it had gone up by about 500 places over the course of the week, so I can't be upset about that. I've also just had sort of a hard streak of posts recently, because I've been writing a little less prolifically than usual and I've been a little below my usual quality, so I'm not at all surprised by the result.

However, there are a few things to note here:

  • A lot of what this is suggesting I do could be mimicked by bots.
  • Steem-UA winds up being a popularity contest, which doesn't necessarily encourage quality content.
  • The exact mechanisms by which calculations are made are obscured.

Another thing that I would like to point out is that I was originally attracted to UA by comments about how it rewarded people who were sure to follow and (to the extent within their control) be followed by people who actually create quality content on Steem.

The post that I linked to above makes it look to me more like the focus is to be followed by as many people as possible, regardless of whether they're actual content creators and Steemians in good faith, or if they're spammers and bots.

There's also a huge marketing blitz going on for Steem-UA. I'm not necessarily against that; I'm a huge fan of word-of-mouth. Heck, I'm singing @steempeak's praises right-and-left, and I haven't gotten anything from them other than a good frontend for Steem.

However, right now there's no way to guarantee that the system doesn't reward people who speak publicly in favor of Steem-UA, giving them a bonus that pushes them ahead relative to others who don't have the reach or influence they might have. This is one of the consequences of how locked-down their system is.

I just want to make some money, is it worth the investment?

Financially, yes. I've been making back more Steem than I would have via curation and self-upvotes had I not delegated, in the form of upvotes from the program.

However, I'm not a fan of using bots and boosters, except for ones that have clearly designated effects. For instance, I'm a proponent of @steembasicincome, which is basically an upvote bot, but one which rewards your designee as well as yourself. I can't tell you how Steem-UA stacks up against other services, but it's at least more profitable for you (assuming your UA score is good) than it is elsewhere.

What are your concerns?

The big concern I have with Steem-UA is that I really haven't seen any evidence that it does what it says it does well. For starters, the API is only made available to trusted parties. I understand the need for some control of access, but to have no access and no public technical details, you're not really proving that it's good.

A lot of the posts and stats that are available about Steem-UA are mostly about how big it's gotten. There's nothing wrong with that, but I really would like to see more details about specifically how the service is actually benefiting people and how it's better than the simple vote reputation system already used on Steem.

One of the things that really made me a little more anxious about this was a spat that went down in their Discord over the weekend, in which a prominent Steemian (who was looking to pick a fight, by my reckoning) pointed this out and started a nice little implosion. The full details are still up there, and I don't think anyone at Steem-UA did anything showing vice as it were, but the response was not something that filled me with a whole lot of hope and optimism about the service.

Another concern I see with it is that Steem-UA does nothing to support people who don't support Steem-UA. Compare this to the work of the big curators, like @curie, who are willing to boost people outside their community to foster their goals of having Steem be a place where you can find quality content.

Where do you stand now?

I'm not against Steem-UA, by any means, but I don't think I'll be supporting them right now. I just don't have confidence in the system, and I'm on Steem partly to support good content creators. When Steem-UA can prove that it's not just a bidbot, but rather something greater, I'd be happy to delegate to it again. However, as it stands it seems like a system that funnels more Steem toward already powerful Steemians, as opposed to something like Steem Basic Income, which I can direct toward users that I support and want to support further.

Do I suggest that other people go out and cancel their delegations? Not necessarily. I have concerns, and I'd like to see them addressed. @scipio and @holger80 might be able to do that. I haven't been given a reason to be suspicious of them and their efforts, but I like when people show their work, and even if they were to provide details about how exactly Steem-UA works, I'm not sure that it is accomplishing what it claims to do.

If you have to pay (sure, it's an investment you can get back, but it's still tying up funds so for all economic purposes it's the same thing) for algorithmic curation on your own works, you're not really doing anything to boost the people who don't pay. Sure, the bots who (hopefully) have crappy UA scores will get hammered, but they're not going to invest, so what do they care?

As it stands, the only people you're helping are yourself and people who've bought in. That's not world-changing. That's status quo.


I feel like I owe it to you to actually have a brief discussion about UA and all its works, but it will be brief since I've already taken the drugs which will ease me into a dreamless sleep and because I've written so much on the subject over the last week or so in Replies as it is.

So, the summary: UA as a mechanism is a joke, Steem-UA is a pyramid scam effectively levering those delegations to be laundered by the process of vote dispersion, and that's it. UA is an ordinal ranking based on follow edges which, once all is said and done, has some filtering with negligible observable effect aimed at removing obvious bot groups and minimizing the impact from users typically referred to as "lower value." What it actually does is reduce the active user list to that of those who have engaged in a follow operation or a delegation to Steem-UA, which looks a lot like the ordinal rankings of accounts on the system via SP with some very lightweight changes based on relatively clear and observable traits.

That makes you a just a restatement of SP, for the most part, with some chunks cut out, and Steem-UA just the latest bid bot to come along.

Because the system is essentially seeded with witnesses being the most trusted entities in the system and trust moving out via the factors of who those witnesses follow – your ranking, your qualifying value in UA isn't dependent on anything you've written or have been involved in saying, necessarily. It is purely and simply taking your following/followed behaviors as proxies for the quality of your writing and going from there.

I've been dealing with @scipio for six months or so on the underlying architecture for UA, pointing out where programmatically it is unable to match the promises that were established as the base measure for the thing, and likewise being increasingly creeped out by this Steem-UA project which is being run as a black box, not coming forward with the very clear proof that claims have been made about UA achieving (easy mechanical recognition of who the spammers are on the steem blockchain as well as the vote selling bots), but instead rolling straight out with a vote buying bot of the most transparent sort.

And all the while, all of the focus is on follows – an account-level operation – and never a word about actual content and how it should matter, because it doesn't.

I have a longer, more detailed, more math-forward version of this discussion that I have been debating posting on Steemit, but the time may have come.

Regardless, congratulations on identifying a pyramid scheme before you got too far sucked in. This is a useful skill to have.

I mean, I don't necessarily think that Steem-UA is a bad deal per se, but the big problem is that it's not delivering anything that makes things better.

I don't like bidbots, which is the reason I undelegated. I'm worried that they really don't make Steem a better place. I don't care as much about the money; I hardly keep track of the value of my held Steem. Instead, I love it as a place where content creators can create and reward value, without having to resort to things like advertising or locking content behind a paywall.

I also believe in the power of blockchain to make the world a better place.

The problem is that Steem-UA doesn't accomplish that. The more I looked at it, the more it was clear that the system exists as a sort of "cool kids' club", where it only benefits the people within it, as opposed to, again, something like @trufflepig, which isn't quite up to the specs that human curation would be to, but is actually capable of benefitting everyone. When my Steem-UA delegation officially ends, I'm contemplating delegating to them instead, because I've seen them actually reward content creators (including myself) on the basis of the quality of their work.

The big deal for me isn't that it's a rip-off. If you are concerned about that, it may very well be one, because I'm willing to put more faith in your judgment than mine. However, the problem I have with it is that while it's been touted as a "Make Steem Great" initiative, it's really looking like it might be nothing more than the @busy upvotes, but you pay in for them.


I support steem-ua, having discussed the idea extensively with @scipio back in December, when I had no credentials or credibility and he had no reason to respond to my comments. Also I have been workibg with @holger80 on other projects.

That said, I am upvoting and resteemed this post in the interest of fair and balanced discussion.

Posted using Partiko Android

If you have to pay (sure, it's an investment you can get back, but it's still tying up funds so for all economic purposes it's the same thing) for algorithmic curation on your own works, you're not really doing anything to boost the people who don't pay.

It's kind of a level above that - the people who can pay a lot are boosting the people who can only pay a little. And yeah, that kind of screws over the people who can't afford to pay at all, but it's moving money from whales to minnows at least. And then there are independent initiatives like @tarazkp's where he's delegating SP in 25 and 50 chunks so that smaller accounts can redelegate, which help it along a bit.

I tend to be pretty Steem-UA agnostic. I like the return on my own account, so I'm delegating 100, and I might boost it to 250 if I start feeling more like guaranteeing I make 7 posts a week on it again. But I'm not thinking it's going to fix much, and I suspect that the delegations seeing the worst return will drop off at every cycle and eventually it will eat itself.

and I suspect that the delegations seeing the worst return will drop off at every cycle and eventually it will eat itself.

Perhaps but I am unsure as for most (at the moment) the return they are getting is still better than they could do with that same amount of SP used somewhere else. It will never make anyone rich but, it could be just enough for them to stay engaged. If it could get some delegation obviously this helps with that too and if it has many users locking up Steem but it is still voting, it is going to have draw weight on the pool and aid wide and low distribution. ...i think...

That would be a fairly major problem, and that's one of the issues that I see with it. Right now there are a lot of posts about how people are delegating thousands of Steem Power to Steem-UA, and they don't really have any obligation to continue to do that.

With just the people getting good returns, the system would look different. Not necessarily bad; obviously there's some room for it to grow in the form of curation rewards and upvotes, similar to how SBI works, but SBI gets Steem from people and then puts it into a form where it provides their vests, and so the story goes.

Delegation is fluid, and while Steem-UA gets delegation, it will go strong. If it stops getting delegation, it can have issues. And that's one of the fundamental issues. I don't think it's necessarily bad to have something that does what it does: it certainly can help to promote content creators having engaging quality content, at least if it's working right.

However, the counterpoint to that is that being delegation based means that it doesn't ever really have a way to curate in a way that, say, @trufflepig does, under its current system without changing how it does business.

Right now for myself, I see the advantage of the twice a week vote. I know it is not a big vote, but it is two post that get a payable vote. The first week was just about $0.50 USD in vote payout, so about .750 steem. I know it will take a long time at that rate to equal the value of my delegation SP, but it is getting there. So it is like SBI, Inciniboost, Voteshare, and a few of the others, simply a means for a person to self vote for themselves without the attached stigma of self voting.

The only way to grow on steemit is to get votes, buy, beg, or borrow them. Steem search engine needs a lot of work, and more filters to be an easy content finder. Right now the primary way of finding content is through communities one follows, and viewing their compilation post. There really are a lot of them out there. I may end up a little late on voting some things, but eventually I do find content.

Steem-UA, does not really bill itself as a content finder. I do not think their algorithm is worth squat to be honest. A couple people in the top 100, that should not be there in my opinion, as to the heavy weighting of the witnesses, I do not agree with that either, they have in my eyes no more authority than a new user. They really need to change the name. It was a try at fixing a broken thing, but I think it failed in that, on the plus side, it is a very nice twice a week non-self-vote, non-paid-vote-bot. Stigma-free vote, for now.

The thing about it is that its lack of a functional algorithm that people can monitor means that it's fundamentally meaningless.

It's basically giving votes so that you can help yourself grow, sure, but it's not on the likes of SBI. SBI gives votes exactly as you provide them. Inciniboost is just a SBI knock-off, and functions more or less identically. With either of those services, I can be 90% certain that my support goes to people whose content I enjoy, plus boost my own growth and influence (and I'm quite heavily into SBI, so you can say that I've got a bit of a confirmation bias, but I was a recipient of it before I started giving it out).

The gripe I have with Steem-UA is this: It claims to be a positive addition to the community.

It isn't, or at least not meaningfully. It's only a benefit to those community members who pay into it, and perhaps not even that to a major degree. It's not "algorithmic curation"; it's the Busy upvote with an investment attached.

Yep, a pre-set self vote. for me a pre-set 50SP, twice a week self vote. Only it is a higher vote than what my self vote would be. I have seen a few post talking about the vote return being better than ten self votes a week. It is what it is a means to get another vote on a person's content, nothing more. The only comment attraction to a person's blog/post is for me the twice weekly we voted blah blah blah comment they give. I do not think I have gotten a single comment from anyone just because I delegate to Steem-UA.

I am one of those people that like comments, and like to give comments. But I also like to vote, it is part of my commenting habit I guess. I generally vote on content prior to commenting, recently I have actually commented without voting just because my vote power was very low. If a person, such as myself is looking for a few guaranteed votes without actually paying for them, then steem-ua is good for that. I only lose out on a temporary loss of 50Sp, which in the overall scheme of things when it comes to providing a vote has very little effect on my vote value.

I also have some SBI, some bought, some gifted, same with incinboost, and a few others. The money/steem for those are bought and paid for votes, I can not look at it any other way. steem-ua is nothing more than a self vote by proxy. It is what it is. I don't like vote bots, yet I buy votes. I do not like self votes, yet I do it by proxy. Because I do not like something does not make it wrong, especially when it comes to a person's vote, it is theirs to do with as they want, to use, to buy, to sell, to rent, as long as no one is telling someone how to use their vote I can accept a person's choice.

I'm a bit sceptic too regarding Steem-UA. I don't follow a lot of people because I don't want to clutter up my feed. 3/4 of the people I would follow use the same tag so it's easier to just see what's new there - there at not that many posts in German ;) And I don't expect people to follow me for the same reasons.

And I don't know how they deal with "dead" accounts. Soon after Steem-UA was started I cleaned up my followee list and unfollowed several acounts that hadn't posted for weeks. My rank sank about 0.5 after that. Though I had had a post come to the attention of curie shortly before leading to a record reward for me - I don't know whether that influenced the score.

Let's just wait and see what happens - "keep calm and steem on" ;)

steem-ua is less than a month old.
Its too early to jump into conclusion I guess.

In my observation, the code of the project is a closed source. I knew this from one of the delegators who praised steem-ua.
I told him that I guess the source is open only to those who delegated huge amount of SP because obviously they won't delegate that huge amount if they don't know everything about the project.

We as small SP minnows have really no idea what's the totality of the project.

I'm not saying that Steem-UA is necessarily a scam.

I think some of their marketing is sketchy, and that they need to answer more questions before I'd be comfortable delegating to them again.

The giant delegators who support the project may know more than us and have more insight, or they may simply be better rewarded. I'm a little cynical, but I'm a believer that average users should reserve their SP to help people based on what seems to be a need.

Right now, Steem-UA benefits those who have the resources to give it. That's not a community-improving asset.

I guess there are a lot to check, learn and search on Steemit.
There are many projects and many others coming and we could not check/study them all. People with less resources might just get along and join the wave wherever it goes. But in the right and perfect time, everything will be understood.

Putting in simple terms: what steem-ua does is to check "who is following you".

  • If good people follow you then your UA-score increases.
  • If an average person follows you your score also increases but little.
  • If a good guy follows few people and you are one of them your score increases. If this guy follows a lot of people, then his contribution to your score is low.

Your score =
(score_follower1/number_follows1) +
(score_follower2/number_follows2) +
(score_follower3/number_follows3) + ...

See, the issue here is that it's not really curating, like @trufflepig, but rather just paying popular people. The equation's not fully released, and without more info it's hard to know for a fact whether or not it's working right, and the lack of transparency into the system (only the top 100 plus your own account doesn't show that much info, all things considered) means that you'd never know if the system's really working at all.

I'll bookmark this on @steempeak and go through it later looks like you put some time into this and UA isn't something I'm super familiar with yet, it's apparently more complicated than i first thought.

My UA score is somehow higher than yours and I don't think I do that much different compared to everyone else.

Some of it probably has to do with the comments received per post. I tend to do small daily posts that don't often receive a whole ton of engagement. I'm popular among a few curators, but write for a very niche audience to begin with.

Wow reading through the comments was intense. I've invest 250 sp myself to the project so we will see how it fairs out. I am happy with it so far. Some good points well made though.

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