The REALLY gentle guide to becoming a witness

in witness-category •  3 years ago  (edited)

Why I'm posting this today

In opposition to Jerry Banfield's course

This is in response to A gentle guide to becoming a steem witness by @jerrybanfield, by @mattgimel, and to be clear this is not in critique of @mattgimel in any way. I do not support @jerrybanfield 's charging for freely available information.

The the linked video Jerry Banfield spends a really long time telling us how excited he is to become a witness (what's a witness?), and asks for $180 to sign up to his course.


However by his own admission he is in no way technically skilled and has never been a witness. So in other words, he is not qualified to be charging for information.

Instead of that, you can follow my guide here for free, or look up the information and chat to existing witnesses as I did. You can vote for my post but that's it. I need the votes as I'm not self voting any more. 😜

The claim of earnings

@jerrybanfield claims you can make thousands in a few months. Well maybe you can, but I would not be disappointed if it doesn't happen for you. You need a lot of votes to get up in the list in order to start getting blocks, and you need to keep your server ticking along.

You can honestly probably earn more blogging on Steemit as a genearl user. One witness in particular is fond of saying "blogging is the new mining"!


Here are the two best general guides to becoming a witness that I found:

The Complete Noob Guide to STEEM Witness Setup

Complete Witness Installation Guide

They are old but still relevant for the most part. It is where I got the bulk of my knowledge.

Script to do most of it for you

I've created some bash scripts to do most of the work to set up a witness from scratch on a Ubuntu 16.04 server. I did this to keep track of what I learned anyway, and I believe in open source and sharing code, so here it is:

I wasn't intending on publishing this today but I was prompted to do so by the post I linked to at the start, so there's no readme (i.e. instructions) yet on GitHub, but here they are.

Before you get started, you'll need a server

You can run it locally on your own Ubuntu 16.04 installation, or in the cloud.

If you use the cloud, here are two suggestions:

  1. BuyVM - I use them and can vouch they work AND they accept Bitcoin which is great.
  2. Privex - @someguy123 runs this. I haven't used it but I know he has a good reputation and other witnesses do use it

Any other reliable service will do. You will also want to consider security, using a firewall, fail2ban, etc. which is your responsibility. The second guide above links to discussions of this.

Running the scripts

Just enter the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install -y git
git clone
cd witness-setup
sudo ./

This process will take a really long time as the following things are automatically done:

  1. Update the system and install build tools
  2. Download the steem blockchain software and build it
  3. Download a recent-ish compressed copy of the blockchain (from my seed server) and decompress
  4. "Replay" the blockchain downloaded so far, and sync with the other seeds to get the remaining block until the current block

Note that your witness config and blockchain data will be in the ~/data/ folder and ~/data/blockchain/ folder. The tilda (~) symbol is shorthand for your home folder.

It could take a really really long time, but as long as you see something happening it's all good. Note that the blockchain decompression can take a while and has no use feedback so just wait for that part.

After this you'll need to add your witness account name and WIF key to the file at ~/data/config.ini

I recommend you use @furion 's conductor app to manage your keys. There is a guide for it here and I would hand off to that at this point. There you can manage your keys.

And then?

From then on you just will need to just run steemd, the program which processes blocks. You can start it with the following command:

steemd -d ~/data

We have to specify the data directory here.

If you find that steemd is failing, you might need to replay the blockchain again, or even delete it and start again. These are the trials of witnesshood


These scripts are "as is" and I have used them to set up a witness but that does not mean it will work in every scenario.

I got the server, now what?

You need witness votes! This is what Jerry referred to as "trust". You need to let people know you're a witness, and they need to believe you are worth voting for. As with the rest of Steemit, stake is the decider, so votes from high SP (Steem Power) users are going to make the biggest difference in your rank.

This is very much a social task and there's a few ways of going about it. I'm just a freshman witness, a backup, so I'm not very experienced, I only have a few votes.

Other useful tools is great for keeping tabs on how your server is performing.

Witness Schedule by @bitcoiner is really awesome to see what the witness list is right now and rolling. You can also see your witness rank.

My witness

I run my witness at @personzzz, vote for me if you like. I'll answer any questions as best I can. You can also join us on the #witness channel on

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Great information.. I voted on your witness last week after reading your witness post.. I also started my witness last week and hosting it on Privexx.. And I have been working all week long on my Witness post, because I believe people need to know 100% about us and what we plan on doing for Steemit.. Which you have been invaluable in helping people..

I highly recommend people vote for you....

Thank you so much, very kind of you :)

This is great information, but why would I need to become a witness?

This post lays out some good points, which I'll summarize and add my own thoughts:

  1. They are needed for the blockchain to function as they are the ones who actually create the blocks
  2. They need to be trustable sort of ppl that will not do this well and not tamper with blocks (though this would take significant effort)
  3. They are the ones that make Hard Fork adoptions happen
  4. They report accurately on the price of STEEM by maintaining a price feed
  5. They have some technical know how or are at least willing to learn about it, it's a technical job
  6. They generally contribute in other ways, such as developing software or tools, or reaching out to communities, etc. and basically champion the platform in some shape or form

For this there is a reward in STEEM per block made.

All of that said, that pretty much just applies to the top 19 witnesses. The rest of us are backup witnesses who get scheduled to so the 20th block in a round at random and based on our rank. Backup witnesses are important, and can become a top 19 witness if votes change.

If you think you fit that and want to do it then do!

Wow, I didn't know about being a witness! Thank you for taking the time to explain. This is something I would consider in the near future!

this is great information

@personz, can I get a witness?!!! lol great info - @bigoldbitties

@personz on point explanation of the what? and how? of becoming a steem witness..

Vote me (i.e @mattgimel) for witness on

You can honestly probably earn more blogging on Steemit as a genearl user. One witness in particular is fond of saying "blogging is the new mining"!

I believe you...

Hi Dear
error my witness : No witnesses configured! Please add witness names and private keys to configuration.


@personz love your post here and am now one of your top upvotes on it because this is better than I would have ever imagined! Finding a new witness guide is difficult because there are so many older guides out there that are already good most new witnesses are not motivated to make one. The only new guide I could find is by @someguy123 at With your guide I now have another link in the course showing how to actually set this up alongside of all the old guides!

While I know you intended this as criticism, I take it as a huge compliment because you took a valuable action on behalf of the community based on what you saw me doing. Some of the best online courses I have made were motivated by seeing another instructor do a terrible job teaching a course I bought and knowing I could do better. Over time my original dislike for the instructor changed into love and respect him because the fact was he motivated me to be better. Without his terrible courses, I would not likely have thought I had what it took to make a great online course.

I voted for you as a witness because I like your desire to serve the community and willingness to speak up when you think things should be different. Making posts like the one you made is difficult for me now because I am so concerned about not offending anyone and I applaud you for making it!

As I am reading @someguy123's guide again tonight, I will now also be reading yours again to help me make sure I understand what I am doing before I start setting my witness up!

Thank you for writing this and helping me get started as a witness!

I was taking this action anyway, you just prompted me to put it together earlier.

I appreciate your witness vote, but you should really not be charging for this information. I will flag any further post on your witness course and encourage everyone else to do the same. Free information is just that - FREE. You are making plenty of steem with your posts, no need to string along hopefuls with your promises.

With your guide I now have another link in the course showing how to actually set this up alongside of all the old guides!

Missing the point a bit here. I highly suggest you stop your witness course and join the rest of us backup witnesses in learning and doing without closed-doors "courses".

You are right the information is free and what I charge for is early access to videos of my explaining why this information is worth taking action on today plus showing how to get started. You have made an awesome free post here which you would be well within your rights to charge for if you filmed a one to two hour video class featuring screen capture tutorials of how to actually use the information you posted here because that would be even more valuable than the post here and be worth paying for. I would probably buy it so I could watch the tutorials even though everything you posted here is free. I trust your judgement on which posts you flag and I was surprised to see someone made a post about it on Steemit because my intended audience for the course was YouTube and Facebook based on my assumption that few on Steemit who already knew about witnesses would be interested buying the course!

  ·  2 years ago (edited)

@jerrybanfield, while I would never begrudge someone's right to make a buck, I think the way you are doing it isn't great. If I were you, instead of asking people to pay to see some videos which are just an adaptation of other people's hard work, wouldn't you be better to ask people who found your work helpful to give you a witness vote? Even putting a SBD address for people to donate some STEEM to you wouldn't be out of the question. However, trying to milk an open community based on the free sharing of knowledge, for cash, isn't really in the spirit of STEEM. However, each to their own. You do you.

Excuse my noob question, but the WIF key, where does one get it from?

Useful and organized information with very specific references. Feeling nice to read the whole article. yes, I agree with you that people shouldn't charge money for the available free information.

Thanks! Just to nit pick, I would not say should not charge, he's free to do it. But anyone who has the option between free and paying for the same thing can be happy to get it for free instead.

Hope you get something from this still, it'll go out of date eventually 😭

Yes, I got it. Thanks for make me clear about the concept. I do agree.

thank you so much for this

You're welcome @chivesz 👍

@persons even though this is an older post I hope you still see the replies. I read over this steemit post and I must say you keep shit real 100 % and it looks like you care about this platform thanks for the amazing post and you've got my witness vote I'm going to do it now. Thanks again.

Congratulations on making it in the top 100 so fast!

Thanks 🙂