I would like to start out this witness update post by saying a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me personally, my witness, and my projects on Steem over the past year. It is an honor and a privilege to be a top 20 consensus witness on the Steem platform and I can assure you that I will put all of my time and energy into keeping the blockchain running, improving, and increasing in value.
One thing that I know that I need to work on is posting more often about what I'm doing, and weighing in on the current topics, issues, and ideas that will shape the future of the Steem platform. I am going to do my best to start posting more starting right now! Even if I'm not posting, though, I'm almost always available on Discord, so feel free to shoot me a message if you ever want to chat about anything!
The Role of the Witnesses
One thing I had never been clear on in the past is what exactly the witnesses are expected to do. Are they supposed to contribute to the Steem codebase? Are they supposed to do testing? Are they supposed to build projects or run communities? I've seen a lot of other people post about this topic as well, and it seems to me like no one really knows for sure.
After having witnessed HF20, I think I am clear on my opinion of what the role of the witnesses ought to be. I see the witnesses as being the project managers of the Steem blockchain. They don't have to do the coding themselves, but they need to ensure that we have great developers who are. They don't have to do the testing themselves, but they need to make sure thorough testing gets done, and all of the bugs get found and fixed. They don't need to build projects or run communities, but they need to make sure that the Steem platform provides the tools and resources needed for those projects and communities to flourish.
Of course there's nothing wrong with the witnesses doing those things themselves - it's great, in fact - but the point is that whether the witnesses do it themselves, or get other people to do it, they just need to make sure that, one way or another, it gets done and it gets done well.
Learnings from HF20
So putting on my project management hat (and I have been managing software development projects professionally for the past 10 years) I'll take a moment to share my thoughts about the HF20 update and how we can improve the hard fork process going forward. My two key, high-level takeaways to help hard forks go more smoothly in the future are:
- Hard fork more frequently
- Use a test plan
The first one is pretty simple...the more often you do something, the better you get at it and the smoother it goes. HF20 was the first hard fork in over a year and a half. Many witnesses, including myself, were not even on the platform when HF19 occurred. From that perspective I think it actually went pretty well.
Of course, there are downsides to more frequent hard forks. The main one being that it takes most exchanges a while to update their nodes. With everything taken into account, I think we should shoot for 2 - 3 hard forks per year. Some may just have a few relatively small changes, but, like I said above, it's important to do it somewhat regularly, and it also helps to keep things fresh and show progress.
The second item is the one that's really important for ensuring things go smoothly though. A test plan is simply a list of all of the features or functions of a product and how they are expected to work. When a new release is coming up, you update the test plan with the new changes and go through it, testing each item on the list, to make sure everything works as intended.
For future hard forks I propose that we create a comprehensive test plan for the Steem blockchain, and then, once new code is ready for testing, the top witnesses should put up a bug bounty program for anyone who finds and reports issues. I know for sure that a number of the issues that came up after the release of HF20 would have been caught had such a system been put in place.
As the project managers, the witnesses don't have to necessarily do the testing themselves, but they do need to organize the effort and incentivize the incredible pool of talent in the Steem community to see that it gets done.
A Word on Prices
Even though it's a bit off topic for a witness update, I do want to touch on the crypto market briefly since it's something that obviously affects all of us and potentially the future of the Steem platform.
I think that the time of wild speculation and easy money in the blockchain space is coming to an end, if not already over. The focus going forward will increasingly be on projects that provide real utility and create real value.
The value that STEEM provides is that it allows you to access the Steem community. I think it's really that simple. I've said many times that we could have built Steem Monsters on many other blockchain platforms. There are lots out there now that offer the same technological advantages as Steem does, but there are none that I'm aware of that give access to such a great community, and that has been an instrumental and invaluable part of our success so far.
The community is the asset. The community is the value. You, the one reading this right now, are what makes STEEM valuable. So rather than looking at the latest market prices to see what STEEM is worth, look instead at what owning STEEM actually gets you, and the future looks much brighter.
It was amazing to get the chance to meet so many of you in person recently at SteemFest. It really opened my eyes to the tremendous value in the Steem community that I was talking about above. I hope that everyone in the US had a great Thanksgiving, I hope that everyone has a happy and healthy holiday season, and I can't wait to see what the next year on the Steem platform will bring!