FollowBTCNews Witness Update: Being a New Top 20, Project Launch Satisfaction, and the Road Ahead

in witness-update •  6 months ago

Jeff and Crim here, checking in to touch base with you on what's been happening over the last two weeks with the FollowBTCNews witness team.

We're happy to have been spending our time working on and shoring up our projects, resources, communities, and support — after a crazy successful launch like SteemTipper's, it's been good spending some time ensuring that everything we do for and with STEEM is at the highest level possible. THIS IS A REALLY LONG POST: We're warning you now, OK?


Let's do the least-interesting-but-most-important stuff first, shall we? Servers are what serve you. You can skip this bit if you're familiar with our hardware or want to get to our thoughts below.

  • We currently run a 64GB Witness server, with two additional backups for redundancy and reliability
    • three servers in different data centers, (DEDI-DE) 64GB DDR3 RAM, 20TB BW @ 1gbps network

  • We currently manage the operations of and split the cost of a 512GB full public RPC node
    • Fun fact: this node is one of the options the load balancer of the Privex node uses, so every now and again, it's trusted to get overload traffic from there. It gets used directly quite a lot, which is awesome: that's the point! It's getting very expensive to run these full nodes, so a HUGE thank you to anyone providing these public resources for STEEM developers of all walks of life. Smaller, purpose built private nodes are great options for services, but not everyone is able to afford even those yet, so full, public nodes are needed!
  • We currently run a 64GB seed node at seed.followbtcnews.com:2001
  • We own and develop STEEM.Chat, which requires a server for hosting the huge amount of channels, users and information, as well as a mail server to support sign-ups and notifications via email
  • We have launched SteemTipper.com, a social tipping service powered by STEEM, which is hosted and runs on a dedicated server to ensure transactions are fast and reliable
  • We are developing a new script for MSP and other communities to help build up delegation and curation initiatives, which is also hosted on a beefy server
  • We have a myriad of other servers for our tools, or for things like the MSP website, which we help by hosting. I think you get the idea... there are a lot of servers.

All of these servers are working exactly as they should. Hoorah!

Updating week to week on the specs and the status of these doesn't change much at all, it's true, but in a lot of ways that's good! We experienced some slowdowns during the json attack, as did pretty much all witnesses on the platform, but came out in fighting shape. We did a quick, unrelated rebuild of our witness server last week to double check that our price feed was behaving, but that caused no downtime. This is the stuff your witnesses are doing every day, quietly, to make sure that things run smoothly. There's a balance to what's worth posting about, and what can be left out, but we've always made sure to let you know when we upgrade, what we have driving things behind the scenes, and about the stuff that impacts our productivity.

In light of all the information above, this is a good place to accept @DanielSaori's Witness Blocks Challenge nomination. This is the guts of today's update.

We've been in the Top Twenty witnesses now for about two months; it took us about ten months to do it, thanks to the support of people like you. For that ten months, we've done nothing but think, eat, breathe, and live STEEM. It has cost a lot, and it has been a challenge and an adventure to be worthy of getting here, and staying here.

Witness voting and information around how and why you vote for witnesses you believe in has been a hot topic lately, and that is, frankly, excellent. However, despite the sheer volume of what we do and our updates here, entering the top twenty has caused some who aren't ready to dive into voting in depth to look at us only as the members of the "top witnesses", instead of as our individual initiative. I want to talk candidly with you about this because we think it's really important to be informed and critical, but it's just as important to be able to be proud of your work and the choices you make. We'd like for all of you to consider our witness team on our own merits first, and then decide if we're worthy of the ranking, instead of viewing the top twenty as a whole, single entity. Every position is contributing and handling their place differently.

We don't really talk a lot about the costs of all of the things we do, because that's not the point of becoming a witness. As you go, you may find ways to monetize your contributions, and you may or may not get ranked highly enough that your initiatives pay for themselves in producer rewards.

We probably haven't done enough of the political self-promotion side of things, but both Crim and I have decided that's okay. From the start, we've done things the quiet, proof-of-brain sort of way. We put our heads down and worked, made our updates, worked in the communities, and built tools and supported the chain until people started seeing us. We are absolute proof that a minnow and a dolphin (check out our wallets) can start from nothing and begin building something awesome, if they put in the work and the service. Since we've entered the top twenty, the perception is we've been making HUGE rewards... and we have. No doubt! But the reason we're accepting the Witness Blocks challenge put to us is because the way each individual witness uses those rewards is different, and we're actually just reaching the point where we've been able to collect any of those rewards for ourselves.

So today, here's a bit of self promotion, because we're really proud of what we do, and people do wonder what it costs to do it all.

The Witness Block challenge rules are:

  • Do something useful for others (i.e. free delegation, account creation for others, etc.) with your witness blocks
  • Write a post about it
  • Tag it with #witness-blocks
  • Nominate a witness (we're nominating @TeamSteem!)

Up above, we've talked about some of our contributions — those servers which help support the chain and produce blocks are the tip of the iceberg. The rest of the servers represent the work that goes beyond the STEEM blockchain and the standard witness obligations:

  • they host the community-driven initiatives we dream up and make happen, like the tools and websites we've built for groups like the Minnow Support Project and for individual users
  • for our awesome Social Tipping service SteemTipper.com, which will be expanding to many more platforms over the next year
  • for providing the STEEM.Chat service
  • for working on a new script and tool informed directly by finding alternatives and addendums to vote buying and helping more communities flourish and work on distributing stake more widely (coming very soon!)

Monthly, all of these bits of hardware run about $1500 USD at present. It's actually kind of a bargain, when you consider what we get done with it all!

But this metric doesn't cover the important points and contributions we make even above and beyond the initiatives I've listed above, and a lot of that comes down to time and involvement. What we want to do with the rewards as top twenty witnesses is to keep all of the things that we have now running, be ready for the increasing costs as our blockchain scales up, be able to disctribute more into the community, and eventually, yes, split a little bit between ourselves.

  1. We personally work as leadership, moderators, and liaisons in a number of large communities; MSP, SteemDevs, Steem.Chat, The Writer's Block, and dozens of others where we work one on one every day to help mentor, connect, and encourage others, or are DJs and radio participants, and available to anyone who needs us. We work as a team with other top witnesses when fast responses to new challenges are required, and that's something that knows no office hours. This is beyond a full time job, as most witnesses know. We are seen in and around the community just as much as we are intensely focused on being rock solid and reliable on the technology side of things. We take time away from our actual jobs and families our lives for this, and that won't change... it's worth it.
  2. We have both created and continue to create free accounts for those who have been stuck in the process; we make charitable donations through our own quiet initiatives or directly person to person, and this isn't something that started when we became witnesses. We participate in a number of communities specifically geared towards interpersonal help. We sponsor community contests, games, and delegate to a number of causes across the spectrum. As a minnow and a dolphin, these things drain us more than others with a large stake, but we intend to continue supporting others as we grow.
  3. We are a team. Crim and I are the heart of the witness, but when we take on a job that is huge, we look for and pay developers from the Steem ecosystem with STEEM to work with us, to give a greater scope to what we put out there. Extra development work on non-monetized initiatives, including a number of community pull requests, has been one of our greatest costs over the past few months. In fact, this month has been the first time we've paid ourselves in half a year. We want to continue turning to others in the STEEM ecosystem for our business needs.
  4. We power down only enough to pay for bills. We want to be powering up! We aren't whales, and we don't have huge accounts. In the scheme of things, we post less than those who aren't witnesses, because we have so much time invested in the parts of STEEM that aren't us directly producing content. It's important to us to grow our stakes, and to be able to distribute more of the reward pool and be able to do more with our votes. The producer rewards are not being turned into fiat and buying us lambos — they're lovingly invested back into the platform and used to help delegate and vote and participate. NONE OF OUR CURRENT PROJECTS PRODUCE ANY FORM OF REVENUE STREAM. Someday, we'd like to take a small, reasonable chunk of them each to pay ourselves something each month, because we feel we do enough work that we deserve at least a small salary.

You made it through a huge update.

I hope it gives you some insight into what we do, why we do it, and why we think we deserve your support. Most of the time, our updates will be on our launches and our initiatives, and just to check in with you. Being asked to go into depth about how our witness blocks go into gave us a chance, just for a little bit to toot our own horns. We do need votes to stay where we are, so if you haven't heard of us or have been wondering why you should, maybe this will be useful to you.


To everyone else, thank you for your support, feedback, criticism, and friendship. It is what makes us better. As always, don't hesitate to reach out to me or @crimsonclad if you want to talk more — we're here with you and for you.


I'm Jeff, and I'm @followbtcnews.
I'm a top 20 witness, along with my project partner @crimsonclad. Feel free to reach out to us on Steem.chat or Discord any time! If we haven't earned your vote yet, please take some time to look at Steemtipperand other work we have done. We hope you decide to place a witness vote for followbtcnews by clicking here
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Thank you for the kind mention :)

Your RPC server is a massive help to many application developers, especially as part of our Privex Load Balancer.

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Thanks! And thank you for also supplying a public RPC node for devs of the community!

I'm really impressed with what you guys have achieved thus far. You're an inspiration to up and coming Witnesses!

steem.chat and steemtipper are the bigger profile services, but on reading the above there is so much more you guys have been up to.

A total credit to the community and awesome example of what Steemians and Witnesses alike should be aspiring to be.

Thank you!

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Thank you. We really appreciate your support! We hope to be able to live up to what a "Top 20" should and can do .. We promise to keep pushing as hard as we can to help Steem and Steemit, and users alike :)

Nicely done! The projects that you are working on seem quite well thought out and strategically important. These efforts are definitely an inspiration, in at least two obvious ways.

  1. The technical excellence and attention to detail is very impressive. Being able to operate without downtime at this scale and speed is no small feat, and I'm sure it doesn't just happen by accident. It looks like a proof point for careful planning and meticulous execution.

  2. You are showing that you care about the community by the things you say, which is awesome. More importantly, you show this by the things you do. The spirit of generosity and helpfulness is something that all people on STEEM can and should aspire to.

I know it is unrealistic to expect everyone to behave in a manner which promotes our shared goals over individual desires. We are all in this together, however, and we are a lot stronger as a group and as a platform when we work together and help each other.

Thank you for leading the way, and for showing others a very real example of how to succeed by working hard and helping others.

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Thank you so much for the kind words!

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Thank you so much for the kind words!

You guys are really passionate about Steem and your actions are proof of this!

I'll participate in the challenge you guys nominated me. I might wait after my vacation.

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Thanks buddy! Hope you vacation is going great. Excited to see your post when your back. And thanks for all your support!

Fully behind voting for your team as a witness. And SteemTipper.com is a dream come true for me personally. Myself aside, I'm happy you're in the top as well and doing so much to be worthy of being there.

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Thank you so much. And also,you are doing a wonderful thing on Twitter giving away so much Steem to people.. You are awesome!

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Thanks. I'm hoping to make that a regular thing. :) Will be making a post one of these days to garner additional votes.

Being a top 20 Steem witness is well deserved, @followbtcnews. Congratulations 👏👏👏👏 !!! You and @crimsonland are just fantastic! When @steemtipper launched, I told all @edusteem members to vote you as a witness and write posts about @steemtipper. I hope you'll get to top 10 soon, Jefff😀.Thanks for the update👍.

@maryfavour

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Thank you! I love the work you do for edusteem. You are doing some great stuff for members and Steemit!

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It's my pleasure, Jeff. We do the little things we do just to make the world a better place.

@maryfavour.

You are helping to build a great steem community.

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Just thanks a lot for sharing and discuss about witness..
I appreciate your post and this is helpful post for us..
Keep it up...

What an update! Thank you guys so much :)

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Thnaks Kubby! and its wonderful working with you in MSP. You work your butt off helping people and it's a great thing to see!

it seems that everything is well documented and your plan is taking much longer than expected, although perhaps it was a crazy launch, as you say yourself, has managed to exceed expectations! I always support witnesses who have contact with the community, those who receive comments and suggestions in a good way! So my 30th vote is for you.

Thank you two for doin all what you doin... you both are people which catch some stones and place em into a road in steemit....

Nice to see that much passion and dedication poured into this wonderful community and ecosystem...Wishing you guys good luck on your journey(s)!!!

nice and i9iteresting post hoping to see more from you