The Next Million Steemians
Recently I was posed the following question: "What needs to happen before the Steem platform can become a successful economic system?"
That is to say, "when moon?" but being more specific about what that looks like. It already assumes that the end goal is not just for Steem to be a social media platform, but for it to be a thriving economy in its own right.
The plan for bootstrapping the economic system is simple, keeping in mind the chicken and egg scenario where currencies need users for merchants to consider them and users need practical use cases (e.g. merchants) for them to even consider acquiring the currency:
- Make an attractive platform for users that also distributes to users in a controlled manner.
- Encourage development of services that make use of the currency.
We have (1) in some basic form already, but still the number of active users is lacking. (2) has some rough pockets but they exist and seem to be developing.
The system should practically feed itself once we really get going. So what's missing? How do we get to the next level?
Well, for starters I already believe the platform is headed the right direction in terms of what we can develop. It's exciting to see many different applications built on top, to increase the diversity of ways we interact with each other.
I see much of the ongoing work by Steemit as reducing various frictions. HF20 is focused on account creation and usability with respect to running certain operations. SMT will allow these applications to control the behavior of custom tokens to grow in a more independent way. Oracles will be a nice feature to further tune a token's customizability.
Commerce and the SBD
I know at least some people are thinking about the commerce side. But I think the beauty of the current ordering of priorities is that bootstrapping doesn't actually need a fully functioning commerce to bring people in. And bringing people in will inevitably encourage commercial operators to build something to integrate with the platform, regardless of whether we have a functional peg or not. That being said, the peg needs to be functional, being a significant point of friction for merchants spooked by the unreliability of SBD's value. At the moment if one is a merchant, one has to settle with immediately converting to FIAT (unless of course the local Fiat is worse off) in the face of market volatility.
This next part is highly speculative, but I believe the peg will get there on its own assuming that the market cap of Steem gets to the next level. People cite low liquidity as ripe for manipulation, but in theory this should get harder as the steem market cap rises, with SBD supply rising in lock step.
Initiatives Under Our Control
About what we can also do right now... Well, I would call myself a small investor, looking for the long term. If you want some piece of good news, it's that I have invested a non trivial amount of funds into this platform, and have seen similar movements by others in this current bear market. I am on the more active side of investing as well, choosing to engage directly and spreading my stake as much as I can. I have a few auto voters on community accounts and trails, but I see that as a form of delegation in rewarding a broader set of people. I actively look for and delegate to users that take the time to engage with many others in the community, as this real engagement is how we help with retention.
We (myself included) like to shame the shortsighted whales, but as has been pointed out to me several times, it is fairly unproductive, and flagging helps a little but ultimately it just makes them dig deeper. The focus instead will be about how to get a higher percentage of stake engaged in the kind of behavior that will help user retention and really just focus on the long term. Maybe these whales will take a break from their behavior to help once in a while, who knows.
And that's why I want to give a shout out to everyone who has created contests, developers that have enabled other interactions (e.g. dlive, dtube, dsound, steemhunt, and musing, and community leaders that foster engagement within. MSP radio, steem monsters... #dogsofsteemit .... Open mic, comedy open mic... @curie and @ocd .... The engagement and curation league run by @paulag and @abh12345 .... @welcomewagon ... I'm sure I'm leaving out so many things... There's so much to be excited about!
I guess I don't really have anything to offer myself, I'm just watching things bloom in the limited free time that I have. But I'm happy to throw my support for engagement.
Bid Bots and Promotion
I'll tell you something right now though: bid bots aren't helping with this. As much as you hear the same old promotion Kool aid, do these things really help with keeping people engaged? It's all just a stake extension complicated coin shuffler that heavily favors the delegators and bot operators, but it doesn't actually help with engagement. It gives access to trending, maybe it diversifies who is there a little for people with money, but ultimately it's just a side show, and I would appreciate if more and more people recognize it as such. Basically, while this provides some amount value exchange, it's not providing a long term value to the platform. But whatever, it's like the short-sighted investor... Increase the amount of stake that isn't coming from this activity.
I should mention also that there are lesser evils here too, some that at least do curation efforts, or allocation of funds raised from this activity to support engaging efforts, so those are nice, taking some of the pure rewards that would go to delegators and finding a better use of it.
So, What Needs to Happen, Again?
I don't have the answers, and I'm sure there are some disagreements with the positions of my post, but this is how I look at the playground (hmm I meant platform but I like this word here) today. I do have some random suggestions for things that could help move things along.
- Hobby based communities... Better discovery for tags. Get more people to find and curate a hobby you are passionate about, become a tag leader, and secure some amount of support as the participants grow.
- Like minded delegators seeking to find new communities that pop up should have a good place to discover these efforts.
But what about jumping to the next order of magnitude of users?
I'm reminded of the tipping point which analyzes trends, and how they behave like viruses. If we approach from this angle, where it seems that you just need a small number of influencers that can create a viral movement, we may just need to identify those people and win them over. I suppose a significant barrier to this is that such people likely are already getting paid by the existing system. The "influencer". How do we turn them? Also... Are we ready for such a large influx of people?
Turning them may simply be a matter of identifying which high visibility influencers are interested in cryptocurrencies. Given the current excitement, this shouldn't be so hard? And if I'm not mistaken, there are such people that have come and gone, which is quite a disappointment. Part of that comes from coming into a hostile environment as we've seen with the recent example of that person who went to minds instead. But just as well, we don't want them to just come in and be idle-- they need to be willing to build a community, to engage with the wider community.
I'll have to think about this a bit more, but maybe we can brainstorm an "influencer kit" that both the platform and said influencer could mutually benefit from. Any ideas?
But back to the second question.. if there were a sudden mass influx of people, could we organize them into functional units? I'm not sure I know the answer to that. The best we can do is provide as high of a diversity of ways to engage I suppose. But maybe it's not even necessary-- after all, they already do much of the same things on a platform that doesn't pay them at all. Still... It's a barrier to jump, and there needs to be some catalyst for that. Some food for thought.
Anyway, this is my ramble about Steem for the time being. Let me know what you think, if you did read through :)