(Very) Basic stuff Steem needs to fix: my personal list
I ranted about Steem a couple of weeks ago. Based on the reactions, I realised many took it out of context. I have been criticising (and appreciating) Steem since 2016 about a number of issues over the years. Here, I'll put some of it together, once and for all, so I can point people to one post.
Firstly, I'm an avid user of social media. I have no expertise in building social networks, economics or human psychology. I could go on a tangential rant here to explain Steem's failures, but I'm going to limit this post to user experience and economic changes, without going into operational issues. Also, yes, I'm aware that if there was a will to fix these things, it'll take years to develop.
Secondly, I also fully understand many are content with the current paradigm, but what I may suggest is that perhaps everything I discuss would also appeal to mainstreams social network users. Ideally, I would want something completely different, but I'm obviously going to respect Steem's identity and extrapolate from there.
Finally, I'll try to keep this brief, it'll be a summary. It'll cover only some of the broad perspective, some fundamental requirements. I had previously contemplated just collecting my older posts and comments, but I realized that would be a book length feature that no one will read.
General trend: Streamline and simplify.
Cancel SBD. Let's begin with the premise. SBD was an integral part of Dan's evil plan for cryptocurrency domination. Unfortunately, Dan's plan has proven to be less Blofeld and more Dr. Evil, a dire parody unto itself. The crypto market is gradually heading towards a maturity phase, where economies are building around proven markets like BTC and ETH. The pipe dream of Steem or Steemit dominating cryptocurrency is long over. SBD has been a disaster, never really managing to hold $1 (currently standing at $0.60) aside from market manipulation forces. What makes SBD an egregious indulgence is it keeps dragging STEEM down with it. Due to the very volatile nature of the cryptocurrency market and very brief but explosive pumps altcoins experience, massive amounts of SBD debt piles up. As STEEM drops off gradually, SBD conversions add enormous amount of inflation (correction: It's not actually enormous, that's just hyperbole on my part), rising the lower the price drops, kicking off a negative feedback cycle till the debt ratio drops rises over 10%. This has added constant buying pressure to STEEM over and above the nominal inflation (which we'll get to next). Currently, SBD debt is a shocking >15% of Steem's market cap, and has been over the 10% limit for a long time. These were supposed to be extreme measures, but has now become a common reality for SBD. To make matters worse, in today's market, we have proven stablecoins, to those backed by USD (USDC) and those by crypto (DAI). SBD currently serves no purpose other than to destroy STEEM's value. I have been advocating canceling SBD with a one time conversion to STEEM since 2017, but things are so horrible now, even that would be disastrous in the short term. So, perhaps the current solution would be only to stop printing SBD permanently and leave SBD be as a legacy debt.
Cancel inflation-funded common reward pool. Even without SBD, STEEM's inflation is too high. It is the significant contributor to the token being perpetually in a downward spiral, except for the brief bull runs. People like to offer excuses about how we are "in the bear market". No, this is the regular market. The very brief bull runs have proven to be the exception, not the rule. Other excuses offered are how all altcoins have crashed. Most altcoins are shit, and even in that very bottom barrel reference point, Steem has crashed from #3 to #10 to #30, all the way down to #80 on CMC. The few successful (only relatively) tokens that were once around Steem's market cap once are now 10x-100x more valuable than Steem. Some would argue that dishing out money is Steem's only advantage. However, I would suggest that this system is ultimately unsustainable, so it's not really much of an advantage, is it? Not to mention, most people use social networks for social capital, not financial capital. Steem's inflation should be reduced to <2%, and only used for activities that secure and build the network. Those who are die-hard fans of stake-weighted inflation-generating reward pools can create their own SMTs. Also, some more suggestions later.
Remove SP, make STEEM a single utility token. Investors despise lock-in periods for highly volatile assets. Three months is ridiculous. I once made the mistake of being powered up, never again. There are multiple solutions to this. One would be to remove all vesting mechanisms, and let your STEEM receive voting rights after 7 days. If the reward pool is gone, if some period is still required to counter abuse, it could be a simple stake/unstake process with 48-72 hours (like EOS).
Privacy. In its current state, Steem has zero privacy. While that may be beneficial if you use anonymous accounts, most people like to express themselves and control their content. Users should have some privacy controls, while there are none. If I'm not mistaken, "confidentiality" was high on the roadmap in mid-2016, which suggests to me privacy is possible. On a related note, Steem needs to enable a right-to-be-forgotten, right-to-delete, etc features. I'm aware this is a technical challenge, but this is a very basic requirement for social networks in 2019, where privacy is being deemed a human right across many jurisdictions. Privacy features are also a requisite for the next two points.
Granular Communities control. Communities and SMT development are well underway, so I'd assume by this time, the common reward pool would be deprecated, and Steem would be a bunch of communities and SMTs. Wishful thinking, but let's play along. Creating communities need to be as easy as creating subreddits. Admins/moderators should have extensive options to moderate content, act as oracles, etc. On a related note, 5.5) Extensive user interface templates and tools need to be offered with Condenser, including discovery algorithms and detailed visual customisations, that all communities can use.
Advertising platform. The inflation reward pool is unsustainable, but that doesn't mean Steem has to do away with paying content creators entirely. There are two methods by which content creators can earn today - tipping/selling and advertising. Of course, tipping needs to be built into the platform. But it's advertising that can bring in sustainability. I don't want to go into details here, except just point you to Basic Attention Token. This is more complex than it sounds, due to different SMTs, user interfaces etc, but I think it can be accomplished at the blockchain level. SMT/community owners, advertisers, consumers and content creators alike need to be offered a granular decentralised advertising/attention tool. Needless to say, extensive privacy controls will need to be introduced before this can happen.
I have a much longer list, such as speeding up (EOS has proved 0.5s is possible), scalability concerns, DPoS sustainability, referral programs and free registrations, parallel testnets (i.e. linked one-way from mainnet) with simulation, gamification etc. etc. I think this'll suffice for now though, so I can get back to using actual social networks. I will keep rooting for Steem, and hope one day, or decade, it'll meet my needs.
Addendum: To be very clear, none of this will make "Steem moon" or a "Facebook killer". It will always remain a very niche solution. The attempt here is to make it a sustainable niche.