Another way of "milking the system"

in #steemit4 years ago


Have you ever realized the tiny, micro votes that come to your post when you send some money to bid-bots?
Or did you notice the immediate increase of votes in your post? 5 views and 30 upvotes...

All of these votes are so insignificant that they don't affect the outcome of your post.
Where do they come from?

An untalked kind of abuse

The platform is at a fight.
There are greedy whales, who are self-upvoting with their investment and there are another group of whales, who are flagging them in the name of saving the reward pool and sharing with the community.

Yet, there is another kind of abuse, which goes more sneaky under the radar.
I can hear the questions, how can tiny curations create abuse?
Bare with me some more, the answer is coming.

Since 1 week I have been working on the mathematics of the curation.

With this tool, I have reached interesting results.
There are groups of users, acting simultaneously on the posts.
The theory is these users get some kind of an early warning of a whale upvote and use their votes to get increased curation.

The first task is how much is this increased curation
It seems that :

  • If you adjust your vote to optimum level with several parameters ( we will come to this point )
  • If you vote late enough but before a whale
    You can have the below level of curations:

%200, %300 even 10 times of your vote value of curation is possible.

Think that you cast as many of those tiny upvotes as possible every day, it is much more feasible than self-upvoting.
If you do this, it means you will apply a greedy and contaminating way of earning money in Steemit.
While you will be turning your investment to SP, you will be upvoting and be promoting mostly scam.

But, this is somehow tolerable. It is your money at the end.
I want you to check the accounts below :

Look at the upvote times. Same time, even same second...
51 accounts upvoted the same post with same upvote power at the same second.
Too much for a coincidence.

I thought the same and I wrote a simple script to check these accounts.
Look what I have found:

  • All these 51 accounts are created on the same day or one day difference.
  • All of them are operating on initial delegated SP ( 15 SP )

It is so logical to believe that these accounts are bot accounts belonging to one person.
No investment in Steem, yet milking the system.

How the system works?

To understand how the system works, I have built a tool that simulates a bot, specifically a curation bot.
You can read the details here but what it basically does is :

  • Listen to the steem blockchain for transfers
  • Catch the money transfer to bid bots
  • Estimate the coming bot vote from the bid
  • Calculate the optimum vote value for maximizing the curation efficiency
  • Simulate vote cast iff efficiency >100% and calculate the cumulative data.

I have run the simulation until my simulated account used 1000% of voting power ( 1 day of voting )
The result is as follows :

1.08 SBD worth vote given to receive a curation of 2,38 SBD ( 0,68 SP ).
The calculated efficiency is 220% !

Better than self-upvoting right?
For self-upvoting, you at least have to create a content and post something.
For this, all you have to do is create an account and put it in such a bot.

Think of 50, 100, 1000 accounts like this...
No investment but all running with the initial delegated SP.

This is absolutely milking the system!

Exposing this issue, I have discussed the findings with @transisto, who supported me in the way of building curation analysis tools both with his ideas and upvotes.

He also has very good ideas on prevention of the front-running system.

The simulation tool I made can be turned into a real bot as used by these bot accounts by just addition of a couple of lines of code.

With this kind of upvote bots, you can not fight like self-upvoting whales.
It is like fighting with a pack of piranhas.

For the time being, this post is just intended to create an awareness of what is going on.



This information is great and very valuable for the community. Yet I feel that if you share how to build such bots you are only feeding the piranhas...

It is much more convincing to show the wolf than to cry wolf...

I never realized what this added up too. Thank u for sharing this info! Though I don’t see this being an big as the whale issue it’s still a serious issue and u honestly didn’t realize it!

now at least we know the game.
Exposing is the first step of preventing.

A lot of users are Pre running Bid bots. I have seen scripts like that before, cant remember the name, but it basically looks for bids to certain bots then votes that post before the bot does.

great work on this analysis and very much appreciated!!

Thank you for appreciation.
It is just crazy to have 50+ accounts and milk the system without any action, any investment.
Even self-upvoters have to post something.
With this system, you create accounts and let them farm...with delegated SP.

A week ago I researched a group that they always vote for me every time I send an offer to @upme, the 5 users were created the same day and the power of steempower is 3

Thank you for this information, it is worth to think about.

More data should be collected but according to me, this front-running can be prevented.


With this kind of upvote bots, you can not fight like self-upvoting whales.
It is like fighting with a pack of piranhas.

Great information!
A perfect system can never be built. No matter how much effort one put for making a system perfect, others would exploit the slightest vulnerability of the system. Steem platform is plagued by bots. I think most of the accounts here are bots. I have more than 700 followers but when I checked them, most of them proved a bot or a resteem bot.
The account types you mentioned above are milking the system. They are investing nothing, yet reaping the fruit of curation reward. I think developers will have to think seriously about this menace of automation on this platform. Otherwise, steem will never be able to be a worthy cryptocurrency. I have invested on steem and want to invest further but the way this system is being used is discouraging.

I don't think we should be discouraged with the abuse. Where there is money, there is always some kind of abuse. I believe, the best way to fight with it is to expose it.

OMG, I'm still trying to figure out how curation works the way it is supposed to. Was new, then left steem for awhile and now i'm back to see what's going on. Will need some time to digest your stats but appreciate your doing the work and sharing. :)

@alieone; thank you.
I am also considerably new on the platform and learning on the way.

glad you're teaching too!

I suppose this was inevitable. I'm sure someone is working on some sort of AI bot which will come in a reap sorry rape all the rewards. The bots are really getting out of hand and in my view will be the end of steem.

Inevitable but yet can be prevented easily with certain countermeasures.
If something will end Steem, it is not bots but human greed.

Yes the greed i see here is very sad. For a social network these bots are not very social. I really hoped steem could create a much fairer society but unfortunately human greed will always find away of gaming the system.

The bots will get stronger and stronger then there will be no place left for humans. They will move on to the next platform which will hopefully code against this sort of abuse. Ban the bots, that's what i say.

I am against banning anything. It is much better to find a way create an environment that they can not feed.

I do hope that some sort of solution can be found or i see a big migration of Steemians to another platform.

Wow, well done. I didn't think I'd continue to find even more ways not to like bidbots. Now they let people front run what is supposed to be proof-of-brain. Good work.

@lukestokes, thank you.
It is not only bid-bots. There are posts that people are sure the whales will upvote later.
Haejin's posts and utopian posts are also like this.
But much less ofcourse.

Then there's of course that champion frontrunner to grumpycat/madpuppy comments...

@drakos, exactly!
This is much more a story...double abuse.

The great thing about blockchains is that no one can hide. Jumping in before a bid bot is nothing new (its about as old as the bid bots themselves) but this is yet another form of abuse.

Great job articulating your findings. :)

@holoz0r, this is the best thing about the blockchain.
Thank you for your comment.

I got on voice on SteemSpeak a few days ago and brought up this very issue in a somewhat heated discussion about bots. What you say is true. There is indeed a way of milking the system by pre-empting bot votes.

Part of me was tempted by this idea but instead have been experimenting with auto-curation on known good and confirmed anti-abuse authors so as to not waste VP when I am AFK for extended periods.

I believe manual curation is optimal (may not be optimal in terms of profit via curation due to how the bots have affected it) for promoting the best content on the blockchain but, when there is an ongoing struggle against the greed, I would prefer not to waste VP that would otherwise go to my colleagues. Hopefully, that helps you understand my rationale. I will try my best to allocate some time for manual curation every day. Think everyone ought to do the same. That is finding quality content and upvoting it. Not pre-empting the bots. I believe we need to work against the bots. There are just too many problems associated with their use.

Anyways, I had decided that attempting a bot pre-empter is too far of a departure from my principles to pursue.

I will continue experimenting with my curation script for my personal whitelist of users but the biggest problem I encounter is inconsistency on the publically available RPC nodes. If I had money to burn, I would probably invest in a private nodes.

Thank you for illucidating this problem. More people need to be aware. If we all just preempt bot votes, this place is gonna go to shit real quick.

Thank you for your comment.

I believe manual curation is optimal (may not be optimal in terms of profit via curation due to how the bots have affected it)

Human touch is always important. No curation bot can distinguish between a photo of real art and a crap photo taken by a cell phone and posted.
I understand your approach and I appreciate it.
For public RPC nodes, I agree it is always a problem.

I believe we need to work against the bots. There are just too many problems associated with their use.

Abuse of the bots is a symptom of the real problem, unstoppable human greed.
Stop the bots, people will find other selling the votes in discord etc...

While I don't disagree that this is another way of creaming additional profit with little proof-of-brain employed (excluding the coding exercise), I feel the numbers here a pretty negligible when compared to other abuse.

I run a curation league and specifically ask (or seek myself when the numbers look just too good!) for participants not to be using code in their voting, in order to give manual curators a chance to show their skill as curators.

As far as reward pool take, the alternate account circle jerk voting rings that are growing more and more common as an attempt to mask huge self-voting %'s are way more of an issue.

Nice work on the code though, cheers!

@abh12345, we have to collect more data if the numbers are negligible.
The problem is, even circle voters or self-upvoters have to create some kind of content and be active on the platform.
For this, you don't have to do anything. Create the users, leave them to bot and let them farm with delegated SP.
No investment! No work done.

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thank you for the information

it's the first time i see you'r posts a lot of good information

@resteemator is a new bot casting votes for its followers. Follow @resteemator and vote this comment to increase your chance to be voted in the future!

I already discovered this a few months ago. But to my opinion it's kind of useless to report it any better. First because no one will solve it. Secondly because it seems there is not such a thing as ethical behavior on Steemit. And thirdly because I thought it would be difficult to benefit. As it is almost impossible to scale this up big time.

Also having 50 accounts means you need 50 phone numbers. I wonder who has so many?

I hope it doesn't scale big as you say...
I have discovered approximately 100 accounts, produced almost the same day.

I will check the earnings and share the results.


I honestly didn't do the very precise math on your numbers. But they look more or less the same as what I would calculate. I think a well programmed bot would be able to earn the full amount of SP in 1 week. But then it would need at least 70 posts where it is the 1st to upvote. And the amount of SP from the bot can't be too high. I don't know what would be to high. But probably already as of 75SP or 150 SP.

I hope this is a simple/short explanation for why I think it is not really scalable.

I think earlier someone discovered a user also having 50+ accounts. Only upvoting his main account. If you do that with 100 accounts it will also give you a small earning, like $125 real fiat money per week. If you live in Africa that could be a double income.

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Actually, tested that a while ago by @smarttrail (and my account) and the result was around 1,000% of casted upvote
That is easy money!

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