Witnesses and other prominent folks have been posting answers about their stances on questions regarding such things as free downvoting (or downvotes in general), power down times, smart contracts, and of all things, subscription models.
In addition, there's been open letters to Sun, open letters to the community and so forth. There's been talk about DPOS—either it's working, being tested, or exposing major flaws, take your pick—specifically regarding witness voting.
The latest talk seems to be solidifying around the inevitability of the need to hard fork away from Sun/TRON/Steemit Inc. and moving the community (as many of us who wish to go) over to the sister chain and be done with the governance stalemate currently gripping the chain.
I am not a witness, a community leader, a prominent long time Steemian, a blockchain dev, a crypto expert or a whale, but I figured I'd take a stab at answering questions myself, for what it's worth, and for the good of the order.
I, too, like most others attempting to do this, don't pretend to represent the opinions or feelings of anyone else in the process. That's easy for me since I don't belong to any clubs, initiatives, tribes, foundations, etc, though I am subscribed to the OCD community, and will every now and then end up on Discord, mainly for the sole purpose to find out why someone hit the @everyone button.
In other words, I am a nobody, going about my business as much as I can, trying to do what I consider to be the right thing, while the rest of you do yours.
I've included long and short answers for your reading pleasure.
Now that I've got all of that out of the way, here we go.
I'm not a fan.
I wasn't a fan of them before the freebies were allowed, and I'm not a fan of them now. I understand why they exist. I know the reasons why. I also know that just like anything else here, they are prone to being abused, by anyone and everyone, depending on what cause they are trying to justify at the time.
And that's the problem with downvotes in a nutshell for me. While they can be used properly, what constitutes their correct or acceptable deployment is all over the place, from disagreements on post rewards to hating someone's guts, and what amounts to doing it because you can.
I'm not sure how people are supposed to be okay with that, even if rewards aren't truly ours until the payout.
That said, I don't believe having a mandatory comment saying why they downvoted is going to help. Instead, I can see it making things worse. Am I supposed to be okay with someone who disagrees with my rewards, or that hates my guts, or that is just doing it because they can?
If taking the guesswork out of why alleviates people's problems with the downvotes, though, go for it.
As far as free ones go, that was part of the three pronged attack of the EIP, and it was sold as part of the package. Without them and the rest of it, the higher SP accounts wouldn't have enough incentive to curate.
Despite my personal feelings about downvoting and it's mixbag usage, I do know that many people here swear by them, and believe that the social media side of STEEM would be far worse off without them. I believe they believe that. I also know that scamming, spamming, phishing and plagiarism exist, and that there isn't much of a way to contain or counter any of that without some level of downvoting.
Whether that means the whole system is flawed, then, I don't know. Whether there is another way to go about it, I don't know.
I may have seen someone provide an alternative to downvoting, but at the moment, I'm not recalling anything else other than doing away with them.
Here's the thing. There have been forks of STEEM where the downvotes were taken away, and in the end, things weren't substantially improved, or other things got out of whack and didn't help.
Whether I like it or not, and I don't—not voting on something in most cases (other than vote farming and other large scale operations) should be enough, and pounding someone's post rewards and reputation into oblivion because of a disagreement in opinion or guts hating or because you can seems rather antithetical to the whole spirit of the blockchain—I don't have a better solution.
In other words, I see it as a necessary evil, until someone can come up with a valid, tried and tested solution.
If we had SMTs, I would say, that's the solution. Unfortunately, we don't have SMTs. We do have alt tokens and tribes where downvoting isn't a thing, or wasn't anyway. They've incubated enough that maybe someone would like to report out on how they feel that is going.
Keep downvoting as is until there's a better solution or the entire rewards system is somehow changed.
How anyone lived with a basically two year power down cycle, I don't know, especially if 13 weeks seems eternal.
I believe there are valid reasons on both sides for reducing or leaving the timeframes as they are. One to three days seems a bit overboard when considering what would be the purpose of only powering up stake for a day or three days? What good reason would there be for doing that?
I can't think of any off the top of my head. The idea would be someone decides to power up a bunch of stake to do whatever they want to do with it, but then something starts to happen with the price or whatever it is and they want to get out of STEEM. So, not purposefully just powering up for a day, but having the ability to move with the market.
I get that. I just don't see how it ultimately benefits STEEM, at least not the way it is set up. Powering up is meant to engender participation in some fashion. It's supposed to add benefits to staking that a holder of liquid STEEM doesn't have. Whether or not they are actual benefits seems to be debatable, but the ability to upvote, downvote, choose witnesses, etc., all ride on STEEM power.
Do we want more speculators here for the next pump and dump, or do we want long term investors with a vested (pun intended) interest in STEEM and the community. It seems to me we would prefer more of the latter than the former. But can we be so choosey? Is there a ratio of the two that would make sense enough to change the power down amount?
If it's just based on what Justin Sun has said about how TRON works and how it would be helpful to get on more exchanges, I don't know what to believe as far as he's concerned. Too much saying one thing and doing another going on there.
If there is a meeting in the middle on this one, as at least an interim measure, to see how it works without bringing security into question for hacked accounts, or messing with the seven day payout window, or whatever else could be undone by shortening the time, then I would say, go from 13 to six or four weeks. The latter has already been proposed. That's still basically a month.
A lot can still happen in that time on crypto, but up until the last few weeks, we also saw that things can stay the same for a very long time.
Keep the 13 weeks as is, or shorten it to nothing less than four weeks. See how that goes. One to seven days isn't long enough for security reasons and payout windows, and doesn't seem to encourage staking, if staking is still to be a thing.
I don't know enough about Smart Contracts to say much about them. They obviously exist on other blockchains and seem to enable users there to do a lot of things. As it is, STEEM can do a lot already that might fall into the realm of a smart contract elsewhere. The fact that we have trustless transactions taking place thousands of times a day seems to fit the bill, doesn't it?
However, I don't see the introduction of Smart Contracts, as far as I understand them to be that big of a deal either way. In fact, I'm not even sure why they might be a main priority, compared to the first two questions. They haven't exactly been top of mind.
SMTs, though—Smart Media Tokens—those have been anticipated for time immemorial on STEEM, and yes, it would be nice to finally see those in action on the mainnet. Maybe they mess up someone's plans for STEEM, though. I don't know. I just know that just as it's been nice to have Communities these past few weeks, it would be great to have SMTs deployed.
Sure. I guess. (Shrug). Why not?
This is going to be another one where I don't know why this is a point of contention. I don't think there's anything stopping anyone from trying to set up some kind of subscription based model now, as far as I can tell. The problem, just like anywhere else subscriptions are tried, would be to get enough folks to find enough value in whatever is being subscribed to for it to be worth the time and effort.
As far as that goes, if there were ready made dApps or some kind of function on an existing front end to start subscriptions, I could be interested.
If we're talking about a subscription model as an alternative to the reward system all together—well, that's an interesting proposition, and probably makes the first two questions moot in one shot. If you're not using a reward pool, there's no need for upvoting or downvoting, and if there's not much reason for staking other than voting in witnesses, while creating, presumably, a greater need for liquid STEEM, power down times aren't such a thing, either.
Before we go monkeying full scale with the reward system, though, I would rather see the subscription model in action first, and let people interact with one system, the other, or both to see what actually happens.
There's really not a reason why someone with the know how to put a subscription model together couldn't just do it. I don't think there's a need for asking permission or negotiating for it, and certainly no need to perpetuate a governance deadlock over it.
Delegated Proof Of Stake is basically at the core of what we do on STEEM. Without it, STEEM wouldn't look like it does now. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know if I have enough knowledge to adequately address what to do with it.
Other ways have been tried—PoW (Proof of Work), plain old PoS (proof of stake), and there's probably something else out there, and each have their pluses and minuses, from what I've read. If there is a way to game or exploit them, there is someone or many someones out there willing to do it.
In reality, I have my doubts that there is a governance model that will get rid of all the bad while leaving only the good. The reason for that is, two people can't always decide on what that is, or to what degree that good and bad exist. Multiply that by thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions, it just complicates things exponentially.
The truth is, in order to make any governance model work, you have to have buy in, and you have to have similar values/morals/ideals involved among the users. I don't think you can codify that any more than you can legislate it. If you believe that certain things should be done always, regardless of the circumstances, that's one thing. But if you're constantly dealing with exceptions or nuances or what have you—and life seems to be full of those, and appears to be in full bloom on STEEM right now—it's tough to get people onboard, let alone stick together, when things can get all over the place in a very short order.
So, what to do?
If there were a way to figure that out, we'd probably solve most of what ails society as a whole. If there were a way to govern that makes virtually everyone happy, it would be miraculous for sure.
In the meantime, we're left to deal with what we have to work with.
In the case of the issues facing STEEM now, changing the way witness voting happens, or at least tweaking it, seems to be in order. I've never quite understood why there's 30 votes per stake. It's always been a point of contention as far as how easy it could be for large stake to control who the witnesses are. In my mind, that's not decentralization. If you want decentralization in governance, than you need to have the widest spectrum of users involved and represented, not just the higher SP.
And of course, right now we're seeing how easy it is for outside forces to come in and take over the chain (regardless of the reasons), and we're also seeing how it can be gridlocked. Neither seems to be fostering a sense of certainty, of community, or trust. In my mind, the current situation is only useful in bringing people to the table to talk out differences.
If the parties are too far apart to ever come to an agreement, or the trust isn't there and can't be because of what's happened, or prolonging it just makes people want to pack up and go home—be it leaving STEEM completely or forking to another version—then a stalemate in governance does more damage than I think it's worth. I'll get more into the forking idea later.
In my mind, DPOS comes the closest to the idea of decentralized governance when compared to what exists on other prominent blockchains, but there's certainly more work to be done. Changing how many votes per stake could be the answer, and might come the closest to a one user one vote scenario without completely opening things up for the dreaded sybil attacks. Even though, apparently, sybil attacks happen already.
I mentioned shortly after the soft fork happened that I was coming around to the idea of a hard fork after Sun announced buying Steemit and began telling the world what he intended to do with it—basically absorbing it and all with it onto TRON.
However, I meant it as the very last resort, after everything else had been tried. Some people are now at the point—after the Steemit sale, the social media blitz, then, the mix messages (Sun says one thing to the media and the public, says something else to Steemit team and eventually the Witnesses/Community), the soft fork, the takeover, the stalemate, and the talks thus far—where it's time to fork.
I wonder. Has there been a cooling off period? I know another shoe hasn't dropped in over a week (for a while they were dropping like flies), but does that mean people are taking the time to consider their positions without emotion, or are they just getting tired of waiting for some kind of resolution and getting amped up even more?
I feel like the latter is happening. I feel like Sun is too into winning, his image and so forth to truly care about looking into STEEM beyond what he can do to strip mine it. I'm even wondering if he cares about doing that anymore. If it weren't for the 65 million STEEM (or whatever it is) he paid for (you know, the ninja-mined STEEM), there probably wouldn't be a reason to buy Steemit Inc. and whatever else was involved.
It certainly can't be worth all the grief he's gotten, justified, not justified, or somewhere in between.
So, we may all be making a choice here soon—follow witnesses, or block producers in broader terms, who decide to run a different version of STEEM, or stick with whoever doesn't.
If we're only looking at decentralization and making our own decisions about STEEM (however that truly looks like) without the specter of one individual calling all the shots (as opposed to one or two, 20, 42, 75, and potentially all users), if that's the main impetus, then I'm not sure what other path forward exists but to fork.
I don't think Sun will do even what Ned Scott did and somehow reign in his natural tendencies to micromanage his new acquisition. Even if he doesn't own the blockchain, that doesn't seem to matter. His way of playing the game is confusing at best, spiteful and destructive at worst, and personally, I don't really want to play the game.
However, if decentralization isn't the only consideration, if STEEM value (or whatever the alt coin on the sister chain is called) is still a high priority, if having our stake worth anything without essentially starting over, if we still need marketing and funding to further the cause, if we're just going to be back at square one with the same old problems, compelling people to jump ship anyway, then it seems like forking is not the lesser of two evils in this scenario.
And that's what I believe the question of fork or not to fork is—the proverbial space in between the rock and the hard place.
At this point, I don't know what the best lesser of evils answer is for this. I don't think forking because you're mad, or things seem hopeless in the moment, or because you're bored with the whole thing, or you don't see an end in sight, are really good reasons for forking. There's a reason for the sayings no pain no gain, and patience is a virtue and good things come to those who wait.
Then, there's staying in a relationship that is essentially abusive from the beginning because you believe that things will eventually change. There's the normalcy bias in cases of tragedy or catastrophe where you don't believe things are as bad as they are, or where you wait for a resolution when none is forthcoming, but worse, the order to undo years worth of building and planning and hoping and dreaming is given instead.
Ultimately, I don't believe, when it's all over, that I'm going to have much say in the matter. Not really. I'm not in a position of power in anyway shape or form, nor do I have any desire to be. I didn't come to STEEM for any of that, anyway, even if it were possible for me to gain such a place here. I came here to create a better future for my wife and I, and maybe be a part of something world changing in the process.
One cog in the grand wheel of STEEM. One of a million-plus and hopefully still counting.
I don't want to hard fork. I don't know what to do about it, though, since either way—stay the course or go it alone—doesn't feel good right now.
That's More Than Enough
I've said what I know to say. I've been as honest and as sincere as I know how to be. I believe I've made a fair attempt to walk through the reasoning behind my answers, even if it's too long to read.
Now, into the void with it all!
Oh, and onward would be nice, and upward, also, or is that too much to ask?
I hope not.
Image source—SCT blog on STEEM