Are there problems with Steemit and can they be corrected? Are they fundamental or fleeting?
Over the past week, I have seen several posts about Steemit trying to identify problems or trying to find answers for them – What is this platform? To whom does it appeal? Why is user retention so low? Why does the price continue to drop? Where are the investors?
Some have said that Steemit lacks an identity, that it needs to attract more content consumers rather than creators, and that investors should see the potential of Steemit and buy while the price is low. Other users have offered opposing viewpoints and their own solutions. I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but I want to take a moment to explain how I see the current state of the platform. As both an entrepreneur/investor and a seasoned content creator and writer, I can offer you my evaluation of this from various perspectives.
What is the identity of Steemit?
Steem is a blockchain-based social media platform where anyone can earn rewards.
This is what you find on the steem.io home page. If you scroll down that page, you’ll see a reference to the Steem White Paper with the following explanation below it:
Collectively, user-generated content has created billions of dollars worth of value for the shareholders of social media companies, such as Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter. Steem supports social media and online communities by returning much of its value to the people who provide contributions by rewarding them with virtual currency.
We can see that the first impression for anyone looking into Steem and Steemit is to identify it with existing social media sites. As users of this platform, we know that this is not exactly an accurate description of what Steemit is. Yes, it technically is “social media.” However, what most people understand social media to be today includes a far more interactive user experience. Right now, Steemit lacks many of the user features that allow such interaction and the ease of interaction. This site would be more accurately described as a blogging platform – as many people have correctly pointed out.
So, we know that Steemit isn’t made for the average Facebook or Twitter user. When most people hear the words “social media,” those are the types of platforms that come to mind – along with Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and many others. They don’t think about Reddit, and for good reasons. Reddit wasn’t set up for that type of interaction – and this is almost exactly how Steemit has been developed. The blogging and voting functions on Steemit are based on those same functions.
Steemit has an identity, even if it hasn’t actually settled on its own self-identification. It is a blogging platform under the larger umbrella of “social media.” Even as a blogging platform, it lacks some basic features that others have, especially when it comes to customization.
A blogger can live or die by their own personal identity and their appeal to their followers. If they have little to no options to visually distinguish themselves from thousands of other users, then their blog is already viewed by them as somewhat unappealing. Why create great content for a page that can’t be personalized and stand out from the crowd? Wouldn’t it be better to create that page on a fully customizable site, then use Steemit as the place for link-dropping? Of course, that could affect the post payouts here, but then this would assume that the blogger in question is receiving adequate payouts that would justify creating the content for Steemit rather than their personalized blog. Depending on whether or not they are seeking readership and loyal followers, or just money, this could play a role in their decision-making.
Contrary to popular belief here, not everything is about the money when it comes to blogging. Also contrary to popular belief here – Steemit isn’t the only site where one can earn money for creating content. In fact, there are many ways to create content and get paid – and not just for the first 24 hours after publishing your post. If Steemit wants its identity to be a blogging platform, and if it wants to attract quality writers and content creators and retain them, then it needs to compete with other sites that already attract and retain such writers and creators.
The current identity of Steemit as a blogging platform, and an underdeveloped one at that, likely has a lot to do with the low volume of active users and the lack of mass adoption. Aunt Carol and your cousin Patty likely are not going to follow you to Steemit to read your blog about cryptocurrency or to upvote your poems. If you want their attention and upvotes, you’ll probably have to copy and paste it to Facebook. The only way they’re going to migrate to Steemit is if the functionality and interaction is similar and similarly easy to understand and adopt.
I would like to note here that Steemit is still in BETA, it is still being developed, and there is a lack of useful, widespread marketing – so there is still a lot of work to be done. On that note, we need to talk about investment.
Why aren’t more people investing in this wonderful idea?
There’s much more to investing than simply believing that something is a good idea. Many of us here see the value that Steem/Steemit can bring to various markets. Some of us have already reaped the rewards of that perceived value. There are some users who have received many thousands of actual Dollars, Euros, etc. for the content that they’ve shared on this site or for mining of the underlying currency. Nobody can deny that these payments have not taken place and that the physical cash in their pockets isn’t real.
But what does this mean to investors? Is that enough proof that the system works and that it can be extremely valuable in the future? Is that enough to drive investment to the platform and into the currency?
As an investor myself, with a fairly decent-sized portfolio, I wouldn’t be persuaded to buy Steem simply for the reasons above. If I was not a writer/content creator and entrepreneur, I probably wouldn’t be on Steemit today. If I knew before I joined about the inner-workings of Steemit, I most likely would not have created an account here. That’s just the hard truth. I’m quite certain that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Many other users have already abandoned their accounts and many of my friends and family have no desire to join Steemit, despite the real payouts.
Investors are aware of these things. They’re not stupid – mostly. Investing your own money into a project is not an easy decision to make, especially when it’s a new, unproven idea. When you add to that the user retention issues, regardless of the reasons for the attrition rates, it doesn’t exactly convince an investor that the project is on the right track. Furthermore, seeing all of the initial “investors” and adopters cashing out every week – while the project is still in its early development stages – is a huge concern for anyone thinking about buying in. In nearly all cases, that would be a flashing neon sign telling them to KEEP AWAY!
This is actually playing out right now. There is a wholesale lack of any sizable investments into Steem and Steemit from those not already using the platform. Powering up Steem from the relatively few active users on the site is not enough to soak up the amount of supply. There is very little interest in the blogging platform and there is very little interest in purchasing or trading Steem. We see this in the consistently declining price of Steem and the extremely low volume on the exchanges.
The low volume can tell us a few things. The first is that the number of Steem holders may be very small, relative to the overall supply. Another indication is that, of those holding Steem, a relatively large percentage is likely being held by a rather small number of stakeholders. A third is that there just simply isn’t enough interest in trading the currency by the remaining stakeholders and other potential investors. All three of these currently apply to Steem/Steemit. This could be a matter of liquidity or just a matter of not being interested enough to trade Steem. Neither is really a good thing.
Both the underlying currency and the platform appear to be dying and investors seemingly don’t want to touch it in its current state. This shouldn’t be surprising. There is no indication that the platform is undergoing any significant changes that will help attract and retain users and there is no indication that the sell-offs will slow down enough to decrease the downward pressures on the price of the currency. Without an increasing number of active users on the platform and investors of the currency to offset Steem inflation, there is no reason to believe that the price of Steem can go anywhere but down – especially when coupled with the continual selling by the largest stakeholders.
Another important aspect for an investor to consider is a loss on their investment due to Steem’s inflation and dilution. Unless someone buying Steem is going to take an active interest in the blogging platform, then they will end up watching their stake become diluted and may also watch its value diminish over time. This can happen over a relatively short period. Without any returns by putting their money to work in the “business” of Steemit, it really can’t be called an investment. Requiring moneyed investors to actively pursue their own growth or ROI by actually working on the platform is going to severely limit the number of people looking to “invest.”
That isn’t “investing.” That’s called a job.
So, where are the investors? Well, they’re out there funding projects and businesses that will actually give them a return on their investment. That is, after all, the point of investing. They’re finding businesses and entrepreneurs who have proven that they can make money and return equity to their investors. Steemit is not the place for that at this time. It could be in the future, but that’s not a gamble that investors usually make. That’s a proposition for speculators.
I want Steemit to Succeed! What can we do?
There is one answer that immediately comes to mind:
The site is in dire need of some useful and desired user features. Some have been requested for months. It would be great to know what’s currently being developed and what we can expect to see in the near future, such as profile images/avatars, badges, category and tag organization, improved blog and re-blog organization – you know, things that will make this a better platform for bloggers, since that’s what it’s supposed to be.
It would also be great to see some form of on-platform communication, such as a basic chat function with other users. This would push the site closer to an actual “social media” platform, without junking up feeds with useless posts and comments. The need to go off-site to have a short conversation takes away from the user experience and the ease of communication. Keeping people on-site should be the goal of any social media developer.
If there are projects currently trying to tackle these features, then we should be kept in the loop. Tell us what’s coming, even if the dates are tentative and the development could take a while. Knowing that it is actually being worked on – not just promised – would go a long way. It would tell users that developers are listening to their requests for necessary features and it would signal to investors that the platform is moving forward, albeit slowly.
Another critical element to all of this would be:
Just hoping that people will show up isn’t enough. Having an obscure website telling people that they could earn money for blogging isn’t going to drive a large number of users here. I get that this is supposed to be “decentralized” and all, but the very large stakeholders that are essentially running the “Steemit Inc.” show need to make the investment into marketing their product. You can’t rely on those with a couple hundred Steem to run large marketing and advertising campaigns, especially when they have little knowledge of what’s happening behind-the-scenes.
Make the investment while you still have the money! Come on, @dantheman and @ned. Use that @steemit account if you have to. Pay users with Steem and keep it in the network, if you can. Are there any marketers/advertisers on the platform that would be willing to develop a professional marketing campaign? If so, pay them with all of that Steem in your accounts instead of cashing it out. It’s the whole “two birds with one stone” thing. You don’t need to post about it to raise the funds. You already have the funding. Use it to help the platform before it’s all worthless.
If this is already happening, then let us know about it. Communication is key.
It seems like this will be a problem for the foreseeable future. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but seriously – what are we doing here?
There are a few thousand active users, with an unknown number of bots. There doesn’t appear to be much manual curating anymore – especially with many of the larger stakeholders. The smaller “minnows” may still do some actual reading and upvoting, but every day, it seems that more and more content is simply being upvoted by bots and mostly based on past payouts of users. The curation guilds might help with distributing to other users, but most of those votes are auto-voted with curation trails. Given the low number of active users and the increasing number of curation guilds, a lot of these upvotes are now actually going to relatively poor content.
I suppose it’s a double-edged sword, but we as humans should be able to recognize the flaws and correct them. However, that just isn’t happening. There appears to be an overcorrection of the previous upvoting for the favored authors. In an attempt to “distribute” the rewards pool more “fairly,” we’re now seeing more of the “vanilla” topics and posts being rewarded – and even more outright “poop-posting” receiving relatively large payouts.
Over the past week, I’ve seen a jump in bot and trail voting. A ten-minute old post will now quickly garner 120 votes, but only a few cents in rewards. A post can reach thirty minutes and have 250 votes and $0.75 or often less. These votes are coming in large voting blocks, 60 to 70 accounts long. No comments are left – because nobody is reading. Commenting and comment rewards have almost fallen off the charts. There’s little reading and engagement, but lots of “curating.”
Is that what this platform was destined to become? Is that what we want it to be? Is that what we expect will drive more/better content creators to this site?
You don’t have to curate 100 posts every day. Just do what you can as a blogger and a consumer of content. Automating everything will only lead to further disenchantment with the site and less interest from new and existing users alike. There is a role for bots – but more importantly, there is a role for human interaction. We need it. That’s what will ultimately make this platform a desirable place to blog and interact. Nobody wants to write for and interact with bots. Not any respectable people, anyway.
Use it or lose it – or – love it or leave it?
We need to make this place attractive for both quality bloggers and investors. The fact of the matter is – it currently is not. It doesn’t matter if you’re Dan or Ned, or if you’re a day-one user who just figured out how to log in. If you want this place to live up to its potential, you need to help get it there. We are still in BETA. We are still the early adopters. What this place becomes is entirely on us. Begging for investment from people who are not already involved with the currency and this platform isn’t going to save it or make it great.
We know what the problems are. We all have ideas on what can be done to fix them. Some of us have the influence to help make it all possible. But if nobody is willing to act for the best interests of the platform, then nothing will change. It’s great that we can be paid for what we’re doing and you won’t hear me decrying self-interest, but if we’re only interested in how much we’re currently getting paid ourselves, then we’re just going to watch it all crumble while we cash out the few remaining pennies. Some people appear to be content with that. I’m not one of them – at least, not yet.
My criticisms do not come from a place of contempt. I came here with high hopes and I still think that this can be a revolutionary step for the internet and social media, and for cryptocurrency. I guess we’ll see how many people take these issues seriously enough to consider their actions and consequences, and are willing to turn their stake and influence into action.
The price of Steem is currently at approximately $0.15 and the market cap has fallen below $30 million as of the publishing of this post. It’s not time to panic and it’s not dead yet – but it is time to re-evaluate the bigger picture for this platform, the front-end features that can help attract and retain new users, and the way that we’re all consuming and curating content.
Less automated engagement. Less dishonest, harmful behavior. More honest, human interaction, even if it’s controversial. More development. Better marketing. This is what Steemit needs in order to have a shot at becoming successful.
Winter is coming. Will we see to it that Steemit survives?
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