The Steem minimum payout threshold is repeatedly a hot topic, and often confused with the vote dust threshold. A lot of users are not aware that there is a minimum "value" of posts and comments required at the payout time, otherwise neither the author nor the curators are paid. The most obvious questions are typically "why", and "where does the money go"?
This contribution is meant to give an overview of the mechanics behind this threshold, partly answer the questions above, and to show how many posts and comments are affected.
- Scope of the analysis and tools
- Steem minimum payout threshold 101
- Number of posts and comments with and without payout over time
- Value of posts and comments with and without payout over time
Scope of the analysis and tools
The analysis is based on all posts and comments that were published in Juli and August 2018. The data was queried from @arcange's SteemSQL. All queries, the data processing, and the visualizations were done with
pyodbc (DB access),
beem (Steem-related lookups), and
matplotlib (visualization). The full sources to generate the images in this post is in my GitHub and linked at the end.
Steem payout 101
All Steem posts and comments are evaluated for payout exactly 7 days after they were created. Until right before this point, all STU/$-values shown with the post are estimations. The internal unit of vote "values" are rshares. Those are calculated based on the voter's SP, voting power, and vote percentage. The $-value shown on the interfaces is the sum of the rshares on a post in relation to all vote rshares on all posts and comments within the last 7 days (
recent_claims) and the size of the reward pool (+ conversion steps from STEEM to SBD, based on the STEEM price). This also means, that the $-value shown next to a post can change considerably across several days without a change on the votes on this post, only due to a varying voting activity or STEEM price.
Now comes the payout threshold: Posts and comments are only paid out if their value at payout time is at least 0.020 STU or more. If a post has less than 0.02 STU, neither the author nor the curators are paid. If a post has 0.02 STU of more, these rewards are shared between the author and curators.
I have to admit I can only speculate on this question - if you know more detail, please let me know! I suspect that this is related to the precision of the assets (STEEM/SBD/VESTS) as stored in the blockchain. The minimum unit of STEEM and SBD is 0.001. There are no smaller values. Let's take the example of a post with 0.02 STU and 75% thereof going to the author -> 0.015 STU. With a STEEM price of USD 0.75 and a 0% SBD print rate like now, this would make 0.005 STEEM and 0.005 SP (in VESTS) for the author. 0.005 is already not far from the minimum quantity. Now put some beneficiaries on the post, and the author payout get's even smaller. Let's further reduce the Steem price (despite we all know it's going up soon**), and the numbers get smaller as well. At some point it's not possible anymore to go lower. This may go down to a point where authors receive nothing, but curators and beneficiaries may still get something (VESTS have 6 digits precision).
Where does the money go?
It stays in the reward pool and increases the value of all other posts. A predefined amount of STEEM is added to the pool per block, but payouts happens based on all votes from the last 7 days and the STEEM price. A post below the payout threshold doesn't take anything from the pool, so there's more for everybody else.
This, of course, leaves the question on how many posts and comments are affected and how much STU is "redistributed" to all others due to this threshold.
Number of posts and comments with and without payout over time
This graph shows the number of posts and comments that were made in July and August. On the left are only the posts and on the right are only the comments. The blue line shows the number of posts (left) and comments (right) created per day. We can see here again what we already knew from other posts: both the number of posts and the number of comments per day is steadily decreasing. in Orange are the number of posts that haven't received a single vote. This number is a small fraction of all posts, but a big share of all comments. In green are the number of posts that received upvotes, but weren't paid out because their total value was below the 0.02 STU.
The absolute numbers are a bit hard to compare, so let's switch to a relative scale:
What's surprising here is that, despite the steady reduction in the number of posts and comments, the relative number of posts and comments without votes and those without payout don't show this trend - they are mostly constant (with some fluctuations, though).
We can see that around 70-80% of all comments did not get a single vote. Around 30% of all posts got some votes but weren't paid out - that's every third on average!!! Around 10% of the posts didn't get a single vote, and 10% of the voted comments weren't paid out.
Value of posts and comments with and without payout over time
This graph shows the value of the different post and comment categories in absolute rshares on the left, and in relative numbers on the right. The blue line on the left shows the sum of rshares per post creation day. The orange line right below is the sum of all rshares coming from posts. Voting on posts makes up the biggest share of all votes. The green line on the left is the corresponding number for the comments, making up a significantly smaller share of all vote values. The graph on the left additionally contains three lines that sum up the vote rshares that weren't paid out. These make up only a very minor share (value-wise) and are hardly distinguishable from 0.
The graph on the right shows the voted but not paid out posts and comments again on a relative scale. Taking all post and comment rshares together, the posts without payout make of around 0.0-0.3% over this time range. The average value across the two months is 0.18% of rshares that are not paid out. With an average daily payout of 59.6k STU, the unpaid posts and comments redistributed around 105 STU per day to all other posts and comments.
What does it take to get above the threshold
An interesting effect of the payout implementation is that the $-value (at payout!) can change considerably over time. This can be visualized by taking the average number of rshares required to get to a value of 0.02 STU:
This graph additionally shows how many rshares a 100% upvote at 100% VP generates for a voter with 200, 300, and 400 SP. While 200-250 SP were sufficient to make a 0.02 STU vote in July, this value raised to around 300 SP at the beginning of August and even got close to 400 SP. Until the end of August, around 350 SP were required to make a 0.02 STU vote.
- Around 30% of all posts and 10% of all comments receive votes but are not paid out because their value is below 0.02 STU at payout. I was actually a bit surprised that the number for posts is that high. I think, however, this could benefit from a more detailed look to see how many of these posts are actually "human"-made before jumping on any conclusions.
- By rshares, the posts and comments without payout only make around 0.18% of all rshares per day on average and are equivalent to around 105 STU per day in this period of time. This number is actually smaller than I expected. On average, this means around 0.005 STU per non-paid post/comment, resulting on average in 0.001 STEEM plus some SP as author rewards.
- Like the number of posts and comments per day, also the value of each vote is on a downward trend. A 0.02 STU vote currently requires around 350 SP, while the same was possible with slightly more than 200 SP in July.
So is there a problem?
I'd say it depends... An awareness problem, this for sure! A lot of users have no idea about this, and a bit of confusion with other thresholds comes on top. I hope that I could shed a bit of light on the topic. From technical/implementation point I think I understand where the idea about the threshold comes from.
What shoud I do?
As long as a post of comment already has at least 0.02 STU or is anyway expected to exceed this value, your vote is not worthless. Nothing to worry about in this case.
However, if you are likely the only voter, you may want to rethink your voting behavior. I've seen a couple of posts with suggestions in the sense of "don't waste your votes for comments if your vote isn't at least 0.02 STU". I personally wouldn't suggest that in general. I'd rather say: "be aware of the threshold!". If you want the author to get something from (only) your vote, better chose a value that will be above 0.02 STU still at payout time. If you don't have enough SP, a vote on a comment isn't necessarily wasted but can also be seen as a sign of appreciation - also without monetary value.
If you receive a lot of votes on comments that stay below the threshold, you may want to checkout @dustsweeper. @dustsweeper lifts comments above the threshold shortly before payout, so you get at least "something". See their FAQ and @bashadow's comment below for details.
Proof of authorship
All scripts to used to make this contribution are located on my Github: https://github.com/crokkon/steem-analyses/tree/master/1809_dustpayout