1 Year On Steem - Honest Review & Personal Experience
The other day, I received a comment from @steemitboard wishing me a "Happy Birthday" after being on Steem for a year. How quickly time flies! Let me share with you my personal experiences of the platform from my point of view - a user. You may agree or disagree with any or all of it and we can have a good old chinwag in the comments section! I've tried to do this in chronological order, like a personal journal almost, so you can see how my thoughts chopped and changed throughout the last 12 months as I learned more and dived down the Steem rabbit hole.
It's time to go back to the beginning and why I actually joined this platform in the first place.
Why I Joined Steem In The First Place
As a musician and someone who enjoys telling life stories through blogging, I was getting lost on conventional social media. The community on Facebook didn't really seem bothered by what I was writing, then on the FB artist page, the visibility is completely limited with ever changing algorithms. For example, I have 13,000 "likes" on the page, yet FB only shows my post to less than 1% of those people... nice one! Twitter wasn't something I could get my head around until the last couple of months and the character limit there just seemed to restrict any "wordiness" that I wanted to use to express myself.
It seemed all it took to get noticed on those platforms was to post a picture of a bottle of wine or your dinner. Sod. That! I enjoy taking the time to make a well crafted blog, sharing experiences, quality over quantity and all that. Even if I was feeling like it was a losing battle with these so called "legacy platforms", I kept my focus on writing the blogs on my website for my own feeling of release.
New Blogging Site?
So, fast forward to February 2018 when I was getting my head around this nebula of crypto music platforms, I joined the @atomcollector community, which is an awesome group of independent musicians with an enthusiasm for crypto and a great place to promote music via their website - sign up here if you're interested.
I mentioned to them that I was in to blogging and if anyone knew a place where I can share my ramblings. I can't remember who it was but someone said:
Unknown legend: "If you're into blogging, you may want to look at Steemit. They have a rep system as well so if you have good content, you will have a higher rep and get noticed!"
Me: "This sounds amazing! My eyes have lit up, I'm going to dive in!"
I considered this as a chance to improve my writing skills, read interesting blogs, hear other people's points of view and connect with other writers. The fact there was some crypto involved was a bonus but not my primary reason for joining. In my 3D life, I have a job and looking at developing my career which pays me enough. I enjoy working in the material testing and scientific instruments industry so I will always consider blogging and music making as a passionate hobby to do in my free time.
Did all that excitement I was experiencing about joining Steem live up to the reality of being on the platform? Let's find out.
At the time, I only knew of one way to sign up and that was through Steemit's website. As is the case when you usually go to sign up for things, you expect it to happen within minutes. So when it took 3 weeks to get "that" email, it was more a sense of "finally, what took so long?" but I was still excited to get stuck in. Click the link in the email, in we go.
I usually take the time to read the FAQ and "how it works" guides but there was a LOT of technical information to take in and it's quite an extensive page to get your head around, even for someone who's more technically inclined. I personally didn't mind reading it as I'm not going to lie, I'm a "bit of a geek", which is not self-depreciating, I actually take great pride in it, but not every one is so "technophilic" and I can see that since I joined, a lot work has been done to make things a bit easier to digest for newcomers.
One of the things I noticed in this FAQ was that I should write an "Introduce Yourself" post using hashtags of which there are 5. I liked that as it makes you think about how to tag your articles so it gets to the right audience. So I opened up the post editor and this is exactly how my thought process went:
"Whoa, what the Dickens is this? I'm not a coder! Somebody help me, how the hell do I add images, who is Mark Down? Mr Down, calling Mr Down! Headings? No? Ah, I'll just drag and drop images, see what happens and type!"
You can see my intro post here. I personally feel it's a far cry from where I am now but it took a while to get my head around what markdown is. Now, it's like second nature but again, would someone who isn't technically minded stick at it? Granted, there's @steempeak which I'm using to write this post and it's a lot nicer to use on the interface - hopefully new members can be eased in a little better.
The first person who commented was @lucygarrod and she welcomed me in with open arms - I'll never forget. Then a few from various music communities chimed in. I was buoyant and couldn't wait to explore what was going on here.
Me: How do I upload my music?
Music Community: "You need to use @dsound, it's a dapp"
Me: "A "dapp"? Did you just sneeze? Bless you"
Music Community: "A decentralised app you nub, it's like an additional site that connects and posts to steem"
Me: Oh wow! There is some serious magic going on!
April - September 2018
What's With The 7 Day Post Payout Limit?
As I was getting familiar with how it all worked, I noticed a pattern change from the first month. I was encouraged to do daily uploads of my music and that it's even fine to cycle tracks on the platform due to the way the database works with IPFS. Apparently, tracks are deleted off of there every 7 days or so and your post will be paid out 7 days after it's first published. This was my understanding of it. Seemed a bit odd to have to do that but we'll roll with it.
Where Did The People Go?
At the time it felt a little mechanical without much interaction - in fact for 7 months there was basically 0 comments on my music uploads other than stoic efforts from @theturtleproject and it seemed kinda empty. I felt people were just uploading to chase some crypto, which, for pretty much the whole time I've been on steem, I've not seen 1 STEEM be greater than $1, is it worth it? Average post payouts for my music posts were barely reaching $0.20 for months so you can make your own mind up. Like I said earlier, I wasn't doing it for crypto, rather wanting to develop my blogging skills further. More on the music developments and blogging side later.
Then I discovered this thing called "curation trails", where people can set up an automatic way to upvote people. OK, I got a hundred upvotes but no-one actually listened to my music. I found myself falling in to the "crypto chase" trap and had to take a long hard look at what was going on here. I was taking less effort to make posts because I was just recycling content and it all started feeling a little hollow. "Ghost votes" I called them, but it turns out that is one of the big things on the steem platform.
The other side of the coin revealed that there are also "manual curation projects" where people take the time to trawl through posts and find high quality content, which they upvote using an account with a big following. This upvote "triggers" the curation trail and can bump posts to a wider audience - now this is awesome! Although, there were other realisations I was having about things I noticed on the "Trending Feed".
Gaming Of The System?
I often wandered over to the trending feed to see what interesting articles had been written and to see what I can do to maybe get myself on there (we can dream right?). As I was scrolling through, I saw posts getting hundreds of dollars with thousands of upvotes and I was like, "Wow, what did these guys write to get noticed by the steem community?!" I opened one up... it was just a picture and a sentence of text. What. Happened. Here?? Must be a bug in the system. Let me look at another... oh, same thing. And then I started seeing the same names over and over again.
Something didn't seem right. These posts had thousands of upvotes, so there must be a load of comments seeing as it is trending. Hmm. Let me have a look, one had 55 comments so I thought I'd look at that seeing as it wouldn't take forever to read through. "You received a 10% upvote from bid bot x", "Thanks for your payment of $, this received a vote from bid bot y", "Instant upvotes, thanks for using bid bot z". Wow, that was a bit of an eye opener. I mean, I get advertising and the need to promote your material but as time went on and seeing the same people's posts, the alarm bells started ringing.
Why is this appearing in the "trending feed" and not it's own section like "promoted content"? My understanding, or at least my hope, was that the trending feed would be THE place to find exceptional content that was hand picked and voted for by these manual curation projects from the steem community as a mark of value? Turns out you can just buy your place in the trending feed and get bot accounts set up to keep you there if you need. It was pretty disheartening. Then as I stepped back, I had another realisation.
What's The Point In The "Reputation" System?
All this time spent writing blogs, hundreds of hours put in to making music and the development of an 8 chapter blog series called the Bluffer's Guide to Cryptocurrency (which I wanted to write to help introduce complete newcomers to the space), when I could have just posted a picture of my dinner and paid some bid bots to go to trending and boost my reputation. A reputation score that I was under the impression was earned organically through amazing content, upvotes from community members to show this was considered valuable and posts that I could learn from. However, at this point, around the end of August 2018, it seemed like it was no better than the social media places I just left, other than I was getting around $0.01 per hour - ker-ching haha!
OK Havey, take a bigger step back and cool off. You're going on holiday, just think about how you can change your approach. It isn't all bid bots on the platform although I read a post from January 2019 that over 30% of the rewards pool is accounted for by bid bots, post link here. There ARE decent people here and there must be some way to get noticed without "paying to win".
I have to admit, I really was ready to pull the plug at this point BUT things started changing and my steem world was about to flip on its head in a big way.
September 2018 - November 2018
Changing Tack - "I'm A Blogger Now"
If something isn't working for me, I always think of how I can change it to make it work. So, instead of presenting myself as a Drum & Bass producer, I changed tack. I'm definitely blogging a lot more, so what am I blogging about? Life events? Yes. Music? Yes. Crypto? Sometimes yes. How about Travel? Hmm... why not? Maybe I will call myself a "Travel, Crypto and Life Blogger who also produces & DJs Drum & Bass music" instead (and this has pretty much been my bio across all the platforms I'm on so I'm grateful for this mindset change).
At the beginning of September, I starting thinking to myself, "I'm going on holiday, let's see if there's a steem community that I can share my holiday/travel posts with". A quick search and there they were - the @travelfeed community. New faces, new people, let's introduce ourselves! I was welcomed in by the awesome team, got to know a few folks in there, asked what was needed and if I could post a holiday blog or two.
They were all for it! Sweet! So I started sharing my week long holiday in the South West of the UK and my goodness, the interaction was insane - here's the series in full. Not only had the interaction on my blogs gone up but I also picked up my first (and probably last "curie" upvote) - 800+ votes and the comment feed went interstellar, have a look here!
It basically doubled my account SP value and I met new friends that I've stayed in contact with. THIS is what the manual curation reward pool should be like and is how I envisioned steem working! This whole Travel Feed endeavour inspired me to start a new blog series called the "Havey's Travel Diaries", which I'll be adding to in due course on my website.
WordPress Integration - SteemPress
It's worth giving a big shoutout to @steempress for their incredible work with integrating WordPress to Steem. The changing of tack to being a blogger lead me to look in to viable options for making it easier to get my blog shared and @fredrikaa, @howo and the team have done a great job. I like that the comments section is also integrated to WordPress, which is a slick feature, and with constant updates from feedback in the community, they are always adding to it!
Steem On Mobile - Partiko
Before going on this holiday, I had a look around for phone apps to see if I could keep up with things "on the fly" and found a damn nice smartphone app with @partiko. If you're not on there yet, it's well worth checking out. I use it to reply to comments and check my friend's steem posts whilst away from the computer - click here to find out more about it. What's also cool is you can see all the votes you get and I noticed one of my music posts was sitting on $4.
I was like, "Well, that's unusual", so I investigated through the Partiko app and it was a mega upvote from dsound! Wow! It started to feel like all the hours spent in the studio to make the tracks and tell the story behind them was worth it. I also found out they started following me. I was helping out in their Discord from time to time, giving some bluffer's help to any musician who was struggling so maybe that influenced their decision to follow me as well? I don't know but I was invited to be a moderator which was a great honour and I'm still floating around now and everyone seems to be behaving themselves haha!
They are continuing to support my work and a LOT of other musicians as well which I know we're all grateful for. Despite the recent setbacks they've had, they have come back stronger and @prc has been open with the community with their updates, which is admirable.
My advice to musicians on the platform is to get involved with the community rather than link drop and run. Keep engaging and being a part of it even if it feels like you're not getting heard. Believe me, the curators are listening! As you've just read, I've been in that situation for my first 7 months on the platform and good things will come - just remember why you make music in the first place!
Power House Creatives (Steemit Bloggers)
Hopping in to November 2018 and there was a persistent commenter in the form of @janton on my posts. Our friendship stemmed from that first curie upvote in September and as we were bantering with each other I saw in his blog he had a "steemit bloggers" logo at the bottom of his post.
Me: "What's that Lord Janton?"
Lord Janton: "It's a blogging community on the steem blockchain where everyone supports each other with organic comments."
My thoughts: ARE. YOU. SERIOUS?!
I had been hoping to find this type of community since I joined steem and it took me 8 months to hear about it! Then the doubts crept in as I read the requirements - it sounds like I'm well away from this standard of writing. You know how it is, self doubts and all that malarkey. I parked myself in their Discord "Bus Stop" for a week; umming and erring. Do I? Don't I?
Then the magic question I always ask myself:
Havey 1: "Would I regret not going for it?"
Havey 2: "Yeah probably!"
Havey 1: "Well jump in then you crazy fool!"
I messaged @jaynie, the creator of the community and she welcomed me in along with the others with open arms! What's more, I've only had a few mild threats of the boot a couple of times - well, I can't help but be cheeky haha! I'm thankfully still a part of the community as I haven't overstepped the mark...yet haha!
This group really inspires me to continue writing and push myself with the blogs as best I can - I mean this blog has by far been the longest I've written on the platform! Whether the inspiration comes from the hilarious truth bombs from @quillfire, the wonderful random trips of @wales, encouraging friends to step out of their comfort zone such as @foxyspirit, trying to get the last word in with @rebeccabe (that's never going to happen btw), creating a new contest with @cheese4ead, @plantstoplanks, wales and foxyspirit, creating seals of approval with @fionasfavourites, getting awesome animations from @zord189... the list goes on - you guys rock and I'm honoured to be a part of it!
December 2018 - March 2019
As we're approaching the end of December 2018 now in this "1 Year on Steem journal", why bother slowing down? Let's speed things up instead haha! There are 3 other communities that have ramped up my steem activity in this last few months.
One of the initiatives on steem that have been a regular supporter of my music and kept me going has been @artzone. Artzone is a manual curation initiative dedicated to helping artists of all flavours get their work shown to a bigger audience - just use the tag "artzone" on your post for a chance to be swept up. @edprivat has featured me in a few of his music curation posts and I'm grateful for his support. Some of the epic comments he's given me on his blogs have been very warming indeed. Keep going with it mate!
Spotlight On The Artist
Well, what can I say about @spotlight.artist! For those who don't know, they have a weekly show on @msp-waves which is broadcast in their Discord as well as Twitch and their website. They have allowed me to gatecrash... I mean... be a guest on their show pretty much every week since the beginning of 2019, talking about my latest releases and the new community I've set up with Bufinjer and DaveyHub called the Electronic Music Alliance (@emalliance). Their support of independent artists on the steem blockchain is unrelenting and I'm honoured they feature me so a big shout out to @darrenclaxton, @onemedia and the demented duck @d-vine. They have inspired me to produce more tunes, do more steem posts and to keep uploading my music on dsound. On behalf of the music community, thank you! This is another great example of manual curation at work.
How do I even get time to do another favourite past time - exercise? I just have to wake up earlier, simple as! Thanks to @actifit, there's a way to integrate my Fitbit to steem so all the walks, hikes and runs I do can be broadcast on to the steem blockchain. Really nice work team and I was glad to help out as a beta tester for the Fitbit integration project. They again have a manual curation team that review each actifit post, depending on quality. Another inspiration to maybe write a little bit more and kill a few birds with one stone - blog and exercise! "Blogs-ercise"? I'm claiming that one haha - keep stepping folks!
Problems Still Exist...
So despite my feeling of being more buoyant about the platform, I can't help but feel big problems still exist. As I mentioned earlier with 30% of the reward pool being taken over by bid bots, seeing trending feeds and reputation scores being manipulated, that sense of unfairness still remains. It's all well and good complaining about it but what about potential solutions?
For me, I think that the use of bid bots should not influence the trending feed, there should be a separate section for "promoted content" that use the service of bid bots. I definitely don't think they should be able to influence reputation score either. There's even be an argument to get rid of them altogether but I'm of the opinion that we should really have some sort of code of conduct based around what I perceive the "founding principle" of steem to be:
Whether you like it or not, without some founding principle/guidelines/code of conduct (whatever you want to call it), there's rigging and manipulation of what should be a truly awesome blockchain project. There isn't much more I can add to the fantastically written arguments and proposed solutions for reform from @quillfire, I'll just leave his latest post about it all here.
... But I'm Buoyant About The Future
I do have faith that things are moving in the right direction. All we have to do is look at the recent 10k+ delegation contests from @theycallmedan, @nathanmars driving steem initiatives and @mariusfebruary sponsoring various music communities to name a few that I've seen (remember, this is a personal experience blog and I'm sure there's many more things going on) that are working hard to keep things going here. You also don't have to look far to see all the apps that have been developed to integrate to the steem blockchain.
Not only all the ones I've mentioned but others such as games, betting and using steem to buy products on your website - there's too many developments going on for steem for it to just fade away but as competition increases with new blogging blockchain projects being constantly developed, the problems I mentioned need to be addressed - the sooner, the better.
I'll be sticking around for sure.
Well, that's it for me (at last, you must be thinking haha)! I hope you enjoyed this "1 Year On Steem" review, it nearly took me a year to write :P
Take it easy and steem on!