Is Steemit the new Devtome?

Author's note: This article is part of an ongoing blog about my adventures in the world of alternate currencies.

Devcoin and its accompanying wiki, the Devtome, were developed as a way to financially reward open source content. The vision was that if you were willing to develop stuff that others could use and build on, it would be nice to earn at least something for it.

People who wrote programs, developed open source software and other things involving code were usually rewarded through Devcoin bounties. Those who wrote prose, however, were handsomely rewarded based on word count. You could publish whatever you wanted to publish, then link to it on your invoice (profile) page, and an automatic script would run to tabulate the word count and populate the receiver files accordingly.

This made it a great deal for writers. You didn't have to worry about how popular your content was or even if it was read. The payment came based on word count. Unfortunately, but predictably, this also attracted all number of plagiarists and spam content providers. This led to the creation of a number of Devtome admin positions involving checking submissions for plagiarism (and immediately banning the account of anyone caught), monitoring and rating content for quality, and other forms of curating content added to the Devtome. All those admin positions were compensated, and the system worked as long as the value of Devcoin was relatively high.

The problem with the system, though, was that it required tons and tons of human involvement. The payment for content part was automatic, but the monitoring of said content was not, and took many hours of human labor. When the price of Devcoin dropped to almost nothing, as all inflationary currencies are bound to do eventually, the humans found the effort wasn't worth their time.

The low price of Devcoin has also been a deterrent to spammers and plagiarists, and I'm not sure if it's even possible anymore to sign new writers up. The system still works for existing writers. I still occasionally post content there when I'm not too busy with other aspects of my life.

It's more difficult to sell Devcoins, and you get very little for them. The only trading platform which still carries them is Bter. You can't sell them directly for Bitcoin. You have to first buy either Chinese Yuan or Litecoin, and then those currencies can be sold for Bitcoin. I have to admit the sheer complication has seriously dampened my motivation to publish my own work on the Devtome.

However, for me the wonderful feature that is still there is that once I post my content, I know I will get paid for it. I do not have to worry about marketing my content, getting upvotes on it, or if the site is going to earn any ad revenue from my pages. I just have to write. The Devtome at one point had some admins who were responsible for marketing and they got compensated separately for their efforts. Most websites on the Internet are tough for writers, in that the writers also have to be the marketers for their own work. The Devtome is a huge exception to this, but being that exception comes with its challenges as already enumerated.

A couple weeks ago I discovered Steemit. Steemit is a bit of a cross between a forum and a social media site, though it's still missing some important features of both. This site is housed on the Steem block chain so all your blog posts and comments are permanently etched on the block chain. However, there is a way to edit posts and comments such that the modifications are seen by the casual viewer. From the end user perspective it behaves just like a rather clunky social media site.

But this site also rewards you for your content. The rewards are based on who upvotes it and how much “influence” the upvoters have. Theoretically, a thousand people each with an upvote value of a hundredth of a penny would collectively value your post at a dime. That dime would then be divided up among you and the early upvoters (because there is a reward for being the first to “discover” content which later becomes popular). On the other hand, if your post landed an upvote by someone who has a lot of influence, then just that upvote could push your post's value into the tens or hundreds of dollars.

Influence is based solely on the amount of Steem Power a user has. The more Steem Power he has, the more influence he has and the more valuable his upvote is. Steem Power is simply the Steem currency tied up for a minimum of two years. You essentially trade liquidity for influence. Anyone can go to an exchange such as Poloniex or BitTrex and buy Steem, send it to their account and power it up into Steem Power. You can even completely bypass the trading platforms and instead send Bitcoin to a specified address and the conversion to Steem Power will be made on your behalf. I have already connected that address to the Moon Bitcoin faucet so each week I can convert around 10,000 satoshis into free Steem Power. I would recommend anyone wanting to get involved in Steemit to do the same.

If you have a difficult time successfully marketing your content, whether it be writing or photography or anything else that can be shared in a blog post format, you will have the same issues with getting your work noticed and upvoted on Steemit. The Devtome is still the only place where an automatic payout just for posting is guaranteed (once you've been vetted as legit by admin).

However, there is a way around it, and that is to simply buy your influence and then upvote your own content–at least your blog posts. The post reward gets divided up among the author and the first few upvoters, so it's easy to get a bigger chunk of that reward by making sure you are the first upvoter. If your upvote bumps the value of the post up, even if it's just a few pennies, it might attract other influential upvotes, and that could result in a snowball effect. With no Steem Power (and therefore influence) of your own, you're kind of stuck waiting and hoping for the big break. However, if you buy your influence, then you can improve the odds of that big break happening sooner. And even if the big break doesn't happen, your own upvote will bring whatever it's worth to each piece of your content.

So in this sense, Steemit is more of an investment than a workplace. You buy influence, and with Steem currently being worth between two and three dollars, that influence will cost you. But once you have it, you can use it to either bump up your own content or reward other people's content you believe is valuable. In the mean time, your Steem Power does earn “interest” just for sitting there. I do not understand all that goes into the calculation but it has to do with the overall production of Steem. I read someplace on Steemit that the amount of Steem Power sitting in an account would double over the course of one year if nothing more was added to the account. What this means is that if you just keep adding some Steem Power to your account on a regular basis, you will gain in influence based on some form of compound interest.

With that said, keep in mind that just like Devcoin, Steem is an inflationary currency. This means that over time it will lose value. You also will not be able to just power it down and sell it all if you believe its heyday is over. You can request to power down your Steem Power, but then it will take two years of equal weekly payments for you to get it all converted to Steem, which can then be sold on the open market. If you just think of the Steem Power you're buying now as influence that you are buying and consider any amount you're able to sell the Steem for further down the road to be a bonus, you'll probably do better psychologically with this one. Buy the influence, and then use it to lift your own content and other good quality content up. You can think of the income earned from the value of your own upvote whenever you upvote your own content as the residual income earned off the principal that is your Steem Power.

To get a sense of how much Steem Power you are going to need in order to add a certain desired value to a post you upvote, you can check out any Steemit user's upvote value by visiting this site. Every Steemit user's wallet (including how much Steem Power it holds) is public. Click on any user's wallet, find out how much Steem Power he or she has, then run the user ID through the site. The value of that user's upvote relative to how much Steem Power he or she owns will give you a good idea of how much Steem Power you need to acquire to reach your desired influence goal.

Another way to improve your odds of succeeding financially on Steemit is to think of it as a social media site, and as such one you would like to join with your friends. However you do it, try to either bring a community to Steemit, or join a community that is already forming there. People within communities tend to follow each other and upvote each other's content. Some of the people with large amounts of Steem Power (known on Steemit as whales) believe strongly in rewarding others and actively seek out good content to post. A couple have even started communities where they encourage you to tag your content with their tag so that they will notice it and possibly upvote it.

You can also experiment with types of content. I personally have found that my tutorial posts do the best. I've also done OK with posting about any Aha! moments I've had concerning how Steemit works. My photography posts have not done so well. I've also posted questions I've had about the platform and those posts get zero, but helpful replies will get a couple bucks worth of upvote value. I'm told that if you post pictures of yourself and use your real name and verify that you are a real person, other people on Steemit will trust you more and then upvote your stuff more. I have not yet done that which may explain why so far my posts have yet to crack the $1.00 value mark. At this time of experimentation, though, I'm happy to pick up a quarter or two on my work and then convert it to more Steem Power.

Steemit takes the concept of the Devtome and develops it further. It certainly removes the need for so much intense human involvement to deal with spam and plagiarism. Unfortunately, I've heard that plagiarism has at times been greatly rewarded because the whales who upvoted it either didn't know or didn't care that the content was plagiarized. I've also heard that once a user becomes known as one who posts stolen content his reputation precedes him and the whales won't upvote his posts. I can't verify either one of those statements, but I will say that if you go the route of buying influence, do at least check for plagiarism before bestowing your high value upvote on someone else's post.

One way that Steemit does not replace the Devtome (at least not for me) is that it does not pay any sort of base rate just for posting content. If Steemit would provide some sort of base reward just for posting content and then increase that reward based on upvotes, it would be much better, provided that there was also a way to cull out the spammers and plagiarists. Some of the users have developed some pretty clever bots which are programmed to look for plagiarized content and then post a comment about it. One such bot on Steemit is Cheetah. Cheetah runs a simple plagiarism check on content and when it finds that the content is published elsewhere it posts a comment with the source. The author can then explain why it's OK for his or her Steemit post to use previously published content. Bots such as Cheetah could probably also be programmed to interrupt the normal base rewards process pending further human review.

I expect there will be more platforms like Steemit popping up now that we know a block chain can do that. They will vary in how they reward content creation and curation.

Devtome Writers

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