A couple of days ago I sent out a tweet in the hope of getting some attention and reaction regarding the hostile takeover of the Steem blockchain.
Did it work?
Maybe, maybe not, but at least there has been a reaction as a couple hours ago there was a tweet by John Mcafee about Steem that identifies the crux of the issue with circumstances.
In a conversation with @jayna yesterday I noted the same thing.
Justin Sun and the Tron team might have acquired many things in their young lives, but communities are much harder to buy, although individuals within might be purchasable. While buying a company is easy as it is a set of numbers, the employees of that company are much harder to engage favorably and many will be lost in one way or another due to many factors. Communities are different again.
While an employee is hired to do a job and has less attachment to who they get paid by, members of a community are economically and emotionally sunk into their experience, they are invested in the community itself - not the numbers generated.
A decentralized community such as Steem takes this to a new level as while everyone is connected through the same infrastructure, people can be very far apart culturally, ideologically and behaviorally. This creates dynamics that are not only harder to predict at a granular level, it makes targeting the entire community much harder. However there is one way to unite the majority.
Attack the commonality.
In the case of Steem, that is the infrastructure all members of the greater community use and while not all might agree, the point of attack at the decentralized nature of the blockchain was something that was near uniformly rejected.
This achieved half of the goal that the Tron team were likely looking for as they likely wanted to unite the community, which they clearly accomplished. But the other half was the polar opposite of intention as they united the people against them, rather than in support. Instead of winning hearts and minds, they created fear and turmoil that threatened individual's position in the community that they care about, even if they accept that it is an imperfect community on an imperfect infrastructure.
People are sloppy at the best of times and they get much sloppier the more uncertain conditions get. This is going to be met with strong reactions from people and when they are within a community, those reactions are able to be connected and ramped-up to compound into what becomes social movements.
Bees and spiders
Remember that part of the Steem code is called Hivemind and without a centralized leader, the Steem blockchain is the queen bee. Poke the nest, the worker bees will protect their home under royal decree. Because everyone is bound to the same blockchain, the decentralized structure of Steem means that there is not just one hive, there are many, but they are all interconnected and activated in unison - much like pulling on the thread of a spider's web will send a signal across the entire network.
The strength of a decentralized community is essentially a combination of the strengths of bee hives and the webs of spiders. In good times, there can be a great deal of independence of communities and individuals in the distributed hives with information and learning transferred along the connected web, and this can increase the diversity and lower costs enormously. However, that same good time network acts like a nervous system that when attacked, will send signals rapidly through the information conduits and kick the entire organism into a fight or flight mode.
But, with the diversity in use and opinion of all the hives as well as the structure and strength of the web between, the responses are going to be highly erratic. With the potential of Steem for everyone to have some kind of voice based on stake, there is going to be a lot of private agendas driving decision making, even if it is not in the best interest of the community.
People are sloppy.
One predictable response across people though is, they will act in their own self-interest. In the case of an attack on a shared home, that is generally to protect it with the byproduct of protecting it for the individual, being that it is protected for all. This is actually part of the good time benefits of Steem too, as while many will disagree how to do so, if the price of Steem rises, all Steem holders benefit relative to their holdings.
Looking back for the future
While I am unsure how this current situation is going to play out, I think there are plenty of lessons on what not to do when trying to get a community to act favorably. Firstly, don't attack them, intentionally or not. But more importantly than that, the last few days have shown that the Steem community can actually work together when under threat, which means that it has the potential to work together when not.
One of the problems with a decentralized community is that it doesn't seem to work together to develop the community, just individuals, often against each other. There are pros and cons as it gives many people and groups the freedom to build their value, but makes it very hard to achieve large goals that require many people and skills as agreement to move forward becomes harder.
Steemit Inc has always been in a bad position in a decentralized community as it has been the largest developer of core functionality of the blockchain, but also the largest target. No matter what they have done, are doing or will do, they will never have a super majority of support and will never get openly voiced support, as the detractors can be very loud.
The failing point
This central point will always at least somewhat fail in a decentralized community, especially in one where we are not employees, we are not here to do a job and get paid - we are emotional and economically invest in. Not only that, having that central point of community failure is also a central point of a infrastructure failure, as we have seen.
The pre-mined stake was always a threat and will forever be an open wound until it has been destroyed or absorbed into the community supply. The problem now is that regardless of what happens with it, it will create new wounds that will have to be treated at some point also.
The question that has to be answered by the community however is, in the absence of Steemit Inc which has been working on the large goals that require many people collaborating, which groups are going to combine to accomplish these tasks? While everyone wants the benefits of the development, personal agendas are likely going to get in the way of any real large-scale progress being made.
But despite these challenges and challengers, this is what we are her for, isn't it? Isn't the goal about developing the infrastructure and governance framework so that a decentralized community can build a robust and flexible ecosystem, so that microcosm communities can build tailored, centralized experiences that they own and love? Isn't this an exploration of a new economic model - one owned and maintained by the participants at the infrastructure level, but interacted with at the social and community level?
This is the problem. We have cultural, ideological and behavioral differences. And because we are all invested on Steem and it is so far from stable, we are sloppy.
In time however, the stability can come and the separation of experience with SMTS based on who we are as individuals can take place to empower the social layer, the distributed network of relationships we care about.
You can't buy a community. You have to build it.
[ a Steem original ]