Why Some People On Hive Want To Kill The Rewards Pool

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Earlier this month, Hive users gathered for the monthly Town Hall on X (formerly Twitter) to discuss whether Hive rewards should be discontinued. While I didn't speak during the Town Hall, I did find the discussion interesting and engaging. The conversation was started by @r0nd0n when he mentioned it on the previous Town Hall. He subsequently wrote a blog post explaining his reasons for wanting to nix the Hive rewards system.

It wasn't the first time this issue has come up. There are two primary reasons why people discuss the Hive rewards pool and a desire to change it.

  1. The contentious downvote button

  2. And artificial intelligence

What is it about these two issues that make people want to kill the Hive rewards pool?

Is the Hive Downvote Button All That Bad, Really?

If you listen to folks like @jasonliberty, the Hive downvote button is a terrible thing. Why is that? Because it is an abuse of power. But is it?

I doubt that Liberty is Jason's last name. His tagline tells us what his content is all about: Exposing Deception & Fighting for Freedom

Indeed. Deceivers never want to be exposed and those who oppose freedom, which is damn near everybody in this century, don't find liberty worth defending. Of course, one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist

So they say.

One need only to browse the content on the Mr. Liberty's blog to see the type of "freedom fighting" content he's published. Throughout 2022, his conspiratorial blog posts earned from $10 to $70 each pretty consistently. One can conclude that a lot of people on Hive really dig that sort of content. But one individual thought he earned too much on his conspiracy theories and downvoted his content.

Another individual was downvoted to the tune of $46+ and still ended up earning more than $100 on a very popular blog post

Both individuals have apparently left the blockchain despite their posts consistently earning more than most Hive users will ever see. I mean, when every post you publish earns $15 or more despite the hefty downvotes received, what have you got to complain about?

@smooth is on the record for saying he downvotes content he believes is earning too much from the rewards pool. Personally, I don't condone the practice of downvoting content just because you think it's overcompensated, but that is how the Hive blockchain was designed. There's an upvote button for people who see value in a post, and there's a downvote button for people who don't see the value (or who think the value received is incommensurate with the value provided, evidently).

As voters on the blockchain, aren't we all in the position to define for ourselves what constitutes a post worthy of an upvote or a downvote, and the weight we choose to give to each? That's what Proof of Brain is all about. When all the upvotes and downvotes are counted, the blockchain ascribes a monetary value to the content at the end of the 7-day payout period. It's worked that way from the beginning. Why then do the Johnny-Come-Latelies show up to tell us how it ought to be?

Given the case of these two individuals, who appear to operate on an entitlement mentality, it's easy to see why some Hive users, such as @themarkymark, are quick to defend the downvote button

On the other hand, there have been more than just a few people leave the blockchain over the issue. There are quite a few people, both onchain and offchain (including former Hive users), who have issues with the downvote button for this very reason making it a fairly widespread issue. That alone doesn't make it a problem. In my mind, downvote button abuse is an issue that deserves a special study. Everyone has an opinion on whether it's an actual problem or not, but the data on the blockchain should determine that. I have not yet figured out a way to collect that data in a way that makes sense, but I'm confident there is a way. Questions that should be asked include:

  • Is there excessive downvoting on Hive?

  • Are whales downvoting small Hive users and new users to the point that those users are leaving the blockchain?

  • If the answer to the above question is "yes," how often does that happen? (There should be specific examples provided.)

  • Do downvotes consistently lead to negative rewards for posts that do not classify as spam, plagiarism, porn, or other questionable content? (I'm deliberately excluding conspiracy theories from this category because I see that as legitimate speech that must be protected.)

Regarding the downvote issue, my gut instinct tells me it does impact the Hive blockchain in at least one negative way, but that is very difficult to measure without hard data. Therefore, I see no reason to change the rewards pool until it can be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's an actual problem in need of a solution. At this point, all we have are accusations and anecdotal evidence, which is still evidence albeit of a weak kind.

Will Artificial Intelligence Kill the Blockchain?

One significant issue @r0nd0n identified that could impact Hive negatively in the future is artificial intelligence-created content. In his mind, artificial intelligence technology is improving rapidly and will soon impact Hive in a way that few of us will want. Therefore, the rewards pool should be changed before AI takes over and takes all of our rewards away.

Hive user @edicted responded with his take on the artificial intelligence crisis (which is nothing more than a specter of some phobia from the future).

Like @edicted, I don't see this as a problem. Yet.

I recall the days on Steemit when bidbots ran rampant. Hive users bid on upvotes and the highest bidder received an upvote on the blog post of choice from the bidbot. There were quite a few of them, some of them owned and managed by top witnesses. They were very controversial. Many users left Steemit because of the bidbots due to heavily automated upvoting leading to a trending page full of crappy content earning hundreds of rewards just because lazy content producers were the highest bidders. However, when used responsibly and ethically, the bidbots could give a boost to a post that was struggling. The problem was, there were more people using them irresponsibly and unethically than otherwise.

Might we see the same phenomenon occur with artificial intelligence-produced content? Today, it isn't likely. According to some people, however, it is very likely to happen at some point in the near future.

Maybe it will, maybe it won't. As far as I'm concerned, future problems are no reasons to change the way things are done today. I prefer to cross bridges when I get to them.

One Sublime Idea Worth Entertaining

@r0nd0n did have one idea that piqued my interest

The rewards would need to be moved to layer 2 tokens, each with customizable economics and features to cater to their audience.

He elaborates on this further 

Now, I would have no problem with transferring the judgment of value to the individual communities on the blockchain. In that case, every community could have its own Layer-2 token. Members of the community could earn those tokens while HIVE could be reverted to nothing more than a staking and governance token.

With this kind of system, each community could determine how value is distributed, based on the values of the community. One community could reward content with the current proof-of-brain mechanism used across the blockchain while another could allow only tipping. If a community wanted to offer its members a gated content area where that content is unlocked using the community token and/or HIVE, then they could make that determination. The point is, each individual community could determine how rewards are distributed on their own, effectively making the Hive blockchain a decentralized and tokenized economy with multiple reward pools.

This idea doesn't necessarily kill the Hive rewards pool outright. It simply transforms it into a liquidity pool. Users of individual communities could trade their community tokens for HIVE at any time and stake them to increase their influence on the Hive blockchain. Likewise, they could trade HIVE for any community token to increase their influence within the community.

Decentralizing the economics of the blockchain this way would incentivize communities to govern themselves more competitively while growing the blockchain. Each community could decide for itself whether to institute a downvote button based on community values, and they would become the chief vehicles for recruiting new Hive users.

In my mind, this decentralized token-based economy gets to the heart of what Hive is striving to be. But I wouldn't suggest this be implemented today. Rather, I'd encourage the blockchain community to consider exploring the pros and cons of this kind of decentralized proof-of-brain mechanism and debate its merits based on those. If Hive is to grow beyond its current scope, the blockchain community will need to decide what its common values are and move forward with those in mind rather than limp along with a Patrician-Plebeian class order that divides the blockchain community into two separate classes at war with each other.

What Kind of Blockchain Do We Want?

I'm not a big fan of changing things for the sake of changing things. If changes are necessary, they should be defended on the basis of verifiable data. Right now, most proposed changes to the rewards pool (the ones I've heard) are based on fear, disgruntled users or ex-users, whale envy, or some other concern that is not so easily defined.

I think most of us are aware that Hive is not perfect. We can also agree, those of us who are still here, that it is the best example of Web3 social media there is. What it has going for it has yet to be matched anywhere else. Still, that doesn't mean it can't be improved.

Any changes to the way Hive operates must be made based on verifiable data. It's fine to speculate and form hypotheses on why people are leaving the blockchain, but let's examine the evidence to discover whether claims are true. I find it difficult to empathize with disgruntled ex-users over alleged downvote abuse when those ex-users earned more per post on average than the average Hive user even when their content was excessively downvoted. I'd be much more apt to empathize with former users who never rose above a reputation of 50 because their content was downvoted consistently by whales to the degree that their content never saw a positive return. Are there any examples of this?

The claim that a downvote is a form of censorship is an empty argument. It stems from a misunderstanding of what censorship actually is.

A person has a right to speak their mind freely without some government squelching their speech, but other persons also have a right to disagree. A downvote is a type of disagreement. It's fine to feel the pinch or take issue with it, but everyone on the blockchain has the same right to upvote or downvote content based on their value preferences. That's how the blockchain was designed. New users should come to Hive with the understanding that's how it works and if, or when, they are downvoted, realize that's what they signed up for. Fight back with better content.

Bottom line: Decentralization is the best defense against censorship. If one community shuts you down, join or start another one.

Connect With Me On Web3

Feel free to connect with me on the following Web3 publishing platforms.

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First published by Author Allen Taylor at Paragraph. Downvote image is a screenshot.

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