Reflections on the past, present, and future of VYB (Part 1)
VYB’s Primary Goal: Demonstrate a Robust Anti-Abuse Framework on Layer 2
Past: Creating and Launching VYB
I launched the VYB token and Verify Your Brain tribe based on the following underlying premises:
- One of the foundational pillars of the Hive ecosystem (Delegated Proof of Stake combined with Proof of Brain) represents a unique and powerful mechanism for decentralized token distribution.
- However, token distribution via DPoS + PoB can be abused in various ways, most notably via plagiarism (i.e. abusing the PoB aspect of the distribution mechanism by fraudulently claiming someone else’s content as your own) and upvote abuse (i.e. ‘legally’ abusing the DPoS aspect of the distribution mechanism by intentionally upvoting low-effort content).
- ‘Free downvotes’ were created (a few years ago) as a mechanism to allow all members of the Hive ecosystem to collectively combat plagiarism and upvote abuse, in a decentralized manner.
- However, the existence of ‘free downvotes’ also allows an individual account with a relatively large amount of HIVE Power to significantly and deliberately suppress the author and/or curator rewards of another accountholder. Such behavior has been labeled, by some, as ‘downvote abuse’.
- Substantial disagreement exists within the members of the Hive ecosystem regarding the extent to which downvote abuse is occuring and whether or not it should be considered a problem.
- Any potential solutions to the downvote-abuse problem (whether real or perceived) need to be instantiated and demonstrated on Layer 2.
- Any potential solutions to the downvote-abuse problem must robustly manage all forms of abuse (e.g. plagiarism and upvote abuse, in addition to downvote abuse).
Whereas I am in the camp of those who affirm that  downvote abuse has occurred,  it is a problem that needs to be addressed, and  it can be effectively addressed, I began, over a year ago, contemplating ways to specifically address the issue.
Although I originally argued for some Layer 1 changes to address the problem of potential downvote abuse, I eventually came to terms with the fact that the ‘free downvote’ paradigm was created to solve some very specific problems (i.e. plagiarism, spam, and upvote abuse). As such, many Hivers who experienced the ‘wild west’ days, where blatant upvote abuse was rampant, are unwilling to throw away the blunt-force solution to that problem (i.e. free downvotes) and risk going back to the way things were before (understanably so).
I totally understand that perspective. That is why I switched my focus (about one year ago) almost entirely to Layer 2. We must clearly demonstrate, on Layer 2, that we can effectively guard against multiple forms of abuse, without needing downvotes, before proposing any substantive changes to Layer 1. And, for what it’s worth, I am hopeful that our Layer 2 solution will be able to help mitigate downvote abuse on Layer 1 with zero changes needed to the Layer 1 protocols (I hope to expand on this in Part 2).
There are multiple ways to potentially reduce downvote abuse:
- Make downvotes costly.
- Reduce the strength of downvotes.
- Make it impossible to cast downvotes.
With that said, although I am convinced that any of the above could effectively be implemented as a potential solution, the VYB solution represents a mixture of #2 and #3. When posting content to the Verify Your Brain tribe (which happens anytime someone posts from the official VYB front-end or uses one of the VYB-specific tags, which are currently #vyb, #verifyyourbrain, #pob, and #proofofbrain), curators can still downvote those posts on Hive, but the strength of those downvotes with respect to VYB token rewards is zero.
In other words, your VYB posts can still be downvoted, but those downvotes will not affect your VYB author rewards and will not affect the VYB curation rewards of those who upvoted your post.
Just to summarize, VYB reduces the strength of downvotes within the VYB ecosystem to zero. This creates its own set of challenges, the biggest of which involves how to effectively combat plagiarism and other forms of abuse.
Present: Protecting against Plagiarism and Obvious Spam
In order to effectively protect against plagiarism and other forms of abuse without downvotes, a robust framework was needed. At the time that I began contemplating the launch of a downvote-free tribe and token, @scholaris was actively leading anti-abuse efforts for the Proof of Brain tribe (and its POB token). I consulted with him at length in order to gauge whether he and his team could effectively manage anti-abuse efforts for VYB (in addition to POB) without undue additional effort. At that time, POB’s anti-abuse efforts were primarily being accomplished by asking for downvotes from a handful of POB ‘whale’ accounts. Occasionally, though, egregious abusers were also being sanctioned via accountholder-specific tribe-wide mute actions.
With VYB being created as a downvote-free zone, tribe-wide mute actions (post-specific and/or accountholder-specific) represent the only straightforward way to combat plagiarism. Tribe-wide mute actions must be initiated via custom JSONs posted to the Hive blockchain from the account that has issuing-authority for the token.
For POB, that token-issuing account is @proofobrainio. For VYB, that account is @vyb.vyb. Fortunately, tribe-wide mute authority can be delegated. For @vyb.vyb, that authority has been delegated to @scholaris and @scholaris.vyb (and can be delegated to others, as that need arises). @scholaris and his team have been publishing detailed reports documenting any VYB tribe-wide mute actions being taken.
Future: Protecting against Subjective Abuse (e.g. Upvote Abuse, Excessive Rewards)
Use of Hive-Engine’s tribe-wide mute feature has been an extremely effective tool when it comes to mitigating plagiarism and obnoxioius spam for VYB. However, it is a centralized tool -- the power to enforce resides in but a few hands. That is why tribe-wide mute actions  have been reserved for obvious violations (that have clear supporting evidence) and  have been transparently documented and published on-chain.
However, if an anti-abuse system is to be truly robust, it must be highly decentralized; otherwise the anti-abuse ‘police’ can readily become abusers themselves. To that end, the VYB admin team plans to rely on the community to develop its own ‘community standards’ to govern subjective abuse cases. In order to facilitate development of commuity standards, the VYB Stewardship Board (VSB) is being created. The voting protocol for VSB will enable fully transparant yet anonymous voting by the board members. Unfortunately, the coding for that protocol has turned out to be more difficult than originally envisioned. As soon as the coding is completed the VSB initiative will be fully launched.
Part 2 (upcoming post ... stay tuned)
Because it has taken me so long to get the above written and finalized, I will go ahead and publish it and try to finalize and post a 'Part 2' soon.
Part 2 will discuss current and future advancements to VYB’s official front-end and the plans for making VYB more investor-friendly, along with my assessment of how VYB could potentially eliminate downvote abuse on Layer 1, with zero changes to any Layer 1 code or protocols.