Reflections on the past, present, and future of VYB (Part 1)

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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 [1] downvote abuse has occurred, [2] it is a problem that needs to be addressed, and [3] 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:

  1. Make downvotes costly.
  2. Reduce the strength of downvotes.
  3. 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 [1] have been reserved for obvious violations (that have clear supporting evidence) and [2] 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.


Thanks for enlighten more about the vyb token which is really awesome to learn and thanks for sharing.

How many accounts have been muted so far?

I've been mobile and not at my computer the last couple days.

I will update this comment with the requested info as soon as I am able.

No worries. I'm in no hurries. Just curious.

Downvotes are an incredible mechanism to fight plagiarism, it's a shame to be so misused.
Thanks for sharing.

I wouldn't say they are greatly misused. The abuse thus far has been relatively rare.

My problem is not with current abuse. My problem is with the clear potential for future abuse and with the way such abuse can be easily targeted toward ideas and ideologies. The potential for ideological downvote abuse is very real and would represent a PR nightmare that could prove fatal to the future growth of the platform.

I'm relatively new to hive but some older people I've talked to say that some whales have created downvotes lists of everyone who received votes from certain accounts for example. Luckily I never went through that. This fear of yours is very real, let's hope that doesn't happen because it would really harm the ecosystem.

Currently they are rarely misused. History has shown they are rarely misused. Future is likely the same. In the extreme rare case it becomes a problem, the community already has a built-in solution already available to them.

It's a moot issue, it's like building a metal wall surrounding your house in case someone throws a watermelon at your house.

Given my current situation that says a lot I still believe in it.


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The biggest accomplishment of free downvotes was, it eliminated bid-bots and upvote selling/buying. It was able to achieve this with the implementation of Economic Improvement Proposal that also increased curation rewards from 25% to 50%. It was actually impressive how quickly bid-bots either shut down services or became curators.

There used to be about a dozen bid-bots and since they offered good returns compared to curating and upvoting for free, many chose to delegated their stakes to bid-bots. Trending page would be filled with posts upvoted by bid-bots. And this was destroying the entire proof of brain concept in practice. It is free market, people always find more efficient ways of profiting as long as protocol allowed, and it did.

Proof of brain was disappearing. Thanks to curation projects like Curie and OCD, proof of brain was preserved and authors still had opportunities to get genuine upvotes for free for sharing their talents. But if it continued that way, it was a just matter of time for Proof of Brain to be gone from the ecosystem completely.

Free downvotes may have its problems too, I can see that too. However, these issues are tiny compared to bid-bots reigned world. Layer two solutions are not immune for upvote buying/selling phenomenon either. Once layer two solutions grow in size and value, and content rewards reach consistently high values, people again will try to come up with ways to maximize the profits. But layer two solutions have more freedom to experiment without breaking the overall network and come up with better solutions.

One of the ideas for decentralizing the abuse fight can be, taking into account of the downvotes by several people and increasing this threshold higher over time. For example, there used to be steem-promo project that have several curators, and in order to automate the process of consensus among curators without deliberating about the content, they wanted to create a script that would keep track of upvotes by certain curators. If four or five of the curators upvoted the same content, then the main account would also upvote it. I wrote them a python script to do just this.

Similar process can be implemented for muting temporarily or permanently based on the downvotes the content receives from certain curators. Let's say there is a group of 100 high reputation community members to start with, and this number can increase over time. If a certain content receives 5 downvotes from any of these 100 curators/members, then the account will be muted for a month. If there are 10 downvotes from any of these 100 members, then the account will be muted permanently. Of course these numbers can be changed, and continue changing as the community/tribe grows.

On layer one level, there can also be changes implemented to if there is enough interest, I doubt there is at this time. Free downvotes also are limited. There is only certain amount or percentage of free downvotes each stakeholder gets and it replenishes over time just like HP. If this amount/percentage of free downvotes could be turned into a parameter set by witnesses, just like they set parameters for account creation fee, APR, etc, then witnesses will have an ability to increase or lower the amount/percentage of free downvotes based on the current conditions and needs of the network. They will also have to reach some sort of consensus on this.

Thanks for the perspective and feedback.

I agree that free downvotes were needed and appropriate when they were instituted, and probably saved the platform from devolving into a Mad Max arena.

However, as a relative newcomer, I clearly see distinct downsides of the free downvote. It is a blunt instrument that has faithfully served its purpose, but needs to be replaced with a more precise tool. And that more precise tool must be experimentally developed and demonstrated on Layer 2.

That’s what I’m endeavoring to do with VYB. Hopefully other potential solutions will also be instantiated, with at least one proving itself worthy and effective.

I appreciate and respect your perspective and welcome your continued feedback.

I've been thinking about the benefits of lowering the downvote power. It does seem a little high now; overkill. I'd support that. It's been brought up numerous times now since Hive's inception.

What happens though if the downvote power is lowered to say 50% or even 75% less than what's offered today. That's far less damage one account (or several accounts run by one) can do if acting nefariously. More people would then have to downvote in order negate instances of abusive/exploitative behavior.

Has anyone been paying attention lately. Do you folks see how extreme things can get if you even so much as speak to someone who's used their downvote button... ?

I like that idea of the account being muted, temporarily. Being put in time out. I had suggested something similar awhile back. I also suggested affording members the opportunity to be able to write an appeal (similar to our current proposal system) if they feel they're being pushed around by downvotes. A platform where they can handle these disputes professionally (rather than exploding on everyone and everything) and somewhat privately (away from their blogspace). Community members can voluntarily review their case and if it's agreed the downvoter is out of line, they can have their ability to downvote muted for a month.

Downvotes is actually very interesting social and economic experiment. Because it kinda comes with some sort of negativity, I try to avoid this topics and don't pay attention to such events. There are always better things to do.

Downvotes is actually a brilliant consensus mechanism for rewards distribution. The system is designed that stakeholders need to decide on what rewards what content or account should receive after 7 days voting window. Without downvotes the system wouldn't be complete. So it is very rational tool. The paradox is that we as rational thinkers we humans can comprehend this concept easily, but as emotional being we may react in an opposite way.

For example, I received a downvote just a couple of days ago that slashed post's pending rewards by half. Reason dictates - "great, system is working and rewards don't belong to anybody until they appear in their wallets". But emotions wouldn't be happy and question the motives.

The answer is I think in understanding where rewards come from in the first place. All Hive rewards are basically go out of collective stakeholders pockets. If stakeholders majority decide that there should be no content rewards at all, code can be changed and there will be no content rewards. Hive can function just fine without content rewards, and layer two solutions can produce content rewards.

Since the inflation dilutes stakeholders' shares, it makes complete sense that they get to decide how the rewards distribution is done. In the end, stakeholders are the ones who lose or win the most.

Ultimately, the system will grow and get more efficient as it gets more decentralized. I think we are on the right path overall, and ahead of many other attempts at creating decentralized standards for social platforms and web.

Decentralization requires participation. It looks like your content and art haven't been participating as of late. When are you going back to producing content?

It's best to steer clear. The people that freak out and go crazy pretty much ruin it for the people who might have legit problems that can be fixed with a bit of teamwork. Nine times out of ten it ends up being the worst people on their worst days. Never ends well.

I agree this whole deal here is far ahead. To be honest I don't even want to talk about this stuff. Just goes in circles. Don't take that personally though. You're always a joy to talk to. I think I've just had my fill.

The problems are rare. Period.

I might start producing content soon. This comment is content.

I've been thinking about the benefits of lowering the downvote power. It does seem a little high now; overkill. I'd support that. It's been brought up numerous times now since Hive's inception.

As someone who is being downvoted to zero and all upvotes are being downvoted, I still believe the current system is ideal.

There will always be a few bad apples, but the majority of people don't downvote. They don't want to take the risk of reducing their own rewards, they don't care about fighting abuse, they are not concerned with long term vision of the platform, at least not enough to do anything.

As @geekgirl said, the downvotes were the main reason we no longer have bid bots, Haejin is not farming with 100% efficiency with 1.4M HP that isn't even his, and many other farming operations have been shut down.

As I have said many times to trost, there are far more malicious upvotes (poor judgement, bad quality, farming, favoritism, etc) than malicious downvotes, I'd wager something like 1000:1 or more. It's not really a problem, the few cases it happens the community can step and correct it (like downvotes, this unfortunately rarely happens due to the potential loss of curation rewards doing so).

the majority of people don't downvote

That's true. My comment wasn't clear. If the downvote power was lowered, I did say:

More people would then have to downvote in order negate instances of abusive/exploitative behavior.

Which won't happen. So lowering it will effectively disempower the community and those same problems will creep back up. Give an inch, they'll take a mile.

The biggest problems stem not from the downvotes themselves but the reactions to them. Things get blown way out of proportion sometimes.

Community members are being manipulated and eventually disempowered because of that. Have to sit on their hands; sit on the sidelines and watch as members get dragged through the mud, bullied, harassed, thinking if they step in they'll just become a target and treated the same way. Like OMFG there's a guy running around claiming to see demons, scrambling around trying to save everyone; because he got caught doing something stupid he even admits to, so people downvoted him, but he didn't like that.

Before him others were off running their little smear campaigns as well. Seems like those who hate the place and the people use downvotes as their weapon of choice (without pushing the actual button) to make everyone look bad by using scare tactics and playing mind games. Politicizing every case, pumping peoples heads full of nonsense; and that's what creates a WTP. Then they sit back and go, "See. That's what you get for downvoting."

It's ridiculous.


Everyone knows.

good lord.. what an egotistical piece of dirt

It's far worse than that and I'm not even trying to be insulting.

I know .. I've been watching it for a while. Going to be interesting with him taking his antics over to Blurt how they will deal with him

Very interesting. We meant to make an article in the @hiq.magazine about VYB, but we dropped it since all the info I got was "no more downvotes for Lucy and sift666", while both seem to have abandoned the project.

We actually scored an interview with theMarky for our next issue who is like the core representer of the downvote abusers ( I would guess). So balancing that out with highlighting the community that tries to get rid of downvotes seems like a good angle.

I might get all the info I need in this post series of yours, but what I am specifically interested in is how you turned around the price for VYB which was constantly dropping before and I would really like to know more about the proofofbrain war. I tried to ask proofofbranio himself what happened but he did not respond.

Anyways, despite me having not much time having a full time job starting this month and being a member of the @hiq, I would actually be interested in getting more involved in creating a downvote free community. I think there is a world where downvotes could be actually used to regulate overvalued posts (like it is always claimed) but as the meta is right now around downvoting I think the function should be disabled.

Maybe one more salty thing: I think the name "VYB - verify your brain" is really poor while "PoB - Proof of Brain" is worth a lot in branding itself because of the cool name. This would be my biggest critcism towards VYB.

Excessive Rewards will be always a subjective thing, so before muting in the community , engage in a conversation with the author may be ?


No one would be muted for something subjective like excessive rewards without significant community support for the mute, and also without being given an opportunity to explain their actions.

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’.

This pretty much sums it up! A handful of very sick big stakers terrorizing the whole platform, disguising it as necessary and valuable (the biggest joke on Hive btw. Everybody knows it, nobody talks about it). Mass user control at it's best! The CIA would turn green with envy, if they could see this... 😉

People have been talking about issues with the platform, including things like downvotes, the entire time the chain has been live.

Thanks for the update post, Steve. I am looking forward to part 2. I think the establishment of the VSB is going to be a good step forward as, whilst I know that the project continues to develop behind the scenes, it does feel a little quiet from the outside looking in, so this engagement is great! I think part 2 of your post will make for some interesting reading and a decent prompt for more useful discussion. Is there a chance that you could address curation efforts in your next post too? How do you envisage the curation team working in the future? Also what role the VMT will take and the future composition of this team... given personal commitments are taking some in different directions. It is also something to note that the value of VYB has dropped a fair bit since launch (I note it jumped late May/early June but has dropped again). The premise was always that the token would be encouraged to be held by the community as a long-term investment and that selling of the token would be discouraged through short-term muting action. I don't see that there has been any deterrent in reality. How do you envisage managing utility and value whilst trying to encourage people to hold and grow the token value? Keep up the good work. Communication from the head of the VMT is always a good sign 👍 !PIZZA !ALIVE !hivebits

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