SteemPulp Open Call: SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE

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Saint Valentinus of Terni was a priest, a healer, and a hieromartyr. As a priest, Saint Valentine offered aid and succor to Christians in a time when persecution of Christians was a long-standing policy of the Roman Empire. As a healer, he restored vision to the blind daughter of Judge Asterius, who had held him under house arrest. When taken before the Prefect of Rome and Emperor Claudius II, he refused to recant his faith. He was tortured, beaten with clubs, and on 14 February 269, executed by decapitation. That day became the Feast of Saint Valentine.

Today, we call it Valentine’s Day.

In honour of Saint Valentine, the SteemPulp community cordially invites all Steemit fiction writers to participate in our first open call: SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE.

Give us pulpy tales of love or chivalry. Preferably love and chivalry. Give us romantic love and chivalric romance. Gallant knights and fair princesses, fantastic magic and strange technologies, gentle healers and steadfast clerics, cruel emperors and fearsome beasts, unwavering faith and unbreakable honour. No genre restrictions but one: the story must fit the pulp aesthetic.

SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE is a Steemit-exclusive event. It begins on 14 February at midnight in your local time zone. To participate, publish your story on 14 February and use the tags ‘swordsofstvalentine’ and ‘steempulp’. Your story may be written as a single post or as a serial. If you choose to write a serial, post each part regularly, and complete your story by 2359 hours on 28 February in your local time zone. We have no minimum word count requirement, but a hard limit of 15,000 words. At the end of the event, we will compile the best stories for an anthology, to be published under the auspices of the PulpRev movement.

There is no submissions process. We will have an invitation process. During the first fortnight of March, the SteemPulp Council will review all Steemit stories tagged ‘swordsofstvalentine’ and invite the authors of the best stories to participate in the anthology. We will use a two-part selection criteria: fit to theme and aesthetic, and number of upvotes.

Writers who use sock puppet accounts to upvote their own stories will be automatically disqualified. Writers who pay bots for resteems and upvotes will also be disqualified. We have a zero tolerance policy against anyone trying to game the system. However, writers may use Steemit’s native paid promotion function without penalty. In addition, writers who are discovered by content curators will receive extra credit. Total payouts are not part of the selection criteria: an upvote from a whale shall have the same weight as an upvote from a minnow.

The current SteemPulp Council is composed of individuals committed to participating in SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE. They are @everhart@noughtshayde@t2tang@jimfear138@notjohndaker and @jd-alden, all of whom have pledged to publish and complete a story each during the event. Naturally, as Herald of the Pulp Revolution and Revival, and Warboss of SteemPulp, I am also part of the Council. The Chief Editor of the anthology will be Jesse Abraham Lucas, the driving force behind the PulpRev Sampler.

Being part of the Council does not guarantee publication in the anthology. Even myself. The number of upvotes are permanently visible on the blockchain. While the Council will handle slush reading and selections, the Chief Editor shall make the final decision on the total number of stories to appear in the anthology, which stories to publish, and which to pass on.

Anthology publication terms will be discussed with invited authors separately. But if you choose to participate in this event, you shall receive compensation primarily through payouts on Steemit.

To recap, here are the official requirements for SWORDS OF SAINT VALENTINE:

Theme: Love or chivalry, preferably both. Must fit the pulp aesthetic.
Word count: Hard limit of 15,000 words.
Event opening date: 14 February 2018. Publish your story, or the first part of a serialised story, on this date.
Event completion date: 28 February 2018. Serialised stories must be completed by then.
Selection criteria: Fit to theme and aesthetic; and number of upvotes.
Disqualification criteria: Use of paid upvoting and resteem bot services, and use of sock puppets. Use of Steemit’s native promotion service is allowed.
Extra credit: Discovery by content creators.
Compensation: Payouts on Steemit

Good luck and PULP SPEED!

Cheah Git San Red

Cover image credit: Saint Valentine on stained glass, royalty-free stock photo on Dreamstime.

To get a taste of the kind of stories we’re looking for, check out our PulpRev Sampler here.

PulpRev Invades Steemit!

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Comrades! As the Herald of PulpRev, the first among our number to plant our flag on Steemit, I do declare that Steemit is perfect for our needs. It is virgin ground, ripe for the taking, filled with eager audiences hungry for our work, ready to yield untold rewards for the bold, the creative and the prolific! Steemit shall be our new front in the Revolution! We shall revive the blazing glories of the Pulp Age! Together, we shall leave our mark on the blockchain forever!

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Now, with the obligatory high energy propaganda out of the way, let’s talk how PulpRev can make the most of Steemit. And, by extension, all other fiction writers here.

Steemit and PulpRev

The PulpRev movement pays homage to the greatness of the pulp grandmasters of the 1920s, and carries that spirit ahead into the future. The heart of pulp fiction is short, punchy stories, stories of life and verve and action and adventure and white hats versus black hats and eldritch horrors and supertech and fantastic magics and all of the above and more.

Pulp fiction is also perfect for Steemit.

Steemit’s design favours short, punchy posts ranging between 500-1500 words. You can try to get away with longer posts (I know I have), but by and large 500-1500 words is a good rule of thumb. PulpRevvers will quickly realize that that chapters from old-school pulp tales run to roughly the same length.

As in pulp fiction, serials are king on Steemit. Once a post goes live, you have a window of seven days before you receive the payout. The more you link to a post, the greater the chances of discoverability — and with those, upvotes. If you’re not writing flash fiction, write multi-part stories and link back to earlier posts. When writing multi-part stories, post at least one chapter a day, more if your schedule allows for it, for maximum returns.

Write whatever fiction you want. Space opera, urban fantasy, crime thrillers. Novellas, short stories, novels. They’re all good, so long as you keep the reader entertained. But to make real money here, post regularly and post often. High energy, high output. That’s the pulp way.

Playing Tag

Use appropriate tags for your Steemit posts for maximum results. The first tag is the primary tag, and will be the one your post is categorised under. Research the most popular tags to see what kind of content fits under those tags, and tag your post accordingly.

Use a mix of popular and unique tags. Popular tags raise your chances of being discovered–and your chances of being drowned out by new content from more popular writers. Unique tags reduce the chances of being swept away, but only readers searching for niche content will find you. Using popular and unique tags will complement each other’s strengths and eliminate weaknesses.

Consider this post. The first tag is ‘blogging’, to make it discoverable. ‘publishing’ and ‘steemit’ are other popular tags. ‘pulprev’ and ‘steempulp’ tags this post for posterity, so other Steemit users searching for content in this vein will find it.

Build Yourself

Don’t think of your posts as just posts and comments. Think of them in terms of content marketing.

Everything you do on the blockchain builds your brand. Every post you create, every story you write, every comment you leave, contributes to your brand. Think of your strengths and focus your energies on posting about them. This creates a brand focused on the topics you specialise in: fantasy, space opera, horror, and so on.

With that said, don’t limit yourself to fiction. Paint, draw, sing, shoot videos, narrate stories. Talk about fitness, diet, programming, gaming, movies, books, cryptocurrency, whatever tickles your fancy. The more you create about anything, the wider the audience you reach. My own non-fiction earnings on Steemit outstrip those from my fiction by a wide margin. If you’ve got something to say, say it.

If you strive to become Steemit giants, check out this post on how to grow your following.

Build the Community

We are PulpRev. Our greatest strength is a united front, an unbreakable shieldwall backed by shining spears and burning torches venturing forth into the great unknown.

Okay, not really, but Steemit is social media. Think Medium crossed with Reddit, with a nifty payout model. The more social you are, the better the results for everyone. Commenting, resteeming, promoting and upvoting posts are the way to go, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Think of shared universes, collaborations, translations, audiobook narrations, artwork. Use the medium, and other social media, to create win-win situations for everybody.

Use Steemit tags and hashtags on social media to distinguish ourselves from everyone else. #PulpRev and #SteemPulp are our primary tags. Using these often will improve our visibility and create an online group brand that distinguishes us from others.

Likewise, interact with other Steemit users. PulpRev are not a ghetto. Mingle around, learn more about the site, engage commenters and posters. Social media rules apply here, and the more value you create in Steemit, the more it gives back.

Research, Research, Research

To make the most of Steemit, learn how Steemit works. And, by extension, cryptocurrency.

At the minimum, you need to know how to post on Steemit, how to use markdown, sources of photos, how to comment, how the upvote, feed, and the payout system works. Pay close attention to restrictions: no archive function, no way to easily reference and find older posts, editing will be locked after 7 days, and so on. Be sure to read these posts about etiquette, the unwritten rules and how voting power works.

You need a way of converting Steem and Steem Dollars into fiat, directly or otherwise. That means you need to learn how cryptocurrency exchanges work. Sign up for an account on a cryptocurrency exchange that offers Steem and SBD pairings. If you can’t sell your Steem and SBD for fiat directly, you must identify Steem and SBD/crypto pairings and crypto-USD pairings. You must also understand the technology underpinning your preferred crypto pairing, and identify when network congestions may prevent transactions, as in the case of Bitcoin and Ethereum. Alternatively, you can pick an instant exchange platform like Changelly or Shapeshift. The transaction is instant, but the mining fees will be higher than the transaction fee in a regular exchange.

Whichever method you choose, if you intend to convert the Steem trinity into other crypto for long-term gains, be sure to get a crypto wallet and research the kind of crypto you wish to invest in. Exodus is an excellent wallet for newbies and veterans alike, but do shop around to see what meets your needs. When you do receive payouts, be sure to record your earnings for the taxman too.

If you want to go deeper, dive into the technology behind Steemit and see how you can take full advantage of its mechanisms. Look for cryptocurrency trends and anticipate price actions if you can. Learn crypto investing and trading strategy. Crypto is incredibly volatile, and you do not want to get burned.

The Revival and The Revolution

We are PulpRev. We shall revive the glory of the Pulp age. We shall witness the revolution to all nations and carry it to greater heights. The fiction world trembles with every story we post.

I am the Herald of PulpRev on Steemit. @notjohndaker, @jimfear138, @noughtshayde, @danwolfgang and @jd-alden follow in my footsteps. More are coming.

If you are not of PulpRev but you wish to join us, we are waiting for you. Write a story, drop the pulprev or steempulp tag, get on social media and our website, join our Discord, and we’ll see you on the Net.

We are PulpRev, and we are the future.

Clarity on Cryptocurrency

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With all the sturm und drang about cryptocurrency in the mainstream media lately, I think it’s high time for some clarity on cryptocurrency. I am not, by any means, an experienced investor and this should not be considered investment advice of any sort. I am, however, coming from the perspective of a science fiction writer, and a barely-seasoned Steemit user. And I think cryptocurrency is far more multifaceted than what the media makes it out to be.

Do You Have Skin In the Game?

Skin in the game is a simple concept. Do you have a stake in the outcome of an event? Do you risk failure while pursuing your goals? How involved are you in it, and how much relevant expertise do you have?

This is the question I find myself asking every time I see the latest round of gloom and doom from the newspapers. It seems that every other day some fresh expert goes on the news to declare Bitcoin is a bubble, cryptocurrency isn’t viable, and so on and so forth. While I respect their accomplishments, the big question is: do they personally have a stake in crypto?

Recently the media trotted out a parade of businessmen, magnates and investors to discuss their thoughts on bitcoin. They may certainly be experts at making money, but if they have no skin in the game and no experience with cryptocurrency their words are just so much hot air.

Extrapolating experience in stocks, forex, bonds and other financial instruments to cryptocurrency isn’t wise. It’s not merely a currency; it is technology, it is a service, it is a commodity, it is so unlike anything that came before that experts are still debating over what it actually is.

The old rules don’t apply to crypto. Bitcoin has been declared a bubble before at far, far lower prices than today, and Bitcoin always surges ahead to even-higher prices. After every flash crash, Bitcoin keeps coming back. That isn’t typical bubble behaviour, not as the term is understood in other markets.

As far as I’m concerned, if someone doesn’t have skin in the game, his advice is irrelevant. The only experts worth listening to are those with skin in the game, who have studied how crypto work — and in the news articles I’ve seen, they are few and far between.

Is Bitcoin in a Bubble?

That’s the big question on everyone’s minds. The truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know enough to give an informed opinion too.

What I will say is that I’ve taken steps to protect myself against a bubble. Only one-fifth of my current crypto holdings are in Bitcoin. The rest of my portfolio is spread out across other, reliable crypto, notably Dash, Litecoin, and EOS. My single largest holding is actually in Steem Power.

This strategy allows me to mitigate risk while keeping skin in the game. If the price of Bitcoin crashes tomorrow, I won’t lose everything. And if the price of Bitcoin keeps going up, or at least stabilizes, I have enough skin in the game to make profits. Thus, it doesn’t matter to me if Bitcoin were truly in a bubble or simply enjoying a bull run of historic proportions. Either way, I won’t lose everything–and have an opportunity to gain even more.

Volatility Creates Growth

The most-repeated objection I’ve heard to Bitcoin is that it is extremely volatile. And I agree. This is the wrong time for rookies to the crypto space to buy into Bitcoin. The same thinking goes for other cryptocurrencies as well, albeit to a much lesser degree.

Volatility carries the potential for extreme losses. But it also has the potential for extreme gains.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore warned Singaporeans that if they invest in crypto, they may stand a chance to lose all their capital. Local websites and blogs agree.

While this warning is (mostly) true, I find it extremely curious that crypto tends to trend upwards. While there are over eight hundred cryptocurrencies in existence (most of which would probably be doomed to oblivion), the value of the most well-known and well-loved coins, without exception, keep trending upwards. While prices can and will crash, crypto tends to recover its value much more quickly than, say, stocks or forex. It may take weeks or months, but recovery and bull runs will happen.

The inherent volatility of crypto means that you risk losing all the money you put into it… or will enjoy outsized gains if you hold on long enough. It’s not unheard of to enjoy hundreds, even thousands-fold returns on investments now. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from a year in crypto, it’s that gains tend to be more likely and longer-lasting than losses.

But you must have skin in the game to make it happen.

Get in Early, Get in Fast

Cryptocurrency rewards early adopters. People who’ve been in the Bitcoin game since it was started now enjoy stupendous profits. Even if you got into crypto at the beginning of the year, if you’ve been hodling and accumulating until now, you’d have seen incredible gains.

Opportunity doesn’t wait. If a crypto looks good and has long-term potential, get in now. If you see an opportunity to buy low, buy now. If you suspect a crypto is about to reach its peak, sell now.

Yes, dollar cost averaging is always a viable strategy, and yes, you should always be ready to accept risk. But once you’ve decided to act, you must act. Now. If you delay, you risk losing everything you’ve gained — or not earning anything at all.

I think many cryptocurrencies, especially altcoins, are presently undervalued. With greater technological development comes higher-profile use cases and increased confidence, leading to higher demand. But this situation won’t last forever. If you’re confident of a decision, act now or forever regret what might have been.

Too Much Money to Fail?

Never allow yourself to think that.

Chrysler, General Motors, Enron, and Lehman Brothers were all thought to be too big to fail. Until they did.

Crypto is no different. Sure, we have bitcoin billionaires a thriving crypto development space now. But if the entire crypto space crashed tomorrow and its market cap wiped out, the world economy wouldn’t even notice. No government is going to save any crypto that fails — with the sole exception of state-backed crypto.

Thus, with our own hands, we make our future for ourselves, whether it be of glorious abundance or terrible losses.

Because the market is so fluid, you have to keep moving. You can’t let yourself think that you’re just parking money in a stock or bond or commodity for months and years to come, and be guaranteed a return. You have to think in terms of stability and volatility.

Fiat is stable, but its value does not grow quick, if at all. Crypto is volatile, offering the opportunity for huge gains, but you stand the risk of huge losses. The trick is to shift fiat into crypto to grow your wealth, and either jump on another fast-growing volatile crypto when it’s rising or jump back off into stable fiat when the market turns against you. It’s a lot easier said than done, obviously, but I find it’s a useful mental heuristic.

You must keep an eye on the market every day and be prepared to move accordingly. In the crypto world, there is no such thing as too big to fail, only whether a crypto is trending upwards or downwards.

The Crypto Mutation

When thinking about what to invest next, I think it’s useful to think about consumer behaviour and how people will use technology in addition to other tools like technical analysis, latest technological developments, forks and the like. After all, some cryptocurrencies don’t stay currencies for long.

Bitcoin was supposed to be a cheap and easy way of moving money over the Internet. To be fair, it did quite well at that…until this year. After a spike in prices and interest, we’re now experiencing incredible congestion and stupendous transaction fees. It is now vastly inferior to PayPal and other online banking services. Merchants like Steam have abandoned Bitcoin altogether — and without merchants who will accept a currency, can something still be considered a currency?

Bitcoin’s value proposition is shifting. It is now seen, for better or ill, as a store of value and an easy way to grow wealth. In the long term, I don’t expect this to last.

I think there will come a time when Bitcoin becomes so expensive, and the mining fees so high, that only two kinds of people will use Bitcoin: those who bought into Bitcoin early and have been holding on it to it, and the wealthy who can afford the mining fees and don’t mind the transaction times. As interest dies off, transaction times and mining fees should drop accordingly. And then Bitcoin might become a viable cryptocurrency again. But I’m not going to hold my breath.

The recent price hikes have exposed Bitcoin’s core vulnerable: it is not suitable for processing high volumes of transactions. Hence the recent Bitcon hard forks and controversies over technological upgrades. I don’t think Bitcoin will return to becoming a cryptocurrency anytime soon, if at all.

Ethereum is not the alternative to Bitcoin either. The Ethereum network is an open source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform that incorporates smart contracts and decentralised apps. The ether token pays for transaction fees and computing services on the platform. It is not meant to be used as a currency…but with the sharp rises in value recently, people want to treat it as such.

And, like Bitcoin, Ethereum isn’t natively designed to rapidly process large numbers of high-value transactions. These days it is increasingly difficult to trade Ethereum thanks to the network congestion. Even worse: every token hosted on the Ethereum blockchain is at risk. For instance, these days it is almost impossible for me to use Exodus to echange ethereum assets like Aragon or Augur because they are built into the Ethereum blockchain.

There may be huge advantages to hosting a cryptocurrency token on the Ethereum blockchain — but what happens to the Ethereum network will also affect all these tokens. Ethereum has skin in their game.

When this period of ultra-volatility is over, users will remember lost profits, delayed transactions, missed opportunities, and lack of support from governments and merchants. I suspect users who are interested in currencies (as opposed to value tokens to keep platforms going) will take their money elsewhere.

As the recent period of volatility shows, any cryptocurrency worthy of being called a currency must be able to process huge volumes of traffic at low cost and high speed. If these conditions cannot be met, they are not suitable for use as currency. They may be able to be used for other applications, but not day-to-day transactions.

Fortunately, there are several currencies today that could meet the bill. Litecoin, Dash and Monero have proven rather reliable. The Steem trinity is likewise designed from the ground-up to handle stupendous transaction volumes at blinding speeds, and I suspect EOS will demonstrate similar capabilities. Going forward, people who want to use cryptocurrency as currency would migrate to these tokens. With increased demand comes increased value, and unlike Ethereum or Blockchain, users won’t have to worry about fees and delays.

If you’ve missed the Bitcoin spike, don’t worry. Altcoin will demonstrate its full potential.

The Street Finds Its Own Uses for Things

Bitcoin may be built on blockchain, but blockchain is bigger than bitcoin. Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionise the world.

Do you want a futures market that might predict outcomes? There’s Augur. Do you need a way to securely store vast amounts of data forever? Factom. You want to anonymously send money? Monero. Decentralised cryptocurrency loans? SALT has you covered. People need a way to quickly verify their identity? Civic is for everyone.

We stand at the brink of the blockchain revolution, and we are poised to be the early adopters, the ones who can take full advantage of these incredible technologies. I think the future of blockchain is bright.

But.

The street finds its own uses for things. People always technology in ways that aren’t anticipated or designed.

Bitcoin was supposed to a currency. Now it’s an investment vehicle. Ethereum was meant to drive decentralised applications and smart contracts. Now it can be used as money. Dogecoin was a joke coin. Now it’s famous for its charity drives.

Steemit was designed to reward content curators and creators. Who knows what it’ll be tomorrow?

Crypto is the game that never ends.

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If you’d like a taste of my science fiction and fantasy offerings, check out my Dragon Award nominated novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS.

INVINCIBLE Part One: Blood and Fire

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Zhang Tianyou hated working with internal troops. The Shenwujun did all the hard work, while they claimed all the glory.

Shenwujun like him.

Zhang lowered to a knee, steadying himself against a hardy tree. By the light of the crescent moon, he saw the rebel encampment, two li away, situated by a burbling river. Defended by a thick wooden palisade, it boasted four guard towers and a gun pit at either entrance. A tough nut to crack, for the internal troops.

For Shenwujun, it was nothing.

Ten Shenwujun gathered silently around Zhang. Their leader tapped Zhang’s shoulder. Zhang nodded. Lowering himself to the ground, Zhang began the long crawl downhill and towards the southern gun pit.

Grass tickled his cheeks and brushed against his jet-black armor. The scent of soil filled his nostrils. Zhang moved carefully, his fingers probing the earth ahead. Whenever he found a rock, a twig, anything that might betray his presence, he gently set it aside. If it were too large, he crawled around it. Every so often, he lifted his head above the grass, just enough to check his bearings.

He immersed himself into the rhythm—right hand, left hand, right knee, left knee—going as fast as he dared while maintaining stealth. The enemy guards showed no sign of detecting his approach. He continued crawling. Right hand, left hand, left knee—

A cry of alarm.

He snapped his head up. Had he been detected?

No. Worse.

The internal troops had arrived. Two columns of men spilled out of the forest and wheeled towards the camp. One headed for the southern entrance, the other to the north.
The fools had attacked too early.

Rebels cried in alarm. Drummers pounded out a call to arms. The internal troops picked up the pace, but they were still too far away.

No more time for subtlety.

“Hong Er!” he whispered. “Lend me your strength!”

A warm female voice filled his mind. Who will you burn today?

“Rebels. Murderers, robbers and rapists, all of them.”

Very well.

His skin crackled. Invisible fire coursed through him, radiating from his crown and flowing to his hands and feet. Auras appeared in his vision, betraying the enemies’ presence.

In the gun pit, the rebels scrambled into action. There were three of them: the gunner, the loader, the powder-man. Together they crewed the wall-gun. It was six miniature cannons, braced by a thick wooden shield. The loader stuffed a shot into the breech of a gun, then moved to the next. The powder-man poured a measure of gunpowder into the loaded barrel. The gunner readied his matchbook, checked the load and aimed the gun.

None of them saw him coming.

He sucked in a breath, absorbing the qi in the air, and transmuted it to fire. His dantian, three thumbs below his belly, turned warm. He pointed at his target. A stream of red light pulsed through his arm. Downrange, a tongue of flame caressed the gun-pit’s powder store.

A bright flash split the night. Fragments of men and metal flew in every direction, whizzing past his ears.

The other gun pit exploded. Zhang looked up at the guard towers. Dry snaps rippled from the timber. The wood warped and flexed and broke. All at once, the towers collapsed.

The Shenwujun behind Zhang caught up, unhooking hand bombs from their belts. They lit the fuses and tossed the iron spheres over the palisade. The bombs erupted in fire and sprays of metal, producing thick clouds of smoke. Men cried in pain and alarm. Commanders yelled hasty orders. The drummers went silent.

“Hong Er! Let’s finish this!” he called.

The fire withdrew from his body. Before him, fresh crimson flames appeared, forming four trigrams arranged in a cross. The three solid lines of Heaven, the two solid and single broken line of Wind, solid-broken-solid of Fire, and broken-broken-solid of Thunder. Together they represented Hong Er’s essence. In the center of the formation, he caught sight of a complex geometric shape—her true name, not the nickname he had given her. The symbols converged, colliding in a burst of light.

His vision cleared. Before him stood a phoenix blazing in brilliant scarlet.

“What needs burning?” she asked.

“The whole camp and every rebel in it.”

“Very well.”

She spread her wings and took flight. Orbiting the camp, she shrieked, releasing a shower of feathers. Each feather turned into a flaming arrow, raining from the sky. She was a celestial spirit; she would never miss. Every single fire feather would find a target, and every target would die.

Bellowing war cries, the internal troops charged. They were poorly-trained and ill-disciplined, their formation widening and falling apart. The men didn’t even have firearms, just spears and crossbows. Zhang prayed that the other unit at least had the sense to take up blocking positions at the other entrance, well out of their comrades’ line of fire.

All the same, he positioned himself on the right side of the camp’s entrance and touched the interspatial ring he wore around his neck. A wealth of images flooded his mind. He focused his intention on one, and held out the black jade ring in his left palm. A small black sphere opened above the ring. Reaching in, he pulled out a repeating crossbow and rested the butt of the weapon against his belly.

“Form up on me!” Zhang yelled. “Crossbows out!”

The Shenwujun obeyed, forming two ranks of five men. The front rank knelt, the rear stood. They readied their repeating crossbows, preparing to intercept anyone trying to flee.

Beware! Hong Er spoke in Zhang’s head. The enemy has—

FAN YONG FU GUANG!

Black spikes tore up from the ground, ripping the column of internal troops apart. Men tripped and fell over each other. Others fled from the hostile magic.

Twenty rebels burst out of the camp, yelling a war cry. Black qi danced around them, staining their auras.

spirit warriors, she finished belatedly.

Even as she spoke, she danced in the air, dodging dark spikes and arrows. These rebels had the same powers of Shenwujun, but granted by infernal spirits.

They were the top priority.

“CONTINUOUS VOLLEY, SHOOT!” Zhang ordered.

He punched the firing lever down. The crossbow jerked, loosing a bolt. He pumped the handle as fast as he could, throwing bolts downrange, faster than a musket could hope to match.

A hail of bolts slammed into the rebels. A few staggered, dropped, fell. The survivors screamed, turning towards the Shenwujun. Some had bolts sticking out of their bodies, but they continued running like men possessed. Dark qi flared around them. Supernatural wind yanked bolts from the air. Black flames wreathed men like shields, burning up missiles.

“COMBAT MAGIC, LOOSE!” Zhang called.

Around him, the Shenwujun loosed their powers, and the rebels countered. Clods of earth broke away, levitated, and fell back to the ground. Bolts spiraled away at impossible angles, or shattered against flesh as hard as metal. Hong Er flung a fireball at a rebel. Flames coated him for a moment, then disappeared in a blast of steam. The rebel shouted in triumph—then sank to his knees, his chest and face peppered with bolts.

Only ten enemies remained on their feet. They were just thirty paces away. His crossbow was empty. No time to reload.

“DRAW SPEARS!” Zhang ordered, dropping his crossbow.

Reaching into his interspatial ring, he pulled, and pulled, and pulled. Out came a war spear, over twice his height. Wielding it in both hands, he took up his guard.

“CHARGE!” he ordered.

“KILL!” the Shenwujun roared, their voices booming across the land.

As one, the Shenwujun charged the scattered rebels, keeping their formation tight. Zhang engaged a rebel armed with a spear. The enemy aimed his spear at him and hesitated.

Zhang did not.

Reeling his spear outward, he batted the offending spear aside. He stepped in, thrusting at the man’s throat. The point touched his skin, then bounced off as though it had struck steel. The rebel stepped forward—and collided into his spear’s crosspiece. As the rebel stumbled, Zhang yelled, focusing his qi into the spear, and thrust again. A moment of resistance, a flash of golden light, and the spear pierced deep and true. The man fell, gurgling, clutching his neck. Zhang stabbed him once more, and the rebel went silent.

Zhang scanned for more threats. His comrades had made short work of the remaining spirit warriors. But the internal troops continued to flee.

“Cowards!” a Shenwujun called. “Come back here! The enemy is—”

A monstrous roar cut off his words.

Illuminated by burning tents, a giant shambled towards the Shenwujun. Fur covered its entire body, sparkling and glittering in the firelight. Easily twice the height of Zhang’s spear, every footfall caused the earth to tremble. As it lumbered towards the Shenwujun, it raised a spiked club in his right hand.

“Scatter!” Zhang called.

The giant brought the club down. The men fled just in time. The world quaked, dust rose, and a fresh crater marked the point of impact.

It was a powerful creature. It would give even Shenwujun pause. But it was a being of the metal element. And fire melts metal.

“Hong Er!” Zhang yelled. “Harmonize!”

Spreading her wings, Hong Er dove to him. Dropping his weapon, Zhang spread his arms to receive her. She flew into his chest, merging into him. Holy fire coursed through him, renewing his strength. His body ignited in ethereal flames, as bright as a furnace. He opened his hands and focused. Fire gathered in his palms, expanding and solidifying, transforming into a spear.

“I’ll deal with this one!” Zhang called. “Complete the mission!”

The Shenwujun sprinted around the giant, heading into the camp. The giant ignored them, turning to Zhang. Raising its weapon, it stepped into range.

Zhang aimed at its head, focused his flames on the tip of the spear, and unleashed a firebolt. The creature stumbled away, covering its wounded face. Zhang drove forward, plunging his spear into the giant’s thigh. Steam and gray fluid gushed forth. He withdrew the weapon and the giant swung down at him.

Zhang pointed his weapon to the sky, ran between the giant’s legs, and carved through its lower torso. It howled in pain. Zhang swung around, slicing through the back of its other leg.

The giant toppled like a dead oak. Howling in pain, it crashed face-first into the ground. As it struggled to get up, Zhang thrust through its skull. It abruptly went limp. Its flesh rippled and bubbled, and the creature dissolved into a metallic lake.

Zhang dashed into the camp. The Shenwujun had harmonized with their bond-spirits, wreaking havoc among the enemy. Whips of fire lashed through the rebels. Tents and barricades rotted and crumbled. Earth lances and water jets tore men and structures apart. Some rebels fled to the other exit, where the remaining Shenwujun destroyed them.

In the middle of the camp, he saw a summoning circle. It was drawn in blood, surrounded by inscriptions in a strange language. At the four directions, a totem stood, each spattered with blood and decorated with skulls and bones.

It was currently inactive, but nobody wanted to take any chances. The Shenwujun attacked the totems with everything they had. Wood blackened and crumbled with supernatural rot. Metal axes materialized and hacked away. Zhang extended his palm towards the nearest totem and unleashed a fireball. In moments, the totems were obliterated, and the circle neutralized.

Zhang rejoined his men, scouring the camp. The rebels had been slaughtered to a man. One by one, the Shenwujun’s commanders sounded the all clear.

Now, it was over.

“Hong Er, thank you for your help. I release you.”

The fire faded. Fatigue flooded his body. His mouth dried in an instant. His head throbbed, his heart pounded in his chest, and his skin was hot and dry.

He sat, drew out a calabash of water, and drank. Drank and drank and drank until there was nothing left. He was still thirsty, but his temperature was dropping to more human levels. He grabbed another calabash and sipped at it more slowly. Humans were never supposed to house the full power of a celestial spirit; there was always a price to pay for harmonizing with one. Around him, other Shenwujun sat also, and tended to their bodies.

As he drank, he stared at the blackened spot where the totem once was.

Hong Er’s voice filled his mind. I’ve never seen humans use blood magic like that before. Isn’t this the trademark of the wangliang race?

Zhang nodded. And wangliang and humans don’t get along in the Empire.

It seems your life will become more…interesting.

Zhang snorted. He finished his water and got up. His muscles were sore, his joints stiff, but he still had work to do.

PSX_20170918_044151

For more long form fiction by Hugo and Dragon Award nominated writer Kai Wai Cheah, check out NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS on Amazon.

Can Steemit Revitalise Short Fiction?

Astounding

A century ago, pulp magazines were the popular entertainment of the working class. Cheap and ubiquitous, the pulps brought exciting tales of action and adventure to the everyman. Fiction was no longer the pursuit of the leisure class; it was now within the reach of regular people. And the secret was length.

Back, popular fiction was much shorter than it is today. The average novel didn’t far exceed 50,000 words. Short stories floated between 5,000 to 10,000 wprds. Everything in between was a short novel or novelette. Pulp magazines, jam-packed with such stories, offered multiple exciting tales for the price and length of a single novel. Being paid by the word, prolific writers with a solid work ethic could support their families solely by writing for the pulps. With proliferation came even more stories to satisfy the demands of an ever-widening audience, creating a virtuous cycle that exploded into a cultural phenomenon.

Short fiction built the pulps. But today, conventional wisdom says short fiction is no longer viable.

It’s a given that the short fiction SFF market today does not pay well. Royalties usually float between one and a half to six cents a word, depending on the magazine’s budget, or none at all. Being published is virtually impossible if you don’t write about the right topics or have the right chromosomes: as Jon Del Arroz discovered, only 2.8% of female writers who submit short stories get published, and just 0.7% of men do. And most of the short fiction markets out there do not seek stories written in the pulp tradition.

There are other magazines today that try to emulate the pulps: Cirsova, Storyhack, Astounding Frontiers. While I’ve heard nothing but good reviews about them, they don’t publish regularly enough or pay well enough for writers to earn more than walking-around money.

Lyonesse, with its subscription model, attempts to use technology to solve the problem of royalties. In effect, readers pay the equivalent price of one novel for 52 stories, plus bonuses, delivered weekly. It’s a fascinating business approach, and I wish them the best, but from a writer’s perspective until Lyonesse reaches critical mass it won’t contribute significantly to one’s income either.

Being paid is critical. The promise of financial incentives drove many of the pulp writers to hone their craft and write vast numbers of stories. High quality and high numbers of stories attracted more readers to the pulps, in turn increasing the potential earnings for writers who serve these customers.

This is where Steemit comes in.

A week ago, Rawle Nyanzi discussed whether Steemit can monetise short fiction. True to the pulp spirit, Rawle has been producing lots of flash fiction online, the kind of content that seems a good fit for Steemit. However, he believes that the US tax code is presently too complex to justify the effort it takes to hop on board Steemit.

Fortunately for me, I don’t have such problems.

Steemit lends itself well to short and serial fiction. Short fiction can be read in a single setting, and the reader can quickly decide whether to upvote it or not. Serial fiction takes full advantage of the 7-day voting window for each post: posts published in quick succession will feed into each other, allowing for a potentially higher payout.

Quite fortuitously, short and serial fiction are the same kinds of fiction that built the pulps.

For authors who can put in the work, Steemit doesn’t just offer a platform to monetise short fiction — it can revitalise the format. A quick look at the fiction tag will show you stories that have earned hundreds of dollars, and stories that have earned hundreds of dollars per chapter. There is significant financial incentive to be prolific and technically excellent, there is a critical and growing mass of customers, and Steemit is only getting started.

I think authors who write in the pulp spirit will find Steemit an excellent platform to write short fiction, get feedback, and GET PAID. It can’t take the place of pulp magazines, but there is no need to. Traditional and up-and-coming magazines can focus on developing a particular genre or aesthetic, while Steemit helps authors build their brands. Steemit makes the fiction pie bigger for everyone, creating the potential to set up the virtuous cycle that led to the pulp explosion of the early twentieth century.

As for myself, I’m putting skin in the game. You can find my story TWO LIVES on Steemit. I’m preparing another story for publication as well. Come 2018, I’ll have more stories in the wings.

I think Steemit won’t just revitalise short fiction — it’ll transform it. And I’ll be there to make it happen.

TWO LIVES can be found here: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

If you prefer longer fiction, check out my novel NO GODS, ONLY DAIMONS here.

An Amateur’s Notes on Cryptocurrency

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Like most people I know I heard of Bitcoin only when it was too late to profit spectacularly from it. Even so, cryptocurrency rarely popped up in my local newspapers, except in highly technical articles buried in the business or finance pages, or whenever someone made a killing off crypto — or when crypto is related to a crime, be it large-scale losses like the Mt. Gox hack or WannaCry demanding ransom in Bitcoin. After joining Steemit half a year ago, I started delving into crypto in a major way, and I have a few findings to report.

  • Value Trends Upwards

Day by day, hour by hour, the prices of some major cryptocurrencies fluctuate wildly, sometimes at breathtaking speeds. But if you take the long view, over months and years, the inescapable conclusion is that prices trends upwards. Crypto may be a risky short-term speculation vehicle, but the longer you hold cryptocurrency the more valuable it becomes.

The corollary is that early adopters win. The earlier you enter the game the bigger your pay off. The more money you’re willing to sink into crypto early on, the more money you’ll make later.

The inverse is that latecomers lose. The later you enter the market the higher the prices you have to contend with. As it stands, the price of bitcoin is so astonishingly high that it is difficult for anyone but the most well-heeled or risk-loving people to buy anything larger than fractions a bitcoin at once. In the future this generates correspondingly lower payoffs. If you want to get into the crypto game, you have to start now.

  • Utility Drives Value

The major cryptocurrencies have one thing in common: they fill a need. By virtue of possessing utility, they deliver value to people. This naturally drives demand for the coin, which organically increases price over time.

This utility can come in many forms. For the everyman, cryptocurrencies offer the ability to quickly, cheaply and securely remit funds. Other platforms offer additional benefits: Ethereum provides an infrastructure for decentralised computing, Dash is user-friendly, Ripple allows secure and swift currency conversion and remittance.

When people recognise the utility of a cryptocurrency and see its potential for growth, they will flock to it. Investors will sink money to fund its development, communities of developers will emerge to improve it, advocates will promote it everywhere. As the crypto comes ever closer to fulfilling its original vision, this creates a virtuous cycle that further increases value.

*Crypto Self-Corrects for Losses

The traditional wisdom is that cryptocurrency is extremely volatile. That is true…but only in the short term. In the long term, crypto self-corrects for losses and outgrows them. One might even say that crypto is antifragile.

The Mt. Gox hack was a disaster when it occurred; three years on, if you look at the prices it’s like it never happened. When the Bitcoin ETF failed, the price of Bitcoin plummeted. Two months later, the price of Bitcoin soared to new all-time highs. The DAO heist was a calamity, but after the hardfork, the value of both ETH and ETC rose dramatically – today, they have the second- and fifth-highest crypto market cap respectively.

Black Swans, price crashes and crime are inevitable. In the short term they are painful losses. But the affected crypto will tend to self-correct. Too many intelligent people have invested too much time, money and energy for these tokens to fail just like that. So long as the token itself can continue to deliver value, there will still be demand, and with demand comes increased value. It may take months to recover the value, but recovery will happen.

This is not to say that all crypto are good and will appreciate over time, rather that well-designed crypto that deliver value to people will tend to grow. Experts can analyse coins, figure out the pros and cons, and attempt to squeeze maximum profit from their investments, but as a rule of thumb, a coin with a clear value proposition and robust design infrastructure will tend to set up a virtuous cycle that generates long-term growth. Market cycles and price patterns may be unpredictable — but human nature is well-known.

With these heuristics in mind, I’m going to briefly analyse some of the cryptocurrencies I have touched. Bear in mind that this is not investment advice, just some thoughts on Bitcoin and other altcoins.

Bitcoin

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Bitcoin remains the king of the hill. If you grab a hundred people on the street and ask them if they have heard about cryptocurrency, chances are the most common answer you will hear is ‘Bitcoin’. It’s got the first mover advantage, the brand name and newsworthiness.

But I don’t think Bitcoin will stay that way forever. Not without major changes, such as Segwit. Bitcoin transactions are sluggish and wallet addresses are long strings of alphanumeric combinations few people want to type, much less memorise. By today’s standards, much of the technology behind Bitcoin is obsolete. As a general-purpose currency Bitcoin still reigns supreme by dint of its branding, but for more specialised use cases there are far better options.

Going forward, I think Bitcoin will be a gateway token for regular people. People may buy it, hold it for a while, explore the cryptosphere and discover altcoins. I still see whales and investors and speculators moving Bitcoin in massive amounts for huge profits (which will further drive interest), but for other people, I expect them to explore other altcoins after seeing initial profit with Bitcoin and the potential other coins offer.

Steem

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Steem and its sisters, Steem Power and the Steem Dollar, are also gateway tokens. They are among the easiest to obtain today: sign up on Steemit and you get free Steem; start posting and voting, and you get more steem.

With that said, the platform rewards a specific kind of person: a creator who regularly and tirelessly invests value in the platform by producing popular, quality content and supporting fellow users through comments, discussions, suggestions and votes. Their presence, content and advocacy will drive more people to the platform, creating organic growth, and the crypto rewards will incentivise them to keep going on and on. Such creators will be rewarded for passion, in turn growing even more passion.

Steemit’s reward system makes the virtuous cycle tangible, transparent and easily accessible. You don’t have to be a witness, a developer or a software whiz to get in on the action and be rewarded for it. This decreases the barrier to entry. In half a year of blogging on Steemit I have made more money than I had blogging elsewhere for a decade. I’m with Steemit in the long haul, and, I suspect, so many of the long-term users.

Augur

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How would to like to know the future?

Augur is a futures market. It allows people to purchase and sell shares on the outcome of an event. Utilizing the wisdom of the crowd, Augur aims to provide the most accurate answer to a question and is designed to reward people who get it right.

Augur seems to be a niche service, but we live in what seems to be increasingly uncertain and unpredictable times. Should Augur go live, I expect to see surprising amount of demand, be it for sports, politics, or other causes.

Dash

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Dash is the digital cash Bitcoin tried to be. From a user perspective, transactions are nearly instant, just as secure and far more private than Bitcoin. The currency itself is resistant to a single point of failure, and its use of multi-phased forks means that hard forks can be fully tested and debugged before implementation. More importantly, Dash has better marketing.

I think merchant adoption is critical to Dash’ long-term growth. There’s no point having digital cash if you can’t spend it. You can use it for remittance, but in many countries (like Singapore) there aren’t easy ways to obtain Dash in the first place. Consequently, I think for now demand for Dash will be driven mainly by North America and Europe, where such merchants are primarily based, and where Dash is more readily available.

Ethereum

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Ethereum is interesting in that it’s not primarily a currency, rather an open source blockchain-based distributed computing platform with smart contract functionality. The token’s use case is to compensate users for performing computations — it is not necessarily meant to pay for goods and services.

Despite that, Ethereum presently has the second-highest crypto market cap. The Ethereum platform is being adopted all over the world — Singapore, for instance, is using Ethereum to tokenise the Singapore dollar. Ethereum offers capabilities that other computing platforms can’t. The increased interest and investment in Ethereum will see greater development of Ethereum, and with it increased value of Ether (both ETC and ETH). The value of the token lies in the value the platform delivers, and Ethereum’s increasing adoption rates suggests it will be a rising star.

Dogecoin

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William Gibson wrote, ‘The street finds its uses for things’. Dogecoin is proof.

Dogecoin looks like a joke coin. However, the Dogecoin community refused to treat it as such, instead finding a unique value proposition: charity. Among the cryptocurrency foundations I have examined, Dogecoin is the only one where goodwill and charitable endeavours is explicitly written into the mission statement.

Never underestimate the power of human goodness. Not just in real-world effects, but also on the market. The technical analyses I’ve seen suggest that Dogecoin is on track for stable long-term growth. Dogecoin is mostly under the radar and each token doesn’t hold much value, so it’s not normally a major target for hackers looking for multi-million-dollar heists, granting it some innate protection from Black Swan crashes. At the same time, there will always be people who want to do good, and Dogecoin gives them an easy way to do it, which would tend to drive demand upwards. Bitcoin may be for speculating and Dash for buying, but Dogecoin is for saving the world and the moon.

A Different Kind of Currency

The value of gold lies in its stability and its scarcity. The value of fiat comes from customary use and general use. The value of a cryptocurrency comes from its inherent utility.

As computing becomes increasingly ubiquitous, people will find innovative ways to use that computing to meet human needs. Cryptocurrency will be there to fulfil those needs. Well-designed crypto that offers the greatest utility for people will attract the people and funding needed to grow, creating a virtuous cycle of long-term growth.

By applying an understanding of human nature and technology to crypto technical analysis, I think people will be able to make better choices if they choose to dip into cryptocurrency.

Credits:

  1. Bitcoin logo: Pixabay
  2. Bitcoin logo: Bitcoin Wiki
  3. Steemit: Wikimedia
  4. Augur: Wikimedia
  5. Dash: Dashpay.io
  6. Ethereum: Wikimedia
  7. Dogecoin: Wikimedia

Steemit: Liquid Democracy for Social Media

When people think ‘liquid democracy’, they think about politics and decision-making. Steemit, however, offers an opportunity to expand the concept into social media.

A liquid democracy is touted as democracy for the 21st century. Combining the best elements of direct democracy and representative democracy, a liquid democracy allows people to delegate their votes to a proxy who votes on issues for them — but individual voters are also free to withdraw their votes from the proxy if they feel the proxy is voting against their wishes.

This video provides a fuller explanation of the term:

 

Individual Steemians are free to upvote or flag any post at will. They may create bots to automate the voting process, or delegate their votes to curators. Guilds have their own systems of discussing which posts to upvote or flag. Instead of deciding on policy, though, Steemians collectively decide and reward what they believe is the best content on Steemit.

Lessons for Liquid Democracy


I can vote, you can vote, everybody can vote!

As a model for real-world applications of liquid democracy, Steemit has much going for it. People are rewarded for participating in the platform with tokens that can be exchanged for real currency, incentivising future participation. Instead of outright censoring controversial material, people can simply ignore the post and the writer; the lack of payment tells the writer what the marketplace of ideas really thinks of his content. For abusive content, voters can hide the content through coordinated flagging (‘nuking’). This will not make the content disappear, but flagging does massive damage to the user’s reputation, signalling him to either shape up or get out. And if a rogue users abuse the flagging, other accounts exist to counter these flags.

Steemit is a user-driven platform. Solutions are organically developed from the ground-up. Instead of relying on the mercies of an unaccountable development team, Steemians are free to identify and resolve issues through the platform’s tools where possible. The blockchain prevents content from being arbitrarily removed — at least not without someone noticing — which defeats attempts at government censorship. Unlike other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Reddit, where censorship of dangerous ideas is celebrated, the hand of the dev team or moderators is little-felt at the day-to-day levels.

Social media doesn’t translate cleanly into policymaking. But there are three key lessons from Steemit that apply to liquid democracy.

The first is user empowerment. Steemit is designed around the user, empowering and incentivising participation in the platform. While Steemit’s model allows for weighted votes, in a state or organisation run by liquid democracy every user should only have one vote. This prevents powerful oligarchs from dictating terms to the rest of the nation. However, in a liquid democracy, people are free to delegate that vote to proxies, as in the case of Steemians empowering curation guilds to curate posts on their behalf. This frees people from the need to invest enormous amounts of time and energy into researching topics, and creates opportunities for people with the ability to do so to rise from the crowd. At the same time, voters are also free to vote according to their conscience instead of delegating their vote to a proxy who may not be aligned with their beliefs.

The second is protection of the marketplace of ideas. For a liquid democracy to work, free and fair debate is critical. All ideas must be allowed to participate in the marketplace of ideas, no matter how heinous they may seem to people. Censorship destroys and distorts the marketplace, driving targeted ideas underground but not obviating them. On Steemit, people are free to engage or ignore poor content and conceal abusive ones through flagging; in a liquid democracy, citizens should likewise be free to defeat bad ideas in the cut and thrust of debate, or simply ignore bad ideas into oblivion. The only place for censorship in a liquid democracy is to guard against a greater harm, such as preventing the disclosure of details of a criminal investigation.

The last lesson is decentralisation and division of labour. Nobody can be an expert at everything. In Steemit’s larger curation guilds, different subgroups handle specialised subjects. Steemtrail, for example, has multiple trails dedicated to topics like alternative energy, beer or fiction, operated by curators interested in them. Likewise, in a liquid democracy, political parties may form different subgroups to become the face of the party on topics like the economy, national security and so on. This allows political parties to deploy the best candidates to handle specific issues. While each subgroup would drive the party’s policy with respect to their area of focus, other party members are also free to join in if they are willing and/or qualified to do so. Party members and ordinary voters are free to delegate their votes to these experts. But they are also free to delegate their votes to someone else, or vote directly on the subject. This approach allows everybody’s views to be represented, while creating the environment for subject matter experts to tackle issues they are qualified for.

Lessons for Steemit


Sometimes, you have to be that guy.

Steemit also has a major lesson to learn from liquid democracy: transparency.

In a liquid democracy, proxy voting is supposed to be completely transparent. This ensures voters know how their proxies will vote. The proxy’s voting behaviour is also recorded, letting voters check the proxy’s voting record. Blockchain technology makes this possible by creating a permanent record of a proxy’s voting behaviour and how he intends to vote in the future. Politicians and proxies can count on the media to tell the world where they stand on certain topics and why. Steemit doesn’t offer the same capability.

Users normally trust curation guilds to vote in line with their tastes, but this may not always be so. Using Streemian, users may empower curators to vote on their behalf — up to a point. They may require the curator to vote on certain topics with specific tags, like writing or fiction, or to deny the curator the ability to vote on posts with other tags. This allows users to decide just how much power they wish to give curators. But even this is not sufficient. Here are two examples.

Alice wishes to promote science content on Steemit, so she requires her favourite curator to vote on posts tagged ‘science’. The curator follows her wishes by voting on all posts with that tag — even posts that contain erroneous facts or psuedoscience disguised as proper science.

Barry decides that he will vote on all police-related content himself, so he prevents his curator from voting on posts tagged ‘police’ and ‘crime’. The curator then upvotes and resteems a specific post that makes a false allegation of police brutality. Barry knows for a fact that this allegation is false and would not have upvoted or resteemed it. But as that post is tagged only as ‘writing’ and ‘blog’, Barry’s wishes are not acceded to. He only discovers the curator’s actions only when that post appears on his feed — and wonders what else the curator has voted on without his permission.

Users, curators and writers may do their best, but there will always be gaps not covered by filters. When faced with such scenarios, the easy option is to simply shrug and let the vote stand. Nobody is harmed by the upvote, so why bother? Besides, the user stands to gain curation rewards, and rescinding the vote will reset them.

However, the blockchain makes no distinction between curator and user. A curator may vote on behalf of a user, but on the blockchain the vote is recorded as originating from the user. A person cannot in good faith be expected to be recorded as having voted for a post that goes against everything he stands for, especially since with every vote drains an account’s voting power, reducing the curation reward. Further, should a curator choose to flag a post, there will be negative repercussions for the targeted user. Should a user believe that the target is not guilty, he should be free to cancel his own flag.

In a liquid democracy, every vote belongs to the user, to be given away or taken back as he sees fit. For a direct democracy to work, proxies must be transparent. Their votes and rationale for the votes must be known to all.

As we can see here, Streemian doesn’t do a good job in making votes transparent. The user must first log into Streemian, go to the curator trail and select a specific curator before he can see the voting history. And even that, that history is limited to the last ten votes. This is troublesome for a user, and inadequate.

Going forward, Steemit should introduce measures to enhance curator transparency. At any time, Steemians should be able to quickly access a curator’s voting record with a minimum of clicks, either in Steemit proper or on a third-party platform. The voting record should cover the curator’s history for at least the past twenty-four hours. Curators should justify every vote they make on the public record. When examining the record, users may choose to filter the record by tags for easier reading. Should they discover that a curator has voted against their interests, users are free to cancel their vote at any time. And of course, if a user feels a curator is no long aligned with his interests, he is free to drop the curator and vote manually. Finally, if the platform allows it, users should have the option of recording curator-delegated votes on the blockchain as such (i.e. User delegated Curator to upvote Post X) to distinguish them from manual votes.

Social Media for the 21st Century

Going forward, Steemit is primed to revolutionise social media. It natively encourages users to invest in the platform for the long-term through cryptocurrency. Through the adoption of the blockchain and empowerment of curators, Steemit is now a social media platform that runs along principles of liquid democracy. Steemit’s main stumbling block is lack of curator transparency, underscoring the importance of proxy transparency for policymaking. Should this obstacle be overcome, Steemit could serve as a model for the political evolution of democracies.