I may be off my debate game having been away from the Steem world of blogs for some time, so don't be scared to call me out. But here goes anyway.
Being a part of SteemSTEM, I get to see a lot of complaints, and if I'm being totally honest, 100% of them are unfounded or ignorant.
But seriously, we rarely get criticism on how we are built, how our voting system works, how we curate. We certainly never get suggestions on ways to improve or do things differently.
What we do get, is called out as 'elitist'. Quite often. This puzzles me because:
noun - a person who believes that a society or system should be led by an elite.
I don't know about other curation initiatives but this is demonstrably opposite of what we're doing. The very point of SteemSTEM is that anyone, white or black, big or small, animal or plant, can publish digestible STEM topics and be rewarded for it, rather than those who publish in inaccessible journals in language people can't understand.
There's more to us than that, of course, but I think what people are actually saying when they call us elitist is:
Nehhhhh you won't support me with your stake for going against your guidelines nehhhh
In a way, I get it I suppose. People don't expect that when they take an image owned by someone else and use it for a simple, innocent blog, that it would be a big deal. People don't expect a couple of copy-pasta'd sentences will harm anyone. So it can be frustrating, even confusing when you don't get support, or worse, a flag.
But, come on. Elitist? We are doing exactly what the rest of the civilised world does.
What we're doing isn't special or nitpicky. Copyright protection is a global, multi-billion dollar industry for a reason. People make stuff, that stuff belongs to them unless stated otherwise.
Thus, if something isn't yours, and is in fact, someone else's, you don't have the rights to it and don't deserve to be rewarded money for it - unless stated otherwise. People go to court for this constantly. That's how the world works. Why should Steem be any different? Because your blog is small?
What happens if one day your blog isn't small? Ever seen people dig up twitter posts from 7 years ago and the next thing you know a famous CEO resigns or a comedian goes to court? What if SteemSTEM becomes big news in 2030, and the next thing we know, Bloomberg is pointing out all the copyrighted content we've directly supported since 2016?
Hyperbolic I know, but the point is still valid.
So, being the original content creator, not being BS. These are our objective requirements.
What about Subjective requirements?
This probably applies to most curation groups here. I get it, people want to be all philosophical about subjectivity and terminology. What is quality?
This outlook on the world is flavourful and we can see it across history in all art, from the serialism in visual art, the minimalism in music, the abstraction in the avant-garde. I mean, one of the most famous pieces of music among classical musicians is literal silence. (...or is it?)
But come on. We don't need individuals with advanced degrees in quality control to know what our particular group of curators will agree upon as quality. Humans have this innate ability, within reason, to know when something is 2 minutes of garbage, and something else is 4 hours of hard thought and work.
Does the duration and effort matter? Maybe, that's for the curators to decide together, as a team. If I remember right with OCD, it came down to substantial votes across dozen-ish curators. The selected posts with the most votes got the upvotes.
With SteemSTEM, we not only require at the very least a second opinion, but we have a team of 'honor members' to keep us in check, and every action is publicly visible for anyone to keep them and us in check in turn. Often, they do. On numerous occasions we've been asked 'why did you vote for this?' and sometimes we do indeed remove votes.
If people's idea of quality is different to our own, they are welcome to pander to other curation groups instead, or, they can be voted by individuals - of which there are still plenty. Or hey, they can even start their own curation team that favours their idea of quality.
This is not decentralization
Saying curation teams are stealing votes away from users by concentrating all voters' votes into one initiative is kind of like saying 'dem immigrants be steelin all ahr jahbz!.
If you were better at your job and demanded a smaller salary than the immigrants, it wouldn't be an issue. Obviously that's not ideal but again it's how the world works.
In the same vein, people who support curation groups are trusting that group to do a decent job that falls in line with what they consider to be quality content. People who support steemSTEM trust, based on years of voluntary service and consistent behaviour, that we will do a good job curating academic content.
If we were to stop functioning, would these supporters who entrusted their VP to us suddenly and frantically curate manually for academic content on the main Steemit feed, day after day? Unlikely. If they wanted to do that, they wouldn't have given us their VP support in the first place.
Thus, their stake will likely go to waste. Even if they did turn to manual curation, they are suddenly diving into a world of scams, plagiarism, copyright infringement and disinformation without the faintest idea of how to spot any of it, compared to us curators who have been figuring this stuff out on Steem for literally years.
This isn't unique to Steem. Twitter deletes about one million accounts per day, up to 70 million across a 2 month period.
So yes, things become more centralized through curation groups, but only via decentralized means. Nobody has a monopoly on academic content, nobody has a monopoly on art. People must sign up to Facebook in order to access the services facebook has to offer. Nobody has to do anything to access the same content SteemSTEM rewards.
People are welcome to go around SteemSTEM and do their own decentralized lifestyle. It's just... humans have a tendency to centralize. Reflect back on all of humanity, from individual families to tribes and all the way to governments, blocs of nations and the internet. There isn't some evil force of elites making us centralise. It's just what we tend to do.
But Steem is beautiful in that you don't have to join. You can be a nomad, a vagabond, and your position will be just as valid as anyone else's. Some people want to just sit back and watch their stake be used wisely, others want complete control over everything their stake goes to.
I personally see nothing wrong with either direction.
I do see a potential issue with smaller users getting unnoticed because if votes are all concentrated into one block, it's much harder to see the whole savannah. But I dunno, this seems far more a problem with the inherent flawed design of steemit etc than curation groups.
Why can't these users just find their niche, and join that community. In reddit, if you like, say, jokes, you type 'jokes' and then you join '/r/jokes'. At this point, you tell a joke, and other people who like jokes upvote your joke.
On Steemit, you simply can't do that. It's not a thing. They proposed it over a year ago alongside STD's - er, I mean, SMT's - but I haven't heard anything about it since. So we all have to suffer the same fate. A platform/platforms that are simply badly designed to discover content we like.
Curation teams actually help in this major deficit. People learn to recognize the names, and follow, curation groups that support things they want to see. Rather than just going
steemit.com/trending - Arggg!!
They actually have somewhere to go, something to look at and, in the case of SteemSTEM and many others, a community to join and engage in, be it on discord, telegram or elsewhere.
What's wrong with that? Seriously, I'm rusty to the culture here and don't mind being corrected and informed.