When it comes to evaluating the strength of a blockchain (after you put aside technical discussions), what matters more, eventually, is the ecosystem that forms around a blockchain, the community that develops to support it.

In the public blockchain segment, bitcoin is known to have the strongest, if not the most expansive blockchain ecosystem. Ethereum is easily second in line, with over 300 distributed applications and an increasing number of startup companies opting to use its infrastructure.

If you continue this ranking using community and ecosystem as units of measure, Steem (via its flagship social site Steemit) is the best contender for the third-largest, blockchain ecosystem.

For background, Steem is the blockchain platform that powers Steemit, an incentivized social media publishing application. (Steemit is like social media sites you’re familiar with, except that users earn real financial rewards for posting, participating and voting).

Actually, the Steem blockchain has already (automatically) dispensed $4m since its launch in March 2016 to thousands of its early adopters, and has caught the attention of the market due to the meteoric rise of its cryptocurrency, then subsequent fall back to initial levels.

For the sake of analogy, if Facebook was re-incarnated today, using Steem’s philosophy, we would all get compensated for giving them our attention, which they have centrally and monopolistically monetized.

Global appeal

SteemFest, a two-day conference held last week, was the first coming together of the Steem global community. It was the brainchild of Roeland Landegent, an Amsterdam-based software developer and event organizer.

In August, Roeland, an early Steemian (as Steem users are called) contacted Steemit’s CEO and co-founder Ned Scott and proposed the idea for an in-person gathering, and the concept was embraced by Steemit Inc. Subsequently, Steemit Inc, along with other sponsors, agreed to fund the event to make ticket prices affordable, while keeping the quality of the event logistics high.

I was one of 35 speakers at that event, and witnessed the variety, vibrancy, excitement and eclectic composition of the 206 attendees who came from an impressive mix of 31 countries, representing Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Panama, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, the UK and the US.

Many of the attendees paid for their travel using Steem dollars they had earned on the platform, As a bonus, each attendee received a number of Steem Power as a reward for attending. Furthermore, a fund was made available to reimburse attendees in financial need. One small exhibit area featured Maurice Mikkers, a “tear catcher” who photographs your tear via a special microscope in high resolution for 25 SBD (Steem-backed dollars).

These were just a handful of the real examples that demonstrated the usefulness of Steem as a currency that crosses from the online to the real world.

Two other demographics stats impressed me: about 25% of the audience were developers, and a good 35% of the total attendees were women.

Those two numbers are significant because they fly in the opposite direction of what you typically see in blockchain conferences that are filled with generally male developers. The non-developer segment speaks to the fact that many Steem users don’t even have knowledge of the blockchain in the background.

‘Live experiment’

Just like the SteemFest attendees, the speakers and topics were eclectic.

Presentations ranged from a “State of the Steem Nation” address by Ned Scott to a talk by eight-time New York Times best-selling author Neil Strauss on his Steemit experience.

Elsewhere, Steemit superstar Heidi, known as @heiditravels, spoke about how she is now able to fund her world travels from Steem earnings. There was also a coding on Steem tutorial; a developer’s roundtable; and discussions relating to Steem’s governance model.

My talk’s title was “The Grand Vision of a Crypto-Tech Economy”, in which I presented the greater context of a circular economy that is surrounding Steemit.

Videos from 17 of the presentations from the main hall (there were two tracks) are available here. Both tracks were live-streamed during the event and garnered 1,000 viewers during the Saturday.

Some consider Steemit to be a live experiment, and if it is so, it carries with it several best practices and lessons. Instead of reporting on the content of the presentations, I will enumerate some lessons for other blockchain ecosystems, with Steem as an example:

  1. The ecosystem is a measure of strength. An ecosystem is typically an outcome that results from finding a community that embraces your technology, and is not dictated top down. Bitcoin has experienced it. Ethereum has thrived on it. Steem is currently doing it.
  2. Number of…

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