<blockquote> It appears that your criteria for “success” is the price of the STEEM token. So how do you think we can achieve higher prices by simply acquiring more users who can then earn and sell the blockchain’s tokens? </blockquote> The masses of new users will NOT be earning ANYTHING. On the contrary, some of them will use money to pay for some of the content, and all of them will be targets of data mining and advertising. <blockquote> There is no revenue and distribution model to monetize all of the added eyeballs on the interfaces, so using traditional social media valuations for the Steem blockchain doesn’t exactly work. </blockquote> The apps can sell ad space. <blockquote> <i>Mass appeal is what STEEM needs.</i> Is it? </blockquote> Absolutely! Monetizing the attention of the crowds <i>is</i> the very value proposition of Steem. If it is never achieved, this project will fail and the price of STEEM will go to zero. <blockquote> I mean, it could be helpful if you think more users = higher STEEM prices. But adding tens of millions of active users could lead to bloat and stress on the network which then leads to decreased performance...and user frustration. </blockquote> That's why the focus in development is on maximizing scalability. That's why marketing has been on the backburner. <blockquote> In this article, you didn’t mention the unique aspect of Steem where resources are limited and coded into the blockchain (and about to change with HF20) and where there is a shared pool of rewards that only have any monetary value because of speculative investment. The entire “quality” argument is premised on what “we” want, but the price assumptions seem to disregard what speculators/investors may actually care about. </blockquote> The price of STEEM cannot rely on speculators forever. It's going to be based on massive traffic and ad revenue + STEEM being bought by users to pay for services. An additional source of value for STEEM is the fact that it's a very convenient cross-border payment method. The larger the user base, the greater the number of STEEM always held, however temporarily. <blockquote> One last thing I’d like to add is - I think too many of us get the “quality” assumptions wrong. Contributing “quality” content isn’t about our subjective opinions on particular content that we like. Quality has more to do with whether or not the content offered is new/original or copied (or plagiarized) and whether or not the content offered is of a popular subject (having the ability to “go viral”) or highly-sought information. </blockquote> The idea that Steem can forever remain a platform for quality content producers who get paid for quality content on speculators' dime is downright laughable. <blockquote> Anyone can post whatever they want, so long as they have the necessary minimum resources allocated by protocol to do so. But that doesn’t mean that their contributions of content ought to be rewarded and nobody should be expecting rewards. </blockquote> In the future, most users will be paying customers or the product themselves (by virtue of being targets for ads). <blockquote> The biggest problem we have with user retention is a wild expectation of becoming rich, then massive disappointment when that doesn’t happen for most users (which is no different than other social media). These expectations need to be better managed and we should do a better job of explaining all of this to new users. But the thing is...our interfaces really don’t have much to offer users other than the hope of making some money, which is why user activity appears to be tied to STEEM prices. </blockquote> I agree, which is why Steem the blockchain should not be marketed at all except to developers interested in developing decentralized apps. The last thing we should do is market Steem as a platform to make money to the general public. The general public need not even know that Steem exists in the first place. All they need to know is the cool apps. The fact that they use some "blockchain" called Steem as their data and money layer should not concern the average future user at all. <blockquote> Long story short...we need a better culture and something actually appealing to offer to social media users. Without the latter, we can’t even get to the former...and without the former, the latter isn’t very appealing. If we fail at both, then worrying about the masses and what kind of content they want to share is moot. </blockquote> Steem culture as it currently is is largely irrelevant. The Steem experience of future Steem users will probably be quite siloed and app-centric. Each app with possibly an SMT of its own will have a community of its own. <blockquote> They won’t care about the Steem blockchain - but it can be argued that a successful (a term you used in this post) platform wouldn’t even need them to. </blockquote> Exactly! What needs to be marketed is the cool apps with money transfer functionality is a nice bonus. It ultimately rests on the app developers to figure out their market and how to tap into it.