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The B&T Index: How Much is the Bitcoin Cash Subreddit Being Attacked?
On the r/btc subreddit, where most discussion about Bitcoin Cash happens, people frequently complain they are the target of coordinated efforts of bots and trolls to suppress discussion. But that might just be a persecution complex. Is there any objective measure? That's what I set out to find out.
I'm not a trained statistician or anything, so, my methodology might be flawed. If it is, I'm sure the internet will let me know. In any case, I tried my best to be scientific about it. Here is what I found out by trying to find a real measure of manipulation.
Then I ranked them by how many users they have in their respective subreddits. Right away I noticed some oddities that say something about the market.
For example, Polkadot has recently rocketed up to having the sixth largest market cap at 25 billion dollars, but is the second smallest on my list with a mere 13 thousand users on its subreddit. That seems odd to me. For a crypto with such apparently large value, you'd think more than a few thousand people would want to talk about it. It might just mean that people who invest in Polkadot aren't really into using Reddit. But, personally I think it's indicative of how market capitalization might not be a good indicator of how much people use, invest in, or develop a crypto.
The smallest subreddit on the list, the one for Tether, also has a huge capitalization, but it actually doesn't seem so odd to me that few people join a forum for it. Tether, being pegged one to one with the US dollar isn't really any kind of investment vehicle or anything. I know people have concerns about whether or not it's actually backed by as much fiat as is claimed, but, there isn't much to say about development or adoption. It probably gets discussed more in other subreddits, like r/Bitcoin and r/cryptocurrencies, in terms of how it facilitates trading other cryptos.
In any case, I reasoned that if there is a sustained attack by bots or trolls to suppress activity in a subreddit, they would be downvoting a lot. Which means that if one subreddit is being attacked more than others, then its popular posts would, on average, have less upvotes than other subreddits.
Here it should be mentioned that for any post you see on Reddit, its score doesn't directly show how many people upvoted it, minus the number of people who downvoted it. The number displayed is some sort of post-algorithmic processing, where presumably Reddit is doing it's own form of defense against vote manipulation. However, I don't think this meaningfully distorts the end conclusions, because however Reddit is calculating scores, it's doing the same calculation for all the subreddits. So it's an even playing field on that level.
I took the median of the top ten most upvoted posts of each subreddit from the last year, so we have one number that represents what's a normal score for the most popular posts.
The top posts of a subredit with a million members will be more upvoted than a subreddit with ten thousand members, so it doesn't help to look at these scores in terms of absolute numbers. We need to make them proportional. So I divided the number of subreddit members by the median upvote number. This gives a number where the higher it is, the more downvoting is happening (see note 1 below if this is not clear to you). I'll call this number the "Vote Ratio."
One number that pops out at this stage is the Vote Ratio for Dogecoin. Even though it's the second largest subreddit on my list, it has the lowest Vote Ratio by a significant margin. Remember, a low Vote Ratio implies less negativity, meaning its most popular posts are highly upvoted.
However, if you know Dogecoin, this isn't really so strange, as the coin pretty much exists for making memes. People on the Dogecoin subreddit are just having good time, and there are no lofty aims to change the world or upend finance, like other coins, and so it stands to reason there's probably much less controversy and downvoting.
At this point, I thought it would help to add into my calculations some other subreddits of similar size, as a sort of control group. After all, it might be that subreddits related to crypto have more or less negativity related to non crypto subreddits.
I chose six semi-random subreddits. Semi-random because I decided they should not be obviously political in nature, because political subreddits are almost certainly subject to lots of brigading and troll action that might skew things. I also avoided subreddits with more than two million members, to keep the scale in line with the crypto subreddits. In retrospect, the size constraint might not have been important, but, that's what I did.
One thing that pops out is that all the non-crypto related subreddits have low Vote Ratios. indicating that it's somewhat normal for crypto related subreddits to experience more negativity than other subreddits. Except Dogecoin. Much win.
Of course, the more subreddits I add in, the better, but, I'm doing this all data entry manually, so I can only handle so much. Maybe if they were interested, someone more clever than me can build some kind of program that fetches the relevant numbers and output more robust data.
Now I have a Vote Ratio for eighteen different subreddits, twelve of which are crypto related, and six that aren't. What I want to see is something that establishes what's a "normal" amount of negativity, and which ones are noticeably different from that.
After trying to remember my high school math, and a little Google searching, I discovered that what I want is called a "Z-score." A Z-score is where the median of all numbers is scored at zero, and every other number is given a score more or less than zero depending on how far it deviates from the median. (See note 2 below if this is unclear to you.)
I'm going to give a specific name to the Z-score being used in this specific situation, which is "B&T Index", for "Bots and Trolls." A higher B&T Index means potentially more troll and bot action on Reddit. A high B&T Index doesn't definitely mean more bots and trolls, but it does indicate unusual downward pressure on vote scores in a subreddit.
Interestingly, in spite of the wide range of vote ratios, the B&T Index for almost all the subreddits are comfortably within one point from the median, ranging from -0.85 to +0.77.
But two stand apart. The B&T Index shows us that even with general crypto subreddit negativity taken into account, Bitcoin Cash and Ripple are way outside the rest, at +2.59 and +2.29, respectively. Remember, just like the Vote Ratio, a higher B&T Index indicates more downvoting. For these two subreddits, it indicates way more.
I have to admit, the result surprised me. Which I take to be good thing, because if you try doing some analysis and only get the results you expected, you might have been influencing the outcome too much.
I thought Bitcoin Cash would emerge alone with a high B&T Index, because I'm already familiar with seeing trolls on the subreddit.
But why does Ripple have such a high B&T Index? I'm aware that Ripple has always been slightly controversial in terms of whether or not it's really a "cryptocurrency" in terms of the lack of decentralization. And now, of course, it's being sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US. But are they being singled out for some kind of attack by bots and trolls?
They certainly seem to think so. I went onto the Ripple subreddit, and, much like the Bitcoin Cash subreddit, there does seem to be some discussion about being the target of people spreading FUD about Ripple. I saw some blame of BTC maximalists, but a lot of vague allusions to how "they" don't want Ripple to succeed.
I'm just not that interested in Ripple, so I'm not going to take a deep dive to really figure out their issues. But I did do the same kind of broad searches on other crypto subreddits, and found that, for example, as far as I can tell, people on Ethereum and Dogecoin are not particularly concerned about attacks on their subreddit. At least, if a lack of discussion about it is an indicator.
So what does all this mean? I think it means that Bitcoin Cash and Ripple are, in fact, seeing an unusual amount of downvoting, and that is indicative of some kind of deliberate effort to suppress discussion in those forums.
When I started this little research project, I thought that demonstrating that the Bitcoin Cash community was the target of a deliberate suppressive action would, in a roundabout way, validate it. It only makes sense to attack something if it seems likely to win otherwise. No one puts a lot of effort into attacking the more obscure cryptocurrencies, because, as history shows, they come and go like mayflies.
But, I've looked into Ripple before, and I don't think it's a coin I want to invest in. So a high B&T Index does not automagically indicate to me that a coin is doing something with merit.
I think it's fair to say, though, that in both cases, there's nothing about either coin that justifies an attack. I personally don't care if Ripple has a future or not, so I wouldn't support any kind of action against it. Just let it do its thing, and the market will eventually sort everything out.
A high B&T Index only indicates the presence of a deliberate attempt to push a subreddit down. It's up to you to figure out why.
Note 1: A little explanation of why the vote ratio indicates negative downvoting.
Imagine a subreddit that has a hundred members. The top ten posts from the last year all have 100 votes each. The average of all top posts is 100. So, if you divide the number of subreddit members, 100, by the average score of the top posts, which is also 100, then you get 1.
However, now imagine a subreddit has 100 members, but the top ten posts from the last year all have 50 votes each. The average is now 50. If you divide the number of subreddit members, 100, by the average top post score, 50, you get 2.
So, the higher you get from 1, either not everyone upvoted, or some people downvoted, or something happened to make scores low. This means a higher Vote Ratio indicates more negativity.
Note 2: How Z-Scores work.
Imagine you have 6 numbers, 2,3,3,3,3, and 4. The median number is 3. The number 3 is therefor assigned a Z-Score of zero. The number two might have a Z-score of -1, and the number 4 would have a Z-score of +1. The Z-score indicates how much individual numbers in a set differ from the rest of the numbers.
The math to determine this is way too complicated for me to go into, as I don't fully understand it myself. It involves standard deviations, which involve all sorts of magic math. Magic to me, anyway. If you're interested in how exactly it works, please Google "Z-score" and "standard deviation."