This is long winded, so I apologize in advance.
For me personally, I believe that decentralized compute and storage will play a major role as users and organizations push for more control over their data, that’s why I am wanting to keep providing infrastructure for Storj and other decentralized storage platforms.
As a provider of ~150TB of space available across Canada for Storj and other distributed storage platforms, transparency into the network as a whole is immensely important. I keep seeing threads and posts that the Storj network requires more capacity for production and even for bringing on the people on the waitlist, but I am sitting here with a few TB of storage used and wondering where the shortage of provider storage is. If you can provide live network information and sanitized node information (without IPs and storage IDs) such as number of providers providing 0-5TB, 5-10TB, etc. and their utilizations, that would help providers see where the improvements can be made, whether it is on capacity per node, node count, general geographic location, or any conclusion that providers can pull from the data. Provide the data and us providers will try to help fill in the gaps, it is in our best interests as much as yours.
I understand that there are a lot of providers with small amounts of capacity, but until the platform is paying out enough for people’s time and energy keeping their systems running, Storj will not attract providers. Surge payouts are really only good if people are storing data, so new providers will have to wait a while before seeing any benefit of surge payouts, and even then, they are only looking at a few dollars a month at most for a while. That really is not super motivating for someone to ensure that they have a UPS to deal with power outages or multiple internet connections in case one goes down long enough to take a reputation hit.
The l33t bonus payed out was a very nice gesture, and appreciated, on Storj Labs part. For me personally, while I will keep providing storage on the network, a constant reduced payout of “reserved” capacity would probably go a long way. In order to prevent users from spoofing the network like people were doing with v2 and heavy over-subscription of storage nodes, allow users to opt into artificial filling of the capacity in exchange for a reduced payout for artificially filled capacity, or “reserved” space not currently being used by production data. Storj would then fill the advertised capacity with empty/random data that is not used for anything but would validate the capacity the SNO is providing. The satellite then pays the user a heavily reduced amount, say $0.2/TB purely as an example, for this reserved capacity, swapping the reserve data out with customer data as it comes in.
This helps to solve a couple of problems. First, the user has a hard time spoofing the network by spinning up a bunch of VMs on the same storage and over-subscribing and Storj has as close to guaranteed capacity as possible. Second, users who opt into this get a relatively steady, albeit reduced, income from storage they are dedicating to the network. This helps to ease costs for the provider and shows that they can actually earn income from this capacity. Enough to make it worth their while but at the same time data that is not putting constant wear on their hardware unlike customer data being read from and audited more diligently. This would help to retain providers as well as incentivize current providers to expand their available capacity. As it stands, there is no incentive for the full providers to expand as the new capacity will not get used unless the rest of the network expands as well, which is what we are seeing now. There is also no incentive for larger providers to join because they will be using more in power than they are earning, never mind any other expenses.
Essentially where things are at right now are you are only attracting people who believe in your long term vision and goals, but those people are very limited, especially in the world of crypto volatility and the education about functional crypto based platforms like Storj. Stability is the name of the game, both for Storj Labs and for potential providers. It is tough to convince even technical people to have an Ethereum wallet and ensure it is being backed up in case of data loss, create accounts with crypto exchanges usually to convert to another mainstream crypto with low TX fees like Litecoin, then transfer to another exchange for conversion into fiat (at least this is the general required process in Canada from what I have found), all for a potential couple of dollars a month. That is going to be your bottleneck for attracting users in the first place. Retaining users is going to require a steady and reliable source of revenue. If an SNO loses an HDD or computer that was storing a couple of TB of data, it better be worth it for them to get everything going again with the replacement hardware and having to start from scratch again or they are not coming back to the network unless they believe in what you are doing and are in it for the long haul.
Anyway, that is my $0.02 on this. Again, long winded, but I have been wanting to express these suggestions since I got involved in v2 in mid 2017 but never really had a good communication platform with you guys until now. I love the townhalls for constant updates for development status and organization updates. As well, the activity that Storj staff have on the forums and previously Rocket Chat is excellent. And finally, the fact that you guys created a thread like this to gather feedback from SNOs instead of living in a bubble without input says a lot in and of itself, so thank you for doing that. The transparency in the past few years from Storj has been a major reason for continuing to follow this platform through development and provide storage on it.