Let's Grow: Optimizing Hive's 'Breakaway Communities'!

in Hive Marketing2 months ago (edited)

Ever since the early days of Steem it has been obvious that a main feature that could explode Steem (and now Hive), maybe even creating a 'Facebook killer', would the enabling of easy Hive forum/community integration into existing websites and to be able to easily create entirely new websites with Hive too. Years later, we still don't have these essential features easily available for anyone to use.. but we are closer now than ever, so let's take a look at how we can improve the situation...


Back before Hive was born, Smart Media Tokens (SMTs) were touted as being part of Steem's answer to this ongoing challenge. SMTs were layer 1, native - yet custom - tokens that would enable anyone to create their own branded token and use it to power a Steem/Hive backed website too. The potential for this was/is huge. Imagine anyone being able to create their own crypto powered version of Reddit, for their own community and even have their tokens accessible via major exchanges - easily and effortlessly.. Arguably this would have exploded this chain to a household name.

Unfortunately, the events of the hostile takeover of Steem that led to Hive being born, left SMTs in the dirt and they were not continued on Hive. However, the idea did not die completely, Hive Engine launched layer 2 tokens on Hive and enabled custom sites to utilise them. However, the fees being charged for this are prohibitively high and the options for integration are limited.

Excitingly, in 2024, we have two active projects on Hive that are moving to create the code needed to deliver these features to us all. SPK has been working alongside Ecency to deliver their 'breakaway communities' project for some time and recently we learned that the core Hive team are planning to work on creating their own solution for this to extend the system that runs Hive.blog too.

Testing Breakaway Communities On SPK/Ecency

The most promising option today that can enable easy, mass adoption of Hive by niche communities seems to be the 'Breakaway Communities' sub-project run by the @spknetwork, who also run @threespeak, Hive's primary video sharing site. This system uses a fork of the open source code that runs the main Ecency website, but adjusted so that the resulting custom website will only show posts and content from a single community. While the system is currently quite basic, it is already functional and people can already create Hive powered sites using it (see the breakaway communities website for some basic info).

We recently tested out the current version of this system (on ureka.org, the domain I used for my social network long ago) and were asked to provide some feedback, so that's part of the purpose of this blog. However, we are planning to go much further than this and to produce a full analysis/design report that can be used to optimise the User Experience (UX) of the breakaway communities system in order to speed up it's use and adoption.

Before we get to that though, here's a summary of points gleaned from the setup and use of the Breakaway Community system:


  • Install Options: It is possible both to self-host this system on a private webserver and also to opt to have a version hosted by the SPK team. This is similar to how Wordpress operates. It turns out, though, that the system for setting up these communities is incomplete and does not yet support the creation of sites for pre-existing Hive communities. Since I was initially wanting to test against a pre-existing community, I opted to self-host the code.

    Suggestion: Update the breakaway communities site to support creating sites from pre-existing Hive communities.

  • Instructions: Self hosting is as simple as installing Docker on a webserver and making some basic adjustments to a configuration text file, then running some basic commands on the server. This is straight forward for experienced server admins and developers, but complete noobs will probably need to do some research before reaching success.

    Suggestion: Update the breakaway communities site so that the instructions for self hosting are more obvious - they are currently listed on a page called 'breakaway'. This should probably be renamed to something like 'self-host'.

  • Server Configuration: One issue I found is that the Docker template auto installs the Nginx webserver in order to host the new site, but I already have Nginx installed and needed to run the site through an SSL encrypted port (https: instead of http:), so I had to manually disable Nginx in the docker configuration file before I could launch the site.

    Suggestion: Provide more detailed instructions for the docker configuration file, including how to disable the included Nginx server and also to configure it to support SSL connections.

Initial Impressions & Optimisation Suggestions

  • Appearance: The User Interface is essentially the same as the one on Ecency.com. I use Ecency on my phone because I find it to be the most usable option on mobile devices - it has it's own app. However, Ecency on desktop needs some UI improvements. The functions are mostly fine, but the styling and resulting User Experience are not optimal. Links and text do not contrast sufficiently for users with limited eyesight, the colourscheme is uninspiring and generally the site needs to be sexier! The good news is that the functionality of the site seems to work well and also with minimal delay/lag.

    Suggestion: Carry out a full UX analysis and redesign of the User Interface to ensure the system is competitive with other social sites right out of the box.

  • Branding/Design: I was hoping that it would be at least possible to set some custom colours for the new site, but alas, that is not currently possible. There are some default themes that can be chosen, but they cannot currently be edited. I can remember using Ning.com to run my first social network - long ago - before they kicked everyone off that wasn't a paying organisation! Their sites are are/were a good example of how to allow users to customise a social network's theme.

    Suggestion: Site admins are going to need a page in their admin area that enables them to set common colours, fonts and other basic details in the site. It's also important to provide a way for custom CSS to be added (ideally without needing to edit files on the server), to allow other layout changes to be made.

  • Initial Site Loadup: When I load the site initially, I see a rather unattractive loading screen that counts down to zero, as if content is being loaded. However, this process occurs even after the site has been loaded and I revisit the homepage. This leads me to think that this countdown is for no practical reason in relation to content loading. This is generally not a good UX decision as it wastes the user's time for no benefit.

    Suggestion: Remove this!

  • User Login/Signup: This system will continue to benefit from the ongoing improvements being made to the SPK login process (see video here: ~~~ embed:1772797118056640538). The current process is acceptable, but would certainly benefit from the account incubation features and web 2 login system that Inleo uses and that I think 3Spk will be adding soon too. twitter metadata:M3NwZWFrdHZ8fGh0dHBzOi8vdHdpdHRlci5jb20vM3NwZWFrdHYvc3RhdHVzLzE3NzI3OTcxMTgwNTY2NDA1MzgpLiBUaGUgY3VycmVudCBwcm9jZXNzIGlzIGFjY2VwdGFibGUsIGJ1dCB3b3VsZCBjZXJ0YWlubHkgYmVuZWZpdCBmcm9tIHRoZSBhY2NvdW50IGluY3ViYXRpb24gZmVhdHVyZXMgYW5kIHdlYiAyIGxvZ2luIHN5c3RlbSB0aGF0IElubGVvIHVzZXMgYW5kIHRoYXQgSSB0aGluayAzU3BrIHdpbGwgYmUgYWRkaW5nIHNvb24gdG9vLnw= ~~~

    Suggestion: Keep expanding this and also provide in depth tutorials/walkthroughs for new users.

  • SEO: Metadata: Another standard feature that is missing is the ability to edit the metadata for each page. This is essential in order to be able to optimise the site for search engines and to compete with other sites in the same niche.

    Suggestion: Add the ability to edit SEO metadata, page titles and page thumbnails (including metadata for all web 2 platform schemas) to the site's admin area.

  • SEO: Page Text Content: It is standard and necessary to allow site operators to edit the text content on the pages of their site. This is needed to both help educate new/existing users and to cultivate a unique feeling for the site. There may be unique aspects which only apply to a specific community, such as rules or other requirements - these may need to be conveyed in various places. Additionally, websites MUST have unique text on them in order to prevent them from being penalised by search engines.

    Suggestion: Allow page content to be edited, either in the settings area for admins or at least somehow via configuration files exposed on the server. Often this is done by having one file for each language that can be edited by admins directly.

  • SEO: General considerations: There are several factors which I believe to be negatively influencing the SEO performance of most or even all Hive sites today. One of them is that when content is duplicated across numerous sites, it is common for Google and other indexers to penalise the sites in their ranking score. There are ways to mitigate this via directives set within the page metadata, but I do not think this is generally being done. If there are going to be large numbers of new Hive sites being created using this system - professionally optimising this is essential for growth and success. We might not like the big search engines, but they remain a primary way to drive traffic to valuable content.

    Suggestion: This requires a full audit and research to be able to ascertain the optimal setup to use for this situation. This needs to be done, ideally before the system is used on a large scale - in order to not negatively impact the domains that host these sites.


As always when it comes to me testing out sites, I found some bugs! I was once a professional tester and actually once got sacked for finding too many bugs and making the development team look bad - haha.

There's nothing wrong with finding problems in the code, there is probably no such thing as a perfect computer system. The problems come from ignoring them and not fixing them!

Here are a few bugs that I have found so far:

NOTE: I am testing using Firefox on Windows 10

  • Language/theme Glitch:

    I found that if I clicked the 'Create Post' button and changed the theme from day to night mode, I would get the following screen corruption. This also seems to involve the language selector too:

    Refreshing the page then loads the dark theme in, even though I had previously enabled the day theme. I then noticed that this actually appears to be a problem on all pages. Just choosing the day theme causes the CSS styling to break.

  • Profile layout glitches:

    If I view my own profile, I see a few obvious bugs. Including that my Hive reputation figure is displayed as 25, instead of the correct value. The profile URL is cut off and generally the text colours are not contrasting well with the background.

  • Wallet side menu layout broken:

    The name of my community is not particularly long, but it breaks the layout of the side menu on the wallet page. The CSS needs to be improved to accommodate the fact that some variables and text labels can be changed and will not render the same as they do on the original Ecency site.

  • 'Sign up with Hive' is Broken:

    The new user signup page has a button marked 'sign up with Hive' but it does nothing when I click it:


  • 'Unable to type space characters in dialogs:

    When editing the description, title, about and other fields in the 'edit setting's dialog, I am unable to type space character in Brave of Firefox.


This technology clearly has massive potential. Once we can enable anyone to easily use it and even to launch their own customisable tokens that can run through their own Hive powered site - Hive can really grow exponentially. Reaching this point will require substantial research, analysis, design, development, testing and optimisation.

In the short while that we have tested the breakaway community system, I have identified a wide variety of necessary improvements - many more than I have listed in this blog. In the coming days we will be focusing on this subject closely and preparing a report that includes detailed suggestions for significantly optimising this software. From there we will discuss the possibilities with the Ecency team and SPK team, plus @valueplan and others.

It has already been suggested that the development for this task should be funded via a DAO proposal, so we may look into collaborating on that.

We have little information on the development of this functionality for the 'Denser' app operated by the core Hive team, but our work should be equally useful to them too when developing their equivalent solution - so we would, of course, be happy to work in conjunction with them too - if requested to.

We are looking forward to helping to enhance this hugely important part of Hive's evolution!

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments, please let us know down below!

To our mutual success,
The @strategizer team!

Reminder: The @strategizer DHF proposal for market research funding is still active and as yet is not funded. Please consider reading/voting on it if you like this post.


If you're looking for a guinea pig community to test anything with, Scholar & Scribe has long been eager to create something like this. There's a regular stream of fiction coming into the community that could very well use some categorization, better sorting, a way for a mod account to "tag" things with small upvotes, etc.

You'll see some regular "feature" posts and contests, all which would be well-served by a nicer, custom frontend way of presenting them. We also have a pair of L2 tokens in the mix, but as stated managing those economies are a separate challenge, haha.

We used a breakaway a few years ago but never got far with it.

cc @dibblers.dabs (the community admin)

That's great to know, thanks! I think we are going to begin by using our own test communities that can be used and abused without interfering with anything or requiring outside collaboration. Ideally, we will need to work with real communities too at some point though, yes.

Hive Engine and their "Tribes" had this utility already and all Tribes fail to expand.

Why is that?

Hi, as mentioned, Hive Engine has had some of these featues for a long time. However, they charge very high fees to create such websites and then also fees for maintenance and new features. This puts them well out of the reach of the majority of potential users. Even projects that could afford them will think twice, due to the lack of proven success with such Hive Engine projects and the relative risk/benefit ratio.

It's also important to consider that The tribes all utilise a Layer 2 token, so they are more than just a Hive powered site. They are also a self contained token, which means that just like Hive and all other Layer 1 tokens, they need careful economic management in order to perform well. This kind of management is well outside the understanding of most people - and so it is not surprising that they do not thrive. As @crimsonclad has pointed out in recent threads, the majority of successful crypto projects make use of 'market maker' 'services' behind the scenes in order to manipulate their prices. This is something that is unlikely to take place on Hive Engine tokens - as far as I know, though I don't know all the details.

Looking at the list of Hive Engine tokens, the only ones with any meaningful trading volume that I can see are the Splinterlands related tokens, the swap tokens, LEO and a few others. These are primarily tokens operated by the more experienced tech and entrepreneurial teams on Hive. This reflects that successfully operating a token requires a substantial degree of background knowledge, time and focus.

Operating a breakaway community is not the same thing as operating an L2 token, though it would make sense for projects to attempt doing both in some cases.

If we look at the number of new websites that are created daily (something that I have experience of as someone who has run a web design/marketing company), we see that large numbers of 'normal', non crypto/hive, websites are created every day. The success rate of these sites is also very low - only a small % grow beyond a small size and have longevity. This shows us that, again, online growth of websites - like crypto tokens - requires dedication, skill and attention to detail. These markets are very competitive.

None the less, there are successful crypto projects and there are successful forum/community projects. Breakaway communities are a tool that anyone can use in order to enter the market to create either of these in new ways. However, as always, the success of any given project is down to the actions of the team behind it.

Digital marketing and online growth is a huge industry, with a wide array of tools available to assist it. There are many strategies for its optimization and some are far better than others! The best way I have found to navigate this problem is to apply the scientific method to the process by carrying out experiments using different strategies, based on research and that are carefully measured along the way. This is how the most successful large scale digital marketing projects that I have been involved with or have researched, tend to be run.

It is essential that if both Hive and L2 communities are to scale, that proper analysis, design and optimization is continually completed by competent people right throughout the process. This is generally not done for Hive projects from what I can tell and is part of why @strategizer proposes the DAO fund us to carry out such work for Hive as a whole. We would then be able to offer both generalized and specific advice for both Hive and its L2 projects that would boost performance across the board. We would also provide templates for projects to use themselves in future, as a reference for growth and strategy.

Successfully deploying L2 communities on Hive is a complex challenge that requires a variety of types of professional work to be completed, which relatively few people have experience in. This is part of why Steemit didn't launch their version of it, despite having a significant budget and a quite experienced team of technical people behind them. So we do not meant to suggest that doing this is a simple task, but it is also not one that is too hard to do, given the collective will and intent to fund the necessary work.

Hmm, the Break-Away Communities are supposed to get Tokens too :)

Very elaborate explanation, I give you my thanks.

No problem, it is a great question.

As far as we understand, the plan has been to introduce L2 token and reward pool features to breakaway communities all along, yes.

Almost every hive-engine token has a market maker, especially those that have a pool.
With 1200 BEE staked anyone can have a pair of market makers on the https://dswap.trade

Hi, ok, thanks - I was totally unaware of that. I will check it out.

This is awesome!

I remember SMT's. There was some guy with really nice hair promoting them, briefly, IIRC.

I look forward to finding out more about this as you turn them up.


Yes, it has since been proven that hair is a hindrance when it comes to L2 community development 8)

You are welcome!

I very much hope this can be developed further and turned into something... especially as another prong of a marketing approach.

After all, how do people actually use their online experience? The vast majority aren't here "in general," they are pursuing some interest or hobby. Few people will say simply that they are ON Facebook, they are part of an interest specific group or community.

Similarly, groups are a great way to reach new people because it allows you to say to a friend "come join my gardening group! (For example) rather than a generic "join Hive." It creates a sense of relevance, rather than just a sales pitch.

Of course, the all important thing here is having a sound value proposition, with most communities so far have failed at. And so, we see their associated tokens go to zero because the only reason to participate is to forever be selling that token as you earn it... and all supply and no demand equals zero.

Thanks for the walk through... never fond of ecency, but maybe that will change.

You are welcome! Yes, just enabling people to create their own communities in more exciting forms will help to solve the issue of where new users will go when they on-board to Hive. Some may immediately move to create a community or others may want to explore the many custom projects that others have already created.

Optimising the tokens for L2 projects will take some experimentation and teamwork, but is not too hard to do. The more experiments are run, the more that everyone can learn and evolve towards great things!

The funny thing is, we optimized communities for growth long before there was crypto, tokens and blockchain. People were given badges and special privileges as they gained influence and seniority, and there were contests that gamified the forum experience.

One of the things we work with/against here is that everyone is so busy worshiping at the Altar of Decentralization that the benefits of structure and leadership are completely thrown out the window, sometimes. We don't want anyone to be "in charge" of anything because — HORRORS! — that looks like centralization, (aka "the Boogeyman") with the grand outcome that... nothing tangible actually happens.

And yet... we have elected witnesses, but how much do those witnesses actually collaborate in a structured manner towards a greater whole?

Hi, I personally feel that there is massive scope for teamwork and working together in a system like Hive - which we are not typically seeing here from a lot of quarters. I think there are a few reasons for that, but one is that Hive inherently involves the accumulation and use of real world economic wealth and power. This is very different to forums of old, where the 'power' was just in the form of mostly meaningless points systems.

As a result of this, there are deeply ingrained psychological issues which surface in some people that would not do so otherwise. The project also attracts some people who are perhaps more 'personal wealth' oriented than they are oriented towards group goals. For example, without the money aspect people might work together for a shared goal, but due to perceived 'political differences' they won't work together on Hive (to avoid financially empowering someone they perceive as an ideological opponent). This can be mostly overcome by creating custom rewards pools that are for niche groups, who can then work together and grow with less resistance. Hive is too general for this at present it seems.

The other aspect that money brings to a decentralised online community is that the growth tends to require a certain amount of hard work, which people tend to not want to put in if they themselves will not benefit to a degree that they find acceptable - especially if other people (larger token holders) are benefiting more than them, even without doing anything at all. People generally don't mind 'being in charge' of something, if they feel the situation is balanced and generally, in an anarcho-capitalist oriented reality, that means them running their own business or similar.

Hive is not entirely anarcho-capitalist in sentiment or design and the DHF is a key tool we have to shape Hive in unique ways which deviate and which open up the potentials for variation of experience. However, at present, the DHF is not really being used optimally in that direction, simultaneously in ways that can cause substantial growth IMO.

This looks great, as a new Hive user I am more surprised every day by this wonderful ecosystem.

Thanks, welcome to hive!

Yes yes yes! 👏👏👏

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