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Messages - Dread Pirate Roberts

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Silk Road discussion / Forbes interviews Dread Pirate Roberts
« on: August 14, 2013, 04:02 pm »
UPDATE: The full interview can be found here:

Hash: SHA1

As mentioned in this thread (https://dkn255hz262ypmii.onion.to/index.php?topic=199579.0), I have done an interview with Forbes magazine's Andy Greenberg.  Andy had always treated me with the utmost respect and I felt comfortable trusting him with an interview.  I'm reading the article now, so hopefully that was a good call.  I'm here to answer any questions you have as best I can.

Here is a link to it:


Version: GnuPG v2.0.17 (MingW32)


Silk Road discussion / unannounced down-time, August 13th 2013
« on: August 13, 2013, 04:36 pm »
Sorry about the outage.  Looking into it now and hopefully will be able to prevent anything like that in the future.

Silk Road discussion / Re: publicity forewarning
« on: August 12, 2013, 06:19 pm »
I know boss but come on, at least tell us this new information about yourself. If it's going to become public knowledge in 2 days time, why not a least make us feel like we are exclusive ? we are after all your  customers, and give us the head start, this information will go out and then the new influx of members will come, and we will be forgotten. Do we not get a titbit for being loyal up to now?
I don't understand why you can't just tell us here and now, and at least humor us? Make us feel like we are a bit special.

I thought I was giving you special treatment by starting this thread in the first place!  I've told a few very close to me exactly what's going down and they don't think its going to be all that controversial anyway.  I hope you can stand the anticipation just a little longer :)

Silk Road discussion / Re: feedback system overhaul
« on: August 11, 2013, 05:11 pm »
ok, a couple of thoughts I'd like bring up...

This idea of decoupling feedback from the transaction is interesting.  Right now, when a transaction is completed, a big box shows up on the order page with a 1 - 5 and message field, so just about everyone fills it out in order to remove it from their page.  They could wait as long as they like to fill it out, but many fill it out as soon as it's available, even if they haven't tested their product.  So, what if we removed the message field and left just the 1 - 5, and instead put a link to "review this item" and "review this vendor" on the vendor and item pages.  Instead of a stream of little comments, you'd get reviews left only by people who really want to leave the review.  This, I think, would be enough to hide the true volume of any given vendor as many customers are fine leaving a 1-5 rating and not a message.

Another suggestion I really liked was being able to sort the feedback.  Some sorting options might be "newest" and "buyer weight".

Also, I think some of you misinterpreted the OP, thinking that I want to roll up everything about a buyer into a single score and hide the rest.  This is quite the opposite.  I'd like to make the buyer stats easily accessible so you can judge the review according to your own tastes.  The six dimensions I listed were the only ones I could think of that might be important to someone judging another's review.  I could pose the question differently... What information about the transaction and buyer would you like to see next to a review?

Silk Road discussion / Re: feedback system overhaul
« on: August 11, 2013, 04:48 pm »
thank you everyone for your input.  It's helping me get a sense of what's important to you when it comes to feedback.

Silk Road discussion / Re: feedback system overhaul
« on: August 11, 2013, 02:25 am »
How about implementing a feature that shows how many times a customer took something to resolution and how many times they won or lost? That would deter scammers and help vendors decide who they'd like to do business with in the future.

not a bad idea, but it is out of scope.  please start a thread in the feature request board if you want to discuss this.

Silk Road discussion / Re: feedback system overhaul
« on: August 11, 2013, 02:00 am »
This is great!  Your feedback and attention is energizing the development process.  If this goes well, and I hope it does, we may make this a regular practice :)

Silk Road discussion / Re: feedback system overhaul
« on: August 11, 2013, 01:46 am »
Major search engines such as Google have a similar type of problem when deciding how to rank search engine results. To prevent users manipulating the system they make minor changes to their ranking algorithm(s) on a regular (daily?) basis, and periodically they have a major shake up. Perhaps the new code could be written with this in mind?

That's a great analogy and the main reason we are doing this.  It's become too easy to game the system and it's time for a shake up that will make it that much harder to do so.  Thinking of google, they've added in factors to their search rank that make it harder and harder to game, things like how a user interacts with the site, how many high quality sites link to the site, etc.

Silk Road discussion / Re: feedback system overhaul
« on: August 11, 2013, 01:11 am »
I'm definitely on board with the new ideas for displaying feedback. I hate going through pages of useless feedback like "good shit", "5/5", "thanks" and such. If there was a way to see what I consider "valuable" feedback prioritized over the others it would make the decision process much easier.

One thing to consider with your system detailed above is that vendors who pad their feedback might have a reputable buyer account with a good amount of money spent - we don't want their padded feedback always being shown amongst the "top reviews".  Some vendors may be able to gain an unfair advantage with such a system.

Also, another risk when listing the "top reviews" rather than the most recent ones is that when a vendor experiences problems, buyers may not be made aware of such issues since they will not be seeing the most recent feedback but rather the "best" feedback. Viewing recent feedback allows you to make sure the vendor is still on their toes, rather than the fact that they were once in the past.

I think the changes I've outlined will make feedback padding that much harder.  Right now all a vendor has to do is sell a one cent item to themselves and bang, their review is at the top.  If they have to build up a solid rep in order to get their reviews toward the top, it is that much harder, and if we identify fraud, then we can kill the buyer account and force them to start all over.

Regarding timely updates of a vendor's performance, I have an idea for this, but I don't want to put out too much at once.

Silk Road discussion / Re: feedback system overhaul
« on: August 11, 2013, 12:52 am »
How about customer feedback while you're at it? :D

heh, this is exactly why it's not advisable to do what I'm doing.  It opens the door for everyone to bring up their favorite feature request.  An important part of the development process is scoping, keeping the scope and complexity of the update as small as possible.  So in the interest of staying focused, please keep the conversation limited to what I bring up.

Silk Road discussion / feedback system overhaul
« on: August 11, 2013, 12:39 am »
UPDATE (08/18/2013 2213 UTC):  Wow!  So much feedback and ideas for ratings.  I think this will be a major focus for a while until we can really flesh everything out so both vendors and buyers can have all of the information and tools they need to decide who they want to work with.  At this point, there are so many things to do, we have to start thinking about what order to do things in and how to transition.  Everyone responds to change either positively or negatively, and I'll keep doing my best to keep the negative to a minimum.

An idea I had not yet mentioned, but want to implement is moving discussion to the main site.  What I am thinking is that there will be a "discuss" link on every vendor page, item page, and even the category pages.  This link will go to a thread with the latest posts about the vendor, item, or category.  I'm thinking we'll require a minimum spent of maybe 1 btc to post.  Each post will include the user's account age, total purchased, number of transactions, and number of vendors they've bought from.  For the item and vendor pages, we can display whether the user has bought that item or purchased from that vendor, and we'll highlight posts from the vendor themselves when they post on their own thread or a thread of one of their items.  I'll want to enforce a strong policy of courteous conduct and will have a link for you to flag posts for admin review, and we'll give admins the ability to suspend posting privileges.  Also, we'll want you to have the option to post anonymously, so I think we'll put a "discussion name" field on the settings page, so you don't have to post under your account name.

My hope is that this feature will fill in any unexpected gaps that might be created by changes in the rating system, so at worst, free and open discussion between buyers and sellers can be looked to when making decisions.

UPDATE (2028 UTC): Ok, I've rolled out the first set of major changes.  We've done away with the percent based rating score entirely and are now displaying the ratings as a bar chart that shows the relative weight of each rating category (1 through 5) and a total average.  This chart shows up next to each listing when browsing, and on the vendors page.  I outlined the change to the vendor, buyer, and rating weights, but will put it here again:

The rating algorithm has been changed to the following:
A vendor's score, which determines their rank and factors into the weight of buyers, is found by adding up all of their sales with each sale multiplied by a factor that starts at 100% now and tapers off to 0% after 8 months.
A buyer's score, which affects how heavily their feedback is weighted when determining a vendor's rating (not rank), is found by multiplying the price of their purchases by the vendor score of the vendor they purchased from, and then adding them all together
A rating/review's score, which determines it's weight when averaging with other ratings, is found by multiplying the buyer weight of the buyer leaving the rating, the volume of the purchase, and the same dampening factor used for the vendor's score.


Normal protocol dictates that updates don't get talked about until they are ready for release.  This is because if they get delayed or put on the backburner everyone won't be disappointed and the less info that is released the better in general.  It also keeps the developers unconstrained as they work on the update.  I want to try a different approach for an update we are working on.  I want to include the community in the process, get feedback as we go, and pull back the curtain just a little bit.

The update we are working on is an overhaul to the feedback, rating and ranking system.  The current system has been in place for a long time and served us well, but I believe we can learn from how it has performed over the past couple of years and make some much needed improvements.  This system is integral to the proper functioning of Silk Road and affects everyone, which is partly why I want to make this development process public so I don't overlook it's affect on all of the various people involved.

So, here's what we have so far...

I want to rework how both buyers and vendors are rated.  We've identified 6 critical dimensions that I think affect how SR users should be judged.  They are:

buyer weight
   total amount spent
   total purchases
   number of vendors purchased from
   purchase distribution across vendors
   weight of vendors purchased from
   account age

vendor weight
   total sales volume
   total orders processed
   total number of customers
   sales distribution across customers
   weight of customers serviced
   account age

Some of these are self-explanatory, but I'll go through the ones that may not be.

"Purchase distribution across vendors" is a measure of how evenly distributed a buyers purchases are across the vendors they have purchased from.  Let's say two users have spent $1000 on 10 items from 5 different vendors.  If one of them bought 2 items from each of the 5 vendors and spent $100 on each item and the other bought 6 items from one vendor and 1 from the other 4 and spent $900 at one vendor, I think we should judge these two buyers differently.  I think the feedback from the one with an even distribution is more valuable, all else being equal.  The same is true for a vendor looking at "sales distribution across customers".  If most of a vendors sales are to just a few customers, this is not as impressive at a vendor who has good feedback across a large distribution of customers.

"weight of vendors purchased from" and "weight of customers serviced" is a kind of feedback loop connecting the weights of both vendors and buyers.  Basically with a vendor who has serviced buyers with a high weight as measured across the 6 dimensions defined above, we should weight them more highly than a vendor who has only serviced low weight buyers.  Conversely buyers who've made purchases from high weight vendors should be weighted more highly themselves.

I think the other 4 dimensions are self-evident.  Part of what must be considered is how much to emphasize the 6 dimensions relative to one another, and how to weight high values in each dimension relative to low values in the same dimension.  So for example, how much should account age influence a buyer's weight compared to how much they've spent?  Should a user who has been around for a year and spent $1000 be weighted higher or lower than a user that has been around one month and spent $5000?  Looking at a single dimension, should a vendor who has completed 100 transactions be weighted twice as much as a vendor who's completed 50, or more, or less?

These are questions that are hard to answer without looking at past data and experimenting with different settings and seeing how they affect things.  This is something we'll be doing and sharing with you in this thread.

Another thing I'd like to change is how feedback is displayed on vendor and item pages.  Right now it just shows up as it is left in a continuous stream of feedback.  Instead I'd like to push the higher quality reviews to the top and filter out the low quality ones.  There are a few dimensions I can think of to judge the quality of a review:

buyer weight (as defined above)
amount spent on the purchase
age of feedback
length of review (just thought of this one.  not too long not too short?)

Looking at it this way, recent feedback from high quality buyers who've spent good money will be seen first.  With the age factor included, no one feedback will stick around forever even if a very high quality buyer spent a lot of money.  This will also have the added benefit of obscuring how much business a particular vendor is doing.  As it is, one can simply count the feedback being left and get a good estimate of how many sales a vendor is doing.

There are a couple of other changes I have in mind, but this post is already getting long and complex, so let's leave it at that.  I look forward to your hearing your feedback.

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Silk Road discussion / publicity forewarning
« on: August 09, 2013, 11:32 pm »

I'd like forewarn everyone that in about 5 days an article will be published that is likely to generate a lot of buzz around Silk Road and attract new people to the site.  New information about me, the site and many things will be discussed and I have no doubt that it will produce some controversy.  I will be available to answer your questions here on the forums, and hopefully we'll have a fruitful discussion.



Silk Road discussion / Re: The fate of BlueGiraffe
« on: August 09, 2013, 06:30 pm »
I made the following edit to the OP:

"As is always the danger when data is retained, the data was leaked when the list of addresses was sent in clear text over tormail (edit: the addresses were sent with weak encryption, not in the clear)."

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