How to use your witness votes the most effectively (and why you have been doing it wrong)

Voting for witnesses is a quite complex issue. Witnesses are rewarded for their contribution to keep the network secure. There are 20 top witnesses, and many more so-called backup witnesses.
While the former receive a fixed amount every 21 blocks, the latter get paid depending on the votes they received.


Now what's the best strategy to cast your own votes?
Of course it's important that you have a certain amount of trust in the person you vote for. No one witness can harm the chain by himself, but collusion might be possible.
Sometimes it might be interesting to check if they have a stake in the platform or keep their HP to a minimum. Someone who doesn't have anything to lose if things to sideways might be willing to give up on certain principles for gain.
And it's probably worth something to encourage people who provide dev work, infrastructure, support and so on.

But in my opinon, those should all be secondary thoughts.
It's a bit counterintuitive, but as soon as I'm finished explaining you will understand.

When voting for witnesses, scroll all the way down and start at the bottom of the list

This way you help with decentralization, support witnesses who might run at a loss at the moment, encourage further engagement for the good of the whole chain, and your vote has the most impact.

All top 20 witnesses are greatful for your vote as a sign of appreciation. Some even seem to live off that clout as they just can't stop asking around to get higher up the list. But the simple truth is, once someone is in the top 20 it doesn't matter any more. Their earnings are the same. While in the bottom ranks people lose money because dead witnesses have more votes than them.

There are two exceptions to this:
To support someone in the lower area of the top 20 if you think they should stay there (hint, I'm right there at 20 right now), and when a governance attack occurs. In that case it makes sense to bundle votes on the top, so the attacker needs more funds to override that. But there are no signs for that threat to occur in the near future.

It doesn't hurt to leave some votes on the upper ranks when you don't have the will or time to investigate all the available witnesses and still think it's somehow necessary, but it's better for everyone involved when the tail gets more support!

If you agree with that point of view but are really lazy, you can set me as a voting proxy. All my votes go to backup witnesses (except for one to keep myself up right now).

What do you think about that point of view? How have you been deciding on who to vote before, and will you overthink that approach now? I'm curious to hear from you in the comments!

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