How do I know which validators to choose? Print
Modified on: Thu, 24 Feb, 2022 at 1:25 AM
If you're wondering how to stake on Polkadot, this article has important information on how to decide which validators to pick.
The following information is specific to nominating on Polkadot-JS UI.
It is important to do your own research before nominating as there is a risk (of slashing) if your validators misbehave.
The Targets tab in the Staking section of Polkadot-JS UI gives the following information on all the validators and also allows you to nominate from this page.
This article points out some things to consider when choosing your validators. If you want to dive a bit more into the topic, we suggest reading this blog post from our research team.
Best Practices for Nominating: Points to consider
1. Choose more than one validator
As long as at least one of the validators you nominate is elected by the election algorithm to be in the active set, you will nominate them with your full stake. However, there is a risk of getting no rewards if you nominate very few validator candidates and none of them are chosen. Therefore, it is safer to choose as many trustworthy validators as you can (up to 16 on Polkadot and up to 24 on Kusama).
2. Check if the validator has verified their identity
Clicking on the validator’s name (in the Staking Overview or on the Targets page) will give a pop-up with their identity details, if they have set an on-chain identity. Since it is a decentralized system, not all validators have verified their identity with a registrar on Polkadot. Validators with a verified identity are marked by a green icon (with a checkmark or chain) next to their name. This affirms that their information – including Twitter address, email, or website – has been confirmed.
To see only the list of validators with an on-chain identity, activate the “only with an identity” button in the top right of the screen.
If validators are on this list but they have a grey icon, it means they have set an on-chain identity but the information hasn't been verified by a Polkadot registrar.
3. Be aware of the “most profitable” option.
The targets tab provides a “most profitable” button. Clicking on this will automatically select the currently most profitable validators. To accept this suggestion, simply click on the “Nominate selected” button and afterward “Nominate”.
Although it may be enticing to select based only on this criterion, this choice may not be the best one. You need to make sure you're choosing good validators by taking into consideration the other factors in this guide and video.
4. Pay attention to the quoted commission
Block rewards are shared with nominators, but the validators set the commission that they take out for their costs before profits are given out. This rate can vary greatly.
Be aware, if you nominate a validator with 100% commission, you will get NO rewards. (These validators are not looking for nominators!) Also, commissions can change, so it is recommended to keep an eye on who you are nominating while you are staking. The current commission rates are given under the “commission” column.
You can hide validators with commission higher than 20%, if you enable the "no 20%+ comm" button.
Selecting validators with 0% may also be enticing, but make sure that the validator isn't cutting on infrastructure costs to make up for this 0% commission. It's usually better to choose validators with higher commission if you trust them more, and the impact of the commission on the rewards is pretty small after all.
5. Make sure the validator is not oversubscribed
Only the top 256 nominators for a specific validator get paid. (This number was previously 64 and 128 which you may still hear mentioned in tutorial videos.) The scale icon highlights validators that are over this limit. These are still active, and if you choose them you may actively support them in an era, but if you're below the 256 cutoff you won't receive rewards.
It's also a good idea to avoid validators with a high number of nominators, even if they're not oversubscribed, because they may get oversubscribed in a following era.
You can hide oversubscribed validators if you enable the "no at capacity" button. However, note that this will hide validators that are subscribed in this era.
Note: Nominating on Polkadot is an active role. If you just "set it and forget it" you may stop earning rewards if you don't notice that some of your validators became oversubscribed.
To make sure you're not losing out on rewards, keep checking your validators and choose new ones if necessary. To check whether you are nominating an oversubscribed validator, see here.
6. See how much “skin in the game” the validator has
The “own stake” column shows how many of their own DOT tokens the validator has put up as a stake and the “total stake” column shows how much your stake will count towards them.
Keep in mind though, that validators with low "self stake" doesn't necessarily mean they don't have "skin in the game". Usually these validators nominate themselves from other accounts, so they do run a risk of losing their own funds if they get slashed.
7. Get some background details
Information, such as the era points, elected stake, rewards & slashes can be found by clicking the graph icon on the far right of each validator.
Tip: When you have decided on your validators, check the stars (left) next to those you want to support on the Targets page to add them to your favorites. This will bring them to the top of the list of validators. To nominate them, check the box at the far right. When you have made your selection, click “Nominate selected” (top right) and follow the nomination process.
The following video gives further points to consider, explaining how the basic system of staking in Polkadot works, and how to balance risk and rewards when choosing a validator.
Check online and join the community
Many Polkadot validators also publish YouTube videos or guides to staking on Medium to boost their reputation and attract nominators.
Further information on nominating can be found in the Polkadot Wiki.
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