SocialRank The Next Quechup? – Stinking Splog Or Long Tail Meme Tracker?

It is interesting how your perception of new technology can vastly depend on how you have interacted with them, and how the developers have responded.
Unfortunately in the case of the recently launched niche tracking startup, “rank” has multiple definitions, including one items position related to another based upon a particular rating, or a rather offensive smell.

At its core, my first impression of SocialRank niche websites was that it was little more than a WordPress splog scraping my content based upon keywords used and giving some kind of relevant or irrelevant ranking based upon some internal algorithm.

It is still my content appearing on a 3rd party site, in the same way as one of the millions of kubrik themed sites that just grab keyword based feeds from Technorati.

As I have said in the past, I license my content as GPL, so am quite happy for people to repurpose it, and hopefully if they provide a link a little traffic finds it’s way back to my site.

There is however one thing I absolutely detest

Don’t Use Pingback / Trackback When Syndicating / Splogging My Content

If you site contains no original content, if you are not entering the “blogging conversation”, I don’t want you to spam the hell out of me with trackbacks and pingbacks.
I sent an email to SocialRank to switch off the pinging, the pinging continued with my email box full of ping notifications. All I received in response to my email was an invite to their beta.

Would you join the beta of a company effectively hiting you with trackback/pingback spam?

I don’t see them anymore, I have told Spam Karma to blacklist them just like any of the other splogs.

On the other hand I read today an interview Ben did with SocialRank.

This seems similar to the Quechup debacle at the beginning of last month where an over enthusiastic viral referral system effectively destroyed the social network before it gained any traction. The first page of results in Google only mention negative things about Quechup – I assume they rebranded.

I never accepted an invite to Quechup, but I assume within the terms and conditions somewhere they gave some notification that when you provide your friend’s details, they would automatically send email invites. Thus the emails probably weren’t spam, and looking back through the few emails I received, were not to my knowledge in any way illegal, with a clear opt-out option, company details, a nice link through to a company privacy policy etc. In fact iDate who own Quechup issued a press release 2 weeks ago explaining the changes made to the feature to stop people making mistakes when inviting people.

I think the problem comes with people so used to how Facebook and LinkedIn have implemented these in my opinion quite dangerous address book sharing features, they assume every site works the same way, even if the other site actually had a similar but different feature well before LinkedIn and Facebook. The iDate press release mentions having this feature since 2005.

With SocialRank it is different. They are the ones filling my email box with pingback after pingback proclaiming that they scraped my content.

I don’t regard them as a stinking splog, they are still linking back to the original source with a followable link, but currently they are more annoying than Quechup invites just 1 month ago.

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  1. says

    Andy – this is Vishen from SocialRank. Sorry about the Pingbacks.

    We certainly did not mean it. It’s nightime here but I’ll be talking to my developers at dawn and we’ll be updating our strategy and getting back to you tomorrow.

    Yes, our SocialRank sites are powered by WordPress (hence the pingbacks). But we are not scraping your content.

    We display only the title and first 3 lines of your post and we don’t even allow comments on our site but instead force our visitors to comment on your own blog.

    Our goal is to organize the world’s blog posts. But I guess we did screw up with the pinging thing. I will let you know how we will fix this tomorrow.

    • says

      It isn’t a technical problem, as anyone with any WordPress knowledge can just

      • log in
      • go to options
      • go to discussion
      • switch off “Attempt to notify any Weblogs linked to from the article (slows down posting.)”

      I am quite well known to be “splog tolerant” but I assure you that many people regard any blog that is republishing excerpts of their content in some automated fashion as a splog, especially if there is any form of monetization on the site.

      I am not worried about it, only the pingbacks were a problem, but dont expect that position to be taken by others, especially if they have been very hard on people republishing highly niched content to fairly default WordPress installations.

  2. says

    Andy – as a quick note, I didn’t know the pingbacks/trackbacks would start flying. They don’t bother me that much, I guess I’m easygoing.

    I like the ideas behind aggregating content, and trying to find a way to have the best content bubble to the top. We’re all facing attention overload, and if I can go to 1 site and see the most relevant news on knitting (because I love knitting!) so be it.

    On the flip side, I didn’t evaluate SocialRank that extensively, because they just launched and there’s nothing significant to evaluate…

  3. says

    Hi Andy,

    Thanks for the feedback. We are still working out a few kinks in the system and if the overall feedback is that we should turn the pingbacks off, then we will most certainly do so. Our goal with SocialRank is to provide a great service by helping to make it far faster and easier to discover great content online.


  4. says

    Andy – thanks for helping us avert a potential PR disaster. We made a decision to turn off pingbacks on all 30 sites.

    Appreciate it and my apologies again. If you’re interested in doing a more in depth scoop on SocialRank,do let me know and we’re open to answering any questions.

  5. says

    I covered this myself this morning. I hadnt read your post Andy or I would have linked to it.

    I do have been very annoyed with these sites.

    I dont see how you can switch off your pingbacks, with plans for 1000 sites like these, unless you switch on pingbacks you are not going to make any model. Your business model, if I can call it that, is based on getting links from thousands of established blogs via pingbacks which you can then make money on via adsense.

    Ben – I’ve read your blog a few times in the past and you have written some great posts. However in this case I think you should have looked more into the sites as it was the premise of the whole interview :):)

  6. says

    Kevin – I won’t speak for SocialRank in this case, but I don’t think their business model is to generate lots of traffic through pingbacks. As they’ve said, they’re turning them off. Let’s see if they do that and what happens.

    If that’s their model, I think it’s flawed, simply because you won’t get enough people clicking on the trackbacks from blog posts to the SocialRank sites. My guess is that they’re going to do a lot more in terms of marketing & generating buzz to build traffic.

    Now, it seems like they’ve started off on the wrong foot, but I still think the principles behind aggregating content – like TechMeme – are valid.

    The interview was done BEFORE they launched and all the pingbacks started hitting. So that’s my defense for not knowing about that *chuckle* Having said that, they don’t bother me that much. I guess I’m easygoing. *smile*

    I also want to make it clear – SocialRank didn’t pay me to do the interview, and I have no vested interest in them. I thought it was a cool idea, since so many people struggle with all the content out there, and the lack of attention they can give things. I thought my readers would enjoy learning about SocialRank, nothing more.

  7. says

    Never suggested you were paid for the interview, hope thats not what you thought I said :)

    The company is going to launch 1000 sites. Each site sends pingbacks to 15 blogs daily…over the course of a few weeks or months its a lot of traffic.

    Have you had a look at the design of the sites. There are as many adsense ads as there links to blogs etc. How can he expect to drive traffic to 1000 sites like that without using pingbacks. It just isnt feasible.

    These are ‘Made for adsense’ sites.

    If the site was on one domain and didnt send pingbacks then I believe it could prove popular however sending pingbacks to thousands of blogs is nothing short of spamming

  8. says

    Kevin – I know you weren’t suggesting I got paid, just wanted to make that clear. I’m coming to their defense, to a certain degree, only because I don’t think they’re a nefarious bunch of cheating bastards…

    Almost every new site/blog that launches starts with AdSense. And plenty of people make lots of money with AdSense, who many of us track, read and respect. I think about the dating site PlentyOfFish which earns millions a year in AdSense revenue. That guy is a genius.

    Personally, I’m not a fan of AdSense, and I don’t use it on Instigator Blog (although I use to awhile ago)…

    I would suspect over time, as they increase traffic, they would replace AdSense with better advertising options – like folks at b5media have done in many cases, ProBlogger, etc.

    If they turn off pingbacks would that solve the problem? Cause I get the impression they will be doing that based on their comments left here and elsewhere.

    With respect to the design, I don’t know if they plan on changing it, customizing it more per site, etc. No clue. But for myself, I don’t really care if they all look the same. And it makes sense: they’re an aggregator, like TechMeme, so looking “bland” seems reasonable to me.

  9. says

    A friend of mine got stung pretty badly by Quechup. He had his professional contacts (including recruiters and clients) in his contact list along with friends, and had to do a lot of damage control.

    I couldn’t find anything on their site mentioning the automatic invitations. It must have been buried somewhere. Personally, I have to be using a site for quite some time before I’ll let it into my address book.

  10. says

    “Don’t Use Pingback / Trackback When Syndicating / Splogging My Content”

    Spooky. I just ranted the same thing in a BlogCatalog thread on spamments. This really annoys me. My readers don’t need a link to read the fist paragraph of the post they’ve just read.

  11. says

    I like what I see here. The spirit with which a genuine criticism has been handled from the source, from a reviewer and a user all point out the power of blogging if done in the right spirit. I compliment Andy,Vishen, Ben and kevin for their comments.

  12. says

    Thanks so much for this article. My knitting blog is actually one of the blogs being quoted on their knitting-niche site, and I’m torn about the way I feel about this. I’m grateful that they don’t steal the entire content and that they provide a link to my actual blog, so they’re giving credit, but it still feels odd that my content is being used elsewhere. At least my mailbox hasn’t been bombarded with pingbacks!

  13. says

    I’d have to say that you are an entertaining writer. Your stuff is fun to read. I like the words that I don’t understand. Instead of seeking their meaning by opening up my dictionary or searching define:kubrik at Google, I just moved down to this comment field and started writing. In conclusion, I like the spirit of your website. Get ‘er done, my time is too valuable.