Sphinn All Unsphunn

I had intended my next post to be a small tribute to the great articles that have been selected as finalists for this year’s Semmys, with links to all the finalists and a subtle link through to the SEO category where one of my articles was selected as a finalist.

2008 SEMMY FinalistBut that would be gaming the system based upon whatever level of popularity I have achieved within the Online Marketing community and it seems that popularity of whatever kind isn’t necessarily a good thing, because the masses or individuals start accusing you of gaming the system for your own benefit.

So I have just deleted an article I spent 2 or 3 hours writing yesterday…

Instead I am going to cover something possibly a little more controversial, that has been gnawing at me for a number of months.

I Am Hanging Up The Towel @ Sphinn

The reason I am writing this post is to inform my readers as to the reasons why a Sphinn button will no longer be on this blog, and also why even if you submit my content there, I am not going to respond to any comments that might occur on Sphinn.

Parallels will no doubt be drawn with the recent Digg fiasco

I suppose the difference is that I really am hanging up the towel rather than creating a storm in a teacup

This is between me and my readers, so I would actually prefer this not to be submitted to social media sites and for no one to link to it.

This isn’t linkbait or an attempt to make changes – the writing has been on the wall for a while already.

The Sphinn Launch

Sphinn has now been around for 6 months, so I don’t think this is too early to pass my personal judgement.

When Launched, Sphinn was described as “Sphinn: Our Social Site For Search & Internet Marketing Professionals

I first wrote about Sphinn 6 months ago, almost to the day, and my emphasis was on attention, market segmentation and building bridges within the industry.

In my personal opinion, Sphinn has totally and utterly failed to achieve that, and in some ways it has helped widening the gap between different online marketing professionals.

I would even question the word “professional” because some of the defamatory remarks I have read and bitten my tongue over have certainly not been professional conduct.

Anti-Internet Marketing Sentiment

Sphinn Logo

Whilst the Sphinn logo proclaims Sphinn as a site suitable to submit “Internet marketing” related content, and as such Internet Marketers in general, not just the audience catered for by Search Engine Land would or at least should feel welcome.

I am not going to list specific examples as I am not trying to convince anyone, but at times, in fact with increasing frequency I have felt insulted in much the same way SEOs get insulted by people claiming that they don’t like 95% of SEO Experts, or that they are all Snake Oil Salesman.

Some people might look on me as an SEO Expert, I feel I just question preconceived ideas and a lot of what I write is just writing down my thought process. At heart, I am an “Internet Marketer”, and an “Affiliate Marketer”.

I would love for the divisions in the industry to somehow be bridged, but that isn’t going to happen on Sphinn.

Social Bias

It is interesting how many articles on Sphinn proclaim the advantages of getting involved with the community, making yourself visible with an avatar for personal branding, gaining a reputation for submitting only good content and various other social media strategies.

Unfortunately, unless you have some kind of special commercial immunity, if user popularity begins to have a noticeable effect on which submissions appear on the front page, no matter how large your contribution to a particular social media site, a negative reaction can take place.

You could liken this to:-

  • Don’t Make Google Look Stupid
  • Don’t Make Digg Look Stupid
  • Don’t Make Sphinn Look Stupid

It doesn’t matter whether you are doing anything wrong, it is the perception that something is underhand, or you are gaining some kind of edge that creates an imbalance.

The Evil Green Monkey highlighted this perfectly on Sphinn

Evil Green Monkey

You won’t be able to read this comment online, the story is still hidden in moderation, but the tone makes me livid

It isn’t a full comment, I happened to still have the global comments page open in a tab that hadn’t been refreshed when I noticed the post had been pulled. The comment continued on to mention something about the post being reviewed by moderators.

There is actually a bug in Sphinn, even when a post is manually moderated, it still appears on the list of posts that you have sphunn, so I was able to grab this screenshot.

Maki Submitted the post

Maki submitting a post to sphinn is never a guarantee that it is going to reach the front page. In fact Maki has the lowest “hot” percentage within the top 15 Sphinn users.

You can certainly draw parallels with Digg, top users do dominate the front page on Sphinn, but it is generally because they are more active and submit more content.
I have multiple screenshots where I have had 6 of the 30 front page stories being ones I have submitted, and I have seen the same from Maki – that doesn’t mean that everything we submit goes hot.

It could also be attributed to the story being from my domain – I have been promoting Sphinn fairly heavily among my readers, and I display a Sphinn button on every post by default. I have a “cultivated” Sphinn audience, and many are very active Sphinners – it is possible you now get penalised for that, unless it would in some way upset the existing social fabric of Search Engine Marketing.

The story itself wasn’t promoted through any other channels, I hadn’t been on instant messenger for a couple of weeks due to connection difficulties, I didn’t mention it on Twitter or Pownce, and as far as I am aware Maki didn’t either.

I should point out I haven’t discussed this post with Maki, and in fact the only communication I had with Maki regarding the post was on Sphinn, when I questioned the category choice – I think the last time I discussed any form of social media submission with Maki was during the October PageRank update/drama/scandal when Maki offered to submit my first “Digg Favorites” post to Digg – it got buried at 70 votes, but still received 140 Diggs that day.

At least when Digg buries a story the submission and comments are still available. You will notice on the screenshot that there are 6 comments. the comment order was me, maki, me, evilgreenmonkey

I have no idea who the remaining 2 comments were from, but I will never have a chance to read them.

I wasn’t informed about the submission being removed, but then why would I? I wasn’t the one who submitted the post to Sphinn in the first place.

Commercial Bias

The post in question was my offer to provide exclusive content for membership sites. It is commercial, but at the same time I believe it also raises some interesting questions, suggests a way to monetize your status as an “authority blogger” in a way not often discussed, and I even included a teaser at the end that I know at least one very smart person worked out.

Sphinn already had some level of commercial bias that I had recently challenged, though it seemed things had been cleared up.

Unfortunately excluding my story based upon the current Sphinn rules or even what was discussed in that thread falls down on almost every front.

  1. The submitter is the top user on Sphinn
  2. The article was written by a regular Sphinn contributor
  3. The article had some value other than the commercial message
  4. Other regular Sphinn users or “Sphinn friends” who have released products, or are promoting a new service get Sphunn all the time, reaching the front page and staying there without any negative comments. It is looked on as News which just happens to be included right next to “Internet Marketing” in the Sphinn Logo
  5. The story had only 10 votes by the time I went to bed in the early hours of the morning here in Europe – it was already on the 3rd page of new submissions – 6 hours later it was on the front page – those votes probably didn’t come from Sphinn, or some kind of gaming, they came from my subscribers
  6. I saw who voted for the story a while before it was pulled, when it was on about 23 or 24 votes – there were no ugly green default icons among the voters, in fact most of the votes came from very active Sphinn members including at least one moderator
  7. The people who I actively talk to on instant messenger, e.g. some of the guys on Collective Thoughts, actually hadn’t voted for the story. Some had, Shana, Tad and Glen, but no votes from Tim, Brian, Marty or Mark, and Rose hasn’t been around for a while. I should note also that Shana, Tad, Marty and Glen are less frequently on IM

It is also quite possible that many people read the original post made by EvilGreenMonkey and thought they were now expected to flag every post with some level of commercial intent as spam, without following up on the remainder of the comments. A separate retraction of that statement, or a change in the rules was not made.

At the end of the day, I honestly can’t see any substantial difference between the post I have somehow had moderated, and say this one, Jim launching Internet Marketing Ninjas – one of many recent examples, but I chose it because it is the closest match being an information product launch. I voted for that one too, because I found the post entertaining, and it added a little bit to the sales letter, with some useful social proof.

Comments

I love comments on blogs, I hate when the most important discussions happen on social media and social news sites. Following comments on Sphinn isn’t an efficient use of my time, and to be honest, in many ways is harmful to the conversation as it can’t be seen by all users.

Target Audience

Having evaluated Sphinn over the last 6 months, I have come to the conclusion that Sphinn is not my target audience. In many ways it is an “unfriendly environment” for many of my target audience, thus encouraging my readers to use Sphinn isn’t proactive.

The bias is there in the moderation, quite possibly because the bias is there within the users, and moderators take action based at least partially on user requests.

I am sure that many of the people who were already reading my blog before I became active on Sphinn will continue to do so, and those who discovered my blog through Sphinn are more than welcome to hang around.

I just won’t be taking an active roll on Sphinn, and will be exploring other communities

Why I am Even Writing This?

  • Readers would have asked questions
  • I get requests for submissions all the time
  • I have had a number of reactions such as

I did hear someone shafted you !! I fully understand..

At the end of the day, this isn’t about me being shafted – it is more about other internet marketers being shafted, and if it can happen to me, it will continue to happen to them.

Moving on

As already noted, this is my explanation to my readers. To avoid any hint of bias I have now removed myself from judging in the Semmys for what was to be a “Judges Choice Award” in each category.

Again, this isn’t an attempt at linkbait, I don’t want it promoted on social media and I have even switched off comments for the first time, and won’t be responding to emails or instant messages regarding this.

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