Sphinn – SEM Attention Wars

Having just come back from a week in Florida, striving to improve not only my own powers of concentration and focus, but how to grab and maintain the attention of readers and customers, for the last few days I have been thinking a little about Sphinn… some of those thoughts haven’t been pleasant, and to be perfectly honest, the good thoughts had very selfish motives.

SEM Isn’t a Neglected Niche

PlugIM has been going reasonably well for quite a while
Bumpzee has lots of communities that are SEO / SEM / Marketing related

There are also a number of other marketing and blogging bookmarking and news sites that I have seen though didn’t seem to have quite as much traction.

Sure, SEO, SEM etc isn’t very popular on sites like Digg unless you have a very cultivated audience, and even then you have to have an insane amount of credibility in the the eyes of the general Digg population to stand a chance of not being buried.

So if it is not availability of suitable social networks for the topic maybe it is…

Sphinn is a Better Technology Platform?

Sphinn is running on Pligg

Well at least Sphinn is sometimes running on Pligg…

Sphinn Error

PlugIM is also running on Pligg, but from what I can see, other than cosmetic differences such as adding all your other social networks, and possibly “stalking” (I haven’t looked at that closely), the version of Pligg used by PlugIM is much more heavily customised.

This includes:-

  • Autosubmission of content
  • Tagging (though this isn’t collected from the content)

Categorization of content just doesn’t work – there is a big difference in SMO with the purpose of gaining links, and SMO with the aim to gather email or RSS subscribers for Direct Marketing.

Bumpzee on the other hand is a custom platform – it still has a few bugs, and quite a few features missing. If it received a similar amount of attention as Sphinn seems to be getting, I am sure the guys at Bumpzee would spend a huge amount more time on it rounding off the features.

Ultimately Bumpzee currently blows Pligg out of the water for features unless Pligg is heavily customised.

  • Autosubmission of content
  • Tagging (picked up automatically)
  • Lots of Widgets
  • Multiple interlinked communities

Sphinn has no technological advantage, in fact it might be looked on as inferior

Attention Wars

Lots of people in the SEM community have attacked Jason Calacanis for Mahalo his (in his own words) “viable Google co-exister”, and Guy Kawasaki for Truemors.

Danny Sullivan was one of the heavy detractors.

The only reason Sphinn might be successful is Danny Sullivan & Attention

Deja Vu anyone?

Hardly anyone in the SEM community would give a damn about Sphinn if it wasn’t launched by Danny. I have seen Pligg sites heavily criticised by many SEO/SEM specialists.

When Danny Sullivan announced Sphinn, he stated:-

By no means do we envision Sphinn as replacing general news sites like Digg. We just think the story submission model can work and be powerful in a specialized area such as search, as well.

By the way, we’re not the first to try this for search. In February 2006, The Search Engine Press was launched, then John Battelle kicked off SearchMob in September of that year. Since then, we’ve had others appear, including BUMPzee and ISEdb Scoop. We’re happy to join them!

That was actually only the second time Bumpzee had been mentioned on Search Engine Land.

I can only assume that Bumpzee wasn’t gaining exposure on influential SEO / SEM blogs because of some kind of disclosure problem, or not wanting to promote a future competitor, or a future competitor owned by a strategic business partner.

PlugIM has never been mentioned, though it does pick up Danny’s content from Search Engine Land.

At least Sphinn can’t be accused of copying some of the better features on PlugIM.

Critical Mass

Sphinn now exists, and will likely capture the attention of a large proportion of the SEM / SEO community, because ultimately most people involved in SEO / SEM in one way or another are attention and link whores.
Danny certainly has a fair amount of attention, and a lot of other people in the industry with attention are also promoting the site, at least a little.

It will continue to grow as long as Danny keeps driving traffic to it, but he is not even doing a very good job of that.
Guy Kawasaki leverages his own traffic to drive people to Truemors with an RSS feed above the fold on the front page.
Search Engine Land currently only has a link in the top right corner, and no voting buttons as standard.

I also noted that SEL has MyBlogLog removed. Does this mean they are going to try to make Sphinn more “social” with widgets as well?

Unfortunately Sphinn is a very category centric niche voting site – I don’t see it’s population growing beyond the aggregate subscriber base of Search Engine Land and SEOmoz.

Market Segmentation

With Sphinn, the guys from Search Engine Land are effectively claiming their own little kingdom in social news, unfortunately whilst it might be good for Danny to enhance his own attention, and maybe drive traffic to a number of sites that deserve some limelight (I have noticed Meg, Lyndon & Maki doing well), I am not sure this is such an ideal situation.

There are various groups of people involved in SEO / SEM who don’t even acknowledge that the others exist. The same is true of internet marketing and affiliate marketing.

Building Bridges

What was really needed was for existing services to be given some attention, which would have the effect of building bridges between communities.
A service promoted significantly by the SEO / SEM and affiliate / internet marketing community could gain critical mass for a news network that allowed content that was more commercially flavoured, and such a community would also attract casual users, linkerati, press and ultimately drive more traffic to good content.

The best option possible would have been to adopt something that already existed.

Not the Same As Blog Social Networks

In my opinion this is not the same as blog social networks, within which Bumpzee also fall, competing against Mybloglog and Blogcatalog.
In theory there are 75M bloggers, and I doubt there are many more than 200K actively interested in SEO / SEM enough to be involved with a social news site on the topics. It is only when you start merging with internet marketing, affiliate marketing and “make money online” that you start hitting the 1M+ audience that is easily possible.

Spinn Exists – Have to Use It

I am already giving Spinn as much promotion as Danny is himself, with a voting link on every page. I want the attention, but hopefully I can also divert some of that attention towards other services that are equally deserving.

Alexa Graph for Sphinn Bumpzee Truemors & PlugIM

The Alexa data is more for future reference as Sphinn has just plummeted after its launch and will take a while to gain traction.

Including 4 voting buttons on a page is dividing attention, although I have removed StumbleUpon because providing a button was reducing any “thumbs up” I might receive.
Ultimately, if I was to remove one of the 4, it would currently be Sphinn.

Giving Attention

It is honestly a shame that Danny and Search Engine Land took this direction. It would have been much better to promote the existing services extensively 4 months ago. By this time they would be booming, and drawing a much wider audience – such strategies have much stronger long term effects.

Of course it is not just Danny – Rand for instance didn’t even mention competing services in his post, and the first mention of the fact that it was running on Pligg rather than “the site itself has some fairly exceptional functionality” was by Carsten in the comments

When you share your audience with others, quite often you get it back in spades. Two posts in a row touching on reciprocity.

I would honestly much rather be bumping or plugging everyone’s posts than using Sphinn, because that would suggest growing cohesion within the industry, and not more splintering.

With that said, everyone interested in SEO and SEM should sign up with Sphinn, and also grab Michelle’s Sphinn plugin

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  1. says

    Thanks for taking the time to make such a detailed post about Sphinn. It’s refreshing to see something more than a 50-100 word blurb :) I also wonder if critical mass can be achieved given the niche-centric nature and lack of outside promotion to drive traffic. Time will tell…

  2. says

    Andy very in depth look at the program. I am certain that this information will be useful to many more who find their way to your blog. Critical Mass the secret my just be within the journey to them. It’s not easy but if you can do it once I bet they can do it again and again.

  3. says

    Thanks for the write-up, Andy. Some answers/comments:

    We do use Pligg, and it is extremely heavily customized, more so than you realize. You’ll understand this more as voting increases, plus as we bring features for social networking online. We can do tagging but shut it off at the start because we have extensive categories — and despite what you say, I’m amazed that the majority of people are putting stuff in the right or appropriate categories. I love what Bumpzee is doing with social, and we intend to increase that side of things as well.

    I tried to mention other services in various ways to be fair to them as I try to be fair to other sites that compete with say, Search Engine Land. PlugIM should have been in that welcome post — honestly, I just forgot it. I might add something down the line to list other types of community sites like these, sort of similar to how I have a blogroll or when SEWF launched, I maintained a Forum Roll (that was removed after I left there). We have the social profiles area when people sign-up, and I think I already requested that PlugIM be added since someone requested that.

    Yes, MyBlogLog went away since we have our own community, so Sphinn will be promoted more.

    Sort of amazed you don’t think Sphinn won’t shine light to those who should get more. I’m amazed and pleased at how many new sites I’ve discovered through Sphinn. Thrilled, really.

    Sorry you feel we shouldn’t have had our own community site and just gotten behind some other sites. I suppose SEWF and HighRankings and DigitalPoint and V7N should all close down and get behind WebmasterWorld? We have an existing community at Search Engine Land. That community deserves the ability to find a home where they can communication and share between themselves. That’s what Sphinn is. Sphinn may also grow a superset beyond the SEL community. But no, I don’t agree that we can’t have a community or one that involves voting simply because others are out there. By that matter, I should have never started Search Engine Land. Plenty of blogs, right?

    I think the other sites will do well if they have their own communities as well. In addition, people often use more than one place or site. I’ve been thinking about this site for well over a year, before some of the others even launched. I could have thought well darn, someone else is there, guess we can’t do it. Instead, I’d rather think we can exist with them, in the same way multiple forums all thrive and survive.

  4. says

    Couple of other things, too, Andy. You’d written we haven’t promoted Sphinn well on the site. Yes, because as I said in my launch post, it’s still in beta. When we have a few more features in place and all the bugs out, it will be more prominent throughout. You’re probably judging a bit early.

    Also, I really do feel sensitive when you somehow suggest that Bumpzee isn’t thriving because I or others in the community somehow haven’t given it the attention it deserves. What I see there looks good, especially some of the social groupings, but I’ve deliberately not played much on the site to keep my own mind clear in terms of building Sphinn.

    But things that are good get attention — they do. We run links to many things across the web. Any SearchCap newsletter we put out has more links to articles that are NOT written by Search Engine Land than are. If Bumpzee had a groundswell of discussion, you’d see that reflected.

    Now, SearchCap is focused around search, so that’s one reason why we might not have mentioned it so much — it might not have been coming up in the search feeds we monitor. Bumpzee instead seems more focused on affiliate marketing? If affiliate sites have been discussing it, then we might not have been seeing that discussion because we don’t drill into affiliates.

    Sphinn, while not exclusively search marketing, is more focused in that area. PlugIM is for internet marketing (which is what we do, but probably with less emphasis there on search marketing). That should give all of these sites their own voices. And any of them, including Sphinn, will thrive not just because who they are or aren’t associated with but because of how they grow and manage their communities.

    Forget the technology. If technology were crucial, WMW which is widely acknowledge as having one of the poorest forum technology basis and features, would have been dead years ago. It thrives because of a strong community there. If all of these sites build strong communities, they’ll continue on. John’s SearchMob, for example, doesn’t seem to have much activity or community there despite him having RSS readers that dwarf what SEL has. So you can’t just attach a name and assume “oh, that’s why it will do well.” As for mentions, by the way — SEW and WMW have yet to mention Sphinn at all. Is that because of anti-competitive concerns? Maybe. Or maybe mentioning other sites isn’t deemed as much of news value. In either case, initial attention is only a kick start. It’s not what keeps you going. To come back with the comparison you want to make with Jason, he’s the master of constantly kick-starting and re-kick starting attention to what he does. At Sphinn, I think we’re going to have a community that grows because those in the community itself will like what they see, what they are doing and invite others in.

    I get a sense in part you feel Bumpzee is somehow hard done by me, perhaps in part because you’re active there (Google gives me over 7,000 matches for your name there, versus 45 at PlugIM). Bumpzee, I assume, is a community you’ve actively invested in. You should continue to do that. If it’s a strong, healthy community, it will keep coming just as mulitple search forums. Of course, you’re welcome to take part in Sphinn, as well :)

  5. says

    Wow, long replies there, Danny.

    The bottom line is though, there’s only so many of these social networking sites that one blogger can support. Right now I feel like I have too many on my own plate, which is why I’m not sure I can even look at another one and I’m seriously considering cutting back and trying to pick one and going with it.

    I think a lot of bloggers feel the same – that there’s too much choice out there, too many people offering this social networking type of thing and realistically if I signed up for every one of them I would never have any time for blogging etc.

    Everyone wants to be the next big thing, which is why so many of these are being launched and people aren’t supporting the ones that already exist as much as they could be.

    It’s one thing to have a lot of choices but there comes a point where there’s only so much people can take – I’d like to read all the blogs on the planet but there’s not enough hours in the day.

    Snoskred – has a new home at –

  6. says

    I agree that there are only so many platforms a blogger can support, if you mean in terms of putting up buttons. But I don’t recommend bloggers put up all these buttons. At Search Engine Land, we’ll have a large Sphinn button only because Sphinn will serve as our future commenting platform. But not everyone will sphinn an SEL story, just as they don’t currently comment on every story.

    As for other platforms, we don’t put up big Digg buttons, Delicious buttons and so on. We do include fairly low key text links to them, which is pretty easy to do using FeedFlare, and which I think makes it easy for people reading our stories who also know about one of these sites to submit. That’s what I’d probably recommend for any blogger feeling overwhelmed. Do a low key approach to list many buttons (there are lots of solutions that make this easy), then selectively use bigger buttons for a particular platform and audience if you think you have content especially suited for them.

    In terms of overwhelmed by too much to read, sure — but again, that’s your decision. Sphinn might do a great job listing content you like, and if so, take it. If not, well, it’s out there for other.

  7. says

    Social media mirrors physical life. Thanks to Andy for sparking this dialog which is totally fascinating…link-baiters debating link baiters for and about link baiting…chicken egg/egg chicken.

    Sphinn, while self-admittedly not perfect, is a representative caricature of how our industry behaves as a professional community.

    As we see it Sphinn is useful to consolidate and codify one’s established (or fledgling) reputation amongst SEM peers. My question when first taking a gander @ Sphinn was “what’s the KPI” of investing time in Sphinn? The KPI is high quality links and reputation.

    For a newer SEM the KPI could be to establish him or herself as conference-speaker-worthy. Another thought is that harvesting good ol’ fashioned pleasure and a camaraderie from hanging with like-minded folks is what life’s about. You can sure get some decent headline writing ideas at Sphinn :).

    The classic methods to engage (or bait) other SEM writers for links, traffic, and respect have always been breadcrumb apps (contact potential linkers without emailing. MyBlogLog made the breadcrumbs concept go bang the rest of the way. Shpinn is another tool.

    When we started our company our business plan noted that, when marketing an SEM firm, you were competing for top rankings with the only other folks in the world who know how to compete-other SEM firms. Danny just centralized the jousting and made the competition official. It’s both playful and serious…just like we SEMs are…Social media mirrors life.

  8. says

    Sphinn’s certainly done well at launch, with a lot of attention and the “Danny Sullivan brand” (dare I coin a phrase), but I can’t see it being a significantly new or revolutionary platform; it already seems to be full of typical “follow-the-herd” SEO thinking, based on hype, over examination, basic development, and link building strategies. I would like to see a site that attracted a more either (a) practical audience, with a lot of code and low-level discussion, or (b) theoretical/scientific audience, with proper methods applied to relevant experiments in the field of SEO, basing their conclusions and recommendations on previous proven work.

    As it stands, I perceive Sphinn as just another platform for the immense DP/WMW forum hordes to discuss the same group of strategies over and over again.

  9. says

    This post has already split attention in a number of ways and it demonstrates what is wrong with this approach.

    1. It was submitted to Sphinn by Rob (thanks) but it is in the SEM Industry category which whilst appropriate, is not the same category as all the other articles related to Sphinn.

    There are no links to related content that has been submitted that might have been possible if tagging was in some way being used.
    There was no possibility to submit the article to multiple categories

    2. Split social media attention

    Lyndon reviewed it on SU, though currently no one else has so far reviewed it or given a thumbs up, even though they might have given it a Sphinn

    Someone bumped the story on Bumpzee, and I have since also given it a bump.

    The story was automatically Plugged, but so far despite talking favourably about PlugIM it hasn’t gained any additional votes, even though with PlugIM anyone can vote on a story, they don’t have to even be a member of PlugIM, and clicking on the button doesn’t take you away from the page.

    3. Split conversations

    This is bound to happen, especially when people copy and paste their comments here onto Sphinn as well ;)

    Bumpzee has a way to partially handle this, by indicating on Bumpzee that there is also conversation happening on the blog.

    4. Contrariety

    Lyndon on Sphinn has expressed that he often votes for stuff that offers contrary opinions.
    That is why I love lots of the content Lyndon writes, and why I appreciate him as a regular reader.

    I don’t write content to offer a deliberate contrary view.

    That being said I don’t write content that will express the same views as those already stated by everyone else. If I can’t offer an original perspective, I generally won’t give any perspective on something, as that wouldn’t be adding to the conversation, just creating an echo chamber.

    5. All those forums

    Yes there are loads of SEO forums, who has time for them?
    There are lots of internet marketing forums as well, I haven’t got time for those either.
    Affiliate marketing forums? Most of them I have never even visited.

    When they all introduce their own Pligg sites, who is going to have time for them? Sure they will capture their own dedicated userbase, but ultimately people will migrate to a site that will give them the most benefit.

    I have noticed lots of top Digg users since the launch of Sphinn still submitting and spending more time on Digg than on Sphinn.

    There is already only partial cross-over between Bumpzee and PlugIM, in fact my blog is probably one of the very few cross-over points.
    Most adoption of PlugIM seems to have originated on the Warrior Forum or those marketers who started off there and moved on, and adoption of Bumpzee is mainly by people who came from other Affiliate marketing forums that concentrate on the CPA networks like CJ.

    At the same time I have probably introduced lots of “bloggers” from MyBlogLog and Blogcatalog to Bumpzee, and eventually the different communities will begin to intermingle.

    The problem isn’t one more, or even 5 or 10 more, but potentially 50 more sites all touching on the same niche.

    The reason Digg is successful is because it dominates the niches it covers. Why not start a new site in Tech? Because it is dominated by a single player that is the only one anyone will have time for.
    Netscape has a chance in Politics because there are multiple sides to the political spectrum.

    Whilst you might think that there is plenty of room for all, ultimately that is a plan for market fragmentation not consolidation.

    6. Time Invested

    It is true I have a fair amount of time invested in Bumpzee, but not so much in the SEO community there – my time is mainly spent managing the Dofollow community I run there, not specifically the SEO community, but because of the nature of Bumpzee, with all my SEO articles being fed to the SEO community, and all my Web2.0 articles being fed to the Web2.0 community, plus other communities, it would show an abnormal amount of usage, because my content appears in many places.

    Other than specific discussions in the community I run, I rarely make a comment unless I chance across a topic while I am handling other things.

    As it happens Search Engine Land is one of the top users of PlugIm with the most submitted stories because they are submitted automatically.

    There does seem to be a bug in the auto submission there, which I just have to work out and then inform Ryan.

    7. Comments System

    I agree SEL needs a new comments system, I rarely leave a comment on SEL because it is so inconvenient logging into Typekey all the time, and then monitoring conversation.

    That doesn’t mean that all is perfect, I notice the message system on Sphinn I can’t see a record of messages I have sent (Bumpzee has a similar problem, as does MBL)

    For me, a comments system that might be actively used on Spinn by some users is a negative.

    Responding to comments on Spinn is an unwelcome distraction, and in many ways is my least favorite part of all the networks I belong to.

    8. Customization

    Whilst the friends system (which I noted I hadn’t played around with much at the time) is probably the major customization carried out so far, it currently doesn’t seem very useful.

    I can use it to see what specific friends have submitted, but it doesn’t allow me to see a merged list of articles I might be interested in, or allow me to grab a feed based on friends submissions.

    Ultimately there are so many features needed for each of the competing services in the niche to “come up to par” with what is already offered by the giants, that a diversified “there is room for all of us” approach isn’t very realistic.

    Split attention and split resources

  10. says

    OK, Andy….

    1) Yes, things can only be in one category. Tagging can help with that. Pligg comes with tags. Problem is, you can abuse the tags to make an unlimited number of pages. For that reason, we’ve kept them off for now. We might bring them back. SEM Industry I think is far more appropriate than the Sphinn Zone category, which is for stuff about Sphinn itself. This post isn’t just about Sphinn — it’s about the impact of Sphinn and other sites on the SEM Industry in general. I’d say that Rob selected the perfect category.

    2) Split attention because the story is on more than one place? I suppose then every blog should either shut down or carry every story that everyone else carries. Different audiences frequent different places and have different tastes. You think this is relevant to your audience here. Someone submitted it to Sphinn thinking it was relevant there. Someone could submit it to Digg, and I’m pretty certain it will die an unnoticed death over there. So what? Audiences and those producing content can choose what they want. It’s called variety, and it’s to be welcomed.

    3) I put my initial comments over at Sphinn, but I won’t keep splitting them up. In particular, the conversation may go one way there and another way somewhere else. But again, so what? I mean when Matt Cutts posts, he gets like a billion comments, right? But no one then says oh, every other blog shouldn’t post about what he’s written or that they should close their own comments. My goodness, ever read the comments for something Matt might generate at his own blog versus a Threadwatch take? Different audiences; different voices.

    4) Nothing to add here :)

    5) No, you mistakenly assume that all users will migrate to one site, in my opinion. The search forums experience ought to underscore that. Communities form. Some are more important than others in terms of audience size, sure. But they all tend to have their places. I talk to people who assume the world revolves around WMW; then you talk to a High Rankings person, and they’re like WMW what?

    You’ve noticed top Diggers spending more time on Digg? Well, um, duh. Of course. I mean, you read my launch message, where I said Sphinn wasn’t designed to take on Digg nor did I at all think it would be a replacement for it. Nor do I. There are search marketers and internet marketers who simply do not feel at home on Digg. However, they like the idea of voting and sharing. So Sphinn is designed to give them their own place, and plenty of people so far have said it is doing just that. As will Bumpzee and PlugIM, of course, for people who like those sites.

    Will we get 50 voting and social networking sites for search marketing? Probably not. Five or 10? Maybe. And the audience is plenty large to support those. If not, we’ll see — but I fail to understand what the issue is other than the impression you thing Sphinn shouldn’t have launched because you find Bumpzee to be technically superior. I’ve already commented that it’s not all about the technical feature set. I also disagree that Bumpzee somehow gets to be the only social site in the internet marketing space. Sorry, just don’t.

    By the way, Digg is successful more for appealing to a new audience in my view. Slashdot has not died, nor do I get the impression that Digg is fueled by Slashdotters who said thank goodness Digg arrived. Ultimately, until someone establishes OfSocial to oversee the launch and regulation of social sites, I think I’ll assume audiences are smart enough to decide for themselves. It’s just terrible logic, honestly. Let’s tell Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask to go home — clearly, we should just have Google, lest there be market fragmentation.

    7) Commenting system will improve — again, that’s why we haven’t switched over. That’s why we’re still in beta. But you should see a list of all the threads you’ve commented in within your profile. You just can’t directly jump to them, nor see them listed out as you can on the comment page itself. Again, we’re working on it. I think we’re like 10 days old :)

    By the way, if responding to comments is distracting, then don’t. I mean, don’t submit or don’t participate. No one is forcing you to. But if you want to, and it helps, eventually you’ll be able to subscribe to a feed just for stories you want to monitor. Sorry it wasn’t ready for when we launched in beta.

    8) Friends will be more useful, and again, I simply don’t agree that somehow we have to leave it all to Digg or Facebook or whatever. Who’s right? Well, we’ll see.

    • says

      Whilst I would love to agree to holding this conversation on Sphinn, unfortunately my readers would then have to register with Spinn if they wanted to contribute.
      I am aware that the same is true of all other social news sites.

      In the past I have praised PlugIM for being aware that a vote using their button doesn’t require membership, and doesn’t take readers away from your site. It is not an exit route.

      1. Regarding Tagging, you must have been listening to Rand too much about duplicate content, and not Matt Cutts.
      If there was a problem with tagging and tag pages, Technorati wouldn’t show up so much in search results, and Bumpzee wouldn’t have 315,000 pages indexed, and only 2 reported as being supplemental.
      I know there are lots of problems with the reporting of supplemental results, thus that isn’t definitive, but ultimately that isn’t bad for a site with only 100,000 links as reported by Yahoo.

      2. Split attention is a factor when you have a good idea who each of the people is who have Stumbled your content in the past, or decided to only submit to Sphinn this time around.
      It is a major factor when someone clicks the Sphinn button and they are taken to Sphinn. It is a major factor as to whether a button remains on my site, or where I might position the button.
      Digg is already likely to disappear soon, or made to appear only on traffic appearing from Digg.

      3. From what I remember, Matt doesn’t display trackbacks.

      I am a strong believer that the primary conversation about original content should revolve around the original content.
      In some of the heated debates about your own content that have happened on Digg, wouldn’t you really have preferred that conversation to happen on your own blog (the meaningful stuff) in a nice threaded conversation?
      Marty just linked through joining in the conversation, and gets a link back that is followed.

      In my experience discussions on social news sites in general are less useful, maybe Sphinn will be different.

      Threadwatch would be perfect for another Pligg though I seem to remember someone suggesting it and it being rejected.

      5. Crowds migrate to the services that thought leaders suggest.

      From the outside at least to me it seems a little like this…

      Various people determine that there is a need for some kind of social news site for SEO / SEM and related industries such as affiliate marketing and internet marketing.
      I fully agree with that. There is a clear need.

      A few sites are launched that in some way fulfil that need. Maybe not perfect, but usable

      Many of the higher profile sites give them little or no coverage, because they know that something else is eventually coming (so how many people were alpha or beta testing this?)

      Probably delayed, Sphinn appears, though in itself isn’t perfect, but immediately gets support without any sign of a constructive review or mentions of competing sites.

      You think there might be room for 5 or 10 niche social news sites for SEO / SEM and similar industries.

      They are all much smaller niches than tech, politics, computer games, and possibly Apple zealots, Microsoft Zealots etc.
      Can those niches really sustain 10 or more social news sites as well?

      I honestly think 5 or 10… successful sites is a stretch for the niche or combined niches, so it certainly becomes a SEM Attention War as per my original post title.

      Any such niche site is going to deliver more targeted traffic than Digg is capable off, so there is really no question of it being direct competition, but there is still a need for critical mass.

      It is quite possible that Sphinn can gain some level of critical mass if you can align all the other movers and shakers in SEO in your favour.
      You might find it more difficult to align the Affiliate Marketers and Internet Marketers.
      The fact that the site concentrates on promoting your own brands, which in many ways might compete with their own won’t encourage as much involvement.

      It is funny, Sphinn reminds me of a conversation about Digg buries over on PronetAdvertising not too long ago, and I think it appropriate to quote it.

      Cristian Mezai in response to Rex Dixon suggesting people should use his Pligg site.

      Rex said:-

      http://givemeafrigginbreak.com — you won’t get buried there! Just need users to start joining, giving feedback, and we can change the whole “friggin’ break” idea, and just go head on digg. Fine by me.

      Cristian replied:-

      No room for self-seo here Rex..
      Sorry to say, but you just dissapointed an already dissapointed bunch of professionals that can create 10 of those websites in a single day.

      I noticed one comment from Matt at Small Business SEM on Sphinn that Bumpzee didn’t provide an instant traffic surge when he tried it.

      The reason that happens is that very few sites adopted it in the SEO / SEM arena, including the voting widgets.

      Matt does use a modified version of sociable, but that doesn’t encourage clicks anywhere near as much as the widgets.

  11. says

    As a web site owner I love publicity for my sites, as a psuedo Internet marketer I can see the benefit of social media but I can see the flaws.

    It was only a couple of months ago when we as a community were crowing over the fall of Digg to a small minority. For many in our community it was the proof that the social media site had indeed been gamed but not by us. Everyone cried out for need to never let it happen again, Digg suffered particularly because its nearly impossible to moderate this style of site, you can only automate the process so much (those of us being auto buried for using the S acronym will tell you) manual moderation also fails when the site reaches a critical mass.

    But Digg has another problem, personalities determines what reaches the front page, or rather large friend lists, I digg my friends list (though I might be in the minority that I actually have a ‘real’ friends list) but some Diggers have 1000’s amazing if you think that many of these Diggers are probably spotty teenagers who live in cupboards. Its interesting that the more well known bloggers don’t have the same draw of friends in these mediums so when your use to being the most popular boy on the block what do you do?

    well one option is to clone a broken system, one we know can’t operate at critical mass, use personalities to push the system, and split and fragment the user bases of other systems.

    Danny to his credit has actually tried to avoid this but it was always about Danny If I had created Sphinn would we be talking about it now?

    Now I have nothing against Sphinn I joined more or less straight away I have started to use the system, making contact with my “friends” but I can’t help feel some de ja vu coming, as the friends list grows the smaller bloggers with great content will continue to drop of the radar to be found by the few. The larger more popular blogs will while dominating the main page gain little after all the same people voting will already be their readers and the little guy who makes it to the front page he might just might get that first break.

    I want Sphinn to work and I applaud Danny for trying, but it could have been so much more then a Digg clone and while I’m sure more “social tools” are coming why release something half done.

  12. says

    Hi Andy,
    Interesting post. BUMPZee! got a lot of attention in the affilaite marketing space and Scotts deep roots in that industry was helping him to get the needed attention to get the project off the ground.

    You can compare it to what Danny did in the seo/sem space with Sphinn. Both used their status in their respected industries. Okay, Scott would be more like a Aaron or Rand, but if either of those two would have launched a site like this, the results would have been similar.

    To open up BUMPzee to create any type of niche community was a good thing and a bad thing. Opening it up allowed the access to other verticals, but it also added problems of separation and duplications due to over diversification. Have a look at the amount and types of communities that were created at BUMPzee over the past months and you will know what I mean.

    • says

      In many ways Scott’s roots in affiliate marketing only really cover half of the industry. I think I probably have closer connections with the “other half” of affiliate marketing, which I am referring to as “internet marketing” from my time on various forums such as HowTo and The Warrior Forum among many others, though obviously many people have some cross-over.

      One of the things missing, and I have been told it will still happen is functional category filtering, which would improve things significantly.

      I would then be able to launch my /wordpress community to monitor all the updates from plugin and theme developers.
      I have had that community in “reserve” since the initial “beta” phase of additional managed communities was introduced, the no nofollow / dofollow community was an afterthought a couple of months later, initially intended to be run on a WordPress blog.

      I gain a fair amount of exposure from Bumpzee purely because I promote Bumpzee extensively and the same may well become true of Sphinn.

  13. says

    I hate to be negative about a new service, but Sphinn (Sfin) sure does appear to me to be the same old “talking heads” and SEO Rockstars (haha) that already dominate the small SEO niche. I’ve never felt like part of their “community” so far, and I doubt this offering will be any different.

    If this website plans on being anything other than another derivative Digg/Pligg clone, then Danny will have to do his best to bring in some new blood from the huge majority of SEO “community types” who aren’t part of the in-crowd. Otherwise, it looks just like one more gratuitous ass-kissing and pseudo-link-exchanging circle jerking website to me. In essence, it’s not hard to believe that a website like this is designed to promote web conferences, rather than do much for the community at large.

    Of course I could be wrong, and time will tell.

  14. says

    Andy, I’m fine commenting here. Registration isn’t going away, even if PlugIM doesn’t require it. I think it’s a bare minimum to help control spam.

    1) On tagging, no, it’s not a duplicate content concern. It’s a concern that you could submit one story, then tag it up as I dunno: viagara, cheap viagra, buy viagra, oh where o where has my viagra gone, and then I’m hosting a lot of potential search space. Suffice to say, when I saw how tagging worked with Pligg, I decided for very good reasons that it wasn’t something we needed to enable right now. If that means we don’t get a tickmark in the master feature list of social site, so be it. I generally don’t think things should get measured up by having the most ticks anyway.

    2) I can’t help you with the split attention factor, nor will I argue it further. It occurs in so many places and in some many ways that I feel you’re somewhat unreasonably holding Sphinn to account. If you want to close your blog and then choose some much more popular site to post all your views and comments, then you’re on better ground. If not, then you are contributing to split attention yourself (though I won’t hold that against you).

    3) Didn’t say Matt had trackbacks. I said that simply because Matt does a post, that doesn’t mean all the conversation has to happen about that post at Matt’s blog — and in fact, because it can take place in different locations may add to much richer conversations. I know you seem to want some master centralized hub — that’s just not life. Also, unless everyone is going to put Bumpzee modules on all their sites, Bumpzee doesn’t solve that.

    In terms of my own stuff, I prefer the conversation happen with my own audience, and that’s who I will react to first. My audience is radically different than the Digg audience, which is often immature and sometimes amazingly ignorant of search. I have taken part in conversations there when I’ve found it useful outreach or occasionally, if I was looking for something entertaining. But far be it for me to somehow suggest that Diggers can only talk about my stuff in my own “house,” as it were. Talk about it wherever you want. By that argument, we shouldn’t be talking here. We should go back to Sphinn :)

    5) Sphinn has had major support from SEOmoz, along with SEL itself. I trust SEL is allowed to talk about it? SEW has not mentioned it. WMW hasn’t mentioned it. A host of other sites haven’t mentioned it. Didn’t read about it on Digg; didn’t see it on TechCrunch. Shoemoney has mentioned Bumpzee several times; Sphinn’s not been mentioned once. You’re overstating the initial support. And there have been plenty of minor reviews mentioning the other sites. Go do a backlink lookup on Sphinn in Google blog search, and you can see this. Or


    That’s 7 reviews with both sites mentioned together.


    That’s 750 web matches with them both together.

    By the way, I finally spent a little time over at Bumpzee. It’s far more like a MyBlogLog than a Digg (or Sphinn, for that matter). Nor is it focused on internet marketing. It’s focused on anything anyone wants to build a community around. Good for it. But that’s also why SEL didn’t cover it much, I suppose — it’s not a search-specific thing.

    Still, whatever. I’ve said my points. I get the impression you’re convinced Sphinn is enjoying a lovefest that was denied to Bumpzee. For me, as I said, any initial attention ultimately doesn’t count for much if the community itself doesn’t deliver. I’ll try to keep delivering to our community.

    Carsten, why not launch with everything we could think of? Because we had enough to start with, and at some point, you want a real site with real users to give you real feedback. I don’t consider it half done at all. I consider it a solid foundation that will grow.

    Darren, I really don’t think it’s all the same voices. I wasn’t kidding when I said I’m seeing stuff from people I’d never heard of, good stuff that I’m thrilled is getting attention via Sphinn. As you say, time will tell.

    Andy, let me also conclude that I do appreciate your thoughts and comments. I’m giving you pushback in areas where I don’t agree, and I suspect the only way I’d fully please you is if Sphinn didn’t exist and it were all Bumpzee all the time. But all I can say is I’ve watched various communities thrive, rather than kill each other, within the SEM space. Sphinn’s our community site, and we need that regardless of what others do. If all it does is provide an easier way for people at SEL to comment, then it has fulfilled the most fundamental goal of the site. If it does more than that, I’m happy too.

    • says

      Sorry for tripping the spam filter, links to Google.com do trip it due to a long spate of someone spam commenting with just links to Google.com

      Danny if you or SEOmoz were using tagging on your blogs, and wrote a post regarding the search results for buying blue pills, then tagging it “buy viagra” wouldn’t be a problem.

      There are all kinds of ways you could have a more extensive approved category architecture.

      In many ways you executed an ideal marketing strategy for the launch.

      Invite key people to beta test a few weeks early – that almost guarantees coverage, but it almost guarantees positive coverage, overlooking any shortcomings.
      I have read loads of reviews and people who when they do paid reviews of services whose opinion I trust a huge amount only wrote 100% “PR” like reviews of the service.
      In many ways I am disappointed in them, because you did mention a competitor in your announcement and due to various commercial reasons it is hard to talk about a competitor in any way if you have a similar product launch.

      Those blog search results are not very conclusive

      One is my story
      One is a splog picking up your story on Google News
      Your story doesn’t appear because your feeds aren’t very RSS search friendly
      One is a comment by Carsten that I linked to in my post
      Maki always writes indepth reviews covering multiple angles – I would be shocked if that wasn’t the case
      One is my story on a competing social site that hasn’t been kicked out yet
      One is an article on Lockergnome by Tinu, again I would expect Tinu to cover all angles despite being an avid user of both PlugIM and Bumpzee.
      Then there is also the coverage from James’ Affiliate Marketing Blog

      Can you spot the SEO blogger among those that mentioned both?
      I can’t…

      So now we look at normal Google search

      Most of the listings are for people who have the Sociable plugin, or my Antisocial variant of it (better for SEO) installed, or a link to a community on bumbzee.

      Even Pandia’s post only appears on a category listing that contains a mention from March.

      All it really highlights is that Pablo Palatnik needs to look at how his RSS is indexed by Google, as his story wasn’t appearing in Blogsearch.

      I suppose it is only a minor thing that there are 1500 mentions on Sphinn on Blogsearch and 4 or 5 mention a competitor which you included in your announcement.

      The fragmentation isn’t just going to be in the SEO industry, it will also happen in Affiliate marketing.
      As an example Affiliates4U which I have only glanced at in the past and didn’t even sign up.

      I do agree that multiple communities can do well, but I hate seeing a potential way of unifying various niches under a single community go to waste.

      I will be supporting Sphinn, I have a plugin update to finish as one example, but it is a shame about the missed opportunity.

      • says

        What is your problem Andy?

        Danny mentioned BUMPzee! and a number of other similar services on the Daily SearchCast on 7/12 when Sphinn was launched. It’s not like he ignores the existing services completely in is coverage of search marketing news.

        He mentions Sphinn (his baby) more frequent; of course he does. He also mentions SMX more often than SES, especially right before a SMX event. He will still cover SES and PubCon etc.

        That he does self promotion is completely natural. They over at SEL also have bills to pay.

        I never heart him talking bad about BUMPZee or making claims like “Sphinn” is much better than xyz. It would be inappropriate, if he did.

        That friends of SEL and Danny are more likely to post about something they do and probably also in a more forgiving and favorable manner is also normal.

        David Naylor and Rand etc. are Danny’s friends. David for example posted about Sphinn the same day Danny announced it on Daily SearchCast, as he said during the show, without Danny asking him to do so.

        Am I missing something?

  15. says

    Danny Sullivan said: “Carsten, why not launch with everything we could think of? Because we had enough to start with, and at some point, you want a real site with real users to give you real feedback. I don’t consider it half done at all. I consider it a solid foundation that will grow.”

    Danny, I believe you misunderstood my comment.

    I said that opening BUMPzee! up, to allow the creation of any type of community, is a blessing and a curse at the same time.

    A blessing, because it allows to expand into other verticals and a curse because it also deludes stronger communities within BUMPzee! and reduces the growth of them.

    It is much harder now to promote BUMPZee to a specific vertical. Go to the homepage of BUMPzee! and tell me about the strong communities within the site. Do you see what I mean? You can’t tell?

    I don’t mind having another platform out there. As I said in my comment at SEOMoz Andy was referring to: “The more the merrier I guess, at least does it provide choice and will cause each platform to develop further to the excitement of us users.”

    I also said that you will use your position in the industry to promote your new service of course. Scott did so too with BUMPzee! There is nothing wrong with that I would have been surprised if you wouldn’t do it.

    Not everybody here is agreeing with Andy’s assessment. You are not the only one :)