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Please read the latest post on our Sphinn blog about a new emphasis on enforcing existing guidelines, and asking Sphinn users to be more careful about the content that gets submitted, shared, and voted up. I'll try to keep an eye on comments during the day (Editors will, too) for any questions.
Comments41 Comments  


from mvandemar 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 6

Totally voting this up because someone I know tweeted it. I don't even need to read the article.

from AndyBeard 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 1

You seem to have 6 competition entries on the site that I reported as spam yesterday because of the rules, not because of the content.

It is interesting that you might be assuming that other channels are just voting rings.

The most recent incident where people seemed to be complaining about the voting and the quality of the article a link was posted in an IM chat, and was one of over 6000 messages in that IM chat over a very slow weekend (there are normally more than that, and rarely more than 2 or 3 links mentioned per day.

A number of Sphinn editors are members of that chat, and would actually have access to a permanent record in Skype of everything that happens in there, and even have the opportunity to temper things.

The particular story in question I ripped apart for being pretty crap, and so did a number of other people, but the author stood his ground and defended the article.

I didn't agree with what he said in the article, or his arguments, but he stood his ground.

However I know why he defended his ground... he writes some excellent articles on quite technical topics that sometimes even blow my brain a little.

But the more technical stuff doesn't get voted on without a significant push.

Some topics if you water them down result in junk. It will gt votes but it won't be exceptional content.

This article from Michael was equally as poor - submitted by an editor and first voted on by another editor.

So how can editors subjectively decide what is exceptional content if they make the same mistakes themselves? I thought that was the role of the site users?

Desphinn from AndyBeard 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 1

At the very least should have covered competition entries, especially when they are judged based on # of Sphinns.

Desphinn from Feydakin 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 1

If stopping non exceptional content were the reason then I would think that allowing mods to push stuff to the front page manually should be looked at as well.. How many times does a mod shove something to the front page only to have it never, or barely, get enough votes to get there on it's own?? Yes, that is my very pet peeve with Sphinn.. We see not very exceptional content pushed by mods all the time, based on how many votes it gets after being pushed.. Are they pushing real content? Or is it something done because they are friends? Who knows, I just happen to think it shouldn't be allowed.. Mods get one vote just like everyone else.. You have the blog and SEL for things you want to promote yourself, no need to abuse Sphinn with it too.. As for the post in question, I saw it.. Didn't see any value in it personally, but then I've been doing this for a very long time.. Perhaps someone newer to the industry would have gotten value from it, perhaps not.. But I see no reason why basic information should be blocked from the home page just because someone who has been in the industry a long time sees no value in it..

from garethjax 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 2

May i sphinn  sphinns ? It's all about quality right ?

Desphinn from ErenMckay 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 4

This kind of thinking opens the door for posts to be treated unfairly. Good content is a very subjective thing and it's not for a small editorial group to judge but for the people to decide. Unless the content is clearly breaking the rules of submission, it shouldn't suffer because the writer is popular. Being punished for having great networking skills is ludicrous (and I'm not referring to the rapper by the way).

from theGypsy 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 5

Hmmmm good intentions, slippery slope IMO... I won't de-sphinn as it is a worthy convo and good intentions (see? I even vote for stuff I don't agree with... we'll get back to that later)

Un-exceptional content - just looked at the upcoming page. Exceptional? NONE... Interesting? Only 3 or so stories. But as I said in the thread last week (story Ann submitted I believe), not everything I will Sphinn is 'OOOO AAHHH' material. Often it is something fairly basic (to me) that I believe might benefit noobs in the business. One person's trash is anothers... well, you know...

Heck, not much beyond patents and the uber geeky really grabs me. That doesn't mean I don't see stories I believe will be of value to others.

To whit, Andy's comment; "But the more technical stuff doesn't get voted on without a significant push." - ain't that a fact.

I pretty much gave up submitting Bill's content because they rarely ever went far here. So what is the barometer? If I was an Editor I'd be pushing his stuff to the front page. Problem being, that the readership here obviously doesn't care for that stuff thus I stopped subbing it. That is part of the subjectivity problems I see with the 'promote to home page' bit. I let the masses sort it out.

So, will editors have a leash as well? Let's say, they have 4 strikes. If they promote a story to the home page that doesn't get the required 21 Votes before it leaves the front page, it's strike one. Do that 4 times and lose yer ability to promote. Because I know I hear a fair bit of grumbling still to this day about that 'Editors Choice' stuff.

At the end of the day, I think it is hard to say what is an isn't 'exceptional' to everyone. Us old dogs probably find very little (here or elsewhere) that is up to that standard. Does that mean the content isn't of value? I don't believe so.

Anyway, moving along

Voting - that's another stickler for me. I see peeps, including myself and Editors, tweeting and otherwise promoting Sphinn links. I personally will Tweet the story link followed by a 'And if you enjoyed it, please feel free to Sphinn as well' with a Sphinn link (to adhere to the fantomaster 'Not posting JUST voting site links, but original story as well' theory which I adhere to hehe).

And of blog Authors like ours, sure they are going to support each other just as many cronies of the various communities around the web do here as well as elsewhere in the social sphere. That is only natural. Do I email them all and say, "Go sphinn so-and-so's post"? No... but I do know of some groups that do. At the end of the day I don't believe it is making a difference...

For example Gabs post from Monday; - yup, all 6 authors hit it (of the 9 Sphinns)... but I can tell you now that it won't be making the the front page. So does that make us a 'voting gang' because we support each other? Writers or not, there are a standard set of folks from the various 'factions' of the SEO world that regularily support each other here and elsewhere.

Andy (mate and Dojo member) sumbitted an article by Angie (also a friend and member) which also didn't go hot. So regardless of any link drops (twitter etc..), people are still making their own minds up on the actual validity.

Speaking of patterns, as a so-called 'power user' there are folks that I barely know that tend to vote my submissions (from what I believe) is just because I am a regular here or that they generally trust my submissions. This is also common in the social sphere. So, does that make a pattern? I have 200+ members in my community. I could likely get 100 or so Sphinns on any give submission, but I don't. I started it to discuss/learn/teach the craft. People dropping the odd Sphinn link is just a consequence of having that many SEOs together, many of which are members here in this community.

Anyway, I am all for making the place better... I just worry about the path this leads with some of the current perceptions from those in the space. I have worked hard and taken slack on numerous occasions for being a member and trying to drive members back... The tone towards 'long time members' sort of turned my head round a bit there.

I mean seriously, we got Andy back here... WOO HOO! I'd love to see more... heck, get EVERYONE here.. all the cliques... and the groups... Make Sphinn the ONE place we all meet on solid ground.

Oh and on a side note... can we get the ability to start conversations here again? In the Sphinn Zone maybe? Some of these recent convos remind me of them 'back in the day' and well... look at the mast head - it has 'Dicsussion Forums' right in the logo ;) - I miss starting and having good convos here!

PS; @Michael lol - @Andy yea yea, kicked my ass about that enough thanks - @Steve I liked my 'Promote to home page' idea better... nyeeah na na na na

PSS; btw 3 Dojo members have Sphunn this and 3 have De-Sphunn... See? We can think for ourselves ya know ;0)

Desphinn from SEOcopy 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 1

In my opinion any community will eventually form smaller groups. Whether you want to compare it to a role of the bourgeoisie in society, and how wealth (in this case content) gets distributed. It's still a community. Individuals need incentive to participate. Competition drives innovation. Cooperation helps sub-groups succeed together... What may be exciting to you may not be exciting to me or vice versa. Therefore, talking about "voting patterns" sounds so ominous and seedy it makes me not want to participate in this community. Which is too bad I was just started to groove with my Sphinn's.

from Rebekah 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I'd like to start out by saying that, I see where the moderators are coming from, and a need to prevent Sphinn from becoming the next "digg" where it is nearly impossible for any "normal" person to submit a story and have it frontpage due to overabundance of voting "groups".  However, by limiting certain types of stories - the effect is nearly the same as diggs bury committee.  As a few people have said - who is to judge what is considered exceptional content?

While I see where the mods are coming from, I also think that a bigger picture isn't being taken into consideration.  People are quick to jump on the clique or voting group bandwagon, but really, is that what it is?  If you are part of a blogging community, chances are likely you have your fellow authors email and twitter and other contact information.  I think its more a matter of the liklehood of being exposed to content by the same people more often than you are exposed to content by people you do not interact with as regularly.

Does that mean I dislike the content submitted by people I don't interact with as much? No, in fact, I may not even know it exists to sphinn it in the first place.  I don't limit myself to reading material from certain group, if I see something I like by anyone, even if I don't know them I will sphinn it - and I think the same goes for majority of people here as well.

Whenever I sphinn one thing I like, I make it a point to look around and see if there are any other articles worth sphinning - but if none of the titles catch my eye, or if I'm just busy, I leave.  I think that it's more the fact of, someone I know wrote an article so I am going to read it, and if I like it - sphinn it, while I may not have as much time to read articles written by people I don't know well unless something about it jumps out at me.

Would this be considered a voting "pattern" and would it be fair to get in trouble for that? I personally don't think so - that's just my two cents though.

from paisley 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 1

if @thegypsy tweets sphinn this.. i sphinn it.. read it.. amplify or blog it and possibly even tweet it..


because if he tweets it, it most likely good info and important to my knowledge as an SEO for Fortune 5,50,100 and 500 companies..

slawski.. andy beard - these guys know there stuph... am i going to sphinn an article by (name withheld) - no!!


i think he/she is an idiot and is just regurgitating someone else's blog post from last week or just an algo chaser without a clue..


it's social media... it's the network.. do i sphinn stuff without looking at the article? yes... do i blog it and retweet it.. yes.. do i BALK on sphinning or Rt'ing an article by someone i don't like? YES! Would i Sphinn some weight loss crap spam because @thegypsy tweeted it? HELL NO!

Avatar Administrator
from MattMcGee 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Andy - thank you for pointing those out. But I believe we only found three contest entries, not six. If we missed some, would you let ... well, nevermind. I see we've picked up the conversation via email. Thx again.

Feydakin - don't mean to sound rude, but this isn't about mods pushing stuff to the home page or not. That decision was made previously and we have no plans to change it. This post is about how users contribute to Sphinn, how they vote, how they encourage friends to vote, what they submit, etc.

ErenMcKay - we are asking Sphinn users to help improve the quality of the site by being more judicious in what they submit, in what they Sphinn, and in what they ask friends to vote up. We are not punishing anyone for having great networking skills. We're asking them to be more prudent in how and when they use those skills. I don't think anyone would like it if Search Engine Land writers submitted every SEL news article here on Sphinn and then grouped together as a team to promote all that content.

@theGypsy - again, we're not asking people to stop tweeting Sphinn stories. We're asking people to be more judicious about it. If we didn't want people sharing Sphinn URLs, we wouldn't have the social buttons here that we do.

In your specific case where you mention your group of authors ... yours is one of several sites like that, correct? There are other blogs/sites that have 5, 10, 15 or more authors on board now. You say, "At the end of the day I don't believe it is making a difference..." The people who email us with complaints and talk to us at conferences about group voting would beg to differ. It's very noticeable when all the authors at a certain site are voting up each other's stories. From Sphinn's perspective, it's no different than a large company with dozens of employees. We've emailed many site owners and companies to remind them our guideline on this kind of voting:

"While we recognize that many companies have multiple employees with Sphinn accounts who will be participating from the same IP address, this is not an excuse for all those employees to vote up the latest company blog post. Companies and members in this situation should be extra cautious in their Sphinn activity."

I would ask you to warn your writers about automatically submitting and voting up everything that they post, just as I've asked others to do that with their employees and teams. When you have a big group, you have to be more careful.

Re: "current perceptions" ... we know what the current perception is as it relates to how easily some content gets on the home page, while other excellent stuff gets all but ignored. It's one reason why a lot of people have left Sphinn. They've told us. And since people have left, it makes group voting all the more easy to spot. The only perception that really matters is whether or not the content that gets rewarded on Sphinn is actually deserving. No matter what we do, some people will love it and others will hate it. People will come and go. That's life as an open community site. But if the content being rewarded is great, I'll feel we're doing things right.

Discussions - yes, that's on our To Do list. The sooner, the better, as far as I'm concerned, but as you know, our dev folks also work on several other Third Door sites and so we fit Sphinn stuff in with their needs.

Thanks to all for the feedback, whether pro or con.

from paisley 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Matt.. me thinks the difference is... @thegypsy group are just "sharing" the "other" group you speak of is spamming.. which is what they do all the time anyways..

from theGypsy 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 3

@Matt... thanks for the response

I will do what I can, but when I have a Sphinn button there and Dojo members or Trail authors, or readers see it's been subbed, it's nature to hit it up. Just as much as it is in human nature to drop the odd Sphinn link as a 'look at me'. I feel somewhat awkward telling them not to. Once more, this post is chock full of Dojo members and some Sphunn, some de-sphunn and as U can tell, it was a convo that made the social rounds in the chat room today. Everyone did as they pleased. There was no 'Go de-sphinn this!!'. Ya know? And I can guarantee that when peeps do drop a Sphinn link myself and others, weigh the validity of the submission (as Andy pointed out). Many times folks just ignore it if they find it unworthy. There is by no means a 'voting crew' blindly sphinning (although I myself was guilty of that in the one recent case). With 200+ members, believe me, there is a lot of subs I see here every day from members that I don't hit up...

As for the authors, I do apologize to anyone that feels we're operating in some organized way. That is also not the case. I am pretty sure they really do enjoy each others work. It should be noted that not EVERY post is here. Not at all. And not all the ones that are submitted make it to the front page. If there is a large contingent of folks that dis-agree with a story from the site, or elsewhere, they can easily de-sphinn it and counter-act any friendly nepotism they percieve. One more, it is not an organized gaming of the system. Just human nature more than anything.

"No matter what we do, some people will love it and others will hate it." - aye, sing it loud ma brother! Not to get all hippy like, but can't we just all get along? As you know from our recent conversatons I'd love to see Sphinn as the place where all the factions come together. Maybe some day.

I have always tried to work with you (and the rest of the Sphinn management) and shall continue to do so. I have also been a long standing proponent of the place and look forward to continuing that into the future. I can't stress enough that there is no formal organized voting going on behind the scenes. Actually, we have a (Sphinn) Editor or two in our community and chat room. They are quite welcome to participate and talk freely with us if there is an issue. Actually, hey, you are more than welcome to join us at any point and talk to the crew... just get in touch and I shall bring U in to say HI.

PS; I know Michelle has her hands full... no envy on that front. I do look forward to being able to start convos here again some day soon tho'!

@Steve (Pais that is)... methinks I don't need to ask whom that 'other' group is lol. I am pretty sure it is 'that place' that I am not alowed to speak of in yer presence. Just a little biased there maybe? lol. And thanks man, pretty much anything Bill puts out is gold to me as you know. Too bad it never goes over well here... but that is, as I mentioned, just the nature of the place. I do try to let nature take it's course for the most part. Oh and thanks on the support

Desphinn from Seoworkers 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Reasons must be already obvious.

from AndyBeard 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@matt cool - as I emphasised via email I think some of the best content ever written to appear on Sphinn has been part of a competition, and often they end up widening the community if the people who are encouraged to set up accounts and vote stick around - but they are very hard to enforce fairly - one man's great competition is another man's spam.

@paisley Steve - hmm, would love to Rickroll a C level exec from a Fortune 5 ;)

Just some more general thoughts

Voting widgets

People take action based upon what they are encouraged to do - 2 years ago I had a pretty large Sphinn audience partially because I cultivated it and introduced people to Sphinn.

You end up with quite a few people who always vote on your stuff because they want to thank you, not just to share it with their friends... because their normal friends aren't interested in marketing stuff.

But that looks like a voting clique

If you don't encourage it people don't do it - the last time I had a post submitted to SPhinn was 430 days ago.

Also a significant factor that can't be quantified - if I am not on Sphinn I can't reciprocate the effort some people might put into promotion, yet I certainly saw the effort despite no encouragement from me.


You have all these voting buttons - I suppose the discussions here can justify that sometimes.

Wouldn't it be valuable to add some social media transparency here as well, so people can actually see where it is being tweeted.

That way it would be visible to everyone how traffic is being driven to vote.

Just pulling in some data from Topsy or other services would be pretty easy.

Avatar Administrator
from dannysullivan 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 2

@thegypsy, we have Sphinn buttons on Search Engine Land. We can't control if people go and click on them either, even if they haven't read them. But everything we write on Search Engine Land isn't worthy of hitting the home page. Heck, our news briefs alone would flood things.

I thought Matt had said it well. If a story is moving to the home page, really quickly as often happens if you have lots of friends pushing it, we're going to take a harder look on whether or not it should really make it.

If it's some three paragraph article that's not really that substantial, we might discard it. No harm or foul if it's just do to excited fans of a particular site. No banning of sites. No Digg-like auto-buries. We're just going to exercise some editorial review on it.

We're actually looking at all the stories, but those that accelerate out of the blue may warrant a faster, closer look. And there's going to be plenty of stuff that still makes it. The goal, I think, is to err on the side of caution (which means to not remove).

@feydakin, from Day 1 of Sphinn -- Day 1 -- we said that we might push stories to the home page if we think they're warranted. This isn't new. We do it more than in the past, because we think it will help get better stories out more quickly. Disagree with a push? Comment in the story. Please do that. We learn from that.

As for pushing Search Engine Land content, it's been a long time since someone's done a survey of what stories dominate the home page of Sphinn -- but in the past, it wasn't all SEL, and I'm pretty sure it still isn't Search Engine Land.

Moreover, I think some perspective is useful. We could build a nice closed loop where Sphinn lead to SEL and that was it. We don't. Not only doesn't SEL dominate Sphinn, but each day, we email all the top Sphinn stories (most which come from outside SEL) to our entire SearchCap readership. In addition, each week, Matt's recently started posts that spotlight all the Sphinn stories out there.

Personally, one of best things I find with Sphinn is that I can still find that unusual story from a blog no one has heard about and give it a Sphinn to push it up. I want more of that, along with the top stories. That's why despite the fact that the vast majority of submissions are simply pure spam (trust me, you'd agree if you saw them -- and fortunately we catch that stuff much better now) -- and despite the fact that most of the non-spam stuff is often just so-so -- you still have mods who wade through it all to lend a vote or try to keep the really iffy stuff out of What's New so that people who do want to discover good stuff can do it.

@ErenMcKay, a story's not going to suffer because a writer is popular. It's going to suffer if the story isn't that good. And yes, a small editorial group will help weigh in on that decision. The votes -- and comments from people who clearly have read a story and chime in on why it is good -- also help. But we have been, again from day 1, a site that also has editorial review.

I guess I come back to some of what Matt said. If you've got something you think is really exceptional (and this is for you to judge), then yes, encourage those votes. It's sad when really good stuff isn't moving up -- and it's why I'm glad editors can push things out. Heck, comment on a story that you think it is great and should go out. We're listening.

@andybeard, nice to see you back -- and you see something you don't like, plese doo keep speaking up.

from ErenMckay 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 3

@Matt & @Danny - I understand your intent to keep the quality high. However, it's important to note that the article was stating "voting patterns" like this was some kind of manipulative scheme by certain site owners. The fact is that if I'm a regular reader of a certain blog, obviously my "voting pattern" will show that I sphinn more stories from that blog. A voting pattern can mean a variety of things other than the ones stated in the article. It's important to keep that in mind instead of jumping to certain conclusions.  If I'm voting on something it's because I liked it and I'm associating my name to it . Opinions are subjective. Sphinners should have the freedom of voting on whatever they want without being judged. Just my 2 cents.

from Feydakin 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@danny I fully understand the mods being able to promote content to the front.. And I understand that it has been here since day one.. I just happen to disagree with the policy.. If you look at my reg date you'll see that I have been here since nearly the beginning.. But, this has always been one of my pet peeves and it only bothers me when issues of voting, voting blocks, and who's allowed to do what comes up.. I conceede that having mods remove inadequate content is a great thing, I just don't think that they should be allowed to promote things arbitrarily.. Especially when those things tend to not get very many sphinns after they are promoted.. I would wager that if you did an average of the votes reieved mod promoted items would be at the bottom of that scale..

As for spam, fuly aware of that too.. For a long time I flagged more stuff as spam than I sphunn.. It is handeled far better now.. And I appreciate it..

from theGypsy 2854 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@Danny - nice to see ya here... I have a pretty good idea of where everyone (on the Sphinn side) is coming from. I am always just looking for clarification for all. Much like an algorithm change at Google, I don't complain I just work within the paramters we're faced with.

I am all for getting rid of spam, obviously thin content using the site as a glorified article marketing channel. As long as we don't over think 'quality' as I have said in a few threads lately; what might be 'blah' to me might be useful to new folks in the industry. I try to keep that in mind when I look at things lately.

"It's sad when really good stuff isn't moving up -- and it's why I'm glad editors can push things out."

This I am also ALL FOR. I can't count the number of times I have submitted things that are VERY important but often of the more mundane/geeky level that go nowhere because they aren't necesarily 'buzz worthy'. Bill's work comes to mind once again (as do other items I have subbed including SEL stuff). Sure, I might be biased to that end, but it would nice to see things such as those get some help. I have altogether stopped posting Bill's stuff because of it which is a shame. I am relgated to Twitter, FaceBook and other channels to get the word out.

Anyway, good convo and I am looking forward to getting more of them via starting convo's in the 'Sphinn Zone' forum style....

from BasvdBeld 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I totally understand why you are doing this and in essence its actually a very noble thing to try and accomplish. However, I do think that you might run into some problems when you actually carry this into effect, one of which being that the moderators will have a tricky job because they might just get a lot of complaints from those feeling they are misjudged.

But, all things aside which have already been adressed above in all the other comments, there is one thing which comes to my mind. There is one big danger here, namely that this will only benefit the bigger sites. To be very honest, a smaller site sometimes needs the votes of their writers to 'get started' on Sphinn. Simply because many won't look at the post if it only has one or two Sphinns and they don't know the author or the blog. After all, because there are so many posts you tend to look at the ones which already have some votes. So to get the attention on Sphinn you need some votes. If writers from a blog are giving these first votes and its considered a voting-pattern, that will kill the possibility for smaller blogs to grab the attention of the community. Or am I seeing this wrong? How will you handle this?

Oh, and after reading the comments we can conclude that the best way to get any of the mods to read your posts is put in a pattern, they will then take a more thorough look, watch out Danny, people are going to try and grab your attention that way ;)

from rishilakhani 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I wonder if we should have a historic cull on obvious spam that went hot?

from 0thelisa 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Major props for taking a hard stand and fighting for the community that you've built here.  It's going to put a lot more scrutiny on Sphinn mods, but if you're not willing to police and protect your own community, who will?

Avatar Moderator
from Jill 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 2

ErenMckay wrote:

However, it's important to note that the article was stating "voting patterns" like this was some kind of manipulative scheme by certain site owners.

Unfortunately, there are some communities/blogs out there where this is the case.

In fact, I was sent an email by one such blog asking if I wanted to be a guest blogger there on a regular basis. The "benefits" of becoming said guest blogger was that all the posts would be submitted to Sphinn. If I remember correctly, it was the blog owner who would be doing the submitting.Well guess what? Not EVERY blog post is good enough to be submitted to Sphinn. (Not even every one of mine ;)

And therein lies our problem at Sphinn. It's not being used as a community as it should be, but as a self-promoting marketing tool.

I dont think there's much that can be done about this as our industry is simply too full of self promoters to stop the train wreck, but as editors here, we can at least try.

from BasvdBeld 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Good point Jill. But I don't think you can avoid the promotion part. If you want to do that, take away the voting all together. But thats not a way which Sphinn wants to go I think (and hope).

As said, I'm all for it, but maybe if we come up with a good definition of 'voting patterns' it would help? I can imagine that the example you are giving is a pattern, every post going to Sphinn, no matter if its good or not. But is it also a pattern if other writers from the same blog vote for it? It could be, but not always. And there lies my fear: the smaller blogs could be harmed because all they do is try to 'get into the attention' of the community by using their writers to get that attention. I said before: you need a few votes to catch the attention of somebody going through the posts. If they get punished for that all that remains is the 'same old same old' crowd of blogs and bloggers, which we don't want, because the best posts aren't always there.

Edit: Then again, if its done right, it could help quality improve. So lets do it right :)

Avatar Moderator
from graywolf 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 5

I wrote this a few weeks ago and the timing is kinda funny

I don't think most of you in the SEO community don't have the ability to act in your own best long term interests. You would pee in your own drinking water if you think it would get you a link or make you an SEO rockstar.

Avatar Moderator
from Jill 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Couldn't agree more with Graywolf's post. I feel the same, and I really don't think that there's anything we can do about it. IMO, Sphinn is likely doomed despite our best efforts. Unfortunately, everyone thinks their own posts are sphinn-worthy, even when they're not.

Therein lies the problem.

from DrPete 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 3

Ironically, it was my own ability to get an article promoted that turned me off of Sphinn. Write an article, ask someone else to post it, ask a few core friends to vote it up, get it to the "Getting Hot" section (or its previous incarnation), etc. People who know me will know I'm not prone to that kind of behavior - but on Sphinn it became so easy to see the process in action that it was hard to resist. So, instead of succumbing to temptation, I stopped using Sphinn.

Now that I work with a major player in the search industry, it's been even more clear. I could easily send an email to 10 SEOmoz employees and get 10 votes. Does that mean the article in question would automatically be undeserving? Of course not - but it's an unfair advantage all the same. In my defense, I've reached a point where I'd much rather get honest feedback than an empty promotion, but the temptation will always be there.

I don't know if this is the right answer, but it seems clear that you have to try to something, and I'll give you some credit for making tough choices.

from netmeg 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I'm so glad I don't have to worry about writing exceptional content (except when I'm paid to)

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from Michelle 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I want to chime in just to underscore the primary reason for this - not new, but re-emphasized - policy, which is to improve the quality of content at Sphinn, and level the playing field for all. There's been a number of comments about how this could hurt the little guy when more often than not, it's the little guys - the blogs without the large groups they can go to for support - that get left behind because marginal posts by the others steamroll ahead. And being a known site, or known people in the business does not equal quality in the posts submitted.

As mentioned above, every Search Engine Land article or news brief is not Sphinn worthy - and (I'm biased of course) I like to think our writers and staff are the cream of the crop out there.  But you don't see everything from SEL submitted and dominating the home page. We'd like to see everyone exercise that kind of judgment.  We're not looking to penalize people with good networks - we're looking to improve the quality of content. Much like I imagine everyone else here, on their own or their clients' sites is doing.

If you've got good content, submit it, and if it gets voted up - it's a win for everyone. If you submit marginal content, get it voted up to the home page - while other really terrific content flounders - it's demoralizing to the other members, and it does not help make Sphinn a valuable place for the community to come to, learn and share.

And plus one on Graywolf's article. Except I think people can restrain themselves, can submit good content, and can be judicious in what they vote on and promote - not be just self serving. I'll keep my glass half full for now :-)

from ErenMckay 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@Jill- I didn't at any moment say that this kind of thing doesn't happen (manipulative schemes) What I am pointing out is that it's easy to misjudge situations and put all "voting patterns" into one sack (so to speak) without taking into consideration other factors like being an avid reader of a certain blog.

You said:

Not EVERY blog post is good enough to be submitted to Sphinn.

I agree with you on that point. Of course not every blog post is good enough to be submitted. So while some blog posts may seem good enough for me to submit and vote for, they may not be good enough for you. How are you going to determine what I should like or not? Every person has a different background, upbringing, knowledge base, and emotional make up that will influence what they decide to vote on. What is the criteria that a sphinner should use for sphinning? Do you have those parameters clearly stated anywhere? As I've stated before, opinions are subjective. You need to somehow qualify in measurable standards what "Sphinn" is looking for. If you can't do that, then you're only creating confusion in the users minds. This also makes sphinners feel insecure about sphinning and then being judged. That really does not create any community feeling whatsoever.

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from Michelle 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@ErenMckay - there are submission guidelines, and these are located here for everyone to review:

Note, we are always evaluating user voting patterns (and have from the beginning).  This is not new. We've seen group voting start to get out of hand, and felt we needed to address it again. We've not taken any Draconian measures - we're simply asking everyone to evaluate what they submit, and what they vote on.  And to be a part of the community as a whole - not just of one group within that community.  We're not looking to penalize people because "x person thought y article was good and we don't."  We're looking for people to stop drive-by voting. To actually evaluate an item before submitting and/or voting on it. You vote on something you find and like - how bout dropping in a comment too, to highlight what you got from it? It's telling how many of the "Hot" items have no comments on them.

I see the raw data. I can tell you precisely how many votes a given item has received - one after the other. And I can even track that back to a tweet or other call to action. And if an item gets 7 sequential votes within 2 mins of a tweet - it's more likely than not that  those 7 people did not read the article. So they are not voting on the content - they are voting for their group, regardless of what is actually written in the article. We love good content, and we realize that comes in all shapes and sizes. And we love people voting on good content so that others can see it as well.

I guess it ultimately comes down to whether or not the internet marketing community wants a valuable resource and place to engage, or just wants a self promo dumping ground (see Graywolf's latest post at We'd prefer the former, and are trying to address the problems we see with these efforts.

from AndyBeard 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Editorial Decisions

That is the crux of this and I am trying really hard not to be a wet blanket, rain on the parade etc, but I don't believe it is working quite the way it is being presented.

Self promo dumping grounds are to be avoided - but with the bar set so high to limit the group and big userbase effect, you hit an unfortunate situation.

Lots of people don't necessarily care about the Sphinn community as it is. Without the buttons and encouraging people to use them, you end up with often 7 days of content on the home page and the news often takes 3 days to get there, if it makes it at all.

Without people being driven to vote, there are less visitors being encouraged to go to Sphinn... and what is the point.. most people are on Twitter, and a tweet might send 10, 20, 50 followers to actually see some content rather than just change the blue pixels on a Sphinn button.

Encouraging people to click a Sphinn button rather than a tweet or facebook share or like is currently like playing cards with someone you know has rigged the pack.

I admit that vision is a little short-sighted... who sees your content has a profound effect on links, and visible reciprocation often also brings rewards.

But lets look at editorial decisions

An example I could see happening the moment it was posted.

Michael's post was Sphunn

Jill has read it and sphunn it. Michelle has already suggested people read it twice.

The post has a very obvious affiliate link to SEObook - no in post disclosure but Michael's global disclosure is every link where they sell something is likely to be an affiliate link.

I am not against affiliate links in post that have some value, but rules are rules (and that rule affects me just as much though I use in post disclosure)

Then I could highlight editorial decisions such as why this site the submission was removed. It was a site that came up in conversation yesterday and today, and I wondered if it had ever been submitted to Sphinn.

If the editors have a history of editorial decisions on Sphinn it would be worth checking. It totally confounds me why content like that would be removed.

It is from a guy who probably invented the foundations upon which Pagerank sculpting and linkwheels were build upon - back in 1999 - author of revenge of the mininet in 2003

It even highlighted that in the submission which still appears in a domain search.

Nothing was ever sold on the site - there was not an affiliate link that I can remember though there might have been one to aweber right in the footer as I have seen that a few times on his sites (call that display advertising) - I don't have a saved copy.

It is possible it might have been looked on as a sales page that hadn't revealed they were going to sell something eventually.

To be honest I expected something to be sold at the end of it.

The launch of the page was quite interesting, with some of the content released each day, but it was a great way for all the content to be promoted on a single page rather than broken up over a number of incomplete articles.

From memory the first installment had enough content to warrant a Sphinn

I understand this isn't a thread to unravel individual editorial decisions and voting habits, but Danny seems to be ok with me speaking up so why not do it here.

I am quite happy for something like Michael's rant to be judged on merit and not removed due to choice of business model - to be honest the post staying is in my financial interests as long as discretionary judgement over affilaite links is added back to the rules.

In some ways Michael's rant/post could easily be directed at me as I probably have one of the weakest business positions of anyone at all "internet famous" in the internet marketing field.

I am not expecting anyone to make perfect judgement calls about everything - use other forms of social media as a barometer when making judgement calls.

It is hard to argue directly with Michael's post about the Sphinn issues he raised - comments switched off.

I am sure more people have been pushed away from Sphinn by editorial decisions than how hard it was to get votes/heard.

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from dannysullivan 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@ErenMckay You do have the freedom to sphinn whatever you want. But sorry, if there's something suspicious in your voting pattern -- in my voting pattern -- in anyone's voting pattern, it's going to be judged. Chances are, it's going to be judged just fine. But you do get vote gaming and weird and unhealthy things that go on. That's also been true since day 1 at Sphinn, and it's true of any site (heck, of any voting system) period.

@feydakin Promotions aren't arbitrary. usually, there's some discussion of whether something should be moved up. i'm also not worried whether something gets many post-Sphinns or not. We have an editorial team that also makes editorial decisions on whether something should be seen. It would be like me deciding not to write some important article simply because it didn't get many views. Hey, nice if it gets the views. But just because the majority might not get that something's important doesn't necessarily mean it's not -- and down the line, it might be. But I get you don't like the system and appreciate we have a difference of opinion on it. If you see stuff that shouldn't have been promoted, in your opinion, please keep speaking up.

@BasvdBeld Moderators here have had a tricky job since again, Day 1. No matter what you do, someone disagrees. There are arguments that you've done something that bear no relation to reality. There are assumptions of favoring people, or hating people, or you name it. And there are mistakes that we make that we deserve to be questioned on. I've learned it goes with the territory. I'd like to say it gets easier, and that you build a tougher skin when people make assumptions and grand uber plans. But you don't, really -- at least not for me. You just learn to keep doing what you think is right, and you try to learn from the criticism that seems warranted and founded.

We haven't said a writer shouldn't vote for their story. In fact, we've encouraged writers to submit their own stories. And I well understand that without votes, things might not get seen. I've submitted my own articles, things I've thought have been exceptional, and they've sat there and gone nowhere. I've submitted things by others, that go nowhere. I've Sphunn some items from small blogs that have gone nowhere.

What we've said is that if a story suddenly gets a lot of votes (which is more than the writer, right?) and starts moving up really rapidly (which isn't usually, and especially not usual for a "small" site that you're worried about), then we'll take a closer look at the content to see if it is exceptional enough to go on the home page.

That works to support small blogs, not harm them. Editorial promotion can also work to help small blogs, not harm them. And I see plenty of small blogs going hot all the time.

If you also read from my comments that the the best way to get attention for a post is to establish a pattern, and think people will do that to get attention, it's the wrong type of attention.

You want your blog post to go hot on Sphinn. It's not that hard. First, you write something decent. Like unique, new, a fresh take. Then you find people on Sphinn who already are active on Sphinn by looking at those who vote for stories in Getting Hot. Comment on the stories they've submitted or voted on. Reach out to them for a story you think is good. Comment that you hope it will do well. This is social media success 101.

What you don't do is get 15 of your friends who don't normally participate on Sphinn to start voting. But if you are going to do that, then you darn well make sure that story is really good.

@graywolf, I think the days of there being an "SEO" community that you can lump are largely gone. There's an SEOmoz community. A WebmasterWorld community. A Sphinn community. A Search Engine Journnal/Blueglass/Etc community. And a much larger group of people out there who quite happily carry on with work not bothering about any "community" at all.

In some ways, this has actually long been the case. And you do get some crossover, and in some cases, you can even get multiple people from these various places collectively speaking out or about something.

But in terms of your idea of people not being able to act in their "long term interests," that's tough. You've got people on Sphinn who weren't here when it started. You've got some who were who left. Some who've returned. There's difficulty with a social news site in even understanding what it's supposed to be. Those 15 drive in friends or whatever may very well think that's what it's all about, that you're suppose to just vote for stories.

Me, my thought for Sphinn was that it would be a place where marketers could submit good articles that deserved attention and not feel they'd get hit by the Digg bury brigade, where anything over there regardless of quality would get the axe. And that people would talk and discuss about good topics.

I'd still like to see that happen.

@andybeard after three hours, Michael's story has all of 3 Sphinns. I read it. Didn't Sphinn it because while it was interesting, I didn't find it that remarkable or fresh

I don't know if was submitted or not, but if was, it would be rejected because:

1) no date

2) home page of a web site

Sphinn's for fresh, dated news content.

As for people being pushed away from Sphinn, the reason we heard more than anything else was spam, which I think we've recently dealt with much better.

Avatar Moderator
from Jill 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Again, we don't care that you ask for sphinns on twitter or IM. We WANT you to do that.

We just ask that those who see those requests actually read the article, and think hard about whether it's truly Sphinn-worthy.

And even more than that, we ideally hope that before you submit something to Sphinn, you will ask yourself the same question.

We only ask that you don't submit everything you or your friends write, just because you can!

You are free to use your own discretion, but please do use some!

from AndyBeard 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@Danny it wasn't really a question of whether Michael's story is any good - whilst I have been active here in the past, there are quite a few new rules which I welcome, as long as things are universal. Understanding how things work is important.

At the start of the thread I picked up on a competition that was being judged on # of Sphinns - there are fixed rules about that now which weren't being enforced or being overlooked, and there wasn't awareness of them.

I am ok with affiliate links in posts or paid link or whatever, but it can affect the quality and the rule as stated is no affiliate links, so I would expect Michael's submission to have been deleted by Jill when she saw the affiliate link. There is no blame on Michael, he didn't submit it.

If I am going to include a sphinn widget on my blog again in the future, I am going to have to potentially switch it off for any content that has affiliate links.

So no date, root domain is automatic deletion


Whilst I know of a least one example ( in the last 6 months that squeezed through that criteria it is good to work with going forward. Worth noting though that it is very easy with WP to bait and switch urls, so you have something as a blog post then switch it to a page with an identical URL, or have selective blog post pages seem like a landing page.

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from dannysullivan 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Andy, we don't have a rule against affiliate links. We have a rule against articles that are sales promotional in nature, which often have affiliate links:

"Articles that are considered to be promotional and/or sales-oriented will be removed. This includes, but is not limited to, submissions with affiliate links, submissions that promote products or services, and so forth"

Reading his post, I don't think the primary purpose was to promote the SEOBook forums.

On the no date, root domain being automatic deletion, it's actually that they shouldn't be submitted at all:

"The URL submitted must consist of a page showing a single news story or blog post."

"Submissions with no date will almost always be discarded."

I'm not sure what the "hmm" is supposed to me when you commented about that, but it implies you've got an issue with it of some sort. I'm pretty sure these have also been long-standing rules from the very beginning. And I think they make sense.

This is a site for new content. If there's no date, how can we or anyone tell how fresh the story is. I've literally written thousands of articles over my past 14 years of covering search. Anyone want me flooding Sphinn with those?

Same thing with home pages. The home page of a site almost always isn't a fresh news article. It's a rule that just seems to make sense.

I've got no doubt you can find things that have gotten past these or other rules. We're not perfect here. Things get through.

However, there's a big difference between things getting through, getting a few votes and dying unnoticed. The site might see a tiny bit of traffic from that, and they get no link love, since stories that don't go hot stay nofollow.

To me, it's much more important that the stories that do go hot, that do show up in front of the wider Sphinn audience, that do get rewarded with a follow link be up to snuff.

That was the point of Matt's original post. To say hey, we get a lot of stuff submitted where we see an increase in the number of votes that seems to be due to someone pushing heavily for those -- and that if you're going to push, it needs to be for outstanding content that our rules also ask for. And if you don't, then we're likely to kill the article. And if you keep voting for so-so stuff, or submitting it, we ultimately might kill your account.

That doesn't seem unreasonable. It's also not something done in a dark room but rather that we put into the blog post -- plus it's not even new. We've had guidelines on this. It was a reminder.

Asking people to please vote on stories that they've actually read, that they feel are really exceptional, that's just common sense good behavior. I don't get the objections people have to that, honest. I do get that people can misinterpret or assume the worse. All I can say is that I think some are misinterpreting and assuming the worse.

from AndyBeard 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Danny thanks for the clarification

When this wording was introduced I read it as no affiliate links at all.

"Articles that are considered to be promotional and/or sales-oriented will be removed. This includes, but is not limited to, submissions with affiliate links, submissions that promote products or services, and so forth"

It is even one of the rules that I saw significant evidence that it was being strictly enforced. As an example there are tons of tutorials out there for doing SEO stuff with Thesis which don't get submitted here, or if they were submitted were being moderated.

I am not a fan, but I know lots of SEOs are/have been, thus for me it was a good litmus test.

It might be worth rewording things on that point, as Sphinn readers might be missing out on some good content.

from ErenMckay 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@Michelle - Yes I know of Sphinn's guidelines. I'm referring to the standards on what would be deemed exceptional content. How can exceptional content be determined without clear parameters. From what I have understood, the content that is submitted doesn't break any of Sphinn's guidelines- it simply is not exceptional content in the moderator's opinion. If it went against the guidelines you would simply take it down and rightly so, since the guidelines are clearly stated.

It needs to be made more clear what is exceptional content since that is subjective and will depend on each user's point of view.

@Danny - you said:

"if there's something suspicious in your voting pattern -- in my voting pattern -- in anyone's voting pattern, it's going to be judged."

If you look at my twitter, delicious, stumbleupon and faceook pages you will see a certain "pattern" start to emerge. The pattern of me sharing with my network the posts of people I trust and read frequently. The ones that I subscribe to in my RSS reader or by email. Does that mean it's suspicious? Absolutely not. It simply means I'm a creature of habit and if I "habitually" read something I will vote for it if I liked it. There really is nothing suspicious about that at all. Of course there will be a pattern in any user's voting as poeple are creatures of habit.

I'm not here to "win" any argument just to show another perspective on things.

from AlanBleiweiss 2853 Days ago #
Votes: 3

Late to the converstation, yet I'm all for supporting this effort to further/better enforce existing guidelines and policies.  It really is about quality.

I don't care what your reasoning is - if you Sphinn something for any reason other than believing it deserves to be Sphunn on merit, I think it's just wrong, and I appreciate this new effort.

The latest article I deSphunn was just pitiful.  Yet sadly I was the only person to deSphinn it.  Several people thanked me through Twitter DMs, a private email came in thanking me, and I even got contacted through Skype on it.  All confirmed my view and reasoning, yet none of them deSphunn it.

At that point I could have gone on a deSphinning campaign however I didn't do so because I really believe everyone who participates here needs to make the decision to Sphinn or deSphinn of their own accord.

Sure, I tweet links to my article once or maybe twice. Yet I implore people to only Sphinn if the content is worthy in their eyes.  I really wish people would consciously decide whether an article is deserving of a vote one way or the other, rather than playing the mainstream societal games.

And anyone who discounts that because it's naive is talking to the hand.

from BasvdBeld 2852 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@Danny thanks for your reply. I think we are mostly on the same level. I believe it can really benefit small blogs, as long as the guidelines are good enough and the moderators strong enough :). If not than it will turn against the smaller blogs.

I wasn't talking about self-submitting a post by the way, but by a regular group of friends sphinning articles because they know and support a specific blog (and like the articles!). That can be seen as harmful but also as a good thing. Thats exactly the thin line I'm talking about. As Erin says, everybody seems to have a 'regular' group of friends on every social network, thats not a bad thing, as long as people don't get punished for having friends :).

And the remark about the pattern & attention, that was not a serious remark as in people SHOULD do that, but merely that you can count on people doing that. :) I agree that that is the wrong way to go.

In the end, I trust the moderators and like Sphinn enough to know it will benefit quality articles in the end. So good luck!

from Alysson 2852 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Given what Sphinn's core audience does for a living, it's pretty easy for the intent to build a community to morph into little more than self-aggrandizing attention whores submitting their own content and begging others to vote it up regardless of the quality of the content.

Unlike many, I don't submit my own content to Sphinn.  I don't send out e-mails or DMs asking people to Sphinn stuff.  If someone else feels that something I've written is Sphinn-worthy and decides to submit it, great.  If people read it and want to vote for it, fantastic.  If not, that's fine.

Like @TheGypsy, I will typically send out a tweet or two after someone else has submitted a post saying, "Like my [insert post title here] post?  You can Sphinn it here...".  Aside from that, I try to let the chips fall where they may.  The real value of Sphinn to me is the opportunity to see what content is well-received and what falls short of useful.  The only way I can gauge whether or not others find the content I create useful is by eliminating myself from the process.

I'd like to see Sphinn evolve into a more democratic community where a post's success is less about who you know and more about the quality of the content itself.  I'd also like to see the political discourse in America return to something civilized and fact-based.  I don't believe either will ever happen, but that won't keep me from keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that I'm ultimately proven wrong.

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