Teaching Old Dogs to Sit – An open letter to Danny

It is not really a story worth noting else than that it is such a typical example of when social media success does not rhyme with big ego. Sphinn is one of search and social medias true resources online. Not so much for the content on the platform, but for the relationships you are able to build through it quickly.

You have been able to find, promote and discuss interesting content with other users there or on their respective blogs. As you know, I have previously been quite critical towards Sphinn. In part, because I truly have wanted the service to improve and get even better. Now, naturally, my wishes have never been heard. Probably because of my lack of smooth language skills. I am never far away from the insult as I see the world through the perspective of a hip hop battle.

However, I have continued to post my stories as well as other people’s stories to the platform as I am able to connect with other users through the platform. I have liked voting for content that I enjoy reading and discussing content that I find interesting.

That will all stop. I don’t think I will ever visit the website again. The reason being that they just announced they will remove the voting functionality from the website.

Now… A crowdsourcing website without voting?? What’s the point??

Read Danny Sullivan’s arguments here.

Oh… Danny Sullivan, one of the webs self proclaimed pricks, argues that there was too much problem with spam, and that the quality content didn’t reach the front page enough times. So they thought they should just take away the crowdsourcing out of their project and let the editors decide what was valuable content instead of leaving it in the hands of the users. This kind of reasoning reminds me of something… hmm… old time media perhaps…. naaahw… These guy’s are online heroes… they wouldn’t turn away from the social nature of the web and turn to old school tactics just cause they get a little spam now… would they?

Well, never mind what they’ve actually done. Nor shall we care about why they do it. But what we should focus on is who they blame for their failure…. namely the users of their website. See, they seem to think that it is the voting mobs and the spam that is decreasing the interaction levels of the website. They don’t consider any of their own actions, rules or changes to be a part of the blame. NOOO…. it is the users who built the website who are the ones to blame. Naturally… don’t you think?

Seriously… Danny. You cannot be this narrow minded and ego centric. You have to realize that it is not the spam that is driving the users away. Look at Digg, look at Stumbleupon, look at any other real crowdsourcing project out there. They are growing, thriving and improving their services as a result.

The difference between them and you is that you have always made changes that limit the users rather than make changes that improve the visibility of their content. You have imposed unfair into a system where everyone is free to leave at their own will. That is what you are seeing the result of now. Your “editor’s choice”, your obnoxious replies to comments or critique, your relentless self advocating blog posts and your never ending promotion of those who only agree with you. Those are the real reasons why people do not care about interacting with your website. That’s why they stop voting and that’s why they stop coming back else than for self promotion. You set the court yourself, all users did, was to play ball.

I don’t blame you for shutting down the website. That’s completely your choice. But to try and martyr yourself out of your own misery, well that’s just wrong. You need to thank every single one of us who have contributed to your website. You should be ever thankful. WE created the website’s success and WE are the true heroes of the story. You’re just a name with a dwindling legacy.

Thank you for the few years the service was operational. Try and learn something from the experience. In this open, social and very much real time web where we are operational today, it seems ever so difficult to make old dogs sit. I know this post won’t make you change your mind. I just had to air mine.

4 thoughts on “Teaching Old Dogs to Sit – An open letter to Danny”

  1. It’s no longer a crowdsourced site. That’s why the voting is removed. Thought that was clear.

    Spam was less an issue, as I explained. The bigger issue was that people weren’t voting, as I also explained.

    Result? It’s hard to crowdsource when the crowd doesn’t source.

    Digg, you trot out as an example. Digg has seen declining traffic. Why? My best guess is that people are sharing more via Facebook and Twitter, as I’ve also explained. But Digg has millions of users, where gaming — certainly not impossible — is certainly harder.

    All these limits that you complain about have come out of user complaints. We started with no particular rules — and then there was upset that people didn’t want contest posts, didn’t want birthday posts, didn’t think such-and-such site’s content was that good to be on the home page, you name it.

    I mean, even here you seem to think Sphinn had posts that were nothing but people agreeing with me (or perhaps Sphinn, I’m not certain). Neither is the case.

    You helped build the site through your activity and not feeling thanked? OK, looking at your profile, your last submit was 13 days ago, then 27 days before that. You certainly don’t submit each day, much less each week.

    When you do submit, it is only your own posts. Every single post you’ve put in has come from your own site. It’s fine to submit from your own site, but every single post? You’ve seen absolutely nothing in your travels across the web that you thought worth submitting to the crowdsourced community you’re now so concerned about?

    As for voting, you last did a bunch 13-14 days ago. Then 23 days before that. Then a few before that. You’re not voting each day. Not even each week. Skimming the recent activity, you also seem to vote only when you’ve also come to the site to submit one of your own posts.

    Those are drive-by visits that haven’t helped the site in the whole. That’s not crowdsourcing. But that’s the system we’re supposed to maintain?

    It’s also unpleasant when the few that do vote in turn constantly argue that so-and-so is somehow gaming the system, demanding that the moderators step in, which in turn gets another group upset. So upset that people start becoming abusive over the entire “winners-losers” atmosphere.

    Dropping f-bombs or, you know, declaring people to be pricks, as you did in your post today.

    • I’m sorry Danny, but you simply haven’t read the post above. I use your site in my way, and others use it their way. As I wrote, I use it mainly to connect with other people – AND to promote myself and my content. Just as you’re using it to promote searchengineland… fair practice ehy? That’s not what I am criticizing either.. as you would have known if you would have actually read my post above.

      I will explain my behavior though:

      1. Yes, I only post my own content (through the profile with my name) as I used Sphinn to connect with people through my content.

      2. No, I rarely vote if I don’t visit the site and I visit it when I submit to it. I comment when I feel it’s needed, but most of the time I go directly to the blog post to comment.

      I will try to make what makes me tic clearer to you. Your traffic and/or site interaction is dwindling because of YOUR behavior, not because of your visitors, nor because of Facebook or Twitter. You should know that most visitors do not contribute at all in open societies such as Sphinn. Very few post, some more comment, and some more vote, the others just read.

      If you behave like a prick, you should prepare yourself for the event that a person might call you one. Your attack stance really isn’t helping you out here. I am just trying to give you a hint on what you’re doing wrong so that you don’t repeat your mistake.

  2. I did read the post, Jesper. I just don’t agree with it, just as despite reading my post, you don’t agree with that. People disagree.

    We don’t use Sphinn to promote Search Engine Land. Sometimes people submit our stories. Often they don’t. Occasionally I or someone else from Search Engine Land submits a Search Engine Land story, but that’s pretty rare. Feel free to check on this. Search Engine Land stories are not always selected. It’s pretty common that you won’t find a Search Engine Land story on the Sphinn home page.

    But I also wasn’t criticizing you for submitting your own stuff. As you say, go back and read the comment. I was saying that you also do not actively participate in the site. You don’t — most people don’t. But you are upset that we’re removing the crowdsourcing element. I’m explaining that the crowd removed itself from the sourcing long ago.

    The traffic is actually pretty stable — as I’ve also said. It’s the voting that’s down. People don’t vote. I know that’s true of user generated content sites. But as I also said, big places like Digg have bigger pools of vote. We have a smaller pool, which makes it much more open to gaming.

    As for behaving as a prick, well, I never self-proclaimed myself to be one, as you wrote. That’s pretty weird. As for behaving like one in your opinion, I guess that’s your opinion.

    My “attack” here wasn’t an attack. It was a pretty straight-forward explanation to you, someone who has actually literally attacked me, of why the decision was made and illustrating for you how even your own participation illustrates how there’s no crowdsourcing going on, even with the crowdsourcing nature.

    • Naturally you don’t submit your own stories to Sphinn, but the site itself is a promotion for Search Engine Land. You’re like a politician. Your intentions are obvious and if you would only stand by them, then people would respect you for it. But instead you take an “attacking stance”, which you do. Perhaps I opened the door for it… but to try and say you gave a straight forward answer is perhaps a bit… hmm… funny?

      I do not agree with you at all. In contrast to you I don’t believe I am the web. I believe I am a part of the web and that is why I don’t have to be active on your website every day. I think the good stories get attention anyhow. If I am not there I just miss it. But I visit Sphinn just about every day, it is just that I don’t vote unless I find something worth voting for… or I forget to vote because I have to do something else after reading the post. Now, if your interactions are decreasing whilst traffic stays the same it doesn’t say crowd sourcing is dead. It merely says that your site has bad converting elements. Once again. It is not your users but your own fault the voting is down.

      If people would be sharing on Facebook or Twitter instead, then your traffic would be down, or your facebook Like button clicks would be up. As far as I can tell, neither is the case. So, that argument falls on its own.

      BUT, it is not that you closed your service that I am turning against. It is the way you blame the users for it. If you don’t manage to convert your traffic, then perhaps you’re using outdated methods.

      I have previously given Matt some suggestions on what you could have done with the site. Amongst them was:

      1. Customizable sphinn embed button
      2. Pop up login window after you’ve hit vote
      3. Facebook connect
      4. Viewable comments, but necessary login to make your own comments
      5. Weighted vote depending upon activity
      6. More top lists based on geographical, topical and other such metrics

      There is just so much to do which excites users. You have done none of those and suggestions have been met with silence. I would have built it for you for free if you would have just said “good idea, but we cannot afford that right now”.

      So. My point still being. Please do close your service, but don’t blame the users for it.


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