08 Dec 2008

Sphinn Is Not The Problem; YOU Are

There was a lot of flutter last week and this weekend about Sphinn. Does the bar need to be raised, does the Desphinn option need to be utilized more, do certain people get special treatment, etc. Regardless of where you fall on the discussion, the number of threads, sphinns and comments created last week brought a lot of search marketers who had already dismissed Sphinn back into the site. It was a good conversation.

But was it useful conversation? Probably not.

What most people need to realize is this: Life (not just SEO) is not fair. People don’t get what they deserve. They get what they demand and what they make happen.

You can’t hate on Aaron Wall for his social media success. He made it happen.

You can’t hate on the low quality posts that reach the front page if you’re part of the problem.

And chances are you ARE part of the problem. We all are. It seems like these “boo-hoo-social-media-hates-me” conversations come around every 3-4 months. And they’re pointless if people aren’t willing to change their own actions. And I don’t think they are.

Our social media behavior won’t change because people don’t want to upset their own circles. They don’t want to call anyone else out. They don’t want anyone else calling them all. We’re all a bunch of babies sphinning and commenting on crap so that no one notices we, too, are creating crap.

As I mentioned in my SEO grammar rant, I think any content that is produced has a responsibility to be valuable, and I don’t think social media helps that goal. I blame social media for dumbing down the Internet and lowering our standards.

Under the rule of social media, people produce content to get attention. People disagree simply to be “edgy”. It causes us to create false measures of fame and false idols. We write what will “do well”. We choose words that will get attention. We pick on the names that will bring in the most links. We’ve lost the educational focus that used to be on what we published. The Web was once about information and research and spreading information. Now it’s about becoming an Internet celebrity.

You are not an Internet celebrity.

The problem with the conversations that occurred at Sphinn last week are that it’s not Sphinn that needs fixing. The problem is not the site. It’s not the moderators. It’s not the content being written.

The problem is the users and how they use or don’t use the site. The problem is that everyone thinks they’re special and intelligent. I’m sorry, but we’re not. Not everyone deserves to be on the front page of Sphinn, regardless of how nice they are in person. If you want to change Sphinn and change social media, it’s up to you to do that. It’s not Danny or Michelle or Rob. They’re doing their job. Are you doing yours?

Are you standing up for the content that deserves to be seen or are you supporting crap? Do you read the Upcoming section or do you stick to the home page and sphinn what has already been validated? Do you only sphinn what you like or do you sometimes take pity on the desperate person who drops the same, going-nowhere link in their Twitter feed nine times?

Fixing social media is easy. It just requires us to take a stand and stop supporting crap. But how manyย  of us will accept the responsibility to do that?

UPDATE: Skellie has an amazing post entitled How Not to Sell-Out which touches on very similar sentiment. I highly recommend you give her post a read.

[Comments on this post are obviously more than welcome, but please don’t Sphinn it. The last thing Sphinn needs today is another post talking about itself. Thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚ ]


  1. David Wallace December 8, 2008 at 12:11 PM

    Ooops… too late. Already Sphunn it (before I read your request NOT to Sphinn). Hopefully people that find it on Sphinn wil comment here (which is what should occur with most blog posts anyway). ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Lisa Barone December 8, 2008 at 12:25 PM

    Well, at least now we know you Sphinn things before you finish reading them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Casey Yandle December 8, 2008 at 2:02 PM

    Great post as usual Lisa! ๐Ÿ™‚ Just a heads up though, you have a typo in the next to last sentence. Didn’t want people jumping on you since you like to have the proper grammar and all. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Jack Leblond December 8, 2008 at 2:18 PM

    Wait – are you saying we should just write good content that will benefit our readers (who probably are not our peers), regardless of what our peers think and say about it?

    Have you gone mad woman?

    As usual Lisa – an enjoyable read.

  5. Lisa Barone December 8, 2008 at 2:38 PM

    Jack: Shocking, right? I think the point about our colleagues and our readers NOT being the same audience is completely missed by most people and an excellent point.

  6. Edward December 9, 2008 at 12:04 AM

    Couldn’t agree with you more, good content is almost like an endangered species.

    This was a brilliant read and definitely worth while. It’s my first visit to this site and I will definitely return.

  7. John Santangelo December 9, 2008 at 7:17 AM

    Couldn’t have said it better myself, but I guess that’s why you’re the blogging queen. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Lisa Barone December 9, 2008 at 7:47 AM

    Edwards: It’s sad, but you’re right. Good content really has become an endangered species! Thanks so much for your comment and welcome to the blog! We hope to see you around soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

    John: Your Gravatar got rejected, didn’t it? [shakes head]

  9. Michael D December 9, 2008 at 10:00 AM

    I may not have seen this post if it were not on Sphinn so I sphunn it even though you said not to. I like pushing those buttons. Pushing the rss subscribe button next. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Jill December 9, 2008 at 10:31 AM

    Unfortunately, if you don’t want hate posts written about you, it seems that you have to allow the status quo. If you stand up for what you believe in, you’re an easy target to be attacked by those who don’t understand that there are people out there who may disagree with them.

    So yes, Lisa, you are correct. The problem is not the site, but the people on them.

  11. Lisa Barone December 9, 2008 at 11:01 AM

    Jill: If someone writes a hate post about me because I desphunn something, I think I’m willing to live with that. I’ve had plenty of hate posts written about me for far less. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    You may not make any enemies by following the status quo, but you don’t make any real friends or contribute any real value either. I’d rather be quietly respected than well-behaved.

  12. John Santangelo December 9, 2008 at 11:05 AM

    Apparently my gravatar is not G rated ๐Ÿ™

  13. Jill December 9, 2008 at 11:08 AM

    While I agree completely with you, Lisa, in these days of reputation management on Google being more difficult than ever, can we really invite ourselves to be attacked that way?

  14. Matt Siltala December 9, 2008 at 11:11 AM

    Lisa – in response to:

    “Jill: If someone writes a hate post about me because I desphunn something, I think Iโ€™m willing to live with that. Iโ€™ve had plenty of hate posts written about me for far less.”

    Sometimes the negative press can be good too, because most of the time the ones writing the negative stuff are idiots – and that just adds to your credibility!

    I am glad you wrote this – Thanks!

  15. Lisa Barone December 9, 2008 at 11:16 AM

    Jill: That is so sad to me. When disagreeing with public opinion and standing up for a community you’ve invested your time in, opens you up to being “attacked that way”, then we have a major problem that goes far beyond the walls of content on social media.

    The truth always comes out in time. Who you are comes out in time.

    I hate to go here, but we have a person right now who is “attacking” people in the industry because they differ in opinion, and I’d like to think it’s THAT person who is seeing their reputation tarnished with the hate and misconstrued words they use, not mine.

    There’s that old saying that ‘all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothingโ€™. I’m not willing to sit quietly. Never have been. But you know that. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Jill December 9, 2008 at 11:30 AM

    Yes. It is sad. And while we in the industry may know who’s right and who’s wrong, potential clients and others researching people online don’t always know. Haters stretch the truth and/or make stuff up, twist words, take things out of context and just generally try to wreak havoc.

    Can we really risk our reputations and those of our companies just to desphinn something we think is crap? I used to think so, but I’m really not sure it’s worth it anymore.

  17. Lisa Barone December 9, 2008 at 11:38 AM

    Jill: I actually have gone the other way. I think in the beginning I was a lot more willing to go along with things and vote for people that I liked personally even if I wasn’t a fan of the article. Now I sit back and see that the wrong people are getting attention. People who haven’t contributed anything to the industry but are “famous” for writing mediocre blog posts or Twittering excessively are speaking at conferences because there’s this perceived value there that’s not right.

    If we don’t police our industry and what it stands for, who will? That may breed hurt feelings at first, but in the long term, I think everyone benefits. It motivates people to be better and to model themselves after the right people. We get rid of false idols and we demand that people do great things.

    Or maybe not. Maybe I’ living in a dream world.

    [P.S. Thanks for engaging in the conversation. You’re always a fun person to play devils advocate with. ๐Ÿ™‚ ]

  18. Affan Laghari December 9, 2008 at 9:06 PM

    Just came here from Sphinn. The story is in upcoming most popular – enough to realize its uselessness.

    Most of what you have written is correct. But ..
    “Fixing social media is easy. It just requires us to take a stand and stop supporting crap”

    In other words:
    “Peace is easy to achieve. We just shouldn’t fight”.

    Being Sphinn Mods, you [used generally] can change your algo, you can change your rules, you can change everything but people.

    There were murderers in past, there are now, and there will be in future.

  19. Xurxo Vidal December 11, 2008 at 8:33 AM

    I agree: we all have a responsibility to avoid promoting crap content even when asked to do so by our peers. As you pointed out so many undeserving people who have mastered the art of self promotion and gaining visibility are getting all the airtime.

    Sphinn among other networks gives us the ability to voice our opinion on content but that requires some effort and a sense of responsibility to make sure that the best quality content gets more visibility and discussion on.

    I’m with you on being selective on what we contribute to especially when it means cluttering good spaces like Sphinn with mediocre content and shameless self promotion. Even if it means ruffling some feathers in the process.

  20. Halfdeck December 11, 2008 at 3:46 PM

    Yeah some people on Sphinn are dysfunctional, bored to death, hypersensitive to desphinns, or trigger happy so we’re part of the problem. But I don’t buy your either/or argument (either Sphinners need to up their game or Sphinn is broke – no choices in between?)

  21. Online Marketing Blog » Blog Archive » The Rarity of the Shared SEO Experiment December 12, 2008 at 12:02 AM

    […] an aside, if people are wondering what kind of content is really worth our Sphinns, in my opinion, this is […]

  22. Geoff Jackson (zigojacko) December 12, 2008 at 6:05 AM

    I raised my initial comments on this on the submission over at Sphinn but I think there has been some very valid reasons raised…

    Everyone needs to play their part by ensuring rubbish doesn’t get voted up on Sphinn, too many people just read the topic titles and Sphinn, the article doesn’t even get read (probably like the majority of the members on Sphinn sphunn this article without reading it)… I don’t know whether the recent discussion on all of this will make a difference though, we shall have to see.

    I don’t think it is the resolution to shy away from the problem by not desphinning etc in fear of getting slated, abused or whatever. Take my recent example, a spammer on Sphinn went into my profile and clicked thru to my website and used the contact form spamming my company with childish abusive crap (http://sphinn.com/story/91857) all because I was desphinning spam. I’ll carry on doing it though and when enough people put their foot down and stop supporting the repeated/crap submissions on Sphinn, I think members will appreciate the quality of the front page content more so. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Orbitania December 19, 2008 at 9:50 PM

    Thak you for the news

  24. Anthony Lawrence December 26, 2008 at 10:31 PM

    I opted out of social media some time back. At the bottom of each of my posts is a little link that says ‘Why no Digg this!”, etc.?’

    I just don’t want to be part of it. You seem to suggest fighting the tide, but it is like fighting the tide: pointless, because you can’t win. The junk just keeps on rolling in..

    I’ve been writing on the web since Hector was a pup – long before Digg, Sphinn, any of it.. and I hope to be here long after none of that stuff matters. If not – if “crap” is still clogging the pipes – well, I’ll just keep ignoring all of it.

  25. Looking Back on 2008 December 31, 2008 at 11:02 AM

    […] and bunnies and knee socks when I think about itโ€ฆ.but I donโ€™t. Iโ€™m still not comfortable with the effect social media has had on Web content and I donโ€™t like what itโ€™s been doing to good people in our […]

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