Sphinn Is Dead: Long Live Anything Else

by Ruud Hein September 1st, 2010 


I drag my head out of a big SEO audit, throw a glance at Twitter and spot this:


Not completely numbed down by the heat (30 degrees Celsius outside, 250 thousand inside) I thought Todd Mintz must have done an op-ed on the hotly debated one week old decision by Sphinn to have its editors emphasize exceptional content by taking a hard look at voting patterns for crap.

But no.


They really want to stop the voting.

A Spectacularly Bad Idea

There are many things wrong with voting sites. Digg has bury brigades, a term befitting South American countries in the 80s; black-ops, nightly murders, slaughter. Sphinn has voting rings; about as exciting as an Ovaltine decoder ring.

It gets worse " apparently some people just vote vote vote and never even read the stories they vote on. People come to their wisdom of the crowds community news site to read the best of the best and whats voted right up there on page number one? Crap.

And thats just the tip of the iceberg.

Theres spam (Id have to repeat that word 490 times to give you a feel of just about how much spam there is). Oh, and a lot of the crap, voting and spam is all self serving; participants often dont act as United Nations blue helmets of content but want fame and fortune. Tsk tsk tsk. What is the world coming to.

So " wisdom of the crowd popularity contest sites have to come up with ways to make life bearable for their editors and the top content passable to its readers. Digg does this through God knows what kind of weird algorithms. Google does it by hand tweaking search results (oh wait, different discussion). And Sphinn does it by banning voting.

In Dutch wed say that youre taking the corner a bit too tight there, dude. Youre fixing the problems with voting by removing voting? Uh


Just Ditch Sphinn Instead

Look, I get it. Voting is down and the voting that does happen is gang voting.

Besides people share their stuff on Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader; youre just not relevant anymore. Fine.

Then stop. Go home. Thanks for the ride.

But dont take our voting from our community site:

  • its not polite
  • its not the right thing to do
  • you were never meant to be an editorial site

Seriously, what place is there for you without voting, without the community angle? I sometimes have to filter out links on Twitter or Id be reading the best, most fascinating SEO posts all day. I follow a ton of SEO blogs on Google Reader/FeedDemon and have curators their sharing the best of the best.

And you expect me to go to Sphinn to see what a handful of editors (all respect there, all respect " seriously) have deemed to find good enough?

What do you think?

Are you going to use the new & improved Sphinn (now with cleaner content!) or will you get your best of the best fix somewhere else?

Will you miss Sphinn or was the site dead before it knew it itself?

Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

You May Also Like

47 Responses to “Sphinn Is Dead: Long Live Anything Else”

  1. debra mastaler says:

    Ruud – regarding what you said here:

    …"And you expect me to go to Sphinn to see what a handful of editors…have deemed to find “good enough”?…"

    The Moderators are not going to be doing all the submitting, people can still submit content just like they have. The only change will be the elimination of the vote.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      "The only change will be the elimination of the vote." <— that's the key,

      Voting what is top content (front page) vs. editors deciding. I don't go to Digg, Reddit or Sphinn for editorial cherry picking just like I don't go to the New York Times to see community voted top news.

  2. Eren Mckay says:

    I completely agree with you. The point of a social site is for the people to be able to vote on what they like. Can you imagine if Stumbleupon, Digg, Delicious, Youtube, etc. removed the ability to vote? The basis of being social is giving the option for users to interact and have a say. Personally I think it's absurd to take off the voting ability but it's not my site and obviously what I think or anyone else thinks doesn't matter in their equation.
    All the best,
    .-= Eren Mckay recently posted: How to Be and Stay Happy =-.

  3. DazzlinDonna says:

    Sphinn hasn't really "lived" in a long time. It was merely existing on life support, and now the plug will be pulled. Oh sure, they'll still pretend it's alive, but will it be? Nah. History. Movin' on…
    .-= DazzlinDonna recently posted: Online Product Ideas – Infographic =-.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      @Donna Pulling the plug; that's what I suggest they do instead of trying it as an editorial site. I've never liked the "Reader's Digest" format….

      @Eren I liken it to YouTube removing the ability to upload video in order to deal with copyright violations :)

      @Dean I'll check tonight it I already follow you on Google Reader

  4. Ruud like others we saw rumblings of change but like you I did not think they would have decided against the voting.

    I also have Google Reader full of places I like to haunt and catch up on, sometimes sites slip through that net and community voted for articles are an opportunity to gain insights from elsewhere.

    I have every faith in the Admin/Mods at Sphinn but "as voted for" by a wider readership is much more powerful than "as approved".
    .-= Dean Cruddace recently posted: New Digg New SEO Opportunities =-.

  5. Jim Rudnick says:

    Totally in agreement here with Ruud! That "slippery slope" will be even MORE of a slope once voting disappears, IMHO!!!

    Not a good idea, Sphinn MODs…



  6. I'm afraid I'm thinking the same way as you Ruud. I see no benefit for publishers or community users (ok, well maybe a bit of traffic). The single biggest reason? What you think is great and important isn't always what I think is great and important. Doesn't mean your stuff is crap, but we're different people, with different interests, and a different knowledge base.

    If you've not followed many journalists, you may not have heard the debate about how hard it is to stay objective and whether they should be. Even the best of the best will have their thoughts and opinions expressed in their work. It's what makes them great to begin with.

    I have to say that after many debates, I think it's impossible to stay completely objective and could very easily play in here as well. Not saying it's deliberate, but we are individual human beings here, so it's bound to happen.

    Maybe they'll prove us wrong…


  7. I have been a Sphinner a short time so I'm not attached to the voting or non voting aspect. But, I will admit when I caught the bug and realized people do pay attention, there was a certain amount of respect for "OTHER" content not just the normal cherry picks from the editors I started to enjoy Sphinning.

    But then within months I started to see attitudes, distrust & bahh humbug excuses coming from editors all over the comments. Too much drama & I certainly don't want to participate in a dying community that's run by a handful of people. But to me, at this point it's dead. Why promote content through their network if people cannot vote for it? I'm disappointed sure, but someone will take the ball & do something better, right?
    .-= Gabriella Sannino recently posted: Encourage and Engage for SEO and All Mankind =-.

  8. Harry says:

    I have to say I disagree, and applaud Sphinn's decision. Over the past two years, the site has gone from useful resource to not very useful at all. There is no doubt that the editors will produce a better collection of content than what currently exists though voting. I realize this violates the original premise of Sphinn, but I believe the result will be a much more valuable resource for online marketers, and I look forward to learning from Sphinn again.

  9. Ruud Hein says:

    @Harry I already have valueable editorial resources. Barry's Search Roundtable is priceless. I unsubscribed from SEL's SearchCap because I can't keep up with the sheer amount of top content. I didn't visit Sphinn for editor curated content.

    @Gabriella like I mention in the Sphinn thread, why not do a system that aggregrates Facebook likes and Retweets? We use that in-house for friendly competitions…

    @Angie Here's the thing… a group of editors *voting* on what's the best content to solve the problem of people *voting* on content… Senseless :)

  10. I really think that this will be the end of Sphinn. We all knew that there was plenty of spam on the front page, but I didn't care. As a user I knew how to sift through the crap and read the stuff I wanted to. And honestly I think the editors did a great job of getting rid of a lot of it.

    But with not voting, with no voice, I have no real reason to use Sphinn anymore. I can't see how it will be any different than the email I get from SEL each day with good posts in the industry.
    .-= Dan Patterson recently posted: SEO for eCommerce Part Two- Poor Site Structure =-.

  11. We're going to need some form of quality measurement..I really DON'T like the idea of in house people choosing the stories.

    I also think it should have been put up for vote (no pun intended) by the community…the people who hold a large chunk of the responsibilities building the community to what it is.

  12. Ruud,

    I agree with everything you've said here. It's just wrong to deactivate the only reason I have used and relied upon Sphinn. I know there's flaws in the system, yet personally I've always held my own voting to the highest level of integrity.

    So if they can't (or won't bother due to monetary reasons) devote the energy to improve things, the site should just die. Because it really is a slap in the face to those of us who don't play the games some might.
    .-= Alan Bleiweiss recently posted: 24 Tips on Hiring an Apprentice =-.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Up to a point, an almost ridiculous one at times, true, the Sphinn votes have helped to legitimize SEO and SEO ideas. Yes, there are Likes and RT's … but only the Sphinns said something about what "we" thought about it.

  13. I'm not a user of Sphinn, but it appears that the solution is in front of Danny Sullivan's face…or below it.

    I found it ironic that the same message that announced the end of voting was accompanied by a Facebook "like" button.

    But the Facebook like button contains a feature that goes beyond what many voting systems have. It not only provides a total number of votes, but also tells you which of your friends have voted for the item.

    Perhaps it doesn't matter to me if 100,000 people have voted for an item, but if I see that Ruud has voted for it, then perhaps I'd be more likely to check it out. Or if someone sees that I've voted for an item, perhaps they'd be inclined to stay away from it. :)

    The ability to see how your immediate social circle has voted on an item adds valuable information to the vote. In a sense, Google Reader shared items employs the same concept, by letting me see things which interest my friends.

    Too bad Sphinn didn't think in those terms.
    .-= John E. Bredehoft recently posted: Jean-Louis Gassée is suspicious about Mark Hurds exit =-.

  14. Terry Van Horne says:

    Ruud, excellent discussion here. too bad it won't happen where it matters. It's insulting to the community to assume they are not capable of voting for worthy posts/writers. Was every post stellar that I sphunn… nope because sometimes Im doing it cuz the writer deserves exposure. Sphinn to some degree made a few peeps out there… IMO, if controlling that is behind this … some big damage is being done to the future of the industry… cuz we need places for the newcomers to be "discovered". #JusSaying

  15. Ruud>> Sorry, should have been more direct. Group…individual…we only have to look at religions or political parties to know how that works lol Sometimes it's good, sometimes it goes horribly wrong.

    I just think reinventing the wheel (or trying to replicate other publications) while trying to control what that wheel is made of is just silly, just as you pointed out with your comment on Sphinn about voting rings. That's basically what I was getting at. Same thing is possible, just different people doing it.

    (on a side note, this Captcha is nasty lol)

  16. Ruud Hein says:

    @John Spot on. If it's a problem people vote elsewhere — simply incorporate that voting!

    @Terry Good to see you here! No, I've sphunn so-so stories too at times. Same reasons. But the solution they have now is one of scale: instead of 100's voting only a handful do. That's a fake solution. Just call it quits.

    @Angie thanks for coming back to clarify a bit more. Was indeed what I got from your comment but in my response I sort of jump over what you said straight into my own flaying of arms :) (ps: yeah, should find another solution fo the captcha eh?)

  17. theGypsy says:

    Whaaat? Something happen? What's going on? OK.. I jest.

    What can I say? I have as much time invested there as anyone. Do I think this was a good move? Not really. It wouldn't be the knee jerk reaction I'd have. But is Sphinn MY website? Nope. So, does what I think actually matter? Unlikely.

    I've had enough Sphinn banter in my sphere over the last few weeks and am all but talked out on the topic. I shall let evolution take it's course and see what comes of it. As mentioned here a few times, it seems that we might as well give Barry the keys because he already does a pretty bang-up job of keeping us on top of the big stories of the day. I am unconvinced that this move away from social will improve the engagement on Sphinn. But I will at least bear with it for now and see where it goes.

    Sorry, no fire and brimstone here folks.. as I said off the top, I am fairly invested in the place. I am almost a little too taken aback to comment more at this point.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      @Dave No, Sphinn isn't our site as in our property. Their house, their rules. Same goes for Twitter, Facebook, forums, the dojo, Gmail, Google, Microsoft Windows, and tons of other things we use and grow to love. But rising on top of the wave of social media Sphinn's launch was a whole lot of something in SEO land. That it's dead is a major development both on a personal level and a professional one. Sphinn isn't the first site to deal with these type of issues — apparently something is broke in the vote up/down model.

  18. Zack says:

    Can't say I agree with this. If sites like digg and sphinn keep this up, we might as well scrap social media all together. I thought the point was to get "social" and meet folks and give power to the people with votes. Yes, people can get their friends to vote for them, so, why is that so bad?

    Now, putting everyone's subs into moderators hands. Now how is that different? Now the front page will be even more biased in my opinion. Just like now and "admin" or "editor" always seems to hit front page fast and easy. Don't see how that is more fair than a voting system. Front page will be unfairly controlled either way. Put Sphinn in the same hole as Digg. They are both done, lol!

  19. Gerald Weber says:

    Well I have to honestly say that my interest in Sphinn was starting to wane a bit recently.

    Partly because I was being accused of devising a contest with the intent of "gaming" the site. and several of my posts that had a low number of Sphinn were "moderated" off the site.

    However I have to say that if I did perhaps have an ounce of interest left in Sphinn they just did away with it.

    Sphinn to me was a Digg.com for SEOs. Other social voting sites on the web (i.e. Digg.com Reddit.com) have taken such a controversial stance against the SEO/search marketing industry that we really have no other community where we can submit our best content and have other fellow SEO vote it up or down etc.

    Now what makes it to the front page of Sphinn will be totally determined by a small group of editors. Therefore naturally the front page of Sphinn will be filled with the editors and their friends content.

    So unless you are friends with one of the editors what's the point?

    I can understand them not wanting a small group of "voting gangs" completely gaming their platform but now it will a small group of editors completely gaming the site.

    At the end of the day it is there site of course and they can do what they want with it, but I'm sure we will see the participation level completely plummet.

    There you have it… my 2 cents 😉
    .-= Gerald Weber recently posted: How to Stop Competitors Copying Your Links =-.

  20. Arnie Kuenn says:

    I have to side with Dave on this one…. and most of Ruud's last comment. It's not our site. Being a total pragmatic here, it boils down to a business decision for the website owners (Danny & co.). As far as I know all the mods are volunteers and if the time and effort for all those involved was not paying off, then why continue with the model?

    Who knows, if really good content gets posted and the site is based on the discussions surrounding the content, it might be better for all of us. (i.e SEOMoz blog)
    .-= Arnie Kuenn recently posted: Online Reputation Management Expert Interview with Andy Beal =-.

    • Yes, but that's not the reason they gave. If they would have said it was for business reasons then – hell!! I'm for it. But to blame the users for using the website the way it was supposed to be used… hmm… I'm not so sure about how successful and sound for business that strategy is..

  21. My 2 favorite social media sites gone within one week. Why couldn't Danny wait a while until some of us got over the trauma of digg? I do feel better after reading this, Ruud. You nailed it.
    .-= emory @ clickfire recently posted: Did Twitter just Choke =-.

  22. Hey Ruud,

    Thnx for this post. I completely agree with you although I cannot put it as well into writing. I am just angry. That's one of my two modes. Just wanted to connect with a comment and say that I really appreciate what you wrote in the comments of the Sphinn thread about the voting closing down (wow that was a weird sentence…).



  23. James Duthie says:

    I aborted Sphinn over a year ago. Reluctantly I might say, but it simply became less useful than the alternatives.

    With that in mind, is this Twitter's first legitimate scalp?
    .-= James Duthie recently posted: Next Digital Wrap Up =-.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Reading the whole thread on Sphinn, and thinking back to their statement last week, the issues seem to be "we don't agree with the quality of the articles that go hot" and "we think user participation is too low". Valid concerns, very odd remedy.

  24. […] on Twitter and in the blogesphere today. Sphinn to remove voting; thoughts from a power user! Sphinn Is Dead: Long Live Anything Else __________________ HTML Basic Tutor – Learn to code your web pages/blogs Basic Computer […]

  25. Ruud, I responded to many of the things you raised here on the thread at Sphinn, so I won't repeat them all here.

    But I will add this. If we're so wrong about the change, that's an easy opportunity for you or anyone to do. Go launch a social media sharing site with voting for internet marketing. Have at it.

    If removing voting is a spectacularly bad idea — if everything I've explained is completely wrong because I just don't get it — that's a great opportunity for someone else. Heck, you can position it as the site that really cares, where community counts, go all negative or anti-Sphinn in your marketing.

    If you think we're somehow removing your community from your site, well, it's your community. Take it elsewhere and do it right. Really.

    My guess is you'll have some minor initial support, then things will die down. If you do develop an audience, prepare for some gaming. Prepare for people to make all the same false accusations that they've made toward us over the years, if they don't feel they're "winning." Some of them will get abusive, even.

    Don't expect anyone to credit you for giving visibility every day for lots of great content, or lots of great sites. The negatives, people remember. All the positives get forgotten.

    That's what you'll inherit with a voting site, in my prediction, having actually run one from the administrative site for three years.

    But go ahead, do it. The future is there for you or anyone who thinks we've got it wrong.

    Me, I'm focusing on the positive. I think Sphinn can continue to find and promote good content from sites large and small from across the web. I don't think we need voting, with all the many negatives it brings, to do that. And that's what we're going to try, having given more than enough effort to the voting model.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Appreciate you coming by and commenting, Danny. Also much impressed with your ongoing involvement in the thread(s) on Sphinn itself.

      No, running a site like Sphinn certainly isn't a pleasure. We knew that too; in the months before Sphinn launched Search Engine People was hard at work. Also with the Pligg scripts, by the way.

      I hear all you say but here's how I feel about the direction Sphinn is going. One, I rather have an imperfect voting based site than no voting based site. Vote rings, sometimes so-so content: so be it. We take the good with the bad. No reason to dump the bathwater, the bath, the baby and the whole bathroom. Second, then *if* it really all has to go … then I would have rather read today "we're closing shop".

      But — thanks for having given us Sphinn in the first place. For giving us that verb, the "button", the good feel when something went "hot". Today must be less than pleasant for you as people like me complain and nag. That's just the love, Danny, and nothing personal — nothing against you.

    • Thos003 says:

      That's a great point… if you don't like it go build it better yourself. True… but do you really want to alienate your users?

      … just curious, why not just give the editors a vote that is worth more. There must be some kind of middle ground that can be found.
      .-= Thos003 recently posted: Baby Scorpions Under a Black Light =-.

  26. I don't know about everyone else, but the biggest reason I'm sad to see this change in Sphinn is for a couple of reasons: 1- it has been a great way to help good posts get some notice 2- as has been mentioned, it has been a great way to help others, especially those new to the industry, some added exposure 4- It was better for me that most of the summary posts that are out there since had such a great variety of sites 4- and let's face it, it was a great traffic generator for my own posts.

    I can't speak for everyone, but I don't think that most of us are really upset at any individual for this or even the group of editors. I respect all of them for filtering a lot of the crap out, and just for who they are in the industry in general. What I'm sad/disappointed about is that I've seen some really good use out of Sphinn, and with these changes it feels like it is all going away. Only time will tell of course, and as I've been thinking about it today I'm mostly curious to see how it pans out. Maybe Danny is right and it will be better. Maybe he's wrong. I'm curious to see.

  27. Kristi says:

    I think the editors should still allow voting on content after they put it on the homepage. At least that way they would see if people like their selections and get a better idea what their community wants, or doesn't. That way they get what they want – a community that isn't gamed by voting because that isn't the reason the story got there. But the audience will still get to say yay or nay on their suggestions.
    .-= Kristi recently posted: How to Stop Competitors Copying Your Links =-.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Yup. The idea of at least a Facebook Like button on those stories is doable, I think. Very happy to see you comment here, Kristi: was really hoping you would! Thanks!

  28. Nick Wilsdon says:

    Hey Rudd,

    You nailed the crux of the argument in your finishing line. Sphinn was always there IMHO to provide the 'best of the best' fix. The question you have to ask yourself is whether this move helps or hinders that goal.

    Users can still submit articles and instead of wasting hours deleting spam, the editors will be selecting and promoting the best material. Personally this will give me back time to read more articles and promote upcoming talent in the industry.

    I also believe community resides in the commenting/discussion, not the voting. If Sphinn better serves everyone's "best of the best fix" this will be judged a success.
    .-= Nick Wilsdon recently posted: Industry In Revolt Now Turns On TopSEOscom =-.

    • Ruud Hein says:

      Nick, I respectfully disagree. Sphinn wasn't there to provide an editorial best of the best — it featured "news stories submitted to Sphinn and discussions within the site that have been voted the most active recently by the Sphinn community". That latter part is now gone. Sphinn is just another aggregation site now albeit one with editors. The removal of voting is as trivial as Google News being hand edited from now on.

  29. Andy says:

    I just don't understand the thought process.

    People aren't engaging because of fears about bloc voting and power users.
    Let's create a system where the front page is decided by bloc voting from editorial staff.

    I'm all for turning a problem into a solution, but this just seems mental.

  30. Ileane says:

    Hi Ruud.
    Thanks for the info I was just about to submit a link!

    Why don't some folks like you Donna, Ann Smarty, Gerald, David and a few others get together and start a new and improved "Sphinn-like" networking community??


    • Ruud Hein says:

      Thanks for the comment, Ileane. From what I read on Twitter, some people already consider something like that. Also … well…. you never know.

  31. Kristi says:

    You're welcome. I'm putting you in my list so I don't miss future posts!
    .-= Kristi recently posted: 9 Search Optimization Tips with Benefits for Your Visitors =-.

  32. Rafi Hecht says:

    …And what exactly is the purpose of Sphinn without the voting angle? I thought that was the sole purpose!

    These guys either are going to shut the site down, or will add an angle that hasn't been featured before and will make up for the voting (although I doubt it).

    The guys admin-ing Sphinn are in the wrong field IMO.

  33. […] (meaning I saw and heard a few things that the public didn’t.)  Clearly, there were people who didn’t agree with the decision, which was to be expected.  But some of the discourse was at such a level that I wondered whether […]

  34. […] Sphinn Is Dead: Long Live Anything Else […]