Sphinn is dead! Sphinn is dead!... oh wait, I mean ..... the Sky is falling!the Sky is falling! Or at least that seems to be the consensus if you watch the twitter-sphere and blog posts that are popping up all over.
To my fellow Sphinners, I figured I would take a brief moment to post my thoughts. I have invested 3 years and many, many hours over there. Enough to be in the top 10 for pretty much every category. When things went south (engagement died after 2.0 launch) I even suffered the slings and arrows of mates asking, “Why do you still bother with the place”. In short, it is one place that has had a major affect on my life from many angles.
So, we have no more voting. Is it a knee-jerk reaction? Is it the right move? As with many I do see some problems with it and don't even know what to make of the resulting model. But it is true that engagement is down. They need to try something I am hard pressed to call it a forum, because that would imply we can start a thread. Instead of being force fed which topics we can choose to engage over. That being said, those admins I have talked to at Sphinn have hinted it may come back.
But that is neither here nor there. At the end of the day this is Sphinn's decision and they should have the right to do so. Yes, I know about all the festering venom that is going on today. Believe me, I have been inundated with it. But really, I don't want them or anyone else telling me how to do business, thus I shall support their decision to mandate their own business model(s).
So just chill ok?
So, that is my official stance. I have talked to some Sphinn staff over the last few months and I know their hearts are in the right place. This isn't some shill for Search Engine Land. This isn't about the 'old boys club' crushing the little guy. This isn't about the editors pimping their friends and stamping out their enemies. This isn't a power grab....
This is a group of people making what THEY feel is the best decision moving forward with their site. Let it go. If I can let it be after the investment I have put in, so can you.
We shall see where it leads and reserve judgement until then... Ok?
Updates; some random notes along the way
Will they keep submitting? - one of the stated problems was a low number of votes and content quality/diversity. One commment i read that has me thinking was, "". This is a good point. If it turns out that a lot of folks are submitting things, that are deemed unworthy by Editors, they will stop using the site in short order. This will likely limit the core of submitters and potentially lose some of the new faces/content (not to mention potential engagement) Sphinn is seeking to find.
Social Voice - another idea that's been floated a fair bit it to have/leave Twitter/Facebook buttons. This one is interesting but can lead to the same problem already in place; voting advantages more established players bring. Yes, see how I didn't say 'voting gangs'? Why? Because it is about as nasty a term as 'link bait' (I prefer 'magnet' these days). I know there are posts (here and other popular sites) that are 'meh' to me that get a lot of Tweets etc..Thus I divert to the masses. But using this approach on Sphinn would likely just produce more of the same.
Who's the keeper of the flame? - and the above point brings us back to editorial diversity. As I said, I tend not to always know what will be of interest to the search space. I have authors that come to me and ask, "Do you think this post is good endouh (for the Trail)?". I generally tell them to throw it against the wall and see what happens (as long as it is reasonably thought out). I am constantly surprised that some of the posts go anywhere, but they do. This highlights the fact that we don't always know what is best and now Sphinn has left that in the hands of the few. We will have a more limited editorial slant towards things in all likelihood.
Hybrid approach - on the original Sphinn thread Icredibill had an interesting idea, "" - that's not entirely bad but isn't too far off what we have now. Would it have the desired effect? To have members voting more. I doubt this would do much to increase that.
Engagement is down every where - and that's been a fact of life every blogger has seen since the rise of Twitter and Facebook (of note). And yes, comment spam is up, (damned SEOs!!). But does that mean I am shutting down my comments like some people have (note; I guess that makes me an attention whore). Voting was a socially engaging part of the site. I am saddened to see any removal of potential involvement. Even if an article was shilled to the front page, the surrounding engagement on why it sucked, was at least remarkable.
Swiming upstream - another concern a few folks had mentioned, and Andy and I touched on in the thread, is that comments would be fragmented. This has also been a problem. Do I comment on the post or the Sphinn thread? I generally do the former as I don't have the time to do both. I hope that we will see more from Salmon which would be GREAT for situations such as this (tie in the fragmented commentary on the web).
I call bullshit - I was also reading some rather meaningless 'great move, I look forward to commenting!'. I looked at the folks saying that and they weren't commenting/engaging on the site much lately.. it came off as some industry ass kissing. Give me a break ok? I wasn't sitting around there just subbing and voting. I have more than 600+ comments, more than most. I don't see this change bringing back those that already weren't egnaging. Unless of course the rock star ass kissing is the motivation. BAH!
Building a better mousetrap - and what about evolving the model further? I'd like to see broader categorization like we used to have like Search having sub-categories such as; Link Building, Content Strategy, On-site, In-house, Technical and so forth. Then, we could also have more intuitive tracking tools that I could subscribe to only certain sections. If we have everything lumped under 'SEO' it makes it harder for me to really tailor the content to my liking. If the interactions are chopped in half (commenting being the only avenue now) I would like to see some more enhancements to make Sphinn more useful to me.
Editor diversity - oh man... I may be subjective here, but PLEASE get a real geek on there folks, ok? Since the drama started last week I have kept saying that when I submit something of Bill's (or someone subs a patent post from here), they go nowhere on Sphinn. Oh yea, put twitter in the title, go on a rant about so-and-so, and WHAM it's gold. But the actual geeky stuff SEOs can actually learn/evolve from? Nada. So, Matt/Michele/Danny, please get some diversity of editors. This does present to oportunity for more diverse content on Sphinn. But representation from all sectors needs to be present in the editorial staff or diversity will only contract IMO.
Mass submission - there is an oportunity here for another improvement. In the past I would have to go back to the site over and over because we weren't encouraged to submit 4-5 stories in a row. But for me, because of my RSS activities for the newsletter, I would like to drop by a few times a day and submit a handful of stories. I was certainly guilty of not submitting each interesting post I found each day. That is because I would have to do it 4-5x each day and time is paramount in my busy world. So I hooked my Google Reader 'shares' to Facebook/Twiter and I am done.. sharing is much easier that way.
Things are a changin' - and yes folks, it really isn't a social site anymore. It is a new model and Danny put it simply with, "" - so you might as well get that into ya and get on with life. Google makes an algo change, we adapt and move on. We search peeps should be good at that.
Not all is as it seems? - Another interesting comment was (by BrianL), "" - I know this to be a fact and I'd appreciate any comments on the point. After Sphinn 2,0 launch I know A LOT of people stopped using Sphinn because of the problems logging in etc... This surely has played into it.
You still have a vote - for those that are concerned about the editorial nepotism and OBC (old boys club) I submit to you that indeed you can still vote. Just stop using the site. At the end of the day traffic/visitors is a vote. Not happy? Then use yours... stay away.
And so my friends, I will at least give it a chance. What have I got to lose? Nothing really. As for those worried about their content getting less visibility, well you really shouldn't be counting on any one source for your traffic. Never and I mean NEVER let Google be your clients core traffic source... and don't let Sphinn be. Here on the Trail we're always seeking new ways to get more visibility and this won't be much of a problem. Just work on creating interesting/remarkable/informative content and the rest will sort itself out.