Goodbye Sphinn … Hello Marketing Land!

November 11th, 2011 by Matt McGee

We’re thrilled to share this news: Sphinn will soon be re-launched as a new, editorial site called Marketing Land!

Since 2007, Sphinn has been covering anything and everything related to online marketing via a combination of user-generated content and staff submissions. Now, Marketing Land gives us the chance to continue doing that in a fully editorial environment with a staff of writers and columnists.

Marketing Land will provide daily news coverage, regular columns and other features about the broader topic of online marketing. This will include areas such as social media, e-mail marketing, affiliate marketing, analytics and much more. We’re aiming to launch formally on December 11, 2011, with a soft launch a week or two before that. When the soft launch happens, the site’s domain will change to MarketingLand.com. Currently, that works to redirect people here.

The content curation that our Sphinn Editors have been doing will continue on Marketing Land via a daily newsletter. It’ll be similar to the daily SearchCap that’s available from Search Engine Land. We’ll announce when Marketing Land’s newsletter is ready for signups.

We’ll be seeking new authors for a variety of original columns on Marketing Land, so feel free to get in touch with us if you’re interested in that opportunity.

Search Engine Land will continue just as before. You’ll still find all the deep coverage of search engine news and search marketing there. Marketing Land will have some original content about search marketing, plus point to Search Engine Land coverage as appropriate.

Content already on Sphinn will be archived, so you’ll still be able to find past stories and discussions.

If you follow Sphinn on Twitter and/or Facebook, we’ve already updated those accounts to reflect the Marketing Land name.

Thanks to all of our regular Sphinn readers and contributors for your support now and over the years. We’re excited about re-launching as Marketing Land next month, and looking forward to sharing important online marketing news and information with you on the new site. We’ll see you soon on MarketingLand.com!

Welcome to Sphinn’s (Nine) New Editors!

January 27th, 2011 by Matt McGee

If you’ve been on the site this week, you’ve probably noticed that green “Editor” banner on several new avatars. That’s because we’ve added a whopping nine (9) new editors to the Sphinn team. In alphabetical order, they are:

Melissa Fach
Greg Finn
Hugo Guzman
Julie Joyce
Jaan Kanellis
AJ Kohn
Nick LeRoy
James Svoboda
Brian Wallace

You can learn more about them on our Sphinn Staff page.

We’re thrilled to have this group join our editorial staff. And we’re thrilled with the amazing amount of emails we received in December and January when we put out the “help wanted” sign. There were several more people we would’ve loved to see on the staff, but we decided that nine is enough for now.

Thank you to all who expressed interest in joining the team. We’re thinking about possibly adding even more editors a few months down the road, so keep an eye out for that.

Second (and final) Call for Sphinn Editor Volunteers

January 10th, 2011 by Matt McGee

As we mentioned a month ago, Sphinn is looking to add new editors to our hard-working crew. If you think this is something that sounds like fun (it is) and have at least a few hours of free time each week to work with us, read on for more about what the job entails and how to throw your hat into the ring.

What Do Sphinn Editors Do?

Sphinn editors are primarily responsible for determining what content is published on our home page. This involves several things:

  • proactively going out to read and identify good content that should be considered for home page publication and submitting them as News Tips
  • reviewing stories that our users submit as News Tips
  • joining discussions with other editors about the merits of all the News Tips that come in
  • ditto on Discussion Topics that are submitted for possible publication
  • helping to review submissions that have been flagged as possible spam, as well as submissions from 1st-time users

In addition, editors are expected to monitor comments posted on the site, and welcome and encouraged to start and join comment discussions when inspired to do so.

Qualifications

If you do a lot of reading of industry web sites and blogs, being a Sphinn editor might be a good fit. Keeping up with great content and knowing where to find it is a primary qualification. You’ll also need to have available time for daily conversations and decisions about what content should be published on our home page. We have a lot of fun, but it’s also a time commitment that we expect editors to honor.

How to Volunteer

Use the Contact Sphinn form (choose “Something Else!” from the dropdown menu). Be sure to tell us your name and as much as possible about you and your experience in the online marketing industry. If you have a Sphinn username, include that.

If You Already Volunteered…

We received dozens of emails last month when the first call was posted. If you contacted us then, we still have your email on file and you do not need to contact us again.

We will probably not be able to email everyone individually with a personal response, but will email you in the next 1-2 weeks if we’re interested in bringing you on board. And we’ll be sure to make another announcement when the new Editors are officially on board.

Thanks in advance for your interest in joining us!

- Matt

Coming Soon: New Editors … Interested in Joining Us?

December 7th, 2010 by Matt McGee

As we look forward to 2011, one piece of our plan includes expanding our Sphinn Editorial staff. Starting in January, we’ll be looking to add new editors, but you can speak up now if you’re interested in being part of the team!

To do so, please use the contact Sphinn form (choose “Something Else!” from the dropdown menu). Be sure to tell us your name and as much as possible about you and your experience in the online marketing industry.

As I mentioned, we’ll put out another call in January for people who may need a little time to think about it. But if you don’t need the extra time, by all means let us know now. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

What Do Sphinn Editors Do?

The primary job of our editors is to find great content about Internet marketing and submit it for possible publishing on our home page. Related to that is helping decide what gets published to the home page when other editors find great content. So, if you do a lot of reading of industry web sites and blogs, and enjoy keeping up on the latest news and how-to articles, this should be right up your alley.

Editors are also responsible for helping to monitor the news tips that our users submit and deciding which of those should be published on our home page, as well as keeping an eye on comments, first-time user news tips, etc. — mainly to make sure the site is being used as it should, that there’s no spam, and so forth.

It’s a not a huge time commitment, but it is work and we ask our editors to take the role seriously. It’s also a lot of fun, so if that sounds cool to you, let us know.

New On Sphinn: Discussion Of The Week

October 20th, 2010 by Matt McGee

One of the most common requests from our 2010 member survey earlier this year was to bring discussions back to Sphinn. We did that when Sphinn 3.0 launched a month ago.

The ability to start a conversation with other members, without having to submit a story/article link, is something we want to encourage. Twitter and Facebook are cool and all that, but they both have serious limitations when it comes to having a real discussions that can be seen by more than just your friends and isn’t limited to short text replies.

Starting today, we’re launching a new feature to take advantage of Sphinn’s discussion tool. We’re calling it the Discussion of the Week, or DOTW for short. Every Wednesday, one of our editors will post the discussion topic and invite our users to join the conversation. Our first DOTW has just been posted on the home page:

DOTW: Do you think no-follow links are worth more than Google says?

Feel free to jump in with your thoughts on that one.

By the way, if you have ideas for future DOTW topics, feel free to use the same “tip @sphinn” messaging on Twitter that we announced for news tips last week. And if you want to start your own discussion (any day of the week), feel free to use the Start A Discussion tab up top.

Best Sphinn Comments Now Featured On Search Engine Land

October 18th, 2010 by Matt McGee

We’ve been promoting the best and most popular Sphinn stories over on Search Engine Land since the beginning of August. I write a weekly recap each Monday, and those recaps have evolved in just a couple months from a simple list of stories that reached Sphinn’s home page to a fuller look at all Sphinn activity.

Starting with today’s Sphinn recap over on SEL, we’re now including a Comment of the Week — this will be a comment posted on Sphinn by one of our members that we feel is worth highlighting. It might be something we choose because the comment was intelligent, funny, challenging, insightful, or noteworthy for some other reason. We may not necessarily agree with the comment, but that’s okay; we’re all in favor of a healthy debate and a variety of opinions is always welcome.

The bottom line: We want to encourage more commenting and reward those who do.

The “Comment of the Week” feature is in addition to the breakdown in those recaps of which Sphinn stories had the most comments and were shared on Twitter the most. We think it’s a good overview of the previous week’s Sphinn activity, and we’ll continue to evolve those recaps in the future.

Thanks to all of our registered Sphinn members. If you have something to say about one of the stories here in Sphinn, don’t hold back. And one last tip: Update your Sphinn profiles to include your company name/URL.

- Matt

New: Submit News Tips via Twitter

October 15th, 2010 by Matt McGee

Starting today, you can now submit a news tip to Sphinn via Twitter. You’re proably already using Twitter to share great links with your friends and peers, so why not make sure the Sphinn staff sees them, too?

Here’s how: When sharing a great link, just add

tip @sphinn

in your tweet, and it’ll show up in the “mentions” list of Sphinn’s Twitter account. You can also use tip @sphinn to submit discussion ideas, too.

Our staff of editors will be keeping an eye on the incoming tweets during the day and, if we agree that the content is great, we’ll add it into the Sphinn story system manually — you don’t need to do anything else. Just put tip @sphinn in your tweet. It’s that easy. (Of course, if you want to write your own article description or headline, you’ll need to submit the tip yourself.)

Why are we doing this?

1.) We want to make it as easy as possible for the entire Internet marketing community to submit news tips to Sphinn — even if they’re not regular Sphinn users.

2.) This makes Sphinn more useful to all Internet marketers — no registration is required to read Sphinn and no registration is required to submit news tips to Sphinn.

3.) We want to make sure we’re seeing the best content out there for possible publishing on our home page, not just content from people who have Sphinn accounts and have the time to submit manually.

In short, this is about being inclusive of all Internet marketers and not limiting one of Sphinn’s primary functions just to our registered members.

We hope you find this useful and look forward to getting your news tips via Twitter. (Remember you can also follow our Twitter account to get tweets when new content is published on our home page.)

To keep things cohesive, let’s have any comments/questions about this posted over on the Sphinn story page. Thanks.

Introducing Sphinn 3.0

September 22nd, 2010 by Matt McGee

All of us at Sphinn are happy to unwrap Sphinn 3.0 today. As you look around the site, you’ll notice some new graphics here and there, some tweaks, and a variety of what we’d call ‘minor’ changes. There are two more important changes that I want to mention here:

1. User voting is gone. This should come as no surprise; we announced this change at the start of the month.

In the place of voting, Sphinn’s editors will review all tips that are submitted by our members. For a tip to be published to the home page, several editors must agree that it should be published, but it doesn’t have to be a unanimous decision of our entire editing team.

2. Discussions are back. Longtime Sphinn members will recall the days when you could begin a discussion separately from submitting an article or blog post. This was a popular idea in the member survey that we conducted earlier this year, and now seemed like the right time to bring discussions back to Sphinn. So, if you have a question or idea or something you want to discuss collectively with other Sphinn members, use the Start A Discussion tab to submit it.

As with news tips, Sphinn’s editors will review discussion ideas and manually publish the discussions we feel will be most valuable to the general readership. These will appear on the Sphinn home page along with the published news articles.

We’ve updated Sphinn’s guidelines to reflect these changes, and we encourage you to read those guidelines today.

With this launch, Sphinn is now a fully managed editorial site; all content that’s published on our home page first passes through the review of our editors and admins. While our members will no longer be voting on stories, we hope you’ll continue to submit (“tip”) great articles that you find online and great discussion topics. We know we’ll need your help in finding the best content possible for publishing. (Our Top Sphinners leaderboard will now show the Sphinn members who have submitted the most tips that we’ve published.)

In one sense, this may seem like a fairly dramatic change of direction. But we’ve always relied on mods/editors to help us reach Sphinn’s primary goal: to feature the best Internet marketing content we can find on our home page. That goal is the same today as it’s always been.

Sphinn Says Goodbye To Voting

September 1st, 2010 by Danny Sullivan

When Sphinn launched in July 2007, I wanted to create a place where search and internet marketers could submit stories and vote on them in the style of Digg but without feeling unwelcome. At the time, stories about SEO in particular were routinely buried at Digg.

The site launched, and we had a good response in our initial year. We went out with no rules in particular other than for people to use “common sense” when it came to submitting items on internet marketing. We added rules organically, one-by-one, in reaction to specific problems and often in response to community requests.

Over the first year, spam issues grew — and grew — and grew. We expected that. Sphinn was a site catering to marketers, and they’re going to promote. Of course, we also got stuff that was just wildly off-topic.

We embarked on rebuilding our platform from the ground up, to better deal with spam. It was a long process, but two years after Sphinn launched, Sphinn 2.0 went out in July 2009. Since then, we’ve gotten much better on the spam front. However, another concern arose. Participation was down. People didn’t vote as much. Good stories weren’t submitted as often.

We’ve tried various tweaks to improve the situation, but our suspicion has been that people find better ways to share these days than through voting. Chief culprits? Facebook and Twitter. These new platforms make it much easier for people to share interesting stories with others than voting platforms do. People have friends and followers, and they can spread news rapidly with them – no voting required.

Of course, Sphinn has always said it would also use editors in addition to votes to meet the overall goal of the site, to provide a daily collection of great articles. With voting in decline, we’re giving it up entirely. In the near future, within a week or two, voting will be removed from the site for stories.

How will we find stories going forward? For one, our editors will continue to look for good stories to feature. In addition, we’ll still be accepting news ideas from others.

Our submission form will continue working. But those ideas will go in front of the editors to decide, not to a page where people will vote. If a submission is selected this way, the individual who submitted it will be credited.

Part of me is sad to see the voting system go. But the reality is that stories have been getting fewer and fewer votes, while the site’s traffic hasn’t changed much since our Sphinn 2.0 rollout. That tells us people are interested in a collection of good stories, not in actually voting for them.

Moreover, by losing voting, we lose a large number of hassles that have come with it, such as outright spam submissions and voting gangs. It’s not fun dealing with that stuff. People complain that their story didn’t “win.” Others complain that someone else seems to “win” all the time. Moderators get subjected to abusive language, including F-bomb drops. The bulk of our editors’ time is spent too much on playing referee, rather than coach to getting good content a starring role.

So it’s goodbye to votes. It’s not goodbye to community, I hope. Perhaps without voting, we’ll actually have more community and less concern that someone is winning or losing.

We continue to allow commenting on stories, as well as voting on comments, and my hope is that we’ll see discussions about news stories pick up. We’ve had many great discussions on the site in the past, and that’s been one of the best things to me. Perhaps deemphasizing voting will cause people to express their opinions not with a Sphinn but an actual comment, which is always so much more valuable.

Please feel free to comment on this news here.

New Emphasis: Voting Patterns and Unexceptional Content

August 25th, 2010 by Matt McGee

Imagine if every news article and column that Search Engine Land publishes was submitted to Sphinn. And imagine if all of the Search Engine Land writers pinged one another via email and instant messaging asking for votes on Sphinn. With a couple dozen writers involved, that group of people could push anything it wanted to the Sphinn home page. And with Search Engine Land publishing 8-10 articles per day (+/-), there’d be little room left for other Sphinn home page content to be noticed.

As a Sphinn user, you’d probably be pretty upset if Search Engine Land writers did that. And you should be.

Years ago, there were relatively few industry sites with multiple writers; our industry was mostly made up of individual bloggers doing their own thing. But times are different today: What used to be individual blogs are often becoming group projects with multiple authors. Communities and forums are developing around blogs. Many of us are now more connected than ever; rather than just writing for our own blogs, we may contribute to several blogs/communities.

How This Impacts Sphinn

It’s natural for all of us to share our Sphinn content with friends and peers. In our guidelines, we even encourage users to share Sphinn URLs via social media and other channels:

It’s okay to drum up votes via Twitter, Facebook, through IM and other means, but you should do this only for stories that you think are exceptionally deserving of attention. Excessive promotion of Sphinn stories, especially those of low-quality, can result in a story being pulled or your account terminated.

Note that there’s a quality element in that guideline: “you should do this only for stories that you think are exceptionally deserving of attention.”

Too often in recent months, we’ve seen non-exceptional articles getting a string of votes in rapid succession. The votes often come from circles of friends or co-authors associated with a particular site. Sometimes these non-exceptional articles hit the home page before our editors have time to review voting patterns, sources, IP addresses, and so forth.

When this happens, it lowers the overall quality of the Sphinn experience and affects all users.

New Emphasis Going Forward

None of us on the Sphinn staff like it when this happens. We don’t want to see non-exceptional content being submitted to Sphinn — especially by longtime members — and we don’t want to see it being voted up by friends. Sphinn isn’t a place where you should be rewarded for having a lot of friends; it’s where you should be rewarded for having great content.

So, after an excellent internal discussion, we’re announcing the following updates to how we moderate the site and enforce the existing guidelines:

1. Editors will be paying even closer attention to voting patterns.

2. We will be discarding more non-exceptional articles, even if they’ve reached the home page.

3. We will suspend and/or terminate accounts that violate our guidelines, especially those in the section titled “Voting,” no matter if it’s a longtime Sphinn member or someone who just joined us.

These aren’t new rules; they’ve always been in place. It’s a new emphasis on enforcing the rules to make sure Sphinn’s home page includes the best content possible.

What It Means For Sphinn Members (Q&A format)

Are you asking us to stop promoting our Sphinn stories on Twitter and Facebook, or elsewhere?

Not at all. We’ll continue to have social sharing buttons on the site, and you can continue to use them. But make sure you’re using them to share exceptional content.

Isn’t this subjective? My definition of “exceptional” content might be different from yours.

Moderating any community site involves some judgment calls. But so does participating in a community site. We’re asking you to be more subjective in what you submit to Sphinn and what you vote for on Sphinn. We know that new users won’t always be familiar with what the community considers quality content, but we expect our veteran users to know what’s good and what’s not.

Are you saying you want less stories submitted and less voting? That seems strange.

We’re saying what we’ve always said: The focus should be on quality, not quantity. Sphinn loses its value to our community when a lot of unexceptional content is submitted and when users vote it up as a favor to friends.

Are you trying to target certain sites and/or authors?

No. This applies to everyone. As a community, we’re all responsible for keeping Sphinn valuable and enjoyable. Submitting unexceptional content and getting friends to vote it up isn’t good for anyone. Blindly voting up a story because you were asked to isn’t good for anyone.

We’re asking all users to think about what they submit to Sphinn and what they vote up on Sphinn.

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