Sphinn Says Goodbye To Voting

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.

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