Please Don’t Ask Me to Sphinn Your Stories (and How to Use Sphinn and Similar Social News Websites)

Sphinn LogoThis is a difficult post to write because I feel that people will already take offense to it before reading what I want to offer. First, the full disclosure: I am a moderator at Sphinn.

Many of you, whether close friends online or folks I’ve met at conferences, ask me to Sphinn your stories. Sometimes you’ll be very discreet and throw in a subtle request every so often. Others are a little more forceful and excessive. With all due respect to my friends in the industry, compared to the amount of Digg requests I get (and you’d think I get a lot of those) and the amount of stories submitted to Sphinn in a given day, Sphinn has spiraled out of control.

Let me say that I don’t like rejecting Sphinn requests. But we all may have to start doing that sometime. After all, if stories that hit the front page are not voted because people like them but rather because people want to do favors for their friends in the industry, Sphinn becomes a popularity contest, but not for reasons previously stated. It’s no longer a “the familiar faces dominate the front page” mentality. Instead, it’s the “please Sphinn me” requests that are overflowing on other communication mediums, particularly Facebook and StumbleUpon, that is causing this to happen. You ask me on IM/Facebook, I appear to be active, and I am not the type of person to ignore your request so I feel obligated to comply. However, it’s not fair to other people who may not know me or other community members so well and don’t solicit votes like you do.

And as such, it really needs to stop.

But how will people view my submission if not for me bringing it to their attention? You may ask this question. I certainly understand that. Here are two things you need to keep in mind:

At this point, Sphinn gets less than (or approximately) 100 submissions to the site in any given day. That means that good quality submissions should be easy to spot if you’re active on the site. Unfortunately, it appears that individuals are not utilizing the facilities that allow you to see brand new submitted stories. Allow me to introduce you to the two URLs that will let you know when a story has been recently submitted or is just about to hit the front page: This URL shows you all new submissions that have not hit the front page yet in order of submission time from most recent to oldest. This page shows you all the submissions that are just about to reach the front page.

These pages both have associated RSS feeds.

The other tips work for any social media site and I’ve discussed them in more detail in my Digg tips as well:

  1. Get an avatar. The green badge just doesn’t cut it.
  2. Use a good title and description. Remove the blog name from the description. Sphinn grabs it when you submit the URL, so take it away, please.
  3. If you want to cite an industry expert, use their name in the description, such as “Danny Sullivan says….” Apparently Sphinners like that. (Digg users, however, not so much.)
  4. Put a Sphinn badge on your post if you want people to Sphinn it.

If Sphinn is really your game and you want to be active in the community, don’t solicit votes from users just because you know them and know they are too kind to reject you. Look at other stories and Sphinn those too. There are very valuable stories in the mix that get ignored because people are helping out their friends and ignoring potential candidates that clearly have a good shot at the front page — if only you gave the stories a chance.

By the way, please don’t think moderators aren’t watching you create brand new accounts to get your story on the front page. That’s also not a good way to use Sphinn either.

The wisdom of crowds should play an important part in the evolution of this social news website. Good stories will get to the front page on their own. If you’re convinced that it will make it, have confidence that it will. Please don’t corner us and give us no choice.


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