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June 19, 2008

Fight For Your Right To Desphinn

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I’ve come across a few threads on the subject of desphinning and now I’m just plain curious: Do you desphinn your colleagues when you visit Sphinn? If so, what criteria you use? Do you simply have to disagree, find the content offensive, or maybe you only desphinn when something is blatantly spam? Would you desphinn more often if it was anonymous and you didn’t have to provide a reason?

Yeah, you would, don’t lie!

As most are aware, the desphinn feature was added to the site back in February. At the time, Michelle explained how it should be used as follows:

“You see a topic on the What’s New page and you either disagree with it or otherwise think that it doesn’t deserve to go Hot – make it to the home page. You click the “Desphinn” button, submit your comment (which is required and will be public) explaining why you disagree with the post. Then a negative sphinn is applied against the story. For stories on the home page, that have already gone hot, the procedure is the same. “

Cool, but here’s the thing, hardly anyone actually uses it. Why?

I’m not the most active Sphinn user, but I do visit the site every day. I subscribe to RSS feeds for both the Hot Topics and the New Topics. I may not vote on every story that comes my way, but I do click through to the site and spend a decent amount of time reading the articles, leaving comments when inclined, and seeing what the conversation is about. In that time I’ve desphinn’d a total of three articles – two were pure fluff that I didn’t think deserved to hit the front page and one was an article that I found offensive and of little value. That’s it. Three articles.

And those really are my two tests. I will only desphinn content for the following reasons:

  • The content has no real value to the community and doesn’t deserve to be listed.
  • It’s offensive to either me or to my community.

I won’t desphinn if it’s spam (there’s a Spam button for that), if I disagree with it, if it’s written by a competitor, etc. I have two reasons and that’s it.

Even saying that, I know there are times when I’ve wanted to desphinn something but haven’t and there are reasons for that. Kevin Muldoon was on the same page wondering why don’t Sphinn users desphinn. I think the reason for that is pretty clear: no one wants to make enemies or be seen as a jerk. No one wants to offend anyone else. There have definitely been times when I wanted to desphinn something but then didn’t when I saw who posted it. Let’s not lie; some of us take these things more to heart than others. I don’t want to kill anyone’s morning.

At the same time, I also don’t think walking around on eggshells, leaving comments you don’t mean, or turning a blind eye to bad information is good for this industry. If something doesn’t deserve to be promoted to the front page, for God’s sake, desphinn it. That’s why the feature is there. You’re not insulting anyone, you’re protecting the quality of a social community that hundreds (thousands?) turn to every day for Internet marketing information.

Another thread on Sphinn asks if desphinning something is rude. It’s only rude if you want it to be. There’s no reason why you can’t desphinn something without coming off like a jerk. Simply hit the desphinn link and then state your case like an adult. People should be able to handle that. If not, it’s because we hand out too many trophies these days and issue too many unwarranted pats on the back. Realize that sometimes people just have differing opinions. It doesn’t mean everyone hates you. Realize that you don’t have to Sphinn a post about who Matt Cutts follows on Twitter simply because Matt is mentioned in the title and he’s SEO royalty. Matt, I love you, and I’m glad to have you as a follower, but who cares? :)

Part of me really wishes the option to desphinn was anonymous, similar to how you can vote up and down people’s comments. I completely understand that Danny is trying to promote transparent and ethical behavior, but what he’s really done (with the best intentions) is to create an environment where people are afraid to speak up. People often say that anonymity is what fuels bad behavior on the Web, but it’s just as dangerous when people are afraid to act because they don’t want to be seen as the bad guy. Rendering people into silence is, in my opinion, even worse than giving an idiot a microphone.

If there’s something on Sphinn that shouldn’t be there, desphinn it. If you disagree with something to the point where leaving a comment doesn’t seem like enough, desphinn it. Some of our more sensitive industry faces may get a case of hurt feelings (I proudly admit to sometimes playing on Team Oversensitive SEO Babies), but as long as you’re acting professionally, they’ll get over it.

Go find something that doesn’t belong on Sphinn and desphinn it. It may just make your entire day.

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3 responses to “Fight For Your Right To Desphinn”

  1. Danny Sullivan writes:

    People do use desphinn, just sparingly — which I think is pretty appropriate. Don’t forget that you’ve got two levels of not showing support.

    The first is to not sphinn an article at all, right? So if you don’t sphinn, that’s a way to not show support and bypass the entire “I don’t want to be rude” thing and stay anonymous. Unless you know the person so well that they’re like dude, why didn’t you sphinn my story?

    The second is to desphinn. You know, where you really disagree something doesn’t deserve to go hot and feel like it’s headed that way. It’s a slowing function. I’ve used it. Others have. And it works.

    I think it has its place for the ample amount of reasons we’ve explained. If we drop it, people go to the spam button. If we make it anonymous, then I’ll get complaints about a desphinn brigade.

    We don’t have an environment where people are afraid to disagree on sphinn. You read the comments; you see people disagreeing with each other usually in a professional and respectful manner.

  2. Lisa Barone writes:

    Oh God, Lisa’s picking on Danny again and making him defend himself. Someone needs to lock that girl in a corner. ;)
    No, you’re absolutely right. If you made it anonymous people would complain. I completely understand why you’ve made the feature the way it is. However, I do think that makes people less-inclined to use it. There are definitely times when myself or others do not desphinn something we very much don’t agree with me simply because we know the person and know they’d react unkindly. That’s all I’m saying. It goes both ways.

  3. Danny Sullivan writes:

    I don’t think you’re picking on me, Lisa. You write about a lot of things. Don’t feel so sensitive.

    I don’t disagree some might hesitate to use Desphinn. But when you write that as a result of that, “what he’s really done (with the best intentions) is to create an environment where people are afraid to speak up,” that’s just not correct. Sorry.

    People speak up and disagree with others all the time on Sphinn. You know this — you’ve seen this. This is done in the comments. And I’ll leave it at that.



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