I took a spin around Sphinn for the first time in, like, 6 months just to sphinn what I thought was a worthy article ("13 Wordpress plugins you don't use but probably should") and just to see what was kickin and I wasn't surprised at what I found:
Sphinn's Alexa ranking had plummeted from a fairly decent 15,000 in October, 2007 into a virtual abyss of 190,383 just a year later. Here, I've enumerated 6 possible causes for this corkscrew nosedive:
- Cliques - the oh-so-typical clique nonsense was tolerated from the outset. It's a hard bone for any community-based site to resist chomping on because these cliques provide an initial boost; but, inevitably, it's a bane to the kind of diversity that causes communities to flourish. Such cliques really just allow otherwise quirky people a (false) sense of refuge from the harsh realities of life -- at the expense of the community they parasite.
- Inbreeding - As per the above, these cliquers, intentionally or not, breed only with one another which, eventually, leads to distortion. See my piece of satire (which is actually serious), titled, "Controversy at the Semmys - A Scene Out of Deliverance" (opens in a new window).
Essentially, the SAMMYs are almost the exact same as "the SEMMYs" except each category includes one of MY articles that should have belonged in there in the first place. As I'd told Matt McGee, if a certain percentage of fresh, new faces from OUTSIDE the community were included, it might have the effect of enriching the community as opposed to, once again, publicizing all the same old names we see day-in and day-out in the Sphinn Zone..."
- Insincere Sphinns - I've seen some of the absolute crappiest, non-nutritive articles sphunn through the roof for bunk reasons that should have been obvious to everyone (e.g. certain lustful males continually sphinning their favorite females, and vice-a-versa). Also, people often Sphinn up their friends without even reading what was Sphunn for reasons that have nothing to do with integrity or building an inclusive, quality-based community. But is it REALLY about community building anyways? See next point...
- Lack of Allegiance - Don't ever kid yourself. As the saying goes, "There's no honor amongst thieves." People initially approach such services as Sphinn to increase their rankings. So what if there's that core group of cliquester geeks who try to turn their latest fascination into their own virtual water cooler -- no matter how charming a few individuals, and the surroundings, might be, the majority of people are just interested increasing their rankings. So, if the cliquishness, and inbreeding, are too fierce, a lot of otherwise good writers, with plenty to contribute, are going to find it a turn-off and move to greener pastures. And, not realizing they're part of the problem, the cliquesters and inbreeders will, eventually, follow suit and ditch their once-cherished "virtual coffee shop."
- Hypocrisy - This could fall under insincere Sphinns, but insincere sphinning is just a component of this... which is far more sinister. Whilst the core geeksters of the Sphinn community openly frown upon such things as anyone forming "Sphinn Brigades" (coalitions of users who game the system by agreeing to mutual support regardless of content), they participate in their own "quietly accepted" version of it. If the insincere Sphinns aren't bad enough, it's the frowning upon those who openly engage in similar behavior due to it being their only (perceived) means of competing with such hypocritical, entrenched, parasitic, inbreeding cliques.
- Pissing Off Good Power Users - When good, solid users, like Andy Beard, whom I consider virtually "beyond reproach" in character; both friendly, and inclusive; and who actively contributed quality material to the Sphinn community, take off, then not only is something really wrong, but also lot of others are going to follow him out of respect. To my surprise, while writing this post, I found that Andy had left Sphinn behind 10 months ago with his post, "Sphinn All UnSphunn."
"Having evaluated Sphinn over the last 6 months, I have come to the conclusion that Sphinn is not my target audience. In many ways it is an "unfriendly environment" for many of my target audience, thus encouraging my readers to use Sphinn isn't proactive.
The bias is there in the moderation, quite possibly because the bias is there within the users, and moderators take action based at least partially on user requests."