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What is one of the most successful tactics for destroying a community or your opposition?
Full on assault? Unbridled brute force? Slanderous speak? Libelous language?
Well all of the above have their place, but what has been proven to be perhaps the most powerful device time and time again is the implementation of divide and conquer.
Strength comes in unity, so to divide a community and turn it in against itself not only sets comrade against comrade, effectively doing half the job for you, but also leaves them with their defences down, prostrate and ripe for the final death blow. This has a been put to effective use in trade disputes and wars down throughout the ages.
Hold on, Nick. Wind back there a second. Where in the name of John Denver are you going with all this? Divide and conquer? Death blows? It’s all a bit extreme isn’t it?
Well yes it is – and mindlessly reactionary too. Especially when you consider what I’m about to talk about. But then again there’s nothing wrong with a bit of over-the-top reactionary writing every now and then.
“It’s political correctness gone mad…” – Ahem
Well it all comes down to this. This week, over at the internet marketing, SEO, and social media hub that is Sphinn, they announced that they were finally going to put a Desphinn button in place –
Woah up there, just one darn minute pardner. Firstly, what the deuce is Sphinn? And secondly, what the Dicken’s is a Desphinn button when it’s sittting in your front room, helping itself to what's left of the Christmas cracking nuts?
Well I’m glad you asked me that question, sir. Feel free to butt in at any time…
Sphinn is a social media website similar in style and purpose to Digg. The difference being here that it is engineered specifically towards the internet marketeer. This umbrella term covers SEO, SMO, SEM, bloggers, social media junkies and copywriters. All are catered for between its lush, greeny-blue pages. It is the brainchild of Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land, who incidentally has probably forgotten more about search marketing than some of us will ever know.
Basically it works like this. You register your profile and become a member. This here is me… handsome eh? It’s up to you how much you fill in or whether you choose to have an avatar or not, although avatars are an exceptional way to brand yourself across various social networks and will instill trust in other users, moreso than somebody who doesn’t have one.
Anyway once you’ve become a member you are then free to submit content you find interesting, or more importantly you think will be of interest to other members. Naturally at Sphinn this is generally internet marketing related, whether it be blogging tips, SEO tips, search engine news, social media opinion or anything else that falls under the Sphinn remit.
What then happens is the other members of the community can vote on the particular submission if they like it, or make a comment. This is acheived through the Sphinn button - the big blue chap next to the article’s headline… Still with me?
Enough votes (there is minor disagreement about this, but I’ve always found it to be 21) will put your submission on the front page, or the ‘Hot Topics’ page, and Bob’s your uncle, Fanny’s his live-in lover, Sphinn status beckons.
That’s basically the mechanics of Sphinn as it stands now - there’s also a spam button to report submissions that are clearly off-topic and usually promoting some bit of tat or other, but that’s about it.
So onto this de-sphinn and just what the hell I am getting at. About time too, I hear you cry.
Well the Desphinn button is basically a mechanic by which you will be able to down-vote submissions. It has been thrown out into the arena to get opinions on how it should be implemented and what tweaks could be made. As it stands, it will take 2 Desphinns to remove one sphinn – I should add that a user can only vote once on a submission, unless of course they’ve set up multiple accounts, something that is against the rules and generally looked down upon in social media circles.
If the story reaches the front page then the ratio changes from 2, to 5 Desphinns to remove 1 Sphinn. Basically, 5 down-votes will cancel out 1 vote in favour of.
I hope you’re still with me on this.
There are various other factors that will be taken into account, such as the amount of desphinns needed to discard a story entirely, and whether a post that goes front page can be relegated back to the minor leagues, and possibly leapfrog back and forth between the Premiership and lower divisions like West Bromwich Albion. But that’s for the discussion, which can be found here.
And so to the meat of what this post is about and why I started off rather cryptically, harping on about divide and conquer.
I am pretty much against this feature as I forsee the problems that have enveloped every other social network and have thus far remained absent from Sphinn, taking a hold. Obviously this is solely my opinion and I could be completely off track – I recall being wrong once before – but the problem with other social networks such as Digg with its bury button, or StumbleUpon with its thumbs-up/ thumbs-down system, is that cliques tend to form that look to bury whatever they don’t agree with, whether it’s the content of the actual post or the user who’s submitted it.
SlightlyShadySEO who writes posts that fly a little near to the knuckle for some, voiced his concerns about every one of his submissions standing the chance of being voted down into oblivion because he discusses what might be considered to be ‘Black-hat’ SEO techniques, which a lot of people disagree with and take a firm stand against.
Even though the identity of those using the Desphinn will be there for all to see, and they‘ll have to provide a comment as to why they down-voted, I think the whole concept smacks of negativity and will only succeed in dividing what at the moment is an exceptional community; largely free of the trolls and ill feeling that have seeped their poison into many other social networks.
Okay. 'Conquer' was a bit extreme, as I honestly don’t think Danny and the Sphinn staff are looking to destroy the community they’ve worked so hard to build. And as for the title, that's just a bit of reactionary linkbait, but I think such a feature will in the long run draw a dividing line in the sand.
Will the time come when you have to pick a side?
I’m probably wrong – as I said, it happened once before – and I hope I am, but as they say: only time will tell.
I'd be chuffed to hear what anybody else thinks.