I’m Accused of Vote Rigging on Sphinn – Is This Really Fair?

March 22, 2008 - Written by Gyutae Park  

So I was going about my business today when I received an email from Sphinn editor Rob Kerry of Gate2Media aka evilgreenmonkey, who was tipped by Sphinn guardian SlightlyShadySEO. The message went as follows:

Hi Gyutae,

I have been informed of the following blog post, which demands readers to Sphinn the page in order to win a prize: http://www.winningtheweb.com/contest-clue-2-sphinn.php

As a result, the Sphinn submission at http://sphinn.com/story/33711 has been removed.

Any further attempts to to game the voting process on Sphinn will result in your account and website being banned.

Rob Kerry
evilgreenmonkey
Sphinn Editor

This stems from the Craziest Internet Marketing Contest You’ve Ever Seen, where one of the contest clues to gain another entry to win is to vote up the post on Sphinn. Nowhere do I “demand users to Sphinn the page” nor do I make it a requirement to vote in order to participate in the contest. In fact, the submission was already hot with 20 or so Sphinns before I even added the incentive!

The main reason why I added the incentive was to tip my readers to Sphinn because I like what it has to offer. If you look at the original post, you see that I say the following:

“Let me just say this right now. I love Sphinn. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a social networking site for SEO/SEM/Internet marketing. I use it to get my quick fix search news, to entertain myself, to promote some of my articles, and to meet some cool people. If you’re not on it yet, get on it and friend me!”

The contest post received 93 Sphinns before it was killed by the mods. The submission got on the “Greatest Hits” page and apparently the mods weren’t too happy about this, even though it brought in many new targeted users to Sphinn and was actually an interesting story. Why do you think so many authoritative and trusted Sphinn members voted up the story? Here are some of the comments and responses I received because of that post.

Hadn’t heard of Sphinn before. Thanks for the recommendation.
Sphunn’d your article.

Thanks for the contest as well as introduction to Sphinn.

Sphunn! Never tried Sphinn before, thanks for forcing me to look into it.

So I realize that a contest post isn’t ideal for Sphinn, but this isn’t just any old contest. This is the Craziest Internet Marketing Contest You’ve Ever Seen. Did I really “rig” the voting system? Should I be penalized for adding an incentive to my recommendation? What would have happened if I had never added the incentive – would it still have been killed by the mods?

A hot submission on Sphinn only gets me a couple hundred visitors and I’m actually referring people to use Sphinn because I think it’s great. If they want to ban my website and account for that, then so be it.

Hey Rob, I’m offering Sphinn members a pretty penny to Sphinn this post for me. Maybe you should kill this one too.

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Comments

36 Responses to “I’m Accused of Vote Rigging on Sphinn – Is This Really Fair?”

Lori on March 22nd, 2008

What a bunch of crap. You know, I didn’t know anything about Sphinn until your post. I was so impressed with them that I added them to my feedflare. Hmmmm, maybe I should think about removing them if they’re going to be that way about things.

 
Matt McGee on March 22nd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

First rule of social media: The community comes first. If you love Sphinn and want your readers to check out the site, a simple “Hey, this is a cool social news site for online marketing” post would’ve been great. No need to pull in some personal benefit by telling them to vote up your article in exchange for a contest entry.

Gyutae Park on March 22nd, 2008

Agreed, but an important thing to note is that people respond to incentives more than anything else. I can’t say I didn’t receive any personal benefit, but I did want to incorporate Sphinn into the contest because I enjoy the site.

The contest post itself is intriguing… backed by the fact that it was already hot by the time I added the incentive.

 
 
Oliver Taco on March 22nd, 2008

Well, I have no dog in this fight, but I’ve found that when the mods of a forum make a decision the worst possible tactic (unless you want to go all Calacanis on them 🙂 is to get into a big slappy fest.

The best possible tactic being to just move on.

Disclaimer: I enjoy Sphinn, Digg, etc….

-OT

 
Erica DeWolf on March 22nd, 2008

This is very unfortunate. But I’ve heard it happen before. I actually wondered if it might happen to you when I read your post offering the incentive. Sphinn doesn’t want people signing up for their service just so that they can vote for one article. Sphinn sees you as adding users who will not participate, and manipulating the Sphinn users who are, everyday, making Sphinn more of their little world.

Unfair, yes. Understandable? I suppose so.

Andrew Pavelski on March 22nd, 2008

I understand your point of view Erica. It would be nice if they’d be more specific in their guidelines.

 
 
The Story Lady on March 22nd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

The word DEMAND – you did not demand anything. Nobody has to participate in this particular aspect of the contest.

I’ll be checking out Sphinn some more to learn about the community, so I am a participating member in the making.

And all this only gets you and Sphinn more interest. That’s how it usually works with controversy, right?

By the way – congrats on your continued high standing in Top Affiliate Challenge.

The Story Lady

ms danielle on March 24th, 2008

i agree that it was a poor choice of words on their part, and i also understand they don’t want people to ask for sphinns. guess i better start telling all my aim friends to stop sending me sphinn URLs – they’re more demanding than your contest post 😉 just kidding guys!

 
 
California Web Design on March 22nd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I believe it was well worth it to do this, they are not very nice for doing this at all. I love this contest and just did sooo many of these things. Also sent you an email that had a few questions and please do not forget to approve all of my comments and get me the tickets. Thank you ! 😀 I am stalking you on Twitter now thanks for making me become a member there, your contest like I have said is more then just any old contest it is a class that you are paying us to attend.

You Rock Sir.

 
Andrew Pavelski on March 22nd, 2008

That’s definitely some B.S. since you didn’t “demand” anyone to Sphinn your post AND you love using the service! I really think it should still be on the greatest Sphinn’s page. Best of luck Gyutae… keep ya head up, the contest is still going strong 😉

SlightlyShadySEO on March 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I don’t think Rob meant “demand”. But incentivization cheapens the process. Same reason most places won’t take incentivized leads within affiliate marketing. It breeds crappy results. So why would we want that?
Gyutae is a great guy and all from what I’ve seen/read, this was just one thing that I disagree with.

 
 
Wisdom on March 23rd, 2008

I don’t have any personal experience with Sphinn. I did think you had a possibility of running into something like this though. You certainly did not demand anything. There are numerous ways to gain entries.

 
Michael Heindel on March 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Since you don’t own the Sphinn site it doesn’t matter if it is fair or not. When dealing with websites, the owners make the rules. Sorry, but I have to side with Sphinn on this one.

It isn’t about being fair, it is about the ability to run your own website as you see fit.

I run a website. Every day people post content on my website. Some of those people add link in what they post. I delete all the links. Is it fair, yes, as the owner of the website I say what links to display.

Michael

Lori on March 23rd, 2008

If you feel that it’s not right Michael, then why did you Sphinn it? You can’t say one thing and do another. I’m not trying to be ugly, just pointing it out.

Michael Heindel on March 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I don’t see how I said one thing and did another. I wrote the Sphinn as was required to earn an extra contest entry. And I would do it again if it earned me another entry. My point is that we should not complain about another website when they make a decision we don’t like, fair or not.

I never said that Gyutae should not have used Sphinn for the contest or that what he did was right or wrong. My point is strictly from a “Don’t complain” point of view. Sorry Lori, but I don’t see the contradiction here.

Michael

Michael

(Comments wont nest below this level)
 
 
 
evilgreenmonkey on March 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

“What would have happened if I had never added the incentive – would it still have been killed by the mods?”

As you stated yourself, the post went Hot before you requested people to Sphinn the story. That means that the moderation team let it through the net, despite the post already being borderline (it wasn’t exactly news although the community seemed to like it). As soon as you made Sphinning the post part of a competition, you crossed the line. As Matt stated above, we love it when people promote Sphinn, although offering incentives to vote is not acceptable. I’m quite surprised that SU hasn’t taken similar actions and I would guess that Digg would do the same as us.

Sorry, although this decision is final – it’s best to move on.

 
Mike on March 23rd, 2008

Hi Gyutae,

Nice contest. Time for me to join in.

Have you thought that maybe they don’t want any traffic that suggest people are gaming the system. It doesn’t matter if you suggest 1,000,000++++ new targeted visitors to Sphinn. Rules are rules and nobody is above the rules.

IMHO

 
Emma on March 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

You’ll probably encounter a lot of bumps in the road hosting a big contest like this. Don’t let it get to you. Just move on.

 
Steve McGrath on March 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I can see both sides of this and both are right.

You already got 20 Sphinn by that time and did like them. Maybe each Sphinn are not timestamps thus they could not rebuild the history to remove those from that post. They again, you would had been “stuck” to “20” for that post.

You could of asked people to just register but I don’t know if would be against the rules too. At the end of the day, it’s their site and make the rules. I know because on 1 Cool File, I have to delete 10-20 files/day because they are fake software.

At least, we know now that such tasks should not be “demanded” for contest even if it was to promote them too.

 
SiteHoppers on March 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I wouldn’t worry about, Sphinn mods are stupid anyways, they deleted my account for no reason! I stopped using Sphinn right as it came out, they are bunch of biased SoBs, probably worse than Digg.

Lol…there are some stupid people running Sphinn. Forget that it happened and concentrate on your own work, why bother with stupid people?

 
SlightlyShadySEO on March 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Ok look. I didn’t take issue with it because it was a content(even though that really is so not what’s normally on sphinn it’s ridiculous).
I took issue with having an incentive to sign up and vote for a story on it. There’s a LOT of members, why should they have to see this stuff because you promoted it with incentivized votes?
What if everyone did this? Sphinn would disappear.
If every single RSS contest, posting contest, stumble contest or whatever else was there, it would reduce sphinn to absolute crap.
I have nothing against your blog or you personally. And if you can get a sphinn like that up there without having it redeemable for “tickets” or whatever, be my guest and you won’t hear anything from me about it.

 
Marlon on March 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I have to agree with the hard hand of the law here.
I had assumed that you had already organized some kind of agreement to cross-promote Sphinn.
Fact is that the contest is just growing too big for itself and the huge number of contestants Sphinning for an incentive is enough to destroy the real ethos of Sphinn etc.
One the upside – there’s no such thing as bad press and I see this as great news for you.

Michael Heindel on March 23rd, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Agree with you on this one. Any press is good press.

Michael

 
 
Andrew Pavelski on March 23rd, 2008

Whether you agree or disagree with Sphinn’s decision to take down Gyutae’s contest Sphinn, it’s not something to dwell on. Sphinn will be Sphinn and make their own rules. Gyutae was just trying to get the contest more exposure through a social networking program that he enjoys and didn’t intend do anything wrong…

Michael Heindel on March 24th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

Very well put. It gets harder to follow the rules, when even following the rules gets you in trouble. 🙂

Michael

 
 
Louis Liem on March 23rd, 2008

Maybe it sucks, but they own Sphinn. Just like Google owns the biggest search engine and their rule is the internet’s ten commandments. If people want to get benefits from G, they’ll play by G’s rule.
All G’s rules are fair for G.

 
Meethere on March 24th, 2008

I knew this is going to happen.
SU, Digg, spinn or any such social networking sites dont like incentive based promotions.

But yes, here it was not compulsory. so u r at safe side.

 
Ranked Hard on March 24th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

I think Sphinn is between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they would like more exposure. On the other hand, they recognize the slippery slope that could be created. Imagine if every entry on the greatest hits page was posts about people incentivizing sphinns. Would that cheapen the brand? It’s a difficult balancing act.

 
Si Philp on March 24th, 2008

In fairness I had never heard of Sphinn up until you posted this. I think it does say something that the people who were involved in this decision have commented. I say put it down to a learning curve and move on 🙂

 
Eric Nagel on March 24th, 2008

I can see both sides to this argument. On one hand, you did “game” the system by rewarding Sphinns, but on the other hand, you introduced the system to many, many new users. Based on how you promoted the Sphinn system, however, I’d say they went too far.

Ranked Hard on March 24th, 2008 Subscribed to comments via email

How do we know how many new people were introduced to it? Just curious. If one were to estimate, how many new people would you say were introduced to Sphinn who had never heard of it?

 
 
Jason on March 25th, 2008

That sucks, but at least they were nice enough to give a warning, rather than straight up ban you. I’m pretty new to social bookmarking myself. I start using StumbleUpon a few weeks ago and it’s awesome. I’ll give Sphinn a shot soon.

 
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