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My 3 rules for Social Media voting

Tuesday, 25 March 2008 — by

I’m that guy, stood there in the driving rain at 3am in the morning, waiting to give you a hand. I’m there because I said I would be. But at the same time as being your best friend, I’ll probably annoy you with my principles…

I get Shouts on Digg, people sending me web pages on StumbleUpon and Sphinn articles on Facebook.

On a good day, I might vote on maybe 10-15% of those articles. If I was to just take Shouts from Digg in isolation, that percentage would drop to nearer 2-5%

I’ll only ever vote on something for three reasons:

  1. The topic is of interest to me.
  2. I agree with the majority of the article.
  3. I think the article is good enough to share.

However, some people seem to think I should just vote on stuff as a matter of course, irrespective of whether I like the article or not. Worse still, that I should vote on something sent from a friend simply because they are a friend.

Sadly for those people, that’s not how I work. At times, it’s almost like water & oil — principles and Social Media just don’t mix.

As I’ve said before, I can only ever be logical and objective. And I’m not being capricious or morally high-handed, either. I cannot bring myself to agree with or indicate that I like something when I know that I don’t on both counts.

Surprisingly, some have even taken exception to my stance. Thankfully, they’re a small few.

Think of it this way — if all I’m doing is boosting the social transmission, I could be doing nothing more than boosting the noise at the expense of the signal quality.

And on those very rare occasions that I actually share any of my own stuff — which some friends chide me for not doing more often — I add a caveat along the lines of: “Only vote on this if you like it or you agree with me. If you don’t like, don’t vote. If you disagree, say so and vote me down!”

To me, I don’t see that as me being overly moral, I’m simply being socially responsible by helping to keep the signal-to-noise ratio high…

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Paula → Tuesday, 25 March 2008 @ 14:05 BDT

I like your rules. I have been ignoring requests for votes more and more…. hopefully one day I will be as strong as you and be able to say no to all the crap that is sent to me! :)

Wayne Smallman → Tuesday, 25 March 2008 @ 14:31 BDT

Hi Paula! In fairness, a lot of what gets sent to me isn’t crap, but merely stuff that isn’t core to what I write about, or what I’m interested in.

We’ve only got so many hours in the day! So I have to be disciplined in my reading habits…

Paula → Tuesday, 25 March 2008 @ 14:56 BDT

Crap was a strong word… not all that I get is crap, just that if I wouldn’t read it on my own anyhow, I find that it is getting in my way!

Heidi Cool → Wednesday, 26 March 2008 @ 0:29 BDT

All good points Wayne. I think you strike at the heart of two goals of recommendation sites.

1) For site owners/marketers: Promote quality sites to interested users to gain more traffic and sell product, services or whatever.

2) For readers: to share high quality sites with like-minded readers who would like to read the material.

What many marketers forget is that this isn’t just a numbers game. If I get 5,000 of my nearest and dearest to Stumble my site on organic farming it will probably bring more traffic, but it will be traffic with a high bounce rate. If I’m selling parsley seeds it doesn’t matter if I get 5,000 or 5 million visitors. What matters is that I get enough visitors who want to buy parsley seeds for me to make a profit. We have to target our audience.

Likewise our audience may go to the front page of Digg to see what’s hot, but they’ll only click on the things of interest. Similarly they’ll follow your Diggs and Stumbles to find things on topics that they like that you have a habit of sharing.

It’s pretty basic marketing, but people seem to forget it. Sites like Digg and StumbleUpon are great for marketers and readers because they have the ability to serve both goals, to match people to the material they are interested in.

But if we all Stumbled or Dugg everything that came our way, we’d be sifting through the same detritus we did before. The sorting mechanism would be gone, and from a marketing perspective it would be about as effective as me advertising my parsley seeds during a World Wide Wrestling Federation match-up. Lots of people would see the ad, but really how many would care?

Wayne Smallman → Thursday, 27 March 2008 @ 11:08 BDT

Hi there Heidi!

That’s a good justification / explanation of what I’m trying to achieve.

It’s a shame that some people I’ve had friend me have done so thinking I’m just some kind of vote for hire.

When I explain that’s not how it works, they quickly unfriend me and then move on.

Which is a shame.

BTW, for some reason, your comment ended up being eaten by Akismet. I think the mention of Parsley tipped things…

James Duthie → Monday, 7 April 2008 @ 22:41 BDT

Nice article Wayne and I’m obviously with you on this one. Blind voting leads social media down a popularity contest path, and I believe detracts from its purpose of revealing great content. And of course, as you point out it just creates more noise.

Wayne Smallman → Tuesday, 8 April 2008 @ 8:33 BDT

Yeah, thankfully, we’re not that rare a breed, you & I!

BTW, I’ve edited your URL to the article I commented on. That way, we’ve got a dialogue in place.

Speak soon, fella!

Chris → Monday, 7 July 2008 @ 15:04 BDT

Thanks for this Wayne – you make some great points there. So far, most of the stuff I’ve been sent online is stuff I would actually read, but there are always those few duff articles that I wouldn’t give screen-space to. I usually do the same as you: if I’m asking for a Digg or a Stumble I ask people to do it if they like the article. Otherwise I’m not getting real feedback on how I’m doing with my writing.

If I hit social-media gold (and so far only one post on my site has done that… and it was written by someone else!) then I can be confident that it’s because it’s actually a good article and not just a bunch of my friends voting stuff up because they don’t want to upset me :)

Wayne Smallman → Monday, 7 July 2008 @ 15:22 BDT

Hi Chris!

As you get more and more into blogging and submitting stuff, you (quite inevitably) end up with less and less time.

So you have to make the most of what time you have, which is partly the reasoning behind this article.

Yes, there are times when I read off-topic stuff, but it’s not often.

BTW, you should post your stuff onto Plurk, which is a good place to get some exposure…

Sorry Comments are close. Quite possibly for a good reason. Share your thoughts on some of my other posts or contact me directly.

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