The dysfunctional personalities of Sphinn

by James Duthie on September 15, 2008

It’s not long now until I approach my 1 year membership anniversary on my favourite social network – Sphinn. But rather than reflect on all the great things I’ve learned during that time, I thought it’d be much more fun to share what I’ve learned about the people over at Sphinn. You see, despite Danny’s best attempts to exude a professional image, Sphinn is clearly comprised of dysfunctional misfits. So today, rather than make a useful and informed entry, I’ve decided to describe the range of personalities I’ve encountered during my first glorious year on Sphinn…

The Sphinn hater

The Sphinn hater is perhaps the finest example of an oxymoron you’re ever likely to see. The hater seems to truly detest the place! Most of their interactions on the site are focused on:

  • Broadcasting the extent to which Sphinn’s content sucks
  • Starting arguments and belittling fellow members via the comments
  • Desphinning content that doesn’t meet their personal quality standards
  • Bemoaning the state of Sphinn and social media in general

Ironically, despite their apparent hatred for the place, the Sphinn hater seems to be more active than most other members combined. Go figure… It seems they just can’t take that hate message far enough. Perhaps they subscribe to the Calcanis marketing model: Controversy + acting like a jackass = links/attention.

The inane comment spammer

This type of Sphinn lurker is particularly annoying. Commenting within blogs and forums can be a fantastic way to forge relationships and networks within an industry. But… only if you contribute something meaningful to the discussion. The following comments do not (I repeat… DO NOT) fall into the category of meaningful discussion:

  • Great post. I agree that <insert point of article>
  • Thanks for the information. Keep up the good work.
  • Great find. Thanks for sharing.

In isolation, these type of comments can be innocent enough. However, a continuous trail of inane comments only serves to make a community collectively dumber. Clearly, at some point the comment spammer has read Dosh Dosh’s article about the value of commenting (or perhaps even my own article on blog commenting). Unfortunately, they seem to have missed the point. Indeed, the irony is that repeatedly leaving pointless comments in a professional network such as Sphinn is likely to taint future relationships with peers rather than improve them.

The flamer

The flamer is not to be confused with the Sphinn hater. The flamer doesn’t hate Sphinn itself. They do however, seem to hate most people who lurk there. As a result, their favourite past time is engaging in comment wars with fellow members. Common fodder for flame wars include:

  • Black hat vs white hat SEO
  • Ethics in marketing & social media
  • The future of SEO

Comment flamers are generally easy to spot. Just look for members with negative votes next to almost every comment/contribution they make (even the valid ones). Interestingly, most flamers seem to revel in that negativity rather than be perturbed by it…

The purist

The purist is the natural enemy of the flamer. Purists are characterised by their highly strung beliefs on all things marketing (and ethics in particular). Indeed, their opinions are often so vehemently strong that they border on religious commandments. Purists can often be found spouting their views towards flamers in a rage of passion. Common purist beliefs include:

  • Black hat SEOs are the devil’s spawn
  • Maintaining phony social media accounts is a criminal offense
  • Marketing IS ethics

Sphinn is extremely fortunate to be home to a number of purists. Otherwise, most of us wouldn’t know when we’ve done something wrong…

The voting whore

The only word to describe the voting whore is desperate. Indeed, voting whores deal in the currency of desperation! They can be found resorting to absolutely anything necessary to scrounge a few Sphinn votes, including:

  • Organising vote swapping alliances with fellow whores
  • Creating fake accounts to vote their own stories up
  • Tweeting, Plurking & IMing everyone in their network for votes

Ironically, if they spent a little less time whoring and a little more time writing decent content, they probably wouldn’t have to work so hard to generate their Sphinn votes…

Eager newbie

As the name suggests, eager newbies are fresh members of the Sphinn network. But that doesn’t stop them from being amongst the most active! The eager newbie is on an unwavering mission to gain visibility within the Sphinn community… usually in order to attract attention to their new online marketing blog. The behaviour of the eager newbie is comparable to that of a kid starting a new school, desperately screaming “Look at me”, and includes:

  • Submitting 5 articles a day to Sphinn for an aggregate tally of 7 votes
  • Commenting on every second story in an attempt to prove their intelligence
  • Adding every existing Sphinn member to their friend list so that they appear popular

Unfortunately, the lifespan and patience of an eager newbie is limited. Generally, if some level of success is not tasted within the first few weeks, it is only a matter of time before they transform into a voting whore.

The star

The star is Sphinn’s equivalent of LeBron James. They contribute regularly and make participation look so damn easy it makes the rest of us feel sick. The star is typically a prominent industry player with a well known SEO agency, a high profile blog and regular speaking gigs at search conferences. And that profile naturally translates into utter Sphinn adulation from the masses. In fact, the Sphinn star has such power that they can:

  • Submit their grandma’s cooking recipe and watch it go hot in 3 hours
  • Send flamers running scared from a debate with a single retort
  • Watch on in amusement as fellow Spinners fight to submit their latest post (which is almost guaranteed to go hot).

The only downside to the life of the Sphinn star is the ongoing stalking from fanboys and newbies eager to establish a relationship with their hero…

The leech

The leech doesn’t participate on Sphinn. They don’t vote, submit, comment or provide any sort of meaningful contribution. They just subscribe to the RSS feed and suck it dry for information. I’ll bet Danny Sullivan hates them!

So which one are you?

Now that you know the true nature of the dysfunctional Sphinn family, it’s time to fess up! Which one are you? I’ll happily admit I’m 70% eager newbie, 20% purist & 10% voting whore. Who else is game to reveal their true Sphinn colours…?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Todd Mintz September 15, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Of course, you could write the same post about any established social network :.)

James Duthie September 15, 2008 at 10:03 pm

Ah yes Todd. These personalities exist in every social network, not just Sphinn. The only difference is the topic of discussions.

Steven Bradley September 15, 2008 at 11:35 pm

Do I really need to be one of the above? How about a category for someone who just participates when they have time, votes up content they like, and moves on from content that don’t care for?

Oddly enough I was thinking this weekend of your typical SEO hater who thinks SEO will rot your brain and yet spends all day long reading every SEO post written just so they can find a single point to prove how much it should be hated.

James Duthie September 15, 2008 at 11:51 pm

I was thinking of putting in a category for productive users like yourself Steven, but it just wasn’t amusing enough :)

Naturally, the article is very much tongue in cheek.

Kristina September 16, 2008 at 9:43 am

Why you think they are all dysfunctional? If you exclude all the people who try out their hands and find their way through, then you want to keep only people inside and close the community.

In every community there are people who lead and keep up the spirit, they are followers, they are newbies and people who don’t know why they are there, some try blackhat techniques. But they are bringing the variety. When you are open to public, you need to face that, be ready for facing people users. Social communities are strong if they are large and famous and allow people to interact under the rules.

I do not like spammers, and that is what needs to described.

James Duthie September 16, 2008 at 10:11 am

I don’t really think they’re all dysfunctional Kristina. If I did I wouldn’t hang out there every day. I’m actually just having a laugh and poking a little fun at some of the characters I’ve seen over there. And like Todd pointed out, you’ll find these types on every social network.

I’ve met a whole lot of really smart people at Sphinn who have become good friends. But to acknowledge the normal users would have ruined the comic effect of the post… :)

David at September 16, 2008 at 10:11 am

Great list! I have to admit I am a bit of a vote whore and always try to scroung a few Sphinns, but don’t use any of those dodgy tactics you mentioned! I’d love to be a “star” but time is always a losing battle for me.

James Duthie September 16, 2008 at 10:36 am

Thanks for commenting David. I loved your slimy internet characters post, and this post was inspired by it. For anyone who enjoyed this post, click on Dave’s link above and check it out. It’s great!

netmeg September 16, 2008 at 1:43 pm

Happy to be a leech.

Dave September 16, 2008 at 8:17 pm

I am a purist comment flaming Sphinn hating rock star vote whore myself… and known to rant about Sphinn posts that are Sphinn bait from time to time… he he….

Keep this up and I will have to start hanging out over there again to flame…rant…whore… my ass til the cows come home!!!

…. now move along… nothing to see here….

James Duthie September 16, 2008 at 10:52 pm

Ahhh Dave… you can spot my Sphinn bait from a mile away can’t you… :)

Bill Sebald September 17, 2008 at 8:40 pm

Thanks for the information. Keep up the good work.

(couldn’t resist the inane comment spam gag)…

Actually, I don’t fit in here. Just like my family’s house at Thanksgiving. I’m a submitter/commenter who really tries to be virtuous, but just can’t make enough time to contribute like I want to. I’m a “means well leech” maybe…

James Duthie September 18, 2008 at 9:31 pm

We’ll forgive you Bill. Because you’ve taken the time to leave a considered and amusing comment :)

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