How Spotplex’s “Trafficracy” Could Beat Digg But Probably Won’t

Will today’s launch of Spotplex be the beginning of the end for Digg? Probably not, but this new social media site might prove a more civilized "trafficracy" alternative to the mob democracy of Digg.

For those seeking attention and traffic, Digg has long been the crowdsourcing 800lb gorilla. Unfortunately, explosive growth in the Digg community and a certain amount of paranoia on the part of its administrators regarding good verses bad story submissions has led to many marketers, businesses and bloggers of all kinds turning away from the once loved poster child of social bookmarking.

The Digg community is out of control. Nobody would argue otherwise, it just remains to be seen whether they can turn it around and get the more aggressive and abusive elements of the mob to stop frothing at the mouth long enough to realize that they’re ruining the site.

Enter Spotplex, a site currently in beta that TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington says "arguably sorts news in a better way than Digg does." The big difference between the two sites is that Spotplex does not require site owners or its own members (it has no members system, even) to submit stories. Instead, stories get added by carrying Spotplex’s JavaScript code snippet on their pages. This allows Spotplex to monitor the traffic stories are getting and rank them accordingly. Heavier trafficked items rise to the top of the upcoming stories list, then make it to the homepage.

The opportunity here for Spotplex is that looking at traffic, rather than just voting, might produce better rankings. Vote gaming is one of the majors headaches for Digg right now. Members are running amok with the “bury” feature, which allows them to vote down stories from sources they don’t like, for any reason, and without accountability. In theory, a Spotplex homepage would reflect the most popular posts of the day by measuring how many people had actually read them, rather than how many read a headline and then just pushed a Digg or Bury button.

Hooray! Ok, not so fast. There are a few obvious problems here:

  • Gaming Spotplex: How hard is it to trigger a JavaScript snippet automatically? How hard would it be to game such a system and artificially boost a sites traffic?

    Not very.

    And how might you combat such actions? Well, you could give Spotplex visitors the right to vote down stories they feel are …. oh dear, he we go again!
     

  • What is a blog post? The site says “Find most visited blog articles today,” but do they really mean to only list blogs? And if so, can someone tell me if sites like Engadget and Techcrunch are really still blogs anymore? If they’re included, as TechCrunch is, then won’t we have a homepage just full of the biggest blogs around? Is this a good thing? Hell no, part of the beauty of the blogosphere, and the usefulness of systems like Technorati, is in the discovery of smaller blogs, new blogs. I don’t need a service to point me to the new old media.
     
  • It’s Not Inclusive: You won’t find Search Engine Land or my own Clickinfluence blog in Spotplex right now. Many other blogs aren’t in there as well. TechCrunch’s article on Spotplex shares how there are 1,000 admission slots now open, but those will go fast. Even if everyone was allowed in, you only get to play if you agree to install the Spotplex code on your site.

    Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen more and more people pushing back on having to carry all this JavaScript and other widget eye candy. We’ve also seen concerns about how widget-based services like MyBlogLog can bring spam into your site, share information you’d perhaps rather they didn’t have or slow your pages from loading. Some sites simply won’t want to carry the code, making Spotplex have gaps — maybe important ones — in the blogosphere.

Those are problems relating to content at Spotplex. Aside from that, Spotplex designers seem to have fallen over themselves to put AJAX navigation in all the worst places! You cannot link to individual tags. Sheesh.

Oh, and one more thing: I don’t need Spotplex, or anyone else, to decide to open links in new windows for me. It shows desperation and a contemptible lack of respect for readers.

It’s easy to kick the tires and shout “boo!” at a new product, and goodness knows all new ventures have their problems. So let’s give Spotplex a break and look at what’s good about it, and how it might be a great thing for businesses looking to engage the tech community.

The really big thing Spotplex has going for it is that it takes away that ugly, fearful side of crowd media that Digg fosters. Digg is an unfriendly, scary place for most, filled with children grown wild and violent. Spotplex could take all of that nastiness away and let a traffic-based meritocracy – a trafficracy — drive the discovery of new content.

In particular, Spotplex lacks the commenting feature where the ugliness at Digg especially can come out. In other words, any story featured on Digg has its own page, where people can talk about the story. At Spotplex, stories get featured, but the service is designed to then solely drive people away from Spotplex and to the blog or site hosting the actual story. I think this is a great thing, though making it easy to find blogs linking to these stories would be very cool.

Lastly, let’s not forget the pretty graphs! If you click through on the bottom link of a listing to a page like this, you get stats about the content site that hosts that story. These could help people get a feel for the source of a story. Does it have many well rated stories or just the one?

All in all, Spotplex has its work cut out for it. It’s far from finished and has some massive hurdles to jump. But it’s worth putting on your watchlist as potentially a real contender and possible powerhouse in driving traffic to viral marketing campaigns, product releases and help bloggers discover new content in a simple to understand way.

Well done Spotplex, and good luck.

Nick Wilson is a contributing writer for Search Engine Land and the CEO and senior strategist for Clickinfluence, a dedicated social media marketing agency.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social | Search Engines: Digg | Search Engines: Social Search Engines | Social Media Marketing

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  • http://www.michaelvisser.com.au Michael Visser

    Spotplex looks like an obvious progression, we have similar polls for top blog ranks using banner images placed on blogs and judged by visitor access rates.

    Pity involvement during their beta period is invitation only though. Hang on, I’m angry that they’re not letting me use software that’s currently less than complete, when did our mind-sets switch?

  • http://hauntingthunder.wordpress.com/ Neuro

    Hi Guys

    Seen the story on Wired yet about buying diggs?

    http://www.wired.com/news/technology/internet/0,72832-0.html

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