No, your kid is NOT the cutest …

Todd Jordan carries on the discussion of “why is it not cool to submit your own content to link sharing sites?” Here’s my answer that I left as a comment:

Submitting links to your own works is the “of course my kid is the cutest” problem. Let me explain …

Content sharing sites thrive because of the signal-to-noise ratio: high quality, low volume (compared to “the web at large”). As you point out, nobody has time to visit every page on the web. Social link sharing sites (Digg, Stumble, etc.) work because someone else’s effort (submitting a link) results in your being able to visit a subset of the web, presumably of hand-selected better-than-average quality.

So, of course you’d want to submit links to your own stuff, because, you know, it’s better-than-average, right?

WRONG. Of course your kid is the cutest. But, if other people also think your kid is cute, maybe you’re on to something.

If everyone starts submitting links to their own stuff–intsead of someone else who also thinks your stuff is worth sharing with others–then these social link sharing sites’ signal-to-noise ratio will plummet and finding the worthwhile links amongst the crap will make them less useful and usable.

If you can’t find at least one or two people who think your content is worth submitting somewhere, then maybe you have to just accept that maybe it is, indeed, crap.

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  1. Great commentary. Thanks for both stopping by to read and for contributing to the conversation. Cheers for the insight on this, which most folks might totally miss.

    I always wonder though, is this also the chicken and the egg. If you don’t tell some folks, how will they even know if they like it?

  2. Todd: How do people discover content? Search engines! I discover plenty of new content when I search for subjects of interest to me. If they offer an RSS feed, I’ll throw it in my reader for a few days to see if it’s any good over time.

    If I discover content I want to access later, I’ll save it to Or, if I think it’s something that others will like, I’ll submit it to StumbleUpon or Digg or Reddit or whichever niche site that the content is relevant to.

    This system has worked so well that these social sharing sites have gotten as successful as they have. What I described is why they work–why they’re useful.

    Now, the late adopters (i.e., marketing leeches) show up and spam them because, well, they can. There’s a reason why I don’t read Digg regularly any more. Newbies might think “hey, I have to promote my content somehow, right?” WRONG! Nobody needs to read your twaddle. You might want us to, but please don’t piss in the pool, for everyone else’s sake.

  3. So do you think that the majority of content that is submitted to digg/reddit/dzone/wherever is not submitted by the author (or someone on the team)? While I agree with what you say, it seems like those sites are out there to advertise their site, so it’s in the company’s best interests to put it up there. It’s like nissan not making a car commercial and waiting for someone else to do it and put it into broadcast tv. Ok, that’s not the greatest analogy, but still, it’s along the same line.

  4. Jason: I’m sure there is some content being submitted by people using puppets, but it isn’t likely to be “the majority” of the content.

    The top 10% contributors to these sites really do spend a lot of time and effort scouring the web, submitting reasonably high-quality content.

    Most of these sites have anti-gaming measures in place.

    Regarding your analogy … there’s a reason why Consumer Reports doesn’t sell ads in its print publication, and buys all the products retail that it reviews–sure, they’re losing out on revenue opportunity (selling ads) and increasing their costs (buying product vs. getting free review product)–it’s another measure to signal objectivity and maintain quality, which is why they still have an audience.

    Once a social link sharing site becomes nothing more than a stream of random links by whoever bothers to submit one, it becomes unusable and will eventually die out. Sure, greedy opportunists can ride that until it ends by spamming these sites, but don’t ever think for a minute that “it’s okay” or “that’s what it’s there for.” Someone else worked hard to create that site and now you (whoever who is spamming it) are ruining it for the rest of us. You should feel ashamed.

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