Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Why Shoutwire is doomed

It's a simple concept really... you have users submit the content and also have users rate the content, thus all the top content is ensured to be well liked and in popular demand. All you have to do is sit back and thank God for such an opportunity to make something from nothing as the ultimate middleman. How did they screw that up?

I got into blogging a while ago, my work covers a wide variety of topics and my hobbies expand on that. I have several blogs and maintain quite a few web sites. Somewhere along the line, someome submitted one of my articles to Shoutwire and I started getting a lot of hits refered from there. I found the whole concept interesting and started submitting some articles myself... quite a few made the front page and generated a fair amount of hits. It was nothing extraordinary, but it seemed a good way to get news out that didn't usually reach people.

At one point, I noticed that some of my stories were disappearing off of shoutwire, which seemed strange because nearly ALL of the ones I submitted were getting a huge number of shouts. I chalked this up to stories simply being folded in at the time... soon I realized how wrong I was and that this was all due to censorship.

Looking back, it became quite apparent that the specific stories that were removed by the administrators of Shoutwire were done so for political reasons. Namely... any story critical of Israel, the Bush Regime or questioning the facts surrounding 9/11 were removed out of hand, completely ignoring the fact that these very stories were the ones generating the most 'Shouts'.

This fact was driven home when I submitted this
just before the five year aniversary of the 9/11 Attacks which forever changed our world. This post, once submitted started generating massive hits as well as massive Shouts. In mind boggling fashion, people were both viewing and Shouting this at the rate of hundreds and thousands per hour... for the few hours it lasted. That's right, only hours old and with tons of Shouts under its belt this post was sumarily dismissed by the Shoutwire administrators.

That of course is only one example, all through the Israel-Lebanon conflict I repeatedly submitted posts decrying the attrocities Israel was commiting upon Lebanon and they all were deleted in favor or pro-Israel news items which told nothing but lies.

Shoutwire of course has fought it's criticism, and made excuses for it's censorship, but not a single one of its arguments holds any water at all.

So, why will Shoutwire fail? Stupidity is the short answer. Look at the mainstream media for your example. American Idol out performs ALL NEWS STATIONS COMBINED and newspapers nationwide are scrambling to keep out of the red. Why is this? People KNOW when they are being played, they KNOW when they are being LIED to. It's not that they don't want news, it's that they want REAL NEWS. That's why more and more people are turning to the internet and the blogsphere for their news.

Somehow, Shoutwire started out as a good idea, promoting the free exchange of news and ended up as someone's personal political agenda. Why they thought they could get away with that while huge corporations in the mainstream are failing for just that same reason is beyond me.

With such a small market share, one has to be surprised they would take the censorship route, I mean they're competing with unrestricted services such as Digg, Reddit and now Netscape and Yahoo.

With an opportunity to stand out from the crowd as uncensored, unbiased, and completely user driven, why cave in the corporate elite? Alas, they did, and what it does is leave the gate open for a REAL news service to step in and take their place.

I waive goodbye to you shoutwire, from the moral highground.

18 comments:

Joe Blow said...

I agree. They are censoring my articles too. I have to wonder if shoutwire is ran by the CIA.

Anonymous said...

Looks like they deleted the link to this article too... imagine that.

Anonymous said...

Is someone mad because they didnt get the attention they wanted?

bulshoy said...

There are resons that articles get deleted from ShoutWire. Yours was almost certainly deleted because your posts violate two site rules:

1. You may not post a link to a site that you own / administer. Self-promotion is against site policy

2. You may not post a link to a blog, unless THE CONTENT IS UNIQUE AND MORE THAN A FEW LINES OF TEXT.

Also, you began posting at a time when the site was being overrun with Lebanon vs Israel posts. Long time readers were fleeing the site in droves, so we began removing random articles on that particular subject.

There is NO censorship, just management. ShoutWire does not have a hidden agenda, and we are neither pro-Israeli nor pro-anyone else.

If you would have taken the time to read the submission guidelines, this entire situation could have been avoided.

Bulshoy

ShoutWire Staff

Terence Kam said...

Hey bulshoy,

The point is that we question the wisdom of those 2 site rules.

1. How do you police rule 1? What is stopping corporations/government/groups from hiring an army of users to promote their agenda? How on earth can Shoutwire monitor all these activities? At this time, Shoutwire can do so because it's user base is small enough to make monitoring possible.

2. For rule 2, how do you judge whether a content is unique or not? The point is, all these requires the subjective judgement of Shoutwire staffs. Each staff is a human with their own bias, prejudice and pre-disposition. No wonder this kind of micro-management gives people the impression that Shoutwire has an 'agenda.' It's not that Shoutwire has a deliberate agenda- their very policy of management allows the individual staff members perception to override the collective views of the community.

I suggest that the management of Shoutwire should read this book: New rules for the new economy

Terence Kam said...

I've just written an article here:
Analysing Web 2.0 businesses: Shoutwire vs Digg case study.

Bulshoy said...

Hello terrance. Thank you for your response.

In regard to "Rule #1", it's not too difficult to identify the people who are just looking to generate traffic to their site. Typically, they only submit links to one site, they never comment or shout articles (other than those that they submitted, of course) and they never respond to comments left for them under their submissions. It's unfortunate that bloggers and some webmasters think that we are their own personal advertising agency. These are usually the people who complain about "censorship".

We actually experienced some issues with people employing an army of users to promote their site. Last summer the site became a battleground for the pro/anti Israel crowd during the height of the Lebanon incident. At times the front page contained nothing except articles relating to this incident, and we received many, many complaints. We ultimately had to resort to limiting the number of submissions of this nature, and we stepped up the monitoring of new users. I don't want to reveal too much though, since self-promoters will use this info to sidestep our moderation efforts.

As for "rule #2" it's very easy to determine if blog content is original. If it is a copy-and-paste from a news agency, we'll know. The staff spend a great deal of time reading news on many sites (Reuters, CNN, BBC, CBC, etc) so we can tell a copy-and-paste when we see one. Many bloggers just write a two-sentence blurb, then put a link to their source. In these cases, we just change the SW link to the source article.

Sure, sometimes judgement calls are required. In such cases, the situation is discussed among the staff and the editor-in-chief makes the ultimate decision.

Our users have repeatedly requested the deletion of material such as that which is discussed above. We don't want our "New Submissions" page to look like your email client's junk mail folder.

Terence Kam said...

Hi Bulshoy!


In regard to "Rule #1", it's not too difficult to identify the people who are just looking to generate traffic to their site... It's unfortunate that bloggers and some webmasters think that we are their own personal advertising agency. These are usually the people who complain about "censorship".


Let's say there's a writer who submits his/her articles to Shoutwire. But it's arguably high-quality and informative articles (i.e. well written, thoroughly researched and thought-through, etc) from a high-quality web-site. In that case, the writer will be banned from Shoutwire even though his/her intention is noble and Shoutwire users approve and voted in favour of those articles. I believe that it is okay for bloggers or webmasters to generate traffic to their web sites through Shoutwire as long as they take pains to produce good quality content in their web sites. In fact, I believe it is even beneficial to Shoutwire.

But I agree with you that there's always the issue of spammers mis-using Shoutwire to promote their content. For Digg, there's what they did to combat this problem: they have a feature whereby users can flag a submission as spam. If enough of a domain's articles are flagged as spam, Digg will eventually ban all articles from that domain.


We actually experienced some issues with people employing an army of users to promote their site.


This is a big problem. I guess it's because the user base for Shoutwire is too small to allow the legitimate users to have significant influence on the quality of the contents.

What I propose is a weighted voting system whereby the more responsible (measured in a carefully thought out metrics) users are given more weights for their votes. This gives the most responsible users more say in deciding what's good and what's bad. Given that Shoutwire automatically deletes articles that do not make it to the front page after a fixed number of days, gabbage submission will eventually be phased out because they're usually voted in by the least responsible users.

Tsoldrin said...

Hm. I had no idea this post would become such a phenomenon, this must be the fourth 'run' it's had, and I really don't know why google ranks my posts in general so high.

I was really just a bit miffed at the time and venting. I was actually mostly sorry not for myself but at a lost opportunity for an emergent form of media - controlled by the people.

I definitely believe that there was more going on than anti-gaming of the system... it's really inevitable when human beings are making judgment calls. That's the beauty of making everything user driven. I'll give the benefit of the doubt though and assume it was probably unintentional and merely part of human nature.

I actually ended up submitting several more stories after posting this and they all made front page before my eventual deletion. No hard feelings. :)

For the record, a spot check shows that the vast majority of articles are indeed submitted by the authors or someone else affiliated with the sites they link to. After that, you have a some main stream bullshit bleeding in and finally in a very tiny number (less than 10% by my spot check) you have actual 'discovered' material... which is mostly on blogs. Therefore, this unenforced 'rule' is nothing more than carte blanche to censor... I don't think that is what anyone wants.

Anyway... I havn't made a blog post in months and I'm no longer interested in how everyone does what regarding the big media changes going on in our society. My original message may have been harsh, but I think you could take it to heart and gain a lot of learning therein regardless. If my predictions are good, this type of media will only gain in popularity in the years to come, and the one's who will gain the most will NOT be the ones following the already tried and failed route of mainstream media, the real winners will be the ones giving the people what they WANT - that is completely user driven content. Nobody trusts the media anymore and for the most part they don't have a lot of trust for each other either... but when enough people lend their smidgeon of trust to someone, then you can rest assured, in the untrustworthy age, that it's at least worth reading.

Anonymous said...

I totaly agree with this articla, i used to be a regular user of shoutwire, and when they started reomving content i made a few posts about it tell them it was censorship, they denied this as they do, but i had took screenshot of the post i had made that they had promptly removed mins after posting, if it is not censorship then there would be no need to remove my post as i should be entitled to an opinion, is that not the point? i was then banned for spamming and basicaly called a liar when i contested this.I dont really mind that much because its all crap on the site now anyway!!

bulshoy said...

@ terence

Let's say there's a writer who submits his/her articles to Shoutwire. But it's arguably high-quality and informative articles (i.e. well written, thoroughly researched and thought-through, etc)

That is exactly the kind of material that we WANT on ShoutWire. Even blogs that fit your above description are kept. However, if the user is submitting, say, 5 links in a row, all leading to his site, and the user doesn't participate in other aspects of the site (shouting or commenting), I will usually email them and ask them to participate more. I may even ask them to put a "Shout This" button at the bottom of their articles. That way both sites benefit.

However, if it is a blogger hoo rites lyke dis, I will usually just delete it and advise them via email that their content does not meet our quality threshold.

What I propose is a weighted voting system whereby the more responsible (measured in a carefully thought out metrics) users are given more weights for their votes.

Our sister site, SpikedHumor, uses such a system and it works great for them. ShoutWire 2.0 is currently a work in progress and your suggestion may be implemented.

@tsoldrin

I KNEW that name was familiar. I have seen some of your submissions in the past. I don't believe that i've ever had a problem with any of them.

Nobody trusts the media anymore and for the most part

It depends on the source. I trust the CBC a lot more than I trust, say, Fox News.

The problem is that if too much "alternative" news gets through, people complain. If not enough alternative news gets through, people complain. It's difficult to please everyone. There will always be someone who isn't happy.

Terence Kam said...

@bulshoy

That is exactly the kind of material that we WANT on ShoutWire. Even blogs that fit your above description are kept. However, if the user is submitting, say, 5 links in a row, all leading to his site, and the user doesn't participate in other aspects of the site (shouting or commenting), I will usually email them and ask them to participate more. I may even ask them to put a "Shout This" button at the bottom of their articles. That way both sites benefit.

Personally, I find this untrue in practice.

I write quality content on my investment publication (there are quite a few positive testimonials in the comments). Given that the articles that I submit to Shoutwire receives many shouts, it is testament to the fact that the articles are quality content.

Soon, my account was being locked. I had to contact the staff to have my account unlocked. Then I continued submitting my articles as well as taking part in other voting.

Just yesterday, I submitted 2 articles. Only 2!!! And there were highly original articles. Today, I find my account locked. Again!

So, in theory, Shoutwire can claim to be fair and judicious in their deletion policies, but at the end of the day, they never work out in practice. My experience with Shoutwire shows that their decisions to delete submissions are arbitrary, questionable and subjective.

bulshoy said...

@ terence

You post links to inspiriting.com?

I HAVE seen some of your submissions, though I cannot recall your username.

What I DO recall is that your articles receive very few shouts.

I can unlock your account if you'd like. Just email your username to me.

Terence Kam said...

@bulshoy

If you can unlock my account, that'll be appreciated. But how do I email you?

I've used a few community-based news. Generally, I find Shoutwire users more receptive to my investment articles than Digg or Reddit users. In fact, I get to know the existence of Shoutwire through one of my readers who submitted my articles to Shoutwire. Reddit users mainly IT technical people- therefore, they are generally not interested in investment themes.

I also find that certain topics attract more attention than others. For example, one more my articles that has a more geopolitical slant attract more votes in both Shoutwire and Digg.

Bulshoy said...

Well, you can reach me at bulshoy(at)hotmail.com. You can also catch me in the Shoutwire/Spikedhumor IRC channel (#spikedwire) at irc.abjects.net.

Gurkan said...

Anyone know how to delete my shoutwire account? Shoutwire sucks balls and inferior to digg.com thanks in advance.

bulshoy said...

I'd LOVE to delete your ShoutWire account. Please leave your username so I can get right on that.

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