When Good Intent Meets The Anonymous Web

Seth Godin has written about his feelings about what’s happened to his ZList in a new blog post, Zlist update. He is “amazed, then delighted and then disturbed by the response“.

I revisited the Squidoo Zlist, now prefaced with a new statement that reads, in part:

Please don’t vote people down just because they’re above you in the rankings. Please don’t add a blog to this list that’s not relevant (hey, you can start your own list… it’s free. Just click that button on the top right of the page). I know this sounds trite, but here you go:

Please click as if someone were watching. Do the right thing and the world comes out ahead. Thanks.

In his followup post, he speaks to the core of what was frustrating me.

Several bloggers worked hard to game the list I posted, instructing folks to vote other (worthy) blogs down. That’s sad.

Several bloggers added their blogs even though they were clearly irrelevant to the point of the list.

And many bloggers got their feelings hurt because if there’s a list, and you’re competitive, then being near the bottom of the list is a bad thing.

In all honesty, I didn’t bother to look to see where my blog now sits or even to see if it is still on the list at all.

The day the list came out, I was shocked and thrilled to find my blog on it, and while the list was still fresh and not attacked by darts, my blog was always in the top 50 somewhere. Three days into it, I don’t know what the hell happened and I could no longer stand to watch the proceedings. You can become totally convinced that you have enemies online when you see any list that rates and scores your website on an hourly basis.

My enemy may be nothing more than competition, or campaigns to move other blogs upwards, but by then, as Seth points out, what started out as his intent to point to undernoticed blogs that he chose has been exploited as a new sort of competition, where anyone can play and anyone can ruin the party.

He’s toying with shutting it down. I don’t blame him for that.

It’s not that lists are bad. It’s that they’re sometimes exploited or marketed in ways that create an unintended result, or even cause harm. I LOVE to point to site discoveries and cheer on good works. They deserve the praise and recognition. I attach to their feed. In some cases, I refer them to clients or friends to friends. It’s natural. Not forced. My choice.

I have control over my approach, however. When Seth created his list, it may have been a smooth idea to help show people what a Squidoo looks like. Nothing wrong with that. He gave control of that list to other people, however, and by doing that, all sorts of negative human responses to opportunity took over. It’s natural to want to see your favorite blog move up, but somebody else’s must come down. It’s no longer “Seth’s choices” at this point. I’m not even sure the list ever was.

I don’t want to know whatever happened to my blog on his list. Getting on a Seth list at all was major cool. I danced around the living room and blabbed about it to a family who has no freaking clue who Seth is, nor do they care.

I bet there are days when he wishes more people felt that way sometimes.

6 thoughts on “When Good Intent Meets The Anonymous Web

  1. Social Media is such a cool thing. One of the best things about it is that everyone can participate, and you can really get a complete feel for your audience.

    However, as you point out Kim, the downside is that a significant number of people out there who do not instinctively do the right thing.

    But all in all, I think it’s still a really good thing, warts and all. At least this way the warts are out there where we can deal with them.

  2. I hear ya Eric. I’ve been writing too much about the downside, abuses, and lack of responsibility, when in reality, the counter-balance of betterment and using social media for good far exceeds the negative.

    Your’s a good personal reminder to me to keep seeking the good stuff out there too :)

  3. And I thought it was only my family who had no idea who Seth is.

    Just like Seth’s comment, I once heard Matt Cutts say, if you do SEO as if a Googler was sitting on your shoulder wathing you, you’d probably do the right thing all the time. Good advice to all.

  4. Kim there was a time when I rode with Don Quixote and took my lumps too but no more.

    These days I accept that things like social media will always sink to the lowest common denominator. Whatever the plan, scheme, idea etc. might be – it will always sink even when good people are involved.

    That doesn’t mean that individuals should not continue to live/work/play according to personal ideals – it just means that the good guys are going to go on getting the lumps because social media always includes the less good who live by lesser ideals and think it’s ok to play the system to their own advantage.

  5. Sadly if there’s a system to be gamed, people will game it. It’s been going on since the dawn of time and it will always continue.

    I think Seth’s mistake here was allowing people to add their own blogs. Had he left the list as one only he could add to the manipulation in the voting might have been less.

    I still like what he tried to do and still think social media is a good thing.

    And if it means anything Kim I signed up for Squidoo just to be able to give you a vote since I had noticed this blog getting voted down unfairly.

  6. I signed up for Squidoo just to be able to give you a vote since I had noticed this blog getting voted down unfairly.

    Thank you! I admit that when I saw my blog being punched down, I wondered if it was because I had shared my opinion. That kind of action is part of why I’m writing so much on social media lately.

    Blogs gave many people a voice. Now, entire applications are being to used by some people to snuff them out?

    Stuart! Good to hear from you. We must be kindred spirits :)

    Welcome Arnie :)

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