Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Devil's Take: Naivety and Spam Taste the Same

By: The Insider

With all the talk of spam circulating around the Mixx community of late, I can't help but offer a somewhat contrarian take on the matter. Make no mistake, I'm not any more fond of spam than anyone else involved in the social media scene.

That said, I think that the spam on Mixx is mild relative to comparable sites. That is not to suggest it be taken lightly, but let's not make a mountain out of molehill either. Ten minutes of time spent at any of the other sites that fall within Mixx's genre and this point is made loud-and-clear.

There has been a debate ongoing at Mixx over what actually constitutes spam, and some have even suggested that users who submit quality content (but only from their own sites) should be grouped with the no-prescription Viagra salesmen. I beg to differ with this notion.

I don't necessarily feel that there is anything wrong with people only submitting their own content - so long as it is good content (not spam). The idea that a valuable contributor to the community must adhere to a certain standard of usage behavior (in terms of submitted content ratios) is an extremely slippery slope. While it may not be a recipe for becoming a "Top Mixxer", I suspect that a lot of these users will become more active and well-rounded community members if given time. Granted, this is all contingent on the content they submit being reasonable, even if it all comes from a single source.

Additionally, while I acknowledge that this is the overwhelming exception; I was once banned from a site (I assume) because I emailed links to the post on said site to my friends who were not member of the site. These friends of mine subsequently joined the site, primarily to vote for my submissions. I am sure that the activity report from my account on that site had all the indications of a spammer who was setting up multiple accounts, even though this was not the case at all. Had the site not banned me, a few of those people that signed up as a favor to me would have become all-around contributors.

Instead, the site banned me, a decision that cost it no less than 5 potentially valuable contributors while earning it at least one dedicated enemy. I wasn't trying to game the system, just level the playing field a little bit.

My point with all of this is that I'd hate to see Mixx make some of those same mistakes, becoming overzealous to the point of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I don't know how to effectively and efficiently distinguish between real spammers and naive users who are new to the social media scene and in need of a little bit of guidance. However, Mixx stands to gain a big leg-up on the competition if it can identify a means of separating one group from the other while educating the latter about the community norms.

I think a lot of these users that are so easily written off can be converted into valuable community members if given a little bit of time and pointed in the right direction. As a matter of fact, I know this to be the case because I used to be one of them.

There is a substantial learning curve that new users must endure in order to learn the ropes and figure out what is acceptable and what isn't. The problem a lot of sites make is discarding these users before they reach that point. While most do figure it out eventually, if cut loose too quickly they will do so at another site where they have a clean slate.

Mixx has struck a chord of passion in a lot of its users, including pretty much everyone who has taken part in the recent spam discussions. Not unlike most Mixxers, I want to do what's best for Mixx, and I have some legitimate concerns that an overzealous crackdown may be pending that could cost the site some potentially valuable community members. I think it would be in all of our best interests to consider this argument before attempting to separate the naughty from the nice.

For the record, in writing this post I am merely playing devil's advocate - however, I do believe this perspective holds a degree of truth that is worthy of consideration. What say you?

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