This site is so infrequently updated, I just have to wonder who (if anyone) still subscribes to it via RSS. I was looking back and there is some decent content on here though a fair bit of it is outdated as well. It might be about time to pick up and start over on a real non-WordPress hosted domain with solid tips, news and commentary related to social media, blogging and other related tech topics, but perhaps not just yet.

No one likes it when people steal an idea and republish it. In the world of blogging, a’via’ link at the bottom of a post has become the norm for crediting sources. However, this phenomena is getting way out of control and many people link to the latest source in a long chain rather than the original. I found out first hand just how bad things had gotten when I started trying to track the actual source of an article today, only to be plunged into a seemingly endless list of links.

spy-pen.jpg

It all started with a blurb on EcoGeek about a 007 Solar Pen Camera spying device. I wanted to submit the link to Digg then noticed their blurb was via TreeHugger, which in turn added two new links: ChinaVision and Dvice. The latter link traced to UberGizmo, which linked to UberReview that in turn linked to 7Gadgets (an appropriate 7th link in the ongoing chain). Most of these sites didn’t link to the ChinaVision (original) site, and only one linked to 7Gadgets where this information apparently first hit the blogosphere.

The fact that this last source didn’t link another source doesn’t even mean, of course, that it is the last source in the chain. Maybe this is just where the chain got broken because one author didn’t cite his source. So where did this come from? Which one should you link to or submit to Digg? Who knows. What does this mean for the blogosphere? Is it natural and healthy sourcing or a sign of things getting out of control?

via allsux

I’ve heard a lot of people complain that social media is corrupt and that social media success is based on knowing the system or having friends with clout. Well, how is that different from regular media? In normal journals, newspapers and magazines not just anyone gets published, right? It is about your credibility and who you know. So why do people complain so much about corruption in social media? Did you really expect it would be fundamentally new and different?

The difference, as I see it, isn’t related to democracy or egalitarianism. Rather, the difference is participation. More and more mainstream media publications are adding blogs and comments, following the lead of social media sites. However, the basic paradigms and earned hierarchy and contact-based success haven’t changed. Is that so wrong? Do you really want to sift through the thousands upon thousands of stories submitted to Digg on a daily basis?

The reality is: any media source needs a way to sort information ahead of time prior to publication. In the case of newspapers, editors and the position held by reporters control what the public ultimately sees. In the case of social media sites, users vote for stories but they also vote for submitters. Either way, there is an element of content as well as an element of author (or submitter) trust.

So what can we take from all of this? Social media isn’t, perhaps, as different from regular media as we might have assumed, expected or hoped. However, it might be a step in a new direction. So instead of complaining about the details, we should, perhaps, all take a step back and think more broadly: are we at least moving in the right direction? Even if this kind of media isn’t fundamentally new, is it at least an improvement?

When people think of submitting links, usually social news, networking and bookmarking websites come to mind. The most popular of these, such as Digg and Reddit, can be hard to succeed on as there is a great deal of competition. However, there are some sites out there that are less well-known but can send a great deal of traffic – thousands of hits or more per accepted submission. I have recently seen thousands of visitors from sites I have manually contacted and that require manual approval for link publishing – very different than typical social media site. For two reasons, however, I am not going to list out the ones I have used in the past to do this:

1) Some of these sites are surprisingly unknown by the blogging and webmaster communities. They would potentially be flooded with semi-relevant spam were word to get out. In many cases, niche communities frequent these sites looking for links related to their interests, and these sites often have just one or two moderators.

2) Your niches probably aren’t my niches. What works for content I create will likely not work for your own. There are thousands of link-oriented sites on the web that can be found via simple Google searches. Also watch for an unsolicited source of incoming traffic – who knows, if you ping them with a similar future post they may be more than happy to link to you again.

One site I write for targets bizarre oddities, though it is often linked to from a site that mostly (strangely enough) links to porn. Why does it work? The demographics clearly overlap. So be sure to look past the overt purpose of the site and see what they are linking too. Whenever you come across a new site that posts frequent or daily link, look at what they link to and see if you have something that fits, either from your site or someone else’s.

I recommend making a list of such sites over time and keeping them in mind whenever you create new content. There are obvious and popular ones like Fark and Thoof to be sure, but there are many smaller ones that still send a ton of traffic to articles that they deem worthy of being linked to. When you find one, be patient and don’t spam – test out a link or two you think might be relevant in order to learn what they like to link to!

That all being said, if you leave a comment and (without linking – just use the site title please) let me know what your website is I would be more than happy to suggest possible sites to ping with links for traffic. I simply don’t want to announce them all here for fear of overloading sites I respect and enjoy with irrelevant links.

Much like front-runner political candidates, mainstream social media sites often get more attention than up-and-coming ones. There are, however, compelling reasons to look at newer beta and/or less well known sites. Some sites provide new services or features, or recombine old ones in unique ways. Others compliment or build on the functions of existing social media or other sites. The following four websites are ones that social media site users and bloggers alike should be aware of, and that already successful social sites should look to for new ideas.

(1) Romlet is a great way to build a reputation online as well as valuable PR and traffic via (free) backlinks. The Romlet widget combines and condenses some of the best aspects of a variety of useful and successful widgets. It also has the potential to develop into new kind of social network. The widget itself is part stats counter, part brag badge and part social bookmarking tool. Similar to the MyBlogLog recent visitors widget, the Romlet widget shows where visitors came from. These sources are displayed as favicon links to the referring source, which also work like AddThis bookmarks. Romlet users can also choose to display the number of visitors from each source, like a FeedBurner stats widget. Users can also visit their custom Romlet homepage to see more information and statistics about their own site or about other Romlet user sites and articles. Click here to see an example of Romlet in action.

Romlet

Romlet is still short on some potential community-building functions, a by-product of how new the site and widget are. Over time more functionality should certainly be added to encourage greater interaction between Romlet users. Social news and bookmarking options could potentially build on the already successful aspects of the widget. As with Peopleized, however, Romlet‘s creators continue to develop new functions based on user feedback.

(2) Peopleized is a relatively new social networking site where people interview one another in order to build up popularity and network with other people in an area of interest. Many of the site’s current users are bloggers, but not all. People can post or quote their interviews or others on their own website or social networking profile. These interviews serve multiple functions: building up PR on an established website, getting exposure to new audiences and developing press release information and skills for future use.

Peoplized

Probably the biggest limitation of Peopleized right now is that the functionality is not completely built out for hosting interviews and other information on remote sites. Most of the action takes place on the site itself, which is a good start (considering the site’s high levels of traffic) but could be expanded upon. Fortunately, the creators of Peopleized are already working on expanding its capabilities on major social networking sites such as Facebook.

(3) Plime is a social news site with a fairly complex and successful system for organizing and presenting content in various categories. First, there are more ‘offbeat’ categories than on most social news sites, including WTF and weird. Each story submitted can be easily tagged with an image, something Digg and Reddit would do well to take notice of. Plime voting also works in a fairly innovative way: votes are automatically given to new stories based on how many users have upmodded the user who submitted that story. Like StumbleUpon, users can also indicate categories of interest. In short, Plime integrates some of the best features from major social news sites.

Plime

The biggest downside right now is that, due to a lack of users, the site seems to recycle a lot of the material presented on said major social sites. The biggest upside for content creators is that the site doesn’t seem to put a lot of weight on where a story is submitted from – favoring content over existing URL popularity, making it a great place to submit stuff (yours or that of someone else) from lesser-known websites.

(4) Shoutwire is another social news site that has been around for some time but is relatively under-appreciated, particularly by people who want to get their content out into the world. The site works a lot like mainstream social media sites, but is perhaps less well organized. To compensate, however, it offers more options for user-submitted content – including forums for discussion and on-site editorials. Also, ShoutWire sends a significant amount of traffic to sites that successfully get voted to the front page. Admittedly, the traffic volume doesn’t compare to sites like Digg, but anywhere from a few thousand to over ten thousand hits from 20 votes is nothing to scoff at.

ShoutWire

Usability and ease of navigation seem to be the major drawbacks of ShoutWire. It is somewhat hard to find anything but the front page and almost-popular or newly-submitted upcoming articles. Something like Digg’s cloud view or more obvious category searches would greatly improve the existing site. That being said, for someone either casually looking for front-page news or hoping to get some traffic to a less-established site: ShoutWire is easy and user-friendly.

These are, of course, just a few examples. What underrepresented or under-appreciated social news, networking or bookmarking sites do you enjoy? Do you use some of these already? What is your take on them?