or “Stop spamming their site 101.”

Recently there was a near panic over the potential banning of Helium from Reddit so I wanted to comment a bit on it as well as educate the community on the services and how to be productive members of them.  As I have personally seen the Helium community grow and prosper I have confidence that it’s members can expand out, join other communities, and become valid, useful and prosperous members of them.  I’m sure we already have a few that might simply not let it be known that they successful Diggers, Redditors, etc.

Note that this comes from a self-professed Magnolia addict (formerly Delicious) who regularly reads and contributes to Reddit.  I’m also a former Digg reader (I lost interest right around the “cabal” escapade and haven’t really gone back even though I love their UI), regular user of Facebook and MySpace, blogger, and feed (RSS) junkie.  So, basically, I’m pretty familiar with most of these services.

Note also that some of what I say might be considered “tough love.”  I apologize if this offends you.  However I feel it’s necessary to not “hold punches” – the community must be educated and informed sooner rather than later on these services and their proper users before the actions of a few doom the prospects of the many.

One thing to keep in mind as well as that the original story that caused the panic got 25 upvotes total.  Out of hundreds (thousands, millions?) of Redditors.  While I am not labeling the submittor or commentors that attacked Helium as trolls – I don’t know themand the bigger voices all had a fair amount of karma (the estimate of value added to Reddit / authority) – keep in mind that you will find trolls on some of these services and just have to deal with them.  And, again, I am not labeling the submittors / commentors as trolls so don’t quote me as such – just making a point.

I fear much of the problem comes from an article that talked about how someone wrote an article on Helium, posted it on Reddit, it made the front page, and they made a lot of money.  What must be realized is that although this is possible – it is the exception rather than the norm.  Also, spamming these sites in the attempt to achieve that goal will cause more harm than good – not only for yourself, but the community and Helium as well.

Think about it from the Helium perspective.  If a member joined up and started furiously writing articles which were all self-promotional and linking back to his blog would you want him/her to continue to be a member of Helium?  Probably not.  But this is exactly what some members did to Reddit – as well as I’m sure now or in the past to Digg, Delicious, and others.

So how does one become a productive member of the Helium community?  They provide quality content.  They cite quality, verified, and various references (i.e. not all from the same source).  They add to the value of the site and community rather than trying to “cash in.”

Not surprisingly, that is how one becomes a valued member of other Web 2.o / social bookmarking / social networking sites.  They read the rules.  They read the site and see examples of how others are adding value to the community.  They contribute with the interests of the community and not themselves in mind.

An example – I promote some of my stuff on Magnolia (rarely, and most is marked private so it can’t even be seen by other users).  Of my (at the moment of this writing) 2500 bookmarks (I told you I was an addict) do you know how many are mine?  Less than 50, i.e. 2% (and that’s probably a vast overestimate).

So – why does one use these services besides self-promotion?  Honestly, because they are fun and useful.  Social bookmarking like Delicious and Magnolia are amazing.  You have the ability to bookmark any interesting site you find, tag it for easy finding later on, access it from any computer anywhere in the world, and share it with your friends.  You can join groups that share similar interests (Cats, Ferrets, Ford Mustangs, Magic the Gathering, etc) and find amazing sites you would never have discovered by yourself.  And yeah, sometimes you can share something cool you did and get some benefit.  But it’s a perk and not the purpose.

What about social networking sites like Digg and Reddit?  You can find stories and sites varying from cool webcomics, to political discussion, to sports, and more.  You can join subreddits and share content on your favorite niche interest like geek, lolcats, photography, or even bacon (yes, bacon, the food).  You can comment and banter on the submissions – much like you do on the community boards here.  And yes, sometimes you can say “hey, if you like that story about the bacon shake you might like this thing I wrote about bacon soda” (if that’s your thing).  But again – perk, not purpose.

My hope now is that you’ve learned something.  That you’ll go out and expand your horizons, joining and adding to other communities like you have Helium.  Mostly, that you’ll have fun and enjoy them instead of being frustrated and confused.  And if one person gets on the front page of Reddit or Delicious – regardless of whether it’s for a Helium submission or not – then I’ve done my job.

I hope this helps.

Update: I’ve also posted something on Reddit.  But I think they’ve moved onto other threads for the discussion.

One of the features that has been on Helium for awhile but isn’t talked about much is our social networking buttons. You find these at the bottom of articles and when expanded it looks something like the following:

Social Networking Icons on Helium

Social Networking Icons on Helium

So what is social networking and what do all those icons mean?

Social networking is, basically, a way to store and share online content.  There are several basic “buckets” that sites fall into:

  • Social Bookmarking: These sites usually use a bookmarklet that allows you to store a link you find online to your account.  Unlike browser bookmarks which can only be accessed from the computer they are saved from these can be accessed via any computer.  Many also allow you to share them with friends – either via a share function or, with delicious, with a special tag (for:[username]).  Many e-mail providers have their own version so you can merge services – like google, yahoo and microsoft live.  Examples include delicious, magnolia, and stumbleupon.
  • Social News: These sites allow users to submit and upvote interesting stories.  Users can then view the content via the home page or a feed to see highly ranked, new, or upcoming stories.  The attempt is to compete with traditional news services like CNN.  Getting to the front page of these sites causes what’s typical called the “Digg effect” or “Slashdot effect.” Examples include Digg, Reddit, and Mixx.
  • Social Gathering: Typically referred to as traditional “social networking” this refers to sites in which uesrs can create a profile and assemble friends that functions as a website for themselves including interests, friend list, etc.  They may include other social features as part of this including blog, IM, or bookmarking feed.  Examples include MySpace and Facebook.

There are many, many smaller and “clone” sites I didn’t talk about but most fall under one of the 3 variants I mentioned.

So back to the icons – what are they good for?  Well, if someone is a user of those services and logged in when they click on the icon (be it Digg, Facebook, Delicious, etc) then it will save your article to their account.  If they are not logged in (or not a member) most direct them to a join/login screen.

Now, most of these employ a nofollow link strategy – which basically means that you won’t get any link juice from these links.  However, many will give you traffic – which earns you revenue.  Also, many employ tagging – which search engines may use to associate keywords to your article and are how the search engines of those sites typically parse their index (in part).  Remember to follow the proper netiquette when tagging – improper tagging or “tagword stuffing” (putting in a bunch of high value tags that have nothing to do with your article) will only hurt you in the long run.

Have a feature you want me to explore further?  Let me know via my contact writer link at Helium.  And no, I won’t go in-depth on the rating and ranking algorithm, even if I had that knowledge, so don’t ask 🙂 .