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Sharing versus Manipulating: Where’s the Line?


I’ve been banned from StumbleUpon – not banned but put under review – the fact is, I can’t use it any more. I’ve been stumbling for a year, found great friends there and now I feel as if huge part of my life has been taken away. Anyway, putting the emotional part aside, this got me thinking: was I really manipulating the service?

The honest and painful answer would be: YES. I did thumb up the content I was related to in some way or other. I did shared it with some of my friends. I did ask others to promote my stuff.

But what is more important is that I drove more value to the community than I got from it. And I can honestly and open-heartedly state that I was a great stumbler! I rated and reviewed content daily – a lot of content. Many people contacted me saying how great my StumbleUpon blog was.

So did I really deserve the ban? In his recent interview Muhammad Saleem said reciprocal voting is a natural part of social media where people having common interests share content and vote for it.

Lisa Barone recently said marketers were to blame for any negative outcome social media manipulating can have. Follow the rules and you will be OK, she said.

So where in their rules do they forbid to review your own content? Or sharing it with those who liked it?

I had about 1000 friends there and I am sure none of them could accuse me of spamming them or sending them some promotional content.

So where is the line between being a power user and manipulating the network?

Image by helmet13

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  1. 23 Responses to “Sharing versus Manipulating: Where’s the Line?”

  2. Appropriately enough I’ve just finished reading the Reciprocity chapter in Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

    Essentially, we all have an incredibly tough time NOT paying back what we might see as a favor – in this case, in the form of a stumble for our content. That’s the way we’re wired, and it’s evolutionary. We learned this reciprocity in order to build complex social arrangements that have allowed us to grow. Anybody who seeks to punish or stomp out this behavior is, in my opinion, missing the point. Leveraging it is a far better idea.

    It’s a fuzzy line they’re drawing between a power user and a manipulator. Locating the line is either impossible or meaningless – it’s either entirely subjective or tied internally to a meaningless metric.

    At the end of the day, though, it’s their line to draw – the repercussions of banning a single StumbleUpon user are, unfortunately, not negative enough to thwart the action.

    By MikeTek on Jan 12, 2009

  3. I have no clear understanding why but SU buried stance on using service for promotion very deep.

    I’ve dug up few instances for discussion at bloggingtips forum in the past:

    So despite wide practice of using SU for promotion SU itself considers this wrong.

    My personal opinion that line is indeed vague but some people start to mistake their practice to (ab?)use service as their native right to do so. Not limited to SU by the way.

    In the end service has leverage, not users.

    By Rarst on Jan 12, 2009

  4. OMG Ann this really pisses me off. WTF? Pardon my language on your blog but I honestly can’t believe this. I was wondering why I had not seen you there recently. What is the world coming to? Are they going to ban me next?

    By Gerald Weber on Jan 12, 2009

  5. This was a very informative article. I will read your blog often.

    By Alan Williams on Jan 13, 2009

  6. You reviewed your own content, same as bidding on your own item in ebay, clicking your own ads in adsense, its not allowed.
    So you bring alot more to stumble then you get, rules are rules. if a murderer does more good than harm, helps 100 people but kills one should he be able to return to society.

    Im not dumping on you as I have been in the ebay and adsense spotlight and this is why I know rules should be rules and punishment the same no matter what.

    I know this will not get posted but oh well, by the way I found you throught logo hunting and you do good work really good work.

    By Nick Savage on Jan 13, 2009

  7. @Nick, no that’s not at all the same… ebay and Google clearly state in their TOS you can’t bid you own item or click your own ads. SU never mentions that anywhere.

    In fact I had their representative email me and confirm it is ok to review and share your own stories… And I believe that perfectly makes sense. I only review my posts if I think they are good and I am almost never the first to review them…

    What you can’t do is to review only your stories (which is again not about me).

    By Ann Smarty on Jan 14, 2009

  8. It’s really bad they banned you, they could atleast have given you a warning, you’re not just a user.

    By Navin Poeran on Jan 14, 2009

  9. Iam really felt sorry for the incident.They should have alerted you before banning it.

    By seosoeasy on Jan 16, 2009

  10. Hi Ann
    I for one always thought there was no problem with the kind of thing you were doing. I have submitted a few things to stumbleupon, but never really got involved in any community. I guess they interpret their rules the way they want them to be, rather than what most prople would think.
    Where would sites like Stumbleupon be without proactive members?

    By Paul on Jan 16, 2009

  11. […] Lisa Barone recently said marketers were to blame for any negative outcome social media manipulating can have[…]

    Posted At

    By ViticleDotCom on Jan 24, 2009

  12. IMO everyone those use these social networking websites are used them for promoting itself, but the thing that should be considered is that why if you are doing the same thing from the last one year must keep you under review?
    are they provide you any satisfactory reason for the ban…

    By Maximum Hit on Jan 27, 2009

  13. Ann – does not sound right to me either. However, most marketers will tell you that traffic from Stumble does not convert well to either paying customers or list signups… so no big loss!


    By Fred Black on Jan 27, 2009

  14. Okay – I am still not convinced here. According to the links about what you can and can’t do, they are talking about promoting sites. When an stumble upon user sends a post or article, that isn’t promoting their site, it is suggesting a page you might like.

    If we can’t do this, then can we send photos off the website to someone? or other material?

    And lastly, I like getting articles, art, photos, whatever that people in my niche create. It helps build that bond and relationship.


    By Dominique on Jan 27, 2009

  15. Ann, you’ve done nothing wrong and these SU people are fools. They should know they simply couldn’t exist without people like you. We love and admire you :-)

    By Amadou M. Sall on Jan 30, 2009

  16. @Amadou, so many thanks for your kind words

    By Ann Smarty on Jan 31, 2009

  17. I rarely use SU anymore. It is old hat. Time to move on to greener pastures. SU is like Yahoo, a product that was once king, but no longer. Check out the new social sites that are coming on.

    By seobro on Feb 15, 2009

  18. We all have an incredibly tough time NOT paying back what we might see as a favor – in this case, in the form of a stumble for our content,you definitely right thanks for sharing.

    by: ricka

    By san diego on Feb 26, 2009

  19. Hi Ann, the same thing happened to me a while back. I was heartbroken, and like you, I felt it was very unfair. However, I went straight back in there and created another account. I now have a good account established again, but I’ll never be as enthusiastic as I was before. In the same way that I lost interest in Digg really, when they banned so many members. I think these large social sites do themselves a great disservice by behaving in this way. Couldn’t they open a dialogue with their power users first before pulling the plug? That way they’d get what they want and create greater loyalty among their users.

    By Patricia Skinner on Mar 13, 2009

  20. Ann, I had no idea this happened until just now. I guess I should read your blog more often. A testament, I guess, to having enough work to do. :-)

    At any rate, I feel your pain. I was blindsided twice by Propeller. Both times I was banned (under different user names) with no notice and no explanation. Even an inquiry into the matter went unanswered (after spending hours looking for a way to contact someone).

    I also had this problem at Sphinn. Again, no answer to my inquiries and no explanations. I’ve scoured both sites’ TOSs and can find nothing that I’ve done wrong.

    A famous Digger ran into that problem too. You build equity into the brand for these social sites then they drop you with no explanation. I think they should at least give you a warning, especially if you’ve achieved a certain status with them, and tell you what you are doing wrong. The guidelines are moving targets.

    By Allen Taylor on Apr 17, 2009

  21. Yes, the most depressing thing about that is that they never respond :) Feels like you’ve wasted plenty of time on them and then you are just ignored.

    Anyway, Alan, thanks for stopping by 😉

    No worries, you can’t do that often, I can’t blog here often – that’s worse :)

    By Ann Smarty on Apr 18, 2009

  22. That it definitely harsh – getting banned! Especially as you have contributed a lot to the site, seems odd. Oh well – if thats how they wanna play it…

    By Tom on Nov 12, 2009

  23. Online marketing is all about content, intent and links. Marketers create content with the intent to reach out to maximum no. of people and for that you have to have a presence on sites where the netizens are spending more and more time.

    The intent is to share the content and the best way is via sharing the link or letting others know that many people have found the content valuable.

    I think the social media sites need to chalk out rules , definitions and differences between sharing and manipulation and also mention them clearly on their site.As responsible netizens I am sure we all would like to follow them.

    In early 2000 I had a somewhat similar experience which is shared on this post

    By Bharati Ahuja on Jul 14, 2011

  24. It’s all about content, content, content! That’s the way to keep moving forward, even in 2015. Good post.

    By WitBlade on Nov 6, 2015

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