Spotplex, Why it Works and Why it Doesn’t

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When Spotplex launched its beta back in February, it garnered a lot of coverage. And why shouldn’t it? Everyone loves a Digg killer, and the site seemed to have a foolproof way of calculating popularity and sharing information with other users without having to worry about organized gaming and voter fraud. Let’s take a look at how true these assertions are and now that the site is finally out of beta, if much has changed or not.
First of all, terming the site as a Digg killer is nothing but sensationalism because in many regards the site is simply very different from Digg. Unlike Digg, content is not submitted to Spotplex by the community, rather is automatically indexed by inserting Spotplex’s proprietary code within your site. The code monitors the site and every time you publish a new post it is automatically added to the service. Furthermore, the stories that get to the front-page of Spotplex aren’t the ones that readers vote for, rather are the ones that the code tells the service got the most page views on your site. So much for community-powered news aggregation and promotion.
Though as most people will agree, while this is different from Digg and in no way will make a dent in the site’s popularity, these features aren’t necessarily bad and the two sites can largely co-exist. For example, since there is no human element, its incredibly hard to game the system and indeed you have to get the page views (which in most cases will be from natural traffic) to be on the front page. At the same time, however, since its based on page views, Spotplex naturally favors bigger sites with TechCrunch leading the pack in most instances.
There are ways to ‘fix’ this, and one of the ways comes from TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington,

I’ve suggested to Spotplex that the rankings be based on a publication competing with itself – so only very popular stories on TechCrunch (compared to average TechCrunch traffic) would get to the Spotplex home page.

While it may broaden the scope of the site, this favoring of the bigger sites isn’t actually a problem because of the way Spotplex has positioned itself within the market. The site is not a socially driven news and content aggregator like Digg, neither is it an index for interesting things like BoingBoing. The site simply wants to tell you what other people read most today, in case you missed out on any of it.
So where does the site fail? Well if you’re going to incorrectly perceive the site to be something it isn’t then yes it is will fail in providing any significant competition to Digg. On the other hand if you understand what the site is supposed to do:

Spotplex provides internet users with real-time ranking of blog articles based on actual impression count. In other words, you can find what is the hot news today, this week, or this month in real time at Spotplex. This is not a list of articles people recommended or voted for, but a list of articles read most in a given timeframe.

I think the site is making significant headway.

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