Enjoy Personal Finance content? Then you will love SovereignQuest!
{ in·deed·a·bly }

adverb: to competently express interest, surprise, disbelief, or contempt

Sovereign Quest

Muffled explosions echoed throughout the neighbourhood. Fireworks. 

The lazy cat transmogrified from sleeping beauty to spiky ball of panic in a single heartbeat. Exploding into motion. Demonstrating a turn of speed rarely seen since the days of Chuck Yaegar. 

I glanced at the time. 23:50. 

Our pyrotechnically inclined neighbours had jumped the gun on celebrating New Years. Again! The harried father having long ago implemented a devious scheme to wrangle his kids out the door on time for school: set the clocks forward.

Backlit by an impressive aerial display of coloured explosions heralding optimism and new beginnings, I hit launch on my new side project. 

Sovereign Quest was live. This wasn’t some vague New Year resolution, it was an actual New Year demonstration. In the immortal words of Yoda: “do or do not, there is no try“.

Genesis

Refresh. Nothing happened. 

A couple of weeks later I hit refresh again. No change. What was going on? 

I was on one of my sporadic visits to FIREhub, looking at their curated feed of financial independence and early retirement content written by European bloggers. This had long been a fantastic place to discover new writers, and to keep tabs on topical issues that had caught the attention of the European FIRE community. 

The feed had been dormant for several weeks. 

Had the curators been abducted by aliens? Fallen ill? Gotten fired? Quit? 

Maybe FIREhub been acquired? New owners with differing priorities. Succumbing to a similar fate as the community-minded sites that had existed when I began blogging a couple of years ago. 

I long ago learned that the best way to have my questions answered was to go directly to the source. Fearing the worst, but hoping for the best, I contacted the nice folks who have tirelessly run FIREhub for several years. 

Fortunately, they were still alive and in control. The explanation proved to be far less exciting than alien abduction. Scarce time. Competing priorities. Diverging interests.

Their fire had gone out. They had closed down their blog. FIREhub would continue, but in a less time-consuming form. One that would no longer feature the curated European content feed. 

I must confess I was saddened by the demise of the curation. It had provided a valued service to the community, introducing new creators to an established audience. Sharing the love and paying it forward. Helping to overcome that “shouting into the void” feeling that all new creators experience. 

Aggregator of ultimate doom

Recently, a fellow blogger recounted a dishearteningly long list of personal finance content aggregators that had launched and subsequently folded in recent years. 

For whatever reason, each had failed to meet the expectations of its founders. 

A common problem was coping with the sheer volume of new content being produced each day. 

Collating content is a straightforward technology problem. 

Automated. 

Low cost. 

Minimal maintenance required. 

The only manual activity required is to identify potential creators. Screen out the worst of the spammy, low-value, affiliate marketing funnels, and multi-level marketing promoters.   

An aggregator provides the value-add of convenience. Good ones become a trusted location to discover new talents and follow personal favourites. It can also help new creators to find an audience.

This model works well for small communities. Where voices quickly become familiar.

Sovereign Quest is initially focussing on three such communities. The Personal Finance creators from each of:

One challenge several of the failed aggregators suffered from was one of scale. 

As the volume of collated content increased from a trickle to a torrent, individual voices were drowned out. To the consumer, it felt like trying to drink from a firehose. A frustrating, messy, and unenjoyable experience. 

Some of the failed aggregators attempted to mitigate the scale problem by using a popularity contest model. The idea was that worthy content would naturally float to the top based on clicks or upvotes. 

Inevitably, the popularity model was quickly gamed by attention-seeking self-promoters. The top of the feed became littered with low-value spam that discouraged the audience from repeat visits. 

Curated a little

While collation provides convenience, it still suffers from a low signal versus noise ratio. 

This can be illustrated with a quick case study. Carolyn Gowen, who produces a long-running weekly curation, recently estimated that “to get the 7 or 8 pieces I link to each week I probably read around 150-200 pieces.

That translates to a strike rate as low as 3.5%!

A country centric collation combines a disparate range of interests. Active investors journaling their trades. Coupon-clipping frugalistas. Diaries chronicling personal financial journeys. Educational pieces about the importance of unitising portfolios or how to avoid inheritance taxes. 

Personal finance creators are, for the most part, a broad and supportive community. However, as individual content consumers, we tend to have more focussed interests. 

Some aggregators provide the ability to filter by category at the creator level. This is a useful feature to a point, but raises the question of how a creator should be classified? 

How would my random ramblings here at indeedably be categorised? Perhaps “interesting, but irrelevant”!

What about Monevator? My Quiet FI? Physician on Fire? Each reliably generates great writing. Yet the topics covered are many and varied. 

At Sovereign Quest, I am experimenting with a different approach. 

The Sovereign feed is what I would describe as being semi-curated. 

It features the collated work of selected creators who consistently produce high-quality general personal finance content. Those are combined with any curated gems discovered amongst the broader Personal Finance content feeds. 

This approach will be refined over time, but should provide a significantly higher signal to noise ratio. 

Community building

When I began blogging, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that one of the most enjoyable aspects of the hobby was interacting with other creators within the community.

Sites like Rockstar Finance were once great at fostering that sense of community engagement. Running competitions and promotions. Charitable initiatives. Themed writing events.

The founders managed to create a welcoming and inclusive community. Highlighting the best content they encountered, which in turn delivered the creator a brief flood of new visitors, a small portion of whom would then become dedicated readers. 

I would like to revive some of those traditions that promoted creator interactivity at Sovereign Quest. What form takes will evolve over time, through experimentation to see what works and what doesn’t. 

If you have any suggestions for features you would personally use or community activities you would personally participate in, please let me know. 

Finally, I have a small request of long term readers:

Please help spread the word about Sovereign Quest!

The goal of Sovereign Quest is to help content consumers discover great new creators, and help those creators build broader audiences. The more Personal Finance consumers who frequent the site, the greater the pay it forward reward for those creators who have their amazing work featured. 

Thanks for your support. 

Sovereign Quest

Discover the best Personal Finance content at Sovereign Quest.


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21 Comments

  1. FullTimeFinance 1 January 2021

    I look forward to seeing where this goes. A lot of new entrants have come and gone since Rockstar. It’s a tough road to follow.

    My Twitter curation stats line up roughly with the stats in the post. At minimum you give me another source to monitor. Best of luck and Happy New Year!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 1 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks FullTimeFinance.

      I only caught the tail end of Rockstar’s existence, but what appeared to set it apart from the other aggregator sites wasn’t having the biggest feed, but rather the enthusiasm and optimism the operators managed to sprinkle around the Personal Finance scene to praise and inspire. They also seemed to understand that their audience was content creators rather more so than content consumers.

  2. Dr FIRE 1 January 2021

    Looking forward to seeing this develop. Good luck with it!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 1 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Dr FIRE.

      The nice thing is there is no financial pressure, and much of the curation effort is stuff I’m reading anyway. In time, I may seek guest curators to minimise selection bias, but will see how it goes.

  3. Q-FI 1 January 2021

    Very cool Indeedably and I look forward to watching how this progresses.

    Also, thanks for the mention. I was not expecting to see my blog name when I started reading. And not sure if that is a good or bad thing being, “interesting but irrelevant.” Hahahaha. J/K. I tend to think of my gibberish in the same light, always amused when someone can relate. But I get what you’re saying, if a blog doesn’t have a specific focus, what do yo do with it?

    Plus, I agree with your sentiments on curation. I’ve watched many come and go, and for the most part, don’t get too much benefit from the more popular ones – since the content is so broad. It’s always great being featured, don’t get me wrong there and I’m thankful for them, but for me personally, I’m more interested in the smaller blogs, personal stories, emotions and thinking behind FIRE, while many others prefer the “how to” and number posts. What is the best way to seek out the content that you desire?

    I don’t know.

    But I think you’re beginning to answer that question. Thanks for starting this project, best of luck and happy new year!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 1 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Q-FI. The thing that was nice about the FIREhub curated feed was that it was small and focussed, playing in a niche of English language blogs based in Europe.

      I’ve visited the large established aggregation sites a couple of times, but found the feeds to be very noisy and unfocussed. That isn’t a failing of the aggregator sites themselves, but rather it highlights the approach doesn’t scale particularly well when there are many hundreds of Personal Finance blogs generating content.

      I read somewhere that one of them was receiving 16,000+ views a month, which sounded like a lot until I figured out that all those “featured by” badges we bloggers proudly display on our home pages would probably generate a call to the aggregator site with every page view.

      Finding the right balance between (automated) collation and (manual) curation will be an interesting experiment.

  4. FI-FireFighter 1 January 2021

    Great news, really interesting and exciting.
    I wish you every success.
    I have family and friends that I am trying to introduce to these topics (gently), Sovereign Quest sounds just the job to help me.
    Best Wishes for 2021😁

  5. Fire And Wide 1 January 2021

    Love it. Always good to see people taking action & doing something to help, not just talking about it. More than happy to help as/where I can & will do by best to let others know about your new venture.

    You are dead right about the boost it gives to new writers – confidence as much as actual views. Just knowing somebody took the time to read & enjoy a post is a great feeling 🙂

    Cheers – here’s hoping it takes off. Though “Sovereign Quest”? I’m curious….my first thought was horribly Brexit related!!!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 2 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Fire and Wide.

      The origin story of the name is far more mundane.

      My younger son had brought his treasure chest money box downstairs, seeking danger pay after having given the lockdown kitten a shower (long story).

      Said cat then ambushed him, and the money box spilled its contents all over the lounge room! Coins rolled everywhere along the wood floor, and we must have spent an hour on a real life treasure hunt searching for what turned out to be £84.

      A bit later on my lady wife was kicking our backsides at Scrabble, and “Sovereign” was one of her winning words. A debate about whether it was a real word, and what it meant, ensued.

      The dictionary came out to beat us into submission, citing numerous meanings in addition to the traditional monarch and gold coin: “superlative in quality”, “enjoying autonomy”, and “having general curative powers”.

      That sounded like what I was going for in terms of searching out great personal finance content by talented creators with varied interests and from all walks of life.

      According to NameCheckr it wasn’t taken and most of the social media handles were still available. A quick trademark search revealed it wasn’t spoken for either, so I ran with it.

  6. The Accumulator 2 January 2021

    Great initiative Indeedably and I hope it’s a massive success.

    I must admit I had similar confused thoughts to Fire And Wide as I clicked on the Sovereign Quest link. Was it going to be an exciting new strategy game? A den of gold bug-gery? A special introductory course in “taking back control”?

    Happily I’ve found a place that’s gone straight into my bookmarks, and I look forward to returning regularly. Cheers!

  7. weenie 2 January 2021

    Like others, when I first came across Sovereign Quest, my first thoughts were 1) Brexit related or 2) some sort of gaming app!

    Good luck with this venture indeedably, although it potentially gives me the (good) headache of more quality stuff to read!

    I still have the Fire Hub badge on my blog so I’ll replace it with your Sovereign badge, assuming it’s ok for me to just do a screen grab of your above badge?

  8. mrmedfi 3 January 2021

    Great job Indeedably. The site looks excellent; I get a sort of ‘medieval with a dash of steampunk’ vibe from the aesthetic.

    I’ve not read much Antipodean PF material so will definitely be delving in there, having lived Down Under previously and with grand designs to return one day!

    Chuffed that I could be considered among the “selected creators who consistently produce high-quality general personal finance content”, though equally happy to be a diamond in the rough!

    • {in·deed·a·bly} 3 January 2021 — Post author

      Thanks Mr MedFI, you’re producing some good stuff on your blog.

      There seems to be a bit of crossover between the different PF communities. RIT recently moved to Oz. FvL and myself both regularly spend time there. Meanwhile, Aussie Firebug currently resides in Clapham.

  9. Stonebridge Kestrel 4 January 2021

    Hi Indeedably, I wonder if you would consider adding an RSS feed to Sovereign Quest ? Old school, I know, but I get all pretty much my PF content that way, and it works for me !

    Whether that’s possible or not, best of luck with this new enterprise.

What say you?

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