Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Taking Digg Lobby Groups to a whole new level

We firmly believe Weblogs Inc uses a modest sized lobby group to get its stories on digg, but this pales in comparison to the accusations made by website "diggfixexposed."

Click here for a detailed look at how Digg mailing lists work on a large scale.

Is this sort of thing going to destroy digg? Is the future of digg just going to be large scale wars between various parties? We're worried.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The latest on WIN/AOL

Weblogs Inc writers say they just casually share links.

Other "insiders" claim there are mailing lists full of social networking requests.

There has been no official response from WIN, but in the past they have been pretty open about the fact that they like to share diggs.

The point we want to make is no company or person should solicit Diggs. When an obvious pattern appears, the offenders should be dealt with using rules similar to those at Netscape (starting with a 14 day ban).

AOL busted for "spamming" Digg?

AOL has now been publicly called out for gaming on Digg (some people use the term "spamming", but that's not quite it). In case you haven't read the past post, we think Weblogs Inc (part of AOL) post their own stories on Digg, then dozens of other staffers Digg their stories. While this cannot be 100% confirmed, it certainly looks to be the case.

Ironically, the company's CEO Jason Calacanis has rules against this exact tactic on Netscape (which is his rip-off of Digg).

There was a big discussion in this thread:

The story has also been covered here:

Now, we have more potential evidence. We've located what appears to be at least 25 WIN blogger accounts. Digger 'netscapeblows' decided to conduct an experiment and add the the bloggers to his Friends list. On one story, all 14 Diggs were by apparent WIN staff.

Could this be a coincidence? Maybe if it happened just twice. But we've seen this pattern over and over again. And if all these people are "just friends," why are 90%+ of their submissions (not dugg posts -- submissions) all from the same network?

Something is fishy.

See that screen grab, plus the complete list so far below:

Thursday, August 10, 2006

How systematic "gaming" of Digg works

Here is a brief look at how we believe Weblogs Inc. uses what some call a "Digg Lobby Group" to get any article they desire on the front page of Digg, regardless of how many times it has been submitted prior, or if it's of any interested to Digg readers. It may or may not be true, but given the very strong patterns we've seen, we think it probably is.

The Theory:

Essentially, Weblogs Inc. writers are all interlinked via a handful of primary "submitters" who add content to Digg that they think deserves to be on the front page. Then, around 10-20 WIN bloggers will Digg the story and push it relatively quickly to the front page.

To add insult to injury, these Digg 'submitters' will even submit a story if another website has already accumulated several Diggs for the story. Not only does this confuse Digg users, it blocks the original poster from receiving any credit for their submission.

Digg's new "most popular" upcoming stories feature and other 'Labs' projects make the tactic even more effective, because once one of their stories gets 20-something Diggs it is put in front of many more eyes, and invariably gets the 10-15 more Diggs it needs to make the front page.

Is there a solution to this? One option would be to prevent people from submitting their own content to Digg, though this might be a little extreme. Another option would be to remove the ability to subscribe to someone's RSS feed unless they are a top Digger. Digg could also remove the 'Friends' feature. Unfortunately, this wouldn't stop people from setting up mailing lists and so on.

The only solution I can think of is to temporarily ban any site or network that is found to be conducting systematic Digg spam. Perhaps starting with a 14 day ban, and going up from there. The point is they need to be called out and asked to STOP.

In fact, Netscape has a policy on this. Let's hold them to their own rules:

"If sites are reported by users or our anti-spamming algorithms for spamming the system with stories, we place a 14 day ban on the site while we investigate and as a warning to the possible spammers. If there is a repeat second offense the ban will be reinitiated and extended for 90 days. If the site has been reported and temporarily banned multiple times and shows evidence of actual spamming tactics, Netscape will ban the URL permanently."

Let's even look at how Netscape defines it:

"For example, if a group of individuals only post links to sites with which they are affiliated (more likely than not profiting from any traffic coming to that site) and only vote and comment on stories with which they are affiliated and all these actions are clearly a coordinated effort to push the stories to the Netscape Homepage, these individuals would clearly be trying to game the system and spamming Netscape with their stories."

Talk about hypocrisy.

Digg will only be good so long as it works naturally. If stories are artificially pushed to the front page, then the system is broken. Id you think the top 20 Diggers controlling most of the front page is a bad thing, then having AOL control the front page must be 20x worse. Let's demand something be done about this. It's immoral and it damages both the Digg community and other content creators/bloggers/whatever.

And now for some hard evidence. The below picture is just one story that would have never made it to Digg if not for the lobby group

(***This is just a small sample. The tip of the iceberg.)