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.

http://www.calacanis.com/2006/08/09/gaming-on-netscape/

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

http://www.digg.com/design/Ford_Mustang_Shelby_GT_unveiled/who

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

9 Comments:

Blogger zach said...

The annoying outspoken members of MacTeens also promote each others' stories in a similar manner. Glenn Wolsey (user: glenn), Nathan Makan (user: ndm007), Kevin Chung (user: keffrin) and Ondra Soukup (user: ondrasoukup) are the top offenders. Apart from digg, they saturate Mac-related flickr groups with their pretentious and redundant attempts at content.
Glenn has also been known to submit stories from his own blog into the queue, where they have been known to see quick promotion to the front page. Not to be off-topic, but his stories often fail to introduce new material and instead come off as reworded press releases.

3:52 PM  
Blogger Darren said...

Would you have a problem with this approach?

I digg something, and then email my 20 friends asking them to digg it as well. They don't work for me, so it's up to them whether they actually want to dig it or not. I might do this every once in a while--no more than once a month. Would you find that approach problematic?

8:04 PM  
Blogger digg for life said...

Darren: AFAIK digg has a policy against mailing lists.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Darren said...

Hi,
Just so I'm clear--are you characterizing emailing 20 of my friends as a 'mailing list'? If so, what's the threshhold for this? 5 friends? 8?

And, on a similar point, isn't it a bit odd that Digg discourages mailing lists yet encourages us to add 'digg this' to our blog entries? I don't ask my readers to digg entries very often, but if I did, I'm sure the pattern would look very like what Calacanis and his team are doing. What's the difference?

9:45 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

I think the difference between a mailing list and a 'Digg this' button is that with a mailing list, you're sending out a request to digg a story to people who probably wouldn't have dugg it without reading your email. 'Digg this' buttons traditionally appear at the foot of a blog post or article, meaning that often, someone has read at least part of the article and has made up their mind that it's digg-worthy.

The guideline against mailing lists is there as an effort to at least try to preserve a level of genuine reader-diggs on the site.

The alternative is that people start to lose faith in the community-created style of the site. Which is digg.com's main feature.

7:05 AM  
Blogger Ondra Soukup said...

Yay, awesome. I'm One of the four Famous MacTeens !
Thank's zach ;)

8:46 AM  
Blogger *nathan said...

Hey Zach, how about you shut the hell up :)
Digg has a friends feature...
Why?
So frinds can digg stories.
I submit a story, my friends digg it.
My friends submit a story. I digg it.

Maybe you have no friends, and just get upset...

8:50 AM  
Blogger Benjamin Auffarth said...

Yesterday, I submitted my article to digg and tried to push it by getting friends to vote on it. I don't even see the story in upcoming or news. I think it is a very nice article and I had hopes for it to make it to the front page. I am disappointed. The article is even about digg, like yours (it has also 12 diggs now). How Digg Works - or - When to Submit Your Articles.

3:54 AM  
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1:03 PM  

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