Digg.com came under fire this week because it seemed to have banned everything coming from forevergeek.com and it appeared to be because that site criticised Digg for artificially boosting the ratings of certain articles. As evidence they pointed to some seemingly suspicious ratings where Kevin Rose, founder of Digg, apparently voted for some articles in the same position and the implication was that he was part of a conspiracy to mess with Digg’s natural flow.
Anyway, soon afterwards comments from and about the Forever Geek post were blocked by Digg and it seemed that Digg had committed an evil act by censoring criticism. In the age of community driven sites like Digg, this type of behaviour is unforgivable (more or less) and so I held my breath and waited for some kind of response from Rose to the whole story. Needless to say Forever Geek didn’t take this lying down and, in a follow-up post about corrupted editors, had the following to say:
Digg as an idea is fantastic. As a system of disseminating news without having to wait for editors it is amazing. But it seems to be suffering from a power complex. The two articles we originally mentioned were obviously promoted to the front page in an artificial manager.. Our website getting banned was obviously in retaliation to our story. Their entire philosophy now feels shallow and false – the editors decidedly put those two articles to the front page, just like they decidedly removed us from their system. Users may have originally driven the website, but it looks like that ideal is nothing more than a nice idea in the past.
Of course, this could be another interesting social case. Just like word of mouth and ‘user effort’ is what helped Digg surge, maybe the same users can help spread the word on how Digg is a shadow of its original ideal.
Once again I held my breath. Could it be that this new darling of the Web 2.0 was actually dark and evil? After much gnashing of teeth and activity an item appeared on Digg that indicated that Forever Geek posts were not being blocked anymore (mainly because the item referenced Forever Geek) and it seemed that the Digg people had come back with their tails between their legs. As hoped, Rose responded on behalf of Digg and had the following to say:
Recently it was brought to our attention that several users have created accounts to mass digg and promote stories. While these accounts appear to be valid, they have in certain instances been used for automated in-order (scripted) digging. This is a violation of our terms of service and the accounts have since been banned.
As you can imagine with over 250,000 registered users (and adding thousands more per week) we are constantly monitoring and looking for user SPAM/fraud. Internally, we have several methods for detecting fraud which results in DOZENS of banned accounts per day.
The banning of forevergeek.com: Aside from the dozens of user reports, several accounts were created to artificially inflate the digg count of their stories. When a single URL hits a threshold of reports, our standard procedure is to block that URL from submission (spam control). Again, mass fraud digging is in violation of our terms of service.
Missing stories: A common question we receive is the confusion surrounding missing stories. Once a story has received enough user reports it is automatically removed from the digg queue or homepage (depending on where the story is living at that time). The number of reports required varies depending on how many diggs the story has. This system is going to change in the near future. Shortly after the next major launch of digg (v3.1), reported stories will fall into a ‘buried stories’ bin. Users will have the ability to pick through this story bin and vote to have a story reinstated should they believe it was falsely reported. Expect to see this feature in the next few months.
On a personal note: It has been pointed out that I too have dugg these fraud stories. I digg stories I enjoy reading and currently track over 40 users within digg. If it’s good content, I digg it.
Of course Forever Geek had a few things to say about what they called Rose’s “(non)response”. Rose spoke to Leo Laporte in the TWiT podcast on 23 April 2006 in which he told Laporte that he coincidentally wound up digging the ‘suspect’ posts in that particular position and that it was not intentional. He follows a large number of Digg reporters and invited people to view his Digg history. He then went on to discuss how spammers abuse the processes available in Digg to artificially boost sites through rigged voting for planted stories and how the Digg systems shut these efforts down when detected. The Forever Geek ‘incident’ was regarded as a spam initiative and despite efforts by Digg’s moderators to get Forever Geek’s posters (I use this term very loosely as I don’t know if the posters were part of Forever Geek or were just fans) to play the game, the problem did not go away and the big guns came out and shut them down for a while. When the Forever Geek posters agreed to play ball, their stories we permitted to return to the site.
Forever Geek did a follow up to the TWiT podcast and had the following to say:
Personally, I think DIGG may have been too haphazard in banning sites and individuals based on their spammer-detection algorithm. I mean, theoretically I can spam DIGG using submissions of sites I am not affiliated with, and those sites would subsequently be banned, in turn. Maybe this can be yet another way to game DIGG!
Did Digg do the dirty? Or were the Forever Geek people trying to spam Digg? I’m not sure. Rose sounded pretty credible in the podcast and the Forever Geek responses have been a little over the top. It doesn’t mean Forever Geek is just a den of spammers or that Digg is the Next Evil. This whole thing probably began with a misinterpretation of some digg statistics, an assumption and a series of ratchet-style events that drove this thing into the hysteria stratosphere.
For my part, I dig Digg and will continue to do so. I don’t have any strong feelings about Forever Geek (I hadn’t heard of them before this incident) and I hope they get on with whatever it is they do, live long and prosper.