Digg Corrupted: Editor's Playground, not User-Driven Website

UPDATEmy response to Kevin’s (non)response

As a follow up to an earlier post (Digg Army: Right in Line), there have been some vibrations that I think not only our readers would find interesting, but also all Digg users.

To quickly summarize the earlier post, I had noticed two submissions by SpitF1re were on the front page, separated by only one story in between.

To digress for a second, we all know that people who Digg a lot have friends who use Digg. So often times friends digg articles for each other, and often times you may see the same people digging stories, and what not. The buddy-buddy system in effect. That’s fine (in a way) – it’s a shortcoming of all social networks – the more popular people gain more influence.

What really caught my eye with the situation was the sequence of diggs. On the bottom it notes who has dugg an article, and it lists them in order. Confounding as it was, the two beforementioned stories had the same sixteen
people digg the story in a row. So the 7th digger of one article (Insomn1a) was the 7th digger of the other article. In fact, removing bribera’s digg of one article showed that the first nineteen diggs of each article were identical. What made this really interesting was that the 17th digger was none other than Kevin Rose, aka celebrated creator and founder of Digg. I’ve read that Digg gets anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000 readers a day. 16 (or 19) identical diggs for two articles by the same
author? 22 of the first 24 diggers being being the same for both articles? Somehow I don’t think that is a coincidence.

So we posted this, and some people found it interesting. Over at the fellow geeky Binary Bonsai, reader Andreas Climent noted that submitting any url from ForeverGeek was now impossible to Digg. We got banned from Digg.

Now, Digg is their own site, and they can do whatever they want. We have no ‘right’ to make them link to href="http://www.forevergeek.com/">ForeverGeek, but to quote a sentence from their first paragraph on their About Us/ FAQ page:

Digg is a technology news website that combines social bookmarking, blogging, RSS, and non-hierarchical editorial control. With digg, users submit stories for review, but rather than allow an editor to decide which stories go on the homepage, the users do.

Two things to note. Firstly is that Digg is a technology news website. With the size that Digg has become (including the ability to reduce websites to a smoldering mess), reporting news on a Digg shortcoming is definitely
technology related. Secondly, the second sentence clearly states that it is the users that decide what story gets promoted the front page, not the editors. This comes into question twofold here – firstly, the two examples we cited don’t seem user driven at all. To back this, let’s quote the first comment on one of the stories: “Front page and no comments?” An excellent question my friend. Consequently, on the other spectrum, taking what Andreas mentioned with his comment at Binary Bonsai, ForeverGeek was banned. Editor(s) deciding what is okay and what is not? Seems like it.

Digging into our own stats program, we find some more interesting information. We had received a few hits from the following URLs: example 1 and example 2. Visiting the URL leads to Digg nicely informing us: “That item was not
found”

Now you can claim that we are just making those links up, but several things show the URLs existed. Firstly, lets try visiting http://www.digg.com/technology/The_Digsf. The page does not claim anything about any item. Furthermore, take a look at the title tag. Nothing. Yet the two links I just mentioned both had a title tag. Uh huh.

Furthermore, Ramibotros also posted on href="http://blog.outer-court.com/forum/27265.html">Google Blogoscoped, including a screenshot of his href="http://diggabused.googlepages.com/submitted.png">submission to Digg (look at the URL, it validates the URL I had mentioned before), and also of his subsequent banning.

Our own comments page has racketboy commenting the following:

Wow — I just posted this story on Digg and got banned right away.

I emailed Digg and they said I violate the TOS be “accusing” members of abusing
digg. Simply for posting the link to this story.

I had to agree to not do it again so I can get my account back.

Wow

So taking what the above users had mentioned(Andreas, racketboy, Ramibotros), I
tried submitting a random URL on FG (just to verify). I got the following:

“This URL has been reported by users and cannot be submitted at
this time.”

Must have been the same users that were busy digging (all in perfect sequential
order) SpitF1re’s submissions!

So where does that leave us? To quote a man who has been very inspirational to
many others:

“With great power comes great responsibility”

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.

UPDATE:

Been reading around the blogosphere – a lot of misinformation seems to have been
happening that needs to be cleared up.

A few days ago I noticed about how SpitF1re had two articles on the front page. I opened up the comments in new tabs, and when at the end noticed that the digg order was the exact same. I also noticed that Kevin Rose had dugg both (and in perfect order). So I dutifully trotted on over to this blog here and posted about it. I never submitted the article to Digg (bashing Digg on Digg?)

I believe Technorati said that between 1-3 blogs picked it up. One of them was Binary Bonsai. Reading its comments, I saw that Andreas had tried posting it and found out that ForeverGeek had been banned. My name is Jacob Gower. His name is Andreas Climent. We are most definitely not the same people :)

Further perusing my logs, I found that a forum post on Google Blogoscoped also backed up what Andreas had said. ForeverGeek was banned.

What made this odd was that FG has hit the frontpage numerous times, including just a few weeks ago. We are a fairly popular blog, top 3k according to Technorati, and over 3000+ readers according to FeedBurner. Why else could we have been banned except for our post on the Digg Army?

So I gathered all the evidence and put it into a post: Digg’s founder was involved in this automated promotion system (all the diggs in a row, a comment about how it was on the front page and no comments, etc), ForeverGeek was banned for noting it, and Digg was no longer truly a social network system (as obvious editorial control had come into play).

The post spread damn fast. It hit Reddit, it hit Memeorandum, it got several members banned from Digg (most notably how Splasho got knocked out), and in general was making Digg look bad.

Things got interesting when manchild posted on the first
comment
of a frontpage article and really brought this issue to attention. As of my writing this, his comment has +96 diggs.

So what happened? Digg had the beginnings of a PR mess. They had obviously rigged the system, had been trying to silence what we had raised, except that the issue was beyond their control. Even two of my friends got banned trying to submit the post (they tried to be sneaky by using a redirect … that idea failed).

So a few hours later, suddenly we have this: Digg Corrupted.

Looking at the front page, a 7 hour 25 minute old post with 48 diggs is on the front page. As of right now, that article has 50 diggs in 52 minutes and is not promoted.

So what is going? Easy.

Digg got busted. And now they are performing their public relations part to make it look okay. It got busted for using editorial control to force promote pages. It got busted for removing ForeverGeek (even though obviously users wanted it spread). And after the story started to spread, it tried to act like nothing happened by unbanning ForeverGeek).

One last thing people keep forgetting: The diggs were all in order. Sure friends digg other friends’ stories – but 16 in a row identical to both articles? Yeah, I’m not buying it. Color me unimpressed – the original idea of Digg is dead. The apologists are out in force, but social-driven it ain’t.

UPDATE 2my response to Kevin’s (non)response