Social Media

Spotting and Reporting a Digg 'Gamer'

In theory, the way socially driven news and content sites like Digg, Netscape, Reddit and so on work is that the community decides what content is good and what content is bad, and then the content is either buried or promoted to the home-page of the site for mass consumption. But there are always those that try to manipulate these sites to their advantage.
One would think that once these sites’ communities grow large enough, there will be enough eyeballs on the sites at any given time to prevent the ‘gaming’ of the system. But because (at least at Digg and Reddit) there are (for the most part) no hired moderators that regularly regulate the content of the sites, contrary to popular belief, it is possible to artificially promote content. For example, have a look at the following story that I caught yesterday:
msaleem digggamer1 Spotting and Reporting a Digg 'Gamer'
As you can see, the submitter of the story managed to get 59 Diggs in a little over an hour, and also got the story listed in the top 10 hottest in the upcoming queue. Now just by looking at that you might be inclined to think that the content is really hot, but look at who is voting for the story:
msaleem digggamer2 Spotting and Reporting a Digg 'Gamer'
Without even clicking the outbound link for the submission, and just by looking at the submitter and the users voting on the content, you should be able to see that the story is being ‘gamed’. The first thing any legitimate user does when joining a community is to create a profile and upload an avatar. None of these users have uploaded an avatar. Furthermore, if you look at any of the users’ profiles, most of them have only recently created their account and haven’t bothered to submit any content or vote on other people’s content.
If, however, you don’t spot any of these things, you should immediately be able to classify the outbound link as spam just by looking at the page. So if you see something similar going on at Digg, please take a moment to mark the submission as spam and report the user to abuse@digg.com. This will result in the story being removed from the site, and the submitter along with all his pushers (sockpuppet accounts) being removed from the site as well.
The lesson to be learned here is that you can try and game socially driven sites and you might even win a couple of times, but the only way to win in the long run is to create content that the community will enjoy.

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9 thoughts on “Spotting and Reporting a Digg 'Gamer'

  1. “The first thing any legitimate user does when joining a community is to create a profile and upload an avatar.”
    Err, no.
    First of all, I and more than half the people on my friends list (which I only started using in the last couple of months), do not have avatars, nor anything in their profile.
    Secondly, if it is a new user they are much less likely to have a profile and avatar because they are much less likely to know how to use those features.
    And furthermore new accounts voting on a story is not necessarily suspect – if someone runs a forum, and asks people there to sign up and vote for the story to help promote the forum (e.g. by digging a thread article posted there) or something, it could be perfectly legit.
    Last I knew asking people to digg something wasn’t against the ToS.
    So while 59 votes from identical users, and no votes for anything else is suspicious, and is probably someone gaming digg, this whole article is still based on unfounded generalisations.

  2. Zaibatsu, you must be one of the most proficient content writers in Digg.
    How the heck did you managed to get your account banned ? Except the lame answer they gave “too many diggs”.

  3. Zaibatsu: You’re one of those diggers who’s been a member for ages. I always recognise your nick and avatar. I cannot believe Digg blacklisted you. It seems that they are purposely targeting their most loyal and dedicated users. Someone really needs to start an ‘open’, Wikipedia-style social news site. The Digg guys have too much power, and they don’t always know how to wield it.

  4. I have e-mailed Digg’s abuse address a couple of times in relation to this problem. One company I’ve complained about is http://www.451press.com. They run a series of blogs, and consistently digg up their stories as a team, which occasionally gets them promoted to the front page regardless of whether or not they deserve to be there.
    And it IS against Digg’s TOS, which does not allow stories to be artificially promoted. It is artificial if the users digging it have no motive other than personal gain – which the employees of 451 do. It is hard to believe that everyone in this group of users is genuinely interested in video games, cars, Survivor, trashy celebs, Nicole Richie, etc.
    Not to mention, I can’t take the company seriously because of the crappy, confused allusion of their name to Fahrenheit 451. They say that since they love the digital medium, it made sense to name their company after the temperature at which books burn. And that they’re paying homage to… never mind, it’s ridiculous, and I digress.

  5. “The first thing any legitimate user does when joining a community is to create a profile and upload an avatar.”
    I haven’t read anything so stupid for several days. No, the majority never uploads avartars to all the various site one flourish. Including me.
    (I seldom bother to use my real name and e-mail adress)

  6. “The first thing any legitimate user does when joining a community is to create a profile and upload an avatar.”
    I too would have to disagree with this statement. I’ve joined numerous communities over the years and usually do not create a profile or upload an avatar until I begin to use the service on a regular basis. That being said, you are correct in asserting that the behavior you mention can be an indicator that the service is being gamed.