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:
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:
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 email@example.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.