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Digg and Netscape Struggle to Prevent Gaming and Other Shenanigans

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I’m still sifting through the avalanche of e-mail that piles up during a month away from the laptop, but I must make mention of the most interesting article I read today, sent to me around a week ago from my partner and buddy over at Blogcritics, Phillip Winn.

It’s a little experiment that Annalee Newitz of Wired pulled off: create crappy content and then buy your way onto Digg’s front page with it. That Annalee was able to do this when purposefully creating low-grade content (a blog that’s mission is to take pictures of crowds but offer no psychology of such or any commentary at all to explain it) tells us that Digg and all popular social news sites have a ways to go to lock out gamers and spammers.

It’s a good problem for Digg in that it proves that companies (such as User/Submitter) see value in offering a service that gets submissions onto the treasured real estate of Digg’s front page and that publishers are willing to pay to cheat to get that front page exposure. However, Digg will need to continue to become more sophisticated in sniffing out and squashing gaming and collusion.

From the publisher perspective, the negative ramification is that quality submissions can get squashed for appearing to be suspicious when in fact they may not be. Human interaction from site editors should be useful here, but that is also not always the case. Netscape editors, for instance, will at their discretion switch out story links on submissions to those that they feel are more original. In essence, they’re trying to prevent “re-blogging,” where a blogger will blatantly republish someone else’s content or excerpt a story and add no real value to it. That’s all fine and well, but I’ve witnessed numerous cases where unique takes on breaking news stories were dumped for a more “original” one. That practice is dangerous in that it will turn off eager news submitters and, for hardworking publishers, is generally non-cool.

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