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Annalee Newitz's Digg-rigging experiment

Date/Time Permalink: 03/02/07 09:13:55 am
Category: General

Call this "News about the news about the news". Annalee Newitz (the only person with a job at Wired whom I respect) published the results of a hilarious stunt in which she deliberately threw together a mediocre blog (though not as bad as some I've seen out there), then paid a voting outfit to make her blog's link rise to the front page of Digg... then published the results in her Wired column.

Pause: Annalee Newitz! What a hoot! What a desperado! A stunt after my own heart.

The second half of this story is the reaction: TechCrunch carries a story saying that Digg should sue Wired! Based on the idea that Wired owns Digg competitor Reddit. But co-relation does not equal causation: I think both Wired and Digg suck with equal negative PSI, and I'm not on the payroll of either entity, so now what? And anyway, sue for what? It's a true story.

TechCrunch's Mike Arrington, according to Wikipedia, "has had to deal with numerous claims of conflict of interest because TechCrunch has a financial or personal interest in many of the companies featured...". So, anyway, woof, woof woof!

As if *any* social bookmark site were different? The real world is like that; show me a popularity contest and I'll show you somebody behind the scenes pulling the strings - with or without the consent of the contest owners.

The irony part is that anybody who pays to get their site to the front page (unless it's an experiment) is a chump in the first place: Annalee had to spot $450 to do this (she got most of it back as a buried-story refund). My site has made visits to the front page of Digg a couple of times (organically - to my knowledge) and there's no way I'd pay a measly banana peel for the experience. It's nice to have visits, especially if they make some interesting comments, but paying for it is buying love. There is no combination if in-your-face ads that I could conceive of to run on a page that would make it worth paying $450 to have Digg traffic click on it.

Lots of Internet-based schemes work that way: W.C. Fields "You can't cheat an honest man." and all that. Everything from vote-buying to spamming is sold to suckers who think they'll be able to see a return on it.

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