“Subvert and Profit” Profits No One
Many of you know I’m writing more and more about Digg. I’ve become deeply involved in the community and I’ve gotten a greater understanding of what stories make it to the main page. I’m about to break the Top 100 (that list is here). It’s something, that, as Muhammad Saleem said, is because of a heightened awareness of what that community seeks:
Because they understand the nuances of the site and the preferences of the community, they are able to submit content that is appreciated by the democracy-based community of Digg and the content is consequently promoted to the home page.
When I submit a story to Digg, I have a good deal of confidence that my stories have a decent chance of hitting the main page, typically because I generally look for the content that is worthy of a Digg front-page mention. That’s why I was astonished when I saw a story in my feed reader that I ultimately submitted to Digg get buried at 43 votes. I spotted an anomaly that I typically didn’t detect once the story got buried: the rate at which it was being Dugg still grew, and by the time I checked the story again just a few hours later, it had an additional 60+ votes. Typically, buried stories taper off. They don’t grow like this. The community saw the piece and felt, like me, that it was deserving of a front page promotion, but the story inexplicably didn’t make it.
I emailed Digg. This wasn’t normal. They responded saying that the story was reported as “Lame” and was buried. It’s still the Digg democracy, after all. Fair enough, I suppose, though I didn’t want to believe it.
And then I got an email from the person who wrote the story, and he said he was responsible for the reason why the story was buried.
He explained, after my insistence to be honest with me, that he used the service Subvert and Profit.
I learned later that he ran a few experiments after the story got buried. He got a number of votes (Subvert and Profit users are required to Digg the story to receive payment), but he saw that each story would not just die off after time as expected from lack of votes — they’d simply get buried, implying that there was a significant human element involved in preventing the promotion of the story. He learned, and we suspect that this is the case, that these submissions were buried after they were Dugg. Interestingly, this is how Digg works; you can bury a story after you Digg it, but you cannot Digg a story after you’ve buried it. It is possible that Digg is well aware of this and made it possible so that people trying to Subvert and Profit will not end up being able to successful when gaming the system. In any event, it makes things a lot clearer for me.
From the few screenshots I requested from this individual, I learned that the system works like this. You log into your account and confirm it by Digging a random story.
Once your account is confirmed, you get a page that features a number of upcoming stories. Users are required to Digg the story, but then they can bury it. The system doesn’t account for buries and can’t detect if you’ve buried it; as long as their vote is counted, nothing else matters. The people behind the voting get their money. Advertisers get no guarantees.
Naturally, it all looks very suspicious. Can Digg tell me how many of these users Dugg the story and then buried it?
It’s true, then, that these services are not as successful as their makers claim they are. Should I suspect that the users of these services are actually fighting for a true democratic Digg or StumbleUpon? I’d bet that they’re on our side, for gaming the system takes away the fun.
But though I learned a very interesting lesson, I just wish that people who write the good content have a little more self-confidence, because if you have golden content, your story would have made its way to the Digg front page anyhow without the aid of a service that doesn’t even deliver what it promises.