Kevin Rose: Digg’s Biggest Hypocrite

You know what I find funny? When rules of a website say one thing and the founder of the website goes against everything the Terms of Service stand for.

Kevin Rose, I’m talking to you.

I left this alone (save for a comment on a recent submission of yours) because I thought you might learn. However, it’s sadly not the case and clearly your fan base is clouding your judgment.

Allow me to point out two infractions made, perhaps intentionally, on your part.

Infraction #1:

Digg’s FAQ (Submitting Section, Question #3) says that duplicate submissions are bannable violations. Here’s the exact wording:

# Is it a duplicate story if I submit a similar story but from a different source?
That isn’t for us to decide. Sometimes there is a better story from another news outlet. We let our users determine that aspect of duplicate submissions. It is, however, a duplicate story if you submit the same story from the same source. We strongly discourage the submission of duplicate stories as it only steals credit from the first submitter. If we find abusive duplicate submission behavior from users, their accounts may be banned.

The emphasis is obviously mine. I personally have been a victim of duplicate submissions (from the same exact URL) at least four times — and the bottom line to the end user is that it sucks. However, if you’re Kevin Rose, you’re apparently above the rules. For illustrative purposes, I’m linking to the submissions and including screenshots in case Digg decides to censor remove the links.

Thirty-five days ago, on October 4th, Graham (cosmikdebris), who clearly has an interest in stories about science, submitted a story about stopping atoms to Digg (and no, he did not ask me to write this — I am composing this independently of him). As the original submitter, Graham’s Digg submission had a unique URL:

Four days later, Kevin found a reprint of the same story in ScienceDaily. He thought it was Diggbait, so he submitted it to Digg. His URL is appended with a _2, which indicates that it was a duplicate submission:

The ironic thing is that Digg has a somewhat decent duplicate detection system. If you submit duplicate stories within minutes of each other, the dupe checker may not notify you that you’ve submitted the work of somebody else. However, if you submit the story a few hours later or a few days later, Digg’s system always asks you if you’re sure that you haven’t submitted a dupe. It is only when you’re positive that you haven’t duplicated the submission that you may then proceed.

Apparently, Kevin ignored that duplicate warning and submitted the same story with the same title and description anyway. Here are the resulting screenshots (which I took earlier — just in case). The original, first:

Kevin Rose: Duplicate Champion

And here’s the duplicate submission. The comments are classic; click on the image for a full-sized version:

Kevin Rose: Digg Duplicate Champion

Obviously, it looks like Mr. Rose made an error of judgment here. I suppose that’s fine if it happens — and yes, we’re humans, so I can see this occurring every so often. That’s why I ignored it for 35 days.

Today, however, the infraction got a little more out of hand. It began with the banning of a friend of mine for a social experiment he performed on Digg. I now present you with …

Infraction #2:

On October 31st, my friend Erik created a Facebook group for Digg fans which was inspired by the extremely popular (3241 Diggs as of this writing) Digg story about how Stephen Colbert’s Facebook group was the fastest growing ever. In an attempt to surpass that record, Erik created a Facebook group about Digg solely as an experiment with no malicious intentions whatsoever. He submitted the Facebook group’s URL to Digg to see if he could garner 1 million users on Facebook via networking. Unfortunately, Digg’s abuse team didn’t think so. Here’s what they were doing when the story hit the front page:

Facebook Group Gets Killed on Digg

They were removing the story. The URL now is dead. This is a screenshot of the Digg moderators busy at work.

Here’s a screenshot of the Facebook group (which is alive and well):

Digg's Unofficial Facebook Group

Subsequently, Erik was banned from Digg with the following scathing attack:

Your account has been disabled for attempting to use Digg as a staging area to launch an attack. This is explicitly outlined in the TOS you agreed to when you signed up. Judging from your active history on Digg, it is apparent that you are very aware what constitutes a violation. Your actions are far from innocent.

Actually, Digg, Erik is a 17-year-old kid who is pretty damn innocent. Before he got banned, the only thing he told me is that “I’m really excited about this and I hope it works.” Does his story look like a launching pad for an attack? I don’t think so… and I’d have left this small issue alone too, but then today came along.

This morning, Facebook came out with “new product pages” and Digg jumped at the opportunity to make a difference. Mr. Rose created the official Digg Facebook group and, ironically, submitted the story (linking directly to the Facebook group) to Digg.

Digg's Official Facebook Group

It’s still there, my friends, and that story has accrued over 1000 votes so far.

Kevin Rose Submits Facebook Groups to Digg too

Now if you ask me, I’d say that Erik and Kevin had similar motives (except that Erik probably didn’t care for the monetary gain of the Facebook ads whereas Kevin is all in it for the dough). Both wanted to create a Facebook community to connect users to each other. On one hand, Erik’s group was construed as a severe DDOS attempt whereas Kevin’s submission is construed as a way of making Digg money. It, therefore, passed with flying colors. After all, Kevin is the Digg founder, and who on his staff would question the motives of the guy?

After all is said and done, none of this is quite fair to the end user. I understand that Kevin Rose is the founder of Digg, and for that reason alone, he has a lot of my respect. However, Kevin, you need to realize that your users are important and they drive your site’s success. If you didn’t have a userbase, you wouldn’t be where you are. As such, please respect the user. I don’t fault you for wanting to be a star, but come on, Kevin — you know that you blatantly duplicated someone else’s submission which is clearly against your own TOS, and you also should realize that it’s not fair that someone got banned for doing the same thing as you!

Kevin, perhaps I’m Digg’s biggest vocal critic, and I wouldn’t be critical of the system if I didn’t care for Digg’s success. I like Digg — a lot. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be so cognizant of these small things and have my own strong opinions on the new Digg. Obviously, I’ve invested a lot of time in using the service, but I’m not sure if you are a strong user as you are the founder and have business to attend to.

This, ironically, relates somewhat to my recent blog post about not understanding the social communities that you’re involved in: unless you’re truly invested in the service, you won’t understand the mentality of the users who do spend considerable amount of time on Digg. Colleges have Resident Assistants who adhere to the same rules as the students, and they live among their students so they’re very much part of that community. Kevin, I’m afraid that you’re not aware of the ongoing events at Digg, or you clearly don’t have time to realize that you’re just the founder of Digg; you’re not really a user like the rest of us. And if you were, these things should not have happened.

I know you want more pageviews. I know you want more members. Kevin, I want to see Digg thrive and flourish too. However, at the end of the day, if you disregard the voices of your users and ignore their pleas, you’re not going to come out victorious. That said, I advise you to try to focus on making Digg a win-win situation for everyone involved, including yourself. Just don’t forget about who uses the service regularly when it comes to the success that you’ve had thus far.

Note: Diggers mentioned here who were the victims of inconsistent treatment under Digg’s TOS were not involved with the creation of this post in any way and should not be understood as consenting to its publication.

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69 replies on “Kevin Rose: Digg’s Biggest Hypocrite”
  1. says: Scott Clark

    Wow, did I learn a lot from this. Thanks Tamar for the (obviously) intense work in gathering up these screen shots and so forth. I see digg in a new light.

  2. says: Dani

    Sorry, but I am going to have to go with Kevin on this one. I’ll start off by saying that I am not a Digger and am not privy to anything Digg-related other than what I have just read in this article. But, from what I read here, every instance that you’ve pointed out has been an individual moderator taking action, and not Kevin himself.

    I am in a similar position to Kevin in that I run a medium-sized online community (200,000+ users at the time of this writing) and have actually been in very similar positions many a time (and by ‘many a time’ I mean almost daily). While I have put significant effort into establishing community ground rules, setting up the “punishments” for each type of rule violation, and assembling a moderation team that is three levels of hierarchy deep, with an elaborate system of checks and balances between members of the team, shit still happens …

    Sometimes mods shoot from the hip. Sometimes mods make mistakes. Sometimes the opinions of the moderators differ from my own. It’s up to the community administrator (myself in my case, Kevin in Digg’s case) to lay the ground rules, the laws, and the punishments. But EVERY human individual (especially on the web where people come from different backgrounds and cultures) have different interpretations of what constitutes a specific rule violation.

    Take the comment received by Erik in your first story: “Your account has been disabled for attempting to use Digg as a staging area to launch an attack …” Kevin can establish a rule of not allowing Diggers to exploit Digg’s traffic by taking down websites. Kevin is even right in saying that such a rule violation deserves an account suspension. But Kevin cannot be there to read every single story and moderate (or oversee) every single rule violation. That’s the purpose of having a mod team: to be there when you can’t. Having a moderation team is an asset but it is also a liability because no matter how hard you work to assemble a team that is more or less always on the same page with the same ideals, it cannot be anything other than an individual moderator’s perspective as to whether a particular story is a “staging area to launch an attack.”

    I therefore don’t believe the blame should be put on Kevin. If this happens regularly, then you can say that the moderation team isn’t on the same page which can lead to an excessive amount of subjectiveness that makes for an inefficient moderation team. But if it’s taken months for you to come up with only two instances, …

  3. says: peaiotj

    Time for you to find another social news site, befcause you sound like a sycophant at the end there grovelling before Kevin Rose.

  4. says: giL

    Well done Tamar. you are the watchdog of democracy here doing the ‘dirty work’ for all of us. Thank you. keep on doing the good job.

  5. says: James

    Cool post. I have definitely gone off Digg the past few months. The spam on it now is horrific. So many dupe posts and even more plagiarized ones. The one that stood out in my head recently was an article on Armoured cars it made it to first page, was dugg 450+ times but was an exact copy of a BBC news article. Only one of the 70 comments pointed out it was plagiarized. I presume it only got to page one through some creative digging on behalf of the author or his friends. I realise this is an inevitable problem with a user driven news site but they need more checks to prevent crap be sent to the front pahe

  6. says: Tad Chef

    In Polish we have an old saying for such cases, which roughly translated rhymes as follows: “What the boss is admitted is not for you, you shithead!”

    Digg sucks for most people by now. Furtunately there are many laternatives by now, StumbleUpon,, BloggingZoom…

  7. “befcause you sound like a sycophant at the end there grovelling before Kevin Rose.”

    Probably. But that’s because at the end of the day, I actually do care and don’t want to see Digg continue to make a turn for the worse.

    A lot of people (e.g. CyberTroll) came here from Reddit. Not a surprise. 😉 See, the thing is that I actually still prefer Digg over Reddit. Your loyalties are to your community, and mine are to mine.

    Bottom line: I respect Kevin’s initial vision, but from all these actions as of late, he’s a jerk and coward who refuses to respond to criticism.

    There. How’s that for being a little more forthright?

  8. says: Chad

    Duplicate stories are a common occurrence on digg so the first half does not surprise me at all and because Kevin submitted the story of course it will get more diggs. For your friend being banned it sucks but if you look at the headline he submitted and then read the TOS it does look like he is launching an attack against Facebook. Right in the title it says Digg Effect and everyone who uses digg knows that the digg effect is a crippling blow to a server hence why it sounds like an attack on digg. Everyone (including me) loves a good conspiracy but unfortunately there just isn’t one here.

  9. Chad, yes and no. I can’t possibly fathom Facebook being crippled by the Digg effect, and neither did Erik. Again, his intentions were not malicious, but the email he received gave him no choice but to oblige without being able to explain himself. Therefore, I did it for him.

  10. James: that’s likely a problem that the “Shout” system created. If you point out plagiarism and people disagree with you, you get buried. Yes, the system is inherently flawed — and not in a good way.

  11. says: Chad

    Malicious intentions or not your friend broke the TOS and even though I and probably every other digg user doesn’t believe that the digg effect would cripple Facebook the fact remains his heading sounds like an attempt to do just that, this is clearly against the digg terms of service. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and that sucks but in the end its up to you to read the TOS of any website you participate in to ensure your are complying with their rules.

  12. So at the end of the day, my friend got banned only because his headline was misleading (to some people). Both Kevin and my friend did the same thing. There is a little bit of irony there, I must say.

  13. says: Mike

    You guys are sad. The reason digg exists is because of half-wits such as you that think Digg is a noble peak of humanity of some sort.

    Digg didn’t ban erik because he was staging an attack, digg banned him because he was going to upstage digg. Possibly even get to the point that he could steal from the viewer base of digg.

    Digg is controlling what goes on and off their site meticulously for no other reason than maintaining their market share and milking the cash cow.

    And you know why it’s working? Because you and millions of others like you are actually giving that site any credit.

    And no, I do not read digg. I’ve opened the digg homepage maybe twice in the past several months and that was by following a link.

  14. says: Chad

    Sorry for playing devils advocate here but to be fair I am not saying what Digg did was right and to be fair you never showed a screen shot of what Kevins submission regarding the facebook page on digg said (but his submission title didn’t reflect anything against the TOS). I agree that digg is full of irony on a daily basis and has gotten quite spammy with all the ron paul crap and stupid you tube videos. But ignorance regarding any TOS (I as well am guilty of this and will hardly ever read a TOS) is no excuse for not complying with the sites terms and in the real world playing ignorant regarding laws will only land you in jail why should it be any different online.
    This is the first time I have been to your site and it looks good I have bookmarked it for further reading.

  15. says: Bakez

    Kevin Rose’s heart isn’t in the community anymore, he’s all about the money now. he might have been passionate about digg a long time ago, but now he’s just waiting for the cash chicken to roost.

  16. says: Erika

    This is a great read Tamar- Kevin you had better take heed to what her suggestions are.

    Tamar- truly great investigative reporting done here. Great to see you have your head and heart in DIGG!

    I still can’t seem to see that much value from it, but the SOCIAL NEWS aspect of it is fun, if I want to read about a brain found in a bag, or top 13 lists on random subjects that nobody cares about.

    Guess you need to have lots of time on your hands to spend using and building accounts on that site.

  17. kevin rose is the founder and a user. those two ideas are and should be mutually exclusive. if digg is truly supposed to be democratic, then it cant have super-platinum-premium-citizens.

  18. It’s funny how people actually take the time to write comments when I clearly am the one who is supposed to get a life. 😉

    Thanks for the feedback, Hondo. Noted. 😀

  19. says: Graham (cosmikdebris)

    Great read Tamar, well done and, fight the fight. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, and all that.

    I have a problem with duplicate articles posted within 24hrs of each other, after that, fair game! Once a submission is 24hrs cold it has little or no chance of reaching the homepage. So not wishing to sound like I’m brown-nosing KR, I had no problem with being duped 4 days later. Plus, my submission was in itself a partial dupe from one that Reg (zaibatsu) had posted 292 days previous.

  20. Graham – actually, with the “new” Digg, people are seeing stories hitting the main page after the 24 hour threshold. Plus, there is still a chance that your story could have hit. After all, one of my stories hit the front page after 7 days.

    Let’s face it: duping people is not the main problem here. I’ve done it (and interestingly, Digg called me out on it!). Kevin has done it. Reg has done it. You have done it.

    Now if a story has no hope for front page fame and the submission deserves to reach the front page, wait a year and submit it again. I’m pretty sure Mr. Rose has done that before as have others. If he’s going to be the one who sets an example here, we’re going to follow in his lead. Unfortunately for us, we’re the only ones at risk of being banned.

  21. says: 1389

    This is why I’ve gotten tired of Digg. I spend more and more time elsewhere. I just don’t like Kevin’s attitude, and that’s that.

  22. says: Steve

    Gave up on digg a long time ago its a no win situation for bookmarking! You hit the front page the traffic fries your server, you make a post of a new story you get morons posting stupid comments!

  23. says: MarcusBrutus

    Who cares? Don’t use the service if you don’t like it’s owners. And using a “stumble exchange” (obvious generic stumble comments are a dead give away) to garner attention to this is pathetic.

  24. MarcusBrutus: I have no idea what you’re talking about. In fact, I didn’t even discover this page on StumbleUpon. But thanks. I’m glad other people find it interesting.

    I don’t even know who wrote “Great Content and Sites! A+++++” on the page review. I love, however, how because someone screwed up using SU that you think it’s instantly gamed.

  25. says: Pam

    Great post Tamar. I actually saw and dugg Erik’s post before it was taken down. If people naturally dugg it and didn’t feel “mislead” by the title (which it really wasn’t misleading since the article did give you the information it said it would) then Digg shouldn’t have a problem with it. I guess promoting Digg for Digg is a bannable offense now!

  26. says: Lara

    Tamar: I’m behind you 100% girl. Well researched and superbly put. You’ve captured my feelings exactly. Kevin is using digg as his playground. Kevin’s only into the money now. Kevin’s lost touch with ‘our’ community – that’s us. Seems Kevin has forgotten who put him in his rock star position of power. Kids who make it too easily as Kevin did tend to forget their hard knocks lesson – like the digg revolt.

    Every week I hear of more strongest users who have either abandoned digg, or are moving their time to other social media sites like stumble and reddit etc. They talk about it sadly, how they would prefer to stay with digg, but the quality has gone down, and they’re sick of Kevin’s auto buries and hypocritical treatment of the community. Time to move on I think. Have you noticed how digg is getting stale and old by recycling the same old sites and auto burying any new sites?

    Say, what do you think would happen if Kevin were negotiating a multi million deal for digg, and ‘his’ users were to revolt again?

  27. Tamar,

    I for one, completely respect and appreciate the tremendous amount of research that went into this posting. I have also stood on the sidelines and watched your recent (commendable) crusade against the dark side of Digg.

    However, (and with all due respect)I simply need to ask you; all of this back-breaking and tedious work is a means to what end?

    In the final analysis, what in the world do you stand to gain from this Herculean effort?
    The reality is that Kevin R. is “chuckling all the way to the bank”.

    He could care less about your perspective and concerns.
    In fact, although he may be reading your postings, he clearly won’t even dignify them with the courtesy of a response.

    I understand the whole altruistic bit about the need for “accountability” and the fact that “someone needs to stand up for what is right”..etc.

    Furthermore, I recognize that it is dedicated users like yourself who have made Digg as popular as it is today.

    Still, Kevin has created a thriving (business &)social network model that isn’t going bust anytime soon.

    Thus, I almost feel bad that you have chosen to become the ombudsman for all that is wrong with Digg. You clearly have good inntentions and represent a “voice of reason” with cogent and salient critiscm of the “Digg Double Standard”.

    However, consider the Law of Diminishing Returns.
    At some point, you have to ask yourself; is it worth all of the effort?

    You are not the one who stands to net a cool $300 million off the sale of Digg (assuming the rumor is true..and about me and you they do not generate such rumors..;-) and methinks there is nothing you could do/write that would prevent the sale from going through.

    You do not see any financial gain from your considerable and time consuming involvement in Digg.

    So why the personal crusade? Why the incredible devotion to a losing cause from which you have nothing to gain but some sense of personal and moral justice??

    Do the ends justify the means??

    Kind Regards,

    Judah Gutwein

  28. says: Charbarred

    Great job policing Digg Tamar. I think at this stage they don’t really care about what we all say. At the time they took the user comments seriously, but a few revolts later they decided that sweeping things under the carpet is a better policy.
    In the end of the day they are a business whose main interest is to make money and wouldn’t allow Eric to upstage them. That’s fair enough but they could have just buried his story and sent him an email, rather than banning him.
    I see that cosmikdebris admits his own submission was a dupe…oh well…

  29. says: 5ubliminal

    Some1 said buy Digg and fire Kevin.
    I say make a new Digg and be the new Kevin.

    Maybe the dude just wanted to make the story popular. Unless you have not noticed it’s really important who posts the story not the story itself. So the guy wanted to promote it, didn’t want to steal it from initial owners so he just duped it.

    It’s his show, he makes the rules in his house. Deal with it and/or carry on!

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  31. Wow. Talk about an eye-opener.

    I’m not a great fan of Digg because I find that, as in the cases above, the best content doesn’t necessarily rise to the top. It’s the content written by the most popular kids. Sometimes it’s great. This post would be a great example of high quality that deserves front-page treatment (though someone at youmoz recommended it, not someone at Digg), as would DoshDosh/Maki’s content. But frequently enough, it’s just well-networked folks with an agenda.

    Tamar, an excellent critique of Digg here. I can see why you were recommended:

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  33. Awesome post!

    clear, consise, to the point, and thouroughly a good read.

    as a two time “banned” from digg’er myself (1,001 friends = banned within 24 hours apparently) I’m not “anti digg” per se, but as a heavy poster and submitter, I got banned for having 1,001 friends, and hundreds of fans.

    turns out, if you get more friends than the childish little man who runs digg, you get banned, within 24 hours.

    try it, sign up a random new account, click like a crazy monkey on as many top submitting diggers as you can, i.e. hit the [friend] buttons till you reach 1,001 friends, and watch.

    in 24 hours, you’ll get a) banned, and b) no contact from digg, and c) blacklisted from any communications.

    so beat kevin rose’s friends count on digg and you’re out for the count!

    Kevin, you’re a sad, pathetic little man.

    Sadly, due to people like us, you can now afford to be, and not give a toss – well done, Mr Nigel No Mates!

  34. says: Joe M.


    The post is on point but I must say few words. Its true Digg turned into a money making machine for its founder and Kevin is cutting corners for its own good. I think we need to shout it loud and clear when they band their own guidelines, but lets not forget that if we deal in SMO and, or SEO its using Digg, in Kevins eyes, its us against him ( or reddit, stumble upon…)and that’s the kind of strikes we are facing. When we create a mega account on Digg were under Rosss eyes. I can’t understand why Erick was using his personal mega account for his experiment (I dont know Erick, but even if he wasn’t using his account for SMO he should have been more cheerful.)

    Anyone experienced enough in SEO would never be surprised from this story. In Google, a hand removal is a normal think and an expected loss. I’m sure you are familiar with a dating site which was promoted by some TOP SMO experts (sound familiar?) and got bent from Google about 72 hours ago ( check the term online dating???). Was that a hand removal? We don’t know for sure, but I can show you some cases which the removal was manual and not allegoristic as Google promise.

    In conclusion, I see it happening more and more in the future and the work of SM optimizers will have to mutate.

    In regard to the last post by Kevin about the improvement of his algorithm to prevent SMO on Digg LET ME JUST SAY
    No worries Mr. Ross, we beat Googles algorithm, who the fuck are you.

    Ps. if my English wasnt all understood please accept my apology, my Hebrew is much better.

  35. says: jimmy

    It’s true, Kevin is a pretty big hypocrite at times and not only for these types of reasons.

    He also doesn’t give a shit about the users.

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