The issue has been building up for a few weeks now. It’s taboo, of course, to discuss Digg.com in a negative light, but there have been “closed-door” secret meetings amongst diggers recently. Via GTalk, it’s a hot topic among active diggers.
A couple of weeks ago, Tamar Weinberg posted Why Nobody Should Buy Digg. It details some of the circumstances behind recent bannings and the apparent turnaround in how Digg handles them. In short, they don’t. If you’re banned, Digg won’t talk to you. They won’t talk to anyone else about you.
Regardless of how many hours (days?) you put into Digg or how many great stories you contributed over that time, if you get banned, you no longer exist. The question is, why?
There are obvious, emotional responses, mostly tied in to the prospects of a sale. They don’t care. They don’t have the time. They want to remove the riff-raff to “polish the turd” as was mentioned on a recent Mixxingbowl podcast.
To some extent, these are probably all true, but only on a small level. The real reason, in my opinion, goes back to simple internet business practices. For a website to be most attractive for sale, as much as possible has to be completely automated. It isn’t that Digg doesn’t care about its users anymore, though they are probably viewed more in bulk than as individuals when a sale is being considered. The key factor here, and where much of the evidence is pointing, is that banning and IP-blocking have been turned over to the crawlers and algorithms entirely. The human element has been removed. Supporting facts:
- Until recently, a banned user could send a simple email and receive a response detailing what they did and what not to do in the future. In the vast majority of cases, reinstatement was quick and easy. Now, despite dozens of emails by banned users and on their behalf by top diggers, responses are, apparently, no longer allowed.
- In the case of two pairs of users, the assumed reason was shared IPs on a routers by two different users on two different computers. Digg TOS does not discuss this. They do, however, note that “artificially inflating or altering the ‘digg count’, blog count, comments or any other Digg service” is a no-no. A human eye that sees this trigger can review accounts in question and determine that no gaming is being done. A crawler/algo that detects this will not be able to make the judgment call.
- 0boy and 1only were on the same router (and rumors are that Emobrat and a roommate were as well) but never voted for or commented on each other’s submissions. Still, they shared many friends, as Diggers are known to do. When this issue was discussed with support after a trigger a few months ago, 0boy received an email from support (when they still communicated with us) saying that “as long as you don’t digg each other’s submissions, you should be fine. Keep in mind, it’s how you get to the stories too that can be suspicious.”
This last line is a key in supporting this theory. 0boy has been receiving stories for a while via IM from friends. 1only started a week before the bannings, with many of the same stories from the same people being sent in this fashion.
Is Digg “cleaning house” for the big sale? Probably not. It makes more sense that they are simply completely automating the process so that human maintenance of the website is reduced. From a sale perspective, it just makes sense.
Sense or no sense, cents or no cents, it is still absolutely wrong to ban users and offer no explanation, no possible recourse.
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