This is an EXCELLENT Guest Post by Kathryn Smith, proudly posted to Soshable

DiggYes, that’s right—I’m admitting up front that I’m a dreaded “noob”. I have neither a blog nor a website, and I’ll freely confess to being pretty much in the dark about most technology and the thing that is Web 2.0. (Or, to paraphrase a popular ad campaign, I’m a 43-year old female PC.)

However, since I didn’t wish to maintain my uninformed, ignoramus status, I decided to join Digg on July 31, 2008. At first, I thought the site was a great idea; so, I fumbled around a bit, trying to learn how the site worked. I tried to make friends on my own, but my requests were rarely accepted. One of the first comments I made in a thread, a simple compliment on the topic, was replied to with, “I checked your profile. Buried for your face, faggot. STFU, noob.”

Needless to say, this didn’t endear me to the site. I almost left within the first few days of joining. I was also greeted on some comment threads with, “Don’t digg this, it’s old as hell.” Well, as a new member, I hadn’t seen it.

But, being a newbie, I figured I had to take my lumps before I’d be allowed to join the club. Eventually, I did make friends, and the site became more fun. I realized that a lot of the shouts I was getting were for blog posts, and I quickly caught on to the fact that these folks were just trying to get a little traffic for their sites. So, I’d read the material and give them a digg, but only if I liked the content, some of which was really good, and had been submitted in the proper category and subcategories. (In real life, I’m a poorly-paid ghostwriter/proofreader/editor, so I’m a reasonably fair judge of content quality. Or at least I like to think so.) And with all due respect to Huffington Post fans, it’s still nothing more than a blog. A very good, very profitable blog, but a blog nonetheless. A blog that’s making a fortune off the backs of Digg users, I might add. Who amongst the bloggers out there wouldn’t aspire to that kind of success? So yes, I support a few bloggers, and I’ll continue to do so in my own way. If helping people is a Web 2.0 crime, then virtually arrest me.

But then something different happened at Digg. Users were being banned in droves. My friends list shrank in a hurry, and I was confused as to why. Being a techno-moron, I had no knowledge of what scripts were at the time.  I was also in the dark about the fact that some of my banned friends were using them. Once I did learn, I have to be honest—the first thought that came to my tech-impaired mind was, “Okay, how big of a deal is this? One of the scripts in question was made using Digg’s own API, in order to let a user quickly see which friends have already received a shout and a digg from them. Sounds like a great feature that Digg should add.”  Which led me to my next questions—why would Digg provide an API, and then ban people for using it? Were they pissed off that they didn’t think of it themselves?

I took a lot of heat for defending banned users by leaving comments in articles discussing the bans. I see now that it was a mistake to do so, as I didn’t realize I was “spamming the comments”. (I did mention I’m a noob, right?) But I felt I was defending people I thought were being treated unfairly, especially those who were banned with no explanation, so I spoke up. The result was that I was accused of cheating myself, along with some incredibly nasty, sometimes profane shouts sent to my profile. I suppose I could have reported them, but I chose to stick it out, and chalked it up as a learning experience.

And I’ll confess, with my apologies to the top users, banned or not—I almost jumped on the “Ban the Power Users!” bandwagon. But before I did, I decided to do a little research. I listened to podcasts, read archived articles on Digg about the topic of power users and the site itself, and it was at that point that I was able to see the contribution these people had made to the site. So for all the current Digg users who are now dropping comments such as, “Why is this on Digg?” or, “Buried as lame”, well you can thank Digg for that, because those banned users were the ones supplying you with quality content. Their thanks from Digg? Sorry, you’re banned.

So then I decided to really scrutinize the Digg TOS. I’ve read it, and re-read it several times. Yes, it says that you can’t use scripts, robots, etc. Okay, fair enough, it’s been well established that scripts are against the rules, and Digg was within their rights to ban some people for using them. But there are a couple of things in that TOS that still aren’t quite clear to me. For example:

From the user conduct section:

By way of example, and not as a limitation, you agree not to use the Services:

1.    to abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Digg users;

Okay, this happens all the time. Try leaving a comment, and you’ll see what I mean.

2:  to post or transmit, or cause to be posted or transmitted, any Content that is infringing, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, abusive, offensive, profane, or otherwise violates any law or right of any third party;

So, if I digg and share a story that states Sarah Palin is actually the mother of her own grandchild, can I get banned for that? After all, that could be considered defamatory, couldn’t it? And the porn trolls are everywhere in the comment threads, with their accounts alive and well.

And the most unclear item (to me) in the Digg TOS:

9:  with the intention of artificially inflating or altering the ‘digg count’, blog count, comments, or any other Digg service, including by way of creating separate user accounts for the purpose of artificially altering Digg’s services; giving or receiving money or other remuneration in exchange for votes; or participating in any other organized effort that in any way artificially alters the results of Digg’s services;

“Organized effort”. Does that include shouting an article to Friends, in the hope that said article will receive more attention and/or diggs?

Lastly, there’s this item:

Digg may remove any Content and Digg accounts at any time for any reason (including, but not limited to, upon receipt of claims or allegations from third parties or authorities relating to such Content), or for no reason at all.

So, for all those banned who weren’t using scripts and received no reason as to why you were banned, I guess this is your answer from Digg.

I don’t know if I want to continue to support a site that could ban me simply because they damn well feel like it. So as a new user, I’d like to know a little more—aside from script usage, just exactly what else can get you banned from Digg? If I choose to digg an article from a blogger, a friend, or just something that the Digg staff disagrees with, will my account be banned? And just how close is Digg watching what is being dugg, and by whom?

Digg touts itself as a democratic, user-driven social news site. In a recent article from TechRadar, Kevin Rose claims he wants to see Digg’s top users maintain their influence, and yet Digg continues to ban some users who have, by all appearances, done nothing wrong. One influential user was even banned recently while he was on vacation, with no warning or explanation offered.

So, for what it’s worth, this new user, the type that Digg claims it wants to attract, is calling hypocrisy on Digg. Because even noobs can spot bullshit.

Kathryn Smith

Written by JD Rucker
+JD Rucker is Editor at Soshable, a Social Media Marketing Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and founder of Dealer Authority. He drinks a lot of coffee, usually in the form of a 5-shot espresso over ice. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.