Annalee Newitz: I Bought Votes on Digg (And It Worked)

Think 2.0 sites like Digg are run entirely on authentic user-generated votes of interest? You’ll think twice about these systems when you read Annalee Newitz‘s controversial new article for Wired, I Bought Votes on Digg, where she experiments with a business that claims to sell blocks of votes for stories — it seems like gambling, but looks like it paid off in this case. And I had no idea that a service like this existed. Snip:

It was Tuesday, 1:22 a.m. on the West Coast, and influential news recommendation site Digg was hopping. A new story about a blog dedicated to showing photographs of crowds had just gotten enough diggs to make the “popular” list on the tech/design page, and several people were commenting on it.
“How the hell did this get to the front page?” Pawperso wondered.
I can tell you exactly how a pointless blog full of poorly written, incoherent commentary made it to the front page on Digg. I paid people to do it. What’s more, my bought votes lured honest Diggers to vote for it too. All told, I wound up with a “popular” story that earned 124 diggs — more than half of them unpaid. I also had 29 (unpaid) comments, 12 of which were positive.
How did I entice the Digg crowd into promoting something ridiculous? I used the scientific prank methodology, which is to say I conducted a controlled experiment and was something of a smartass about it.

Update: TechCrunch has a scathing response in Digg Should Sue Wired; Annalee talks more about this kind of crowdhacking in her post I’ve got a bad reputation.

Possibly related posts: