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Buried By The Brigade At Digg 624

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the because-they-can dept.
Slashdot regular Bennett Haselton writes in with an essay on a subject we've dealt with internally at Slashdot for years: user abuses of social news... this time at Digg. He starts "Alternet uncovers evidence of a 'bury brigade' coordinating efforts to 'bury' left-leaning stories on Digg. Digg had previously announced that the 'bury' button will be removed from the next version of their site, to prevent these types of abuses, but that won't fix the real underlying issue — you can show mathematically that artificially promoting stories is just as harmful in the long run. Here's a simple fix that would address the real problem."

Even if you just arrived from Mars and have never heard of Digg, that description of the service should make it obvious how easy it is to game the system, by rounding up groups of friends to vote on stories that you want to promote, or to bury stories that you want to kill. The former type of abuse (and it is abuse, under Digg's Terms of Use; search for "organized effort") is far more common, since people usually have more incentive (commercial or otherwise) to promote their own work than to bury someone else's. And in fact, Digg has announced that the next version of the service will remove the "bury" button, replacing it with a "Report" button for reporting bona fide cases of abuse, not just to bury boring stories.

The thinking seems to be that abusive "digging" to promote a story, is less harmful than abusive "burying", and this has the ring of plausibility — that a creative effort is better than a destructive one. After all, Alternet had previously highlighted several artificial right-wing "digg brigades" mentioned in their story (Diggs And Buries, theliberalheretic, etc.), but they didn't blow the lid off of the situation until their report on the Digg Patriots bury brigade, as if to say, "Now we've found something really scandalous!" Annalee Newitz cheekily reported on how she bought votes to boost a story to the front page of Digg, but probably would have felt guilty if she'd hired a service to bury someone else's story. And when a Digg user organized an effort to bury Ron Paul stories that he thought were "spamming" the system, Ron Paul supporters protested that they were merely organizing to vote up stories they agreed with — the clear implication being that this was more honorable than organizing to vote stories down.

But this, I think, is a fallacy. If a story's ranking is artificially inflated, then the extra eyeballs for that story have to come from somewhere, and they come from users paying less attention to the other stories that the phony up-and-comer pushed out of the way. Artificially bumping a story up is just as harmful as artificially burying a story, but the harm is distributed among many innocent victims, not just one. (By the same reasoning, in fact, you could argue that burying a story does no net harm to other users of the Digg site, because the harm done to one story is cancelled out by the benefit to all the other stories that rise in prominence when the victimized story is pushed out of the way. So by strict economic logic, recruiting friends to boost your own story at the expense of everyone else's, is actually more harmful than organizing a bury brigade!)

So I don't think that Digg's replacing the "bury" button with a "report" button will fix the problem. For one thing, obviously groups could abuse the "report" button in the same way — issuing calls to action to report a story for violating the TOU. Since a flurry of bona fide abuse reports is presumably what Digg uses to identify and remove truly abusive stories like MLM spam, how are they going to tell the difference between these cases and cases of abusive "reporting"? (My suggestion: See if there is a sudden change in the percentage of users who view a story and make an abuse report. For stories that are genuine TOU violations, the percentage of users who "report" it should remain steady; for stories that are victimized by a "report brigade," you'll see a sudden spike in viewers and in the percentage of those viewers who report the story for abuse. This might have worked for detecting and stopping the bury brigades as well, although we'll never know now.)

But more fundamentally, even if this change does stop the "bury/report brigades" from killing stories at will, that only fixes the most obvious symptom of the underlying problem, which is that the system can be gamed by recruiting your friends to vote either way. It won't stop "brigades" from artificially promoting shallow stories that agree with their opinions, which does the same net harm overall.

Indeed, the most long-term harm that the DiggPatriots Yahoo Group might have done is that their cheating was so egregious that it makes other examples of cheating look benign by comparison, and might prevent people from realizing that "benign cheating" is just as harmful. As detailed in the Alternet report, the DiggPatriots group talked openly about cycling through different Digg accounts and circumventing bans on their IP addresses. The welcome message to the Yahoo Group told new users that the group was operating "under the radar." The group leader, a woman with the handle "bettverboten," talked about how to prevent Digg from monitoring their actions. And of course the vast majority of posts were calls to bury stories. But what if all of that had been inverted? If the group had operated in the open, while still focusing on recruiting conservative members? If each user limited to themselves to only one Digg account like they were supposed to? And if they focused not on burying stories, but on digging stories that promoted their viewpoints? Just as bad. It just doesn't sound as bad.

I still think the only way to make Digg a true meritocracy, would be to use some version of an algorithm I outlined in an earlier article, inauspiciously titled "How to Stop Digg-cheating, Forever." The gist of it is that in addition to collecting votes from friends, stories should be shown to a random subset of users on the site (perhaps in a box that occasionally appears at the top of the screen when they're logged in), who are asked to vote it up or down. The votes of a random sampling of users would be more representative of how much value the story would have to the Digg community as a whole. Even if most users who are asked to vote on a "random story" simply ignore the request, all you need is to show the story to a large enough sample that you can measure the difference in responses to a truly good story vs. one that has been promoted by digg-cheaters. You don't necessarily have to run this procedure for every story, only the ones that are about to gain some benefit from a large number of diggs (such as being pushed to the front page), and you need to decide whether the story really deserves that big boost. The only way to game that system would be to organize a group of dedicated Digg users so enormous that they constituted a significant percentage of all users on the system — something pretty hard to do without getting caught.

Still, the only site that I know of, that uses a version of this "random sampling" algorithm is HotOrNot.com, which lets you recruit your friends to vote on the "hotness" of your picture on a scale of 1 to 10 (by sending them a link to that specific picture), but also shows a stream of random pictures to visitors, so that your picture can collect votes from strangers. If the votes from the users who visit your picture via the link are significantly different from the votes from users who see your picture via the random stream, then HotOrNot discounts the votes from users who view your page via the link. This prevents digg-style gaming from people who want all their friends to give them a 10. (Note that if you think about it, this is essentially the same as always throwing out the votes from people who visit your picture via the link. If you collect votes from group A and B, but you only count the votes from group A if they agree with the votes from group B, then you're really only counting votes from group B! All the extra votes really give you is the ability to brag that X many people voted on your picture.)

This seems like the simplest way to prevent Digg-cheating, although there may be others. Still unresolved is how to solve the general problem of "gaming" in traditional media and the blogosphere. For the foreseeable future, it's going to be the simple truth that if a major media outlet wants to run a story, it will be heard, and if no media outlet wants to run it, it won't be heard, regardless of how many viewers or readers would have voted in some hypothetical poll that, yes, they want to read that story, and yes, they liked it afterward. That's true for Internet articles as well, except to the extent that a deserving article might be rescued from obscurity by Digg, but the more that system can be gamed, the less it will reward articles that really deserve it. Digg is gameable because power users can recruit votes from their friends; the media and the blogosphere are so obviously "gameable" that we don't even call it "gameable," because "power users" — media outlets and A-list bloggers — can run whatever they want. Right now, the only way I can think of to change this situation that is even logically possible, would be for a site like Digg to adopt some version of the random-sampling algorithm, and to continue growing in power until a significant percentage of the public (not just Internet users, but everybody) relied on it for information. Then, if you had something important to say, people would hear it, but you wouldn't be able to cheat your way to the top.

The ultimate irony is that Alternet's story may never have seen the light of day, if it hadn't been the beneficiary of the same gameable, non-meritocratic inefficiencies that exist in the media-blogo-outrage-o-sphere, just as they exist on Digg. Yes, the Alternet story deserved to be heard, but you don't get the publicity you deserve, you get the publicity that you organize, and Alternet had the organizational publicity structure in place to get their voice heard. If a kid blogging from his bedroom had infiltrated the Digg Patriots group and made essentially the same discovery, would anybody ever have heard about it? (Well, maybe, because of the political hot-button factor — but even then, only after the story had been picked up by a major site like Alternet.) A truly meritocratic Digg algorithm could make it possible to get a good story out without a lot of organizational support behind it — and to ensure that an organized effort can't kill a good story either.

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Buried By The Brigade At Digg

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:29PM (#33190496)

    aka worthless.

  • Re:What a joke. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Samalie (1016193) on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:38PM (#33190682)

    No.

    Burying any article/opinion just because you disagree with it is wrong. Worse, organizing large "gangs" of people who share your beliefs to bury stories against your beliefs is wrong.

    Doesn't matter who is doing it. Just because this article discusses some right-leaners buring leftist stories, doesn't mean it doesn't happen the other way, and is just as wrong.

  • Re:Left Leaning... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:41PM (#33190732)

    Ahhh slashdot, where an AC anecdote contradicting the story gets an insightful mod.

    Well as of 13 minutes after he posted he's not showing insightful. He's at -1 now. Could it be that there are people here at /. that bury comments they don't like?

    Seriously, why is everyone suddenly acting all surprised that this sort of thing goes on at places that make it possible? There wasn't much outcry at all a couple years ago when there was a bury brigade that spent all sorts of time making sure that any Digg submission regarding Little Green Footballs was blasted from the front page of Digg ASAP.

    I guess it is only an issue now because the left's ox is being gored which is a serious violation of fairness, as opposed to when the right's ox is being gored which is considered to be entirely fair.

  • Re:Haha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Abreu (173023) on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:42PM (#33190754)

    I am becoming increasingly jaded at the USian right wing and their Obamapanic

    Really guys, your president is Center-Right from the perspective of the rest of the world, and it is just sad to see him try to meet the right wing halfway in all of his policies, only to be branded a "dirty commie" over and over again...

    The USA needs Democrats with balls to propose truly liberal policy, not watered down compromises, imho

  • Re:Left Leaning... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RightSaidFred99 (874576) on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:42PM (#33190764)
    Same thing around here. For some reason the early Internet population was rightish leaning (not neo-con Right, more like small-L libertarian right), but nowadays the trend is reversed. The general population is more left leaning. Some of it may be because the US had a larger early Internet presence. I think it's also because early on it was more of the intellectual elite and now even the common rabble is out blathering their opinions on the Internet.
  • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:43PM (#33190774)
    BINGO! There you go.

    I've seen comments on Digg that were spot on about a topic regarding the facts and it would get buried into oblivion because it didn't mesh with the group think. It doesn't matter what the facts are, if you say something that doesn't jibe with what people believe, they'll consider it garbage.

    It also varies with time. Many times a topic will get posted multiple times and the same comment will be dugg high one time and then another, it will get buried into oblivion. It's a really interesting phenomena.

    We like to hear our beliefs re-enforced. If the facts match our beliefs, more the better; if they don't, well people will just consider it false - regardless of the truth.

    I see folks who condemn Talk Radio for creating opinion. I think it's the other way around. I think those guys listen to their callers and get the "pulse" of their beliefs and then just ratchet it up while including the audience's common fears and resentments - I'm not going to mention them here because I know it'll start a whole off-topic posts.

  • Well, yes... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EriktheGreen (660160) on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:46PM (#33190828) Journal

    Despite the fact that they are involve the public more directly and more immediately than any democratic or community based voting or collective decision making system has in the past, internet sites where visitors decide on something still rely on honesty and impartial decision making (with respect to the purpose of the vote) by the voters in order to produce a non skewed result.

    Like any voting process whose outcome is meant to reflect the "will of the people", voters must vote only once so everyone has an equal voice, and no voter must be unduly influenced by biased interests. To correctly reflect the views of everyone on the internet, a vote would have to include a significant random sample of internet users, which is impossible. Further, due to the nature of the Internet and web sites, even detecting a biased, stacked or invalid vote is nearly impossible.

    While this is obvious to some, it's worth stating explicitly that just because a voting process takes place on the internet doesn't mean it's fair and balanced, and just because something is posted on the internet doesn't mean that it's true.

    It can be a shock to those who believe humanity is a step away from an internet based golden age of online government where corrupt bureaucrats and overpaid staff are eliminated, but the internet is just a better way to communicate than we've had in the past. The value of communications has always depended on whom you are talking to :)

    Erik

  • Re:Haha (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Captain Splendid (673276) * <<moc.liamg> <ta> <didnelpspac>> on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:55PM (#33191004) Homepage Journal
    Except that you've all built up a narrative of what you think mainstream america should be, not what it is. [mediamatters.org]
  • What? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Shivetya (243324) on Monday August 09, 2010 @12:56PM (#33191034) Homepage Journal

    If the near epileptic fit the left had over Bush didn't clue anyone in... how can you be surprised or dismayed by some from the right? After there are zealots on both sides and needless to say, their actions sell news. The news doesn't care about the majority of conservatives or liberals who act rationally, its more fun to find the loons.

    The only President the US needs is one who can stand up to Congress and beat them down with the bully pulpit and get this country's finances in order. What we have now is same crap we had with Bush for 6 years, anything goes as one party in power is always ruinous for the US

  • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:00PM (#33191094)
    As with many debates, much of this debate depends crucially on what you think Digg's tools are meant to do (what is, in philosophy, sometimes called the telos, or purpose, of a thing). If you think Digg's purpose is to show "the best" stories, then that requires a certain algorithm (e.g. rejecting votes from brigades in favor of votes from people who are apt to judge whether something is "the best"), but if your objective is to show "the most popular" stories, then a different algorithm is required (just making sure everyone only votes once).

    So there are some part's of Mr. Haselton's argument that presuppose a certain purpose to Digg, which may not actually be the purpose that the majority of Digg users care about. (Also worth thinking about is that the purpose of Digg, from the point of view of those running it, is to make money; irrespective of whether the users are happy or the best stories get on the main page...)

    The only way to game that system would be to organize a group of dedicated Digg users so enormous that they constituted a significant percentage of all users on the system — something pretty hard to do without getting caught.

    This distinctly presupposes a purpose to Digg. From the point of view of many, it doesn't make sense to "get caught" with respect to getting a "significant percentage of all users on the system" to vote a certain way. If the majority of the community is up-voting (or down-voting) a certain way, then the community's feelings are being correctly reflected in the story-ranks. (To those who consider Digg to be a popularity engine, this is perfectly fair.)

    If each user limited to themselves to only one Digg account like they were supposed to? And if they focused not on burying stories, but on digging stories that promoted their viewpoints? Just as bad. It just doesn't sound as bad.

    It's not just that it doesn't sound as bad... it's that it really isn't as bad... at least for those people who think Digg is "supposed" to be a popularity engine, where each user gets a single chance to "have their voice heard". (In this view, voting more than once is wrong; anything else is fair game.)

    Yes, if the purpose of Digg is to really find "the best material" then voting brigades are an attempt to game the system. But honestly if the purpose is to curate the best material, then it's been shown time and again that self-selected, open voting systems suck. You need to either hire curators or use tuned sampling methods (as is done on Slashdot and as is suggested by Mr. Haselton). And even these have plenty of problems with being gamed.

    All that to say that I think you need to first decide what goal you are trying to optimize for, before suggesting sweeping changes. I honestly don't think that those who run Digg, or those who use it, are really looking to have a ranking system that promotes "the best" material. They are looking for a ranking system that engages users: and a (broken) popularity system does that just fine.

  • **** Republicans (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Surt (22457) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:01PM (#33191118) Homepage Journal

    Palin is a MILF!

  • Re:tl;dr (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rwa2 (4391) * on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:03PM (#33191156) Homepage Journal

    If you've ever used StumbleUpon, it IS a simple fix... everyone rates every kind of article, and only gets notified of articles by like-minded people.

  • Catch 22 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hellfire (86129) <deviladv@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:03PM (#33191160) Homepage

    We also need a populace which will support Obama if he leans left and shows jerks like Palin just how big his balls really are.

    But that's the true problem. We have an uneducated, jaded populace that doesn't vote their heart (if they vote at all), we have two parties who don't want to lose any control on government they have to allow a major third party, and we have a bunch of fat lazy rich people who also control much of the media who want to maintain their control on government as well.

    Obama was a good choice, IMHO, but he's basically been given crap to start with, and anything less than diamonds from that crap is spun as failure by the political machine. No he's not perfect, but the entire country has been positioned as center right, and our system of checks and balances, while good, has been pushed to the right hard over the past few decades and we don't have enough force to push it back. Even if we did it will take time as our system of government was built to create "stability", and major changes are sometimes harder for no other reason than it's hard to change the status quo.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:04PM (#33191186)

    Worse, organizing large "gangs" of people who share your beliefs to bury stories against your beliefs is wrong.

    But that's exactly what Digg is designed to do.

    On Digg, you mark people as friends - and then you are allowed to "shout" instructions to them.

    So what naturally happens, is that large groups of people friend each other and "shout" to bury or digg up stories and comments. Traditionally these have been very large groups of left leaning Digg users.

    You might think it's wrong to do this but Digg was designed around the concept that you can bury people with no penalty and they make it easy to coordinate. Unlike Slashdot you can still even write comments after you bury people.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:11PM (#33191294)

    We have another name for people recruiting their friends to follow them in large, trend-setting, often totally uninformed herds. We call it modern democracy. I don't think that's a systemic problem you can really fix, and still have a "democratic" (big quotes) user-operated news source. Of course, the alternative (carefully select who can vote stories up/down, or just have an editorial board) is equally scary. Power corrupts, democracy un-educates. Same as it ever was .

  • Re:Haha (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Steauengeglase (512315) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:12PM (#33191298)

    The solution is a lot simpler. Everyone in the center has to grow a pair and call a troll when they see one. If we did, we could find compromise that could possible move us forward.

    Hell, when you boil it down the tea party is nothing but a group of griefers. Who else shows up to claim that the Bhumfarq county council is in league with Obama and the UN to put those funny black signs up on secondary highways (to obviously guide UN tanks in the upcoming invasion)?

    Not that the left doesn't have it's own crazies, but they tend to specialize in their own, very specific brands of crazy.

  • I can tell you that whatever it was 7 or 8 years ago, it was better then. The metamoderation system employed currently is, to be far too kind, a total pile of worthless steaming failure buried in horse shit. Spitballs flung across your office would be more effective tools for metamoderation on slashdot than the current system. Really the only relevant question to ask about metamoderation is why they even bother keeping it up currently, it doesn't do a damned thing.

    Although even worse is that the people who get moderator points know this and spend their points with wild abandon because they know that the metamoderation system will never, ever, ever do anything to them.

    Go ahead, try the metamoderation link [slashdot.org]. Tell me how many of those 10 comments it asks you about were even moderated at all - if your number is greater than zero you should count yourself lucky.
  • Re:Haha (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:15PM (#33191372)

    Yeah, there's a conspiracy on /. with lots of users performing organized downmods of the crackpots who rant about how it's impossible for humans to affect the environment. Because it couldn't be that you're being paranoid...

  • Re:Haha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by operagost (62405) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:17PM (#33191428) Homepage Journal

    Funny enough, the voting patterns switched after the Dem party passed the Civil Right bill back in '65... the formerly "I'll never vote Republican" voters switched at the "betrayal".

    Strange, because a greater percentage of Republicans voted for the bill.

    The Democrats had a HUGE majority back then, and the Presidency... so we know for sure who was opposing REAL progress.

  • Re:Left Leaning... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geminidomino (614729) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:20PM (#33191474) Journal

    The conservatives want to take us back to a reality that never existed and the liberals want to take us forward to a reality that will probably never exist. But, at least with the liberals, there's a possibility that it will happen, whereas the conservatives refuse to acknowledge that they don't know shit about history.

    I dunno if I'd compare them on reality so much as human nature. The so-called "conservatives" pretty much exemplify the worst aspects of human nature, realize this, and try to convince us that it's actually better that way. The poorly-named "liberals" have the same nature, but mentally twist it around into some warped denial of human nature, completely missing the fact that they themselves are maintaining the sickness that would have to be overcome to have their wonderful utopia.

  • Re:Haha (Score:2, Insightful)

    by operagost (62405) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:20PM (#33191478) Homepage Journal
    Media Matters and Campaign for America's Future? Is this supposed to be an unbiased publication? Why don't you just use Stuart Smalley's latest book as a proof text for how progressive America is?
  • Re:Haha (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:22PM (#33191520)

    Are you seriously trying to justify your fucked up definition of "mainstream" by linking to MediaMatters?

    Seriously, the surveys they use are complete bullshit.

    Asking generic questions brings out the ideologue in everyone. As soon as you verbalize the realities of the situation, you are going to get a much more reliable answer.

    For example, it is one thing to ask if someone agrees with the statement that "government should reduce income differences". You might as well add "and give everyone hugs, puppies, and a pony" to the end of that.

    A question that would be closer to reality would be "How much of your salary are you willing to give up to help government reduce income differences?" I guaran-fucking-tee you that your result is going to be in direct conflict with the question initially posed.

  • by glavenoid (636808) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:25PM (#33191580) Journal

    Yes. I'll let my .sig explain my views on this matter. Actually, on second thought the 120 character limit is, well, limiting.

    Metamoderation used to actually *do* something (I think). It allowed the metamoderator to determine whether or not the moderation was fair. It did this by posting the comment and one of its moderations, but not the handle of the person who posted the comment. In this way, the metamoderator was not instantly swayed by *who* was making the comment, and the entire point was to determine if the "+5: Funny", "-1: Troll" or "+2: Insightful" were warranted moderations.

    As it is now, I don't even know what the fuck metamoderation is supposed to do, or what it is for. I have no idea. All I know is that there is no decent explanation of what metamoderation is supposed to do, how it is going to accomplish it, or what. To those of us who used to be regular metamods, the new system is entirely broken.

  • Re:Haha (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:31PM (#33191678) Homepage

    Also they've built up a narrative about what Obama is painting him variously as a Muslim spy or an unapologetic communist, and at other times claiming he's "just like Bush" or even "too much like Bush". It's really a shocking level of inconsistency, claiming that Obama hasn't done anything very different from Bush's policies in order to associate Obama with Bush's incompetence, and then two seconds later trying to claim that Bush really didn't do anything wrong and that all of our problems were caused by Obama, Clinton, or Carter.

    In reality, Obama has been very moderate. He's been so reasonable that Republicans have had to take increasingly bizarre positions (e.g. refusing to extend unemployment, opposing their own healthcare reforms) in order to stay in opposition.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:31PM (#33191682)

    Slashdot had this problem long before Digg even existed or was even an idea.

    Slashdot actually has two systems in place that make comments much better moderated here than on Digg:

    1) Metmod. I know lots of people think metamod doesn't work, but I think it does - it's imperfect but it's the best way to avoid handing moderation to people who make moderations most people disagree with.

    2) Posting rule. This might be even more effective - the fact fact that you cannot moderate AND post. Since most people want to weigh in on a topic it means people moderating are willing to hang back and moderate up stuff the agree with, more than moderate down... yes you could bury a bunch of stuff but at the risk of posts you think are good getting buried too. This arms race means that generally more posts will get modded up.

    There's even kind of a third one, limited moderation. On Digg you can bury and upvote all day long, as much as you like - even comments have a limit on the number in a certain time period, but not digg/bury! So it'ssuper easy to bury something you only mildly disagree with instead of putting any thought into the moderation. When you have only five moderation points you think way more heavily if something is worth upvoting or downvoting.

    Basically Slashot as a whole is just way more thoughtful about moderation and encourages moderators to really think about what they are doing, Digg does none of that.

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:35PM (#33191740) Homepage

    Fortunately, in the long run, they're probably shooting themselves in the foot. The only reason anyone would go to Yelp is to get unbiased reviews. As it becomes more bias, it becomes less useful, and they'll probably lose their audience to someone doing a better job.

  • by Elfich47 (703900) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:38PM (#33191788)
    The Bury Brigade is effectively bumping anything they don't bury. As a result the entire site appears to lean in the direction that they desire. It is much more insidious than bumping because after the Bury brigade has been through, new viewers don't know that there were alternate choices/view points available.
  • Solution I found (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tiger32kw (1236584) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:40PM (#33191816)
    I figured out a solution about two year ago.. I just stopped visiting the site and the problem went away.
  • Re:Haha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dgatwood (11270) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:42PM (#33191834) Homepage Journal

    Actually, a significant group of Democrats were strong supporters of Lincoln's position in the war. No surprise since even back at that time, both political parties shared some significant common roots, having both been formed by pulling together members from the same basic set of defunct parties that existed previously. The party divisions were (and to an extent, still are) largely arbitrary.

    As for the "pro-slavery" Democrats, one could reasonably argue that this was the last time in the history of our country when politicians actually represented the views of their constituents.... Not that their constituents weren't wrong, but it's hardly fair to blame the politicians for actually doing their jobs (for once)....

    And to be fair, it was never about keeping their slaves, but rather to protect states' rights to decide whether or not to allow slavery. You know, the same sort of states' rights agenda that Republicans are pushing at the moment. Humorously, even in the Civil War era, the Republicans' view on states' rights depended solely on which party held the most power in the Federal Government. When Federalists were in power, they screamed "States' Rights!" at the top of their lungs, claimed to be for a smaller (federal) government, and generally tried to impede the Federalists' progress. The moment Republicans came into power, they took as much power as they could get and no longer cared about anyone's rights. Sound familiar? It should. It still happens in both the Democratic and Republican parties today, with just as much vigor.

    And like most governmental issues today, there was a lot of money involved in the slavery debate. No surprise, again, that at least initially, the wealthy slave owners won, keeping their power, up to the point of splitting off into a separate country. It would have remained that way, were it not for somebody standing up, saying "No, this is wrong", and being willing to take the country to war to make the point.

    But in the end, they shot him for it. Who is standing up now? Certainly not the Republicans, and certainly not the Democrats. Today, the people with the money win, because everyone is looking for the next big handout and no one wants to take a bullet.

    These days, neither party cares in the slightest about states' rights except when they can use it to their political advantage. It's all just a charade to ensure that neither party every truly has to answer to the public as a whole. Don't blame me. I Voted for Kodos. At least a cartoon character is a real change from what we have now.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:50PM (#33191960)

    no-one else ever saw the articles

    Don't forget the articles were originally somewhere on a real site, where people read them (like, Huffington Post). And the Digg button was right there... so no small number of people would be sufficient to overwhelm even a moderate number of people who read a site regularly and used the Digg button. It's not like burying a story on Slashdot where you would have no way to know Slashdot might have been talking about a story.

    That's one of the things that strikes me as really funny about the complaint, is that you naturally had large groups of people working moderations for a story just because of the Digg button. You could only bury stuff from small sites that no-one was visiting enough to Digg up anyway!

  • Re:Haha (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:50PM (#33191964) Journal

    The USA needs Democrats with balls to propose truly liberal policy, not watered down compromises,

    The funny thing is Democrats weren't compromising with Republicans, they were compromising with other Democrats. They had to compromise because those Democrats were afraid they would get voted out if they moved too far to the left, and they were probably right. Even someone like Harry Reid who has served his state well for years, is in danger of losing his seat based on what he's already done (he would lose it for sure if his opponent weren't the Martha Coakley of the right).

    Something a lot of people don't understand is that the reason US politicians are center-right or right compared to other parts of the world is because US citizens are center-right or right compared to other parts of the world. This is how democracy works.

  • Re:Catch 22 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by inKubus (199753) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:52PM (#33191992) Homepage Journal

    Bush had 9/11 and Iraq, arguably both were capitalized on to avoid checks and balances. It's funny when Obama passes health care the crazies fear socialism but when Bush increases the size of the government by 50% after 9/11 and they didn't even look twice, flying their flags on their SUVs.

    Obama needs another four years so he can actually do some real socialism. This is really the modern way to provide basic human needs and it is possible to be fair with the increased real-time statistics and data reporting (social intelligence) being built as we speak. I think the U.S. is tending to be more socialist as we realize that some of this is possible to do right with government guidance (if not total service). There are lots of examples where a free market with pure competition is just not possible, and health care is one of them.

    The crazies are supporting a borderline fascist policy put forth by the republican mainstream for 8 years, where corporations can do no wrong. At the same time they were increasing the size of the goverment, except only the part that serves the corporations and their interests (security, defense, empire-building, etc)! But thanks to the evangelical base, whose leadership is probably not even Christian, they have a decent sized force of 2-3 million that will do just about anything "for the lord" so they can make it look a lot bigger than it is (this story being a good example)

    Between the two you have the vast majority of americans who don't have feelings on the matter and vote with their pocketbooks. Obama has not raised taxes on the middle class. He's really sending a ton of money back to the people (yes, they are borrowing it from the future, but Reagan invented this), and he's helping America to modernize and provide streamlined services for all it's citizens. He's the first techie president. However, you gotta be careful what you do for labor unions. We are probably better off with regulated labor unions and more jobs just to keep people off the streets. Of course, the real reason those jobs are being lost is that the crazies don't feel the need to obtain advanced education, which means they aren't real useful in a modern economy about moving stuff at highly lean and efficient paces, with lean manufacturing hopefully done by robots so you can "hire and fire" just by flipping a switch.

    So, crazies: get an education, enjoy your free health care and stop being racist--it's so 60 years ago.

  • by ZeRu (1486391) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:52PM (#33191998)

    Digg began to suck really hard during 2008 election phase, which attracted alot of left-wing Obama lovers and hasn't recovered ever since, since most conservative and libertarian members left during that time (since it was no longer for them to discuss anything political without being called all sorts of names).

    I remember the times when Ron Paul was popular and those were much better times. Today, if you wish to go there, it's best to stick to images of lolcats and avoid any threads with political discussion, because if you don't agree with majority, you'll be buried into oblivion.

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday August 09, 2010 @01:58PM (#33192086)

    Digg's and Slashdot's faults are pretty much the same: they use a moderation system that doesn't allow the end-user to filter out bad moderators.

    That's sort of correct, but in the end wrong.

    Because the Slashdot moderation system is designed to automatically filter out bad moderators, over time. Sure the user cannot do it but the user shouldn't have to.

    Meta moderation can identify people whose moderations are undone more often than not, and simply not hand them moderation. With Digg you have no governance over who can moderate, ever.

  • Re:Haha (Score:3, Insightful)

    by computational super (740265) on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:05PM (#33192220)
    Democrats are way ahead of you. They're choosing to support policies that are failing miserably in Europe (and everywhere else).
  • Re:Left Leaning... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:07PM (#33192254) Journal
    For the last 5 years or so 'left' or 'right' was determined by whether you supported Bush or not, specifically as related to the wars. Debates about economics gave way to debates about surges and leaked videos. And most of America was upset about Bush tricking us into attacking Iraq, so it's not surprising that most people online appeared opposed to Bush as well. Even if you were a libertarian, a lot of your posts might appear liberal, because you opposed Bush. Hating Bush almost became a national dementia.

    Now, for various reasons the political debate has focused back on economic issues, and people are finding they aren't on the left when it comes to economics.
  • Re:Haha (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zach_the_lizard (1317619) on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:08PM (#33192258)
    In Spanish, the word for American is basically "United States-ian" (estadounidense), so perhaps the GP comes from that background.
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:11PM (#33192326)

    That's why people cry about it. You find that most groups think something is ok when they do it and evil when the other guys do it. I've had lefties tell me that trying to suppress righty speed is "Preserving free speech," and righties tell me that Obama is an asshole for having government secrets but that Bush had to have them to keep us safe.

    What it comes down to is the zealots believe they have the One True Way(tm). Because of that, whatever is necessary in defense of that way is acceptable. The ends justify the means and so on. Likewise, because they are the One True Way, the Other Guys are just plain wrong, Anything they do is evil and must be stopped.

    So, since Digg is heavily lefty biased, they will of course scream and bitch should any righties try to use the system against them. When the suppress righty shit it is for the greater good, when the righties suppress lefty shit it is because they are evil.

    The mentality of zealots is generally extremely close. It is just the particular ideology they subscribe to that is different. The methods and thought process are the same.

  • Re:Haha (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:14PM (#33192378)

    Using "American" to describe those from the United States of America is correct. Just because there are continents named North America and South America does not make Brazilians "Americans". See how the word "Brazilian" is a derivative of the word "Brazil"? Same for "Chilean"/"Chile", "Columbian"/"Columbia", "Peruvian"/"Peru", "Panamanian"/"Panama", "Guatemalan"/"Guatemala", "Canadian"/"Canada"? Citizens of all those countries (and more!) are not FROM America just because their country happens to be on a continent that INCLUDES the word "America". Only the Australians and Indians are lucky enough to have whole continents named after them (well, in the case of the Indians, it is technically a sub-continent, but I would argue this is still more "special" than the relationship between the monikers "United States of America" and "North America"). If Americans ran around calling themselves "North Americans", then I suppose I could cede that you'd have an argument since Mexicans and Canadians are also "North Americans". However, the designation "American" clearly generically refers to any citizen of the United States of America. So quit bitching about how Americans somehow consider themselves "star-bellied" by using the term "American" to refer to citizens of the United States of America.

  • Re:Haha (Score:2, Insightful)

    by halivar (535827) <bfelger@nOsPaM.gmail.com> on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:22PM (#33192530) Homepage

    Yeah, somebody please tell ze Deutschen they can't call us Amerikaner anymore; because it's unfair to the... Mexicans? Canadians? Who gives a shit?

    Shrill anti-American nonsense. Some petty, vindictive attempt at taking something, anything at all, from a country they feel powerless to make real their fever-dream revenge fantasies.

    Note that most such people are, themselves, American. Because most foreigners I know don't really give a crap about America. Their world does not revolve around us the way histrionic American leftists imagine it does.

  • Re:What? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:24PM (#33192576) Homepage Journal

    If the near epileptic fit the left had over Bush didn't clue anyone in.

    Wait, are you comparing the widespread criticism of George W. Bush with the Right's reaction to President Obama? Seriously? You think they're equivalent? You think there was this kind of nuttiness over Bush?

  • Re:Haha (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:28PM (#33192642)

    proportionally republicans voted in greater numbers for the civil rights act than the dems. It just seems odd to me how the dems are constantly given all the credit for that.

  • Re:That's odd (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nedlohs (1335013) on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:35PM (#33192788)

    That's a pretty shitty world you want to live in.

    The smart people who actually research things and tend to follow evidence are supposed to leave the political debate to the idiots who just care about the next election.

    What a wonderful system that would be. Oh wait a minute, that'd be what America has at the moment. How is that working out?

    And let me guess it is fair and balanced to hear from "John Smith PhD" on one side of the argument and "John Jones who read the data published by John Smith and has a better idea but never bothered with elitish University" on the other. Equal time!

  • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:50PM (#33193028) Homepage Journal

    It wasn't juet the left that had near epileptic fits; I've voted for as many Rs as Ds, and it's my opinion that Bush was the worst President I've seen in my lifetime, and I can remember when Eisenhower was in office (my first vote in a Presidential election was for Nixon).

    I never thought I'd see a worse President than Carter, but I was proven wrong. Bush has Carter beat by a mile as worst. Under Bush's oversight we were attacked, gasoline went from $1 a gallon to $4.50 (he and Cheney were oil men... Hmmm...), we went to war in Iraq on false information, a balanced budget turned into the biggest deficit in history, unemployment doubled under his watch, we went into the worst recession in my memory, the nation's infrastructure crumbled, and that's off the top of my head. Off the top of my head I can't think of one single thing he did right.

    He was simply a shitty President, period.

  • Netflix Prize (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Baldrson (78598) * on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:58PM (#33193168) Homepage Journal
    The way to fix the problem is the Netflix Prize [wikipedia.org] algorithms:

    If a cabal forms then they'll benefit by being shown what they want shown. No one else will be hurt. Indeed the "bury" signal from such a cabal is useful to the opponents of the cabal because the Netflix Prize algorithms just strengthen the a negative correlation. In other words, if you hate the cabal, a "bury" signal from them is a "like" signal to you and others similar to you.

    Of course, this kind of relativistic prediction of preferences has been obvious for many years now. The only question is: Why has it taken so long for collaborative content sites to realize it is not just "a" solution -- it is "the" solution?

    I have my ideas about the answer to that question, but suffice it to say, the vast majority of collaborative content sites have priorities that aren't really about collaborative content.

  • Re:Haha (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fishexe (168879) on Monday August 09, 2010 @02:59PM (#33193188) Homepage

    It's even an issue here at Slashdot, too. If you suggest that xkcd isn't a funny comic strip, you'll catch a whole load of shit, and your comment will be at "-1, Troll" before you know it.

    Someone's a bit sore, eh? I've never seen that happen. I have seen spurious downward mods, but any anti-XKCD troll I've seen was a legit troll, and any criticism of XKCD I've seen which had, you know, actual thought put into it and a reason for criticizing XKCD got modded up. So next time, try being a bit wittier, say something of value, and odds are you won't get hit with "Troll" even if you slaughter a sacred cow.

  • Re:Haha (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rsborg (111459) on Monday August 09, 2010 @03:01PM (#33193214) Homepage

    Strange, because a greater percentage of Republicans voted for the bill.

    Yet, more Democratic representatives and senators voted for it [wikipedia.org]. What's your point?

    The Democrats had a HUGE majority back then, and the Presidency... so we know for sure who was opposing REAL progress.

    Sure we do, it was the South (both Dem and Rep) [wikipedia.org], where institutionalized racism and bigotry had never really left.

  • Re:Haha (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @03:07PM (#33193344)

    Yes, and that bill is part of the reason the parties are aligned ideologically the way they are. It was written by John F. Kennedy and pushed through the Senate by his vice president, Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy was assassinated and Johnson signed it. Johnson remarked that said by signing that bill he had lost the South for the Democratic Party for a generation.

    But now that it's a popular bill that everyone knows was the right thing to do, Republicans want to take credit for it.

  • Re:Haha (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:30PM (#33194906)

    How about Michael Steel, the official head of the Republican Party?

    You need to go deeper than that. Lyndon Johnson nominated the first black man to the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshal, and by all accounts he was an excellent judge. Thereafter, Clarence Thomas, a conservative hack, was nominated by George H W Bush.

    The history includes Franklin D Roosevelt trying to realign the parties, Harry Truman integrating the armed forces by fiat, John F Kennedy proposing civil rights, Lyndon Johnson making it happen, George Wallace starting his own little party, Strom Thurmond switching from D to running as a segregationist to ending up an R, Nixon's southern strategy, Reagan's campaign against welfare queens driving welfare cadillacs, and certainly by the mid '80s the parties took their currently recognizable forms.

  • by Xaositecte (897197) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:48PM (#33195336) Journal

    Are you still having flashbacks to the pools without permits getting found by google maps story?

    There were a few good points by libertarians, and a lot of honest-to-god trolls.

    The problem with most of them wasn't their opinions, it's that they were an asshole about it.

  • by eth1 (94901) on Monday August 09, 2010 @04:52PM (#33195440)

    Maybe Slashdot should add "+1 agree" and "-1 disagree" mod options, and then silently ignore them.

    Then the people using the other +/- options as agree/disagree will use the more direct options that don't actually do anything.

  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Monday August 09, 2010 @05:10PM (#33195872) Homepage Journal

    ...by simply getting rid of the negative moderations and starting at zero.

    The vast majority of -1 votes here are no more than "disagree" or "failed to comprehend" votes. I've seen it over and over again; someone takes the time to write a decent post, and some wag comes in and hits it -1, which is never corrected, and the post is lost to most readers.

    Up-voting would raise any post that *any* moderator felt had merit, because no "+1 agree/interesting/useful" vote could ever be countered. And THAT in turn means that finally, taking the time to moderate is worthwhile - because your work can't be undone, and posts that have merit would rise despite the fact that the content might be disagreeable and/or controversial.

    And if anyone ever up-voted a true troll... GNAA, frost piss, etc., that's when the site moderators could step in and flag that account "no mod points."

    Slashdot moderation could actually work if it was strictly upwards trending. As it is, it's laughable - you have to browse at -1 to see the most interesting posts, those that carry views that are not mainstream. And the first thing that does is expose you to GNAA, etc.

    It's really too bad. Slashdot could be so much better than it is.

    As for Digg... I really don't care. It's like the E Entertainment channel of the Internet over there. Full of content signifying nothing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 09, 2010 @05:37PM (#33196388)

    Dissent is only a threat if it comes from the right. If it comes to the left, it's the highest expression of patriotism.

    What is this shit and why is it moderated +4? Seriously, I'm a fucking Republican and I know this post is a fucking troll.

  • by OutOfMyTree (810249) on Tuesday August 10, 2010 @05:34AM (#33201548)

    There is a very fuzzy border between "-1 Disagree" and "-1 Actively Misleading". We do need some way to signal that the poster is playing fast and loose with objective fact. On Digg or Reddit without downvotes you could simply add a comment explaining your doubts -- though I would do that a lot less often than I downvote on those grounds, would we get a lot of one rude word comments? -- but on Slashdot a moderator with expert knowledge in a topic would have to choose whether to abandon all his mods for that thread just to make a correction of fact for one comment.

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