Now that clickstream is cashflow, I guess it was
inevitable that the newest, freshest tools that purported to allow the vox
populi to be heard & spread the word, are being subverted by that Ol’
Debbil Mammon and his eager webservants.  I had blogged earlier about the war taking
place over at Digg (and no doubt spreading to the other “Hey, let’s all vote
for the best stories! It’s democracy in action! Information wants to be free!”
sites).  Now Techcrunch reports that because of the popularity of Digg, that: 

…it’s no surprise that people are setting up systems to
game it. The newest attempt is called Spike
the Vote
. It’s easy to wag your finger at them and say “shame on you,” but
Digg is going to have to deal with threats like this if the content on its
front page is going to mean anything.

Well, hell. I can see the temptation. Everyone wants traffic, attention, Spike
clicks and
of course, Indiana Jones’ fabled “fortune and glory.” And if you posit that one of the core tenets
of the blogosphere appears just to the right of this message – and on every
other blog of note … yeah, I’m talking about the “blogroll” which is the
blogger equivalent of the “friends” function on MySpace … then it would seem to
be a small hike over to “Hey, all us guys group up and vote in an organized way
for each other’s stories, and we’ll all benefit from the fat traffic stream.”

Is that so wrong?

Well … I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, if you genuinely have a
message that needs to be heard, the web is one of the few places left where you
can kick up a fuss and have someone pay attention (let’s not forget where the
Rep. Foley story came from … or the “Rathergate” memos … or [fill in blank
here, I don’t have time]). The problem
is that the Inevitable Duo of Messers Death & Taxes are looking a lot like
they are going to have to be a troika, with the new ubiquitous inevitable
occurrence being Spam.

Any new piece of web real estate that purports to be open
to all … sooner or later gets inundated with Spam.  The harder we work to put up Spam filters, the
more ingenious the Spammers will get. And when the returns from wideband Spam floodings starts getting choked
off, then the Spammers will find new & greener pastures, where the guards
and gates and filters haven’t been erected yet. Noxious weeds choking off the once-verdant fields.

Take a gander at the comments section for Tila Tequila
over on MySpace
. Nothing but spam.
Desperate freaks trying to scarf the traffic crumbs from the most popular girl
on MySpace post messages that are nothing but the same four or five words over
and over and over again. And they post
those messages over and over. And when
you ban that person … they just create a new identity and start all over

Just like spammers.

And now we come to the part that is making me

Spike the Vote
claims to be “a bulletproof way to cheat Digg.” Instead of payment changing
hands, users will submit their URLs to the system and everyone participating
will receive a list of stories to Digg. 80% of those stories will be randomly
selected from Digg, the other 20% will be the stories submitted for gaming by
Spike the Vote users. This is intended as a way to ensure anonymity for participants.

Here’s the question: How much longer are we going to be
able to maintain the anonymity of the web in the face of these increasingly
dedicated scammers/spammers/networms?

Because that’s what’s at the core of all of this. That and the low barrier to entry (Open
Ever/Closed Never) … the combination invites abuse.  In the analog world, there are consequences to
actions – yeah, you can go on the run for a while and construct new identities
(at least until you crash your Ferrari Enzo), but it’s a little harder to pull
it off. Is the solution to start
snarfing up the “unique hash” from your computer/CPU/motherboard and use that to
identify you when you start pulling shit?

Man, I’m not sure I like that answer. One of the advantages of the web has been its
anonymity – the promise that you can reinvent yourself here in ways that are
not available to you outside cyberspace. And god knows, I’ve said a few things in the heat of passion/rage/ennui
at 2 a.m. with a snootful of Johnny
Walker that I’d hate to be called to account for.

I’ll give Spike the Vote the last word (from Newreddignet):

Hi, I’m the creator of Spike the Vote. Thank you for the blog. I would like to answer this question:

“What is the future of all of these social bookmarking sites like mine, netscape, diggs, reddits?”

My system is unable to game reddit because votes aren’t made public,
hence they can’t be verified. However, I’d like to add Netscape and to the list of bookmarking sties to game.

As for the bots on Digg, I believe bots and humans are sharing the
same accounts. I befriended the top users, and now whenever I submit a
story it only takes about 1 hour for all of them to Digg me up. Monitor
a top Digg user and you’ll find that they Digg around the clock.

They use a bot to digg up all of their friends and expect the same
thing in return. Submitting stories, on the other hand, takes an actual
person. They use the same account for both.

I just started using Iopus Internet Macros to Digg all of my friends’ submissions, just like them.


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