Jerks of the Web

Social Crowdhacking

If you tend to put your faith in the wisdom of crowds, you risk being deceived. Consider the anonymously run Web site User/Submitter, for example.

The site takes advantage of Digg's news-ranking system, which allows its registered users to vote on stories they find particularly interesting. User/Submitter acts as a go-between, connecting people who want their stories to feature prominently on Digg with users who can vote for them. The controversial part? The site charges publishers for getting their stories promoted on Digg, and pays readers a smaller amount for "digging" those stories. The system calls into question the authenticity of Digg's top stories and, likely, yields a nice payday for whoever runs User/Submitter.

While there's simply no way to tell whether a User/Submitter post is real, a few folks have managed to scam Digg and similar sites without the help of such a middleman. In November 2006 a news item entitled "Just out from Reuters 650,000 PS3s to be recalled!!" hit Digg's front page.

The story, which at least 841 Digg users recommended, claimed that Sony's game console had a fatal flaw in its graphics processors, that the units would have to be recalled, and that shortages were likely. It was, of course, a complete fake. The author, who goes by the screen name "balzizras," later posted to a forum, saying:

I got my fake story to the front page of digg

ATTN: This is satire, none of this actually happened.

And it crashed my forum ;(

Actually it crashed my whole host, their main site is down too.

take a look:

http://digg.com/gaming_news/Just_out...to_be_recalled

Im [sic] shocked it actually got there. It's kinda funny anyway, some of those people are flamming [sic] me left and right.

Eventually, Digg users caught on, and Digg's logs dumped the story. But before that happened, reports The Mu Life blog, Digg users had continued to recommend the story, despite the comments on the post calling it out as a hoax:

"And this fake article made it to the home page? Nice 'algorithm' Digg."

"This is FAKE! It's [a] made-up forum post, stop digging it! Mark as Inaccurate."

The Mu Life's Muhammed Saleem later asked: "Is bias in social media so strong that people will believe anything (as long as it is pro-Apple, or pro-Nintendo, anti-Microsoft, or anti-Sony, and so on...)? This instance does show us that because of community bias, the community may not be a perfect tool for editorial control, but does this allow us to make the case for having professional (hired) editors/moderators on socially driven news sites?"

Blogs: Personal or Promotional?

Blogs are supposed to be the ultimate expression of unvarnished personal opinion. But some writers are turning their blogs into little more than high-tech sandwich boards. PayPerPost, for instance, is a service that hooks advertisers up with bloggers willing to glorify their wares. In one "recent opportunity" listed on the home page, you could receive $5 just for writing an entry in your blog about Ultimate Paintball.

According to the site, top bloggers have made upward of $1000 each in a recent month. The company's pitch is "Get paid to blog about the things you love!" But is it an honest endorsement if you're getting paid for it?

Take the following example of a post written on one PayPerPost user's blog, Everybody Go To. It sounds less like a post written out of love and more like what it really is--an ad:

Choices, Choices - Where Do I Host?

Posted by Hyder on February 13th, 2008

If you are looking into moving web hosts or just shopping around for a new one, the web hosting choice site could help solve your problems.

The site is very simple to use. Simply enter how much you would like to spend monthly on hosting. How much diskspace and bandwidth you're looking for and search for it. You are then shown a list of choices, from various hosting companies and all the features that you were looking for. Each host also has a rating, don't know where they get that figure from though. One thing is for sure, there are more hosting companies out there than I have even heard of!

You get further information about each plan as you click on it. If you like what you see, click and sign up. I'm set with hosting for now, but I'll probably give the site a go when I'll be shopping for my other domains soon.

*Sponsored Presentation*

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