Gaming Digg: the KoolAidGuy saga

Summary:I've been very impressed by Digg.com's rise to prominence this year and so I've been looking into the system some more.

I've been very impressed by Digg.com's rise to prominence this year and so I've been looking into the system some more. Alex Bosworth wrote a great post about the Digg system recently, which I blogged and added my comments about whether Digg would be susceptible to gaming. Well today I came across a curious saga, of an anonymous person who goes by the name of 'KoolAidGuy'. 

KoolAidGuy has been attempting to game digg.com and indeed wrote a post about it entitled Why Digg's non-hierarchical editorial control does not work and how to exploit it. But don't bother clicking on that link, because koolaidguy's blog has since been removed (it has a 404 error currently) and the only way I could view the post above was looking at Google's cache. What surprised me wasn't so much this person's post, but the intense reaction of the digg.com users to koolaidguy's exploits. More on that in a minute, but first here's koolaidguy's mysteriously disappeared post:

Why Digg's non-hierarchical editorial control does not work and how to exploit it

You may think that Digg is user controlled but that is not the case. Digg is poorly designed and highly exploitable. I am going to show you how I took control of Digg today and how easy it was. If you are a Digg admin I hope you fix this ASAP.

I have successfully promoted many stories onto the front page. I have been doing this for the past few months. The steps are easy and anybody can do it. First off I register many accounts. Today alone I have registered the following accounts.
They are seperated by login/password pairs. If you attempt to login using one of these accounts you will get an error message because they have since been banned.

With each account I started to kill stories from the front page and in the digg queue by mass reporting them. A story will be removed with about 7 reports. This is easily accomplished using a bookmarklet. And then I proceeded to digg random stories with low digg counts. Again to simplify the process I used a bookmarket.

The following is a snapshot of the stories that were mass dugg by me:

Pages 1, 2, 3

This is a snapshot of the front page. Notice how the stories that I've mass dugg dominates the front page:
When Worlds Collide, Nice webdesign showcase Digg sauce, Review of the Web's First News Channel, auto-lock your computer on start-up, REVIEW: ATI's Newest Midrange Card (Radeon X1600 XT), Technology Enabled Leather Jacket, Using Math to Beat the Market, Want to go to the movies? Expect 20 minutes of advertising first., Huge collection of old propaganda.


This is a snap shot of the diggall page sorted by most diggs. Notice the next stories to be promoted are those that I have dugged.

This is obviously a serious design flaw in Digg and should be fixed immediately. I've come to the realize that this is the method that Albertpacino uses to get his stories onto the front page. In conclusion, Albertpacino is a tool should be banned.

posted by KoolAidGuy at 1:30 AM

Now I have to admit I'm not familiar with the makeup of the Digg community, so it's not really my place to judge them. But their response to koolaidguy seemed to be ferocious. Perhaps koolaidguy deserved it, I don't know... For example check out this post on Digg entitled Why of the Koolaidguy obsession with digg?, on around 16 December:

"Today Koolaidguy has done it again, bugging digg left and right, his new tool is an autocomenter to self promote his blog where he gives hints on how he messes with digg."

Other Digg fans have blogged against koolaidguy, including this person - who's since removed his post. Again, Google Cache to the rescue:

"This is currently a front page story on digg:

Everyone who reads Digg knows of a user who calls himself KoolAidGuy. In short, this user started by showing the Digg community an error in the system, however, long after the problem became apparent, he continues to spam Digg, completely destroying it’s value.

To combat his hypocracy, we need to utilize a wonderful little tool on blogspot called “flagging”. Flaggin simply says that a certain blog contains objectional content. If the 100,000 or so Digg users all flag KoolAidGuys blog, they will have to do something about him.

Fight the evil one!

The evil ones blog. Go there, click flag.

Addition:
KoolAidGuy has a valid point, but why doesn’t he help come up with solutions? All he is doing now is ruining digg for everyone else.
Alpacino may use this flaw to front-page his stories, but his stories are often somewhat interesting. He should be stopped, but KoolAidGuy is far worse.

That was my comment on the Digg story."

I found other Digg stories about fighting "Digg spam": 

Tired Of The Digg Spam? Block This Ass With Ash's Digg/Greasemonkey Script

Simple solutions for the recently Digg Spam

Plus other solutions such as the Block a digg article script, which is described as:

"This script is more for the hard-core diggers who like to watch the queues and not just the front page.

Gives you the ability to block an article from your view or block all the articles from an person. Please lemme know what you think and if you have any ideas for it."

Then if you do a search for 'koolaidguy' in Google, the first result is yet another 404 - an article that (was?) on Digg entitled something like [ Koolaidguy Is The Kind Of Person That We Don't Want On Digg.com ].

I'm not sure what to make of all this, but the one thing that stands out is the very passionate defence of Digg by its users - against koolaidguy. Some might say it was an overreaction. It is certainly the sign of a very strong online community, that to a person they commented angrily against koolaidguy and some of them came up with anti-spam measures to protect Digg.

I'm also a bit uneasy about the Digg community's reaction too - and wondering why all these pages on Digg and elsewhere have been pulled? I'm not criticizing the digg community (if the above is anything to go by, then I don't want to feel their wrath!), but I'm curious to know more. Comments welcome.

Topics: Security

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