Why Digg fraud, Google bombing, Wikipedia vandalism will not be stopped

The leaders of each of the flawed systems--Digg, Google, Wikipedia--publicly evangelize a revolutionary worthiness of their endeavors to rationalize away claims of abuse, entrenchment, spam, falsehoods, libel, infringement…
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor
Kevin Rose reaffirms he is “defending digg from spam, artificial diggs, and digg fraud.” At the same time, however, he also reaffirms Digg’s commitment to friend-based “sharing.” While Rose puts forth a variety of planned “updates” to Digg’s algorithims, it is uncertain how self-promotional manipulation of Digg by committed bloggers, writers and Websites will be deterred.

Digg’s algorithmic stab at making Digg more of the democracy it claims to be will undoubtedly be as futile as the almighty Google’s algorithmic commitment to “the integrity of our search results.” Vandalism prone Wikipedia, for its part, is not concerned with algorithmic-based truths, or truth of any kind.

Highlighted below are excerpts of official statements from Digg, Google and Wikipedia on their not so firm commitments to truth, democracy, fair-play…


Digg Friends: Official Digg blog post by Kevin Rose, Founder Digg ; September 6, 2006

today we read a couple blog posts that highlight users digging each others stories. This is something we encourage through our friends features and will continue to expand as digg evolves. It is our goal to create a platform in which you can share and promote news that is important to you. What is changing however is how we are handling story promotion. While we don't disclose exactly how story promotion works (to prevent gaming the system), I can say that a key update is coming soon. This algorithm update will look at the unique digging diversity of the individuals digging the story. Users that follow a gaming pattern will have less promotion weight. This doesn't mean that the story won't be promoted, it just means that a more diverse pool of individuals will be need to deem the story homepage-worthy…

In the end digg is yours to control. No matter which stories are promoted, it's up to the masses to digg or bury them. If you see content you disagree with - bury it. If enough people do the same, the system will automatically remove the story.


Googlebombing 'failure': Official Google blog post by Marissa Mayer, Director of Consumer Web Products; 9/16/2005

If you do a Google search on the word [failure] or the phrase [miserable failure], the top result is currently the White House’s official biographical page for President Bush. We've received some complaints recently from users who assume that this reflects a political bias on our part. I'd like to explain how these results come up in order to allay these concerns.

Google's search results are generated by computer programs that rank web pages in large part by examining the number and relative popularity of the sites that link to them. By using a practice called googlebombing, however, determined pranksters can occasionally produce odd results. In this case, a number of webmasters use the phrases [failure] and [miserable failure] to describe and link to President Bush's website, thus pushing it to the top of searches for those phrases. We don't condone the practice of googlebombing, or any other action that seeks to affect the integrity of our search results, but we're also reluctant to alter our results by hand in order to prevent such items from showing up. Pranks like this may be distracting to some, but they don't affect the overall quality of our search service, whose objectivity, as always, remains the core of our mission.


Wikipedia:Verifiability: This page is an official policy on the English Wikipedia; last modified 7 September 2006.

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. "Verifiable" in this context means that any reader must be able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, because Wikipedia does not publish original thought or original research…

"Verifiability" in this context does not mean that editors are expected to verify whether, for example, the contents of a New York Times article are true. In fact, editors are strongly discouraged from conducting this kind of research, because original research may not be published in Wikipedia. Articles should contain only material that has been published by reliable sources, regardless of whether individual editors view that material as true or false. The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is thus verifiability, not truth.

A good way to look at the distinction between verifiability and truth is with the following example. Suppose you are writing a Wikipedia entry on a famous physicist's Theory X, which has been published in peer-reviewed journals and is therefore an appropriate subject for a Wikipedia article. However, in the course of writing the article, you contact the physicist and he tells you: "Actually, I now believe Theory X to be completely false." Even though you have this from the author himself, you cannot include the fact that he said it in your Wikipedia entry.

Why not? Because it is not verifiable in a way that would satisfy the Wikipedia readership or other editors. The readers don't know who you are. You can't include your telephone number so that every reader in the world can call you for confirmation. And even if they could, why should they believe you?

For the information to be acceptable to Wikipedia you would have to persuade a reputable news organization to publish your story first, which would then go through a process similar to peer review. It would be checked by a reporter, an editor, perhaps by a fact-checker, and if the story were problematic, it might be checked further by the lawyers and the editor-in-chief. These checks and balances exist to ensure that accurate and fair stories appear in the newspaper.

It is this fact-checking process that Wikipedia is not in a position to provide, which is why the no original research and verifiability policies are so important. If the newspaper published the story, you could then include the information in your Wikipedia entry, citing the newspaper article as your source.

Why Digg fraud, Google bombing, Wikipedia vandalsim will not be stopped:

Digg, Google and Wikipedia are invested in maintaining their “as-is” status-quo, no matter how flawed. Not one of the three powerhouses can risk diminishing public confidence in the grandiose vaunted missions each espouses. The leaders of each of the flawed systems publicly evangelize a revolutionary worthiness of their endeavors to rationalize away allegations of abuse, entrenchment, spam, falsehoods, libel, infringement…with a “net-positive” argument.

Jimmy Wales, co-founder, Wikipedia:

Wikipedia is a work in progress. Mistakes are made during the editing process -- sometimes before they have time to be corrected. There are errors in any large-scale human product. I think people have the wrong idea of how accurate traditional reference works are.

Kevin Rose, co-founder, Digg:

‘Ya see users like Digg, Del.icio.us, Reddit and Flickr because they are contributing to true, free, democratic social platforms devoid of monetary motivations.’

Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google:

Google is not a truth machine and does not represent it to be so. We do the best we can. The evidence that we have and the testing and analysis is that we do the best job of any of the search engines… So I don't think in our lifetimes we'll ever get to a perfect answer.

While Google's Schmidt may be satisfied with less than perfect answers, the inherent dangers of open, flawed Web-based systems should not be rationalized away.

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