Digg has recently unbanned a host of domains, and a list of them can be found over at at ProNet Advertising. But what does this mean? Mike Arrington had a chat with Kevin Rose, and he surmises its because Digg is getting “better” at preventing grouping behaviour. That is —
The changes they’ve made to Digg over the last few months, Rose says, allow them to monitor grouping behavior and stop it before it can drive a story to the home page. Thus, there is no real need to ban any particular site from Digg. They are confident that if a story from a previously banned site makes it to the home page, it deserves to be there.
I’ve been following this sort of phenomenon at Digg with a keen interest for some time. Kevin Rose has made a good move in addressing the banning process. But there’s one thing it doesn’t address.
Starting from the beginning though — what Kevin Rose is actually saying is that the algorithms they’ve been working on are so improved that they don’t need to rely on a clumsy method of quality control — the automatic banning of domains. Its been known since November 2006 that Digg has an automatic banning algorithm that kicks in when a certain number of stories from a given domain have been marked as “buried”. The exact number that require burying was speculated, but at the end of the day it was a clumsy method of self-policing as it led to many high-quality blogs being labeled as “spam”, “buried”, then subsequently banned — for reasons that were more revealing of group prejudices toward certain content (or even blogs) than the presence of “spam”.
While the idea of the necessity of having false positives in any kind of detection scheme is a valid one, one criticism that I had is that once a domain was banned it was almost impossible to get it re-instated. There was no method to argue your case, and in may cases, there was no explanation for why it was banned in the first place.
Now that Digg has gotten rid of its “banning” policy because of its confidence in its ability to police “positive” grouping behaviour, it remains to be seen how good it is about “negative” grouping behaviour. That is, how it will prevent groups from abusing the “bury” button in the same fashion that got people banned in the first place — sometimes, unjustly so. Some people have labeled this sort of behaviour the “bury brigade” in action.
And for bloggers who have a keen eye on Digg this is important because it allows groups of individuals to express their distastes and prejudices in a negative fashion. And one of those prejudices is often against the idea of blogs themselves being submitted as entries — for a variety of reasons. At the end of the day, unbanning is a smart idea.
But there’s nothing I’ve seen, or heard anyone comment on, that suggests anything has been done to address negative “grouping” strategies, because the bury brigade remains in full force. Try writing something negative about Digg, for example, submit it to Digg, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.