Spike the Vote: Another Cancer Aimed at Digg

A link on the front page of Digg means tens of thousands of visitors to your site, so 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.

You may remember a site called User/Submitter, profiled at Read/Write Web earlier this month, that lets site publishers pay the service and other users for Diggs. That service wasn’t able to prevent users from getting their accounts disabled and it shut down a few weeks ago. It attempted to reopen last week, but is still not accepting new URL submissions. Humorously, User/Submitter could be seriously undercut by Spike the Vote if both sites end up going to market.

Digg gamers often say that they are only trying to respond to the flaws in Digg – to urge the site to shore up its shortcomings. The more strident those arguments are from people building systems to profit from cheating sites like Digg – the harder they are to take seriously. Digg has its problems but it’s hard to imagine that people like this would prefer those problems be solved instead of persisting so they can profit

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.

Spike the Vote is accepting account requests and says it will launch once there are 1000 registered users. After registering for an account the site says “to help speed up the process, please blog about how to rig Digg. Thank you.” That’s certainly not what I intend to do.

There’s obviously money in social media – so it’s only to be expected that people will set aside concerns of integrity and fairness in order to get some of that money. From the now venture funded PayPerPost to these even more questionable ways to cheat Digg to the Edelman/Walmart blog with insufficient disclosure widely discussed last week – don’t expect to see this stuff come to an end any time soon. We can only hope that the general public will acknowledge the difference between the shady and legitimate sides of the new economy as it spreads through society at large. The lines aren’t always clear, but I like Digg and don’t want to see it over run with paid and scammed stories.

Will Spike the Vote take off, take down Digg or suffer the apparent fate of User/Submitter? It’s hard to say, I guess we’ll have to see once the site gets 1000 registered users.