Digg’s Kevin Rose Fails To Stop The Bury Brigade
After a week of questions about Digg’s "Bury Brigade," Digg founder Kevin
Rose has come in with some public
comments about the system and the "alleged" brigade. Unfortunately, they’re just
comments — not solutions to protect Digg from the actual brigade I myself can
see. More about that in the article below, plus how buries work and can be
For any story at Digg, you can see who voted for it — who dugg it. You use
the "Who Dugg or Blogged It" tab like shown highlighted in the red box below:
That provides some transparency into the Digg system, making it somewhat
possible for those participating in the Digg "digital
media democracy" to see if there are any
patterns among friends that they might be concerned about (for more about
friending at Digg, see our
Digg Friending 101 & The
Top Diggers List article).
For any Digger, you can also see what they’re voting for. You go to their
profile page, click on the Dugg link, and you’ll see their history:
The problem is that you can’t see the opposite activity — the bury activity
that people are doing. That makes no sense. If Digg’s going to be open about who
is voting, it should be as open about who is knocking down stories. That’s
especially so given how people will abuse the bury system.
Let’s talk buries, then abuse. At the top of any story on Digg, you’ll see a
button called Bury. If you click on it, options appear:
Here’s a closer look:
- Duplicate Story
- Wrong Topic
- OK, This is Lame
As I covered in my
Diggers Can’t Handle The Truth (About SEO) story, from comments people make
on Digg, you can sometimes tell that they are choosing the wrong bury option.
They might dislike a story and so report it as "Spam." That’s sort of like doing
a Google search for "global warming," seeing a listing disputing global warming
and reporting to Google that the site owner is trying to spam Google. They
aren’t. They just have a view you don’t agree with. You might consider them
"lame" as Digg allows, but that’s completely different from labeling someone a
spammer, some type of pseudo-criminal simply because you disagree with them.
Buries have been in the news a lot this week:
- Digg Bury Expose was
a site from David LeMieux trying to let people peer into bury activity, out at
the same time as the article above, out this week
The Bury Brigade Exists, and Here’s My Proof from Pronet Advertising
kicked off this week’s look at activity suggesting a group of people might
downplay stories, after tapping into the site above
Supernova17 Get Banned for Submitting a Controversial Story? at Digg
covers a top user at Digg who appeared banned after submitting the
The Bury Brigade Exists, and Here’s My Proof article to Digg. The user is
back — I never found a clear explanation of what happened. I do know many are
complaining that stories about buries at Digg continue to be buried.
Hunting Down Digg’s Bury Brigade at Wired reprinted an
article from NewAssignment.Net looking into the bury brigade allegations.
The original article, yes, was buried at Digg. The reprint at Wired is one of
three different articles about Digg right now (see also
Bought Votes on Digg and
Mob). Wired owns Digg-competitor Reddit
and now is coming under
of being too hard and unfair to Digg. I can understand the concerns about the
inherent conflict. But many of the points in the Wired stories are perfectly
Buries have fascinated me this week because of my past experience with them.
We’ve had several stories go popular on Digg — in fact –
earlier this week. But I’ve also seen stories start to rise in popularity
then just disappear through the bury process, for no apparent reason. As a site
owner, you want to know why exactly your content — which Digg itself says it
wants by encouraging you to install
its buttons — is being knocked down. And you kind of want to know who is
doing it, to see if you’re being unfairly or unreasonably targeted.
I’ve especially wanted to know this for the past two days. That’s because
we’re now having all stories routinely buried. I’ll explain this, plus show how
to tell if your own stories are being knocked out.
To check on stories from a particular domain, just enter the domain without
the http:// portion into the Digg advanced
search box, like this:
Set the first drop down option to use either "Title, Description and URL" or
"URL Only." Either option is fine. Then you’ll get back all the stories
submitted from that site by Diggers over the past seven days.
Here’s the look for Search Engine Land:
The screenshot only shows the most recent stories submitted by those at Digg. In all,
there were 12 in the last seven days. One of the stories about
search engine freshness,
the one at the top, became popular. Excellent. I hope those on Digg found the
Now look closely at the search box at the part I’m highlighting:
See the "Include Buried Stories" option? Let me
rerun my search with that enabled:
Now there are 23 stories. Using that option reveals that 11 stories have been
buried over the past seven days. Actually, 11 stories have been buried just over
the past two days, if you look closely. Every story someone has submitted from
us since we last went popular on Digg has been knocked down.
I’m not saying all these stories deserve to go popular. In fact, only one of
them really got enough votes to likely do that — ironically, my
Monitoring Buries At
Digg story. But did they all deserve to be buried? Every story in the past
That type of activity effectively makes the site banned from Digg, but Digg
doesn’t have to do the dirty work. To Digg’s credit, Kevin
writes today of what
others have already seen, that sites previously wiped out through banning
have been let back in, and that Digg might not be so heavy-handed in the future:
I also want to point out a couple of important changes to the way Digg
blocks URLs that have been reported by our users repeatedly as SPAM or that
violate the Digg Terms of Service. We have tweaked some systems so that Digg
is now able to be much more granular in the way it blocks offending content,
so that Digg doesn’t necessarily need to block entire domains or subdomains.
But as I said, while Digg might not be blocking say the searchengineland.com
domain, the bury activity I’m watching over the past two days is still having
that impact. This goes to the beginning of Kevin’s post:
Just wanted to post real quick about some stories I’ve seen in the
blogosphere regarding an alleged ‘bury brigade’ on Digg and on the Digg site
For the same reason that we don’t expose all of our back-end methodologies
for the Digg promotional algorithm, we also don’t expose the details of how
the burying algorithm works. We spend a lot of time
analyzing our data and understanding how people Digg and bury content. We
have spent the last 2.5 yrs building systems that ensure a diverse group of
users promote or bury stories.
For what it’s worth, and to shift the blame off of the users
listed here – quite a
bit of this data was gathered inaccurately as the
author states in the Digg comments. Please also note, due to the massive
number of Diggs/submissions/buries and comments, Digg spy only shows a portion
of the activity within Digg at any time.
It’s not "alleged" to me. I can see the results of a bury brigade knocking
out my stories. It’s not some coincidence. It might be a mini-brigade. There
might be multiple bury brigades in action. But you can’t tell me there’s not
some serious activity to knock out every single story from this site.
That bury brigade prevented Diggers from learning about
our story yesterday
about Google’s click fraud rate announcement. Sure, the traffic might have been
nice, but 1,400 other people DID find the article through other sources. Digg’s
loss, not mine. And really Digg’s loss, too — I can’t find ANY story on that
important topic that grew to be noticed at Digg. I especially know that Google’s
own official announcement didn’t make it. That’s because I
submitted it myself. It gathered all of six Diggs. At least, though, that
story wasn’t buried.
The not exposing "back-end methodologies" stuff — yes, I’ve heard that for
years, from the major search engines themselves. I still want to do that long
parallel between all the spam fighting at major search engines over the years
and how Digg is merely following in their footprints, especially in terms of
public comments. But I’ll do a short one now.
For years, Google deliberately held back on providing full link data out of
fear site owners might misuse the information.
became confident enough to stop that. Similarly, Google long felt telling site
owners officially if they’d been banned might reveal too much. Indeed, Google
used to talk about keeping some sites in the index not to clue in spammers in
precisely the same way Digg CEO Jay Adelson
Wired in its article this week that Digg scammers, if spotted, are invisible
rendered harmless but not banned. But today, sites can determine if they’ve got
a banning problem through tools at
Google Webmaster Central and even do
So the we’ve got to protect our secrets stuff? Been there, heard that, seen
that excuse get whittled away with more openness. Digg’s going through that same
process now, and it will be one that takes time. Not everything will go open,
either. But if you can show what people are voting for, you can show what
they’re knocking down and the reasons they are giving, so the community can
In addition, this also solves concerns that people will get inaccurate
information on their own, as Kevin’s blog post discusses. Of course it might be
inaccurate — but it wouldn’t be if Digg itself provided this.
Overall, get the buries out of the closest. Let me as a content provider
understand if someone’s targeting me. If not, at least I know I should yank down
all those Digg buttons sending you my traffic and point them to sites that show
more respect for content owners.
Postscript: Less than 15 minutes after this story was submitted to Digg, it was buried. There is no bury brigade here. These are not the droids you seek :)
Postscript 2: Digg user canewediggit comments about burying the article, flagging it as spam because a completely different article is inaccurate, in his opinion. While arguing there is no bury brigade, he also self-admits to having been at least a one-person bury brigade of his own:
i’m burying this as spam. you know why? all those “bury brigade” articles are WRONG. they have been proven WRONG. yet some people feel the need to continuously write them and report them. the data was INACCURATE, they proved nothing. and i’m getting really f-ing sick of seeing these articles every day. apparently, burying them as inaccurate wasn’t doing the trick, so now you get my spam vote. come with proof.
His comment backs up everything I said above. Stories can be buried as spam when they clearly aren’t, which is unfair to the site. Stories can be flagged as inaccurate by those who haven’t bothered to read them (this story wasn’t arguing the stats in another story on bury brigades). And showing what’s being buried would make it easier to see the actions of people who might be working against the overall community.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.
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