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Trusting Users Too Much 100

Posted by kdawson
from the web-two-point-doh dept.
An anonymous reader writes to alert us to an article at Forever Geek on sites that trust users too much and the users who game them. From the article: "Trusting users is a good thing. But implicitly trusting users is no good. If Digg has moderators who approve a story before it goes live on the front page, shouldn't they have moderators checking spam reports? Social sites give so much power and emphasis on users yet a handful still have the power to wreck these sites. Until these issues are properly addressed, social sites will continue to be gamed."
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Trusting Users Too Much

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:24PM (#16092040)
    It seems like it's questioning it's existence.
  • It happens. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nametaken (610866) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:25PM (#16092049)
    Digg exists so that people can easily tell each other what they want to hear. Sometimes it's cool, sometimes it's bogus. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
    • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:29PM (#16092085) Homepage
      Digg exists so that people can easily tell each other what they want to hear.

      Unlike Slashdot, which exists so that people can easily tell each other off. Moron.

    • by raehl (609729)
      Didn't slashdot patent that?
    • Re:It happens. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by finiteSet (834891) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @07:08PM (#16093036)
      I tried Digg for a while but ultimately gave up - and I think it is because they trust the user too much. Though the average Slashdot discussion is well short of, say, an academic journal, even the worst Slashdot discussion I've read was better than the best Digg one. I'm not trying to troll: I'll explain. Allowing everybody to moderate every post of every discussion, in my experience, results in a discussion that reflects the views of the majority by silencing the views of the minority. You may disagree, but I find that Slashdot moderators put more thought into how they shape the discussion - I know that I will mark a post insightful if it shows insight, regardless of whether I agree. Furthermore, leaving the majority of Slashdot posts remain unmoderated allows more room for both sides of the debate to be heard. I know, I know, proper tweaking of settings on both Digg or Slashdot can reduce some of these problems, but in the balance between trusting the user with too much control over the conversation and too little, I think Slashdot is a lot closer to optimal.
      • Re:It happens. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by telbij (465356) * on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @08:08PM (#16093303)
        You may disagree, but I find that Slashdot moderators put more thought into how they shape the discussion - I know that I will mark a post insightful if it shows insight, regardless of whether I agree.


        I agree with this. I'm always astonished at people who talk about how shitty /. discussions are and then talk about how they've switched to Digg. The /. system is far from perfect--moderators can't always be experts--but by and large there is much more opportunity for modding up of cogent arguments that go against popular opinion. Of course you still have the issues with earlier posts getting more moderated and so forth, but I don't see how anyone can even for a second say that Digg discussion is anywhere near the level of /. Digg's strength is in volume of stories.

        That said, I think the best communities are smaller and more focused. Any large and general community is gonna be pretty ignorant about any given issue. If I'm really interested in a topic I don't want moderators to ham-fistedly attempt to pull out the knowledgeable posts. I'd rather go to a focused community where everyone has something relevant to say.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by fredrated (639554)
        I think it ramains an interesting experiment.

        Any given topic is going to be of interest to a subset of the Digg community. Within that subset, if the users were eevenly split on a topic, and equally likely to digg, undigg or ignore a given comment, a comments diggs would be a random walk centered at 1 (the submitters digg).

        Five or more undiggs and a comment doesn't show, at the default cut off. At that point a comment is less likely to be viewed by the community, only those that expand the comment.

        This wo
  • by ettlz (639203) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:25PM (#16092051) Journal
    Trust is the biggest liability of all.

    I remember once Quark had a teacher at Lobeling's (or somewhere) who trusted him to look after a room in his absence (or something). Only this teacher had pictures in his draw. Pictures of said teacher, romping with fully-clothed females! Needless to say, Quark did what any responsible young Ferengi would do in those circumstances: blackmailed his teacher into an A grade.

    • When I drive down the street I trust that the people on the sidewalk will not suddenly leap in front of my car or I would have to drive everywhere at 5 mph.

      With similar examples too numerous to mention we can confidently establish that trust has to be greater than zero for a viable existence.

      The question of life then is, how much greater than zero? And when do we cut it off? etc.
  • Ummm....wikipedia? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by catbutt (469582) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:27PM (#16092062)
    Maybe they could add a reputation system!
    • by Colin Smith (2679)
      Indeed. If they get clever enough, their reputation system will show you the stuff that the people you trust the most have recommended and will dump the stuff recommended by people you consider fuckwits. After all, who wants something that a complete moron has recommended. Incidentally,this is how all reputation systems should work, attempting to game the system will then simply move you out into the middle of nowhere in terms of your own personal reputation.

      I'd suggest some form of least squares regression
      • by catbutt (469582)
        What you describe is technically known as collaborative filtering. Reputation system are not "relative to the user", but collaborative filtering is.
  • by rwven (663186) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:27PM (#16092064)
    Don't even get me started on Digg.... *grumble grumble grumble* I've got a love/hate relationship with that place. Sometimes it's great...other times you get 4 or 5 of the same stories on the main page at a time or people posting politics related stories under the videos section...things like that.

    "A person is smart, people are dumb." "People" are not ready to do their own editing on social sites....IMHO.
    • by kalirion (728907) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:44PM (#16092218)
      "A person is smart, people are dumb."

      That reminded me of one of my favorite Terry Pratchett quotes:
      "The IQ of a mob is the IQ of its dumbest member divided by the number of mobsters."
      • "The masses are asses"
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Nos. (179609)
        Similarily I've heard: "The sum of all the IQs on the planet is fixed, the population is growing"
      • by mu22le (766735)
        If I was to propose a model I'd say:

        The IQ of a mob is the inverse of the sum of the inverses of mobster's IQs:

        1 / IQ_mob = Sum(1 / IQ_i)

                  _
          1      \    1
        ------ = /_  ----
        IQ_mob    i  IQ_i

        This way it takes into account everyone IQ but it's always IQ_mob>imn(IQ_i)
    • by Handpaper (566373)
      Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.

      With thanks to imdb.com

  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:28PM (#16092076) Homepage Journal

    Seriously, this is a common and old problem, not just among users, but among all positions public or private. Ultimately you need a self policing policy to evaluate users, fair judgement on violations and termination where deemed necessary.

    There's got to be, published somewhere, some guidlines and how scalable they are.

    I was in a position to make or break the hiring of a student I knew was writing password spoof programs. I knew he had done it. I also knew he hadn't done any harm in it. I think him knowing I knew was enough and it more or less proved right in the long run, opting to hire him as a student worker anyway. Most of us started out the same way. It takes a bit more psychology to spot those who lie about innocuous activities and could present a greater problem down the road.

    • Vimes. (Score:3, Funny)

      by kalirion (728907)
      Pessimal: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? your grace."
      Vimes: "I know that one. Who watches the watchmen? Me, Mr. Pessimal."
      Pessimal: "Ah, but who watches you, your grace?"
      Vimes: "I do that, too. All the time."

      From Thud! [wikipedia.org]
      • In Vime's mind

        The Watchman: What are you?

        Following Dark: The Following Dark!

        The Watchman: You will not make him kill for you.

        Following Dark: What are you!

        The Watchman: "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" Who watches him? Me I do. I am the Watchman, he created me.

        Following Dark: What kind of mind creates its own Watchman?

        The Watchman: One that is afraid of the dark.

        Following Dark (With satisfaction): And so he should be!

        The Watchman: Yes, but I don't think you understand, I'm not here to keep

  • by Kesch (943326) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:36PM (#16092146)
    Here is a simple explanation with pictures [penny-arcade.com] of the observed phenomenon.
  • by celardore (844933) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:37PM (#16092149)
    The internet as we know it is still a baby. As new ideas happen and are implemented, the processes will be refined in some way. Here [slashdot.org]'s a page that explains how such a system can evolve. First a small set of mods, then more, then BAD MODS NO, and metamoderation happened. Bad users on /. are unable to post, etc...
  • by needacoolnickname (716083) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:45PM (#16092226)
    Social sites give so much power and emphasis on users yet a handful still have the power to wreck these sites. Until these issues are properly addressed, social sites will continue to be gamed.

    It's whining. People aren't happy with just contributing to the conversation, because there is no conversation. It's all about oneupmanship (or however it's spelled). It's about a better, more sarcastic comment then the one before. It's about popularity among people we don't even know. It's about bragging rights to who, I don't even know. I don't go bragging about comments I make here, at digg, or any other place I visit.

    Social networking is about networking and being social, getting to know people and networking with them. It's right in the name.

    Help forums and mailing lists are more social networking than these web 2.0 sites.

    • by TubeSteak (669689) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @05:28PM (#16092501) Journal
      People aren't happy with just contributing to the conversation, because there is no conversation. It's all about oneupmanship (or however it's spelled). It's about a better, more sarcastic comment then the one before. It's about popularity among people we don't even know.
      Slashdot recognized this a while ago.

      That is why +1 Funny no longer contributes to your Karma.
      (I don't recall when this change was made)
    • by raehl (609729)
      Social networking is about networking and being social, getting to know people and networking with them. It's right in the name.

      Wait - it's not about having the largest friend list? And I was so close to beating Tom!
  • Digg Reliability (Score:2, Interesting)

    by klenwell (960296)
    I ignore the home page and just check out the day's most popular page once or twice a day:

    http://digg.com/view/technology/popular/today [digg.com]

    It's not the front page of the NY Times and it's no doubt influenced by the much lamented front-page gaming, but I still usually find one or two interesting things that I hadn't heard about yet.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:47PM (#16092243)
    One of the original sites to promote user created and sponsored content, succumbed to insipid infighting and trolling once a few decided to game the queue voting system. Suddenly who got voted to the front page had more to do with who was friends with whom, and nothing to do with the content and writing of the article in question. And so K5 began its slow slide to oblivion, the endgame of which we see today. Certainly much blame deserves to be placed at the feet of rusty and his admins. But only in so far as they refused to police the site, not out of a direct attempt to control the voting process.

      Perhaps this is a lesson to those of us who had hoped the egalitarian internet we remember from the late '80s and early '90s might somehow scale to the general public. It didn't.

    IOW: people suck.

    -anonymous for a reason...
    • K5? What is this site? Can anyone give a link?
    • The death of Kuro5hin.org is one of the worst things I have seen on the Internet. Back when it was at its prime, K5's content was just brilliant. Every home page story and almost every section story would teach and entertain in some way. Then came the trolls and gamers. As Rusty and the other bigwigs fought back with technology, the trolls increased in number (many were drawn from /. which also had a very big troll problem at the time). Eventually the quality of the site could not be maintained with the sig
      • K5 could not last. The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long and all that.

        People naturally want to be with like minded people. But the problem with that is that it gets really boring really fast talking about the same things all the time. What made K5 great was that there was a good mix of people. The emo crowd who took the site seriously would write well researched articles. The troll crowd would pick apart these articles if the writer tried to bullshit people in any way. The result was we

    • The whole point of these social applications relying on user input is so that distributed self-moderation by the community occurs. There is no trust issue as long as the user-base is large enough. If there's 500,000 equally powerful users then it's hard for a handful of users to abuse the system. It would require a large scale conspiracy to really skew the moderation system, thus appointed moderators aren't necessary and the admins have very little policing to do. The community will shape the site to what t
  • by Snotman (767894) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @05:00PM (#16092341)
    Sure, we see a great straw man drawn for us, but I don't see evidence that this is occuring. Does the author maintain there is a conspiracy against users like P9? What evidence is there for a conspiracy? Where are the conspirators meeting? There should be evidence of people meeting in other forums to conspire to bury P9? Is it possible that P9s stories he dugg up suck? I think all these things need to be considered, but I don't see any critical thinking done.

    On a similar note, even though the author can dream up a scheme that might possibly bury Digg, is there evidence that an entity has gamed digg as he has explained? Maybe it seems possible that someone could grab 100 C class addresses to create 100 users and they could moderate someone into purgatory, is that all it takes? Has someone ran this experiment to verify that this is true? I don't know why someone could not run this experiment to see if what the author asserts could be true. This article seems more hyperbole and anecdotal in its evidence of gaming the system. For one, if it was possible to game digg, then why not setup a company to do so and make a little money? I imagine there are marketting companies that game all the systems. Just the fact that some people will take this article as true when it doesn't back up its assertions with evidence is an example of gaming. After all, the article is a diss against digg and I am sure some readers use it to back up their own notions that digg sucks. That sounds like gaming to me.

    If your readers don't think critically about the content they consume, then you can take your pick of fallacies like generalization and straw man to write up an article that people will take as true. Isn't that gaming the system or the reader? I am not sure if Kevin Mitnick was known for his great technical hacking, but he was definitely known for his great social hacking of people that would willingly give up their passwords.
    • Snotman wants evidence of social gaming. Evidence of past behavior abounds. First, let's reiterate the potential problem. From the Fine article:

      Register them on Digg. Have them randomly digg 5 stories a day. Then scrape the top 100 users on Digg, and add them randomly across the 100 fake users. Simmer for a week or 3, and then *bam* - start reporting any story dugg by the top 100 users as inaccurate.

      The ease of creating a botnet of Windoze machines eliminates all evidence. Instances of actually cat

      • On large popular sites like digg, it would require an inordinate amount of bots to achieve this, and it wouldn't be hard to detect and block bot sign-ups and orchestrated abuses. Someone with malicious intentions would have to possess fake accounts which compose of 5-10% of the user base to really manipulate the social application against the spirit of the community, otherwise their influence would be statistically insignificant. On a site with 1 million+ users that isn't really practical and so far there's
      • I guess my point is that there didn't seem to be evidence of what he says is happening. We could create any infinite of stories that we assert are true without providing evidence. For instance, if you happen to listen to conservative radio, they maintain there is a liberal conspiracy in big media, but there is never any evidence of this so called conspiracy nor do they ever try to prove there is one that doesn't utilize a fallacy. Those sympathetic to that message embrace it wholeheartedly. I am not saying
      • That got me thinking - if there are people who find trolling so important to them that they make a website out of it, then they've probably considered attacking Digg. So I went to their site, and did a forum search for "Digg". Lo and behold, the first item on the results was this [anti-slash.org]. I'll let the rest of you figure out what to make of it.
        • ... there are people who find trolling so important to them that they make a website out of it, then they've probably considered attacking Digg. So I went to their site, and did a forum search for "Digg". Lo and behold, the first item on the results ...

          No surprise there. If it's free and cool, the assholes will be on it.

          The only thing that surprises me is that the Feds have not busted down the door on those people. Their whole site is devoted to harassing people, they admit to running botnets of the

          • by jb.hl.com (782137)
            Yes. It's a crime to troll forums. And they have big botnets, which they use to troll Slashdot instead of doing other things which would at least be mildly useful to them (for instance, getting credit card numbers and such), because clearly Slashdot is worthy of the effort necessary to build a botnet (and let's face it, even if they did want a botnet they'd probably want to use their own PCs to do it, they probably hate viruses and worms as much as everyone else does).

            And you want them done for copyright in
      • twitter, you can try and sell your conspiracy theories all you want, but there is a good reason why things like these [slashdot.org] and these [slashdot.org] and these [slashdot.org] follow you around. And they only follow YOU around.
  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @05:02PM (#16092356)
    But your sub-titles recently, like "Web-Two-Point-Doh," have been really, really clever. Not that you need an idiot like me to tell you that, but I figure I give you eds enough (deserved) grief day-to-day it's only proper that I hand out a compliment on the (rare) occasion it is merited. And since the tags are among the few places here where you guys actually have the opportunity to inject some personality, I am gratified to see that at least one of you has one.

    Good on ya, bud.
  • "Out of the Crooked Timber of Humanity, no straight thing can ever be made" -- Immanuel Kant
  • Hmmm.... (Score:2, Troll)

    by Cherita Chen (936355)
    Uh, is it just me? Did anyone happen to notice that we have a new /. editor kdawson [technologyfront.com], and that his background is pretty heavily littered with both technical and editorial writing?

    Did anyone notice that this story emphasized the greatness of the /. editorial model vs. the "digg.com" model, and was curiously posted by "Anonymous reader"?

    It may in fact just be the Ritalin talking, but I think our beloved /. Editors are getting their pokes in here and there...

    No big deal, just an paranoid/schizo observatio

  • Digg burial abuse seems to be overhyped. There are a lot of really bad stories on Digg, especially on the politics section.
    For example, there's currently a story [digg.com] saying that MSNBC changed the question on a poll. OK, maybe it happened; but what's the source? Some dude posted a few screen shots on his blog. Correct or not, that story is possibly inaccurate because it presents no verifiable supporting evidence.
  • Does it really matter what set of rules you come up with? I can't think of any system that can't be abused, if you're willing to spend the time to do it. Even /. moderation - there's nothing keeping me and a few friends from creating multiple accounts, and modding each other up. Easy? No, but quite doable.

    Even though I pick on gamers in my subject line, it isn't restricted to them. Less savvy users employ similar methods. It usually starts with multiple email accounts. It even happens off-line: people take
    • Does it really matter what set of rules you come up with? I can't think of any system that can't be abused

      I can. You create a web of reputation.

      Every relationship between two individuals has a reputation or weight. As people interact the weights between them get stronger or weaker. Give preference to stories which are recommended by people with a strong reputation with you, get rid of stories recommended by people with a weak reputation. As they decide to like/dislike stories the weights change. As someone

      • A reputation system is open to the same class of karma whoring attacks as slasdot, but with less limitation. Pander to the site groupthink for a few weeks to get your relation weight with a few influential members up to near the maximum, and you can post lies, damn lies, and goatse links at +5 until a sufficient number of users figure out what you're doing. Register a new account, lather, rinse, and repeat as necessary.

        If you can game real-life interpersonal relations, you can game any mathematical abstra
        • by Colin Smith (2679)

          Pander to the site groupthink for a few weeks to get your relation weight with a few influential members up to near the maximum

          No, in the case of the system I mentioned, what you suggest only works for those who follow the particular subgroup you've been pandering to. You would actually reduce your influence with the rest of the population by pandering to that group in the first place.

          Register a new account, lather, rinse, and repeat as necessary.

          Only works if you can abandon an identity. Fairly easy but co

  • It's like fark with user-moderators.
    K5 but much less advanced.
    Slashdot w/o the discussion.

    Shit, we're talking about a site that only offers one more level of nesting over freakin' forums. Run and managed by a bunch of tech-TV rejects, and populated with all the "31337" technical people who couldn't stand being modded to oblivion on slashdot.
    • by Shadyman (939863)
      *mods "31337" technical parent -5 because he can*

      What was that about some people not liking moderation?
  • It's my opinion that the way to get people to behave responsibly is to trust them MORE.

    This article is calling out how terrible it is because of a couple problems with trusting poeple. But sociology's a complicated thing. If these are really the biggest problems that Digg is having due to their trust model, I'd say they're doing pretty good. It certainly pales in comparison to the problems you get with people who are trying by social or technical means to break out of the little prison you put them in.
    • Exactly. If you're going to create a social application that relies on input from the user to shape the content of the site, then you should be ready to give the community what it wants. The community knows better what it wants than appointed moderators or paid admins. It may not turn out the way that you want it to turn out, and there will always be discontent users, but ultimately the community has voiced what it wants and there's little you can or should do about it.
  • Each amount of freedom and expectations is unique to each site's developed or developing following and culture. Rules, guidelines, or the lack thereof are set forth in the beginning and they're enforced mainly by the site creators. Eventually a culture that shares the original philosophy begins to amass and develop and the community begins to regulate itself based on the now evolving culture.

    Slashdot's a great example of a more hardline approach with active moderators. Fark is a more lenient approach with a
  • Don't sometimes people 'game' things in the real world? Why would the web be any different, it is part of the real world.

  • the one that says "Trust me - I am a USER"
  • Caveat Lector: While I play on both Digg and Fark, I have a greater affinity for Fark/Total Fark. Its just where I went first. I've hoisted a tasty beverage with many of those loveable farkers.
    If Digg added moderators and allow users to, oh i don't know vote, on links before they get posted then essentially you have what we have on Fark/Total Fark. Total Farkers get to view all links before they get posted to fark.com. We even get to vote on them now. Not to say that we users have the final say in wh
  • You mean hack.

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