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Confessions Of A Banned Digger

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Confessions Of A Banned Digger

I have been banned from Digg.   I have been given a Digg death sentence with no reprieve. I have been banned after 30k diggs, 40+ front page submissions and 500 comments.

I first heard about Digg in September of 2007.  I had just started my blog The Cuban Revolution. I heard that Digg could drive traffic to my site so I signed up.  My motives were selfish.  I had no desire to share news. I wanted traffic. Self-promotion at its worst.  I had no concept of Digg friends, fans, algorithms, gaming, power digging, etc.   My first submissions were done with the innocence and ignorance of a two year old.  I dutifully added the Digg button to my blog and started submitting.    After a few months I was getting anywhere from 20-40 diggs for my submissions.  To para-quote Gordon Gekko:

“At time time I thought those were all the Diggs in the world…..”

This went on for months.  I then hooked up with fellow digger and now good friend LewP.   Lew took me under his wing.  He explained how Digg worked.  That is when I began to add friends.  I  also gained the understanding that submitting your own stuff was bad and having only your mutual friends digg your stuff was  not that helpful.   Several diggers  and I started an email group.  In this group we submitted and shouted each others submissions.   Front page postings from my blog skyrocketed.   Fifty percent of my blog submissions were making the front page. This meant tens of thousands of hits to my blog.  I was gaming the system for all it was worth.  This went on for a while.  Then the roof fell in.    Digg changed the way its algorithm worked.  Diversity of diggs became much more important in determining whether a submission made it to the front page.  Since smaller blogs tend to have a fixed following, it became twice has hard for me to get the diversity I needed for one of my posting to make front page.  I tried every possible variation to game my blog postings. None met with any real success.  I was emailing for shouts, instant messaging for shouts,  begging for shouts, singing for shouts,  offering free Dallas Mavericks tickets for shouts(not really).  In the end nothing worked.  My blog submissions would get 250-300 diggs without making front page.   Fortunately my early front page submissions had worked well for me in developing retained readership.

The most significant development for me in my short “Digg life” was when my post Why Athletes Go Broke went front page.  It was subsequently picked up by the Wall Street Journal.  This landed me two ESPN and a Fox News interview.   It also resulted in offers to write for publications.  None of it would have happened if it had not gone front page.

Once it hit home that I would no longer be able to use Digg to self-promote my blog I started doing it solely for fun and using it the way it was intended.  This is when I really got addicted and eventually fell to the dark side resulting in my ex-communication from the “Temple Of Digg”.   I was not looking for news to submit like many of the top diggers such as MrBabyman do.  When in the normal course of my news reading  I saw a story that interested me and looked like it might have a national appeal I would submit it.  While most of these submissions revolved around my brother Mark Cuban’s bid to purchase the Cubs and some off of his weblog  Blog Maverick I would also submit other stories of general interest.   I always got a kick when in the comments I would see complaints that my promotion of Mark’s material was tantamount to self promotion.  According to Alexa Blog Maverick is one of the most read non-commercial blogs on the web.  Mark does not need my help.

In doing the above, I built my “Digg credibility” which allowed me to add many of the top Diggers such as MrBabyMan and  MakiMaki. The rub was that in order to keep these top diggers interested in your submissions you have to Digg all of theirs.   This is only fair but becomes problematic within the Digg system if you do not have the time to sit in front of your computer digging all day.  I decided that I needed help to keep up.   While I heard rumors that there were diggers using scripts to speed up the digging process I had never given it much thought.  I knew that scripts were a violation of the Digg Terms Of Service (TOS).  There are many reasons they are not allowed.  The ethics based reason is that they defeat the intended purpose of Digg in being a news distribution conduit.  Scripts turn Digg into a “who is digging the most” contest.

I first experimented with Promote-My-Site. This is a web based system that allows you to do a timed auto-digg and auto- delete as well as a few other handy functions. The upside of this service is that it does not bypass any steps you would go through in the actual Digg process.   It therefore in theory should not raise any red flags that a script is being used.  The is extremely beneficial when you can not keep up with your incoming shouts.   You can set it a a 15 second delay, turn it on at night and let it digg and delete away. The downsides are that you have to pay for it and as of this writing it does not have a process to digg friends submissions pages.   It is therefore not digging the submissions of friends who do not shout such as MrBabyMan and MakiMaki.  I would still have to do those manually.   This however is a much less onerous process when incoming shouts are already dugg.   I used this service without incident for a while.  Then Darth Vadar(not his real digg name) appeared within Digg and introduced me to the dark side.   He gave me scripts that allows a person to bypass the normal two step process to Digg a story. It allowed me to skip a step  and digg a story directly from the submission page by creating a digg button on that page.  I began digging friends non-shouted submissions with reckless abandon.   I knew it was a TOS violation.  I didn’t care.   I was blinded by the sheer volume.  I was going to hit 500k diggs by the end of the year and change my Digg name to “The Cubanator!”  Hopefully there was also a free car or a set of steak knives for such an accomplishment.  It was working great.  My numbers and Digg ranking were rising rapidly.  In true contravention of what Digg is supposed to be about I do not think I read one story I dugg after I started using the script.  I was willing to sacrifice knowledge for speed. My “Digg bliss” was short-lived.  One day my account was gone. Shortly after it dissapeared I received the following email from Digg Support:

Hi from Digg.com,

We’re writing to let you know that your Digg.com account “bcuban” has
been banned for using unauthorized scripts to Digg stories from portions
of the site where no Digg buttons are provided. Specifically, our logs
show high Digging rates and activity from
digg.com/users/bcuban/friends/shoutsin and

Using scripts is in violation of the Digg Terms of Use (digg.com/tos).
For your reference, we’ve bolded the section of our Terms of Use you’ve
violated below………

We will remove the ban from your account under the following conditions:
you re-read and re-affirm the Digg Terms of Use (response via email) and
agree to stop using scripts of any kind on the Digg.com website

– Digg Support Team

I thought about pulling a “Michael Vick” with complete denial in the face of overwhelming evidence.   I decided to go with what in my mind was the less egregious route of feigning ignorance of the Digg TOS and promising never to do it again. I of course knew all along that I was violating  TOS and I knew they knew I knew.   I was simply in self-denial that I had become what I despised, a “Digg Whore” I sent them the following email in response:

“support@digg.com” <support@digg.com>
“brian.cuban@dallasmavs.com” <brian.cuban@dallasmavs.com>
I was unaware such activity was prohibited. I have read and re-affirm the Digg TOS-i agree to not uses scripts or other prohibited means in using your service
Within 24 hours Digg re-activated my account and sent me the following email:

Hi Brian,

Your bcuban account has been unbanned. Please note, however, that your
account will remain under review, and any violation of Digg’s Terms of
Service may result in a permanent ban of your account.

After receiving this email I dutifully removed the Darth Vadar scripts BUT I continued to digg and delete my shouts using the Promote-Site-Site script.   My internal reasoning was that since they automated the manual digging process it would not trigger any red-flags.  You would think I would have proceeded with caution after the warning knowing that my account would be scrutinized.  The smart and safe thing wold have been to stay under the radar.  I chose the knucklehead route.   I decided that with my limited time to digg, if I did not keep up I would lose many of my top Digging friends regardless. It was a gamble worth taking.  I should have listened to my little voice.  A week later I received the following email:

Hi Brian,

We’ve permanently banned your account “bcuban” from Digg for continued Terms of Use violations. As you are aware, your account was initially banned on August 29, 2008 for violating the Digg TOU using a third party script to enable Digging from sections of the site where we do not provide Digg buttons (specifically from digg.com/users/bcuban/friends/submissions). On that same day you re-affirmed that Digg TOU and stated that you “agree to not uses scripts or othere prohibited means in using your service”. However, our logs show an extremely high number of Diggs from your account which prompted us to further research your account activity. In that research, we learned you were Digging content from another script that enables Digging from the shouts they’ve received. As has been explained to you, using scripts to Digg content on Digg.com is a violation of our TOU.

Section 5.8 USER CONDUCT of the Digg TOU states:

with the exception of accessing RSS feeds, you will not use any robot, spider, scraper or other automated means to access the Site for any purpose without our express written permission. Additionally, you agree that you will not: (i) take any action that imposes, or may impose in our sole discretion an unreasonable or disproportionately large load on our infrastructure; (ii) interfere or attempt to interfere with the proper working of the Site or any activities conducted on the Site; or

(iii) bypass any measures we may use to prevent or restrict access to the Site;

Due to the nature of this violation, as well as the recent statement from you that you would not use scripts to Digg stories, we have elected to permanently ban your account. This decision is final and irreversible.

A few days later I tried to sneak back with a wig and fake mustache but as it was from the same I.P. address they quickly caught me and shut me down.

There you have it.  My Digg experience birth to death.   I am not upset with Digg.  I made the choice to violate their TOS for my benefit and got caught.  There is a degree of relief.   I had become a slave to the Digg machine.  I was  sitting on my big fat butt gaining weight with every Digg. My goldfish died. My dog and cat ran off together.   The up side is that I can actually say that Digg affected my life in a positive way.  I am now a  published author.   I made friends that I will continue to keep in touch with.  I will continue to read stories on Digg because:

“any news worth reading will find its way to you”

©2008 Brian Cuban

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The Walmart Tipping Point

Most people are familiar by now with the story of Debbie Shank, the former Wal-Mart employee who while employed by Wal-Mart was involved in a catastrophic auto accident with a semi-tractor trailer. Debbie was left permanently brain damaged and will need life time care.

Debbie was covered under Wal-Mart’s health insurance coverage which paid her bills to the tune of $470,000. She also settled with the trucking company for One Million Dollars. Wal-Mart then asked Debbie for its share of the money from the settlement to recoup what it had paid under her health insurance. As Debbie needed that money for future long term care, she refused to turn it over.

Wal-Mart proceeded to sue Debbie pursuant to a subrogation clause in her health insurance policy. This clause is in pretty much all health insurance policies. It allows Wal-Mart to recover any expenses they paid out under the policy from any responsible party if the injury was the result of someone else’s negligence. In this case, the party they would want the money back from would be the trucking company who paid out its policy limits to Debbie. The court sided with Wal-Mart. Debbie had to give some of the money back. Outrage ensued, letters were written, op-eds flooded major news publications, and blogs exploded media Christmas lights lit up worldwide. A tipping point was reached. Pursuant to the Tipping Point Playbook, Wal-Mart relented, controlled the spin and said they would sin no more going forward.What is a tipping point? A tipping point is the point where momentum for change becomes unstoppable.

What is the tipping point playbook? The tipping point playbook allows Wal-Mart to act non-emotionally in any situation no matter how heart wrenching the situation or devastating the result on the nameless employee until a “tipping point” or “critical mass ” is met. When this happens the Wal-Mart magically transforms from the antiseptic non-feeling, bureaucracy methodically walking over the backs of employees to a better bottom line to a reincarnation of Walt Disney World where employees are king combined with a “gee gosh, how did that happen press release”.

How does Wal-Mart know when the tipping point is hit and they need to take a different public position? It is hard to say. A lot has been written about this phenomenon starting with Malcolm Gladwells book, The Tipping Point.

Let us take the Debbie Shank case as an example. It was certainly not reached when they asked for the money back. It was not reached when they sued her. It was not reached when a few regional publications picked up her story. It was reached when that mysterious DIGG algorithm point was met where all of a sudden the story was spreading through the internet and news services like wildfire. That is the tipping point. It was at that point where Wal-Mart decided that they would lose more money in negative image than they would save taking 400 grand from poor Debbie Shank

Don’t kid yourself; this was not about good will to Debbie Shank. It was a tipping point business decision by Wal-Mart nothing more. What is that point where everything cascades in the other direction towards lost profits to Wal-Mart because of bad press? Despite Wal-Mart’s claims of new “flexibility” in these decisions, the next person in the same situation will be treated the exact same way. Why? The next person will be treated the same way because no tipping point as been reached. The tipping point will certainly be set lower for the next person.

So again what is the Wal-Mart tipping point playbook? It is simply the point where public perception gives a name and a face to whomever neck their foot happens to be on. It is a bottom line dollar point to Wal-Mart where it becomes cheaper or even profitable to change their public stance on a given issue… They are experts at determining when that is and changing direction 180 degrees on a dime with a spin control machine that probably matches Hillary Clintons.

Do you think Wal-Mart is really a sincere apologetic do-gooder here? I don’t. They simply reached critical mass in public opinion where it is more profitable to be the good guy.

Such is the tipping point playbook. Not Wal-Mart’s invention but they run it to perfection

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