Tag Archive | "google"

Deconstructing Diggboss

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Deconstructing Diggboss

The social site application of scripts and bots have been around as long as their have been social sites. There are scripts and bots available for MySpace, StumbleUpon, Facebook, YouTube etc. All have very different applications for very different purposes on each site.  In 2007 MySpace was involved in a publicized battle with the commercial marketers of Bot programs such as Friend-Adder and Badder-Adder These programs automated friend adding and commenting protocols bypassing the captcha safeguards.  MySpace sent cease and desist letters to these companies briefly shutting many of them down.  As the scripts circulated and were improved upon, new companies popped up as fast as the old ones shut down.  With the exception of suing spam king Scott Richter and instituting some onerous captcha and sophisticated I.P.tracking they finally gave up chasing after these bot developers.  The MySpace pursuit logic was that these bots violated state and federal anti-spam laws as they allowed people to bypass the captcha spam safeguards and send tens of thousands of comments to its membership base.  What are bots and scripts?

Bot – A software program that imitates the behavior of a human, as by querying search engines or participating in chatroom or IRC discussions. A bot is a program that performs various computer protocols automatically without human intervention. For ex GoogleBot is a application that surfs the internet and collects all the websites for Google and saves it in a database.  Email Extraction bots surf the internet and scan pages for email addresses to spam.  With regards to Digg, Promote-My-Site provides bot services that allow a person to digg without being at his or her computer.

Script – A simple program in a utility language or an application’s proprietary language. Scripts are usually very small code.  Designers tend to refer to any code in JavaScripts as script. Most webpages including Digg have some JavaScript in them which performs some action. For example the legitimate Digg button provided by Digg  uses a script.  When you click the Digg  button that action is reported back to the server.

So what about Digg?   What is the big deal with the external development of certain scripts and bots that do not impact the Digg servers and do not have any impact on the Digg algorithm?  If you listen to DiggBoss his two external scripts fit the following criteria:  They do not enable spamming or any other illegal activity. They do not allow faster digging. They do not remove or add Digg buttons. They do not bypass any protocols.  They do nothing more than enhance the Digg community user experience. Should not these types of applications be encouraged maybe even rewarded as they are often encouraged and rewarded in the Open Source community?  Why can’t Digg do likewise with API?    Digg allegedly encourages the creating of these programs through its “Application Programming Interface“(API).

The Digg Application Programming Interface (API) has been created to let users and partners interact programmatically with Digg. The API returns Digg data in a form that can be easily integrated into an application or a web site. While the API is available to everyone free of charge, its use is subject to acceptance of our API License Agreement.

The API license reads as follows:

1. GRANT OF LICENSE – Subject to your (“Licensee’s”) full compliance with all of the terms and conditions of this API Agreement (“Agreement”), Digg, Inc. (“Digg”) grants Licensee a non-exclusive, revocable, nonsublicensable, nontransferable license to download and use the Digg application program interface and other materials provided by Digg (collectively, “APIs”) to develop, reproduce and distribute non-commercial applications that interoperate with Digg.com or any other web property owned by Digg (“Digg Applications”). Licensee may not install or use the APIs for any other purpose (including without limit any commercial purpose) without Digg’s prior written consent. For the sake of clarity, the sale of advertising on a website where a Digg Application is hosted shall not alone constitute a commercial use under this Agreement, provided that the advertising is not integrated within the Digg Application itself. Licensee shall not use the APIs in connection with or to promote any products, services, or materials that constitute, promote or are used primarily for the purpose of dealing in: spyware, adware, or other malicious programs or code….

Digg’s  data is open to all under creative commons license.  Digg has a systematic way of delivering its data to anyone who is interested in having a look at it as long as they agree to the terms of access. They provide API or “Application Programmers Interface” Rather than write bots a programmer can legally view data that is made available by Digg. The data is read only in nature i.e. you can only view the data, you cannot submit back, edit or delete the data using APIs.

Former Digg power user “DiggBoss”, real name David,  used the API program to create two very useful Digg add-on applications that became extremely popular with the Digg community.  He was banned from the site when his applications became known to Digg. They had become more popular than the ones Digg had developed to enhance the user experience.

The two DiggBoss scripts made use of the API to check if your Digg friends were digging your submissions by making API queries to the digg server. The script would display the result such as 10 / 15 against the friend’s user name. The would mean the friend had dugg 10 of your last 15 submissions.   A very useful feature and a feature one would think would interest Digg. They have a much more basic feature that is extremely cumbersome and time consuming to use.  There was also a feature that allegedly reduced shout spam.   The feature was called “Shout To Friends Not Dugg”. This feature allowed a user to shout only to friends who had not previously dugg a story. There is certainly an argument that this did not reduce shout spam at all.  A person may not have dugg a story because he/she did not want to.  When that person got a re-shout it would be considered spam.  The script worked by sending a query to the Digg API server to find out friends who had already dugg and select the friends that had not this way reducing multiple shouts.

It was not possible for Digg to determine who was using the “who dugg” or  shout management feature. The script made calls to the free Google server where the application was installed and from the Google server to Digg API server.  The user computer with the script made the call to free Google server from Google server to Digg API sever and then back. The user was was never exposed to Digg server. The Digg APIs do not require any authentication i.e. passwords to operate.  If David’s script had stayed under the radar, he may never have been discovered. All Digg API data is open creative commons free for everyone.  It did not incorporate any of the “Easy-Digg” buttons or bypasses used in the scripts that allegedly resulted in his ban from Digg as well as over 100 other “power diggers”.

In March 2008 David did update the “Digg Friends Easy” script. He was then warned by Digg that such scripts were prohibited.  He was  asked to remove the script immediately. He was asked not to promote the script. He immediately removed it from the server.   What was left was the “who dugg”  application and the shout management application.  The “Digg Friend Easy” scripts themselves were not developed by David and are widely available on the web. The most popular one can be found at  http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/12708. This  script that adds “Diggit” or “Digg This” button on pages where Digg has not provided for them. This script has been on the internet as open source code since Oct 2, 2007.

In the end it appears getting rid of David was more about protecting the Digg business model and less about evil “Darth Vadar” scripts. The “Who Dugg” and shout management scripts did not even access the Digg primary servers.  In addition  Digg has recently released its own Firefox add-on touted by Kevin Rose on the Digg Blog.  The Diggboss script was a much better developed and more popular form of competition. Maybe they were in no mood for dealing with someone who had developed a better product showing up their  developers.  This seems strange since the  the license agreement gave them ownership of the Diggboss program.  The API license contains the following language:

Digg shall own all right, title and interest relating to any and all inventions, works of authorship, designs, know-how, ideas and information made or conceived or reduced to practice, in while or in part, using the APIs. Licensee hereby agrees to make all assignments necessary to accomplish the foregoing ownership.”

Digg may have taken a lesson from the MySpace bot market and feared that David would market the program to his own benefit. Once the script was out in the open, it could be refined, improved upon and mutate into a Godzilla like creature devouring Digg profits with each digg.   The problem there is that is that the program needs their API server to function.  You would think Digg could simply shut down the API server to anyone trying to attempt the same thing?

In the end petty turf internal politics and turf wars won out over a better Digg experience.  Better to boot David for whatever reason or no reason at all. They can take his development for later use as their own when he is long forgtten.  Even if it was simply a knee-jerk reaction to the use of the clearly illegal scripts it shows once again that the Digg model is becoming less and less about user experience or community satisfication. It is all about bucks.  That is assuming Digg can ever be monetized to the extent anyone wants to give them bucks.  Google sure didnt.


Comments are closed because all anybody seems to want to talk about is how I write about Digg because I am a Bitter Banned Digger or about the two”Easy-Digg” Scripts that got people banned. This blog is about  neither. It is about two Diggboss API add-ons that have nothing to do with those two scripts. It is about whether they should be allowed as user-enhancement add-ons.  If nobody wants to talk about that there is no point in opening comments.  If anyone does want to talk about that please email me and I wll post your comments.

Brian Cuban

Posted in UncategorizedComments Off on Deconstructing Diggboss

ZOA Convinces Google To Change The Earth

Tags: , , , , ,

ZOA Convinces Google To Change The Earth

How often can someone claim that they changed the way we view the world.  Deborah Fidel and the Zionist Organization of American (ZOA) can do just that.  They took the  battlefield against  Internet media giant Google against the backdrop of the on-going border conflict between Palestine and Israel.

Google Earth is a virtual globe.  It maps the earth by the superimposition of images obtained from satellite imagery, aerial photography and other sources.  It allows a user to pick almost any place on earth and zoom in on many different levels.  One feature of Google Earth allows users to create “layers” – overlays of data, photos, political concerns, environment data, etc. – on the basic map.  This allows as user to add subjective interpretation and opinion on numerous aspects of a particular town, city or other location and post it on “Google Globe”  This can be particularly thorny when a user posts information that goes to the very core of a global border dispute such as the one between Israel and Palestine.

The  conflict began when a guy by the name of Thameen Darby, inserted notations on the Google Earth map(see below)  stating that the Israeli city of Kiryat Yam had been built on the location of the displaced Arab town of Ghawarina.  If you look at the Google Earth map as it existed after the notations you will see the city of “Arab Ghawarina” including the following flag notation:

“This is one of the Palestinian localities evacuated and destroyed after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. For basic information about this locality, including brief history, the 1948 events, its current status, pictures and statistics, visit: www.palestineremembered.com.”

This did not go over well with the town of  Kiryat Yam.  It is a blue collar town trying to become a preferred resort destination.  Having an Arab city with such an inflammatory notation overlayed on a map viewed by millions was not going help the cause.  It was their position that even from a historical context the placement and notation were false.  They claimed the area in which the city is located was barren dessert prior to its inception and that  Jews settled it well before the establishment of the State of Israel.  Darby stated that he was placing the notations to give historical context allowing displaced Palestinians to understand their heritage.

Officials of Kiryat Yam made repeated demand on Google to remove the alleged erroneous information from the map.  Google earth responded that it was its policy not to remove user-generated content unless the content was illegal.  The town and the historical notations would stay.  Kiryat Yam responded that the false placement of the town and the false historical statement may in fact be a violation of Israeli law. The town threatened to sue Google for misrepresentation under Israeli law.  Google refused to budge and made the following statements:

Both Israeli and Palestinian perspectives are posted on the map of Israel, and there are other places of controversy in the world map besides the Middle East”‘

While we recognize that some may find the user generated content objectionable, we are careful to balance the integrity of an open forum with the legal requirements of local governments. It looks as though this particular user-contributed annotation does not breach our Terms and Conditions nor is it in any way illegal. The Google Earth community layer is a place where people can tag their knowledge or opinions of a location. Their comments are clearly indicated with the ‘I’ icon and this layer can easily be switched on and off.  We believe the majority of people use the community positively to share their expertise and experiences…

The ZOA position was that Google Earth by allowing the placement of “Arab Ghawarina” to stay was engaging in a process of allowing the borders of Israel to be distorted.  It was also creating revisionist history to the benefit of Palestine by creating a “Google Global” perception that Israel is in the wrong in the on-going border dispute.  The ZOA press release states:

On July 15, 2008, the ZOA sent a letter to Dr. Eric Schmidt, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Google Inc. (Google), with copies to Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google’s Co-Founders criticizing Google for knowingly permitting Google Earth to:

“become a vehicle for promoting false and demonizing political propaganda about Jews and Israel.”

In the end the ZOA prevailed.  Google agreed to remove the offending layer and historical notation. If you now input the town of Ghawarina into Google Earth you will be taken to the layer of “Not Arab Ghawarina”. The flag notation now reads:

“The 1880 Palestine Exploration Fund map designates a region by this name east of Acre. This area is populated with Israeli Arabs. The map does not have any towns here.

I had the opportunity to interview Deborah Fidel of the Pittsburgh Branch of the ZOA.  She was actively involved in convincing Google to remove the remove the town as well as the historical flag in question.  Deborah had this to say:

“I saw the problem; we wrote a letter to Google CEO signed by Mort Klein(pres) and Susan Tuchman, Esq., director of our Center for Law and Justice saying that the site was misleading users into thinking that they information they see is endorsed by Google, when it is user generated.  We demanded a disclaimer at the least, and a change in the system whereby some posts gain more prominence than others by virtue of their technical ‘elegance’ without any regard to accuracy or reliability.  Apparently, they were convinced.  ZOA changed the way 400 million people see Israel – literally! “

Dr. Andre Oboler is a  post-doctoral fellow in the political science department at Bar-Ilan University and Legacy Heritage Fellow at the NGO Monitor watchdog group. He stated:

“Israel is being specifically targeted. No one else is running a campaign against a country like this… Google needs to review their policy for the community content layer, perhaps dividing it up or further restricting it to content about current significant locations and landmarks”

In the end has anything really changed?  Should the notation have been allowed to stay?  The dispute underlays a larger issue. When someone looks at a map does that person automatically assume anything information contained within the map to be accurate and objectively researched?  If the answer is yes, maybe Google does have a larger responsibility than they profess with regards to the method and type of user data  uploaded to Google Earth.


Posted in UncategorizedComments (3)

Is A Competitor Devaluing Your Keywords?

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Is A Competitor Devaluing Your Keywords?

In what appears to be a unique case, a Federal Court in Tampa Florida has ordered a company to use ‘negative keywords’ to avoid being associated with another firm’s trade mark.

In the case of Orion Bankcorp Inc. v. Orion Residential Financial, the court ruled that Orion Residential was basically devaluing the trademark and intellectual property value of the keywords people use in search engine searches that would take them to Orion Bankcorp. The court ordered Orion Residential to insert “negative keywords” into their website.

Without going into to all the legal shmegal, the court basically stated that Orion Residential was infringing Orion Bancorps trademark by inserting keywords that Orion Bancorp has trademark protection for in their name as used in keywords and such. The court entered an order:

“barring defendant from purchasing or using any form of advertising including keywords or “adwords” in internet advertising containing any mark incorporating Plaintiff’s Mark, or any confusingly similar mark, and shall, when purchasing internet advertising using keywords, adwords or the like, require the activation of the term “ORION” as negative keywords or negative adwords in any internet advertising purchased or used.”

This frankly is not unusual in terms of trademark cases. Please are always getting sued for trademark infringement in trying to siphon off business using someone else’s established good will.

Search engines often get sued for devaluing trademarks in this way. Google has been sued several times for selling key words in its’ Google AdWords program that a company may feel are protected trademark. Until the American Airlines suit however they have been primarily obscure companies not making big news . It is however the first time I have seen a court order a company to insert safeguard in their web site to protect the trademark of another company. If anyone has seen other cases like this I would would love to hear about them.

This is very similar to the issue in the much more prominent and publicized case of American Airlines v. Google. Without going into all the intricacies of the case American Airlines sued Google for allowing other companies to have their banners come up when Google searches for American Airlines and related words were done. The basic argument is that these banners devalue the intellectual property and infringe on the trademark of American Airlines. In layman’s terms? American Airlines was sick and tired of companies getting a free ride on the back of trademark value they worked so hard to establish while Google made a killing.

This case is still pending. Google is fighting back hard. They make a killing selling these keywords to companies. A win by American Airlines will have financial ramification for Google and set the standard for future suits of this nature.

We all know that keyword abuse in the business world is rampant. How many company specific keywords do you have on your business site in the hopes that people looking for the more established company will be decided to check out your web site instead when it appears in the search rankings. There is no getting around the fact that this practice tends to run afoul of U.S. trademark law.

I believe that these keyword suits will become much more common and high profile over the next decade as the internet becomes more and more integrated in the the everyday shopping experience. The American Airlines Suit is just the first high profile salvo.

I had better go take my Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse key words out of my web site for Mickey’s House of Hookers…..

Posted in UncategorizedComments (9)