Tag Archive | "social networking"

Deconstructing Diggboss

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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.

WHY ARE COMMENTS CLOSED?

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

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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
digg.com/users/bcuban/friends/submissions.


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
immediately.

- 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:

To:
“support@digg.com” <support@digg.com>
Cc:
“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:
From:

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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Dating In A “Wiki” World

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Dating In A “Wiki” World


Every now and then, when I am bored, I scan wall posts of some of my Facebook friends. It can be a pretty good gauge of what people are doing for fun in your town. It is also a daily soap opera of “Days Of Our Lives” proportions. People expose their personal lives and inner most secrets to a level that would make people blush in the real world. The other day I was scanning posts and came across the following post on the “Facebook Wall” of one of my friends.

This was a wall post on the profile of a female Facebook friend posting on the public wall of another Facebook friend.

So evidently there is this new pick up line that guys are using it goes like this: ” hey so i would like to see you again” Me? Yeah you! Want my number or do you have Facebook I can find you on there? I laughed! That was the worst pick up line! it is sad that social networking has denigrated into chickenshit dating! How sad! What is ths world is coming to? WTF! “

Doesn’t her statement pretty much sum up Generation Y dating? For much of my dating life we did not even have cell phones. You had to ask for a home number. You took the risk of nosy parents, brothers and sisters answering the phone. You had to be on your game from minute one. How in the world did our parents get by? Isn’t it amazing we are even here? God forbid we should actually have to look someone in the eye when asking them out.

Now we are not even asking for phone number. We are asking for email addresses. We are asking for Facebook and Myspace pages. We are “texting our way to love” We are advertising to the entire social networking world that we are on the market. We have started and ended and relationships on these same sites. We used to break up in restaurants so there would not be a scene. Now we find out for the first time when we see our boyfriend or girlfriend’s Facebook relationship status suddenly set to “single and looking” We try to contact them(on Facebook of course) and find we are now “blocked”. Relationship death by Facebook at its best. I would bet that within the 18-30 crowd there are almost as many relationships started and ended by text, email and social networking announcements than by an actual phone call. God forbid you have the guts to actually meet someone in person and talk about a future or lack thereof.

In my day, if you met a girl in a bar and she thought you were a total geek loser, the phone number she gave you was actually the phone number to Blockbuster Video. (I rented a lot of movies) For Generation X you got a phone number from The Rejection Hotline.(see video below) They have pre-recorded “rejection phone numbers to cover just about any scenario.

Today, your blow-off is a girl giving you an address to her Facebook or MySpace page entitled:

“SALLIE’S MYSPACE PAGE DEDICATED TO THE TOTAL LOSER GEEKS SHE MEETS IN BARS”

When are we going to start seeing “wiki” personals and social networking sites where everyone who knows you basically creates your profile. Would you have the guts to turn your social page into a “wiki” and let the masses collaborate on what your page should say? A social wikipieda not geared at the facts of your life but at who you really are.

We have gone from “Dear John Letters” to “Dear John Phone Numbers” to “Dear John Texts” to” Dear John social networking pages.

I am definitely not naming my kid John. The odds are against him meeting someone right off the bat.

Welcome to dating in the Wiki world.

©2008 Brian Cuban

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