Digg: banning the best of 'em

What if you created a community and everyone came? What if you told them to create networks and they did? What if your community was so successful that it started to do as it pleased? Would you step in and ban those who were most successful at using the tools you put into their hands? That seems to be what Digg did.

I'm still trying to decide exactly what I think. Is it a good idea or a bad idea for Digg to ban some of the most followed members of the community? Seems like a case of shooting yourself in both feet, but maybe I'm missing something.

Maybe kicking out the most powerful diggers will let us little people rise to the top. I like diversity. I like the new recommendation system. I like finding interesting articles in the subject areas I follow.

But I hate petty tyrants and the plethora of recent bannings seems to be nothing more than petty tyranny. Sure those who were banned violated the sacred Terms ofService. But the terms of service seem to have been reverse engineered to accomplish the goal of banning those the petty tyrants wanted banned.

The current TOS says:

you agree not to use the Services: ... with the intention of artificially inflating or altering the 'digg count', blog count, comments, or any other Digg service, including by way of creating separate user accounts for the purpose of artificially altering Digg's services; giving or receiving money or other remuneration in exchange for votes; or participating in any other organized effort that in any way artificially alters the results of Digg's services;

What, pray tell, does artificial mean in this context? Usually artifice is contrasted with natural. So it's okay if I use the service with the intention of "naturally" inflating the count? If I call to people within earshot, is that natural? If I send a letter via snail mail, is that natural? If I send an email, is that artificial? According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary one definition of artificial is: "caused or produced by a human and especially social or political agency". Doesn't that mean that, by definiton, all use of social means, eg. social networking, eg. Digg, is artificial?

Is Digg within its rights to remove the accounts of users? Absolutely. Again, today, the TOS says, "Digg may remove any ... Digg accounts at any time for any reason ... or for no reason at all." If you can do what you want either with or without a reason, then I'd say you're pretty to free to do what you want. Not a lot of constraints there.

I understand Digg's desire to have human eyeballs on their ads. So I understand why they want to ban those who use Greasemonkey scripts. Really I do. Just take a look at the ads above, below and on the side of this post. Please. Click them early and often. Please. The more you click, the more likely I am to be here next year. I understand. I really do.

But how does it help Digg get eyeballs on its ads when all the powerful Diggers are creating new networks at Digg's competitors? That's the part of this that still has me confused. What am I missing?

I like my readers enough that I want them to stay. I try not to dissaude them from coming to my site. Now that doesn't mean that I would never ban someone. I have no trouble banning trolls. But banning those who want to use your site so much that they create efficiencies for themselves? That I'm not so sure about.

I was temporarily banned several years ago from Digg. My coworkers and I tended to Digg Computerworld content more than non-Computerworld content (go figure). Since we all expose the same IP adress, we were banned because, of course, you can't have a network at a social media site. That would be artificial.

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