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Community-Driven Responses

by Robyn Tippins on May 1, 2007

Your response to unwelcome actions at your company is very important. At MyBlogLog, I (or someone else on the team) sometimes has to ban or block users, delete porn avatars or classify sites as adult on a regular basis. Often, as you can imagine, we have to explain why this happened, and let the users know that we do this in the best interests of the community. The limit on unreciprocated messages was particularly nasty with 123 comments, the large majority of which were negative. Keep in mind, I’d been on the job 4 days when we flipped that switch. But, as with most things, the storm was weathered and life goes on.

We’ve also had some more shocking situations, even banning a well-loved member of the blogosphere, and we took a hearty beating on that one as well.

How you respond to these types of situations is vital. And, while I’ve been called some nasty things (case in point below this para), most of the time the outcome is positive, because I really do care about members. This is the case for most of the social-networking nerds I know. We went into this type of work because we love people and we love to socialize. From Lord Matt:

…and as for the inane comments from “Robyn Tippins” like “You have no idea how helpful this is to our decisions. Please feel free to vent and suggest and you can be sure we’ll listen.”. I’m sorry but living as I do in a county with the most spineless political reps ever I can smell saying something nice even though I have no power any day.

All she did was re-summarise the points made already (like any good PR or spin doctor) without giving anything by way of fresh reply or actual insight. (others think so too but said so more nicely). I know we can’t go back to the days when the guys that do the work answer questions themselves but now we can no longer talk to the organ grinder I feel less inclined to listen at all.

Dealing with a community isn’t always fun. Take Digg, for instance… I’ve long been a Digg member (April 05 I think), and was a subscriber to the vidcast from day one. I even supported Rev3 for a time, when I HAD to have the file a few days early. I was/am a big fan of Digg.

Usually, when people write about Digg the posts are either about Gaming it or about how much it sucks. Yet Digg sees an overwhelming number of visitors each day. Clearly it’s popular, even if the blogosphere still doesn’t know how to treat it.

Kevin Rose, however, has always had a ‘golden-boy’ treatment from most writers/bloggers. He’s the nerd that made it, and we all rather hero-worship him because of it. It helps that he’s attractive, in a boy-next-door way. I think if he was not attractive or too attractive, he’d get harsher treatment. Probably not fair, but that’s the way the world works.

For the most part, even when Digg got spotty reviews, Rose emerged unscathed. But today (see story on Techmeme), with the repeated banning and deleting of posts/members in the past 24 hours, Rose is likely feeling the heat.

From Stuff To Think About:

So I’m reading the comments, and every once in a while I’d refresh the page a few times to see how high the digg count would climb. And then it happened. First, the comments all disappeared, and then the story itself disappeared. And then, my digg account disappeared. My account is no longer valid.

There you have it folks, if you submit a story that Digg needs to censor, your account too will be deleted.

And, from his comments:

I suggested a couple of times that Digg was operating out of fear, and not out of legal requirement, based on the fact that Reddit still has the key up, and Wired published an article on Feb 13, 2007, with the key, and that is still up. I used no foul language at any time.

My account has been disabled for misuse. (only commented, never posted the offending article)

Submitters of the code have been banned. People questioning the bans have been, well, banned. This isn’t the first time digg has attempted to snuff out people who become enlightened to their little scheme.

I dugg them, commented, and submitted one of my own after I thought yours had been taken down. I’m now banned as well.

It goes on and on from there. The Digg users are rioting. The blogosphere is in an uproar, and here’s the odd part (from Valleywag):

(Digg founder Kevin Rose didn’t respond when I asked if his staff deleted the posts, but a Digg user tells me Rose actually dugg the story.)

Sitting here, with 20/20 hindsight, it seems like the code had to be removed, legally. Apparently publishing the number, 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0, may violate the Digital Copyright Protection act, because it may be a way to allow pirates to unlock movie protection. However, the Digg Blog didn’t have an explanation until 1pm today.

This has all come up in the past 24 hours, mostly connected to the HD-DVD hack that has been circulating online, having been posted to Digg as well as numerous other popular news and information websites. We’ve been notified by the owners of this intellectual property that they believe the posting of the encryption key infringes their intellectual property rights. In order to respect these rights and to comply with the law, we have removed postings of the key that have been brought to our attention.

And, while Jay Adelson, CEO, said exactly what needed to be said, because Rose is still the face of Digg, it probably would have been better coming from him. Also, him being open and even self-effacing would have been very good to diffuse the situation. “hey, we hated to come in and moderate this, heck I even dugg the story myself, but to protect digg, we had to take it down.”

If Rose is the face of Digg, and at this point he is, then he should come in and speak when there is crap to deal with. If he doesn’t want to be the only face of Digg, then they should hide him for a time and build up the images of whoever they are wanting to be the face (and voice).

As I said, I say this with 20/20 hindsight, but this should have been the statement. Of course, I’d suggest direct contact (phone even, email at the least) with each banned member explaining the situation, personally from Jay or, ideally, Kevin, and reinstating the account if they agree that the TOS was violated. Whatever the case, I understand why they deleted the posts, but I hope they plan to reinstate the users.

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