Lee Odden

Crowdsourcing This Way Cometh

Lee Odden     Social Media

I haven’t had the chance to write about any “dark side” social media stuff in a loooooong time. But today I caught wind of “Subvert and Profit” (blog) and they make no bones about their intentions. The opening paragraph sets the tone:

“Content-pushers and social bookmarkers rejoice! The democracy of web 2.0 is about to get a major dose of capitalism as the crowdsourcing revolution begins. This revolution will bring you money, should you choose to embrace it. Subvert and Profit, our brand new site, is leading the charge.”

Apparently they’re starting with Digg and plan to move on to other social news and bookmark services. Advertisers pay $1 per Digg and diggers get paid $.50 per Digg. Oh my, this is pure capitalism alright, of the super spam sort.

My question is, do social media communities bring this kind of thing on themselves? Is this sort of thing the inherent flaw in giving editorial discretion to the “profile hierarchy” of a social community?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. While I have no great love for Digg, I understand the desire to keep the path to greatness as pure as possible. Do social media communities bring this upon themselves? I don’t think so. It is sadly inevitable that every new technology will be abused. No one in their right mind looks at cloning and actually believes that someone won’t try to clone a human being. It’s obvious.

    It is unfortunate, though, since Digg could be very useful even if used by diggers to make a profit. This kind of “black social marketing” approach could work well if it weren’t for those who will inevitably spam Digg and choke it with massive amounts of refuse. The only way a social site could avoid this is to police its people and its content to such a degree that true freedom of expression would be lost.

  2. Avatar Geoff Livingston says

    Dark side indeed. That’s quite twisted! Unfortunatley, I am not a big fan of Digg either, but still its integrity should be maintained, and I am sure folks like Kevin Rose are not happy with this.

    One has to wonder where the line is… Is it really worth it to corrupt these organizations? In my mind, if I can’t win fairly, then so be it. Cheating is not cool. Unfortunately, “paid for” marketing ethos would tell you differently.

  3. Years ago when I was getting my first freelance business off the ground, I worked part time at a bookstore in the mall.

    One of the hip clothing stores would pay teens to wear their expensive jackets and boots while they hung out and walked the mall. Some of the insiders knew this was happening, but most of the regular shoppers didn’t. They’d prance around acting cool and talking about how great each other looked.

    It seemed to work. Lots of unpopular kids spent a fortune on clothes in that place trying to buy social status.

    Crowdsourcing social media, circa 1990 🙂

  4. >>Is this sort of thing the inherent flaw in giving editorial discretion to the “profile hierarchy” of a social community?

    Yes. I expect editorial to come back in a huge way. The Boing Boing or Lifehacker model is way more valuable and trustworthy when compared to Digg.

  5. This is probably going to take SE’s to tweak their algorithm, to devaluate social media links in different ways, once they find out how are they being manipulated.

  6. I think it would be a good move for SE’s to consider such activities when considering the value of links from social media sites. The same thing happened with press release distribution services.

    Brian, I agree with you. I do think editorial will come ’round again in some kind of hybrid of social and editorial format.

  7. This is a natural reaction in the social marketplace and to be expected. Ultimately, a more intricate trust model to help unify personas across multiple social systems is required. Quite a challenge.

    Still, you are always going to have people doing this kind of activity in the marketplace. People act out of motivations and financial motivations are some of the most frequent.

    I’m not going to stand on the street corner and yell “I love Starbucks!”. If I did, people would make a quick assumption that I am either paid to do it or crazy and discount whatever else I may say when they talk to me. I expect the same kind of responses to evolve in online systems where it becomes easier to “tune out” the editorial votes of a particular shill.

  8. Avatar graywolf says

    Nature abhors a vacuum, and a website without moderators, editors, or anyone other than a disorganized unruly mob in charge is operating in vacuum. If Digg wants to remain the “lost boys club” filled with people who “won’t grow up”, they can expect to get taken advantage of in ways just like this. For every public “digg gang” I can assure you there are at least 100 more flying under the radar. For all it shortcomings netscape is a far less “game-able” social media site.

  9. That’s a good point Michael. When things like S&P rears it’s ugly head you can be sure it’s only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s really going on.

    Heavier editorial involvement seems to be the way to go.

  10. I wonder what will happen. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  11. Social networking sites have their place, not everyone wants the entertainment 18-24 year old segment anyways, the richer pickings are the older demographic.

  12. Despite the fact that Digg is the online home to wayward boys and adolescents, it can still be a great lead generator. But I’ve often thought that bandwidth might be part of the G equation as I have tried SMO for some sites in low to medium competitve verticals and have been able to rank for just getting a few votes. I’ve assumed that one digg reader in 10 or more take the time to vote (regardless of where I place the damn button) so it seems traffic, and its source ‘might’ be a consideration.


  1. Untwisted Vortex - Living in a Different Land » Blog Drive-Bys for 2007-04-04 says:

    […] Lee at the Online Marketing Blog announced a “subversive” new blog that plans to game Digg as the first social news site in their strategies. […]

  2. […] There’s a little buzz surrounding the newest pay for Diggs service called Subvert and Profit with both the Online Marketing Blog and Tech Crunch have covering it. It’s not the first website created specifically to game Digg and it won’t be the last. […]

  3. […] Online Marketing Blog: Crowdsourcing This Way Cometh “My question is, do social media communities bring this kind of thing on themselves? Is this sort of thing the inherent flaw in giving editorial discretion to the “profile hierarchy” of a social community?” […]

  4. Linkerati the Pawns of Social Media says:

    […] Last week on Lee Odden’s blog he made a post about Crowdsourcing and Subvert and Profit. However what I’d really like to talk about is comment made by Simon of Bon Prix since it’s something I hear/read quite often: […]

  5. Blog News Watch » Blog Archive » Wednesday Roundup - April 11, 2007 says:

    […] Lee Odden writes about the dark side – crowd sourcing – Online Marketing Blog […]

  6. […] Crowdsourcing this way cometh from Lee Odden buy your diggatron […]