December 24, 2006

Spamming Web 2.0

The New York Times today ran a short note highlighting CNET's story about commercial spamming of and similar sites. There are companies being paid upwards of $15,000 to get a product placed on the front page of Digg, and most recently a top 30 Digger admitted that he entered an agreement to help elevate a new business to the front page of Digg (and solicited the other top 30 Diggers to participate).

The world was pretty darned excited when it discovered email (for most people, in the early 1990s). Spam followed in a big way within a year or two. It's clear to me that we're on the same trajectory with user-contributed content sites on the Web. There is an ever-increasing need for incentive-centered designs to help keep the bad stuff out.

Posted by jmm at 08:17 AM | Permalink »

October 11, 2006

Market for Diggs

Something valuable happening on the Net? Then a market will emerge for it. The Blog Herald reports that there is now a service that sells "Diggs" (gets users to "digg" stories posted on so that they get ranked higher),

Publishers get to pay $20 and an additional $1 per dig, and digg users can get paid $0.50 for every 5 stories they digg.

Posted by jmm at 04:16 PM | Permalink »

February 08, 2006

Misleading recommendations: payola

Payola probe turns from labels to radio

As I mentioned a couple of entries ago, payola ("pay to play") schemes are still ongoing in the radio and music distribution industry. Sony and Warner settled with NY State for millions; now Attorney General Eliot Spitzer says he has proof that some of the largest radio groups have taken payments from top executives in the recording industry.

Posted by jmm at 10:49 PM | Comments (0) | Permalink »

February 07, 2006

Incentives to misrepresent

Hotel Reviews Online: In Bed With Hope, Half-Truths and Hype - New York Times

The NYT discusses an increasing problem with informal review and recommendation sites: insincere or misleading postings. Here, they talk about hotels that either post fake (positive) reviews about themselves, or that offer inducements (discounts, etc.) to customers to post positive reviews, or that bribe web sites and blogs to remove negative reviews.

The Times suggests this is not a problem for professional reviewers in the traditional media, but of course that's horse manure: restaurant critics who are spotted get special treatment, book and movie reviewers are offered inducements. The "payola" scandals in broadcast radio are famous (and ongoing).

Chris Dellarocas has written a paper about this (motivated in part by revelations about a year ago that Amazon's book review system was being scammed by authors and publishers).

Where is the ICD in this? Well, for starters, those with an interest in the outcome are offering incentives to induce (misleading) behavior. Which drives home the countervailing incentives problem: how do we discourage low-quality reviews and recommendations, and encourage high quality?

(It may be obvious, but this is another example of the growing world of "spam": unsolicited communications that are undesired or misleading. They are not pushed into users' mailboxes, but other than that, how different is it from adds touting the miraculous powers of herbal "viagra"?)

Posted by jmm at 08:06 AM | Comments (0) | Permalink »