Interesting example of how what looks like a nice, friendly democratic socialism on the surface can be easily corrupted with an elixir of money and a non-critical voting populace.
For Wired, Annalee Newitz describes her social experiment in gaming social news ranking site digg.com by purchasing votes through an external service.
I spent several days creating a blog intended to be as random and boring as possible. Built from templates, My Pictures of Crowds exhibits all the worst aspects of blogging. There’s an obsessive theme — photographs of crowds — but no originality and absolutely no analysis. Each entry is simply an illogical, badly punctuated appreciation of a CC-licensed picture taken from Flickr. Also, there are a lot of unnecessary exclamation points!
Digg claims that its algorithms are able to detect patterns reflective of vote purchasing, and that it shouldn’t be possible for popularity to be bought and sold on the open market. But there was more at work here — only some of the diggs received were bought – many more came from non-bought diggers “jumping on the bandwagon” — digging the story just because others were doing so. Newitz was able to goose the site with purchased votes just enough for it to rise through the ratings until it hit the tipping point, at which point critical mass took over and the site became a minor hit.
So, the magic mixture seems to be a just-right blend of pimps and lemmings.