Digg could have solved a lot of these problems early on by introducing a couple very simple features: first, allow users to block domains, and second, allow users to block users. I can't remember how many times cracked.com or holytaco.com would show up on the frontpage and make me cringe. Reddit is starting to suffer from the same thing.
The fundamental problem with Digg and also with Reddit somewhat is that nobody wants to sit and curate the upcoming stories, and upcoming stories require far too many votes to catch steam and have a chance at hitting the front page. So it falls to a small handful of power users who have a network of friends built up who are willing to vote on their stories.
Digg essentially became an aggregator of cheap, popcorn content; the kind of stuff non-tech savvy people forward around on email.
Hacker News is still good because it's a small niche of highly tech-savvy people, but if it gets to popular it will run into the exact same issues.
I think the new Digg is actually a good step in the right direction. The truly best way to get good content is to decide yourself where it comes from. I get my best links from Twitter because I follow people who are interested in the same stuff I am. If I could define my network, the content would remain relavent. I think it would take around 500-5000 people to really generate great content, provided those people are all people you align with well.
Hacker News will be fine so long as they keep things controlled and avoid the pull of the mainstream.
I say this mostly because I hate those stupid infographics; chartjunk!
The problem is this: infographics like this may be beautiful, but they are not
necessarily informative. Specifically, pretty charts often fail to synthesize the
meaning, relevance, and impact of information as it pertains to decision making.
I highly recommend it. It was written decades ago and presages all of this; it tears into this USA Today chartjunky design style with a satisfying fervor.
In this case, while the crappiness of the design may be what sets me off, the license to complain about it comes from the fact that it's apparently all part of a huge SEO scam.
Posting as I think HN would be interested in the results.
Tens of thousands of optimised backlinks,
Quality trusted links from major news publishers (almost all of them),
Search traffic up from 30k a month to 200k,
800k to 1mill visitors a month.
The infographics game is almost up for linkbaiting. Most of the people using this technique are now moving on, including myself.
Expect some interesting innovations in this space.
Not very compelling.
They drew up an info graphic that you thought was entertaining. In exchange you show your friends by linking that site. This is no different than any other type of link bait, be it an inflammatory article or some sort of interactive map you would see on the New Your Times website.
Spam is different. Spam is junk blog comments with a link to another website. Those comments bring no value and diminish the value of the site. You would never link to one of those comments to show your friends like you link to these info graphics.
Are we maybe leading with our geek brains here? The geek brain that maybe isn't quite 100% onboard with "it is ethical to attempt to market $FILL_IN_BLANK , even in ways which are effective"?
Edited to add: I do not often ask myself, after typing in A HREF, "Am I being true in my thoughts and deeds to my primary reason for all linking activity, which is to preserve the sanctity of Google's link graph?" Should I? Really?
SEO schemes that get people to cite your OSS to improve your OSS's position: just peachy.
SEO schemes that get people to cite your OSS to improve someone's IRS settlement site: not OK.
I think it's a brilliant idea and plan to copy it (y'know sometime...)
I think it's Google's job to decide what is relevant or not in the search result. Personally for me, I am waiting for the day when Google decides to de-list sites like eHow.
PS. sorry mattmiller, I accidently down-arrowed you, and I can't undo it. I meant to up-arrow you.
-A lot of smaller vertical search sites will pop up. MedicalInfoSearch.com will not show entertainment or economics info, and its ranking will not be based on backlinks from entertainment or economics sites. I think we are seeing the beginnings of this with Blekko.
-Or, and I say this at the risk of sounding like one of those social media people, the link graph will start to give more and more weight to Facebook Likes and link sharing and twitter sharing and any future social network sharing. If you think about it, this was the reason Google went with the backlink strategy to begin with. Back then they had no social networks, so they only way someone could vote for a site was by putting a link to it on their website. If you did not have a website you did not get a vote. Now almost everyone has the capacity to vote on a websites quality, but for some reason only website owners are allowed to.
Social networks love info graphics, in this future you are going to see a lot of them.
Flag with extreme prejudice: yes.
I agree that linkbait in general has many of those features, but I'd consider most linkbait to be at least a cousin of spam. This is somewhat notable just because it's so openly cynical about it.
That said, these campaigns have been tremendously successful even using completely irrelevant topics to gain links back to sites for very important keywords, and the content is not showing them to be an authority in their niche, be it financial or insurance or travel or gambling...they have shown that they can attract attention very well, that they are VERY good at SEO, and that they can (some of the time at least) design decent looking content.
I do agree with the individual answering the IAMA that it is an example of the internet being broken, and I found myself wondering if/hoping that somehow Matt Cutts would have a dream that would allow him to teach the Google bots to crawl a .png file to determine if the content in the graphic was relevant to the term in the links (or hello, at least the freaking title?). I am a co-founder of a company that creates infographics along with written content as part of an overall social media strategy and we spend a great deal of time finding the balance for each client between content that has mass appeal and content that relates to their core customer base/readership. You have to bring in new people somehow, but as many people have learned, irrelevant content doesn't convert, which is why so many people either craft content with no intention of converting and simply say 'social media traffic doesn't convert' or rank sites to sell them to someone who knows how to monetize them down the road (assuming these SEO rankings hold up).
Finally though - if it builds a site's reputation for being a relevant resource for interesting and useful content that does do the job of educating, it is ok if it looks pretty and does it with chart junk no matter how many purists out there say they would rather just pop open the .csv
They're doing so dishonestly. Dishonesty on the tubes is why so many of us are jaded and believe nothing.
Few of the examples said "Here's a professional infographic pandering to the current pop meme, surrounded by some monetizing ads", but instead it was "HERE IS MY FIRST INFOGRAPHIC!" (always ad free because that's a part of the bait-and-switch meme approach), and once it got boosted the URL turned to a 301 permanent PageRank forward to some spam factory, polluting search engines with garbage.
Meme herding itself is really the root cause, though: Once Digg showed a propensity for top N lists, the web became awash with vapid top N lists for everything, humorlessly produced by SEO drones.
Not all content follows this shallow, deceptive practice.
There is a dating site -- I honestly can't remember which one right now, and am not suppressing their name on purpose -- that keeps releasing compelling analysis data, predictably boosting them to the tops of all of the social news sites. In return for producing interesting content, they get lots of incoming hits and page rank goodness. Their motives are clear as day for everyone, and there is no surreptitious BS.
Sidenote: 99% of infographics are terrible.
For example dropbox.com became a huge success because Drew Houston started serving Digg-"Easter Eggs" inside of dropbox to the Digg crowd that in turn gladly upvoted him. I find his approach very smart (they came out of nowhere) and I think dropbox would have not taken off without it.
It's always the same. When you think it's spam, it's spam. It is like in that youtube video that was passed around some time ago: It's only sexual harassment when you aren't attractive. Otherwise it's charming.
Note url and anchor text.