I read a post by Jim Sterling on GameFront that got me thinking about journalism and popularity contests. The very nature of Journalism is a popularity contest. We report what people want to read. Rarely does mind blowing journalism pop up that shakes the core of an industry. People write things to put proverbial butts in the proverbial seats. It’s why entities like Google and Bing exist in the first place; to wade through the BS and find the core of the information.
Reddit, Digg, Twitter, N4G, hell even Facebook are asking to be constant targets of blackhat SEO tactics in the video game world to help push a site up in both rankings and pageviews. This isn’t the first time that something like this has been done and it certainly will not be the last.
The websites in question absolutely didn’t keep a close enough eye on their brand to make sure that its integrity was upheld in the online communities. They failed on that and failed big. You have to watch what people say, do, and communicate with or about your property while online. Their crime is piss poor brand management.
However they all owned up to it. Yeah GamePro had fun with it and more power to them.
It’s definitely true that we’ve had some power users recently spamming content on our behalf. We have already stepped in and asked those people not to do this in future.
The reality of the situation is pretty straightforward – Reddit can be gamed, it was gamed by people on our behalf, and those people got busted. We take full responsibility for engaging those people. And yes, we’re apologizing because we got busted. Damn you. We’d have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids. So give us the kicking we deserve, and we’ll look forward to seeing what the conspiracy theorists will come up with.
We’re hoping that the more reasonable of you will respect our honesty regarding our deferred dishonesty, but we’re sure some people will run riot with it, which is to be expected – and in some places celebrated – on the Internet. Ultimately, we respect Reddit and its community, at least the ones who don’t live under a bridge and forget to take their meds. We also believe in our content, but in future we want you, not spammers, to be the judge of it.
A Statement from GamePro *But not verified as GamePro
A long standing source of journalism shouldn’t have to grovel at the feet of the overly opinionated online denizens that are so quick to issue a verbal smack down under the anonymity of the internet when they find an opinion that makes them feel that they have been the least bit befouled. Was anyone really hurt? You got to read something you may have enjoyed. If you didn’t enjoy it then okay. Is your life any worse by it?
I don’t blame the video game websites for wanting to perform better and get bigger numbers. That’s half the fun of a website. It’s the reason they exist. If they didn’t then they wouldn’t be able to employ much of a staff and you wouldn’t have seen them in the first place.
I also don’t blame “MasterOfHyrule” for doing it. He got free stuff and enjoyed it. Can you blame him? Apology accepted. I would wager that well over 80% of gamers lashing out at this situation would have done the same thing. Forgive and move on. It’s really not that big of a deal. It’s easy to hide behind your scruples until the situation is presented to you. Granted he did it to an absolutely staggering degree and when caught he reacted rather juvenile in his attempts to discredit but ultimately he owned up as well.
As a gamer, a website owner, and a full time SEO I admit that I see problems like this from a very different view. What I have yet to see and what would ultimately impress upon me a wonderful and much needed apology is a “we may want to update how we rank things” from Reddit. It is absolutely, as Jim put it, a popularity contest. But what is the best gauge of popularity?
I don’t want anyone thinking I’m saying Reddit is bad, evil, or in any way shape or form anything other than a delight and a phenomenal way to spend an entire day. I’m simply saying that if it wasn’t so easy to game then perhaps this wouldn’t have happened.
Nobody in this dance is as nefarious as online sentiment would make them out to be. They are nothing more than symptoms and effects of a much larger problem. The question is how does a website guard against being gamed for the purposes of personal benefit? Simply put, it can’t. Everything can be gamed. It’s the reason the big players don’t release their ranking algorithms.
Until we find a way to measure popularity and validity without influence you will continue to be gamed. You may not notice it. You may not see it. In some instances you may not even mind it. But you will be gamed. Sucks don’t it?
Mad props to Deimorz for not just noticing something was up but also for sticking to their guns. Fairly impressive. You get our “Ass Stamp of Approval” for the week.