While working on the first two months of Filmstalker something I’ve been using are Social Bookmarking sites, or Social News sites. These are sites that allow anyone to post a link on a site along with a short comment allowing other viewers to rate the link with a single plus or minus score and even add comments. As a link gains votes it moves up the ranking, and the highest ranked sites appear on the front page for all to see.
These systems sound ideal for a human engineered information filter, almost a human aggregator of quality news and information. If you add in the ability to categorise and feeds you can have a really powerful tool in your hands. The categories ensure that your human filtered information is targeted to the category that you’re interested and the feed ensures that the latest updates are sent directly to you.
Sounds a perfect tool then, or does it raise more problems?
The first real issue with any type of open or social system like this is abuse. The posting of advertising, spam and abusive links is easy to do and attractive because this sensures people select the link to be able to rate the site, and that’s a free hit.
So many of these sites have implemented moderators or administrators to review these links as they come in and remove them if they are deemed to be any of the above non-social links.
However the moment that moderation is taken into the process doesn’t that remove the open and social element? With a small group of individuals deciding what to allow and what not, does it then become a list of their bookmarks, a list of links that match their criteria of acceptance and allow people to vote on?
Let me give you an example of where I began adding some of my stories on Filmstalker to a social bookmarking site.
Now I know that this could be deemed as self promotion, but consider the fact that I was, on average, posting only one of my stories per week, and this would be the main feature wholly written by myself. Also take note that this was done openly, I responded to comments made on the social bookmarking site and also voted for a couple of other posts that took my interest. Oh, and I have no advertising on my site whatsoever.
One of my posts achieved an exciting forty-six votes, while others were hitting around ten, but they were being voted on.
Then my posts started disappering. Bear in mind that at this point I had a mere eight or so online all with votes from other people around the world and one with comments.
So I resubmitted them, not knowing what was going on. Then they too disappered. So I tried one on its own, it too disappered along with some other stories. I had no idea what was happening or why they were being removed so I went to the forums and struck up a conversation with the administrators. That’s when I discovered that they were removing them because I had been posting stories from my own site without commenting or rating others.
Well the answer to that was when you read all the breaking news each day on movies there’s nothing really left that grabs you, and I had rated as well as commented on some other posts.
So what was the problem? Surely the whole idea of the social bookmarking is to allow the general public to rate the stories as they see fit? If they don’t like the link and feel it’s negative, advertising or general bad taste then they will mark it down and effectively hide it from general viewing.
Interestingly there’s another site I post these stories to and they are all receiving huge negative feedback. Once again I can only assume that either administrators are marking these down because they consider it advertising or that people are doing this socially. Now I totally disagree with this because I truly believe that my stories are interesting and unique, but at least that suggests that the public are voting.
So are these social bookmarking sites really living up to their name and allowing the people to rate the links, or are they moderating their own list of approved sites for people to rate?
The other question is am I really breaking big social taboo’s by doing what I’m doing? Or would I be better stopping posting to these sites and leave it to my readers. If I was being really unscrupulous I could get some of them to post all the stories for me. I’m not though, I’d prefer to be honest and open and see these sites moderated by the readers, socially.
Then that raises other concerns. Who resolves issues where people negatively rate stories for their own benefit? Let’s say that someone is getting their sites stories posted onto a social bookmarking site and people are voting for them. However after checking they find that another site covering the same area as theirs is getting stories marked and rated higher than theirs? Well simply find theirs and rate them down, and if you really want to ensure your ranking, get a group of people to do the same.
I wouldn’t be surprised if their aren’t sites that offer morally incorrect ranking adjustments for search engines that will now offer the same for social bookmarking sites. Pay them monthly and everytime yor site gets posted they work to raise the level.
Is there a way that social bookmarking could work without the need for careful monitoring, and how can the monitoring be carried out so it doesn’t bias people who are genuinely trying to get their stories out to others?