Rewriting History to Become Digg Bait

Michael Eakes (who used to work at Rojo with me) wrote an open letter to Al Gore asking him to distribute An Inconvenient Truth for free:

Your lifelong environmental work is to be applauded. Everyone should see the vital message you convey so effectively in “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Unfortunately, theaters are unable to deliver your ideas to the necessary scale. Even with a version available on, downloaders must still pay $15. Any fee is an economic inconvenience that guarantees a limited distribution.

You must reach everyone, in a way only “free” can.

I humbly urge you to give it away.

The original post got a few diggs but certainly didn’t make it to the front page.

Then ZeroPaid comes around and rewrites the post to become Digg bait.

A large Adsense 250×250 rectangle is stuffed into the content right above the fold. All of the original links to go ZeroPaid to boost the pageviews per visit from Digg users. ZeroPaid also steals the full content of the open letter (instead of a fair use excerpt).

Here’s the main question: should Eakes be mad that this guy rips of his content, rewrites it for the lowest common denominator Digg user or should he be happy that he got some additional exposure.

What if this is a trend in social media moving forward? Will all news stories be rewritten like this to become Digg bait?

Imagine if historical events were rewritten for Digg bait? Kennedy’s assassination or Rosa Park’s civil disobedience written as Digg bait and then reviewed 30 years later would be a bit disturbing.

Digg seems to be migrating from an open and democratic view of the news to more of a distributed system for mob justice.

Does this guy spend all day trying to find news stories that can be rewritten to become Digg bait?

Let’s play play devils advocate for a moment and assume this could be fixed. How would you solve it? Maybe some sort of duplication detection system? It’s a difficult problem.


  1. In fairness, zeropaid added a link to my original story within seconds of me pointing out that it was missing.

    Also, zeropaid does add value by tieing my letter to Al Gore in with another film, “The Corporation” and relates how its producers released it using P2P. I hadn’t even thought of that connection.

    You raise a very interesting point about digg. All things considered, the fact that a reblog of my story becomes hot seems like a win for me since my original version wans’t getting any diggs. Even if someone else wins too, I can’t complain too much since it still gets the word out.

    I feel like the digg mob effect isn’t necessarily that different from offline social patterns. Its very common for ideas to be repackaged for a broader consumption than the original author was able to achieve. With digg however, the process is so much more accelerated.

  2. I apologized to Michael that a link citing his original letter wasnt included at first, was apparently lost when transferring from Dreamweaver. As soon as it was noticed I corrected IMMEDIATELY, apologized to Michael, and even added a prominent link at the end of the article asking readers to check out his blog.

    Secondly, if you had taken the time to read the article, and perhaps you did, you hopefully would have noticed that it was NOT a rewrite of his post, and rather a story on the much larger issue of using BitTorrent and other P2P file-sharing networks as a means to distribute socially conscious works and material cheaply, quickly, and effortlessly.

    From the article:
    Controversy surrounding the “truth” of “An Inconvenient Truth” aside, the real importance of this request is how it could shape up to be another potentially groundbreaking instance in which people have chosen to put socially important works in the hands of a worldwide audience at little or no cost to themselves.

    BitTorrent and other P2P networks have the potential to distribute more than mere TV shows, music, movies, etc.. They can also be used for the much nobler purpose of spreading socially important ideas and messages that otherwise many people may never hear or have difficulty in finding themselves.

    The possibilities are endless.

    The previous example of such an occurrence was with the documentary “The Corporation,” in which the directors felt that the movie’s message was so important that it needed to be heard by all despite any misgivings about undermining the ability to recoup production costs.

    I didnt rip him off, I used it as a reference tool noting how the importance of the message makes it an ideal candidate for legal posting on P2P. It was already done previously with “The Corporation” and should be done so in this case as well.

    “Does this guy spend all day trying to find news stories that can be rewritten to become Digg bait?”
    The guy wrote a letter to Al Gore for heaven’s sake, I dont know that Id call it news in and of itself.

    Somebody would have to have pretty big balls to simply do a cut and paste job on a guys letter and then Digg it.

    I wrote a news story noting how BitTorrent can have much nobler purposes in store for it, that it is much more than a way to get your episodes of “Lost” or new Jay-Z album.

    The real news is that BitTorrent and P2P networks can be the the distribution model of the future for works such as “An Inconvenient Truth” that people may otherwise never hear, come across, or have access to.

    Hmmm, either way, no hard feelings. I guess this makes you my first vocal critic, even if your criticisms are erroneous and misguided.

    In the famous words of Borat, hero to the people of Kazakhstan, “sexy time!”

  3. (cont)

    Wasn’t aware that making connections about events and forming an opinion on them isn’t within the boundaries of acceptable journalism.

  4. Normally it wouldn’t have raise a flag on my radar. Forming an opinion and connecting events is obviously acceptable.

    I just can’t get over this whole new writing content for Digg approach to blogging.

    I mean the post was clearly meant as digg bait from my perspective.

    I mean in this case adding the issue of “The Corporation” was important but you *could* have just tailored Michael’s post as Digg bait and gotten it on the front page that way.


  5. well, surely making the Digg HP is a welcome outcome, I mean who would say with a straight face that they would not like the additional traffic and readers of ones material that it ensures?

    However, I guarantee you, that if you tried to sit down and PURPOSEFULLY write a “Digg bait” tailored story you would fail every time.

    Digg comes down the semantics of “skillful” titles and “catchy” bylines that try to capture the curiosity of a captive audience.

    Ive been writing news stories for over a year now at ZeroPaid, have written hundreds and hundreds of articles, and yet have amere 6 total Digg HPs.

    I learned long ago to give up trying to tailor a story to what “Diggers” would read, and instead focus on them producing meaningful discussion and thought.

    Digg has unfortunately, I think, made us even more jaded and skeptical about ulterior motives and intent behind everything we read these days.

    Before when we read news items, the source was the only concern, ie New York Times etc.. Now we have to take in account the writer, the writers background, the site, the sites motives, business dealings, connections to others, the type of site, the site’s location…and thats before you even read the article!

    I read somewhere recently (sorry no link :P) that Digg should change to a topic focused setting so that news and sources would then get rated by the quality and relevance to that topic instead of the current Digg/Bury/resubmit free for all.

    Moreover, I think Digg, as much of a frequent user as I am, has done a bit of disservice to the reason WHY many people write an article in the first place.

    I write and comment on what I do for the benefit of our readers, taking the time to do the research and make the connections on topics that they are most likely unable to do on their own.

    This is who I write for, the readers of ZeroPaid.

    Ironically enough, the first time I submitted the piece it was quickly buried after making the Digg HP. It was apparently a regular reader of ZeroPaid, unaware that it was already submitted, unwittingly RESUBMITTED it.

    “I read ZeroPaid every day with the rest of my RSS feeds. When I went to submit the story, Digg did the normal “hey, retard, you’re submitting a dupe” thing and your story didn’t show up.”

    So I guess what I’m trying to say is that Digg is not why I write what I do. I write about matters that I find interesting or that I think are important for our readers to hear. It’s the only way I could continue to write articles day in and day out.

    You have to be able to write from your own gut, what you feel and think about a subject, and not what you think others want to hear or feel.

    I dont think Id last very long mentally as a writer if a had to make predetermined judgments about a topic and also tailor its discussion according to a perceived set of outcomes and desired attributes, i.e. “Digg bait.” Can u imagine anything worse as a writer yourself?

    If Digg has succeeded in anything, it’s in making cynics and skeptics of us all.

%d bloggers like this: