How I gamed Digg — and laughed all the way to the bank

If you make your living publishing content on the Internet, you live and die by the pageview. One way to drive huge amounts of traffic to your site is through "social news" sites like Digg. If I write something interesting, the theory goes, someone may submit my article to Digg. If it gets enough votes, it hits the front page and I suddenly have enough money to buy a new hibachi. The reality: I often submit stories I've written myself, or get friends to do it, and I then harangue coworkers to vote for my story on Digg. Digg has been making it harder to score this way by detecting how "diverse" your voters are. If it's the same old gang Digging your story every time, you get downgraded. But there is one virtually foolproof way to beat the system: throw tons of traffic at your Digg link.

A few weeks ago, we wrote a story about humorous headline aggregator Fark.com. That story was then submitted to Digg. Partially as a joke and partially to see what would happen, Fark.com founder Drew Curtis linked to the Digg post, rather than to the original story.

By sending thousands of his readers to the Digg page, Curtis singlehandedly pushed the story to Digg's homepage Success! Instant traffic and a new grill for me. So, is there any way Digg can account for this? Not easily. It's difficult to tell "authentic" Diggs from "gamed" Diggs when you have thousands of readers showing up at a page out of the blue. The site could check referring links and discount the votes if a ton of clicks come from one place — but it's not exactly spam. It's almost the same as using Digg's own "shout" mechanism to ask your friends to Digg your link.

I can't wait to hear from all kinds of so-called "social media" consultants about why this strategy won't work for their clients. Here's a question: If they're so smart, why aren't they tight with Drew?