The Proper Care And Feeding Of Fools, Internet Edition


Or: Idiotically digging Your Community’s Grave

A “minor” rebellion over at digg yesterday has simply reinforced my perception that the comments section of said news aggregator is filled with either a) 14-year-old males with little-to-no understanding of the real world or b) grown men acting like 14-year-olds, petulantly thumbing their collective nose at “The Man” in a vain attempt to appear hip and/or rebellious. Slashdot has a post collecting many of the details, but the story in brief runs thusly:
Some enterprising hackers (and I mean that in the good, Eric S. Raymond-esque form of the word, not the Johnny Lee Miller/Angelina Jolie sense) managed to discover a simple hexadecimal keystring that single-handedly pretty much breaks the encryption scheme employed on the new HD-DVD format. The AAC-LA and its affiliates had virtually guaranteed content producers that the encryption (AACS) used on both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD formatted discs would be hack- and crack-proof, so this deciphering of the system obviously constituted a fairly major technology news story. Users of digg began submitting links to blog and forum posts containing the hex string and even placing the string within submission headlines and blurb texts which caused the digg administrators to react quickly and bury posts and even disable the accounts of the stories’ submitters. The official editorial stance of Revision 3/digg was that these submissions placed R3/digg at risk of lawsuits from the AACSLA/MPAA and thus violated digg’s Terms of Service. digg users took these buries to represent a form of “censorship” and staged a minor revolt, at one point filling the entire digg front page with stories containing references to the hex string, a course of action that led digg co-founder Kevin Rose to throw his hands up in frustration and state

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

To put it frankly, the actions of the digg community are idiotic. They are not “brave”. R3 was not “censoring” their “speech” and the infantile kicking of the ox goad that resulted was ludicrous in the extreme. “Brave” users seeking to stick it to the MPAA “Man” would have posted the offending string on their own blogs and thus exposed themselves to potential litigation, rather than dragging an unwilling digg into the fight. If they seek the destruction of the community they take part in, I can think of no quicker route than to get the creators sued into oblivion.
So well-played, diggers. You managed to make Slashdotters seem principled and Farkers seem reasonable by comparison. Dunces.
Michelle Malkin posts briefly, Brian Preston calls it (perhaps) the “first full-blown online riot?”, TechCrunch says that digg surrendered to the mob (and tosses in a “Vive la revolution.” for good measure), OwenBen Gray comments with the ol’ “information wants to be free” chestnut but then admits that the diggers are being childish, Gizmodo gives an up-to-date summation of the story and Charles Johnson notes that Rose’s capitulation may actually put digg itself at a real lawsuit risk – since Rose’s blog post contained the offending hex string,

[…]a case could be made that this is executive malfeasance; capitulating to a lynch mob is bad enough, but by posting the code himself he’s putting his own company in danger and exposing it to legal action.

As others in this debate have put it: reddit, here I come.
Download Squad overblows the issue and compares the HD-DVD incident to Luther’s 95 Theses, likens it to the ongoing Google v. Viacom $1B USD lawsuit, C|Net simply passes along an executive summary of the issue while Jeff Harrell is entirely less kind to the diggbots than I:

What happened last night wasn’t a revolution, and it wasn’t something to celebrate. It wasn’t really even something to be momentarily amused by then forget, though that’s certainly tempting given the absurdity of it all. If you take a minute to think about it, what happened last night is that a bunch of kids on the playground banded together to beat up another kid, a kid they saw as richer or more powerful or more snotty than them. “The teachers can’t expel us all,” they said, so they put the other kid in the center of a big circle and took turns punching him, then turned out his pockets and took his lunch money.
That’s not an uprising. That’s not even really a riot. It’s a lynching. And for facilitating it, Kevin Rose and his colleagues ought to be ashamed of themselves.

To paraphrase Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption: that’s doggone right.
Ars Technica warns the MPAA/AACS-LA coalition that the cat’s out of the bag, the horse is out of the barn, Pandora’s Box is open, etc. Jordan McCollum expresses incredulity at the “Diggocracy’s” brazen wig-out and Graywolf manages to slip in a really fancy word that means “mob rule” while declaring May 1, 2007 as “the Day the Digging Died”. Bonus points for the alliteration.
Computing’s Tom Sanders goes all “Leia-to-Grand-Moff-Tarkin tighter-fist-more-star-systems-slipping-through, etc.” on the AACS-LA.
Pajamas Media intones “live by the users, die by the users” and draws a comparison between the “sekrit number” and the Usenet vs. Scientology dustups of the early ’90’s.


Heh, not ‘Owen Gray’, Ben Gray ;). But yeah, the whole “information wants to be free” thing is definitely a dead horse but it’s oh so fun to beat :). Good article, btw. I really appreciated the part where you pointed out that if these diggers actually had any guts they would have posted this incriminating stuff on their own blogs and not on Digg.

Crud. You are, of course, the authoritative source on your own name. *grin* I think my mind mixed “OpenSwitch” and “Ben” and came up with “Owen”.
Link corrected, in any event.
/me sheepisly retreats to his corner and thinks about his mistakes.