Two front-page stories on Slashdot (Censoring a number and Digg.com attempts to suppress HD-DVD revolt), on six front-page stories on reddit (Digg exiles! Welcome to Reddit!, Digg is on a campaign of widespread user and story censorship, Digg founders took HD DVD Sponsorship — Digg fighting user revolt over HD-DVD code ban, Digg shuts down story submissions, Digg users are showing the true power of users on user run sites, Wikipedia bans HD DVD code and related discussion pages)
The swarm has worked, at least partially. Digg founder Kevin Rose wrote on the company blog:
Digg This: 09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0
Today was an insane day. And as the founder of Digg, I just wanted to post my thoughtsâ€¦
But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, youâ€™ve made it clear. Youâ€™d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we wonâ€™t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.
If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.
What is the long number in the title? And why is this on tdaxp Read below the fold to find out…
The number is actually a key to allow people to use HD DVD disks they may buy. Historically, large media companies try to limit the usefulness of new technology, because technology is inherently disruptive and posses a risk to them. So, for instance, the Motion Picture Association of America thought that VHS was a terrible idea and should be criminalized. Fortunately, Congress and the Courts were on the side of the consumers on that issue. More recently, the MPAA opposed allowing people to record DVDs in the same manner that we can record TV with VHS. Again, the Courts agreed with consumers and disagreed with the studios.
Unable to criminalize consumers actually using the movies they buy, the studios resort to technical tricks which just make it hard to use the movies. Because of the computer code surrounding HD DVDs, typing in the number 09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0 allows users to get around the troublesome software and record their own movies.
Eventually, some stories mentioning the number made it on digg, a popular social bookmark site (thanks for the list, Jayson!).
I’m less interested in the number (not having an HD DVD player) than I am with the reaction. Blogs were “outraged” by this, just as they were by the JL Kirk, NationMaster, and Wiley Interscience affairs. However, because HD DVDs effect even more people than negative reviews of Tennessee job placement agencies, negative reviews of online databases, or critical interpretation of journal articles, the swarms’ reaction is even bigger. The reason is that while censoring of blogs outrages bloggers (a vocal but small minority of internet users), censoring online bookmark sites outrages even more people. The group of bloggers is maybe 5% of the internet population, but the group of social bookmarks is huge. Indeed, with social bookmark integration with popular webbrowsers (see Delicious for Firefox, Digg for Firefox, Reddit for Firefox, etc) it is possible within a few years a majority of internet users will also be social bookmark users.
Outrage is not a rational reaction, but whether a consequence of perceiving two things: that your own group is weak and that another group is attacking it. By successfully (for a while) forcing Digg to censor its own users, the MPAA convinced social bookmarkers that they were weak and being attaked. They became outraged. And now a number that I did not care about for quite a while — 09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0 — is all over the news.