in Projects, Programming, Technology

What next for Lookmarks?

Spam musubi made from SPAM. (see definition fo...Image via Wikipedia

Lookmarks is my simple link sharing site that died under the weight of link spammers (both bots and humans). I’ve been trying to think of a way to re-work the site to capture the enthusiasm of all those unexpected “customers”. I’ve got the site half-way ported to Google App Engine, and I’m taking an internet marketing course (I’m ashamed to admit) that I’m sure will influence my ideas further.

Goal

The goal is to build a quality link directory by encouraging self promotion and harnessing it to enforce quality (like Mahalo or Wikia but with controls instead of paid editors). The business model is AdWords and paid sponsored links.

Idea

Create a “digg” like system where you only ever vote on random links. You gain or lose credibility points based on how many people later vote the same as you.

Detail

The new Lookmarks works like a very simple social bookmarking site (with a search function), except by default links you add are only visible to yourself (and your friends).

In order to make a link appear public (and to other users that are not your friends) without having other people bookmark it, you must spend Lookmarks points (or dollars). You presumably only want to do this when you are trying to promote your own site. Once public, the link appears in anonymous search results and is indexed by Google (what the link spammers want).

Points are awarded to users based on their ability to predict how many other people will bookmark or “vote up” links. The site doesn’t allow you to go around voting on links because this would allow collusion between fake user accounts. One user could follow around another, bookmark everything and earn a ton of points. You can however, visit a special voting page that presents random links that you can vote on. You are presented with a screen like:

When searching for “Seattle restaurants” do you think most people would find the link below useful, informative, or entertaining… Yes or No

The prediction scoring in this case grants you one point for all the people after you that vote the same as you, and subtracts a point for everybody who votes differently. The volume of random links prevents collusion (the database is already seeded with 10s of thousands of questionable links). Even if you teamed up to vote yes on everything with the letter “X” in it, you’d have to wade through too many links to make the points add up.

Once you’d acquired some points, you could spend/deposit them on one of your links to keep it public even if it received negative votes. For example, you could put 10 points on it to counter-act 10 negative votes.

Just to re-iterate, only link spammers and super-contributors would care about earning points. Normal users could ignore them.

Issues, Questions, Refinements

  1. Sites like delicious, faves don’t appear to need a points system – so captchas and spam filters are presumably enough to throw away the spam (discouraging the spammers instead of harnessing them).
  2. Is the visibility of points (or spending points) necessary? We could just weight the votes of people who make best predictions. The points should probably be visible though as motivation.
  3. Could streamlining the voting so that when you are submitting your link, you have to vote right then and there if you want to make your link public. Include paypal pay now button.
  4. Scoring would be slow to get going. Could give everyone 5 points to start. Could make “random” selection weighted towards links that had 1 vote to speed up scoring.
  5. How would you combine the UI of Digg and Delicious? Since use cases are different, should probably keep them separate. Could be separate views on the same database.
  6. Would it be more efficient to force comparison between two links instead of voting on one?
  7. Can I add one more feature that makes the world a better place (like improve link sharing for teams) to make this whole venture worthwhile.
  8. Other random idea: award one point for each external domain that links to lookmarks (ick :)!)

What do you think of the points system? Should it be visible or invisible? The question is not whether or not you’d use the site, but whether link spammers would bother to go through the voting exercise.

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  1. For best results, you should use long tail keyword phrases that have less competition as you will be able to easily get top rankings in the search engines. Alternatively, if you have already been targeting a specific keyword phrase you can use the 3 Way Links service to quickly add more and boost your existing rankings.