The Mysterious Trail of Digg User Sicc: An Example of How Digg is Used for Shady Spamming and SEO(UPDATED)

I’ve been doing some investigation to follow up on my previous piece how Digg is being taken advantage of by spammers. No doubt some of you have read Alister’s piece on how a virtually unknown site called Knuttz.net which posts unusual pictures suddenly shot to fame with the help of Digg. In the article, Alister highlighted the mystery of an user named Sicc who basically broke into the Digg top 60 in the span of a month. This is no mean feat although I have some ideas on how he did it. Although I don’t agree with Alister’s allusion that Sicc may be involved with Knuttz (simply because there is no real supporting evidence) (edit: misread Alister, see comment below) I have found out that Sicc is using Digg for SEO purposes and is spamming a lot of blogs by using Digg’s blogging feature.

Check out sicc’s profile at Digg. He signed up on the 15th of December… that’s just a little over a month ago. In that remarkably short space of time he has dugg 6,909 stories, submitted 783, and had 94 of those go to the front page. He now ranks 64! Why does he do it? How does he do it? Are you and I supposed to assume that he does this for the love of Digg? If not, how does he “monetize” his time?

Why are diggers nuts about Knuttz? » Alister Cameron, Blog Consultant

Well, for a start let’s check out his profile on Digg. There we see his MySpace profile (link removed see not below) where we find out his name is Barry and he’s a 26 year old male who hails from Naples, Florida.

It is here we find out that he works at a custom cabinet and finishing company called JWP Incorporated. Other sites that he is affiliated with include Deals.tc and another is Naples Directory.

Here is a screenshot of JWP incorporated:

jwp_front.png

On the site we can see a friendly introduction from Barry aka Sicc himself.

My name is Barry **********(edited: see note below), I work as a cabinet finisher at the JWP Company. I also do all of the website and SEO stuff. Over the years I have created tons of content for this site. Everything from tutorials to articles. The more content I create, the higher chances that the search engines will bring you to our page. So in this area, you will find a vast variety of resources. I add new content and home improvement related articles every month. So take a look and remember to check back often.

JWP Inc. | Home Improvement and Other Woodworking Resources

So Barry does SEO. What kind of SEO you ask? As coincidence would have it I happen to recall a certain JWP Incorporated. In fact, it’s sitting in my spam folder and it’s a blog. Lots of companies have blogs so why not have a look for ourselves by going to the JWP blog.

Here’s a nice screenshot for my readers:

jwp_blog.png

I don’t know about you but that doesn’t look like much of a blog to me. If you look at all the stories they are blog entries coming straight from Digg.

Now let me give you an example of what’s going on. Check out Who dugg or blogged: Why no one should buy Digg, from a Digger it is a Digg submission for an article by Paul Scrivens of 9 rules fame. You’ll find that Sicc has blogged about it too if you go to the bottom.

When we take a look at Wisdump, sure enough:

wisdump_sicc.png

That is only one of the many stories blogged by Sicc. I am certain that he is running some kind of script to automate the task of blogging the stories that he Diggs or submits. So essentially Digg’s blog this feature allows people him to get a link to both Digg and unsuspecting sites like Wisdump.

If we do a Google search on Barry’s full name(link removed see not below), email(link removed see not below), and one of his handles(link removed see not below) we find out that he’s active in all kinds of activities like operating redirection sites and buying a directory of content that he’s trying to get indexed into Google.

For some really seedy stuff just check out all the sites linking into JWP Incorporated. Not exactly your typical furniture store.

I’m really not sure if all these activities are providing him the financial gain he’s seeking. Of course, if it was completely useless he wouldn’t be wasting his time. I also don’t think he’s all that sophisticated considering how easy it is to track him down with a couple Google searches based on information he freely provides but there you have it a case study of how Digg is being taken advantage of by someone as prominent as a Top 60 user.

I really think that Digg should just rip out this feature and obliterate all the data. It’ll help the service run smoother and prevent people from taking advantage of Digg for the purpose of black hat SEO or cloaking spam sites.

Update:

You’ll find my current position on the situation in the link below. There are some ethical implications but in this case I went a little too far in singling out Sicc. However, I’m going to have to take out all the links referencing Sicc’s name and email out of respect for his privacy. Hope you understand.

My goal was never to snipe an individual but raise awareness to an issue. I think I did that so now I’m satisfied.

Oops… (Closure on the Whole Sicc Issue) at Baron VC