The new Netscape is a joke

The morning of the shooting in Blacksburg, Virginia I wrote a post that I updated during the day briefly chronicling the events as they occurred and my personal perspective as a professional working in Blacksburg. It was not meant to be a major journalistic piece, just a blog post from a citizen. Just for the heck of it, I decided to try posting the link to Netscape to see how the new Digg clone worked. Later that day I noticed significant traffic coming from Netscape and was pleasantly surprised. Maybe this wasn’t as bad as some were making it out. I have no idea why anyone would use Netscape instead of Digg; but hey, who am I to complain when I’m getting some additional traffic that wouldn’t otherwise be there.

After seeing the traffic showing up in my analytics software, I checked out Netscape to see how things were all shaking out (and yes, I was hoping to see massive amounts of votes). I logged into Netscape and started poking around in the account section. But I see nothing. Nada. Zippo. Now how can that be? I know with 100% certainty that traffic was being referred to my post by Netscape, yet there is no record whatsoever that my submission even existed. It’s simply gone from Netscape. So, after a resounding WTF!, I send an email to Netscape asking what the hell happened.

I hear nothing back from them and simply decide to boycott Netscape. Yes, I know a boycott of one person will hardly hurt them, but it’s the principle here. I basically forgot about what happened and figured Netscape just decided to ignore me (they wouldn’t be the first on that account). Recently I happened to go to Netscape and took a peek inside my account to see if they ever managed to respond. To my amazement, I found two things – my submission was listed again and there was a Netscape Anchor Commentary stating:

We’re closing this post, as it’s a dupe of this story.

Hmm, my blog post was a duplicate of an AP story published by the Northwest Florida Daily News. Are you kidding me? So I responded with:

How could it be a duplicate of that story when it was the personal observations of a resident living in Blacksburg that morning? So, by removing this story, is Netscape saying there is only one possible perspective?

And finally, the response:

The post you submitted was reported by a couple of users as a duplicate of another story, which was our main motivation for closing it. Looking at the link you submitted now, though it does come from a personal blog, it doesn’t substantially add information or analysis to the original story. This is not a case of there being, as you suggested in your original message, “only one possible perspective” allowed at Netscape; rather, our users identified your submission as a duplicate, we took a look at it and concluded that the information at the link you submitted was indeed very close to the information that had already been submitted, and closed the story. Hope this helps to clear up any confusion. thanks, Karina

I completely disagree with this logic. If you read my post, the content links to a few different sources with the standard information of the shooting. But the post not only gives a recap of the situation, it also provides a commentary on the event as well as perspective from someone actually there. Yes, if you skim the first paragraph it would appear to be a duplicate. When the whole post is taken into consideration, with comments from others, a different picture emerges.

The whole point of a social networking site is to let the users contribute and regulate the content. Competitors of Netscape do a much better job in this aspect. If a story is a duplicate or of poor quality, its gets voted down. In this situation, the post wasn’t voted down it was actually removed until I sent an email complaining after the fact. Voting down and removal are two very different things to me. Even if some Netscape users marked the post as a duplicate, the amount of traffic my site received from the time it was up would indicate that many found it useful.

From this exchange with Netscape, I’m still forced to conclude the following:

  1. Netscape is heavily censoring everything that gets submitted by these anchors
  2. Netscape only allows one perspective of a story to be on its web site
  3. Netscape places higher weight on “mainstream” media than bloggers
  4. The Netscape anchors have too much editorial control
  5. Why even bother submitting anything to Netscape?

It all seems very heavy handed to me. Netscape’s FAQ says the site is

programmed by you–the audience! All of the stories on Netscape are submitted and voted on by users.

That sounds good, but what about these anchors? Their FAQ also restates the argument made to me. From the FAQ,

In order to ensure that there are not multiple duplicates of the same story, it is important that Netscape community members always link to the original source of a story. Whenever the Netscape Anchor team spots a story that is not linked to the original source, we will change the link and leave a note in Anchor Commentary noting the change.

For example, if you have posted an AOL UnCut Video, YouTube or Google Video video to your personal blog and you wish to submit the story to Netscape, unless your blog post presents substantial analysis or discussion of the video, you should link directly to the source video.

This same rule should apply to any storiesâ??regardless of whether they are audio, video, pictures, or textâ??that you submit to Netscape. We want to avoid cluttering the system with rehashed stories, and we appreciate your help in this matter.

So, once again, they explicitly state that the only thing they want on Netscape is one article from the “original” source. What is that? The first one posted to Netscape? Whatever strikes the fancy of one of these anchors? What do you think? Maybe it’s my fault for not reading their FAQ in the first place.

Now honestly, my post was no great feat of journalism, but there was some perspective and commentary on how the situation was handled. This was not really discussed elsewhere at the time. Netscape did post other sites (including blogs) throughout the day in their Anchor Commentary box, but they managed to delete mine. I really don’t see how my post was so much of a duplicate that it deserved to be removed and not just voted down (or something similar).

First paying top Digg users to switch over to their site and now this. What kind of community and service are they trying to create? My recommendation – stick with Digg and Reddit.

Tom currently works in developer relations for IBM Watson. A serial entrepreneur, he's been the founder of numerous startups including Investify and StatsMix, a Techstars alumni company. Tom lives outside Boulder, Colorado and in his free time he's an avid rock climber, skier, and trail runner.

22 comments On The new Netscape is a joke

  • This might be true of Netscape, but I have to say Digg is not much better, the only difference is that on Digg the top 80 or so users decide what makes the front page and what does not. At least with Netscape they are upfront about it.

  • If you add value then you can submit your blog post. However, the issue we face is that people take an AP story, put it on their blog and write two sentences then submit it. If everyone does this you a) have 100 copies of the same story but with different urls and b) spammers coming out of the woodwork to create adsense traps.

    We call this the middle man rule. If you want to get linked to you have to write something that ads a lot of value. Not sure if you did or didn’t do that in this case, but every day folks submit original pieces that get directly linked to.



  • Jason, I respect your position, but that isn’t my main issue. I have no problem with the community or an anchor voting a story down to zero. I have a problem with the complete removal of a submission from Netscape. My submitted story was there and then completely removed. When I complained, it was restored after several weeks with the explanation I wrote in the post above.

    I’ve submitted stories to similar sites and many of them don’t get many votes for any number of reasons or are voted to zero votes. That’s the whole point of these types of sites. If the anchor thought this post was a duplicate, even though I disagree, they have an obligation to the site to vote it down. It’s the removal and then restoration that I have issue with.

  • Don, point well taken. Digg has its own problems, but I simply don’t like how the anchors handled this. Netscape can try and have it both ways (community and editors), but I don’t have to think it works well nor do I have to like it. As they say, time will tell. Unfortunately, the average user will never know the difference either way which will be a shame.

  • hmmmm… we get over a thousand stories a day so perhaps we made a mistake. we try to be responsive to core community over at Netscape.

    if we did make a mistake I’m sorry about that.

    i wouldn’t judge the site on one bad experience… it’s really starting to work well, and we’re keeping the spammers out and increasing the quality every day.

    when we started we had 5-10 votes to get on the home page now it’s 20-30, and as you can see the top 10 stories have 100 votes and 200-1000 comments.

    we added free video hosting (in three formats: flash, ipod video, and the original file format), sitemail, threaded messages, and an API recently.

    we’re doing the best we can, and we’re only 3 months into this.

    best jason

  • Boycotting Too?


    I think it is very decent of Jason to respond to you and aplogize on your blog. Also, some of the anchors there are pretty cool too.

    I don’t know what the problem is there, BUT there definitely is a problem. I’ve tried to track it down myself but finally said Who Cares? That’s close to a boycott for me – it’s just not worth it to fight the inequities.

    There’s a handful of paid Navigators that work together to vote up their own stories which is bad enough but then they sabatoge anyone else that has any potential. Many stories submitted by common people are often bumped by a navigator’s story-even if the contributor submitted it long before.

    The assignment of pictures to stories (which guarantees more votes) also favors anchors, navigators and left leaning posts. (And I lean left myself! The truth is the truth.)

    Your story is already on the front page. Let’s see if it gets a picture.

    I am saddened by this because it could have been an enjoyable site. I can’t say for sure if the paying the top posters top dollar compromises the integrity of journalism. But it certainly seems these navigators are daily fighting for their jobs because sooner or later the financial people are going to bump them off the payroll. Let’s see them say “Rock On” and endorse Netscape on their blogs and comments when that happens. It’s just a matter of time.

  • Boycotting Too?

    Please feel free to add my comments over at Netscape in the comments section in y our post because I refuse to even log in there. In all honestly, it upsets me too much to think about this.

  • Whatever you are probably a stupid Hokie and your ass football team lost today embarassingly too.

  • You just made my list of blogs I read!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I agree with the new Netscpe is a joke. And Digg is not any better. Please remember this, “People don’t get what they want-they want what they get.” If you think for even a moment that you have any influence at all over what’s available in today’s media think again my naive friend!

  • Your right the new netscape does suck. I don’t know what the fools where thinking.

  • Being number 2 on netscape does not mean that everyone agrees with your opinions. It only means that people are interested in what you have to say, whether they agree with you or not. I read this article, and don’t agree with all that was discussed. That still helps your ratings though.

  • Since there is no way today to have only one first person on the scene of an event, there is only so much space to “tell the story” so submissions, like yours, Tom, become duplicates and fall out. Sorry. Better luck next time.

  • KT, I agree with you that simply being number 2 on Netscape and receiving traffic is no indication that people agree with the article. But I have not actually written that it does nor have I attempted to imply this. In my post I simply stated that traffic shows interest and I’m not sure how that point can be argued. If someone see the title and a summary of the post now on Netscape and they click on it, they have interest in seeing what it is about. Clicking through does not imply approval. Additionally, the same could be said for the votes for the post currently on Netscape. If you read through the comments over there (and I highly recommend it), they are much more harsh than the comments made here. SO, many of those voting the post up may not necessarily agree. You can actually confirm this by reading the comments and looking at who voted for the article at the bottom. Many of my harshest critics still voted for it.

  • Brad, I don’t have a problem with the story falling out. That was never my main point of the post. What bothers me is that my submission was completely removed and then only reinstated after I asked what happened. Something is wrong there. The policy is either to completely remove with notification upon a dupe or to baseline it back to zero votes. In my case, it was both. Just doesn’t seem right to me.

    I appreciate Jason’s comments above suggesting this may have just been a mistake. If that’s the case, I only take issue with how it was handled as opposed to the actions themselves. If there was an error, I would have expected the anchor to apologize and say its back on the site with zero votes, etc. Instead, I get the exchange that I wrote about. I hope this explains things a bit better. I never had any intention of the post being a whining complaint. It was simply meant to point out what I thought were some serious issues with the service.

    The fact that this post did make it to number 2 on Netscape today as well as all the comments I’m reading, tells me that I’m not the only one who feels this way. There are obviously a lot of people who feel strongly about this.

  • I am with you Tom. I have tried to use netscape and had a ton of traffic from it. So it was working. Then I was banned and my site from Netscape with no warning whatsoever. All because the same user was voting my stories. I had never voted my own story. So now I cant post on there and my url cant be posted on there either. I was polite and nice about it but they didnt change anything. Digg is not perfect but it is at least fair. Netscape prefers the big sites over blogs. Agreed! New netscape is a joke

  • I agree with you about Netscape being a joke. A lame, unfunny one at that. I’ve had a Netscape account since before the AOL-Time Warner merger and have seen the whole shebang slowly but surely deteriorate in quality and usefulness ever since the merger occurred. It’s just getting worse and worse as the years pass. I’ll be getting rid of my account before too much longer, I’m afraid…

  • I read your post here with interest, just about every charge you laid against Netscape, I’ve noticed about digg which is why I went to Netscape. LOL!

    Im not saying that Netscape doesnt do it, but digg engages in massive censoring, and deleting of posts and whole accounts with no warning or reason.

    Which is why I boycott digg – but as you say, a boycott of one, well its the principle of the matter.

  • Good Lord, Please get a REAL life, I happened across this by mistake (hope it never happens again) and I have to laugh at anyone so into themselves that something like this worries them to the point of spending as much time as it must have taken you to explain the situation as well as getting ME to spend this much time commenting on it. Having a “perspective” on any actual event is a made up croc of newspeak meant to give importance to something that a particular person may have to say. Either you were first,and correct in your account,or you were not.

  • Dear Fred:

    As someone else pointed out, first is not always the one that is kept or given a picture especially when an anchor is concerned. I too have see this happen over and over. The anchors will say they have nothing to do with this which only makes things worse. Accurate posts which come in before other posts are bypassed and removed if an anchor or navigator submits the same story LATER on. That is a FACT! There’s a discussion on the site now over a story that was “killed” rather than “closed.” Only the anchors and navs have authority to kill or close a story. When the story came in BEFORE theres, that’s when they kill it – destroy the evidence (time post). I’ve seen it over and over – this is the God’s honest truth! In fact consistently its the same anchor and navs that do the killing in favor of their own posts. Printing out your submissions is the only way to verify for those who care to do so. And then you say WTF, I’m OUTTA HERE!!!!!!!

  • I challenge the Netscape paid team to PUBLISH the formula and the guidelines that are used to get stories to the top so that tech minds can independently confirm their claims. Further, I challenge them to allow all posters to submit their own pictures with their stories to level the playing field. Last, I challenge the Anchors and Navigators to DISALLOW themselves from voting for other anchorage and navigator stories. They get paid to submit stories they shouldn’t be allowed to vote on their own. Now this is a system with a bit more fairness, dontcha think?

  • Pingback: Tom Markiewicz » The day after my story was Netscaped ()

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