There seems to be a repeating pattern with Web 2.0 sites. They start with great buzz and joy from an enthusiastic group of early adopters, then fill with crud and crap as they attract a wider, less idealistic, more mainstream audience.
Memeorandum appears to be the latest example of this. After gushing about Memeorandum in hundreds of posts, sending huge numbers of people to check out the site, Robert Scoble suddenly said he is signing off of Memeorandum, explaining that he's tired of what he sees now, little useful information, a lot of snarky articles from people seeking traffic.
Similarly, in the early days of Digg, it attracted praise as more interesting and useful than Slashdot. Traffic grew and, only a short time later, Digg started to fill with spam and crap. Russell Beattie had a good post about this where he said that Digg is "really full of crap" and that "posts that have more quality" are "getting lost in a continual din of rumor mongering [and] grandstanding."
How many times does this cycle have to repeat before people start building systems designed from the start to deal with bad behavior, crap, and spam?
Sure, you can get away without it while you're small. Spammers don't care about you when you're small; there's no profit motive. But, if you ever hope of building anything that works for the mainstream, you need can't assume everyone will play nice.
If your product tries to help people find stuff they need, you need to design from the start to surface the good stuff and filter out the crap.
See also Xeni Jardin's article in Wired, "Web 2.0 Cracks Start to Show", where she says, "When you invite the whole world to your party, inevitably someone pees in the beer."
See also my earlier posts, "Getting the crap out of user-generated content" and "Digg, spam, and most popular lists".
Update: Gabe Rivera, founder of Memeorandum, takes issue with my claims and says I mischaracterized Scoble's issues in the comments to this post. He makes good points, and it is well worth reading his thoughts.
Update: Six months later, the problem with spam on Digg gets worse.
Update: Nine months later, it appears my prediction about Memeorandum and spam did not come true. TechMeme appears to be focusing on mainly on high quality, more popular weblogs. These weblogs already have a lot of traffic and little incentive to manipulate TechMeme. This approach may exclude some of the long tail of blogs, but is effective at increasing quality and reducing spam.