Hacking Memeorandum 101 – the screencast

It worked.

I've now created screencast- Hacking Memeorandum 101 trying to explain what is going on with this Hacking Memerorendum business.

Btw, two new posts out there since Tara's and mine. (more updates at the bottom of this post)

The first is from Ben Barren (I call him Ben Barry in the screencast, sorry Ben!):

"If newspapers and blogs can be manipulated, where does this stop... Blogging needs its own Kabbalah Red String bracelet me thinks... maybe to be different it could be on the ankle... unisex that is.."

The other is from my other blog with pics of the hacks end results:

But I do try to make a serious point both in the screencast and echoed in the other post:

"In case you are wondering, I do realise this is all very silly and I hope we don't get 'banned' in the future.

So I say in all seriousness - we should see the constructive side of this: that the algorithms can be easily hacked and than sooner or later the spammers will try this on themselves. So it might as well be us that tests the system before they spoil it all for us."


"The weblog system can have real effects on writers, and writers can have real effects on the system, and I'm not sure how much of it all we can take at face value anymore.... "

"This recent success in “hacking Memeorandum” confirms to me that we need some kind of human intervention in these systems. The answer may indeed lie with human annotation ala Wink.com, or it may be the case that entirely human systems (Digg, Reddit) are less prone to attack. Perhaps Google could send off its search results to be rated by the human minds at Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

Either way, I don’t believe that algorithms can survive in their current form. Human judgement isn’t infallible, but it’s the best thing we’ve got."

Comments (12)
  1. Scoble pronounces it "meem-orandum". That sounds logical to me.

    As for hacking memeorandum – it had to happen, and it’s better that you did it than a spammer. Personally, I don’t believe in algorithms at all – algorithms are things that get gamed. You need to put a human brain in the loop somewhere. Anyway, I might do a follow up post to explain this better (at the risk of get banned. hehe).

  2. This is brilliant, Alex.

    Will you teach me how to screencast?

  3. MSDNArchive says:

    Here’s the software I use:

    Techsmith’s Camatasia Studio 3:


    There is a screeast of how to use their screecasting software (!):


    Other software listed at:


  4. John Dowdell says:

    Thanks for mentioning that, Alex — that technology open to abuse will likely become abused, should that technology become sufficiently popular.

    I’m not sure about spammers in this case, though, because Memeorandum relies upon a known pool of bloggers to recommend any story. I guess it would be *possible* for all of us to recommend a certain spam site, but unlikely.

    Since the tech pool opened I’ve been wondering how long it would be until some company tried to deliberately target the tech.memeorandum pool of influencers, to get a number of them to highlight a given story, and so artificially raise its profile. The first line of Michael Arrington’s write-up last week made me wonder whether such manipulation had already arrived, but I don’t know whether this was an intentional strategy, or just an incidental side-effect:


    This "known pool of recommenders" strategy at Memeorandum seems to protect against arbitrary spam, but it also raises the possibility of groupthink and echo-chamber, as you’ve shown in your experiment here. Maybe what we need are local engines, where each reader can choose their own pool of trusted sources for recommendations…?

  5. MSDNArchive says:

    Hey John, I think your last point is big deal – you’re spot on. One answer is to allow users to import their OPML. See:


  6. "This "known pool of recommenders" strategy at Memeorandum seems to protect against arbitrary spam"

    I used to think that, but now I’m not so sure. Surely all it takes is for one or two "known recommenders" to start regularly recommending spam sites (and hence making those sites "known recommenders") to screw up the system. But then I don’t know the exact algorithm, so that might not be a valid point.

    And yes: importing your OPML will clearly make Memeorandum much more useful and nuanced.

  7. Hillnut says:

    It looks like there was someone awake at Memeorandum, Your hack has been removed. Good Job for you two to have the weaknesses pointed out

  8. Gabe says:


    I want to leave some belated comments here. Because I was mostly away from the Internet the first time around and even now your page ranks high in a Google search for "memeorandum".

    I think you omitted, intentionally or not, touching on a lot of important points that undercut your assertion.

    First, a memorandum “hacker” must be a blogger with an established reputation and in doing so risk their reputation and the prospect of future placement on the site by “hacking”. I think it’s mistaken to assume that lots of bloggers will do this.

    Second, one needs to spam their own site to spam memeorandum. Your screencast asserts that we should expect Viagra ads on the site soon. It seems doubtful to me that influential tech bloggers will blog about Viagra to bring about this result. Remember, anonymous link farms which affect Web search aren’t seen by memeorandum in the first place.

    Third, memeorandum can even be policed in real time. It’s just a page, not a search engine. It requires about 1/10 of a human to check headlines. I think you’ve applied a search engine mindset to something that isn’t a search engine.

    Finally, I have a problem with some of the images you posted to document your efforts, since disappeared quietly. They were misleading, and had the effect of exaggerating the impact that the hacking had to readers not intimately familiar with my site. You even planted the words “Memeorandum hacked – the return” where there were none onto a supposed screenshot of my site. I think that was a low blow, and unfair for your readers too.

  9. Oh no, so it’s hapenning again…!

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