Balatarin

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Balatarin
File:BalatarinLogo.png
File:BalatarinMainPage.png
Balatarin main page
URL http://balatarin.com
Type of site Social And Political news
Registration Disable
Owner The Balatarin Team
Created by Mehdi Yahyanejad and Aziz Ashofteh
Launched August 16, 2006

Balatarin (in Persian: بالاترین, meaning the highest) is a community website through which users can post links to the webpages of their interest, with an emphasis on Iranian audience. Although only registered users can post links to Balatarin, registration is free. New links initially go to the "recently posted" page and once they collect enough positive votes, they are moved to the front page, which increases their chance of being viewed. The underlying idea is a mixture of reddit, digg, newsvine, and del.icio.us.

Balatarin was named editors' pick in 1386 (March 2007 to March 2008) in 7 Sang, a Persian Internet magazine, and it was voted the second most popular Persian website in the same year.[1] Balatarin was also voted the best "News Website" in 1385 by readers of the same magazine.[2] Balatarin proved to be a very effective social network after the Iranian presidential elections in June 2009. Many Iranians used Balatarin for getting news about the green movement against claimed fraud in elections as the Government had started censoring all the news about the unprecedented protest movement of the Iranians.Balatarin was also used as a platform for coordinating the protest actions against the regime. The effectiveness of such actions were proved during the demonstration of Quds day on Sept.18th 2009. Tens of thousands[citation needed] of Iranians demonstrated in Tehran and other major cities against the regime[citation needed] although this day has been always known for protesting against Israel.

Contents

History

Initial Launch

Balatarin was co-founded by Mehdi Yahyanejad and Aziz Ashofteh. Yahyanejad launched the site on August 16, 2006, and Ashofteh joined him in early October 2006. A number of prominent bloggers became the early users of Balatarin. This helped Balatarin become the main destination of people is search of links and news on Iran.

Censorship of the site in Iran

On February 1, 2007, only 6 months after the launch of the website, the Iranian Ministry of Information and Communication Technology blocked access to Balatarin. In response, Balatarin asked the users to call the ministry and complain. The given response to the users's and Balatarin's inquiry regarding the ban was that the blocking is due to the posting of a link to an article regarding the rumor of Khamenei's death.

Balatarin created a number of new domains such as balatarin.info. Those were subsequently blocked after they were discovered by the Iranian government. Currently, most of Balatarin users in Iran access Balatarin through proxy servers.

From early December 2009, Iranian government start to illegally redirect all the Balatarin visitors from Iran to their own propaganda website called "Nabavi Green Movement"[3].

Hack attempts

On February 3, 2009 Balatarin was attacked and finally hacked after several attempts had been made on the website on preceding dates. A few hours before hacker(s) reached a success, a post appeared on the web feed of one of Balatrin's administrators, saying that not only the server, but also balatarin's DNS and balatarin's Paypal account were under serious attack. [4] The hackers had transferred the domains and assigned them to new DNS. A campaign was launched by several Persian language bloggers to support the return of Balatarin back online. [5] Fars News Agency suggested that the website was hacked by Islamist hackers, since only a few links related to the Israeli invasion into Gaza had been promoted by users in Balatarin during the 3 week long clash, and that the links posted by the pro-government users had often been disregarded.[6]

Social Impact

Readership statistics

There are no statistics provided by Balatarin itself but based on the report by Quantcast, Balatarin has about 800,000 page views a day [7]. Alexa website shows 40 percent of Balatarin traffic comes from Iran [8]. Based on Wakoopa website which tracks the usage of different website through its community of members, Balatarin is the 31st most popular social network on the web among all languages[9].

Technical Aspects

Balatarin is written using Ruby on Rails and uses MySQL for database management. As a Web 2.0 website, it employs AJAX for improved usability.

New Innovations

Credit system

Balatarin uses a non-conventional credit system which limits daily activity of new users. Each user has a credit that increases over time based on their activity and contribution in Balatarin. Credit of the user in turn determines their daily energy, the volume of allowed activity. This could prevent overly-active, inexperienced, new users from deteriorating the quality of the system. A fairly complicated quadratic equation is used to calculated the daily energy.[10].

Hot topics

Hot topics were created to allow users to organize the submitted links under a new category. Hot topics are highlighted on the front page of Balatarin. The title of a hot topic or its description may be edited by the administrators. In their individual pages, users can find all the links posted under that specific hot topic.

A new feature was added to Balatarin on December 7, 2006 after a two-week test period open to a limited number of users.[11] Users with a credit of 15,000 or higher can add a new topic.

Moderation

Moderators

Balatarin announced moderators (or Balayars, a just-coined word) in April 1, 2007 after a three-week probation period. They invited the then five top-credited users to act as moderators, of which four accepted the responsibility.[12] Moderators' responsibilities include preventing and reacting to vandalism, cheating (such as possessing multiple IDs), and copyright infringement. There is an unpublished "Guidelines for Moderators" that governs moderators' operations.

Abuse reports

Abuse reports are a measure to enable the Balatarin community to submit reports about users abusing the system or submitting links violating Balatarin's terms of use. It was added on May 13, 2007.[13]

Criticism

Downtime

Balatarin suffers from limited software development support and therefore it has experienced several downtime episodes over the years.

Online vandalism

Similar to other online, open systems, Balatarin is prone to abuse. Possessing more than a user name for an individual has become more of a concern with the growing popularity of the website. There is also a common misunderstanding about the purpose of negative votes, which is turning into a serious issue. This made Balatarin to change its policy of keeping negative-voters anonymous and now it reveals all voter names.

Democracy

In Balatarin users are asked for their opinion about introducing changes in the system. This is, however, disputed as there is no clear explanation on how votes are interpreted and put into action.

Moreover, Balatarin claims to have minimal administrative control over the content of the website. However, it has promoted some high-credit users (four, as of June 16, 2007) as the moderators of the website. Moderators, in contrast to the normal users, are able to remove a link or ban a user according to a written (yet unpublished) "Guidelines for Moderators."

Over time, moderation and submission rules have been controversial and raised tension in many aspects (removing links or banning users probably in order to impose personal ideas, political view, or other interests). This issue has led to some users complaints and treat of quitting the website for the so-called violation of Balatarin's promises as a democratic website. Moreover, one of the founders published a post in the official blog announcing that the site is democratic only to a certain point:

This abstract impression that some users have, that the democracy only means voting, is incorrect. Democracy needs framework and rules. Balatarin is a democracy only to the extent that links go to the first page by your votes. Some few links (maybe less than 5 percent) that are removed, are according to the rules mentioned in submission page.[14]

Energy pool

The energy pool concept is suspected to promote lower contribution of the users to website, as the weight of posting links is quite high. It also demotes administrative operation of some users, as negative votes require much energy. The reason for the relatively high weight of negative votes is to discourage their misuse. However, mathematical analysis of the energy formula reveals that there are optimal strategies for increasing the credit in Balatarin.[15]


See also

References

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