Digg: A New Platform for Discrimination

    January 16, 2007

I’ve been pondering my stance on Digg recently. When I saw Christian Mezei’s Unofficial FAQ regarding the Digg algorithm, I began to ponder the entire concept of social media, especially given the recent controversy surrounding which content makes the front page, and which gets buried.

Digg: A New Platform for Discrimination
Is There A Reason You Are Buried On Digg?

It was quite an informative article, and I’ll try to touch on some of the main points here, but I highly suggest reading the entire post if you get the chance.

Three notable items that caught my eye have seem to have a large impact on whether or not a story makes it to the Digg frontpage:

The rapidity of the votes. If you get 40-50 votes (no matter what users digg) in the first 30 minutes, you’re probably on the frontpage. If you get 60-70 in the first 18 hours, you’re probably still on the frontpage. If you don’t get at least 60 votes in the first 24 hours, you’re nowhere.

The number of buries your story gets. You can get buried whilst being in the upcoming section, or whilst being on the frontpage. The number of buries that your story needs to receive to be buried really depends, but I think it’s related to the rank of the user who issues the bury, the type of burry (Duplicate Story, Spam, Wrong topic, etc) as well as the number of Diggs the story received. So if you story is in the upcoming section and receives 3 buries, it might get buried. But if it’s on the frontpage with 1000 Diggs, it will take more than 10-15 buries for it to disappear (yet still accessible from Digg, but not beeing present n any category – just by direct linking, or searching with “buried stories” included).

Make friends. Mutual Friends usually digg your stories, so those 10-20 extra diggs can make the difference. You can add a maximum of 4 friends per hour (for spam reasons, and way to go Digg). You can add as many as you would like, and hope that they will add you too, so you will be mutual friends. After that, help your friends (and hope they will do the same) by watching the Submitted by Friends section.

It occurs to me that these items bear absolutely no correlation as to the quality of the story being reviewed. It seems to be all about making friends, hoping they digg your articles, and not pissing anyone off – consequently compelling them to bury your articles.

So this bears the question: Is Digg a true news site, or just a glorified social clique? Or worse, is it a vehicle for unwarranted censorship?

To answer these questions, let’s consider the example of Lee Odden, who found last month that his site had been completely banned from Digg on the premise of spamming. Lee’s Top Rank SEO Blog wasn’t the only site to suffer this penalty, but the interesting point to take note of here is that the “malicious content” in question wasn’t spam at all, not even close.

So why were these sites buried and banned? Simply because influential Diggers decided the content was “unworthy” of inclusion within their precious little sphere of social media, elitist style.

Michael Graywolf’s article outlining “Dirty Digging” goes into great detail into just exactly how Diggers can rally together to bury and ban domains for which they disapprove for seemingly arbitrary reasons. He also goes on to explain why A-list Diggers are able to get away with this type of discrimination:

The reason all of this works is that despite being a web 2.0 company Digg and Netscape are still in Spam 1.0 mentality. The biggest problem is Google has grown up the black operations spammers so much that they are sophisticated enough to make a web assassination look like spamming self suicide. Thats what happens when you act and react in planned and predictable ways. At this stage of the game Google is “smart enough” that they usually ignore or discount that type of thing realizing interpreting someone’s motives is a slippery slope. So how about it Digg, Netscape and all of you other social media sites, let’s lose this queen of hearts off with their head mentality, and realize the person you thought was guilty may have just been set up to take the fall.

It’s valid to claim that getting on the Digg frontpage comes down to a popularity contest, and I think one would have to be pretty nave to completely disregard the idea that status has a significant impact on an article’s ranking.

More than that, however, bloggers and journalists now have to live in fear of saying the wrong thing, lest they be expelled from the site altogether. All of this leaves me wondering when the First Amendment suddenly became null and void according to Digg, a place where now anyone can be squelched on a whim, so long as it pleases the elitist Diggers.

I guess at Digg, it’s liberty and justice for none.

Nevertheless, Digg is indicative of the ever-growing paradigm shift in news coverage.

News is becoming viral, socially contextual, and is increasingly less dependent on the validity/quality of the source material involved.

So, if someone with a lot of virtual charisma makes a statement like, “Google is awesome and they’re going to over the world,” he or she would stand a better chance of making it to Digg’s front page than a well-researched piece containing commentary from reputable Wall Street insiders and industry analysts, but written by someone who is isn’t a part of the clique, as it were.

And if you mention SEO in the title, you might as well prepare to be buried and most likely banned. Why? For no other reason that the Diggers just don’t like you, that’s why.

If Social Media is just going to become another vehicle for censorship and elitist agendas, then you can count me out. I’ve no interest in becoming part of Discrimination 2.0, even if it means sacrificing page clicks or name recognition, if membership requres that I cater to the socialite bureaucracy of Digg by avoiding topics whimsically decided to be “unsavory” to their sensitive reading agendas.

Perhaps I’m one of the few who actually still believes in free speech, even if I don’t agree what someone has to say.

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Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.