Digg Crowd Becomes A Mob

    January 10, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

The ‘wisdom of crowds’ theory experienced a setback when the community of users for the popular Digg.com tech site focused their ire on an O’Reilly editor, accusing him of stealing source code.

Digg became what Slashdot has been for a while, the place where someone wants to be noticed for something they’ve written or created online. A story that gets the collective Digg stamp of approval moves to Digg’s front page, which means a lot of traffic to the story will soon be forthcoming.

For O’Reilly Network’s Steve Mallett, the sudden rise to Digg stardom quickly became a tempest when one Digg user accused him of taking Digg’s source code and appropriating it for his sites. The story soon escalated out of the Digg new stories queue and snagged hundreds of comments by other Digg users.

But the accused theft never took place. Mallett had used code from an open source project called Pligg. Pligg cloned Digg’s features, like user story contribution and promotion by voting.

However, the Pligg project also copied Digg’s stylesheets (CSS), which Mallett then copied in turn without realizing those presented a copyright problem. Only after the Digg story had been out for a while did other users do some sleuthing themselves and realize what had happened.

The issue clouds what is otherwise a bright outlook for Digg. Slashdot has long used an editorial model for promoting stories to its front page. It isn’t a perfect model, as many Slashdotters can attest, and it is slower than Digg’s rapid-fire pace of story promotion. And the story could have slipped past an editor who didn’t do the same kind of checking that Digg users did to uncover the truth.

Now we’ll have to wait and see how Digg founder Kevin Rose addresses these stories in the future.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.