Digg Unearths Controversy

    September 7, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Accusations persist that a small group of users dominate the promotion of stories that reach the front page, but Digg is fighting back against perceptions of being controlled.

Complaints about Digg’s Friends feature have surfaced from time to time. They all highlight the same point – that a very small group of users have come to hold control of what appears on the Digg front page.

For the non-tech absorbed reader, an appearance on the front page of Digg generally means a flood of incoming traffic to one’s website for a short period of time. Being promoted to the front of Digg where thousands of users will try to visit a given article has proven to deliver so much traffic that destination servers get crushed by the demand.

That “Digg effect” has made placement on the front page a desirable commodity for many. It has also led to complaints about how stories get promoted. One Digg user going by the handle of Jesusphreak blogged about his perception of the problem:

What it comes down to is there very literally is a group that controls Digg. If you are within this group and you submit a story, you are more or less guaranteed 10-15 (or more) automatic diggs from this group. What happens to the people who don’t have such a luxury and only get the default single vote like everyone else? This only encourages a cycle where those who are getting votes will continue to get more and more, as they feed each off each other and pat each other on the back.

Digg uses a voting model to promote and demote stories. Any registered user on the system can give a submitted story a “Digg,” and enough Diggs puts it on the front page. Also, any user can Bury a story by labeling it a duplicate, spam, or just plain lame.

Digg founder Kevin Rose is aware of the issue of a small number of people dominating the front of the site. He blogged about Digg Friends today, and said changes were on the way:

(T)oday we read a couple blog posts that highlight users digging each others stories. This is something we encourage through our friends features…

While we don’t disclose exactly how story promotion works (to prevent gaming the system), I can say that a key update is coming soon. This algorithm update will look at the unique digging diversity of the individuals digging the story.

Users that follow a gaming pattern will have less promotion weight. This doesn’t mean that the story won’t be promoted, it just means that a more diverse pool of individuals will be need to deem the story homepage-worthy.

A date has not been provided for the implementation of this change. Such a fix should go some way toward addressing complaints of Digg being gamed in a way that keeps its front page in under the thumb of a small number of hardcore users.


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