Digg.com Suffers Under Regime Change
It seems all good things are corrupted or abused eventually. For Digg.com, habitually might be a better choice than eventually. SEOs, thanks to aggressive blackballing by the Digg “bury-brigade,” were perhaps the earliest and most blatantly ostracized group muscled out of the prevailing purist community there—no salesmen allowed. Marketers and PR flaks effectively excommunicated, internal drama is free is to ensue as “powerdiggers” are accused of setting up a Digg.com good ole boy network.
Exhibit A is a submission ironically making the front page with screen-grab side-by-side comparisons of, as the title suggests, how the average Digg user is. . .cheated. The image shows two Digg submissions with identical titles and thumbnails. The original submission, posted an hour before its duplicate, received only 21 diggs. The second, made popular by a so-called powerdigger made the front page with 2752 diggs.
The comments on that insult-and-injury combo read, depending on your level of cynicism, like either a high school cafeteria conversation or a town hall meeting as complaints about how the popular kids (or political cronies) have formed a clique that now controls the local news media. They steal from the unpopular, the dejected, the weird loners, they promote each others’ causes, they digg up each others’ stories.
It’s Mean Girls meeting the Lord of the Flies. And yes, just so we’re on the same page, there are much, much bigger problems in the world. Consider this a microcosm, a micro-study in human behavior and power structures, then, extrapolate and apply as necessary to larger theaters, like the current one staging in Gaza, or the ongoing consolidation of media, or the ongoing struggle of various proletariats. If that’s too heavy, think of it as marketing strategy—how to game Digg.com for personal gain.
The coalition of outcasts has primarily blamed two Digg.com features pretty standard on Internet social networks: the ability to form friends lists and “shout” to those friends about news stories a user wants promoted.
“This is why many Digg users have stopped submitting,” says one commentator, “they know it is highly unlikely their submissions will make the front page no matter how good their content is, but a power Digg user can submit something dumb like a photoshopped picture of pac-man at a graveyard and it will rise to the top, not because it is all that good, but because of the submitter’s connections.”
“Its not just the stealing of stories, its also the lack of our stories even being heard in the first place,” says another commentator.
Users have suggested switching to rival site Reddit.com, where submissions are anonymous. Others have proposed an algorithmic penalty system such as the one in use at Flickr that seems to devalue group submissions and add value to unconnected simultaneity. Still others, over 1,100 of them, have signed an iPetition about the situation.
For all that is good and likeable about Digg.com—this idea of democratized, collective-wisdom controlled news discovery process—it has never lived up to the ideals behind its inception. From the outset one mob or another has ruled the roost. (Ah, there’s your fundamental human truth, right?) The current mob will likely be replaced with another, perhaps by teams of marketers investing the time to befriend and shout out to one another, or some other like-minded mob.
What’s founder Kevin doing about what one commentator described as priority number one? Well, maybe he’ll get to it once he’s finished meditating about his tea website and the lost art of writing letters on paper.