In light of recent events that have rocked the popular social media site Digg.com and the modifications that are proposed with the roll out of Digg 4.0, I have some serious concerns regarding its future. As a result of the title and introduction to this post, some of you may believe that I have a political agenda to my post, but here the purpose is to demonstrate how this will gravely affect the interests of all Digg users.
The nearing release of Digg 4.0 seems to be unleashing a great deal of angst between Digg users, and one sign of this is the recent scandal involving an alleged bury brigade that has been denominated "Digg Patriots". The Digg Patriots scandal broke out into the open when Ole Ole Olson, a contributor to Alternet, posted a bunch of screenshots from a hacked Yahoo Groups account and viciously attacked Digg's Conservatives and Libertarians for allegedly gaming the the system and "ruining Digg for independent progressive bloggers".
In this very post, other blog articles, worldwide news articles, and user comments, the proposed format of Digg 4.0 is erroneously seen as a panacea to the perceived epidemic of "Digg gaming". The reasons cited include mainly the ability of a publisher to automatically submit its news stories, the removal of the bury button, and the default personalization of a user's front page to only display the content that is popular to his friends.
The average digger of all political persuasions may ask me, "Why is this a bad thing? This will take power away from power users and make Digg very difficult to "game"?". Well the answer is rather simple in the fact that it not only takes the ability away from the user to decide which stories should be submitted, it actually has the dual effect of promoting article spamming and an echo chamber effect.
As Digg currently stands, just about any user has a good shot at making the front page, regardless of political affiliation or interests by effectively identifying and connecting with mutual friends who have the same interests and submitting content that catches the user's eye. Under this system, a wide variety of articles do hit the front page and independent news sites of all stripes have had success in generating traffic and readership, as well as mainstream media outlets. That my friends is what made Digg such a success and a vehicle for actually promoting news stories and articles that may have never gotten a wide audience without it.
Well if that is what attracts you to Digg, prepare for a format that will preserve the influence of the power diggers while at the same time reducing the potential influence of the average digger on what gets submitted and noticed. For one, all of the power users already have established a wide following, and they will still have their influence in the new twitter-like format. Moreover, the defaulting of a user's front page to that which is popular amongst his friends will reduce the exposure to novel ideas and news stories to most Diggers, thus reducing the educational aspect of Digg.
But remember that that isn't the worst of what is to come down the pipes folks! Once publishers are able to automatically submit their content to Digg, there will be the additional issue of the "Digg Power Publisher" that will rise up on the scene and give an additional advantage to the large and established blogs and media sites. Therefore, the people who believe that these changes are going to give an added voice to the "community" in its decision of which blogs to benefit and direct traffic to, they are sadly mistaken.
The final nail in the coffin of the Digg we knew, the Digg that offered a voice for just about every user who got to know how it works, is the removal of the bury button. The bury button is used by diggers to remove articles that they find to be in poor content, slant, or taste, and has been a point of contention by diggers from all points of view. However, by removing this button and replacing it with a report button, the decision to remove an article will be taken away from diggers and be placed in the direct hands of Digg staff. This, in fact, will remove a very important aspect that made Digg a user-moderated site.
Once large components of user moderation on Digg pass by the wayside, a large number of Diggers will most likely see the site as a glorified Twitter or RSS feed and go elsewhere. This in the end would have a negative effect on all independent bloggers and reduce the overall power of Digg to bring good backpage news to the forefront. Therefore, the changes will not just simply "make the site harder to game", and it will just be a detriment to the ability of the average digger in having his voice heard without having a large social network or MSM popularity.
The common response to my conclusion may very well be that I am just blindly criticizing the changes and that "something must be done about those Digg abusers". Well, I ran across a very thoughtful article that discusses the "Digg Censorship Scandal" and offers a solution that would definitely benefit content submitters of all kinds.
Joe Porter proposes that Digg's algorithm be altered to detect stories in all categories that have large amounts of Diggs and buries and promote them to the front page at random. This solution would actually help protect all users from organized bury brigades and still allow for articles that are poorly submitted or obviously spammy to be buried.
Here is a snippet of his solution:
"Digg, you have come up with a great algorithm to determine which articles go popular and which ones don’t. No one has cracked it and no one should. Suggestion: make the “bury” action a part of the algorithm. If it’s an article that is getting a lot of diggs AND also a lot of buries, maybe it would be great front page topic of discussion. This would prevent a mass group from doing a mass bury because then it could actually HELP the Digg submission in some instances. Obviously, if a submission has no diggs and has an abundance of buries, then this could be determined as a spam submission and then let it be buried away off the site."
Fellow diggers, I hope that we can all send a unified message to Digg and encourage them to save the Digg that we all know and help heal the nasty rift that has developed between several factions on the website. I recognize that a lot of the anger involves the desire of people to be heard and to benefit monetarily (AdSense) and socially from the added traffic and influence that Digg can provide. But, if we don't stop accusing each other of foul play and demanding that Digg put a stop to our perceived problems on the site, we will all lose Digg.