01 March 2007

Undermining Digg

Digg occupies such an emblematic place in the Web 2.0 world that it's important to understand what's really going on with this increasingly powerful site (on the rare occasions that I've had stories dugg, my traffic has been stratospheric for a day or two before sagging inexorably down to its usual footling levels.)

So this story from Annalee Newitz on Wired News is at once fascinating and frightening:

I can tell you exactly how a pointless blog full of poorly written, incoherent commentary made it to the front page on Digg. I paid people to do it. What's more, my bought votes lured honest Diggers to vote for it too. All told, I wound up with a "popular" story that earned 124 diggs -- more than half of them unpaid. I also had 29 (unpaid) comments, 12 of which were positive.

Although it's worrying that Digg can be gamed so easily, there's hope too:

Ultimately, however, my story did get buried. If you search for it on Digg, you won't find it unless you check the box that says "also search for buried stories." This didn't happen because the Digg operators have brilliant algorithms, however -- it happened because many people in the Digg community recognized that my blog was stupid. Despite the fact that it was rapidly becoming popular, many commenters questioned my story's legitimacy. Digg's system works only so long as the crowds on Digg can be trusted.

Digg remains a fascinating experiment in progress; let's hope it works out.

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