Digg is an Oligarchy (or Why Digg Must Constantly Update Its Algorithm)

Digg.com, the social news site, did a major algorithm update last week to tweak the way submitted content get to the front page of the site. As Kevin Rose explained, “As we’ve talked about in the past, Digg’s promotional algorithm ensures that the most popular content dugg by a diverse, unique group of diggers reaches the home page. Our goal is to give each person a fair chance of getting their submission promoted to the home page.”

digg

(Flickr picture by donlbe)

The reaction from Digg power users was scorching. Wired explains: “For those who missed it, several of the top diggers — including Andrew “MrBabyMan” Sorcini, Muhammad “msaleem” Saleem and Reg “Zaibatsu” Saddler, held an emergency chat/podcast to discuss their response to a recent change in the Digg algorithm which made it more difficult for veteran Diggers to get their submissions on the front page. After nearly a couple hours of debate, it was decided that they would boycott the site. They backed down from the plan, though, when Digg founder Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson showed up and talked them down from it.”

Now, why is Digg constantly updating their algorithm and making their power users angry? Let me explain…

Since their launch, Digg’s mission has been about democratizing the news by using the wisdom of the crowds. Jay Adelson repeated it a year ago in the company blog “Our goal is always to maintain a purely democratic system for the submission and sharing of information – and we want Digg to continue to be a great resource for finding the best content.” In addition, there have been multiple rumors around traditional news media firms wanting to buy the site. If you’re in traditional media, what’s sexy about Digg is that promise of real news democracy. It’s a very noble mission but, unfortunately for Digg, the site is currently not a democracy. It’s an oligarchy, where home page results are controlled by a few hundred individuals. If you’re not part of the “Digg club”, getting an article to the front page is a very difficult task. And no traditional media firm will want to buy a site that’s controlled by a small group of people, especially not for $300M (one of the rumored prices). So, for Digg.com, it’s “Democracy or Bust”.

Update: someone suggested we submit the post to Digg to prove (or not) the point. Here it is, if you want to “digg” it.

Update2: “Slashdot Founder Questions Crowd’s Wisdom” in the New York Times.

12 thoughts on “Digg is an Oligarchy (or Why Digg Must Constantly Update Its Algorithm)

  1. hey sebastien,
    it’s noteworthy Kevin Rose is completely sold out to the media and the advertisers, and users come second. the “democracy” thing is a lure

  2. hey sebastien,
    it’s noteworthy Kevin Rose is completely sold out to the media and the advertisers, and users come second. the “democracy” thing is a lure

  3. I don’t know about an oligarchy.

    Actually, it’s not that difficult to figure out, once you’ve been on the site a couple months and see how it works. Developing a network of friends, figuring out effective headline writing and article summarizing, and sussing out the content that digg users tend to go for can get anyone with some smarts and some time to spare a front page story.

    I only joined in April, and have been on the front page more than 30 times.

    Digg’s biggest problem, as I see it, is the de facto censorship of the “Bury” system… Organized “Bury Brigades” can make a story disappear it it pushes their hot buttons, and a LOT of good content is lost that way. The best stuff I’ve ever submitted, with a couple of notable exceptions, got buried by right-wing reactionaries.

    I think Digg should implement a “Controversial” section where buried material goes, instead of just disappearing completely from all lists and searches (except when you check the “include buried stories” box when doing a search, which VERY few users do).

  4. I don’t know about an oligarchy.

    Actually, it’s not that difficult to figure out, once you’ve been on the site a couple months and see how it works. Developing a network of friends, figuring out effective headline writing and article summarizing, and sussing out the content that digg users tend to go for can get anyone with some smarts and some time to spare a front page story.

    I only joined in April, and have been on the front page more than 30 times.

    Digg’s biggest problem, as I see it, is the de facto censorship of the “Bury” system… Organized “Bury Brigades” can make a story disappear it it pushes their hot buttons, and a LOT of good content is lost that way. The best stuff I’ve ever submitted, with a couple of notable exceptions, got buried by right-wing reactionaries.

    I think Digg should implement a “Controversial” section where buried material goes, instead of just disappearing completely from all lists and searches (except when you check the “include buried stories” box when doing a search, which VERY few users do).

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