There’s a big storm brewing after Digg decided to pull the top user rankings. It didn’t take long before the unofficial version came out (from a Netscape engineer no less!). It’s also obvious that many digg submissions on this subject are getting buried to pieces.
This only validates one thing: if anything Digg is being manipulated by a silent yet vocal minority of malicious users that try to smother out others by burying and banning those that they hate or disagree with and act as Digg’s censors.
I wanted to put this Digg thing to rest for a while but I need to get this off of my chest. To Kevin and all the people at Digg, you’re all doing a wonderful job and many people are grateful for having Digg but you’re listening to the wrong people. It’s not the top users ruining the experience for others but these silent trolls whose only solace is to use the bury feature to snipe people they don’t like.
Digg’s top ranking list may breed jealousy and hatred but the top users earned their recognition the hard way, one submission at a time.
Not only that, the whole exercise of abolishing the list is futile. In a matter of hours we had the unofficial Digg’s Top 100 Users.
So without further ado, here’s a list of all the highly relevant posts and comments (with choice quotes) around the web by top-ranking users, industry leaders and even comments on Digg submissions. If you think removing the Top User List is a step in the right direction, you’re only fooling yourself, the sheer number of Digg submissions for dissenting opinions on this subject clearly shows otherwise.
And to all the detractors claiming that Top Users manipulate the content, many of the submissions with dissenting opinions on this controversy are getting mercilessly buried. Like I said, it’s not the top users gaming and manipulating the system, it’s the haters using the power of burying a story to promote their silent agenda.
Some of our top users – the people that have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours finding and digging the best stuff – are being blamed by some outlets as leading efforts to manipulate Digg. These users have been listed on the “Top Diggers” area of the site that was created in the early days of Digg when there was a strong focus on encouraging people to submit content. The list served a great purpose of recognizing those who were working hard to make Digg a great site, as well as a way for new users to discover new content. Now, as the site has matured and we regularly get 5,000+ content submissions per day, we believe there are better ways to discover new friends based on your interests and what you’re digging. So if you have been digging stories about digital cameras and Oolong tea, you will be introduced to other top users with those interests.
So what does this all mean? After considerable internal debate and discussion with many of those who make up the Top Digger list, we’ve decided to remove the list beginning tomorrow. As for what’s next, we’re currently working on designing and refining the technologies required that will help enable our nearly 900,000 registered users to make real connections that we believe will greatly enhance the Digg experience – whether you’re brand new to the site or have been on Digg since the beginning. We plan on rolling this out in the coming months along with features and programs that do a better job of rewarding positive contributions to the Digg community.
Top Users speak their mind in the comments section of the Digg submission:
I give it 2 weeks before everyone realizes the top user list had nothing to do with the “Gaming” that goes on here. The largest offenders are the lesser knowns who dont have tons of users keeping tabs on what the they do, as is(was) the case with most of the top users.
Real key to stopping “Gaming” is to stop the “Ill rub your back, if you rub mine” system that Kevin has proped up and promoted for so long. But we all know that will never happen.
Removing the Top User list will further strengthen the noobs and spammers. Digg needs some way to reward those who contribute valuable information, or participate on a level more than casual diggers.
I don’t think the top Diggers were the problem, I think it’s those casual diggers who sign up to either spam, or just get a few stories on the front page FOR KICKS are the problem.
If this is a community and not a race, please allow us to interact. I know that the common way to interact is to sign up to Netscape and message your digg friends, but it’s about time digg had its own private messaging system.
This sucks, if they remove anyway of knowing your rank or your standing compared to other diggers, I’m done. Not that anyone gives a shit, I’m just saying. Going up the ranks is the only reason I submit anything in the first place. What other reward to submitters get? I mean, unless you’re submitting your own sites, what reward do you get now for submitting stories? Yea…
Here’s what some of the top Digg users had to say around the blogosphere:
I have mixed feelings about it. The reason is… I think the top users list really does have value. There’s a whole slew of folks on Digg that use it as a motivator to submit stuff to Digg. And, if successful, seeing their name move up the ranks. It’s the same reason people strive to be good on video games: so that they can move up the ranks of some online leaderboard. It’s the same concept, but less competitive.
Frankly, I don’t see how anything good can come of this. The top users will continue to be visible as dominating the front page as long as their username is associated with submissions, and other diggers can see that the same people are submitting front-page stories continuously. The exact numerical rankings are meaningless. Even worse, the removal of the rankings takes a way a key element of the Digg experience- the game, the rat race to the top, the same reason gamers will play repetitive games for hours and hours on end to get to the high score tables.
The third group, the submitters, are the people who submit stories not only because they like the content, but also because they want to increase their influence on Digg. This influence is represented by the top user list. It is also palpable, as top list users’ votes are “stronger” than the votes of other users. The exact algorithm is not known, but for the sake of simplicity we can simply imagine that one top user vote counts as 2 or 3 or 4 normal votes. Submitters work hard to progress in Digg’s rank (it’s somewhat comparable to grinding in World of Warcraft), and their payoff can be considerable.
As a top Digg user myself (#23 and falling) I think I’m still kind of up in the air about how I feel about this, but I’m leaning towards thinking it’s the right move. If there are no special perks that come with being a top user, why note who we are? I suppose to give some recognition for our hard work, but recently the list has become more of an emailing list guide for spammers and a black list for some groups of users who simply bury everything we submit.
It sucks that we’re getting nothing for helping build Digg into what it has become, but one could also argue that if it wasn’t us there would have been a hundred other users in line to do the same thing. I don’t know, as I said I’m kind of up in the air about it.
Here are what outside commentators had to say (I’ve only highlighted the more influential blogs, but many of them express similar sentiments):
digg motivated the top users in the system with recognition and now that digg is “at scale” they really don’t need this rabid group any more. In fact, the value of a motivated top 100 and their never-ending quest to climb the rankings is not worth the negative impact and press it has on digg is what I’m hearing from Kevin. digg wants to shake the fact that the top stories are controlled by a select group of individuals and this is not the first step in that direction. Remember digg already dinged people for going direct to the permalink to vote (as opposed from the on deck circle).
This is the gift and curse of social news… your existence is based on user participation, and your existence can be destroyed by certain types of user participation (i.e. spam, payola, gaming).
Unfortunately, Digg did not synchronize these two moves. One of the biggest motivations for the top Diggers is earning the right to be on that list. Further, the mere existence of the list spurs those who are just outside the velvet ropes work harder to ascend. Now that the list is gone, so is some of the fun.
Digg really now needs to create a system that rewards people a share of its advertising revenues based on their contributions. After all, without the users, there’s no advertisers. Digg should compensate them using a system that’s fair, ethical and easy to understand yet not game.
What’s the problem? Well there are two of them.
1) It removes one of the only incentives to Digg: You can have all sorts of opinions about how diggers “don’t have a life”, and how they ought to do it for free, much in the same strange hippie ethos that is confused with the open source movement. Regardless OF those opinions, I DO know that attaining a high rank takes a lot of time and effort. And when you’re NOT getting paid for your efforts (like those at Netscape are), you tend to try and look to other things for motivation. One of them is public recognition. While diggers have all kinds of motivation for doing what they do, without the most important means of recognizing diggers efforts at the very least (since they will never get paid), Kevin Rose is hamstringing the core constituency that Digg has been built upon.
2) It won’t eliminate the perception of top diggers manipulating Digg: Why? two reasons, and they have to do with the fact that these Diggers can still be solicited. When people can be contacted, there will always be the charges of manipulation. The first reason is that the top digger list doesn’t actually change that much month to month — so lists of Top Digger’s emails that circulate amongst bloggers will still be valid. Probably for many weeks, if not months. The second reason is because profiles on Digg still list Digger’s emails. If Kevin Rose and the bunch at Digg were really interested in discouraging blame, he would also change the profiles so emails wouldn’t be listed at all. In fact, he could maintain the top digger listing and JUST removing the contact information. By making diggers impossible to contact, they’d be impossible to solicit, and therefore, take a great deal of sting out of digger manipulation.
While Rose suggests Digg will introduce new ways to connect it’s users, this might certainly alienate the very users that have helped grow Digg. Whenever you take away a level of status, or prestige, from your loyalist supporters, you risk them finding a new place to reside.
It’s clear that Rose is reacting to the ever increasing reports that top Diggers are being approached to submit stories for money, but I’m not convinced this move will fix the problem. Whether you give the label or not, there are still many Diggers that wield a lot of power on Digg, and so, you may end up just pissing them off.
Digg is undertaking a grand experiment in flattening out the natural long tail curve that seems to manifest in every open participation web platform. Kevin Rose announced that Digg will no longer display the top diggers list, which has been the focal point of Digg’s de facto hierarchical system and the driver of much its value, as well as the focal point of seemingly endless efforts to game the system:
As you can see, this is a very hot topic that concerns the very future of the Digg community. Now, here’s a fact for you: of all the articles submitted to Digg above only two made it to the front page and only one stayed there (ParisLemon’s opinion was buried after immediately reaching the front page). I’ll also say that DigitalGopher’s opinion as stated in the interview was very very mild and restrained (almost unbelievable considering that he’s currently number 1). All these articles were picking up a higher than average number of diggs by top users themselves, the very people accused of gaming and manipulating Digg. Now tell me, who’s really manipulating Digg?