An Open Letter to Kevin Rose

Dear Mr. Rose,

I am writing to follow up with you regarding correspondence with a member of your team several weeks ago. I inquired about a domain that seems to be on your auto-bury list. Granted, you have never admitted to an auto-bury list, but the statistics speak for themselves. In the first link, it is obvious that the last story that was not buried was also popular and hit the front page 184 days ago. As of this writing, it has 903 Diggs. Not too shabby. However, in the second link, it appears that every single story submitted since then has been buried. That includes a total of 25 stories. One of them is from less than 24 hours ago and was buried with 2 Diggs. As an avid user of your service, I don’t think it would be off the mark to say that you are burying stories internally given that it is very rare for stories with less than 5-10 Diggs to be buried from my observations (and you know how often I wander the halls of Digg). I’m going to go a step further and make a claim that you are not only burying stories internally; you have a method of burying domains after an arbitrary amount of time has elapsed since the story was submitted. Here was a story from the domain that I submitted that got buried with 45 Diggs. Somehow, it accrued another 60 after it was buried. I have a hard time believing that the democratic voice of Diggers was responsible for this story’s burial. Similarly, these two stories are good Digg content, and I think that a good number of people would agree with my claim.

That said, I request a more transparent Digg. However, since that is a request that has often fallen upon deaf ears, I want to start by asking that instead of auto-burying a story, ban the domain. That way, you are not leading submitters into a false hope that their story which has Diggworthy content can make the front page. (Ironically, these stories that I have used as examples all hit the front pages on other social news sites, so it appears that the wisdom of the crowds came to a conclusion that the content was good and deserving of greater exposure.)

I bring this up for another reason. There is a small fraction of Digg top users who actually take pride in their ratio. You do too, Mr. Rose, considering that according to your profile (screenshot below), you have submitted 295 stories and 298 of them have been popular.

Does anyone see anything wrong with Kevin's statistics?

Of course, that definitely raises some eyebrows considering that this is an extreme mathematic anomaly, but let’s put that aside for a moment. It is obvious that despite the mistake in the statistics, there are also untruths to it. For example, you submitted a number of stories that never hit the front page. Here’s a video of yours that didn’t make it. (My guess is that the recent Digg redesign partially addressed that.) You also submitted some dupe stories and made the right move when you buried yourself. Even when some of your stories just didn’t get enough votes, you took it like a man… or did you?

That’s what I’m wondering. After all, your stats indicate that you’ve never made an error in your own submissions. You must take pride in your 100% (or 101%) ratio, and those stories that never made it are long-forgotten to the majority of Digg’s users. As for me, I like my 52% ratio. I’ve worked hard for it without being a big gun at Digg.

Once upon a time, I emailed your staff and asked if I could help moderate Digg stories on a volunteer basis. Now, I have to say that I don’t want to. I don’t want to understand the internal workings of Digg. I think it would be unfair to us Digg addicts to know too much about the service and know of its shortcomings. When I started writing writing for Lifehacker, I realized that it would be unfair to submit stories from Lifehacker to Digg because I have a competitive advantage over my peers. (And for the record, it has nothing to do with Lifehacker’s Digg policy.) I know what’s going on behind the scenes and I know that it would be unfair to take advantage of that to boost myself.

I know you’re in a slightly different boat. After all, you’re Kevin Rose, Digg founder and rockstar (I still admire you), and you can do whatever you want. But you also know, for the most part, about what works and what doesn’t, and I’m sure you know exactly what’s wrong with the domain I’ve inquired about. I think that it would be fair to be honest to those of us who are extremely loyal users and those of us who aspire to be loyal users. If not for being transparent about the service, at least we can be like your 10 API contest finalists. I keep saying how I want to score lots of Digg schwag. Our dedication should not be overlooked or ignored. I think we deserve more than we’re getting.

So, Mr. Rose, I end my open letter with a few requests:

  1. Any domains that are flagged for auto-burial should not be auto-buried. Instead, block the domain like you do for others:
    Digg blocks domains
  2. Keep your ratio honest. And if that’s too difficult, at least let us build our ratios fairly without any internal affairs operating against our hard work and dedication.
  3. With your vast knowledge of Digg versus that of the regular community, you undoubtedly have a competitive edge. Don’t abuse it.
  4. I don’t care if you removed the top 100 users (thanks to Chris Finke, really, even though I became a top 100 user after that list was removed from digg.com), but do us a favor and make us happy that we’re contributing to the community. I just wore my Digg shirt at SES San Jose (look, there’s even a picture of me wearing it with my press badge and all). Do you realize how many potential new users I brought you? I am not shy about being a top Digg user; in fact, I take pride in it. Let me flaunt it in public without having to blog or talk about it. Give me some clothes. ;) Those of us who are big on Digg these days put in more time than most of those API developers. I know that for certain.
  5. Listen to your top users. Our investment in your dream is more than you’d ever know.

I’m going to leave those requests be for now, since I have a few other concerns I will be addressing in later posts. However, if nothing else, please at least consider what I’ve written.

Thank you,

tamar

Full disclosure: I used to work for 10e20.

Tamar Weinberg is a hustler and juggler. She is the VP of Marketing at Ruxly Creative, a creative marketing agency. She's the Director of Sales at Internet Marketing Ninjas, a 100+ employee search engine marketing agency located in upstate New York. She also rocks global sales at financial media publication Wall St. Cheat Sheet. Finally, she is the Chief Strategy Officer of Small Business Trends. Oh wait, and she's also the community manager at Namecheap. Yeah, like a boss.

55 Comments

  • September 7, 2007

    Glen Allsopp

    Awesome write-up tamar, and I agree with every point. I’m starting to get a lot more involved in Digg than I used to be and it sure can be a lot of hard work.

    Dugg and Sphunn

  • September 7, 2007

    Unhappy Digger

    Way to go tamar. but i sincerely doubt it will make to front page. remember auto-bury!
    happy digging? no more!

  • September 7, 2007

    Matt Jones

    All I can add to this great post is I’m flattered my site was used as the example of a banned site. I agree that sites URLs should be banned if the owner of the site was the one submitting the spammy low-quality content, but even then should it really be a life sentence? I ‘learned my lesson’ long ago. I will shower when Blogging Fingers is Free!

  • September 7, 2007

    ob81

    I feel your post, and agree with most of your requests. Kevin’s Ratio is going to be superficial anyway. I question who cares about it. You obviously did your homework, and it makes loads of sense to “ban” sites that are auto-banned.

    One thing that does not fit well is your point about getting 60+ diggs on a story AFTER it was buried. I have been using digg seriously a clean 2 or 3 weeks, and even I know that those votes were probably from friends who befriended you, as others couldn’t even see your story.

    Listening more to ALL users would be great also. :) Great letter Tamar.
    ob81

  • September 7, 2007

    Tamar Weinberg

    “Way to go tamar. but i sincerely doubt it will make to front page. remember auto-bury!
    happy digging? no more!”

    That’s not a concern of mine at all. I wrote this knowing that there were risks. However, I think it needed to be said.

  • [...] has also pointed out the problem with getting 10e20.com some traction on digg, it seems the site has been targeted by the bury brigade. Do we know what is actually happening? No [...]

  • September 7, 2007

    Unhappy Digger

    “Thats not a concern of mine at all”. but we are concerned. we wish it goes to the front page & create the mark it demands for. even if it doesn’t, still you have made a point which i am sure will cause some ripple in digg though not tsunami!

  • September 7, 2007

    Unhappy Digger

    This link is missing from upcoming: http://digg.com/tech_news/An_Open_Letter_to_Kevin_Rose_2
    thought the second one still there: http://digg.com/tech_news/An_Open_Letter_to_Kevin_Rose_by_a_Digg_User .
    hope it stays.

  • September 7, 2007

    Linda

    Good read. Concise and right to the point, without being overbearing. :-)

  • September 7, 2007

    HMTKSteve

    If you want a clear indicator od wether digg is targeting you (as a blogger) or not is to launch a new site with no ties to your “auto-bury” site and see if the same content makes digg’s home page. I have done this and you know what? The same content on a different domain makes the front page!

    So, what does that tell you about the bury system?

  • September 7, 2007

    Bill Hartzer

    I totally agree–stories that are auto-buried should be banned. But again, have you considered the fact that they might not have a problem with the domain but they might have a problem with the story itself? Perhaps there’s some sort of filter that looks for certain characteristics…and auto-buries it (e.g., if the story is a dupe or something).

    As for what’s going on with that particular profile, you’re right–something doesn’t look right with Kevin Rose’s profile.

  • September 7, 2007

    weee

    Digg is dead long live Hugg!

  • September 7, 2007

    BillyWarhol

    Who gives a Flying Fart*

    It’s all about Self Promo + Vanity*

    Give some Attention to DARFUR or Bush’s Illegal War in Iraq*

    ;))

    Peace*

  • September 7, 2007

    DragonFly

    I posted http://www.politicallyoutspoken.com/cblog/archives/122-Will-Diggs-Content-Be-Decided-by-Organized-Trollers.html a while back at my blogsite regarding a group of individuals who appeared to be monitoring my submissions for topics they obviously don’t want others to read even though many in the digg community find them diggworthy.

    I’ve written Kevin Rose and company four emails regarding submissions that mysteriously disappeared (one was poised at the very top of the ‘upcoming’ list with votes and comments still coming in), as well as a few others that moved rapidly up the cue with comments – when all of a sudden – poof – gone.
    Logically speaking, this shouldn’t have happened.

    By the way, I’ve never gotten a reply to my emails.

    I’ve taken some of those same articles to ‘coRank’ and ‘stirrdup’ and they’ve gone right to frontpage.

    I’m quite concerned about what is going on at ‘Digg’ and have been wondering if the real reason for the majority of my buried posts has more to do with internal censorship than with a group of diggers systematically burying my submissions.

    So your post is timely for me.
    Thanks, and please keep us informed.

    (‘iDragonFly’ at ‘Digg’)

  • September 7, 2007

    engtech

    Good luck getting the message through, unfortunately I think the issues with burying are locked in stone. If you’re a content creator then that’s as good as being a spammer in some people’s books.

  • September 7, 2007

    Josh

    How come your buddy MrBabyMan (http://digg.com/users/MrBabyMan) has missed to digg this story?

  • September 7, 2007

    Jane

    “Of course, that definitely raises some eyebrows considering that this is an extreme mathematic anomaly…”

    As I just said to you on IM, lmao. You have to love the fact that not only does it list three less stories submitted than made popular, but that the percentage accurately reflects the lying figures. At least that part of their algo is accurate.

  • September 7, 2007

    Tamar Weinberg

    Josh: who cares? I haven’t written this to get Diggs. I’ve written this to bring a long-standing issue to the attention of the people who can make a difference.

  • September 7, 2007

    Webomatica

    This is a good issue to raise, thanks for doing it. I can think of several blogs (including my own) that have the issue of stories being “auto buried” which leads to paranoid thoughts of a “bury brigade”. But the end result of this situation for me is that I don’t use digg very much anymore. I don’t need digg traffic anymore to have a successful site.

  • September 7, 2007

    Rea Maor

    Bravo tamar,
    i hope Kevin will find the time to read it himself,
    Digg did their first major error with the Code Censorship thingy
    few months ago – i hope they’ve learned enough from their mistakes and avoid all the “behind the scene” editing.

  • September 7, 2007

    LGR

    Good letter but somehow I don’t think Digg will care. Pack up the Digg shirt and move on.

  • September 8, 2007

    Virat

    @ Josh: How can Mr.BabyMan go against Digg? Nor can he go against Kevin. Kevin in a way is his master who give him his bread & butter. And is the case of many others like zaibatsu.
    Only those diggers like Saleem & tamar & all who have their standing & a base can comment against digg.
    Have you ever seen Babyman digging anything against digg? big no!
    In case of Saleem its seen many a times. And the end result have you observed that these days Saleem needs hell of diggs to make it to the front page & at times even more than 150 & still it wont make it.
    He is paying the price of his standing & so will Tamar have too.
    Remember its not easy to stand for yourself & make a statement & here Tamar made a statement against the MIGHTY DIGG & EGOCENTRIC KEVIN THE GREAT who the average digger treat as there lord.
    May in coming times we will see less & less of Tamar’s stories on front page & it wont happen immediately KEVIN IS NO FOOL!

  • September 8, 2007

    anon

    Has anyone noted Mrbabyman had been digging very profoundly for http://www.darkroastedblend.com even though he failed many times with that site. Is Mrbabyman has some interests in that site or are the some of the digger getting paid to digg?

  • September 8, 2007

    Urbanist

    I wonder if this will reach Kevin or not – there are some powerful Diggers who both voted for and commented on the post as well as on the Digg submission. How can he not notice? At the same time, this has been an issue for a long time, so maybe he just doesn’t care – or we need to speak even louder ;)

  • [...] pointed out some messed up goings on at digg and Tamar Weinberg wrote an An Open Letter to Kevin Rose to get the issue some much needed [...]

  • September 8, 2007

    Michael Stokes

    If anyone from Digg Inc. is listening I would also like to add the following: It has become clear that your overall traffic is dropping precipitously (ComScore, Alexa, Compete) I would like to posit that the reason for the drop is because of your auto-bury procedure. First, by auto-burying thousands of sites you’ve insured that about 25 sites make up the bulk of the news on Digg, therefore lowering the value of your news aggregation service. Why go to Digg when I can go to these sites directly. Second, many of the people associated with the sites you’ve banned have stopped visiting Digg (were talking tens of thousands of people) and will quickly embrace an alternative once it comes along–and it will if you do not rethink your policies.

  • [...] also suggest checking out Tamar’s blog, particularly the most recent article regarding problems with Digg. Muhammad is really ramping up his new main site with a vengeance – check it out? his interview [...]

  • September 8, 2007

    Tamar Weinberg

    Anon: perhaps you should listen to the podcast that MrBabyMan participates in (www.thedrilldown.com). He Diggs stories that are of interest to him and those stories may not necessarily have potential to hit the main page. Again, who cares?

  • September 9, 2007

    MG Siegler

    I’m with you Tamar, but as usual, I’m afraid the silence from Digg on this issue will be deafening.

  • September 9, 2007

    David

    Answser your support emails mr rose, you coward.

  • September 10, 2007

    Skitzzo

    As a previously VERY active member of Digg and almost a top 100 user, I couldn’t agree with you more. However, this has been an issue with Digg for quite some time and unfortunately they don’t seem interested in addressing the concerns raised by several of the people that have contributed the most to their site. In fact, top users have to have more diggs for their stories to hit the front page. That to me, suggests Digg want’s you to use their site, and then penalizes you for doing so once you reach a certain point. How does that make sense? And yet, no word from Digg on any of these tougher issues… they’re too busy screwing up the comment displays and things like that.

  • [...] An Open Letter to Kevin Rose [...]

  • September 12, 2007

    Lee Odden

    Hey Tamar, too bad about Chris’ site. Our blog domain has been on some kind of banned list (arguably unjustly) for well over a year – LOL and I haven’t missed Digg traffic a bit. I’d pay money for someone to find anything spammy on our site. :)

  • [...] Tamar Weinberg wrote a great letter to Kevin Rose addressing some of these transparency issues with … and I’d recommend giving that a read. However, I’d like to point out that niche sites like DZone and DotNetKicks are VERY transparent; you can even download the source code for DotNetKicks. With DZone you can see how many people looked at the article, how many people clicked the link, how many voted it up, and how many voted it down. DotNetKicks adjusted the front page of the site based upon how long it’s been up there, although the Kicks do help. There’s no secret sauce behind most niche portals. [...]

  • September 15, 2007

    Eric Seiden

    I agree with most of what’s here. I walked away from Digg and removed all DIGG THIS stuff from blog (except one generic Digg link which still remains). I have nothing against Digg but something doesn’t smell or feel right.

  • [...] An Open Letter To Kevin Rose (Digg): Hoping for digg._alpha = 50. [...]

  • [...] believe there is strong evidence to suggest the existence of an auto-bury list. Such a list, it has been argued, must exist to account for websites that used to be frontpaged [...]

  • [...] An Open Letter to Kevin Rose [...]

  • [...] claim that the sandbox doesn’t exist (big one in 2006), argue that Matt Cutts is a schmuck, question the lack of transparency and credibility on Digg’s algorithm, support the claim that global warming worries lack credibility. The list could go on and [...]

  • [...] An Open Letter to Kevin Rose [...]

  • [...] how much I admire her writing. She is absolutely a brilliant writer, but I also applaud her for speaking her mind through her posts. From women everywhere, Tamar….. Thank [...]

  • [...] An Open Letter to Kevin Rose [...]

  • [...] they may not be too harsh. He’s not the first to have words with Digg. Techipedia wrote this open letter to Kevin Rose, Digg founder, and Marketing Pilgrim offered their thoughts earlier this [...]

  • [...] page six times, with three articles making it in a single week. After that, it became obvious that Kevin Rose and his in-house nerd brigade couldn’t tolerate quality content making the Digg home page [...]

  • December 22, 2007

    Banned From Digg (again)

    digg sucks big time..

    I say global ban on those loosers..

    Bring on Web 3.0 asap!

  • [...] (und stattdessen lieber das ein oder andere Blog lesen) sollte (als User oder Quelle), zeigt der offene Brief von Tamar Weinberg an den digg.com-Grnder Kevin [...]

  • [...] Firstly we have fair, and open requests from one of it’s top submitters. An Open Letter to Kevin Rose [...]

  • February 12, 2008

    Simkin

    Few days ago I registered a small stream of referrals to my website from Digg. I followed the link in my access log and arrived at http://digg.com/all/design/upcoming/most where my “artist or ape” page was in the left column on the fourth place with 32 diggs. However, it was absent in the right column “hot in design” which they include in feeds. At the same time “hot” column included pages with only 4 diggs. Somehow for Digg 4 diggs is hot but 32 is not.

    At the moment my webpage is absent even from the left column, but I saved a screenshot http://reverent.org/webarchive/digg-design-upcoming.jpg

    Here is what my webpage finally got on Digg

    http://digg.com/design/An_artist_or_an_ape

    51 diggs, 4 comments

    In contrast, on the Spanish language social bookmark site

    http://meneame.net/story/un-artista-o-un-mono

    it got 378 meneos and 99 comentarios and was on their front page for many hours. This is despite that my page is in English.

    Some weird things must be happening on Digg.

  • February 12, 2008

    Tamar Weinberg

    Simkin: that is normal. If you wanted to see what was in upcoming, you just go to http://digg.com/design/upcoming/most. Why repeat that column in the “hot in all topics” column? The right-hand column is algorithmically selected (though many people think it’s random and doesn’t matter). It’s never been any different, either.

  • [...] page six times, with three articles making it in a single week. After that, it became obvious that Kevin Rose and his in-house nerd brigade couldnt tolerate quality content making the Digg home page that [...]

  • [...] ^ An Open Letter to Kevin Rose [...]

  • [...] page six times, with three articles making it in a single week. After that, it became obvious that Kevin Rose and his in-house nerd brigade couldnt tolerate quality content making the Digg home page that [...]

  • [...] (apparently she’s hosting the post celebrations??), Kevin Rose (still showing scars from the tift with Tamar), Garrett Camp (sneering at Tim Nash across the red carpet for exposing the StumbleUpon [...]

  • [...] Rand Fishkin – see I Used to Respect Robert Scoble’s Opinion ShoeMoney – see DMOZ Extortion Jason Calacanis – see SEO is Bullshit Rae Hoffman – see Merchant Circle Kim Krause – see I Don’t Digg Being Dugg Tamar Weinberg – an Open Letter to Kevin Rose [...]

  • [...] page six times, with three articles making it in a single week. After that, it became obvious that Kevin Rose and his in-house nerd brigade couldn’t tolerate quality content making the Digg home page that [...]