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.

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