As many of you know, I took off my Digg hat and put it on the shelf on January 28th after algorithmic changes at Digg made it extremely tough for me to appreciate the social news site that used to give you somewhat of a “high” for getting your stories front-paged.
In the subsequent months, many people did not follow in my lead. In fact, most of them had already left. In the past few weeks, however, even Digg’s other top users are seeing that Digg is becoming more difficult of a social news site to enjoy, and after stepping away from Digg for awhile, I have some thoughts and reflections on how it was and possibly how it should be.
Let me start off by saying that I am still a top Digg user (#42) even though I haven’t submitted in 3 months. As a top Digg submitter, it worked like this: at first, people noticed my heavy community involvement and my participation, and consequently, my submitted stories easily front-paged.
As the algorithm was refined, however, top submitters were in a rut. It was harder for the good stories to bubble to the top even though most people who would have voted on this content endorsed the content and trusted the submitter (which isn’t exactly easy on Digg). In a sense, the Digg addicts were being penalized for being addicted and passionate.
The community had to react. Instead of Digg becoming a place to share interesting stories, it became a “game” of begging for votes, which all of the sudden became a full-time job. (That’s not an exaggeration. I won’t lie when I say that I still get 5-10 daily requests to Digg stories even though I’m semi-retired.) Now, most of these Digg addicts are starting to realize that the value in Digg is being minimized because their efforts and long-term investment are not paying off. This is really nothing new, except for the fact that it’s starting to impact even the most passionate users of the service who have submitted over 3,000 stories. As such, it’s something that I really think the digg team should rethink, especially as the quality of stories decline.
Still, after much thought about this, I realize there’s a solution to the problem and one that my peers may not be particularly receptive to: Digg, it’s time to kill the user stats. Completely. I’ll admit it: I take pride in my 67% ratio (which is higher than anyone else in the top 100) and the fact that I’m in the top 45 users (used to be 40, but hey, I took a break), but that’s what a lot of people are talking about. After all, MrBabyMan‘s presence is so incredibly pervasive and the fact that he’s a dedicated submitter causes discussions about Digg everywhere (and even a lame parked domain in his honor), and most of the comments about Andy’s passion are pretty negative. With my suggested implementation, this kind of bashing and attacking of “top Digg submitters” can stop and the extreme competitiveness can end. I may even actually return to Digg to submit stories again.
Reddit and Mixx, on the other hand, live on a karma system. There are no top users, just points (and with Mixx, awards for special submitters). I’m starting to appreciate the value of this so much more than Digg because it’s not a competition against peers but just a way to accumulate points which gives you inherent satisfaction (and nothing but).
I will admit, being a Digg user gave me some prestige and even some job opportunities. But even so, it’s probably about time that Digg does away with these rankings (specifically) and gives everyone “equal opportunity.” Regardless, Digg has shifted to less quality, and as its “top submitters” move elsewhere, the idea of removing the statistics seems to be a smart move (maybe even for Digg’s sake, because if anyone goes to that list and sees that the top users are inactive, it may not bode well for them). The “top submitters” list is mostly an ego thing, though perhaps it’s time to boost the ego without it being so extremely competitive.
To elaborate on the previous statement, being in the “Digg Top 100″ is an incredibly large feat for some people. In fact, ever since I stopped submitting, four people have surpassed me in the top 100 and two of them made sure to let me know that they had done so. To them, this meant a whole lot. To them, it was a stroke of the ego that was almost like a milestone. I can’t compare this kind of competitiveness to that on Reddit or Mixx, because the metrics available are only the karma points (and associated awards) but no real rankings. And it’s no surprise that Digg did away with that list (officially) last year — I just think it’s time to take it a step further. They need to make it impossible for the Top 100/1000 list to exist entirely.
Social media isn’t going away, but this example shows that some systems just happen to work better than others. As Digg’s algorithm kills top users and makes it harder for them to really feel appreciated, “top users” should cease to exist. Who cares if i have had 276 front page stories? It’s a nice number, but hey, in the grand scheme of things, it became a game of pleading for votes — and that’s mostly because of an algorithm that seemed to impact “top users!”
My suggestion for Digg is to drop the algorithm penalties and to eliminate ways for the “top submitters” list to exist, because both together cause for almost a grueling competition that kills the appeal of the site for many of these users.
Digg needs to evolve in order to be on top of their game, and users need to consider other alternatives while they can. I know many are already in the process of trying out other social networks, so the phenomenon of social news won’t die down anytime soon. However, just because Digg is the biggest, it doesn’t mean that it is going to be #1 forever. It may quite possibly be the right time for users to seek out other opportunities, and it’s time for Digg to rethink its own internal strategies specific to algorithm changes and how stories and users are “rewarded.”
Interestingly, I met one of Digg’s head honchos at the Digg party at SXSW in early March thanks to Jay Adelson, and when I introduced myself as one of Digg’s “top submitters,” he asked, “You’re a top submitter? How are you getting that data?” Exactly. Granted, this is a third-party list, but people rely on it all the time. It’s time for that list to die, and not for Chris Finke to do that but for Digg to actually prevent that data from being pulled.
I have some friends that don’t necessarily like the changes made within Digg in 2008, but they still want to be in the top 100 users for that “high” I alluded to in my introductory paragraph. Eventually, once they get there, these users cannot stop and want more and more “fame.” Hey, this is a confessional blog post, and I totally hear you. In fact, it made for a few months of vehement blog posts about Digg on this blog that were hugely controversial but also incredibly well-received by the impacted community members. Yet after stepping away for awhile, I had some realizations, and I actually somewhat understand what Digg is doing, though they may not be doing enough to address these core problems. I think that this craving for fame is something that people need to step back and think about, and I think it’s important for Digg to take the steps to make that happen.