Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson Respond to Digg Complaints

After Kevin posted to the Digg blog Wednesday evening that there were algorithmic changes to affect the impact of stories that will be promoted to the front page of the site, a “revolt” ensued and an open letter was written. An emergency Drill Down episode was held where numerous Digg users, including regular hosts Andy (MrBabyman), Reg (zaibatsu), and Muhammad (msaleem) spoke with other Digg users, including David Cohn (DigiDave), Karim (supernova17), JD Rucker (oboy), and Jay Fowler (SilentJay74). The initial sentiment was highly negative, and most concluded that the algorithm will penalize users who care much about the community and use it regularly. At first, a Digg embargo was proposed where no Digg users would submit or Digg stories until Monday, January 28th. Eventually, however, founder Kevin Rose and CEO Jay Adelson joined the chat and gave their feedback. Here’s what they said (also covered on Soshable and later posted on Brent Csutoras’s blog):

  • With regards to the new algorithm, Jay says, “algorithms are dynamic in nature. Give it time in your analysis of what’s going on. The math takes time to aggregate.” (Lesson: Stop noticing things the second that they happen.)
  • The goal of the algorithmic change is to get a more diverse number of people to Digg the stories on upcoming. This diversity is not necessarily affected by whether the users digging the stories are friends or fans. It’s more of an overall picture of user behavior. (The concern of the users, however, is that not many regular Digg users visit the Upcoming section of Digg. This was not addressed in the chat.)
  • Kevin says that earlier this evening, he hosted a focus group at Digg to beta test some new features to be rolled out in the future. This is the “recommendation engine” that many users have been talking about. Ultimately, Digg will look at your behavior and suggest other stories that are not popular that you may also be interested in Digging. This will give other users a chance at getting exposure on Digg. Kevin also hinted that this recommendation engine may replace Upcoming section.
  • As far as an autobury feature, neither Kevin nor Jay explicitly acknowledged existence of one. Kevin said that Digg Spy, a tool which records user buries, votes, and comments on the site, was created in Digg’s infancy and only captures a fraction of the data that is occurring on the site at any given time. That said, it cannot capture all buries, and they cannot verify the accuracy of the Bury Recorder. Both Kevin and Jay say that we should give the community the benefit of the doubt. When asked about “autobury,” Jay said something along the lines of “why would we do that?”
  • Kevin and Jay apologize if support emails are unanswered. They don’t intend to ignore these issues. If questions are asked repeatedly, they usually get their own blog post on the Digg blog.
  • Kevin says that there is a Digg staff member (moderator) on duty at any given time to enforce TOS regulations.
  • The other concern is that users were questioning the consistent bannings that have been happening on the site as of late. A specific issue was brought up about my concern about a banned user who seemed to be a pure Digg submitter and contributor with a strong history on the site. Kevin and Jay said that initially, Digg would ban the users and give them a second chance. Lately, however, there are different types of issues that have arisen. In terms of one specific user, both MrBabyMan and I reached out to Digg support and did not get a response. In the show, Andy asked Digg at the very least to get back to the person who was banned. Jay said, “we are, in 99% of cases.” (The person we both speak about was not contacted. Another person in the chat claims to have emailed Digg five times and did not get a response.) Jay and Kevin admit that this can be a tricky situation because they are more aware of what is happening behind the scenes than we are, and they would have a better idea if a TOS violation has occurred.
  • Both Kevin and Jay are open to “town hall” meetings where users can voice their concerns about the service and get straight answers from Digg. They say that they want to hear from the users and they want the feedback.

For the most part, the response was expected, but I have to hand it to Kevin and Jay for coming out and actually talking to us about it. The embargo is no longer in effect and it seems that all may actually go well back on Digg. Thanks, guys!

54 Comments

  • Digidave says:

    I give them credit too. In terms of banning, algo changes and auto-burries there response is “trust us.” And you know what – I’m a trusting person. I’ll give that to them. I think the main problem was the lack of communication – which is what it sounds like they are open to addressing. If that is indeed the case. Then the community “won.” Or at least – it was heard.

    Still – I think if it is all talk – I’m fine with going back to Revoltnation.blogspot.com and organizing. I don’t think it was empty promises though. I think they know how valuable the community is.

  • Lyndoman says:

    Thanks for writing this up so quickly Tamar, I came in on the last hour so missed a lot of the juice.

  • robojiannis says:

    Doesn’t the response state the same thing, but in a more diplomatic way?
    Sure friendship will not be the only variable defining the ‘strictness’ of digg, but nonetheless it will require a more diverse form of digging. Top diggers are in a disadvantaged position anyway (which I find a good think, for the sake of diverse, quality content).

  • Charbarred says:

    Heh heh, looks like they managed to evade pretty much everything:
    1. No reasonable explanation as to why they banned users
    2. The auto-bury thing has been proven numerous times
    3. Took no responsibility for not answering support emails
    4. Claimed that the algorithm will work itself out mysteriously. Algorithms do not just “decide” to change themselves all of a sudden.

    It’s great that they responded but why does it only happen when a user revolt is afoot?

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  • Jeff Quipp says:

    Thanks for posting this Tamar … its a nice recap. I missed the show, so this was helpful.

  • I think Digg has become pointless because of the “Top Diggers” effectively controlling the popularity of posts through incestuous digging (whether deliberate or not). I applaud any attempt like this to make the system more realistic. I don’t know what the “perfect” algorithm is (and I’m sure Kevin Rose doesn’t either) but somehow Digg needs to recognize when something really is popular and when it’s just been modded up by crowd mentality following each other’s lead.

    There’s a related problem with Digg, and that relates to the volume of Diggers. As Digg grows, the “average Digger” more and more becomes Everyman. That will make the Average Digger more interested in pop culture, sports, astrology etc. and less interested in tech subjects. I think you can see that happening already, and I don’t see any way to stop that. Nor should they, necessarily: after all, what is “popular” but being popular? Democratization may make Digg less interesting to some of us, but that’s not a bad thing for Digg itself. It may mean the geeks move on to a smaller tide pool, but our absence is completely unimportant overall.

  • Darren says:

    Digg choose to only reply to emails that they want too. I sent them emails when they started out with bugs and got replys but as soon as I created diggcard I got ignored. I even sent them an email asking them if they wanted the domain name as I didn’t realise about the trademark gaff and the response I got was from their lawyers with a C & D letter.

  • Jane Quigley says:

    Great post – I was wondering what the reaction was going to be (I pretty much guessed) when the story came out last night. Thanks for catching us up. It was great to see that Kevin and Jay responding to the concerns quickly before things grew huge.

  • “The auto-bury thing has been proven numerous times.”

    I’ve had mixed emotions about autobury, but I hear you, Charbarred. This story was submitted to Digg and was buried within an hour of being posted to Digg. It has 69 Diggs as of this writing (less than 5 hours later).

    The two similar posts from Soshable and Brent are still sitting in the queue with less than 60 Diggs (Brent’s has 59, Soshable’s has 49), but for some reason, Techipedia is the only one that got buried. And quickly, too.

    Ironic.

  • algorithms can be self-correcting…. at first it may skew results, but as more and more data is fed into the system, it will produce better and better results…
    so please have patience and stop complaining about something that needed to be implemented for awhile…

    stop the oligarchical nature of digg

  • Charbarred says:

    I think that part of the auto-bury thing has to do with your ranking as a digger and the blog you have. Techipidia will probably never reach the front page of Digg again because they know you own it and you’re a top user. The same applies to my site and many other sites of the people you’d find on the top user list. To tell you the truth, I agree that I shouldn’t be able to submit my own stories, after all I can get them to the front page easily and stand to gain from it. I would rather have them just say “your account cannot submit these stories nor can you vote for them” rather then playing all these games.

    Funny that this story was buried…it’s the most positive one out of them all.

  • gregory says:

    does anybody think the federal government has a hand in the digg soup?

  • MGHwom1 says:

    I leave the Internetz for 5 minutes, and there’s nothing short of a revolution.

  • babblin5 says:

    There’s a much simpler way to encourage more stories getting to the front page, and that’s simply to LOWER the requirements for something to go popular, not skew it towards one demographic or another. This puts the story where it can be seen by the masses, and, with a lower weighting of buries, we’ll have a much more “democratic” system where the majority of users can ultimately decide the fate of a submission.

    Should top diggers get an edge? Absolutely. They dedicated a great deal of time and effort towards the success of Digg, and they have become popular for a reason, primarily that they have a great sense of quality content.

    The problem with algorithmic thinking is that it invariably introduces unforeseen effects as it becomes more complicated. It’s also fairly contrary to natural thought processes. If our thoughts and decisions were based on complex algorithms, we’d all be insane.

    Is it any wonder that as Digg’s algorithm goes through more complex iterations, we see each iteration with more confusion and think to ourselves, “That’s insane!”? Algorithms may be cool from a technical standpoint, but I can’t help but feel that an occassional reality check is in order.

  • Charbarred, if they expected me to stay up all night to promote it, they were wrong. I did sleep for 3 hours. :)

    But I hear your concern. According to your logic, it’s a silly reason to have “autobury” in the first place. And you admit that this is the tamest blog post of the three. If I wanted to submit it, I would have, but I didn’t.

    Babblin5: Your post was excellent. I wholeheartedly agree. Thank you for your endorsement.

  • SilentJay74 says:

    Tamar,
    You did a great job last night and I would like to congratulate you for keeping the trolls at bay. You kept saying “Let’s do this right.” Your methods worked. Thanks again for covering this. You have done one hell of a job. I guess that’s why I keep reading your blog, you never cease to impress me. I would like to see the Digg forum come on line and I would like to see them hold true to thiner word about town hall meetings. The revolt was short and to the point. Great job to all involved. That is the way you get people to listen. This just goes to show good things can come out of a revolt if it is handled the right way.

  • SilentJay74 says:

    BTW I only slept three hours as well. I have had 3 Red Bulls this morning.

  • gregory says:

    i keep thinking the feds have a hand in the pot, sort of managing the news…. happy to be wrong, but “something” makes certain comments and links evaporate

  • I knew I was going to miss something big when I had to leave early last night. Hopefully, Kevin Rose took heed that he’s pissing off the very people who built his empire.

  • Sepultura says:

    Despite the fact that Jay and Kevin’s presence last night was much appreciated by the Digg members taking part in the show, we can’t all assume that our complaints will really be acknowledged. Jay is a skilled businessman and Kevin clearly has a lot to gain from Digg, but why wouldn’t they try to save their asses? It’s only logical that they would want to present themselves as if they were on our side. I’m not saying that they don’t actually care about our complaints, because they have proven in the past that they do, all i’m saying is that we should be skeptical until something happens. Take it from a person who uses Digg a lot, they rarely fix things that don’t have to do with the actual functionality of the site.

    I’ll always appreciate Digg, but I’d really love for Digg to regain the amazing real community feeling it used to have.

  • BarbaraKB says:

    New thought to throw in here perhaps…

    Digg often attempts to be more diverse. Would it like more *ordinary* folks to enter and Digg stories? Like me and my friends? Perhaps. Not always sure. If they want this diversity, (and maybe they don’t, you tell me) a *significant* change needs to happen.

    In order for Digg to move beyond what I perceive it to be now (mostly young, tech-obsessed males) digg *must* get rid of the front page. Period. Digg needs *many* front pages. Many sections. Many places for *all* on the Web to be comfortable and want to participate. This will not happen for Digg as long as the goal is to “make the front page.” Digg needs to think a lot bigger. I enjoy digg but it could be so much bigger and better.

    Peace.

  • SilentJay74 says:

    @Sepultura
    Dude you are 100% correct. However, we have put the ball in their hands. It’s put up or shut up time for them now.

  • fatlester says:

    Digg’s remaining users should just go ahead and upgrade to Mixx.

  • It’s called INCREMENTAL CHANGE. Apparently Jay and Kevin haven’t heard of this before. IMHO the real problem is not the top users, but the sites that are consistently gaming Digg. If you’ve been paying attention you certainly know who they are.

  • Jake says:

    great recap tamar! comprehensive, informative, concise and to the point. thanks.

  • Jason Falls says:

    So I’m late to the comment game on this, but nonetheless:

    The reaction of the top Diggers to the change in algorithm and the alleged intent — to better democratize the process and chances of moderate users to have front page success — is not surprising. For it proves their need to maintain a stranglehold on control of the content. While an arguement can be made (read: spun) to indicate they care more about the community than others, that position is easily made transparent when what they really lose is control.

    Personally, I enjoy thumbing through submissions and finding new content. I enjoy sumbitting what I think is good content and hoping it catches on. What I don’t enjoy is the fact that if you aren’t in the little top Digger’s club, your good but not fantastic content basically goes nowhere.

    To better level the playing field and turn control of the content back over to the community and not the elite inner circle is a good thing.

    Just because I don’t sit on RSS feeds and submit news content all day and only play on Digg when I can doesn’t mean I don’t care more for the community. Be honest, Digg royalty. You don’t want to lose your strangle hold on the front page content.

  • p0ss says:

    well I don’t feel like I can go back to digg.

    I agreed with the sentiments, I signed the petition, I even defended the top users in the comments on digg, and I got buried into oblivion. with that many people burying me and telling me off for saying the top users are a worthwhile part of the community, I don’t feel welcome in digg anymore. So while you guys all pansy out and go back to digg, I’ll be banished for defending you. What happened to the dream of finding an open community, developed by users to the benefit of all? What happened to solidarity and action? or was this whole thing really about your loss of power after all? just a gigantic hissy fit?

    I am disapointed that you have all caved so easily, kevin is still selling out the site to a megacorporation, there are still the bury brigades and the innacurate epidemic, and keven hasn’t actually fixed any of your listed concerns. Are you so touched that he deigned to speak to you that you have forgotten the reasons you got angry? It’s pathetic, you may be welcomed back by hordes of adoring fans, but I put my reputation on the line for you guys and I will recieve only scorn and abuse for supporting you. Man up “top users” gets some friken balls and stop caving in, the way i see it, this is a fight for democracy, and you just got pwnd.

  • 1389 says:

    StumbleUpon rules – Digg drools!

    I love SU. Im the primary admin for 1389 Blog – Antijihadist Tech – our primary focus is promoting freedom of speech and the press for the counterterrorist community. We also track the effort to combat e-jihadists, other hard news??? stories not adequately covered elsewhere, and some tech tips.

    Believe me, it is NOT easy to start a new blog and to build traffic to it. I used to spend a lot of time on Digg – back before they changed the algos and the UI to take all the fun out of the experience – so I tried submitting articles from the blog to Digg. This blog has a lot of original, completely noncommercial material. But it went absolutely nowhere on Digg. I had to conclude that it was not worth the time and effort.

    We still have a Digg button in case anybody wants to submit something, but I rarely visit there any more.

    Instead, we have found that StumbleUpon is great for building traffic to our articles, for making new friends, even for locating potential blog contributors. The problems that are inherent in Digg dont even come up in SU.

    Stop by and visit me on SU – Im 1389ad.

    SU rules – Digg drools! (Sorry, but I “calls ‘em the way I sees ‘em.”)

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  • blipblipbeep says:

    to Kevin hope u get this bro.

    Well this may have been said before many times so soz. I think the diggs counter in the comment section needs to show the calculation as well as the result. For instance, fifteen ppl may have digged a comment down and fifteen ppl also digg the comment up leaving u with the original one diggs up then u get a comment that has the same one digg result but there has been no digging down. this clearly shows a lack of interest in wanting to read the comment or time has elapsed to the point where the subjects title is no longer on page one or relevant. My point in all of this, more information to help me come to my decision.

    Thank you

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