Confessions and Reflections of a [Former] Digg Addict

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.

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50 replies on “Confessions and Reflections of a [Former] Digg Addict”
  1. Interesting post, though I don’t agree that removing the stats is the answer. The algo changes have been really frustrating, but I think the competitive aspect is a good motivator. It seems to me that the algo has made it so difficult to get fp when asking for votes that you might be better off not asking anyone. But you still have to build a reputation as a known submitter.

    I also have doubts that blocking the submitter data would even work, because of the API. It would seem that someone could still write a program to count the number of fps or something.

  2. You can still do that with karma points and not rankings. After all, Digg already removed the rankings officially, but it may be helpful to actually make that list impossible to exist.

  3. says: Bloggeries

    Well said Tamar. I’ve never been big into any of the voting social media sites but after reading this am going to look into the Mixx. I never knew a list like this existed; with lists like such people almost participate strictly for the “status” which takes away from the whole point of sharing useful information with like minded individuals.


  4. says: Charbarred

    I’m not sure it would make good business sense to Digg. There’s no real community in Digg. Ultimately the only thing making people submit stories is the competition.
    Most other sites you belong to probably have a bigger sense of community. Digg is mainly about “surviving”. Everything about Digg is a competition, the comment system, the submission system, the user-base. It’s sort of like “city-living” – in a way it doesn’t make sense, but city people aren’t very likely to leave their natural cut throat habitat, because ultimately they’re “better” for having survived it.
    If they take the game element from Digg it will just be Slashdot of 12 year olds. Who would wanna go there?
    (and yeah, I too quit digg a while back because I felt mistreated, but I like to come back every now and then for the abuse)

  5. Charbarred, excellent point — but right how it’s still some sort of “12 year old” habitat with the grueling competition. I can’t say I particularly welcome it, as that whole mentality pushed me away entirely.

  6. says: kevin

    Rankings on social media breeds a pointless competitiveness that I just don’t get. Take MySpace for example, they rank their blog postings daily like a billboard chart. Some people have resorted to gaming that system. When in reality it really gives them nothing except a few more eyeballs on a blog that they will generate no revenue from.

    I have a pretty healthy dislike of digg, even with the algo change the same sites make the top. It still seems when you check the upcoming stories it is still the same people. I have no desire to be a top digger but I do want to share good content. In order to do that though you need to either submit a popular site or work the system. Why the hell do I want to work the system for blog post that I like on a site? Is it really a good way to spend my time? So in the end I rather just not participate on that site.

  7. says: Charbarred

    It’s all they got Tamar. It’s just getting worse, I doubt Digg can get past it.
    Really, try Propeller, you’ll meet some amazing people there and have actual intelligent conversations.
    (I personally can’t access it anymore as it’s too slow from the UK)
    And Slashdot is still a viable alternative if the layout doesn’t give you a migraine.

  8. Great post Tamar, really enjoy it. It sums up pretty well how a feel about Digg, a lot of changes happen since i’m on it (08/2008), not always for the better.
    I eager to see some Mixx functionalities especially the groups that can really reshape the Digg frontpage and push usability up for users… ok maybe marketing companies pushing for digg frontpage won’t be happy, but hey its a community, there’ll be always good opportunity, just gonna change the approach.

  9. says: Maki

    I think you’re exaggerating the competitiveness involved. Sure, I like to get Digg frontpages because it helps to spread an important message I believe in but that’s not my no. 1 priority.

    And I do know other Top 100 users who continue to submit whatever the hell they like even if it has a slim chance of hitting the frontpage.

    I have also seen many Top 100 users shouting and supporting the stories of their friends, why would they do that if they were truly as competitive as you claim? Because competition is not as pathological as you think.

    How you use social media depends on your frame of mind. If you are just in it to boost your ego, you’ll look for ways to feed that even if there isn’t a user-ranking list.

    The kind of digg user you portray in your article is not the norm. And why not talk about people who thoroughly enjoy and love the competitiveness of digg?

    Why spoil the party for them?

  10. says: Ben Cook

    Tamar, while I agree with you that there’s a competitive element to Digg, I don’t agree that this is Digg’s main problem. I really don’t care where I rank in terms of users, but when the site becomes so stale that breaking news stories don’t hit the front page (despite huge Digg counts) until 20-22 hours after they’re submitted, it turns the site into something else entirely.

    Plus, as you mentioned, the promotion algo seems to penalize those of us that use the site on a regular basis. It certainly seems like Digg is saying the only want casual users and they don’t care if they no longer help spread breaking news stories. That’s fine and well, I mean it is their site, but that’s not the Digg I enjoy spending time on.

  11. says: Samir

    I’m in no way a “top submitter” and truth is I don’t care about being one. I liked digg because I could go and see the best news, but as the algorithm changed so did the quality. Wouldn’t it make sense to allow top submitters to do what they do well, instead of penalizing them. I didn’t like that someone that knew the community and knew what was “really” good had to work harder than someone that just submitted something random. To me this is like penalizing all submissions from “nytimes” or “ars technica” for being “top websites”.

    P.S. I agree with you about the high of getting on the front page – it’s fun

  12. “…but when the site becomes so stale that breaking news stories dont hit the front page (despite huge Digg counts) until 20-22 hours after theyre submitted, it turns the site into something else entirely.”

    That’s exactly why the solution is two-tiered. As I stated:

    “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.”

    I should have expounded upon the algorithm penalties, because that’s actually a good point — breaking news is no longer breaking as the stories submitted by top users require 200ish Diggs to frontpage — and that takes some time.

  13. says: Maki

    btw, I NEVER suggested that there wasn’t a huge element of competition involved. Read my comment and you’ll know that I’m saying that it’s there but you’re exaggerating it by suggesting that it affects all digg users.

    It doesn’t, not at all.

    I happen to be one of those users who enjoy the competitive atmosphere. I have never denied that. But I always look out for and support content that I like by sharing it.

    Competition and enjoying/using Digg is not mutually exclusive.

  14. Lovely and interesting insights. It is too bad that Digg has become so defensive as it has grown up. I guess its alot like growing up in the real world. You become jaded after being tricked and messed with so many times. You know, I have read many stories from Digg users giving them advice, good advice at that, on how they could have fixed things. But it seems like the people at Digg just don’t want to hear it.

    Oh well, good thing there are many other good social sites that we can switch to!

  15. Perhaps you will have more time to cook now that you have put Digg behind. Well at least until they change things up and make it appealing to share news with the world 🙂

  16. says: Stephen

    I think this quest for fame and the top users list has an effect on about 200 people. Digg has taken away the official top users list and has evened out the algorithm to curb “friendly” digging groups. I don’t think the problem is Digg, I think the problem is the mindset of the people that submit for the glory of getting to the top of some list.

    People seem to think that a story they think should be on the frontpage always deserves to be there, and that is wrong. If a story is submitted and the digg community thinks it is interesting enough it will get to the homepage. If not, better luck next time.

    It is unfair to deem the algo changes as penalties. Sure they might look that way to a few people, but for me, I’m glad I don’t have to see all of the stories a group of 50 “friends” submit and digg to the homepage.

    Also, in my experience, I have seen that it is always the people who’s stories aren’t hitting the homepage that say the quality of the submissions are decreasing. If you ask the people whose submissions are making it there, they would obviously say that the quality is increasing.

    my 2 cents

  17. “I think this quest for fame and the top users list has an effect on about 200 people.”

    That’s why I call this post “confessions of a Digg addict.” I think only 200 people are addicted to Digg (in a perhaps unhealthy way). Everyone else cares a lot less.

    “If a story is submitted and the digg community thinks it is interesting enough it will get to the homepage.”

    You can make that argument, but if 50 people think something is interesting enough for one story and 200 people have to vote upon a story to make another story interesting, it is a lot tougher to enjoy the service. Sure, there may be a lot of friends voting upon a lot of the same people’s stories, but perhaps that’s because those people are actually submitting useful breaking news or quality content. I do agree that not everything deserves to be front-paged, but I think that if we removed the rankings, this thirst for front-paging will go away — for the most part.

    “If you ask the people whose submissions are making it there, they would obviously say that the quality is increasing.”

    Sounds like ego stroking to me.

    Personally, even though I don’t submit, I also don’t visit Digg very often anymore, and that’s because I think the quality went down. I think my perspective is neutral in this regard. It’s just not the same Digg as before.

  18. says: Stephen

    “Its just not the same Digg as before.”

    Just because you aren’t finding the same value as before doesn’t inherently mean that the quality went down. When digg first began, it was mainly tech focused, so when it expanded “the quality went down” for some people, but it increased for others.

    “You can make that argument, but if 50 people…”

    You know that it isn’t the number of people that matters most in these situations. When that 50 people first dugg a story to the fp, they represented a cross section of digg. After they get 50 stories to the frontpage, they are no longer a random group of diggers, so the algorithm kicks in and requires more diggs.

  19. “Just because you arent finding the same value as before doesnt inherently mean that the quality went down. When digg first began, it was mainly tech focused, so when it expanded ‘the quality went down’ for some people, but it increased for others.”

    You’re absolutely right. I’m of the opinion that Digg thrived when it was a niche site, but I don’t agree with it right now. I mean, really, why do stories like this get frontpaged? I thought I was reading an informational site…

    “…so the algorithm kicks in and requires more diggs”

    Which makes total sense, except that it’s still a bit flawed. If I see that MemberXYZ is submitting excellent content consistently, obviously, there’s a trust factor involved there. It shouldn’t have to be harder for MemberXYZ’s stories to front-page just because I gave it a seal of approval (and so did others who noticed the same sort of excellent quality) and because I do so regularly for the content I like among MemberXYZ’s submissions.

    I’m not saying I don’t agree with you completely. I honestly think it’s a problem that is lacking a sure-shot solution, but I think the algorithmic approach as it stands isn’t the ideal one.

  20. says: Jansie Blom

    great post. good to see a top digger does not see digg as the be all and end all. i hate the begging thing. was getting messages from all these people i didn’t even know (when i still half-used digg), just to digg their stuff, with no reciprocation.

  21. says: Stephen

    “I mean, really, why do stories like this get frontpaged?”

    Yes, it’s true, not every story that hits the homepage is interesting to everyone. In those instances, either bypass the lame story and move on or bury it.

    “except that its still a bit flawed…”

    Sure, it is true that some members submit content that you find more interesting or diggable more often. I’m not arguing against that. I’m just saying that once you have found memberXYZ and enjoy their posts, simply enjoy their posts and digg them if you so choose. Once you do that, your job as a digger is done. Someone who is digging something shouldn’t act as if they have some sort of vested interest in that post. Just digg the story you like, share it with friend if you think they’d like it, comment, and move on.

  22. Steve, the point is that your job as a Digger may be done, but there are people who feel it’s a lot more than that. That is because rankings exist. Without rankings, I think this whole discussion wouldn’t exist either.

  23. says: kevin

    “If a story is submitted and the digg community thinks it is interesting enough it will get to the homepage.”

    That is the biggest hunk of crap ever. It will get to the homepage if you have a decent base to get the post a good push to start with or if you submit from a popular site. Otherwise it has little to no chance. You can’t tell me that anyone can go out and start an account submit something that is front page worthy and have it magically get there because they community will see the value in it.

    That is delusional.

  24. says: Stephen

    “but there are people who feel its a lot more than that.”

    I guess I have a hard time seeing how other people making getting to the homepage a competition is digg’s problem. Perhaps those people can just not visit the 3rd party top users list? Problem solved.

    Just to be sure I am debating the correct issue. Is the only problem the fact that they make scraping the data possible?

    “You cant tell me that anyone can go out and start an account submit something that is front page worthy and have it magically get there because they community will see the value in it.”

    That’s exactly what digg’s algorithm is designed to counteract. The reason why some posts take 150 diggs to get to the homepage is because those users have been counting on their “base” for diggs instead of relying on the community. Are you a fan of the algorithm or not?

  25. “Perhaps those people can just not visit the 3rd party top users list? Problem solved.”

    If you ask me, this is becoming a circular argument. Why is Digg making it possible for them to go to those pages? Why is Digg allowing third-party sites to aggregate the statistics? Without it, they won’t go there, because it wouldn’t exist, right?!

    People will do it, regardless. It’s called an addiction and most addicts don’t have that much self control.

  26. says: Ben Cook

    but I think that if we removed the rankings, this thirst for front-paging will go away for the most part.

    Tamar, I think that’s the basis of my disagreement with this post. What makes people love getting their stuff front paged is exposing something they enjoyed to a massive number of people. Whether it’s a cool blog post, or a funny pic or whatever, it makes people feel like they have a platform when their stuff hits the front page.

    Just one personal example, I dugg a video that one of my wife’s friends shot, and it hit the front page, and spread across to all the other social bookmarking sites and all sorts of humor sites and even TMZ and the local news.

    Other people have gotten jobs from the Digg exposure or had the national media pick up the story that originally appeared on Digg.

    My point is, as long as Digg has a huge following and the content that hits the front page gets incredible amounts of exposure, you’ll have people yearning to hit the FP. I think you’re giving WAY too much emphasis to the competitive nature of Diggers and missing the true motivations. IMO removing the stats will have a minuscule effect on Digg.

  27. While the algorithm definitely penalizes top users or users with more success than others it does keep top users from making the front page 20 times in one day. I’m not exactly saying that’s a good thing or bad thing.

    Today it took me 246 and 38 comments to get a FP. In the last 7 days that is the 10th most amount of Diggs required to get a front page. Did I promote by IM? No. Did I post on forums? No. Did I even Twitter the link? No. Do I have a base of friends that trust my submissions because I never submit crap? You bet. While I’m not a top 100 user (don’t want to be, there’s a stigma and problems I see with it) I still get penalized like one. I honestly don’t understand the point most of the time when Obama stories and pictures of cat’s licking your dogs balls are making the front page with ease. I guess that truly is what people want to see… baffling.

    In regards to removing the users stats, I don’t really agree with it as that is what helps one gauge their quality, success and failures. It also builds a competitive edge but personally it only makes me competitive with myself.

    To truly remove the stats is all but impossible. Sites like use the Digg API to pull in the information and display it and Chris’s site does the same. However, if you have ever payed attention to SEO / Spam scraper programs or any other automated content grabbers etc. all this information can be assimilated without an API or publicly available stats. I would see no reason why someone addicted enough to Digg wouldn’t crank out a handy well written script to aggregate this data. My point? It would be a waste of time to remove these stats.

    I did like the post Tamar. It’s always good to hear your rants and opinions. Quit bashing and come back to Digg we need your quality there. 😀

  28. “IMO removing the stats will have a minuscule effect on Digg.”

    Well, then why don’t we allow that theory to be tested?

    I’m not saying that competition will be removed completely. I’m saying that there’s a “grueling competition” in place among the top 100 users and that list is forcing this kind of competition. It’s one of those “you kind of need to be it to believe it.”

    I know a few people who had no other goal on Digg but to hit the front page so they can make the top rankings. Maybe you haven’t encountered them. Trust me, I have, and I felt that way too when everyone started asking me “oh, are you in the top 100 yet? You should be” when I started submitting (and frontpaging) heavily. But after three months of stepping back, I feel differently. I can still see the mentality behind others who beg me to Digg their stories so that they can become a top 100 user though.

    Trust me, Ben, it’s there, though your argument holds true. It just isn’t applicable to what I’m talking about.

  29. “However, if you have ever payed attention to SEO / Spam scraper programs or any other automated content grabbers etc. all this information can be assimilated without an API or publicly available stats.”

    I know. This isn’t a problem so easily solved.

    But I’m not bashing. I promise. 🙂

  30. says: ob81

    Great article Tamar. I stopped using Digg after the updates also. The tech side of it took a turn for the bad also.

    Your blog has always been ace. cyaz

  31. says: Jest Staffel

    the simple fact – for many it is business and digg fp is cash in hand

    people pay lots of money for this

    fun has become a side effect

    take care who you believe and what intentions there are

    by no means i am innocent :-

  32. Jess, this post was written more than 9 months ago, and the confessions and reflections of my usage of the service at that point were different than how you see Digg today.

    Sadly, there’s nothing good about Digg nowadays but true gaming. I wonder why people still go there.

  33. says: Fadi

    Thanks Tamar for the wonderful insight. I have just started using Digg and have been searching for the best strategy to get my articles dugg. I felt that it is kind of *unfair* for anyone, even for the top diggers, to have more say in which articles should become more popular. I can understand that you have put much energy to get there, and I do acknowledge that you deserve some credit for that, but I am kind of bend towards equal level play – if that possible -. The quality of the article should have the highest weight in the equation. I am not sure how much of a trust one can put in the top diggers to dig those posts.

    I am off to read more on your site. Seems like very interesting material to me 🙂

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