There is an interesting protest going on over at digg where–from the best I can tell–the top users are taking down their user icons and going back to the default icon. The debate is over the top digg users facing having their votes count for *less*. The top users are taking so much control of the site that digg is now fighting their impact. Kevin discusses strategies for neutering the top users here. (Note: Kevin does not allow comments on the digg blog–go figure).
Frankly I think digg is tripping over itself here. The top users earned their spot and they should be reward for their contributions–not penalized. One person, one vote–that’s the rule. You can’t change that or you change the fundamental premise of democracy. Think about it for a second, is digg so against paying their top users that they are now working on ways to undermine their influence. That is what this is really about right? digg wants to break the 1% who are controlling the site.
These people earned their spots as top users, and it’s really unfair for them to pay the price for putting in countless hours to get to the top of the list. This shows yet another Achilles heal to social media as a business: you’re really not in control. Of course, control in business is really an illusion in my mind unless you own some distribution channel, spectrum, or monopoly. So, perhaps it’s better to say that in social media you are really, really, *really* not in control. You are the host of the party, but if the party people leave so might the party.
Mike Arrington has a lot of good thoughts on how to solve the problem over at TechCrunch (including the very insightful idea of counting where the vote comes from, the permalink page or the “on deck” page because he knows–like I do–that social news is really about AIM :-).
It is so clear that the top 1% of social bookmarkers are so talented that they should do it for a living. That’s why we started our Netscape Navigators program which pays top social bookmarkers. Right now it’s just a part-time job for folks, but in another year or two I bet we have people doing this full-time all over the place. We watched this happen in blogging from 2003 to 2006.
From a selfish position I really hope digg keep underminning the top users because they are more than welcome at Netscape, we promise we will never change the one person, one vote rule.
digg ‘Scape on!
ps – P9: email me… maybe we can find a spot for you at Netscape! jason at calacanis dot com.
Update: J. LeRoy correctly points out that gaming is part of the fun of social news, and that it’s up to the tool makers to fight gaming. I agree that gaming is part of the fun, and that it’s up to tool makers to keep the playing field level. However, I think there are some fundamental rules and “one person, one vote” is key.
Update2: Carr cracks me up sometimes… his take: “Didn’t anyone tell these guys that they’re ‘an egalitarian community of readers,’ a model for our great new world of social production and citizen media? Live up to our ideals, dammit!”
Update3: Rule #1 of diggclub is don’t mention digg club: here we see that reddit stories get banned (buried) from the home page of digg on a regular basis. We’ve had the same thing happen with Netscape stories. It’s becoming clear to everyone that digg is censoring competing services and criticisms of digg from hitting the home page and hidding behind the “bury” feature. For the record we don’t censor digg or reddit stories on Netscape. The only thing we do that *might* confuse folks is that we consolidate duplicate stories. So, if seven different stories come in saying “Netscape sucks, digg rulez!!!” we would consolidate them into one story. We do this because you can’t run a social news service without a serious de-duping process or you’ll have 18 out of 20 stories on your home page be about Steve Irwin (or whatever the story of the day is).
Update4: Follow the digg-drama with this metapost. It’s not easy to run one of these services at scale–we’re all learning.