A few days ago, Digg disabled ‘shouts’, which is the ability to share a certain article with your Digg.com friends. Many Digg users were frustrated, as this means they have to rely on Twitter and Facebook to share their Diggs. I’m not a power-digger, and never cared much to be one. But, after reading a couple of articles about Digg putting an end to the “shouts” feature, it got me thinking: What the hell are they doing?
Now, allow me to say what’s on my mind…
Starting with a little history…
More than a year ago, Digg noticed that the top diggers with many “friends” to whom they shout articles to dominated most of Digg’s first page content. To solve this issue, they changed the algorithm to look for ‘diversity’ in votes. Diversity here – as I understand it – is to have different people digg up different articles, and not the same group of people voting on every article the gets promoted to the front page. Say, one article was dugg by X, Y and Z. If X, Y and Z digg another article as a group, their vote would be depreciated. Now, this makes sense and in general would reduce group voting power over Digg’s front page.
But, as it turns out, this does not and did NOT provide a solution. Power diggers where still in control of the first page after this change. Why? Well, here is how I see it: A power digger would have thousands of “friends”. Do you think that every shout of an article would be seen by the exact set of diggers receiving the shout? Probably not! We’re talking about thousands of diggers while only 50 to 100 votes in a short period are usually required to deem an article popular.
The end of “shouts”…
So, this failure led to the end of “shouts” – but is this going to solve this problem? I’m voting for: No. Proving my point is DiggShout.com as an example; it gathered an active community in under 24 hours. DiggShout is a community of Diggers wanting to publish and promote their articles. In a similar way Digg’s original shout worked, but this one is totally uncontrolled by Digg or Kevin Rose! Same goes for Reg Saddler – @Zaibatsu on Twitter – according to ReadWriteWeb, he’s already using Twitter to redirect users to help Digg up stories he finds interesting. He’s got 80k+ followers at the time of writing.
In other words, there is still a threshold, and once a user breaks it, he can manipulate – to some extent – the front page once more! It doesn’t really make a difference where this community is, whether it’s on Digg (no more), Facebook or Twitter. I think if ending shouts is an attempt to get rid of the advantage “shouts” gave power-diggers, then it’s not going to work as soon as people get used to using Twitter and Facebook to distribute their stories, instead.
Replies, rationalizations and suggestions that I just had to say out loud…
In reply to Greg Finn, quoting: “After the shout-pocalypse I believe that Digg will be a better place from a content perspective. Average stories won’t be artificially inflated; articles will be back to being judged based on their content … not on who has motives behind it.“. I don’t think so, Greg, Twitter and Facebook are similar in fashion to the ex “friends system” of Digg. So, even if shouts are stopped on Digg.com, shouts will continue elsewhere, as I explained above.
In reply to Muhammad Saleem in his discussion about Digg dropping shouts and I quote: “they need a better mechanism that still enables people to share things without being penalized, and at the same time they need a system that doesn’t get abused. Because the system can still be abused.“. The system can still be abused even after the shouts are removed, we agree on this point.
Quoting M.S. again: “the only option that could work is for Digg to come up with more ground rules, but even that is a tall order.“. I do have some ideas which I find hard that Kevin Rose and Jay Allison seem to be ignoring, or just not getting. If you skip to minute 11 of the video embedded below, you will see the discussion of some recommendations a user under the name SigmaEcho posted to Diggnation. The one that I think makes sense the most is allowing each article to appear randomly on the first page – instead of only on the Upcoming section of the site. It was completely disregarded although this strategy is what makes StumbleUpon a brilliant and non-playable system. How? Well, direct votes up (from the site or direct URL) do not make an article rank more, rather the random views through the SU toolbar is what counts. A user who came to a page randomly is nearly never biased towards the site’s owner or content submitter. This article should give a better explanation of this concept.
Another concept is what Reddit seems to be doing. They have some sort (it’s not very clear, really) of automatic voting down happening. I’m guessing this is happening if a user never visits a page he votes up, or maybe it’s linked to karma scores. I haven’t found a solid information source to understand how it really works, but there is an idea Digg’s R&D should “Research and Develop”.
That’s what I had in mind. Just felt like I had to say it out loud. I hope you enjoyed this post. Don’t forget to Digg and Retweet it, he he :-)! If you too have something in mind to say, please use the comments below.