Digg Argues It Has Ways to Prevent Manipulation

tech.memeorandum @ 8:50 AM ET, March 18, 2006Memorandum is currently running as their top story a post by Heather Green over at BusinessWeek Online about social networking site Digg. A lot of bloggers are chiming in on a report out this week by Silicon Valley Sleuth alleging that Digg may have been gamed by individuals looking to promote a Sun Microsystems Google takeover rumor.

I’ve spent a lot of time playing around with Digg the past few months and have the distinction of having the most Dugg story of all time on Digg. I go there pretty much every day and have watched with excitement as the site has evolved.

Digg is basically a way to get your news in raw unedited form as promoted by the massess. This has pluses and minuses. Certainly individuals potentially could game Digg. It only takes about 40 diggs to get a story to the home pages where it will receive a lot of attention and assuming you know 40 other individuals or carefully built 40 accounts over time this could be possible.

My reaction to this is, “so what?” You could just as easily create 40 accounts and make a fake conversation pumping up a stock on a Yahoo! stock message board. Any idiot who decides to buy a stock based on the fact that a rumor is showing up on Digg, quite frankly, deserves to have his money taken from him.

Investment Pros have learned a long time ago to largely ignore the stock message boards and takeover rumor speculation on Digg would fall into that kind of category. Is some kid going to go out and by 100 shares of SUNW based on a rumor he read on Digg about SUNW? Maybe. But it’s unlikely to amount to much at all.

Personally I prefer my news the Digg way. Unfiltered. I like being able to find stories that were missed by the editors at places like Boing Boing and Slashdot and stories that are really good.

Digg is breaking news on topics that I watch (TiVo, Microsoft, Flickr, Yahoo and many others) faster than any place else on the internet today. It is the single best source for a blogger to find interesting stories to write about and along with Memeorandum represents an amazing tool for sourcing news.

Certainly Digg does have ways for the community to deal with stories that are just lame or false or whatever. Users are empowered with these tools though and not editors and that’s the way I like it. I like the whole news idea of power to the people and that we collectively control an avenue for news vs. editors.

Readers need to learn to read news on Digg, perhaps, a little more critically than they might one of their more trusted sources, but the good way, way, way outweighs the bad here.

Also, people are in fact pretty smart believe it or not. When something bogus makes it on to Digg with any degree of popularity voices emerge in the comments questioning the story. Sometimes though, as in my case with PriceRitePhoto, voices come out actually offering a blogger or news corroborating voices. There is value in this.

Digg is popular right now and so people are looking for ways to take pot shots at them. They represent a huge threat to traditional forms of edited news. Already other similar sites like rededit have been gaining their own popularity. Removing the editor from the news process threatens a whole class of individuals whose livlihood depends on the perceived need for them to filter your news. To these individuals I would say, don’t worry. Heck, as a blogger I’m in the same boat. Basically all I do is filter news and write about it. There will always be a place in the world for authoritative edited sites. But Digg is cool and Digg is extraordinarly useful and Digg breaks news fast and Digg is comprehensive and Digg is so many good things that even if it were true (and I don’t actually think it is in the SUNW manipulation allegations) my reaction would be BFD. A very small price to pay for me to have my news the way I want it.

Update: Michael Arrington on Digg.

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  1. Jeremiah says:

    Color me unconvinced…at the moment. I like Digg, too, but too many stories recently have been links to questionable sources – blogs with videos of Google OS, for example, or a 14 year old hired by Google.

    One common misconception is that a high number of Diggs gives the story authenticity. One often has to read deep into the comments before a sense of balance is achieved.

    And I don’t know how much faith I have in swarm behavior to identify and promote important stories or memes. Most of what’s on Digg will be on BoingBoing, MeFi or their ilk within a day anyway, so it’s not like Digg is really uncovering anything substantial or new….Digg still relies on “traditional” media to provide it with something to Digg.

    Digg has some trials coming, however. I predict at least ONE major con-job via Digg, most likely a character-assassination of some kind, followed by the invariable lawsuits.

    I think I’d also point to your story, TH, about PriceRite. While the story was certainly interesting (the vigilante narrative appeals so much to the techy crowd), I don’t think it was deserving of the massive attention it garnered. Yes, PriceRite’s a bunch of assholes, but I think there are more socially responsible things to be doing with our outrage than outing some two-bit camera-shop shysters.