Not So “Community” Networks: Digg for Digg’s Sake

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not a community

Social Networks, Community Sites, Wiki’s, Forums, etc. these are virtual places for people to come together based off of common interests to share and engage, through discussions and by posting content in one form or another (video, images, stories, links, etc.) right?

At least that is how I understood a community site to work, how about you? Well I think that the problem is that most of our social networks are free to use but not free to own and operate. So our community networks are also businesses, merging these two entities, a business and a social network, I believe is where the disconnect arises (in most cases).

Recently the Internet buzz has been about Digg‘s diggbar debacle – basically they set it up to show the original source page with a diggbar at the top so you could see what the Digg community’s activity was on that page, and then without telling anyone they switched it to sending the visitor (if not a Digg member) to the Digg page rather than the original web page. Very confusing isn’t it? In a nutshell they promoted it as a tool that would benefit Digg and the website that was being featured, to now just promoting Digg.

Understandably there has been some outrage over this, and Digg has since backtracked a bit to allow all old diggbar links to go to the original page source and all new diggbar links (those created today forward) to go to Digg if you are not logged in or not a member. So there is a compromise of sorts (if you call following through on the stated purpose comprising), and only because the “community” and content publishers complained, an action that may have far reaching ramifications for Digg but nevertheless they did relent.

Digg Loses Trust

What is most interesting about this whole situation, is that users, publishers, and the news blogs are saying that Digg may have irreparably damaged the trust of it’s users and relationship with content publishers with this one action. Seriously?

On top of all the issues with the diggbar from launch up to this point, what about all of Digg’s other actions, mass banning’s, whitelisting and backlisting websites, and preferential treatment of certain users (media – remember Katie Couric)? In September 2008 The Get Smart Blog listed the names of those Digg users in the first big round of Digg bannings, I honestly did it as a joke because even though I was one of those banned I felt it was their site and if rules were broken then that’s how it goes. But, then reactions started coming over from those that were banned and people were genuinely hurt and upset. I started listening to why they were so angry, and after about the 20th comment ( 77 total comments) it hit home that these people were not  just upset about losing Digg as much as they were upset about losing the relationships they had spent months and, for some, years building.

Digg banned people purely as a business decision, but the members who were being banned saw it as being kicked out of their community. Digg users spend a lot of time, energy, and resources sharing content on Digg and on top of that build relationships with other Digg die hard’s. These ex-diggers were losing all of that without any warning or consideration on Diggs part. Digg needed more money from investors and advertisers, their click thru rates were low because of scripting, and they had a small percentage of the users that controlled the front page content. They needed to show their investors and advertisers that they controlled their site, not the users, and that they could get eyeballs on ads. Answer is simple ,ban those that are using scripts or blind digging (digging a story without reading it) practices, one fell swoop you get rid of two problems. So the site that started out as a community became a business.

Digg Then

Everything on Digg — from news to videos to images — is submitted by our community (that would be you). Once something is submitted, other people see it and Digg what they like best. If your submission rocks and receives enough Diggs, it is promoted to the front page for the millions of our visitors to see.

Digg Now

As any Digg user will tell you Digg uses algorithms, whitelists sites and blacklists others, the most votes does not get you to the front page – some sites have made it with 50 diggs while others have not made it with 400 diggs. Our Grim Reaper Has Visited Digg post got over 500 diggs and never hit the front page. 🙂

Digg Then

Digg is all about sharing and discovery, there’s a conversation that happens around the content. We’re here to promote that conversation and provide tools for our community to discuss the topics that they’re passionate about. By looking at information through the lens of the collective community on Digg, you’ll always find something interesting and unique.

Digg Now

Conversation is encouraged – and yet they have taken away the shout feature because people were getting diggs based off  of their popularity and not the content of the story they were sharing. You can still comment on stories though.

However in the comments section do not be too passionately against a person or entity that Digg is wooing or you will find yourself locked out of your community (Anyone who said anything negative about Katie Couric mysterisouly found their account gone quickly thereafter)

Finally, unique – the same sites hit the front page consistently while there are those sites that at one time hit the front page, that for whatever reason can no longer no matter how many diggs they receive….that does not equal unique. And forget about being a small blog on the front page it just does not happen.

Digg is a Business

Do I think that Digg is a bad place? No. Do I think that people should stop using Digg? No. What I think is that people need to understand that Digg is a business that has some community attributes – mainly people can join their site, share content and interact as long as it fits in with the bigger business picture. You are secondary to the ultimate goal of…find a way to make a profit!

Digg is not the only one, all of the social sites are businesses – no one has figured out how to be profitable but they’re trying, and every one of them has made missteps with their users. Facebook’s disastrous Beacon advertising program, Twitter and the imposter accounts, and MySpace predators. Most of these sites have taken the feedback from their users to improve the site for both parties, Digg it seems is young in more than age alone and like the young minded they are going to do things the way they want to….and that is that.

It is a shame really, the best relationships allow for compromise or at the very least an equitable give and take – even business relationships. What Digg has forgotten is that though the users do not pay to use the site, they do contribute to the bottom line – if you do not have users that freely spend their time on your site you have no site.

On top of that you have the content publishers that support your site with badges and links because you provide a place for them to syndicate their content and increase readership, lose them and your traffic will dwindle. (Special note publishers since the diggbar was implemented all of the links on Digg to your submitted web page go to diggbar url which means that nice backlink from Digg is no more.)

Digg + Content Publisher + User = News Aggregator Community Network

Digg + Digg = A Website

Let’s hope Digg get’s back to their original intent of the “collective community ” real soon.

Stay tuned for our next post entitled; Not So “Community” Networks: Reddit Ghost Bannings….they ban you but without telling you that your banned. That’s a community for you….not!

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About Author

Bridget is President of The Get Smart Web Consulting Group, a web presence and digital strategy firm with offices in San Diego County California and Collier County Florida. But more importantly she is a web, tech, and Twitter addict!