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Digg Removes Top Diggers List

By hagrin - Posted on 02 February 2007

Kevin Rose announced today that Digg will be removing their "Top Diggers" list in order to combat Digg gaming.

First, let's praise Digg and Kevin Rose for being open enough to admit that Digg gaming is a serious problem if only in perception. Admitting that there is a potential problem definitely deserves credit and talking about the issue in a public manner shows a level of corporate transparency that I appreciate (I wish more companies could follow suit *ahem* Google *ahem*). Although many will debate exactly what the impact of the decision will be, it's definitely a step in the right direction because ranking systems always end up creating a competitive atmosphere leading to mass submissions (creating signal to noise ratio issues), potential Digg gaming and the ability of the few to influence the masses.

However, there's a lot to be concerned about when Digg's founders state that they "strongly believe attempts to game Digg are ineffective". I'm sorry, but the evidence that Digg followers have gathered about friends Digging other people's stories 100% of the time, domains being unfairly banned through over submission, top diggers getting duplicates promoted when others have submitted the same story and other issues show that Digg can be successfully gamed. I have seen SEO forum posts where post creators ask for readers to exchange diggs for certain articles. For Digg to acknowledge the issue and then proclaim it a non-factor should definitely raise red flags to the attentive reader.

What are the impacts of this change?

First, whenever you remove a "competitive incentive", you'll see user contribution decline - not exactly a desired effect when dealing with a social news website. This effect probably will be negligible, but it will occur as people can't see their name on the Top Diggers list. Second, users will no longer be able to blindly add Top Diggers to their friends list and will probably be more encouraged to befriend those users that have similar beliefs and viewpoints. However, Top Diggers from before this move will still have their loyal following so long as they still contribute to Digg, they will be able to influence which stories receive Front Page prosperity. Third, there will be very little effect in terms of eliminating Digg gaming. Many Digg applications have been developed such as average user comment ratings so Digg page scraping is already occurring (Digg APIs are floating around that make it easy for the average programmer to provide this information). Therefore, it's forseeable that those intending to game Digg will be able to still identify volume submitters and potentially influence which stories they submit and digg. In addition, top diggers weren't necessarily the "gaming" problem source as it was more with the lower users and networks built through communities outside of Digg.

With all these things being said, it's still the right move by the Digg leadership. With social news sites where a single voice should be able to influence what readers see, taking out "competition" between users will definitely end up a step in the right direction. Digg will be able to find other ways to offer incentives to their power users in the future that will be more beneficial than publically displaying their Digg rank. I look forward to seeing how Digg rewards its power users (disclosure: I am not one of the power users) and the overall, long-run impact of this change.