Digg: What’s My Motivation?

7 Sep ’06

A brouhaha at Digg over its cliquey community strikes me as having focused attention on one of the core issues of social media – what will motivate users enough to get them to contribute to the community?

On one hand, recent data about wikipedia suggests that there are many contributors who do a lot of initial heavy lifting on posts, and then a select group of others who do intensive clean-up work. Many of those heavy-lifters will get no recognition for their contribution.

On the other hand, some communities are intensely cliquey and rely on a small number of contributors for a great deal. Digg is the classic example, as Jason Calacanis’ recent gambit for some of the heavy Diggers illustrated. One of the controversies that emerged over Calacanis’ move, which was followed soon after by Business Week’s fetishistic adoration of Kevin Rose and giddy assertions of his wealth, was the unpaid contributions of Digg stars as even as Rose and his partners were building a potentially considerable stake. In the wake of that controversy much was made – particularly by the Digg owners – of the altruism of the Digg community. Some naturally saw those assertions as being quite self-serving.

Now Digg is changing the Diggorithm, the clique will presumably get less visibility and cred within the community, and as a result one of its top posters appears to be saying “no thanks”. Isolated case, or a sign that in the Digg universe altruism isn’t enough?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

judson September 9, 2006 at 16:27

As one of the clean-up type people on wikipedia, who has also done a few “heavy lifting” articles, I don’t know if I agree that the cultures are that comparable. The people that do cleanup don’t get a lot of recognition either. It really depends on why you’re doing it, I think many people like to see their work online, and know it helps others. Other studies have shown that the original author on an article usually has significant portions of their writing remain intact over time. I think, for many people, just going back and recognizing your work is recognition enough.

Digg is very recognition centered though, whereas wikipedia isn’t. Heavy editors know their edit counts on wikipedia (using not so easy tools), but when you say you have a super high count people assume (usually rightly so) that you do a lot of semi-automated work. The wikipedia culture does acknowledge edit count as an indicator, but not a proxy for quality. After a while it becomes obvious that the “drive-by” edits are often a source of a lot of good information, that’s why people are constantly trying to make it easy to edit.


Tony September 7, 2006 at 13:31

I honestly believe the reason why the algorithm was the way it was, was to reward diggers for their hard work.

Unfortunately increasing the worth of their diggs a friends system == a system ripe for unintentional abuse.

Re: altruism: the community has exploded over this because many of them feel their own submission are not getting recognition when they may be of equally good substance. A sense of injustice sprinkled with a dash of righteousness will always get a community in arms

Re: isolated case: definitely not. Controversy has dogged digg for the past year — particularly because its become the traffic and VC magnet the way it has.

Particularly, the way that Digg, I believe, bills itself as user driven and user moderated, when clearly there are moderators which not only exist, but exist and exercise their powers with impunity.

Obliterating posts and profiles without any hint of transparency.

One wonders when the community will catch on _that_.

Hope you don’t mind — a brief history of the controversy at Digg:

Tony @ DJI


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