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?

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