Introduction (please skip)
On March 6, 2006, a Google search directed me to a page at Digg.com. The content of the page was relevant to what I was searching for, and it was provocative enough to make me write a comment. Since anonymous comments are not allowed at Digg, I had to register. However, I did not follow up after that... until a time came when a fan submitted my site to Digg and it won the day. Shortly thereafter, I just had "too much time at my hand". And since the last two months or so, I find myself taking excessive interest in the activities at digg.com, sometimes spending almost the entire day there.
My first look at Digg.com
Being new to the Digg community, I was noticing what experienced diggers may miss. Sometimes I noticed honest content getting buried, and lame or fraudulent stories being promoted to the frontpage.
But how could that be? I believe "50 people cannot be wrong, the fault lies in you". Was I wrong? How could I tell?
I saw perfect stage for an experiment here.
My Digg Experiment: Part One
I was analyzing the traffic data for my dugg website, and was noticing some interesting patterns. Initially, I was tempted to generalize those findings (e.g. 60% of us use Firefox), but then realized that it was lame, as most of the hits were coming from Digg.com and Firefox is more popular among tech-savvy users. Everyone knows that.
Does everyone know that, really? I decided to present the results of my traffic analysis in a wrong way to Digg.com, and see if the story still makes it to the frontpage.
So I committed the act. I edited the original draft to insert misleading information. I then submitted this misleading and inaccurate story to Digg early morning on Sunday (when people are least likely to notice).
So my story doesn't have quality, has fraudulent information, and is submitted at a time when it's least likely to be noticed. Right?
Yes alright, but let's take a look at what happened.
The Experiment Begins
After submission to Digg.com, the fraudulent story kept quiet for about 10 hours (mere 35 diggs in first 10 hours). But then, the diggers "woke up" (4pm Sunday) and began taking interest in my story. In less than two hours, the story had 150+ diggs and was on frontpage! That was easy, and interesting!
I watched on, and more interesting developments took place.
I was keeping a close watch on the comments page at Digg, and the 4th commentator marked my story as inaccurate. Actually the first commentator had pointed out the inaccuracy, but in a blurred fashion. The story is on the frontpage now, and more people visited the story, and said it's inaccurate (and I presume marked it as such). Nothing interesting about it, right?
The negative comments were increasing in number as expected, but the number of diggs were increasing as well! What's going on here??? How can the diggers digg an inaccurate story? They are the best critics of technology related articles, right?
What was happening here???
Many people who dugg the story did not read it thoroughly. They just "liked the idea" of my story that Apple and Linux are eating Microsoft away, and dugg this in its face value. They dugg what they like. They dugg what they want the reality to be, without knowing the reality at all.
Now comes part two of my experiment.
My Digg Experiment : Part Two
Okay, so my story is now on digg frontpage, despite most people actually agreeing that it is misleading. Here, I try to do a "fixing" act. I logged on to blogger.com and silently made two "little" changes to my story. I appended "for diggers" to the title and "by diggers" to the first paragraph. This makes the the story's first few lines look more authentic. However, I did not make any changes to the rest of the story, so the rest of it was still biased and misleading. Now, we have a story of "mosaic quality" where some parts say the truth, and some do not.
It's like half truth.
Or half lie, if you will.
As soon as I corrected the first few lines of my story, some digg users suddenly started evangelizing me. They commented on Digg that others did not read the story correctly, and are falsely blaming nixdoctor (me!). Just as one person said this, others joined the brigade, and there was a small group coming to my rescue. Heated discussions ensued over "reading skills", and difference between "listening and just hearing". While diggers were digging each other down, I sat at rest, watching them.
I also wanted to see how many people post on my blog (apart from posting at digg.com) and many people did that (I had enabled anonymous comments to make life easier for diggers). Many comments were constructive, offering me advice. Four were simple insults (deleted).
My experiment is over.
- It is easy to fool Digg and its community, at least in the short run
- This happens because not all Digg users read the posts thoroughly
- Carefully crafted stories that are far from truth, but appease the tastes of diggers can make it to the frontpage, before being buried finally.
- Good content can be buried because it has no entertainment value.
- Good comments can be modded down if they do not have entertainment value.
- Some diggers will simply abuse others, while others will offer constructive suggestions for the same story. (Tip: If you can stand criticism, Digg can be a good resource to improve, because others will offer you suggestions, bundled with sarcasm, of course)
- Webmasters can click quickly too. (In this case, not even a single Digger noticed that I have changed the title of the story on the original page later - they could have easily compared via duggmirror.com)
Digg is an excellent source for sharing entertaining information about technology and current affairs. I use it for pure entertainment. Digg needs more tools in its box to thwart bad stories making it to frontpage.
More to come...
My next story concerning Digg is a short, correct, quality story, and will make it to the ftontpage. Why? Because I'll make sure it entertains us diggers. And it'll be on this blog.