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Top Digg users revolt against algorithm change on site

A group of power users protests a plan to let a more diverse group vote stories up or down

By Heather Havenstein
January 24, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The volatile users at social news ranking site Digg.com today launched a new revolt against the site, protesting a new algorithm that would let a more diverse set of users determine which stories reach the top of its rankings.

A group of Digg users organized a temporary boycott of the site because they felt the new algorithm would leave submissions from some Digg "power users" stuck in the queue.

In an open letter to Digg's executives posted this morning, four of the site's so-called top users -- Andy Sorcini,  David Cohn , Muhammad Saleem and  Reg Saddler -- said they plan to stop submitting to Digg.

"The alternatives are plenty -- now is the time to venture into new territory," the letter said. "Digg is, in part, a game. It always has been -- and that is one of the reasons we love it. Unfortunately the rules to the game have never been under the community's full control. The latest change in the algorithm, along with rumors of secret editors, auto-buries, etc., have led us to believe it is time to break ties with Digg.com."

In addition, the group later organized a live podcast where about 125 users discussed the changes and thousands more listened in, according to Saleem

The latest revolt is the second collective move by Digg users in less than a year. In May, many of the site's users staged an "Internet riot"  by continuously posting a software key for cracking the encryption technology used to limit the copying of HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs after Digg management had removed it. The users prompted Digg to relent and allow the key to be posted.

In the latest letter, the group cited several grievances against Digg, including a lack of communication and disregard for the community, the unexplained banning of some top users and a lack of transparency by not showing stories that are not "Dugg".

"Digg users hunt down the stories online, craft the descriptions and titles, Digg the stories, provide all the comments," the letter said. "Despite this dependency, anecdotal evidence suggests that Digg has repeatedly failed to respond to its users and address their concerns."

In addition, the users criticized Digg's autobury list, noting that dozens of sites are buried after a certain period of time with no explanation.

"In short -- the site has become too powerful a media force and its lack of transparency and faith in the community is reason for concern," according to the letter. "The collective 'WE' built this site from the ground up and while it is sad to leave it, the time has come to move on."

Saleem noted on his blog that Digg founder Kevin Rose and CEO Jay Adelson joined the podcast and listened to the problems noted. Rose and Adelson "acknowledged that there were issues and promised to address them as soon as possible," Saleem wrote.

"It was never our intention to cause harm to Digg (though every protest naturally gains that element as it intensifies) and ultimately all we needed was to be assured that our concerns were being listened to and that the community we have helped build was going to address them in a timely fashion," Saleem wrote. "Big things are coming ahead for digg, based on what we have learned from our conversation, and with the channels of communication now open, hopefully we will all be a part of the conversation."

In a blog post (blog.digg.com) published before the protest, Rose said the changes to the algorithm were aimed at ensuring the most popular content Dugg by a diverse, unique group of users reached the home page.

"Our goal is to give each person a fair chance of getting their submission promoted to the home page," he wrote. "When the algorithm gets the diversity it needs, it will promote a story from the Upcoming section to the home page. This way, the system knows a large variety of people will be into the story."

Read more about Networking in Computerworld's Networking Topic Center.



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