This post was partially inspired the fact Digg recently banned my user account – and by using IP blocking also blocked at least 8 other Digg users in an office of over 500 people.
Rather than focus on the individual implications, it prompted me to look deeper at the role Digg serves – and led me to a conclusion that Digg’s days are numbered.
Digg doesn’t work as a proposition. Essentially, the site allows people to submit stories from around the web and vote on them, but that’s a tool or mechanism. It’s not a business or user proposition. And every time I think I might have figured out what the proposition could be, I come up against something within the Digg system that prevents it.
If you want an idea of the general news ranked by the opinions of the widest audience, you’d pick Yahoo Buzz. Sadly Compete seems to default to Yahoo.com for the url analytics, but even so, it provides reasonable size evidence.
And the reason I’ve included Facebook is the real reason I’m not digging Digg anymore. You might defend Digg as a niche site for technology and the bizarre (the actual submission trend has gone towards more lifestyle recently), and point to the size advantage it has over Slashdot and Techmeme, that’s not where my real niche news is coming from, and not where an increasing number of people are getting it.
The trend is towards communication, conversation, and friend/network recommendation. Hence Facebook, and the following graph comparing trends for Digg and Twitter:
If the trend continues, Digg has put itself in a corner. Because despite providing tools such as Friend Lists, and being about to ‘Shout’ stories to your friends, Digg bans you for being social.
Having multiple accounts from the same IP address should not have resulted in a ban – some were registered 2 years before the most recent, some were logged in at the same time etc – and a simple check on the IP would show it’s registered to a large company.
Submitting stories from your own sites is allowed in the Digg Terms of Service – as long as it doesn’t reach spam levels.
That only leaves the fact some of these accounts were ‘Digging’ the stories submitted by others on their Friends List – from the same IP address. Something which presumes we were trying to game the system, rather than the fact we happen to work together because we have a shared interest. ( We’re not the only ones!) Annoyingly, we did get a previous Bad IP address error which was lifted when I explained we all worked in the same building. Now, however, it’s an instant ban with no discussion – despite the fact it means I’d need to monitor the Digg accounts of anyone within a building of over 500 people.
And if you do have a friends network you’ve built up legitimately and there’s any hint of nepotism, Digg automatically gives it a lower ranking. Which would be fine over a certain point, but basically means there’s no point in friends who aren’t power users.
The annoying aspect is that there isn’t a warning system, or an explanation. When you attempt to log in you get:
‘An unknown fatal exception has occurred
Whoa! Something blew up. If you think you reached this error in error please do not hesitate to contact support.’
So you contact support – and get back an anonymous message informing you your account has been removed – with no explanation of the reasons.
‘Your IP has been permanently blocked. Unblocking your domain would not be in line with the best interests of the larger Digg community, we will not reverse this decision.
For more information, please see http://digg.com/faq and http://digg.com/tos’‘
And presumably guess from any number of reasons why the block could be in place! Especially as Digg Terms of Service state:
‘Digg may remove any Content and Digg accounts at any time for any reason (including, but not limited to, upon receipt of claims or allegations from third parties or authorities relating to such Content), or for no reason at all‘ (emphasis mine).
Now, if we’d all been using different IP addresses, we would never have been banned – for doing exactly the same thing.
Digg punishes users – not cheats:
Essentially Digg punished us for being a little naive, and gave us no response or way to use the system in the proper way – meaning a large group of people will never see any value from the site.
And Digging as an individual is a similarly frustrating experience. Unless you dedicated every hour to either befriending the Top Diggers or using fake accounts to game the system, you’re never going to get anywhere near the front page and get to experience the ‘Digg Effect’. And the only other option is to organise and orchestrate your friends list.
Of course, when you do befriend popular Digg users – or those aspiring to it – you’re comitting yourself to hours of mutual reciprocation of shouts and Diggs.
And if it’s not a popular topic, it drives negligible amounts of traffic – certainly in comparison to other tools like Stumbleupon, which seems to drive more consistent traffic, and shows a lower bounce rate. (SU is also more popular in the UK, which is nice).
I’m the first to admit we may have screwed up somehow, despite having individual accounts, with seperate friends lists, and everyone contributing by submitting content from other sites, Digging other stories etc. But noone using Digg is doing it without wishing to self-promote theirselves or their website – and nowhere in the Terms of Service or the Digg mechanism does it make it easy to let someone know personally if their Shouts are coming across as Spam, or if they’ve submitted a single domain too often.
Nowhere on Digg does it state that you can’t use the same IP address which routes your entire office to the internet (Why not run the check on registration and warn people?).
And nowhere does it counter the fact that a very small group of users control the traffic tap on the front page of the site – and without courting them, you’ll get little for your efforts. It encourages you to submit your own content, and build up a friends list – and yet will remove you without any recourse – quoting the banal ‘it’s for everyone’s good’, except not telling you why.
Maybe we should just have one main account, run by everyone wanting to use it, and thereby avoiding the idea of multiple accounts and spending time using the site?
Why Digg may struggle more:
So Digg has some reasonable-sized issues, hasn’t radically changed in years, and bans office blocks full of staff without explanation or feedback via IP addresses. Bearing in mind that Yahoo has the traffic, Twitter and Facebook show the new recommendation engines, and anyone can plug in a rating system these days for a site far more dedicated to a niche interest (e.g. Sphinn) – you have to wonder what Digg’s longterm strategy is…
And the rules don’t apply to Digg’s boss, Kevin Rose!
Tamar Weinberg has done some great posts highlighting the times Mr Rose has seemingly escaped the Digg Banhammer team despite breaking his own rules. Or see someone who submitted 1800 times, and made 4 mistakes get perma-banned.
At a time when the social media marketing echo chamber will wax lyrical about how traditional old companies fail on interaction and customer service – why haven’t we focused on the Web 1.0 Elephant in our midst?
I’m really interested in hearing some other opinions – are social news aggregators doomed? Is Digg’s 20 million uniques proof I’m talking rubbish? Or have you seen a decline in your Digging?
Edit: In my attempt to avoid turning this into a mini-website of it’s own, I didn’t cover the likes of Socialmedian, Twine, or even Mahalo. I’ll try to put together a comprehensive look at the options for information input later this week. You can always subscribe to my RSS feed to make sure you don’t miss it!