A Newcomer’s Take on Digg

This is an EXCELLENT Guest Post by Kathryn Smith, proudly posted to Soshable

DiggYes, that’s right—I’m admitting up front that I’m a dreaded “noob”. I have neither a blog nor a website, and I’ll freely confess to being pretty much in the dark about most technology and the thing that is Web 2.0. (Or, to paraphrase a popular ad campaign, I’m a 43-year old female PC.)

However, since I didn’t wish to maintain my uninformed, ignoramus status, I decided to join Digg on July 31, 2008. At first, I thought the site was a great idea; so, I fumbled around a bit, trying to learn how the site worked. I tried to make friends on my own, but my requests were rarely accepted. One of the first comments I made in a thread, a simple compliment on the topic, was replied to with, “I checked your profile. Buried for your face, faggot. STFU, noob.”

Needless to say, this didn’t endear me to the site. I almost left within the first few days of joining. I was also greeted on some comment threads with, “Don’t digg this, it’s old as hell.” Well, as a new member, I hadn’t seen it.

But, being a newbie, I figured I had to take my lumps before I’d be allowed to join the club. Eventually, I did make friends, and the site became more fun. I realized that a lot of the shouts I was getting were for blog posts, and I quickly caught on to the fact that these folks were just trying to get a little traffic for their sites. So, I’d read the material and give them a digg, but only if I liked the content, some of which was really good, and had been submitted in the proper category and subcategories. (In real life, I’m a poorly-paid ghostwriter/proofreader/editor, so I’m a reasonably fair judge of content quality. Or at least I like to think so.) And with all due respect to Huffington Post fans, it’s still nothing more than a blog. A very good, very profitable blog, but a blog nonetheless. A blog that’s making a fortune off the backs of Digg users, I might add. Who amongst the bloggers out there wouldn’t aspire to that kind of success? So yes, I support a few bloggers, and I’ll continue to do so in my own way. If helping people is a Web 2.0 crime, then virtually arrest me.

But then something different happened at Digg. Users were being banned in droves. My friends list shrank in a hurry, and I was confused as to why. Being a techno-moron, I had no knowledge of what scripts were at the time.  I was also in the dark about the fact that some of my banned friends were using them. Once I did learn, I have to be honest—the first thought that came to my tech-impaired mind was, “Okay, how big of a deal is this? One of the scripts in question was made using Digg’s own API, in order to let a user quickly see which friends have already received a shout and a digg from them. Sounds like a great feature that Digg should add.”  Which led me to my next questions—why would Digg provide an API, and then ban people for using it? Were they pissed off that they didn’t think of it themselves?

I took a lot of heat for defending banned users by leaving comments in articles discussing the bans. I see now that it was a mistake to do so, as I didn’t realize I was “spamming the comments”. (I did mention I’m a noob, right?) But I felt I was defending people I thought were being treated unfairly, especially those who were banned with no explanation, so I spoke up. The result was that I was accused of cheating myself, along with some incredibly nasty, sometimes profane shouts sent to my profile. I suppose I could have reported them, but I chose to stick it out, and chalked it up as a learning experience.

And I’ll confess, with my apologies to the top users, banned or not—I almost jumped on the “Ban the Power Users!” bandwagon. But before I did, I decided to do a little research. I listened to podcasts, read archived articles on Digg about the topic of power users and the site itself, and it was at that point that I was able to see the contribution these people had made to the site. So for all the current Digg users who are now dropping comments such as, “Why is this on Digg?” or, “Buried as lame”, well you can thank Digg for that, because those banned users were the ones supplying you with quality content. Their thanks from Digg? Sorry, you’re banned.

So then I decided to really scrutinize the Digg TOS. I’ve read it, and re-read it several times. Yes, it says that you can’t use scripts, robots, etc. Okay, fair enough, it’s been well established that scripts are against the rules, and Digg was within their rights to ban some people for using them. But there are a couple of things in that TOS that still aren’t quite clear to me. For example:

From the user conduct section:

By way of example, and not as a limitation, you agree not to use the Services:

1.    to abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Digg users;

Okay, this happens all the time. Try leaving a comment, and you’ll see what I mean.

2:  to post or transmit, or cause to be posted or transmitted, any Content that is infringing, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, abusive, offensive, profane, or otherwise violates any law or right of any third party;

So, if I digg and share a story that states Sarah Palin is actually the mother of her own grandchild, can I get banned for that? After all, that could be considered defamatory, couldn’t it? And the porn trolls are everywhere in the comment threads, with their accounts alive and well.

And the most unclear item (to me) in the Digg TOS:

9:  with the intention of artificially inflating or altering the ‘digg count’, blog count, comments, or any other Digg service, including by way of creating separate user accounts for the purpose of artificially altering Digg’s services; giving or receiving money or other remuneration in exchange for votes; or participating in any other organized effort that in any way artificially alters the results of Digg’s services;

“Organized effort”. Does that include shouting an article to Friends, in the hope that said article will receive more attention and/or diggs?

Lastly, there’s this item:

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.

So, for all those banned who weren’t using scripts and received no reason as to why you were banned, I guess this is your answer from Digg.

I don’t know if I want to continue to support a site that could ban me simply because they damn well feel like it. So as a new user, I’d like to know a little more—aside from script usage, just exactly what else can get you banned from Digg? If I choose to digg an article from a blogger, a friend, or just something that the Digg staff disagrees with, will my account be banned? And just how close is Digg watching what is being dugg, and by whom?

Digg touts itself as a democratic, user-driven social news site. In a recent article from TechRadar, Kevin Rose claims he wants to see Digg’s top users maintain their influence, and yet Digg continues to ban some users who have, by all appearances, done nothing wrong. One influential user was even banned recently while he was on vacation, with no warning or explanation offered.

So, for what it’s worth, this new user, the type that Digg claims it wants to attract, is calling hypocrisy on Digg. Because even noobs can spot bullshit.

Kathryn Smith

Leave a Reply


  1. Claudia

    How I understand the “try and leave a comment” about insulting and offending other users…

  2. There’s no crime in being a “n00b”, at least from my perspective… after all, we were all “n00bs” with something at one time or another. 🙂

    I didn’t believe in accepting “n00bs” as friends, when I was on Digg, until they showed me a track record of them utilizing the site to something I called a “reasonable degree”. The “Reasonable Degree” all depended on how long they were on the site versus how much activity their stats showed. Every once in a while I would snatch up a newbie who was ‘fresh out of the gate’ and take a chance on them. I had no real criteria of judging who I would grab as a friend – it was mostly a ‘gut feeling’. Odds are this was because I noticed something about them that really didn’t register with me. I’d simply be looking at a profile and the thought would hit “Hey, this person may be a good Friend”.

    In general, celebrities and the famous (including politicians) do not fall under the same rules as ‘normal folk’. I think that in recent years these famous people have been trying to change this. It used to be that if you were a famous person, say an actor or politician, then you were pretty much open game. Occasionally a famous person would sue and win a defamation suit filed in court, but for the most part it was a deal of ‘if you are famous, you have to deal with whatever people say about you’.

    Digg is a strange place, it’s sort of schizophrenic at times. An example of what I mean is that you could say the nastiest things about a person (Sarah Palin or George Bush) for example, but if you said a comment just as bad about another (say Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama) then Digg or the bury brigade would get rid of the post. The real twist is that this might be true for a period of time, but a few days or weeks later the opposite would be true. It’s sort of like watching Robin Williams when he is doing his “Split Personality” thing. 🙂

    “Organized Effort”, on Digg, normally means an effort put forth by more than one person as a group. For example, If you and I had 4 or 5 friends who all decided to only digg certain people (or bury certain people or topics) — then that would be a violation. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that is the basic intent of that rule you quoted. It’s the same rule that I’ve found on other sites, basically. The problem is that Digg seems totally clueless in the field of managing a forum on the net. This might be because more than one person is making the decisions and it depend on who is ‘on duty’ at the time the decision is made. As far as the likes of Kevie Rose and Jaybo Adelson are concerned, I think they are so far out of the Digg loop (normally) that when the dam busts – they have to scramble to justify what is going on. It seems apparent to me that Digg needs one “Forum Master” who runs the forum and makes the decisions within the framework of the TOU, all others who could be classified as “Staff” abide by what the Forum Administrator’s policies are — or they defer to the Administrator for a decision.

    Everyone else at Digg who is not directly on the Administration Staff and Management team would be told to keep their noses out of the Digg forum business. I’d really like to know if my observations provided a correct, or close enough, view of how I think the Digg site operates… but I’ve been in and running forums since the mid-90s and from what Digg has shown me – I don’t think I am far wrong. lol It seems too messed up for one management team to be running the forum on the Digg site, and if they do have one team running the show then they need new people in those positions badly. 🙂

    It all depends on how much time you have on your hands and what your objectives are… as to whether you continue using Digg or another site. You might think over putting most of your effort on another site and use Digg more sparingly.

    For example, you may only post a couple of items on Digg, give out maybe 5 to 50 diggs a day on the average, make a few comments to items you like, etc. On the other site(s) you would do your best work for it probably would be better appreciated there.

    Hey, it’s a thought. 🙂

    Good post!

  3. Digg’s strategy to populate the site:

    Invite hackers to join in

    Digg’s to sell the site:

    Kill all hackers

    It’s all about politics, and banned diggers are merely soldiers that sacrificed themselves for Digg’s founders to make a shitload of money

  4. 1. to abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate other Digg users;

    Okay, this happens all the time. Try leaving a comment, and you’ll see what I mean.

    being a banned member for no reason i can understand this post, and the above comment, i posted about that as well, ( article here http://dennisharting.blogspot.com/search?q=digg ) as i too was annoyed with the comments being left for no reason, yet visiting the site, it seems the comments are still there, friends are not really friends they just want you to move their things up the ladder with no regard for what you are posting and finally, it seems digg says you have the right to appeal but they will not answer your emails so how can you appeal ?? i wish you good luck as you try to negotiate the mine field that is digg

  5. being a noob in the digital world, and that includes gaming, is seen as a bad thing. Previous noobs who were treated badly and harassed, take it as something they must go through. Then when newer users after them join, they chide and harass these users. It’s seen as an initiation ritual – but in honesty it’s just a lot of trolling and disgruntled individuals unhappy with their life.

    Not everyone on Digg is like that, a lot of people are decent. Only a small group of people hide behind their anonymity. The Digg bans are a little weird, but they are warranted for the most part. From my understanding they were reciprocating diggs without having seen the items, by using it they make it so that they add a whole whack of diggers and they exchange diggs, they digg everyone who adds them as a friend and those people in turn feel happy that they’re stuff is getting digged that they return the favor. By doing this automatically it means a lot of spam was getting dugg because the users didn’t read the stuff but just dugg it to get digged back.

    Also the digg algorithm isn’t simple, it actually gives weight to top digg users. The top diggers have a lot of value in their diggs. So when they reciprocate diggs all sorts of items get added weight, when top users automate their diggs it means that a lot of bad content gets higher weighting because it has credibility from a top digger. Digg was scared about that.

  6. Steve Johnson


  7. Hi

    I am working on a site which try to solve many of the problems with digg.com.
    You can find it on http://crowdnews.eu.

    The main problem with digg is the voting system.
    When only top voted stories get on the front page it has
    to be a subject that many can relate to,
    which result in stories with a low information content.

    Crowdnews solves this by using sharing instead of voting.
    Every have a personal news page on which they can subscribe to other users and when those users share stories they will appear on the personal news page.

    Join me on CrowdNews

  8. rohit

    what a waste of time writing this analysis. Could have been utilized to defeat Obama in the bowl game.