I’m not a regular user of Digg so I tend to ignore the usual controversy of the month style storms that end up on Techmeme whenever they tweak their algorithm for promoting items from the upcoming queue to the front page. Today I decided to take a look at the current controversy and clicked on the story So Called Top Digg Users Cry About Digg Changes which led me to the following comment by ethicalh

the algorithm uses the "social networking" part of digg now. if you are a mutual friend of the submitter your vote is cancelled and wont go towards promotion to the frontpage, and if you're a mutual friend of someone who has already dugg the story, your vote is cancalled and won't go towards promotion to the frontpage. so if you don't have a friends list and don't use the social networking part of digg then you can still be a top digger. you just need to create a new account and don't be tempted to add anyone as a friend, because the new algorithm is linked upto everyones friends list now. thats the real reason digg added social networking, is so they could eventually hook it upto the algorithm, thats the secret reason digg introduced social networking and friends lists onto the digg site.

A number of people confirmed the behavior in the comments. It seems that all votes from mutual friends (i.e. people on each other’s friends list) are treated as a single vote. So if we are three friends that all use Digg and have each other on our friends’ lists then if all three of us vote for a story, it is counted as a single vote. This is intended to subvert cliques of “friends” who vote up articles and encourage diversity or so the Digg folks claim in a quote from a New York Times article on the topic.

My first impression was that this change seems pretty schizophrenic on the part of the Digg developers. What is the point of adding all sorts of features that enable me to keep tabs on what other Digg users are voting up if you don’t want me to vote up the ones I like as well? Are people really supposed to trawl through http://www.digg.com/tech_news/upcoming to find stories to vote up instead of just voting up the ones their friends found that they thought were cool as well? Yeah…right.

But thinking deeper, I realize that this move is even more screwed up. The Digg developers are pretty much penalizing you for using a feature of the site. You actually less value out of the site by using the friends feature. Because once you start using the friends feature, it is less likely that stories you like will be voted to the front page due to the fact that your vote doesn’t count if someone on your friends list has already voted for the story.

So why would anyone want to use the friends feature once they realize this penalty exists?

Now playing: Dogg Pound - Ridin', Slipin' & Slidin'


Friday, 25 January 2008 08:00:20 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
So, if they don't do something like this, how do they get around "gaming" the system? To me, the front page was getting very tiresome as it tended to focus on the same kind of posts.It's almost like a private club. I find myself avoiding the front page.
Listened to the new Gillmor Daily today, Gab (Techmeme) was a guest and he mentioned the same problem. Didn't get the impression he felt it was a bad thing.
Friday, 25 January 2008 10:04:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
So, if you are for e.g. Robert Scoble, and you then digg an article, none of your 5000 friends' votes would count either? Seems a bit overkill don't it?
Friday, 25 January 2008 15:11:47 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
As a former digg developer, I think the phrase "digg management" is more accurate than "digg developers."
Friday, 25 January 2008 15:51:42 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
It certainly does nothing against Digg spammers, as an offshore voter farm is unlikely to use the social networking feature. Curious.
Friday, 25 January 2008 17:49:21 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
You use the term "penalizing" as if the objective of using digg is to get your stories voted up. Admittedly, many users look at it this way, but catering to that viewpoint is non-productive for the digg community. Digg should cater to readers, not voters, since the point of the site is to provide quality reading material (or video's/photos/etc)

It might be appropriate to make the reduction a very steep curve, rather than an absolute elimination, but overall the change is one I've advocated for some time. The problem with you votes coming from people's friends lists rather than coming from "upcoming" is it unbalances the democracy of the site. You like reading you're friends material. Great! That is the point of the friends system, to do better at giving you want to read. The fact that it was giving certain users an unbalanced amount of influence was a nasty side effect.

Honestly, I don't think it will change the usage of the friends list for normal users. Those obsessed with "their" stories will, but those users will probably replace that usage with something slightly more desirable, such as posting links to digg on non-digg sites, etc.
Sunday, 27 January 2008 22:01:06 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Digg management seems to be a bit lost with their own service... Digg has gotten so bad lately that I've stopped using it almost entirely. The hostile, pedantic community was bad enough, but the constant mis-management of the service has made Digg a laughing stock. Good luck getting that $100m buyout, Kevin!
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