Digg, an Open Community Success Story

With the launch of Digg 3.0 only a few days away, Digg has been generating a ton of news. I started using Digg back in November and have found it to be a great way to get the very latest tech news. Even before stories hit the home page, I find myself scouring the Digg for Stories Cloud View for recently submitted stories that are moving up the queue toward the front page.

The stats are amazing. According to TechCrunch:

“Digg is looking more and more like the newspaper of the web, and is challenging even the New York Times on page views (Digg surpassed rival Slashdot long ago).

About 800,000 unique visitors come to Digg every day, generating 9 million plus page views. The site is doubling in traffic every two months. And the amazing thing is that Digg does all of this with just 15 employees.” (TechCrunch)

The reason that they can do this with only 15 employees is because they effectively utilize an active and open user community. There are no editors on Digg. Users submit the stories and the community selects which stories are promoted to the front page by digging interesting stories (essentially voting on them). Users can also comment on the stories and rate the comments of others thus providing an active commentary and additional opinions on any story. The community is also self-policing to some degree. Any story can be flagged by a user as inaccurate or as spam, and there are additional people and algorithms at work on the back end at Digg to identify anyone using false account or bots to artificially promote a story to the home page.

The above stats are particularly amazing when you consider that Digg only covers technology news. This brings us to the news of the Digg 3.0 launch. Digg will be redesigned, and in addition to technology, they will add categories for entertainment, gaming, science, world & business, and online video. Some people are skeptical about whether or not Digg will be successful in other categories:

“Digg users will still be sitting in comfy chairs while other people put on body armor to report from war zones. Digg (and every news filter for that matter) is a leech on every news gatherer, from blogger journalists to institutional journalists.” (Publishing 2.0)

This misses the point. First, Digg is a global community where people living in “war zones” can participate. Second, Digg is not a leech on news gatherers; Digg helps provide visibility for stories that might not get noticed otherwise. Over the past year, a number of stories have gained momentum on Digg before they hit the traditional press.

Digg is not without faults. Sometimes the sensationalist and the bizarre are promoted to the front page over stories that seem more newsworthy (in my humble opinion), and the comments can get pretty nasty at times (this has improved tremendously now that we can vote on user comments!) Despite the flaws, I am looking forward to the Digg 3.0 launch.