from revolt to resolution in 12 hours or less

note: for more information on the entire event, plus the complete conversation with kevin rose and jay adelson, please listen to this week’s episode of the drill down (which will be posted as soon as possible).

update: part 1 has been released.

update: part 2 has also been released.

update: coverage on nytimes, wsj, gawker, and the complete blogosphere coverage.

if you’re plugged into the social news space or the blogosphere at all, you’ve probably already heard about the mini-revolt that took place at digg a few hours ago. here’s the story from start to end of what happened, the mavericks who did it, and why they dared to do it.

it all started when digg altered their content promotion algorithm, as they often do to make the site fairer to the community and at the same time to combat spam and make sure the best content rises to the top. i’ve written extensively about how i think the digg algorithm works, but since the algorithm is part of digg’s secret recipe , we can only speculate. what seemed to have happened, however, as a byproduct of the most recent algorithm tweak, is that a majority of the submissions from the top users were stuck at the top of the upcoming queue for hours without getting promoted.

frustrated by what we saw as a move to suppress the top contributors to the site and penalize them for their popularity, andy (mrbabyman), reg (zaibatsu), and myself (msaleem) decided to have an impromptu conference call to discuss what was going on. obviously angry, we decided that we had to fight back at the system somehow, and that we weren’t going to take this lying down. we immediately created a google group along with an email list-host and started inviting other trusted members into the group to discuss the problem with them and try to come up with possible solutions to the problem.being a bit of a fire-starter myself, i proposed that we immediately rally the troops and boycott digg until our demands (at that point undetermined) were met and our concerns (at that point a work in progress) resolved. at the end, however, andy’s diplomatic nature and good judgment prevailed – at least for a few hours.

waking up yesterday, i saw that a friend’s observations on the algorithm were already on the front page of digg and were prompting a lot of discussion. furthermore, a completely unrelated blogger had made similar (but more critical) remarks on the algorithm that were gaining some traction on digg. making a snap judgment and seizing the opportunity, i decided that it was now or never so i started sharing the second story with my friends on the site to the point where it also got popular. at the same time, two daring friends, dave and brent, helped propagate our concerns further, both taking a stronger stance against the pressures we were facing. all the while, of course, digg had responded to what was going on in the blogopshere, with kevin himself writing a few words on the algorithm.

but perhaps it was a little late and we had gotten our thoughts out on several different venues already and they were generally well received (4/5 of the articles were made popular on digg). it was a risky move and it could have blown up in our faces, but the three of us (andy, reg, and myself) had the support of a majority of the top users on digg along with some large blogs. a blogger from valleywag did a quick profile and recap of what was going on, and followed it up with an open letter several of us wrote to digg. also, other sites such as techcrunch and mashable were busy writing their versions from the sidelines, but we were already on the move to the next step. we had already setup a social network, and were about to go live.

after a quick chat, andy, reg, and i decided to host an emergency session of our podcast, the drill down, to discuss the matter with our community, and in the hopes that kevin and jay would join us and open dialog with us. over 125 people participated in the live discussion (though from preliminary numbers, thousands of other visitors watched it directly from the ustream homepage where we were pinned as the hottest stream of the night). after 2 hours of heated discussion (just as we had made a collective decision to boycott digg for a week), to our amazement and delight, kevin rose and jay adelson actually showed up in the chat room, and proceeded to spend over an hour with us on the live chat, one-by-one discussion all our concerns (which we had listed in our open letter to digg) and promising quick solutions. here are three different accounts of what the five of us discussed.

just as quickly as the fire had started, kevin and jay stepped in to extinguish it. 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. they listened to the problems, acknowledged that there were issues, and promised to address them as soon as possible. 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.

thanks to andy and reg for putting up with me, thanks to dave, anonymous, brent, jim, and jordan for helping us get the word out through their blogs, thanks to dave (again), jim (again), karim (supernova17), and jay (silent-jay) for joining us on the podcast, thanks to kevin and jay for taking out the time to listen to their community (i know it was incredibly late on the east coast) and thanks to everyone else who stood by us on digg and was a part of the conversation.

p.s. happy digging.

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32 thoughts on “from revolt to resolution in 12 hours or less

  1. Paul Sanchez

    I’m greatful for the live “drill down” broadcast. It really helped in this situation. It was great to take part in that as it was happening too. This post is a great recap too. Hopefully the drill down is ready for the digg effect.

  2. Pingback: Digg Revolt

  3. Suxmonkey

    I’ll believe it when I see it. So far it’s a great start that they came out and spoke, but it seems to me there are a lot of unresolved questions. Hopefully they will be just as open and direct in addressing us in a more thought-out Q&A.

  4. Pingback: Digg: The Revolution That Has Been Lulled | Royal HeHe2-ness!

  5. photopreneur

    Th drilldown served as digg’s communication platform — which they should have had all along! I am impressed that both Kevin and Jay showed up and opened up the communication. Let’s hope that there will be an official digg town hall platform SOON, as they promised.

  6. Pingback: Digg: Timeline of a User Revolt

  7. mdestries

    Nice work, gentleman. An excellent example of engineering a cry of displeasure that hit all the right ears. And kudos to Kevin and Jay for actually listening and stepping in to offer resolution.

  8. SG

    Hey Muhammad! thanks to you and your friends for taking care of this situation. I’m also glad you wrote about it and lets us know how it all went down.

  9. 0boy

    I am EXTREMELY happy with what transpired last night, but also extremely cautious. A blog post that I was planning on writing before last night’s show was about how Jay and Kevin are public relations pacification wizards and have been since HD-DVD. Actually, I think they were before then, of course, but HD-DVD was a reminder, a “kick in the teeth” that they needed to bring them down to earth.

    Fixxing comments. Pics section. Slowness of the website. The key words that they have always used when dealing with issues are “we’re aware and we’re working on it.” That is pretty much what they said last night. Hopefully, the proposed changes will happen more quickly than previous issues. I don’t think Diggers can wait on these issues.

  10. Digidave

    I’m glad I was able to play a part in all this. I think it’s silly that we had to stage this just to get our concners addressed – but that was indeed the problem, wasn’t it.

    If they follow through and give us a future mode of communication. Great. If not: Then we know we can mobilize if we need.

    Kevin and Jay avoided a serious loss last night.

  11. pmctosh

    hey mu, just wanted to say , great podcast last night, well this morning. glad o see some people getting together and standing up to be counted. you all have the power and ability to do it. that said it did come off with the appearance of resolution. if kevin and jay follow through with what they said and can come together with the community even in a small way to acknowledge publicly the concerns that crop up it will be a big step towards digg gaining some ground. ground i feel they have been loosing steadily over the last few months with the community as a whole.for those of us that spend untold hours there, this was a breathe of fresh air. so the balls in their court, lets see if they can carry it or fumble.for everyones sake i hope it’s the former.

  12. SilentJay74

    Hey Mu,
    Boy am I tired. I only clocked about 3 hours of sleep after last night’s episode.
    I wanted to chime in here and say “Thanks”. You may be wondering for what, well I will tell you. Thanks to Dave Cohn, Andrew Sorcini, Reg Saddler, and yourself, for excellent leadership and organization. This has needed to be brought to light for a long time. I knew as soon as Digg did something to effect everyone you guys would rally the troops and charge head first into the fight. when the story broke we had just released Episode 4 of Social Blend, I was watching numbers and Andy stopped by to say “Hi” and alerted me of the Blog post. We rallied everyone we knew, some already had received word.
    I cannot believe how fast things happened. Like I said in my post: ” As Jay and Kevin were getting their butts kicked on the B-BAll court, they had no idea the beating they were taking on the internet.” The organization and Revolt were in full swing by the time Jay and Kevin’s game was over. That was F’N impressive.
    So again, hats off to you guys, and Thanks!

  13. Bill I

    Muhammad –
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but this statement leads me to believe you thought the “problem” was unintentional:

    “what seemed to have happened, however, as a byproduct of the most recent algorithm tweak, is that a majority of the submissions from the top users were stuck at the top of the upcoming queue for hours without getting promoted.”

    And if that’s true, doesn’t this seem an inappropriate response? :

    “frustrated by what we saw as a move to suppress the top contributors to the site and penalize them for their popularity…”

    And don’t you think the whole idea of organizing a “revolt” over this is a bit ridiculous whether Digg meant to do this or not?

  14. Pingback: The Great Digg Revolt of 2008 | Jeff

  15. babblin5

    Well, I hope I wasn’t THAT much of an unrelated blogger… 😉

    Thanks for the mention, and i’m more than happy to pitch in in any way I can in the future. And thanks VERY much Reg for promoting that story. I think that speaks more towards the “little guys” having a voice in Digg, and how the top diggers can have a much greater impact on seeing that we all get a fair chance on Digg.


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  17. Pingback: What news orgs can learn from the Digg mini-revolt | New Media Bytes | Online journalism, web production and promotion

  18. democracy

    i think that everybody should have a chance at getting stories to the front page. having top users doesn’t mean your stories are better, it means you have more ‘friends’. digg is not a popularity contest nor should it be treated as so. i think if quality content is to make it to the front page, then the user should not be visible on the heading of the submission. i think what you are fighting for is unfair. there have been times where you, msaleem, have had 3 stories on the front page. how is that fair to the average user?

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  21. wallstreetfighter

    The only problem I see from all this is now there has become a group of diggers that resents the “Big 3” and are throwing buries around. You guys bring out the most creative articles on digg no doubt. There was definitely something wrong that had to be done or said. I just hope there isn’t too much backlash.

  22. WordsnCollision

    Being a relatively new (June ’07) Digger yet one who has cracked the Top 500 on Chris Finke’s list, i think i can appreciate the concerns of newbies and top submitters. As well, i have some concerns of my own which seem to have been glossed over, specifically the Bury system. In order to win back the confidence of what i imagine are a huge number of Diggers, the issues surrounding auto-buries, the “Bury Brigade” and general Bury accountability must be seriously addressed. There are a class of Diggers who have few or no friends, rarely submit stories and comment (usually negatively) like it’s going out of style. For them, Digg is a paradise where they can take out their frustrations by burying to their hearts’ content. Make use of the Bury button fully accountable and it will be used with discretion.

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  25. Brandon

    I appreciate that you guys were able to get the Digg administration to open up lines of communication as this was sorely needed. However, you need to stop touting yourselves as an elite “super user” group. It’s great that you submit lots of stories and devote your time to the Digg community, but it is NOT okay to think of yourself as top users who are better than the rest and can somehow differentiate between quality content and bogus content.

    The point of a community site is to give the community control and what you seem to see importance in is simply an aristocracy of elitist users who care only about there own submissions.

    I’ve been on Digg for a long time (longer than some of you, in fact) and have seen the rise and fall of top users. The same can happen to you and you will not be missed by the community. I don’t understand how you could have gone through life believing that you are the center of ANY universe. What you are doing seems to be selfish and disregarding of the entire community.

    I wish you the best and hope that you can come to see Digg as more of a community than a group of super users.

  26. Pingback: Practical Blogging » Blog Archive » links for 2008-01-29

  27. Pingback: DigitalBlab » Blog Archive » Anatomy of a Near-Revolt

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