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.
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.