The hole that DIGG dug

Newbie Briefing – Digg is a service where you submit a pointer to an article or blog post with a brief description. If the community likes it, they vote your submission UP – enough votes you end up on the prime pixel real estate which is Digg’s front page. If you are there long enough and are sexeh enough, you feature on the Diggnation vidcast hosted by Digg founders. If your post sucks or is offensive or boring or incorrect, the community votes you DOWN into oblivion. Wiki Digg here.

Traditional media, online news, hell the whole ‘net was posting and discussing crack code for HD DVD. Except Digg who, ignoring “the community as editor” mantra, were quietly pulling articles. This created a backlash of 10’s of thousands of members submitting the articles to Digg and hundreds of thousands voting the submissions up, and potentially a few million choosing NOT to vote the articles back down, in spite of the disruption is was causing their service :

While the Digg site went offline at several points as the debate raged, the company’s founders eventually surrendered to mob rule. “We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration,” founder and chief architect Kevin Rose wrote. “We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code. But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be. If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

ITWire totally didn’t get it; look at their title Digg revolt highlights shortcomings of Web 2.0 view. Actually, the actions of the Digg community highlights exactly what is RIGHT about Web 2.0. It’s a model that many industries may want to adopt, in spite of occasionally getting into spats with their consumers. And when our politicians wake up, it might just be too late. Web 2.0 is called both a disruptive technology and a social enabler. That makes it a tool for disruptive social behaviour in my book. And not all bad. Incidentally Jimmy Wales last week at that Education au seminar I went to, spoke about what would happen if 80,000 Nazi’s got online to vote that the Holocaust as having never happened, and what Wiki’s response would be. Go, watch his video on TedTalks.

The 90:9:1 rule – see my post – but basically if 50,000 posts on HD DVD crack represented 1%, that’s an awful lot of people (4.5 million?) who didn’t vote the articles down, even though they were taking over the site. In the same way that Digg was overwhelmed by a swarm, that minority could just have easily been overwhelmed by a larger number of irritated members. It’s judging if/when the tipping point to mobilising action will happen that’s the trick.

Whateveh, don’t mobilise millions of customers against you. There are other strategies for convincing communities not to pass cracks around, but suing the god-like hosts of the community is not one of them. The “customer as enemy” is a self-defeating strategy. It might’ve worked in the past when the aggrieved customer wasn’t organised and didn’t have a voice but they now have the resources, passion and distribution channels to annihilate companies. Tell the boss, “just don’t go there”. I can see reverse class action law suits coming up – where the company sues 4.5 million customers. Heh.

Anyway, I guess that quiet “cease and desist” letter to Digg really worked. That’ll learn ’em.

Tagline Note: If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying > Don’t be Evil

Update: The colour code that hacks the system is now on 60,000 blogs and an Australian entrepreneur has put it on a T-shirt. I’ve pre-ordered. Hmmm. Organised, resources, passionate, have a voice, not just eyeballs..

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