Digg contributor: Social Web can be a 'very cruel place'

Digg users seek an upgrade in the social interaction at the site.

Digg focused on its technology upgrade while previewing its new, enhanced version last week. According to the AP:

With the site's redesign, items will rise the same way, but instead of sorting the popular items by time, users can more easily rank them by popularity or see what's most popular today, this week, this month or this year.

Digg users will be able to customize their pages, eliminating certain categories or subcategories completely. Users now have the ability to add other users as friends, and with the redesign, they'll be able to see at a glance the stories their friends have supported. They'll also be able to identify items that multiple friends have jointly favored.

The 280+ comments made by Digg users in response to two of my stories this past weekend about Digg—Digg's 8 million 'social freeloaders' and Digg users spurred to register and contribute —seem to suggest, however, that many Digg users seek an upgrade in the social interaction at the site.

The following comment posted at Digg gives a flavor of the frustration felt by many in their attempts to be active contributors to Digg:

The problem is not only those who don't want to take part, but also the actual crowd that does post the comments. Ever since the bury system was implemented, digg has become a very cruel place. More so, submitting stories is very hard, especially when it seems that only a small percentage of users get their stories miraculously on the front page, while the rest of us schmucks get snide remarks from the other users for even trying to post a story.

The intimidating atmosphere described by the Digg commenter reflects a cliquish social dynamic that is playing out at many Social Web properties. It is ironic that Web sites which are wholly dependent on active, engaged users contributing to “the collective wisdom,” are often breeding grounds for destructive, anti-social member behavior.

Wikipedia, for example, has had to qualify its “anyone can edit” philosophy due to the proliferation of "nonsense pages,” "revert wars" and “vandalism” at “The Free Encyclopedia.” (see my Social freeloaders: Is there a collective wisdom and can the Web obtain it? )

While self-centered and spiteful behavior manifested at Web sites relying solely on user contributions may merely reflect similar undesirable behavior transpiring offline, the Social Web often presents its user-driven sites as civilizing, democratizing community endeavors which harness a “collective wisdom.”