Digg democracy: Can algorithms trump human nature?
Kevin Rose, Founder & Chief Architect of Digg, recently expressed to me his confidence in Digg’s “sophisticated anti-gaming” processes" to maintain Digg as a “true, free, democratic social platform devoid of monetary motivations” (see “Digg: Kevin Rose talks “the Real Deal” in exclusive interview”).
I spoke at length with Rose about Digg’s efforts to improve its story promotion algorithm with the goal of enhancing diversity of digger input to keep Digg as “useful, democratic, and devoid of misuse as possible.”
Rose indicated that Digg is:
spending a lot in R & D to prevent gaming. Motivations don’t matter.
Given that Rose created Digg out of a desire to “democratize” news, I asked if it is not demoralizing to have to commit enormous resources and time to fighting the anti-democratic component of human nature. Rose conveyed that he considers investments in ensuring the integrity of Digg as costs of doing business.
I asked Rose how user self submission of stories jibe with “democratic” and “devoid of monetary motivations”?
Rose on user self-submissions of stories:
Anyone can submit. There are 4000 newly submitted stories daily. We don’t have a problem with people submitting their own stories. It is not up to the person submitting story if it makes it to the front page. It is up to the community if that is something they want to see on the front page.
We know that it requires a much larger pool of people to promote the story to the front page. Regardless of source of story, it has to receive a lot of diggs from the community. It doesn’t matter what the motivation of the submitter is. People are going to make money, when users click through to the stories, they have ads on the pages.
Monetary motivations of Digg users may become more troublesome, however. The usersubmitter.com URL currently puts forth:
Where Digg Submitters Pay for Digg Users to Promote their Stories. And, Where Digg Users Make Easy Money.
Digg’s algorithmic stab at making Digg more of the democracy it claims to be will undoubtedly be as futile as the almighty Google’s algorithmic commitment to “the integrity of our search results.” Vandalism prone Wikipedia, for its part, is not concerned with algorithmic-based truths, or truth of any kind.
I cite official Digg, Google and Wikipedia statements and conclude:
Digg, Google and Wikipedia are invested in maintaining their “as-is” status-quo, no matter how flawed. Not one of the three powerhouses can risk diminishing public confidence in the grandiose vaunted missions each espouses. The leaders of each of the flawed systems publicly evangelize a revolutionary worthiness of their endeavors to rationalize away allegations of abuse, entrenchment, spam, falsehoods, libel, infringement…with a “net-positive” argument.