In an attempt to limit people trying to game the social news site, Digg has announced that it will no longer publish a list of its top users. Digg's users are ranked based on how often they submit and vote on stories, along with how successful they are at getting stories to the front page. Because a story that is submitted by a top Digger stands a far greater chance of making it to the front page, compared to a lower ranked user who submits the same story, top Diggers are routinely approached by PR types who want help promoting the companies that they represent. By no longer making the top user list public, Digg hopes to make it harder to get to those users who yield the most influence.
But will the change work? As Tony Hung points out, Top Diggers will still be able to be found and contacted because each user profile has the option to publish contact information. Also the top digger list stays fairly consistent from month to month, so the recently published top user list will be good for a while yet. Additionally, there is nothing stopping top diggers themselves from approaching companies direct, offering diggs for cash.
However, Hung makes a far more important point. By removing the top user list, Digg is abolishing one of the main incentives for the most active users of the site:
You can have all sorts of opinions about how diggers “don’t have a life”, and how they ought to do it for free, much in the same strange hippie ethos that is confused with the open source movement. Regardless OF those opinions, I DO know that attaining a high rank takes a lot of time and effort. And when you’re NOT getting paid for your efforts (like those at Netscape *are*), you tend to try and look to other things for motivation. One of them is public recognition. While diggers have all kinds of motivation for doing what they do, without the most important means of recognizing diggers efforts at the very least (since they will never get paid), Kevin Rose is hamstringing the core constituency that Digg has been built upon.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the change impacts those top users who it most affects.
In announcing the change, Digg founder Kevin Rose also hinted that Digg will be introducing greater social networking features. At the moment a user can superficially add friends on the site but there isn't really any socializing going on -- you can't message users directly and there's no efficient way of finding other Diggers who share similar interests.
...we believe there are better ways to discover new friends based on your interests and what you’re digging. So if you have been digging stories about digital cameras and Oolong tea, you will be introduced to other top users with those interests...
...we’re currently working on designing and refining the technologies required that will help enable our nearly 900,000 registered users to make real connections that we believe will greatly enhance the Digg experience – whether you’re brand new to the site or have been on Digg since the beginning.
Related post: If Kevin Rose won’t pay Diggers, someone else will