Social Networking, Traffic and Ethics

Perhaps those three were never meant to go together!

digg.com social networking site

Social Networking sites, and Digg.com in particular, aim to give users the chance to read the latest news, to vote on it and to share anything they’ve found.

They rely on group participation to provide content and to provide a reason to keep returning.

There’s a story entitled How much a digg worth? (someone is buying digg!!) where the following comment is made:

it is quite disgusting how people using digg for their own gain

And that in itself is comical. Isn’t Digg about gaining knowledge, gaining experience, gaining entertainment, gaining traffic and gaining exposure? Gain is the underlying motivation of every user who visits Digg.

Perhaps it’s just the taint of money that turned that user off?

Personally I’m unashamed that I use Digg for personal gain – it’s a great tool to keep abreast of the latest tech news – as judged by my peers – and to promote this blog. So for the rest of this entry I’ll make myself a case study.

I’m not a big user of Digg.com but you’ll find my profile at http://www.digg.com/users/sarahk/.

Friends: I have added a group of friends. Only a handful have added me as a friend, there’s atleast 3 in there who would have no idea who I am, however I know them by reputation and their digging history has been reliably interesting so I want to read what they’re reading.

How I find the recent diggs from my friends

When I visit Digg the first thing I do is view the list of diggs that my friends have been making – this short cuts the route to the interesting information. I have no idea how many articles are submitted to Digg daily but I do know that I have neither the time nor the inclination to read most of them. If my friends are reading them, chances are I will want to as well.

Digg: This is where you record that you have not only read a post but you’re happy to recommend the story to others. I will only digg if I think a post is worthy.

Bury: Stories can be buried when they are duplicates, spam or “lame”. And a great many are. Burying a story has a powerful impact and I’m cautious about doing it. However I bury a large number of the stories that I read because while they might be interesting the writer is just creating vague content and isn’t committed to giving a new perspective to the audience. It’s almost as if they’re trying to lure them in and disappoint so they might exit via a paid click. Tut tut!

Comments: It’s commonly believed that promoting a story to the magical “front page” is a combination of speed, diggs and comments. If I bury a story I’ll try and comment, if I digg a story I will too – if I have something to add and there aren’t already a million comments.

Blog this: Digg lets you auto-blog the stories and I’ve an experimental blog setup for this purpose. It also acts as a stronger bookmarking system for the stories I think are really interesting or that I’ll need in the future.

RSS feeds: Digg give you an almost limitless range of feeds to add to your website – all driving traffic into Digg rather than the source site. That’s cool. I’ve used the feeds in two places, one on my Zoints profile and one on a Squidoo page.

On Zoints I use my digg history

On Squidoo I use the stories I’ve submitted and my digg history.

So those pages are constantly updated and give added inbound links to the stories I’ve endorsed.

What is the “Digg Effect”?

The Digg Effect is where a story does extremely well at Digg and receives alot of traffic. It’s enough to bring a shared server down.

The benefits of a succesful digg is usually increased kudos, inbound links through a viral effect and blogging, but the users are hard to convert to actual clicks or sales.

When Digg is being used properly the story’s author usually doesn’t know about the Digg until the stats are checked and there is a spike in traffic. Ideally you don’t submit your own stories (but from time to time I think we all do).

So where’s the problem?

The problem lies in the “Digg Effect”. People want to have that huge traffic boost in the hope that some may become repeat visitors and that their site will benefit from the increased exposure.

So hungry do these people become that they’ll

  1. write little nothing stories and submit them.
  2. pay people to digg their stories
  3. join organised groups to blindly digg their stories
  4. promote their stories in other forums

1 falls into the very category of blog spam (as it’s usually from a blog) that fills the web with garbage. I can see why people create these pages, I just wish they wouldn’t.

2, and 3 are exploiting the very concept of social networking. How can a story fly or dive on it’s merits if people are manipulating the measurement tools?

4 I have no problem with except for the mindless fools who post saying “dugg every story on this page” – well duh! you’re not supposed to do that. We’re not asking you to park your brain – we’re just trying to get a little exposure! I fully expect that if I promote a story in a forum I’m as likely to be buried as dugg depending on the reaction of the person reading it.

The kids that trawl the pages clicking anything and everything need to consider that others (employers?) will read their digg history and use it for, or against them.

I have no problem with the people who complain about Digg rings – but I’d hate to see anyone penalised for driving traffic TO Digg from a forum – not all the people are blindly clicking!

Whats so bad about boosting a bad story?

The very premise behind social networking is that the cream rises to the top, not the article with the most organised author. Just as search engines are being harmed by spam so will these new tools. Once upon a time MySpace friends were just that – now it’s a link building tool. GoogleBase lasted days before being spammed. It’s to be expected that the social networking sites will be spammed too, but wouldn’t it be nice to keep them clean for a little while longer?

You hypocrite! How does this differ, ethically, from link building?

Ok, so link building is about actively building inbound links to a site so that Google et al will think the site is popular and increase it’s position in the SERPs.

It’s a good call, and perhaps Digg have the tools in place to detect and penalise organised rings, just as the Search Engines do – I don’t know what tools they have in place.

However I do believe that link building reflects the commitment and the energy of the site owner (even if the link building is contracted out) and therefore the commitment to the business that the website represents.

In a social networking context an artificially high number of diggs doesn’t represent energy or commitment to providing quality stories.

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Sarah King Written by:

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11 Comments

  1. July 9, 2006

    It seems my ethics aren’t good enough. I got banned from Digg 🙁

    I got banned from Digg

    The last sentence of this quote has been taken out of context and given financial conotations rather than intellectual. It’s then been used against me. I wonder if the Digg editors read the quote and not this post…

    Isnt Digg about gaining knowledge, gaining experience, gaining entertainment, gaining traffic and gaining exposure? Gain is the underlying motivation of every user who visits Digg.

    Perhaps its just the taint of money that turned that user off?

    Personally Im unashamed that I use Digg for personal gain

  2. July 9, 2006

    The purging goes on…

    Chris Morley wrote Will Digg 3.0 bury the Digg effect?, it was dugg and then deleted with both Chris and the Digger being banned. Chris reckons that Digg don’t like the suggestion that the digg effect might be lessened. I can see their point but I also know of people who don’t want their articles dugg because they know their host isn’t up to it. So, a more gentle digg effect is actually a GOOD thing.

    You can read all about it at DigitalPoint and while I agree with some of the bans I can also see that others are unjustified (by my rationale ;)).

    There have been a plethora of complaints about vBulletin’s new infraction system but I wonder if Digg needs this too – that way you have the opportunity to mend your ways before being booted out.

  3. July 9, 2006

    Sarah, I am with you on this Digg problem. My story was posted with no request for others to digg. People were digging the story and it was coming up naturally. Boom at 28 diggs it was gone! I really don’t care but I think it is a big lost for Kevin Rose and his crew.

    Going back to your points, you are right, I don’t think it is wrong if I were to ask my friend to review my post and digg it. What the hell then social network are for if I can’t discuss things with my friends or a group of people? Digg needs to get around this curve or it is going to fall apart. Banning good people and keep a handful of people who love just Google and digg then you will only going to see “good news about google” and “good news about digg” on the front page. This is already happening. I am guaranteed to see a google article and a good news digg article on front page almost all the time.

    Isn’t this worse than editorial itself? Even editorial pages will print a bashing article about their own paper. This won’t happen in digg.com because it isn’t really people who decide what comes up to the front page. It is people with the help of digg editors.

    You will see a follow up post to my comments on my blog tomorrow.

    -Guna

  4. August 3, 2006

    You shouldnt have been banned thats ridiculous. A lot of your points are right on. Most people do use it for personal gain i know i have. Why does it matter who submits the stories? the best stories will always rise to the top.

  5. […] Some users are even taking their accounts a step further and creating a marketing buzz for their own site for their own monetary gain. However, this marketing blitz has created a social community of a sort, even though it’s at the cost of using the social network as a vehicle. […]

  6. March 21, 2007

    Many small social networking niches which combine the features of myspae, youtube and orkut have sprung up. I feel they will rule the internet in the future

  7. March 21, 2007

    SEO Industry has been totally corrupted. Social bookmarking websites like Digg have specifically been targetted for getting high PR backlinks. The most notorious companies for gaming Digg are probably the ones you have probably never heard about, promoting stories you probably dont even suspect. Spikethevote was one such company.
    Digg now owns spikethevote (bought from an ebay auction) but I think the $1275 it paid was too high for buying spikethevote.com
    The site has never really been proven and it only had 470 backlinks on Google, page rank of 0, and 60 links from blogs.

  8. William
    July 26, 2007

    Hi,
    You should not only use digg.com but also other social bookmarking websites like http://www.npgb.org
    – William 🙂

  9. July 27, 2007

    Good try William. I took a look and the template still showed the Pligg labelling and it only had 2 pages worth of news. Somehow I don’t think it’s going to be rocking the world anytime soon. Useful perhaps but Digg don’t need to worry yet 🙂

  10. September 4, 2007

    I remember back in the day, around 98 where blogs were only created manually or with graymatter. Not many people knew anything about seo other than boost keywords in your meta info.

    Link exchanges were done manually and with quality partners, and people wrote articles for their visitors and not the search engines.

    The internet has been ruined like the person stated above. Everyone is making money off selling products on seo and people are spamming their products for seo.

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