Digg: Democratic? Or Herd Behavior?

digg.JPGMy vote is for “Herd Behavior”. Wikipedia describes “Information cascade” and the description strongly resembles what we see daily on Digg.com.

Information cascade is a phenomenon in social psychology in which the decisions of a few individuals have a disproportionally strong effect on the behavior of the group as a whole. Information cascade is commonly seen in groups under immediate stress from external forces, such as in herd behavior. The effect is to cause group decisions based on few signals and can often be against what the individual believes to be true.

I ditched Digg last month, now others are noticing degradation in the veracity of Digg results.

Digg the rigged? A closer look at Digg’s democratic model

What it comes down to is there very literally is a group that controls Digg. If you are within this group and you submit a story, you are more or less guaranteed 10-15 (or more) automatic diggs from this group. What happens to the people who don’t have such a luxury and only get the default single vote like everyone else? This only encourages a cycle where those who are getting votes will continue to get more and more, as they feed each off each other and pat each other on the back. These users will remain the top users, and even when people like digitalgopher find a story later than someone else, digital gopher’s story is the one that will end up on the frontpage due to the influx of votes. Not only this, but every single digg from someone of this group causes the story to show up on ‘DiggSpy’ and cause an unproportional amount of exposure that other stories don’t get.

Here is an excellent post on the subject.

Why The Wisdom of Crowds Fails on Digg

If you have been keeping up with the mess that Digg has been dealing with recently, you have probably read this post. What jesusphreak (among many others) is referring to, is known as an information cascade problem. This problem occurs, when the decisions of a few individuals have a disproportionally strong effect on the behavior of the group as a whole, and is commonly seen in groups under immediate stress from external forces, such as in herd behavior.

PoliTech is not a Digg hater here! I’m just pointing out that I perceived that Digg results were somehow being manipulated and were not really reflecting “what’s hot”.

Instead there seems to be a steady stream of self promotion by a select hundred or so users.

The idea is not that community based sites like Digg should or will fail, or that the Digg community should go on to the next social bookmarking competitor, (like the Netscape thing), or that everyone should go back to SlashDot.

However, some tweaking needs to be done with the Digg model to reduce or eliminate the “Celebrity” status of a few groups of users. Some of these groups actually use that “Digg Celebrity” status to promote each other and seem to have even occasionally acted to punish other Digg users that they don’t like.

Advertisements

4 comments

  1. So Danger, are you saying that the relatively few groups of Digg groups who have figured out how to game the system and control the Digg voting results are now acting like third-world gangs of thugs using a form of “electronic beating” in order to enforce whatever their particular “code of conduct” happens to be?

    Food for thought, even if the example was somewhat extreme.

    Like

Comments are closed.