Where does community end and “gaming” start?

Digg continues to try and tweak its social-bookmarking service to make it harder to spam and “game” the system. But is it destroying the community at the same time? According to his post at the Digg blog, co-founder Kevin Rose believes that removing the list of top Diggers from the front page will help reduce the incentive for gaming the system — by Digging whatever your friends are Digging, among other things, or paying top Diggers to submit your site.

And yet, as my friend Tony Hung points out at Deep Jive Interests, getting your name on that top Diggers list is a significant incentive for people to submit links in the first place. What happens when that incentive is removed? (Tony thinks the changes are unlikely to cure the gaming problem anyway). Digg has so far resisted the idea of paying top submitters, a policy Jason Calacanis introduced when he Digg-ified Netscape.com.

In his post, Kevin says that Digg plans to introduce ways of helping Diggers find other Diggers with similar interests, and seems to suggest that the top Diggers list has outlived its usefulness, saying it “was created in the early days of Digg when there was a strong focus on encouraging people to submit content.” The implication is that with more than 5,000 submissions a day (and more than 50 million Diggs in two years), Digg doesn’t need to give people that incentive any more. Is that true? Digg is going to find out.

As Scott Karp (who writes about the recent Digg move here) says in a recent post, companies like Digg live by the community and die by the community. Steve O’Hear at ZDNet has some thoughts about the Digg move, and Josh Bokardo thinks Digg may be in for a surprise. Steve Rubel thinks Digg needs to start paying Diggers or it may be doomed. Mark Evans has a take on the recent move too. And there actually seems to be some support for the idea of removing the top Diggers list on the Digg site itself.


Jason Calacanis says he doesn’t think the latest change will work, and notes that thanks to Digg’s open API, it didn’t take long for someone to create a top Diggers list. And Chris Messina has an interesting post comparing community to the environment, and shifts like Digg’s recent one to changing weather patterns.

Update 2:

Svetlana Gladkova of Profy has an interview with a top Digger from Poland named Chrisek, who says that the changes won’t make much difference to Digg, and that they won’t affect him because he Diggs things for fun. And SEORefugee has some thoughts from another top Digger.

9 thoughts on “Where does community end and “gaming” start?

  1. Seems to me, now that YouTube is suggesting the idea of compensating user created content creators, there might definitely be a move towards more social sites doing it – which I think is a great idea. Because after all, even the time spent finding all these links is effectively work. And digg has lots of funding and buyout potential. It would be a good move to see a social site share that wealth with the users that made it what it is (MP3.com did it back in the day).

    I’ve read good things about the Cutline theme – will be neat seeing how your blog looks when it’s done.

  2. I agree, Jason. I think that kind of thing is probably inevitable — and not just inevitable but arguably desirable as well. I don’t know if Kevin and the Digg team believe that though.

  3. I submit stories to Digg because of the meta-game that is Digg. i.e. each story on the home page gets you one EXP and once you get enough EXP you appear in the top diggers list.

    The bonus EXP comes when you get your story on the Diggnation podcast. Why remove this system? The system rewards good submissions, removing it will only increase Spamming of Digg because the spammers pay!

  4. Thank you for mentioning Profy interview in your 2nd update, Mathew.
    The terrible thing is that the only result Digg is going to get is losing some of its brilliant members – together with high-quality content they contribute. But will that actually improve Digg – I strongly doubt that.

  5. Thanks for the comment, Svetlana. And I hope you are wrong about Digg losing members, but I think that is a very real risk with the changes they are making.

  6. Mathew, I will be more than happy to be wrong – but I really see why Chrisek predicts top diggers will leave Digg. I enjoy Digg as an absolutely ordinary member but it is interesting to follow some trends in the community and progress of certain users – usually those you see frequently and start to recognize by their avatars.

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