Digg Town Hall: No “secret moderators”

by Mathew on February 25, 2008 · 13 comments

Well, the very first Digg Town Hall is over, and I think I can safely say that it isn’t likely to change anyone’s mind about the site one iota. If you’re a fan, and you think Kevin (Rose) and Jay (Adelson) are a couple of great guys with the site’s best interests at heart, then you will likely continue to believe that after the show. They do seem like nice guys with good intentions. If, on the other hand, you believe that they are out of their depth running the site, aren’t transparent enough about how they run it, or are too busy navel-gazing, then you’ll probably still think that after the show.

There were only 20 questions submitted — not much of a town, really — but some took up the bulk of the show and others were dismissed relatively quickly. One of the first things out of the gate (after some audio issues) was a statement from Jay that the site does not have anything like a group of “secret moderators” or editors who bury things or block people. All there is, he says, is a site admin whose job it is to remove porn links and other things that breach the terms of service (Kevin says he did that job for the first six months or so that the site was live and then they hired someone). And there are no “bury bots” or a “bury brigade.”

All there is, according to Jay and Kevin — but mostly Jay — is an algorithm or series of algorithms that are designed to maintain “diversity” on the site. In other words, designed to keep posts and links and comments and Diggs coming from as wide and diverse a group as possible. That’s why some links get more Diggs but still don’t get “promoted” to the front page, they explained — because too small a group of similar people are Digging it. It’s the same with burying, Jay notes: too many similar people burying something wouldn’t work either.

Among other things, the two said that they are working on the new comment system (expected by April, maybe), and are working on fixing the search and duplicate-finding functions, which they freely admitted were broken. And they are going to introduce support and other forums to respond directly to users. They also said they want to be more transparent — but then a few minutes later said they didn’t necessarily want to show who was burying things, and also said they couldn’t talk about what criteria they look at to determine “diversity” of Diggs or links, except to say that they look at “a lot of stuff.”

Note:

Tony Hung has some thoughts at Deep Jive Interests, and there’s an overview of the town hall here as well. Best line in the Mashable live-blogging chat (which they did with Keith McSpurren’s excellent CoverItLive) was an Oasis reference: “Is that Liam on the left, or Noel?” My friend MG Siegler of ParisLemon also has a good writeup at VentureBeat.

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  • http://bobcaswell.com Bob Caswell

    I found it interesting that they did admit to having a blacklist of sites that is matched with the upcoming queue in an automated process. But then, don't worry, there's no “auto-bury.” Well, I guess it's how you define auto-bury. To me, that sounds an awful lot like what I would consider to be “auto-bury.”

    But then, all they had to say is “fighting spam” and all is well. The crowd is appeased even if plenty of legitimate sites are auto-buried / blacklisted in the process.

    Plus there was a quick nod to the “our hands are tied” excuse toward the end in reference to the fact that sometimes the digg crowd gets together and decides it hates certain sites/blogs. Too bad for those sites; they're not welcome by however many of the tens of millions of uniques it takes for the sites to be blacklisted/auto-buried (I'm guessing probably somewhere around .00001% of the community can decide what is permanently not wanted by everyone).

    To recap, legitimate sites can be (and have been, just not Engadget or Ars Technica, of course) blacklisted / banned / auto-buried (pick your term) because they're a) mistaken as spam or b) rejected a couple times by an extremely small percentage of the community.

  • http://www.parislemon.com MG Siegler

    Completely agree with the thought that cynics will remains cynics while fanboys will remain fanboys. Some attempts at straight-talk, some attempts skirting around issues. Status quo will remain status quo, but at least they are putting forth some effort now.

    I'm turning into you, writing all over the place :)

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Yes, you certainly are getting around :-)

    On Tue, Feb 26, 2008 at 3:39 AM, Disqus

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Yes, but Jay said that the “diversity” algorithms supposedly prevent a
    small group of people from doing anything — whether it's mass-Digging
    of links, or mass-burying.

    On Tue, Feb 26, 2008 at 1:24 AM, Disqus

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  • http://bobcaswell.com Bob Caswell

    Mathew-

    Regardless of how the magic algo works or doesn't work, there seems to be a common theme:

    If you're a new or relatively unknown site, don't get on digg's front page too often. If you're Engadget or Ars, you're welcome to the digg front page anytime even if your posts are just one paragraph and simply link to the real story (that would be Engadget). For every other site in the world, that's often considered blog spam. But Engadget gets away with it every day, and diggers love it.

    Also, this just goes to show how easy it is for someone unaffiliated with a site to help blacklist it. You have some good stuff here, but if I wanted to get your site blacklisted it wouldn't be hard. I'd just submit a post of yours to digg, every day, shout to my friends about it, and wait for your blacklist to happen. All without you being involved…

    For all the supposed “diversity” happening behind the scenes, there's little diversity in the outcome.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I think those are some of the things that Jay and Kevin said they were
    trying to work on — responding to people whose sites had been
    blacklisted incorrectly, or whose stuff was routinely duped or
    whatever. How successful they will be remains to be seen, I guess –
    and there's no question they need more customer support.

    On Tue, Feb 26, 2008 at 9:26 AM, Disqus

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Yes, you certainly are getting around :-)

    On Tue, Feb 26, 2008 at 3:39 AM, Disqus

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Yes, but Jay said that the “diversity” algorithms supposedly prevent a
    small group of people from doing anything — whether it's mass-Digging
    of links, or mass-burying.

    On Tue, Feb 26, 2008 at 1:24 AM, Disqus

  • http://bobcaswell.com Bob Caswell

    Mathew-

    Regardless of how the magic algo works or doesn't work, there seems to be a common theme:

    If you're a new or relatively unknown site, don't get on digg's front page too often. If you're Engadget or Ars, you're welcome to the digg front page anytime even if your posts are just one paragraph and simply link to the real story (that would be Engadget). For every other site in the world, that's often considered blog spam. But Engadget gets away with it every day, and diggers love it.

    Also, this just goes to show how easy it is for someone unaffiliated with a site to help blacklist it. You have some good stuff here, but if I wanted to get your site blacklisted it wouldn't be hard. I'd just submit a post of yours to digg, every day, shout to my friends about it, and wait for your blacklist to happen. All without you being involved…

    For all the supposed “diversity” happening behind the scenes, there's little diversity in the outcome.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I think those are some of the things that Jay and Kevin said they were
    trying to work on — responding to people whose sites had been
    blacklisted incorrectly, or whose stuff was routinely duped or
    whatever. How successful they will be remains to be seen, I guess –
    and there's no question they need more customer support.

    On Tue, Feb 26, 2008 at 9:26 AM, Disqus

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