Digg cheating: are digg circles a necessary evil?

Shane at WallStreetFighter is trying to get a Digg circle going. Is this good, bad, or just plain necessary?

Digg circle?!?
First off, let’s get this out of the way: a digg circle is a group of people that agree – formally or informally – to digg posts that any member submits to Digg.com. Digg is a social content site, so whatever stories get attention, get posted to the home page. Stories that are posted to the home page get tons of traffic. Traffic is attention, and attention is good.

Generating traffic with Digg?
The problem with Digg – from the point of view of an individual blogger – is that it’s an incredibly haphazard proposition. Blog posts abound with idiotic titles like Using Digg and Netscape to get Traffic, which basically say: write good stuff with compelling posts and submit it to social content/news sites. But it is very hard – maybe almost impossible – to get a submitted story promoted to the home page. And without getting promoted, your story just dies on the vine, expiring from the upcoming queue before getting enough diggs to make it to the next level.

Respect the community?
On the one hand, saying things like “using digg” is a major signal that you’re not respecting the community process that social content aggregators supposedly employ. They’re not there to be used by content providers seeking traffic; they’re there to be helpful to content seekers looking for interesting relevant information.

On the other, this is not utopia. It’s not a democracy, and there’s no such thing as one person one vote. Or not precisely, in practice.

Circle jerk: getting to the home page
That’s because getting to the home page is not a matter of simple arithmetic. It’s not equally accessible to any user.

So how do stories get to the home page? Simple: people who “friend” each other can see what their buddies are submitting and digg those stories. Why would someone do that? Well, when you digg an acquaintance’s story, he or she is more likely to digg yours in return. An article with a lot of quick diggs – maybe as few as 50 if they’re really fast, can quickly become a category page leader, and then – because a ton more users are seeing it – a home page story.

Voila – you now have a Digg circle, and you now have the reason why the top 100 users control more than half of what makes it to the home page.

Ethical, legal, moral?
So what’s an honest hard-working content provider (errr, blogger) supposed to do? Here are the options:

  1. Nothing – just write good stuff
    (Then hope someone it gets dugg)
  2. Submit it to Digg yourself
    (Then watch it get buried almost immediately)
  3. Become a Digg groupie
    (Suck up to a Top 100 digg user, and then ask for a digging favor)
  4. Become a Digg fanatic
    (Submit everything to Digg and “friend” all the top Diggers, hoping to become Top 100 yourself. Which, of course, would leave no time for actually creating interesting useful creative content of your own.)
  5. Start a new Digg circle
    (Get 100 of your own friends and acquaintances together and make a pact to Digg each other’s stuff.)

Option one is morally great but also least likely to result in positive results. Two is a little more proactive, and, in addition with some digging tools built into your site or blog, might have some effect. Three is annoying and degrading, and four is not tenable if you actually want to have a life in addition to blogging (oh, and yes, you probably have a job too!).

So five starts to look attractive to people.

But is it cheating?
I don’t know. It certain appears to be how Digg works, and therefore could be argued to be within the engineering constraints of the system, and therefore OK. But it sure feels like cheating.

So why does it feel so attractive to me?

[tags] digg, digg circle, cheat, social content, aggregator, john koetsier [/tags]

3 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Thanks for the tutorial on Digg John – as what Liz Strauss describes as a “D-Z Lister”, I’ve been watching folks get “dugg” but had no real appreciation or understanding of how it worked (I wish I had the time, but I have a full time job too). It looks like most everything else out there- if it can be “gamed”, it will be. On the other hand, if you are forming a circle, let me know – I could use a bit more traffic 😉 All the best.

  • Great article! You’re pretty much right on the money. I know of a digg circle that gets it’s members’ digg submissions to the homepage almost every single time they try. It’s not really that hard. A group of a dozen people working together can get things frontpaged easily and with very little effort.

  • Nice article, promptly Dugg. It does seem near on impossible to get to the front page of Digg, even with decent articles. One of our articles had 26,000 unique page views in a month, and it still wasn’t front page material.

    I think there are a lot of ‘Digg Circles’ around, which makes the whole thing a tad unfair imo, but that could just be sour grapes 🙂

    FYI, I arrived here from Google Search terms: impossible to get dugg