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Can having too many Digg Using Readers Be a Bad thing for a Site?

Digg-CultureA number of months ago I wrote a post titled How to Build a ‘Digg Culture’ on your Blog which explored a trend that I’d noticed on my blogs where getting on the front page of Digg once tended to lead to attracting other active Digg users to your blog – which in turn led to more success on Digg – which led to more Digg using readers which led to more Digg success…. etc (see image to the left for a visual illustration).

It was something that I’d noticed happening on a number of my own blogs as well as blogs of others.

However in the last few months I’ve noticed another Digg trend. At this point it’s just a theory and I have no way of proving it – but I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps a blog can be penalized for having too many active Digg using readers.

I first noticed this through chatting to other bloggers who would regularly get on the font page of Digg quite organically as a result of their readers submitting and then Digging theirs posts up. These blogs had medium to largish sized readerships (although none were A-listers).

After a few months (or longer) of getting semi-regular appearances on the front page of Digg these bloggers started to notice that their posts would do well for a few hours after being submitted by readers but that as they approached the top of the upcoming lists they would disappear.

While it is not unusual for some posts to be buried before hitting the popular page (not everyone on Digg will appreciate every post you write) these bloggers began to notice that it happened to every post – even their best ones.

I didn’t take a lot of notice of this at first – but after hearing the same story from 10 or so other bloggers began to wonder if there was more to the story.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve noticed the same thing happening on my own blogs – blogs that quite often used to reach the front page of Digg completely organically.

My question to Digg (something I’ve asked via email – but which I don’t really expect a response) is:

Can having too many Digg Using Readers Be a Bad thing for a Site?

I understand why Digg needs to protect itself and ban sites who attempt to manipulate their system – however I’ve heard the above story/complaint from a number of legitimate and high quality bloggers now and wonder if perhaps Diggs algorithm or filtering system is being a little too zealous and weeding out quality and legitimate content simply because those sites have grown a readership that love and use Digg.

Now there is a weakness in my hypothesis – and that is that mega/A-list blogs who must have a lot of Digg users regularly feature on the front pages of Digg. Perhaps this is an indication that my theory is off – however I couldn’t imaging Digg banning Engadget, Gizmodo or Lifehacker (who all feature heavily on the front page of Digg).

It’s just a theory – but I’d be interested to hear other’s thoughts on the question.

Can having too many Digg Using Readers Be a Bad thing for a Site?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Travis says:

    I’m not sure I follow – are you saying that perhaps the digg algorithm is penalizing (intentionally or not) blogs that are being submitted very often? I’m not arguing with you, as I don’t have a lot of experience in this area, I’m just trying to clarify for myself (and others).

  2. Bury Brigade says:

    Nope, it’s not the Digg algorithm. It’s the Bury Brigade. We’re a loosely organized group of Diggers who work to keep blog crap off the Digg front page. We’re happy to allow original, non-duplicate content to make it to the front page, but blog spam in place of the original source will get your site in the Brigade’s crosshairs.

  3. doug m says:

    i think that’s what darren is saying. it looks as digg suddenly thinks of the submissions as a form of spam and tries to cut them down. perhaps getting in touch with someone from digg to clarify would resolve this question.

  4. Dom says:

    Firstly, just because a story gets buried on digg, how does that adversely affect your site? The fact that it was on digg at all is a good thing, but it seems like you’re complaining that digg isn’t giving you something for nothing quite as much as it used to.

    Secondly, the vast majority of blog submissions to digg are actually “spam”. That is, they’re submitted by the site owner in order to gain traffic. That’s not to say all your posts are seen as spam, but it’s likely the digg algorithm is particularly cautious when it comes to blogs.

  5. Great story… Dugg ;)

  6. Leo says:

    I’ve noticed this trend, too, Darren … but I think it’s not so much a function of a Digg algorithm as it is backlash from certain Digg users who get tired of seeing certain sites hit the front page all the time. Popularity can cause some people to dislike you just because of the popularity.

    I think it’s just the infamous bury brigade in action.

    Keep up the thought-provoking posts, Darren!

  7. Dom says:
  8. We can test the theory and digg this post…

  9. Brad V. says:

    Interesting theory Darren! I think that Leo above me has a good explanation, that certain Digg users get tired of seeing certain sites hitting the top page on a consistent basis.

    Also, while many Digg users are honest and try to “dig” the best material they can find, there are others on their who only want to break the system down and cause trouble. This is the negative side of the “populartiy rules” on the internet – it’s not always accurate.

    Personally, I don’t use Digg anymore after I read an article that only a small percentage of users actually influence which sites become really popular. I don’t know if they’ve fixed it since then so that everyone has an equal say.

    To answer your question, yes, I think having too many “Diggs” can be a bad thing.because it brings more attention to your blog, which makes it easier for those with less-then honorable intention to find.

    Great post. Keep on Diggin’!

  10. Darren Rowse says:

    Travis – I don’t think it’s a purposeful thing by Digg. I just think that in their attempt to cut down on Digg spamming that perhaps there is some part of their algorithm that is too aggressive and that is penalizing sites that have a lot of digging going on. For example – I saw one site this morning climb from 0 to 52 Diggs in a couple of hours completely organically. It did so because it obviously appealed to a lot of that blog’s readers who were also Digg users. Then it disappeared. In isolation – that wouldn’t concern me as I’d think that it just got buried organically (sometimes the amount of people who don’t like a story outweigh those who do) – however the same thing has happened to posts from that same site numerous times in the last week.

    Doug M – yeah – I think you said it better than me. And yes – I did email Digg however I’m not expecting a reply – not because they don’t care but because of the weight of email they must get and the need to keep their algorithm secret.

    Dom – you’re right – on some levels it doesn’t hurt a site in that it doesn’t take traffic from them. I personally think that it’s Digg’s right to include or not include any site that they don’t want to include – it’s their place and they make the rules. I guess all I wanted to do with this post was balance my previous article on ‘digg culture’ with what can happen if the Digg Culture really is strong. No complaints here – I don’t rely on Digg for traffic – it’s a dangerous thing to rely on any one source of traffic. I also agree with your call on many blog submissions being spam. It happens a lot – however I don’t think it’s just a blog thing – I see a lot of non blog sites doing very well on Digg. What I hear from those that I know who manipulate Digg is that they only ever do it with the one site a few times anyway – to get around these types of problems. Then they move onto another domain.

    Leo – glad it’s not just me who has noticed it. I also wondered if there was Digg users who are burying everything from certain pages. Perhaps Digg needs to make serial Digger’s ‘buries’ less powerful?

  11. James says:

    Perhaps it is too many of the same readers every time and not enough readers from a broad spectrum?
    I will openly admit- I have no idea what I am talking about. Be a while (long while) before I have to worry about Digg.

  12. Darren Rowse says:

    Bury Brigade – I’ve heard of that kind of thing. However I’m a little supicious of it because the blogs that I’m basing this post on are not duplicate content or ‘crappy’ content. They are actually original posts and substantial articles on the particular fields that they are covering. These are not ‘newsy’ posts – but helpful and insightful articles. Like I said in my last comment – I see a lot of crap getting up on Digg – not just blog content either. I find it a bit odd that a system like Digg which is all about the wisdom of the crowd is not only getting manipulated by those trying to get their stories up but those trying to get them buried. Seems like two small groups of people with a lot of power to me :-)

    btw – thanks everyone for the diggs – but this post has no chance of climbing up the rankings at Digg, let alone staying on the front page. ProBlogger has been pretty much black banned from Digg for quite a while now. I guess if some people see blogs as crap then a blog about blogging is seen as evil incarnate :-)

  13. its only bad if it crashes your server and host – but as far as manipulation and services digging stories, will be hard

  14. batteryfast says:

    Your hypothesis may be the reason why can explain my doubts. The digg algorithm is a good way to penalize the spam, imo (if the function is existent).
    Over all, the trend is rising.

  15. Ryan Wagner says:

    Digg’s algorithm definitely has some flaws, and we’ve experienced the same issues you’re having. Recently we contacted Digg because some of our exclusive articles would get upwards of 140 Diggs without ever making the front page. EVERY one of our articles would get buried by the time that they hit 30 Diggs, and it was getting frustrating. We contacted Digg support, and never received a response. But since we contacted them we have hardly had any articles buried, so they definitely did something.

  16. I have noticed this as well – and eMoms has only made it to the front page of Digg three times. Every single time i was accused of “blog spam” in the comments, even though the articles were original, I of course didn’t submit them myself, and they were extremely popular on other social bookmarking sites.

    I believe Leo is right – the Digg community really bites off their nose to spite their face much of the time. They make content popular, but then resent the popularity that they helped to create.

    But then again, the Digg community isn’t exactly known for their original thinking and maturity.

  17. Ken Dahlin says:

    Burying stories, as it stands now, is one of the major flaws of Digg. It can allow a few people to control what hits the homepage by making sure that certain popular content does not. So, it’s not the digg algorithm intentionally thwarting popular content, as much as it is the algorithm giving too much power to too few people.

  18. For us novices even one or tow diggs is good enough. Yes ofcourse you can propose a theory like this.. its like bill gates saying too much money is bad for health or something

  19. Beau says:

    I think there are three things working here.

    First, there are some juvenile Diggers that will try to bury anything involving a blog. This is just an abservation from watching the comment section of stories that have been Dug

    Second, some Digger’s dislike certain personalities. So they try to bury any story from that blog’ submissions. For example; there was a block of Diggers with a particular dislike of John Chow. They reported all of his Dugg posts as spam. Eventually, because of this group he was temporarily banned from Digg.

    Third, Digg’s algorythm may have been tweaked in an attempt to detect voting networks. So, unfortunately, you may get penalized if the same reader’s are always Digging your stories. I think this is similar to getting burried for Digging your own content. The mega A-list blogs may be large enough to have enough “unique” diggs to avoid this filter.

    So maybe the question should be:

    Does not having enough “unique” Digg using readers hurt your blog, once your blog, or the story for that matter, gets to a certain level of popularity?

    Just a few observations

    Beau

  20. Hyder says:

    I think digg users are a very biased bunch. They scream blogspam for other blogs, but when it comes to engadget, gizmodo, lifehacker, the consumerist, ars technica etc…which are all BLOGS they happily digg them up like it was their job to do so.

  21. John Wesley says:

    I’ve noticed a similar trend with my site. I’ve heard that the more popular the user is who submits your article, the more Diggs it takes to get promoted to the front page. This makes a lot of sense if Digg is trying to make the top users a bit less influential so the site is more democratic.

  22. Mike Panic says:

    I think some readers are so caught up in being a Digger that they will submit every article from the most popular blogs just to say that they were the one who submitted it. I think just about every article on J.D.’s blog, Get Rich Slowly makes it to Digg, same with other tech related blogs such as Engadget and even Lifehacker. They submit not because the article belongs on Digg but because the submitter wants to feel a part of something and look good in the eyes of the Digg regulars.

  23. loaverman says:

    its only bad if it crashes your server and host – but as far as manipulation and services digging stories, will be hard

  24. Nate Weiner says:

    Well you could easily test the ‘buried’ theory by searching for the post on digg. It will tell you if it’s been buried:
    http://digg.com/search?s=problogger&submit=Search&section=all&search-buried=1&type=url&area=all&sort=most

    Doesn’t look any of them have been officially ‘buried’ per say.

  25. doug m says:

    i emailed them as well darren, we’ll see if they write back, in no way did i ask for how they determine diggs, but more on if this is actually an issue that they know of, or maybe a bug

  26. Tim Broder says:

    A good read. I know i don’t have to worry about it though, Ive only made the frontpage twice ;-)

    I do agree about they not being too keen on blog posts though, which I don’t quite understand. I write programming HOWTO’s and I don’t really see why they would deem it “better” if the tutorial was on the website part of my site, as opposed to the blog portion.

  27. Bull3t says:

    Pfft, I don’t think I will ever make the front page of Digg so I really don’t have anything to worry about, but it does pose the question as to whether submitting your best stories to Digg is such a good thing in the long run.

    Ultimately, I would say yes as it gets you and your blog noticed, even if your blog does crash after you “became noticed” by to many users.

    If I ever did make the front page I would have thought that my blog should be able to withstand a high amount of visitors, I have unlimited bandwidth and a reliable host. Although my blog does seem to crash on its own accord already. I really don’t know why it crashes, but it does – I need to ask my host.

  28. I agree with Darren that lots of crappy stuff gets promoted to the first page and some really genuine posts don’t make it. I think it could be because of the nature of diggers who have got nothing better to do but promote and bury links according to their whims and fancies. Very few links get promoted for real quality.

  29. william says:

    @Dom

    “Secondly, the vast majority of blog submissions to digg are actually “spam”. That is, they’re submitted by the site owner in order to gain traffic. That’s not to say all your posts are seen as spam, but it’s likely the digg algorithm is particularly cautious when it comes to blogs.”

    Um, how is me submitting original content that I wrote to Digg spam? You realize that without people submitting content to Digg there would be no point in going there, right?

    I hate when people assume that if you submit your own links you are spamming the system. If you can’t handle people wanting to have their pages seen, maybe the web isn’t the place for you.

  30. Next time you or your friends have a story organically cranking keep an eye on Digg spy especially as it gets near the top of up and coming. If you start to see a bunch of buries you could have your answer.

  31. Beau says:

    @ William

    This is an interview with Muhammad Saleem. Some great insight on Digg, and he is asked directly about Digging your own content. I believe it is the sixth question.

    http://www.bloggertalks.com/2006/11/muhammad-saleem-insights-from-an-elite-social-bookmarker/

    Beau

  32. Googlelady says:

    I am not really a fan of Digg because I know from reading many digg exchange or other systems to fool digg. I think Digg should put some more restrictions on those that want to manipulate Digg. About your question, I think if you a “new” blog or a blog that is not well-known has many diggs they will suspect and that is really bad because Digg anti-cheat system is not well developed. They need more improvement after their Improvement I will focuss more on digg but at the time I will prefer others like SU and Sphinn.

  33. Slevi says:

    The stories about this have been going around for quite some time and there’s definitely some fishy stuff going around but I suppose they have their reasons for it at digg, a downside though is that a comment which many diggers bring up is that blog entries are generally just spam and simply trying to get their own stuff up rather than the actual source.

    It’s sort of a way of saying that everything bloggers write is non-original/copied in my eyes, which of course is a bad thing since there’s many bloggers which do write original content and definitely is worth of reaching the digg front page.

  34. I have had this happen to several of my blogs. It’s quite disappointing in the sense that the really good posts don’t get a wider audience. The problem is when people start to list every post you make as digg worthy – I think tht is when this starts to happen. Obviously all aren’t, and then even the ones that are end up not getting on. It would be nice if digg had an option for the publisher to remove their own posts that they know aren’t digg worthy.

  35. JohnPlace says:

    This may be a bit off topic, but I’ve always found traffic from Digg to be damaging to my blog, mostly because Digg users have a much higher tendency to be trolls than do readers who arrive via Google search or Stumble Upon. Whenever the Diggers show up on my site, I generally end up wishing they’d go away. Same with those Reddit trolls. There’s something very annoying about the quick “sound bite” culture that permeates these two social networking sites in particular.

    SU users, on the other hand, are generally interested in READING your posts, not just bashing them.