Digg Is Just A Dude : The False Illusion Of Pluralism And Democracy In Social News Sites

I like Digg. I can’t say I’m an overly active user, but I genuinely enjoy perusing through the top links every so often. The comments, most often comprised of witty banter, are often as entertaining as the link itself.

digg-logo-1 Digging around through Digg last night though, I noticed how the Digg user base pretty much represents this single collective personality with a fairly predictable set of views. If we call Digg…umm…"Dougg" for a brief moment, a particular character with very clear ideas, beliefs and interests materializes.

So what’s Dougg like? Well, I’d venture to say:

  • He is clearly a guy (probably between 18 and 25 years old).
  • He’s politically far left.
  • He’s against the war in Iraq.
  • He’s either an atheist or agnostic.
  • He’s voting for Obama.
  • He detests Microsoft and loves Apple.
  • He’s generally anti-establishment and anti-status quo.
  • He plays a whole lot of video games.
  • He’s far too impressed with HDR photos.

So in short, Dougg is pretty predictable and not very diverse. It wouldn’t be a stretch to conclude that Dougg doesn’t like country music or say, Ronald Reagan’s legacy. What’s interesting about this characterization of Digg is that highlights the tendency of mobs to eventually settle into a recognizable identity that reinforces itself and as a result, doesn’t really evolve over time. While Digg does allow anyone to post virtually anything, the stuff that’s going to rise to the top and get "published" for the world to see is fairly easy to predict.

In other words, Dougg is pretty set in his ways. Digg isn’t a megaphone that presents wildly divergent views and ideas. It’s really no different than pegging The FillInTheBlank Tribune as a "beacon of liberal thinking" or a "conservative rag." While publications may actually go to great lengths to put forth some level of objectiveness, Dougg makes no such apologies. He doesn’t have to. He has the luxury of hiding behind his supposedly democratic flavor of editing and publishing.

Who knew that this experiment in pluralism and community would end up so lop-sided?

25 Comments Digg Is Just A Dude : The False Illusion Of Pluralism And Democracy In Social News Sites

  1. P.J. Onori

    You definitely nailed this subject – I full-heartedly agree.
    I find it fascinating how each social news site (Digg, Reddit, Mixx, etc.) have their own personalities and, after some time, almost become a parody of themselves.
    I have no doubt that the founders of said social networking sites work hard to keep this from setting in, but its pervasiveness up to this point makes it seem the inevitable outcome for sites of this current model. In a way, this may be good as it keeps the door open for new sites to pop up – offering the potential for continual freshness to the genre.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    I think it’s a little early to say “Dougg” is really set in his ways. He’s only three-and-a-half, by human terms. Give him some time.

    Reply
  3. 34 year old republican linux using digger

    yay for pigeonholing! it feels so good to think you know it all, and it does wonders for the ego. if fact, I bet people might even take your opinion as fact and start spewing misinformation to other people! it’s practically a national pastime.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    Digg or any other social networking site is not spotlight on the times. It is a spotlight on the thinking of a white, affluent to semi-affluent middle class. Take it for what it is, a spot for (perceived) uber geeks to espouse a hegemonic view of the western world.

    Reply
  5. tangled

    See, that’s kinda weird. I used Digg for a while, but got sick of it because it was so much out of sync with my beliefs and styles. I would say Digg is:
    a right-of-centre guy (but only because he knows no better and thinks that anything on the left is suspect and probably for nerds and gays)
    he likes to think of himself as an athlete (but only watches sport on TV, and mainly only because he thinks it’s what real guys DO)
    he was brought up as a Christian, and so knows that evolution is real, but still has nagging thoughts in the back of his mind that maybe it WAS all created in 7 days
    he’d love to really understand computers, and all the exciting arguments people have about them, but because he dropped out of college because he smoked too much weed/got busted for trying to take (HDR?) photos up the cheerleaders’ skirts, he doesn’t have a clue. But he knows that Apple is BAD. Much worse than Microsoft. And Linux is good. Even though he’s never used it. Microsoft is cool though. Why? Because he spent thousands of dollars on his computer, and he wouldn’t have spent all that money on something that is second best. He’s not stupid.
    he’s not read a book in… well. When did he graduate from high-school? Round about then. Apart from comics. He loves comic books. Particularly if they are about hot japanese chicks he can fantasize about boning. He’s never really had a proper girlfriend. He’d rather hang out with his buddies and drink beer. In his parents’ basement…
    Digg: Welcome to the Internet. With added social ineptitude.

    Reply
  6. Rich Ziade

    Tangled –
    Ouch. that’s a much harder read than mine. Heheh.
    The thing that fascinates me isn’t just that Digg is sort of one-dimensional, but how it seems to create a barrier or exclude those other views that may give it some diversity.
    It’s sort of like a post-revolution government. They may have clamored for tolerance and free speech, but dare to speak out against the new guard – and you get lynched. :P
    -Rich

    Reply
  7. tangled

    Yeah, I completely agree about the one dimensionality. I think the issue with social media is that, unless they fill a specialist niche where you are bringing together lots of enthusiasts or experts to participate in an informed discussion, interesting things sink, and the most mundane rise to the top. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen with Digg, Reddit, and the rest of them, is that there are a lot of people out there who are an expert on *everything* – even when they are clearly wrong. And yet, rather than sitting back and letting more informed people contribute positively to the discussion, they often derail it. It seems to be like a compulsion for some people, to post and post and post, whether or not they are contributing anything of interest, almost as if they get a buzz simply from seeing their words pop up on the screen in front of them.
    A lot of this is also about posturing – there’s a lot of macho posturing in the comments on Digg, and I think that puts off a lot of the more intelligent contributors from adding anything, because they know that they will simply be abused, shouted down, mocked, or otherwise given a hard time, particularly if they are speaking against the mundanity of the Digg hive-mind.
    Digg is particularly guilty of this, I think because of the mindset of the people it seems to attract – middle of the road, middle income people who have no great aspirations, no great education, and no great intelligence – but it applies to most social media sites to a greater or lesser extent. It’s media-by-lowest common denominator, and the stories and participants who win are those who shout loudest, longest, and are most belligerent. Social media is great, but I can’t see broad-ranging sites like Digg and Reddit buildling popularity as anything but entertainment sites.
    They’re a great way of dipping in and gauging the views and obsessions of a particularly vocal sub-segment of society, but there’s rarely anything that goes beyond transient, knee-jerk opinionated waffle.
    There are news sites that have social aspects to them, which can work well, but looking at Digg as anything more than 5 minutes of slightly greasy fun that leaves you feeling dirty is like saying that tabloids go into as much depth as broadsheets. Or, to use a particularly Digg-like metaphor, that eating at Burger King is as good as sitting down to a freshly prepared Beef Wellington.

    Reply
  8. Anton Shevchuk

    Digg – consist of many SEO stuff.
    Any holywars (Windows vs Linux, Microsoft vs Google, etc.) gets the traffic – traffic is money.
    Many articles like “Ten things for … about … ” – it’s first ten results from Google.
    Do you like Digg? I’m NOT!
    I like HDR foto – go to http://flickr.com/search/?q=hdr

    Reply
  9. TzG

    call him Dougg?
    DIGG DOUGG! FUCK YEAH DIGDUG
    anyway, i think this homogeneity is because of the individual’s ego’s.
    Unless I am a troll, I wouldn’t necessarily try to enrage the populace by being the opposite of what most of digg believes in.
    or maybe i do believe hard enough and i know i can refute what everyone else says.
    which is unlikely. by being different, you only open yourself to a literal shitstorm.
    And that is why Digg is just a Dude.

    Reply
  10. Patrick

    Yes, while Dougg is very similar, that is also something known as a demographic. Kevin Rose knew his demographic from experiences on G4.. While, your dougg demographic also represents roughly 70% of all social media and web 2.0 users, digg.com was probably the first social network in my eyes, to actually have a difference. While I am not backing digg.com in any way or even disagreeing with your views. I do give digg.com credit for changing news. I don’t think even Flickr could say they have changed or affected anything outside of the internet world.

    Reply
  11. adamogardner

    this way i know where the folks are i want to argue with. Where does the christian right settle in?

    Reply
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