Over time, it's been primarily civil within the digg community. Recently, however, there was a minor furor around the HD-DVD encryption key being distributed via digg. Visits to the site were dominated by a vocal minority on one side, regulators on the other, and digg stuck in the middle with its hijacked home page. Digg CEO Jay Adelson hosted a conversation today at Foo Camp to discuss their experience.
Digg has evolved to be more of a democratic republic than a consensus-building group. In practice, this means that a vocal minority can be loud enough to derail the entire community system - not unlike a meatspace minority group making a march on the Capitol building. Digg's ongoing challenge is to create a systematic methodology to self-policing. In the recent situation, there was a small group doing the abuse, and a much larger group that was angry at the abusive behavior - but helpless, with no way to contribute to self-policing. Though they were in the majority, these folks had their voices shut down.
- Issue #1: Critical mass - with scale, minority groups can mobilize to create an effect
- Issue #2: Editorial control - digg is rebuilding rules that lie behind the home page, while trying to maintain transparency into how the system works
The user revolt question is refreshing to CEO Jay Adelson in that it represents an empowerment of the community - now, there are rules that the community managers must also follow. Even when it comes to product development, digg is changing its approach - digg used to get user feedback via private focus groups, but now they're doing live alphas and betas in order to get feedback.
User revolts seem to occur when users feel as though their voice was not being heard. And so, process can be more important than the ultimate outcome. (e.g., 'was my voice heard', as vs. 'did the decision go my way') As Jay noted, "engage people and be responsive to their interests - even if you can't do what the user wants, you need to at least pay attention."
(Author's PS: Per Foo Camp guidelines, this post was cleared with presenter Jay Adelson before sharing publicly.)