There's been a lot of controversy bubbling up among the Digg faithful lately. This is hardly unprecedented, but because social news is such a widespread and significant use of crowdsourcing*, these donnybrooks are more important than immediately meets the eye.
This one got its start a few weeks ago when Digg started purging its ranks, banning some 80 Diggers, purportedly for using scripts that violated Digg's Terms of Service. As it happened, many of the exiled were top Diggers, which is to say, part of the one percent responsible for driving 32 percent of all Digg's pageviews. Banning them raises two troubling issues at once: How can Digg represent itself as a democracy if such a small cabal of users determine such a large share of Digg's content? And two, given that this is the case, is it wise for Digg to alienate the same people that are buttering its bread?
And that, as they say, is just the tip of the iceberg. As I pointed out in my book, Digg and other social news sites are easily gamed. In fact, there are companies out there whose sole purpose is to do just that. Suffice to say that part of the reason for this week's radio silence at Crowdsourcing.com is my own research into recent events at Digg. I can't think of any more salient issue facing crowdsourcing right now than whether the crowd can act as a reliable filter, and there's no better place to start, er, digging into that issue than with today's required reading, an examination of the state of democracy at Digg from Mashable.