In all online communities there is a point, somewhere north of “critical mass” that marks a transition from benevolent community fluffiness to evil dictatorship in the eyes of a voiciferous minority of it’s top contributors. I think Digg may have reached that point if the rant, and subsequent uproar of it’s former top users leaving remarks are anything to judge by.
Get a load of this:
And for all of you that do nothing but bitch about your being PREVENTED from getting your stories dugg – here’s your chance! Now YOU can spend all the time, all the effort and get stabbed in the back by fellow Diggers (aptly named) and then tossed to the side by a Digg team that values toilet paper with more worth than the core users that feed this site it’s content every day.
Didn’t he do well? There’s a ton more like that, and it’s an absolute corker of a tantrum post.
Having made no small number of noisey exits myself, being a consumate community tantrum thrower, I can understand what this users going through. But having run a few communities aswell, I can also sympathize with the dillemas the Digg management are facing right now..
Here’s a couple of excerpts from Clay Shirkey’s A Group is its Own Worst Enemy which seem relevant at this time:
The problem of size
The downside of going for size and scale above all else is that the dense, interconnected pattern that drives group conversation and collaboration isn’t supportable at any large scale. Less is different — small groups of people can engage in kinds of interaction that large groups can’t. And so we blew past that interesting scale of small groups. Larger than a dozen, smaller than a few hundred, where people can actually have these conversational forms that can’t be supported when you’re talking about tens of thousands or millions of users, at least in a single group.
Gaming and Policing
So the group is real. It will exhibit emergent effects. It can’t be ignored, and it can’t be programmed, which means you have an ongoing issue. And the best pattern, or at least the pattern that’s worked the most often, is to put into the hands of the group itself the responsibility for defining what value is, and defending that value, rather than trying to ascribe those things in the software upfront.
Users, ownership and rights
The people using your software, even if you own it and pay for it, have rights and will behave as if they have rights. And if you abrogate those rights, you’ll hear about it very quickly.
Sheesh, i could quote from that all day, it’s all relevant to scaling communties and Digg is scaling very very rapidly, and clearly experiencing some growing pains.
What Should Digg Do?
To a certain extent, you have to accept an amount of rotation of top users. And also except that often they don’t go quietly. But these things absolutely do blow over. Other users take over from the old, and cycle rinses and repeats.
A stagnant community can be pretty boring, so you can view the loss of members and an inevitalbe consequence of scale and handle any problems it causes as and when they occur.
Now im not saying top users dont deserve respect and consideration. Far from it in fact, if you disrespect and undervalue your top users you’ll have more noisey exits and administrative headaches than need be, and the whole group will suffer more. But there is a limit to how far you should go to appease the core groups wishes and whims.
In summary, I’d be in favor of acceptng a few casualties as par for the course, but also it seems (and i dont know enough to comment with authority here) that the Digg management are making the situation worse than it needs to be — the galvanizing effect of Jason Calacanisis Netscape shinanigans is being counteracted by a lack of respect for core Digg users.
Still, it’s easy to sit here and comment. Dont forget, Digg has half a million users, and it’s surely no easy task managing them, and you just cant always get it right.
Either way, it’s pretty interesting and educational to watch. Let’s hope Digg manages to work through the blips and come out on top.
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