Thursday, June 28, 2007

Subversion for Fun and Profit

I feel like I should write something highly critical about Subvert and Profit, but I just can't get worked up about it.

Subvert and Profit pays Digg users for their votes. (Digg, for those unfamiliar with it, is a news site where the contents of the front page are determined by votes of users. Digg users can vote stories up and down, and the headlines are the most popular ones.) Of course, there's value to being up at the top of Digg, so surprise: someone will game it if you pay them.

Which is of course wrong (not to mention against Digg's terms of service for the people who are paid for votes). But the thing is... what Subvert and Profit it doing is inevitable because of the bad idea at the heart of Digg.

Here's how Digg describes itself:

You won’t find editors at Digg — we’re here to provide a place where people can collectively determine the value of content and we’re changing the way people consume information online.

No more pesky editors - you know, people who have spent time and effort to get to develop deeper knowledge of a topic, who understand its history and can put news items into context. In other words, who provide some intelligence to the process of aggregating news.

I can join Digg and my opinion about the best stories related to gaming (one of their topic areas). Except that I don't know a thing about gaming. Do you really want me to be your guide?

Here's another bit of value that professional editors bring to the party: the ability to identify when they are being played - by a PR person, by a bad source, by whomever. Not perfectly, of course.

At the risk of offending PR people, public relations by its nature subverts media for profit. The only difference is that with traditional PR, there's a gatekeeper to decide where the subversion ends. Digg, by taking intelligence out of the process, has made the subversion easier... and more apparent.

Outrageous? Not really. What's outrageous is thinking that you could remove expertise from the picture and that it wouldn't matter.


MarkCahill said...

Yeow! Hit the nail on the head. We can't replace seasoned editors with mobocracy and expect it won't be gamed.

I've been putting a lot of thought in on a similar vein - Social Networking, Digg etc. need to not only rate content, but need to rate the raters. And they need to do it on specific areas of expertise.

Mary Schmidt said...

And, this is why I've not rushed to add Digg to my site.

A little too "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds" for me. (Originally published in 1841 as "Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular delusions.")

Sure, go have fun digging and such, but nobody involved should take it very seriously. My cat walking across the keyboard could be contributing...