digg sure does have a passionate user base. This Monday night (February 25th) at 9pm EST/6pm PST, Digg is holding a virtual "Townhall webcast", in partnership with Ustream. In a recent blog post Digg founder Kevin Rose said that in the webcast "well be talking about the latest happenings here at Digg and answer your questions". Which is corporate speak for 'we're trying to keep our users happy and ward off another revolt'. Lately top Digg users have been unhappy and some publishers (cough) are voicing concerns too.Love it or hate it, the social news site
What's interesting about this Townhall is that the agenda is being worked out on digg itself, using their comments and ratings system. People are invited to add their questions to this digg story and vote up the issues they "most want Jay [Adelson] and Kevin to discuss."
Some of the top agenda items so far are:
- Censorship claims - "the theoretical "auto-bury" function, blacklistings and what that actually means, superusers whose buries are so heavily weighted as to prevent stories from ever moving forward), as well as someone speaking to how it's possibly for stories to garner hundreds of Diggs without becoming popular";
- Issues with the new algorithm, such as "the high threshold for stories for average users as well as power users" and "the increasingly stale front page content";
- Buries becoming public;
- Whether digg is up for sale.
I've also put forward an agenda item: Top news sources should have a handicap like top diggers, because a disproportionate number of digg frontpages happen for a select few sites. If you agree or disagree with that, please vote here.
"It's time for change at digg!"; photo: Barack Obama
It's clear though that two key issues with Digg users are censorship and inequality. Which funnily enough mirrors two big issues with democracies. In short, many digg users and publishers don't think digg is democratic enough right now, so this Townhall meeting could get rowdy.
Whether we'll see more revolts afterwards really depends on how digg management addresses those key issues of censorship and inequality. Digg has always claimed to be a more democratic news source than mainstream media or similar sites like Slashdot. But while it's a positive sign they're running a Townhall meeting, it will all be for naught if they don't fix the core problems in the site's "democracy".
UPDATE: There is new Slate article called The Wisdom of the Chaperones that is worth reading. It calls web 2.0 democracy a myth - and although I agree with Matthew Ingram that it is a salacious subtitle, I think there is some truth to it. Because one thing that Slate missed is that which news sources make the digg frontpage is also not democratic. It's not just a few top digg users dominating digg (although I'd argue less so nowadays), it's a few external publishers dominating - and they benefit greatly from being on digg, in terms of page views and links that are generated from being on digg. What's more troubling is that many times these fortunate few publishers get on the digg frontpage with stories that were written faster, better and with more context elsewhere. This is the main point I have been making - but it seems to me those top few publishers are quite happy for this issue to continue being brushed under the carpet.