Digg — worthless, or just misunderstood?

Maybe it’s just meant to be “Digg-bait” (as Nick Denton at Valleywag likes to call it), but Jason Clarke of Download Squad has a long post up about Digg and how it is destined for failure. As Jason mentions in the post, Download Squad is part of AOL, which owns the revamped Netscape — a site that was essentially modeled on Digg — so perhaps it’s an elaborate corporate hit-job. I thought Download Squad was all about cool software, but maybe I was wrong.

In any case, Jason’s criticisms are not really all that new. As far as I can tell, his two main points are: 1) Digg’s audience is full of mouth-breathers and low-foreheads who just pile on and flame each other, and digg down things they don’t agree with. And 2) Digg’s traffic, a kind of “flash crowd” that can shut down even the most robust hosting service in a matter of minutes, consists of window-shoppers who come quickly and leave quickly, and if they sign up for something they never actually use it.

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Jason says that the Digg community is “rotting from the inside out,” and that “the sheer level of superiority, sarcasm, and general negativity is overwhelming.” As with many other critics of the Digg model, or social media in general — including Nick Carr and Andrew Keen, as well as newcomers Andy Rutledge, who I’ve written about here, and Lee Gomes of the Wall Street Journal, who I’ve written about here — the argument is that the wisdom of crowds doesn’t exist.

The problem with the whole concept of taking advantage of the “wisdom of crowds” is that crowds have no wisdom. Microsoft Windows is an example of an operating system written using the wisdom of crowds… and don’t get me started on the majority of large open-source efforts.

As a commenter rightly points out, the Windows crack is a gigantic red herring. Any problems at Microsoft have little or nothing to do with the wisdom of crowds, and everything to do with corporate hierarchy and centralized decision-making. If anything, they could use a little more Digging. And as for the traffic problems, it’s true that Diggers flood in and then disappear, leading some to wonder how much value they actually bring with them. But couldn’t we say that about Web traffic from plenty of other sources too, like TechCrunch for example?

In conclusion, Jason says:

Social media sites are an unproven phenomenon… I predict that in the near future sites will start to attempt to block digg as a referrer, since getting a link from digg will simply cost them money. And over time I believe users will tire of the constant negativity that characterizes digg… unless digg can find a way to clean up their collective act.

Does Digg have flaws? Sure it does. And so do plenty of other social media sites. But I think Jason (for whatever reason) is being way too negative. What do you think?


More commentary at the CWS blog, with comments from Diggers.

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