April 22, 2008

The Zen of Digg

You'll notice that at the bottom of a lot of my posts I have a link so that you can 'digg' this article. Digg (for those of you who don't know) is a site that links to articles readers may find interesting and then allows other folks to, effectively, agree or disagree with your thoughts through 'digg'ing the article itself. If an article is really popular it gets 'dugg' a lot and even makes it onto the most popular pages of the site. This brings loads of traffic to the site and looks good on statistics pages. For an idea of a popular article check out ZenHabits 'Guide to being an e-mail Ninja' which went to the Digg front page.

One of the other, lesser known functions of Digg is that it allows readers to actually comment on the article itself. More than that it actually allows the readers to comment on the Digg submission. This is a distinct difference. Let me explain.

Digg does not allow direct links to articles. This means that if I click a Digg link it doesn't send me to the article itself, it sends me to a Digg page that describes the articles, displays comments about the article and gives a link to the external article itself. The comments can go on for pages and - here's the bit I really like - each comment can, itself be Dugg or 'unDugg' (buried) using a thumbs-up/thumbs down icon.

So, in summary we have an article that can be Dugg and we have comments themselves that can be Dugg. Each article gets a Digg count, each comment gets a Digg count and each comment reply gets a Digg count (with me so far...?)

This makes for some really interesting reading. For example: I've submitted several articles to Digg which have picked up a couple of Digg's. Nothing spectacular. Overall, though I have had three comments posted about articles I've submitted to Digg. Of these comments, none received a follow up reply from anyone else and none of them received any Digg's or buries. Ho humm.....

Yesterday, however, I saw an article I liked about moving from a PC to a Mac. My experience with any article that talks about PC to Mac (or vice versa) is that it gets lots and lots of comments (some quite rude) and most of which border on zealotry akin to the religious zealotry of old. This amused me immensely. Enough to write an article I called 'The Zealots' which takes a humorous look at this whole phenomenon. Having seen the article on Digg I added a comment which basically said "The zealots will be out in force" and gave a quick link to the aforementioned article. I think I was the second or third person to make a comment on the posting.

So now, a little over 24 hours later, I go back and check the article. It has been Dugg 2007 times and has 621 comments. Not bad for an article about a PC' to Mac conversion, I think its about par for the course. But here's the amusing thing: My comment about the Zealots is the most buried comment out of the 621! I have 55 negative Digg's. I think the next nearest is 36 negative Digg's.

Let me put this into context: There are 621 comments on this article. The most that any individual comment has been Dugg is 284. (That is 284 people agreed with what the commentator wrote), But get this: here is the most popular comment (complete with typo's):
Operating system war in 5....4....3....2....1
"LULZ ubuntu pwns you all"
"Macs are for fags"
"Yes, but i can play games on my PC?!!!! AH HA!!"
"OSX>>>VISTA, cause i dont get teh screen o death"

- which is a (far less eloquent) way of saying pretty much exactly what I said in my Zealots post....

That's right, 55 people thought my comment was the worst of the whole bunch even though the most popular comment was nearly identical in meaning. Even the comment which just said "*sigh*" got 2 diggs - that 57 more than I did.

I actually got a couple of replies to my comments which I am going to print here in full (names removed)

My thanks to yyyyyyy (you know who you are) who valiantly came to my aid
by pointing out the inherent flaw in xxxxxx's comment. xxxxxx didn't have to click the link to the Zealots article. He could have just ignored it. Notice how yyyyyy got -5 Diggs as a result of that too? Then when he Dugg the actual article that set all this off he was given a further -8 Digg's for his trouble.

So what does this all mean?

Not sure really. As I always suspected there are fervent, partisan proponents of both PC's and Mac's (and even different Linux variants now!) and the anonymity of the Internet makes it quite easy for folks to say things they probably wouldn't say if faced with their 'victim'. I get dissed for daring to point readers to an article that highlights some of the zealotry. yyyyyy get's dissed for daring to support me. Some guy gets Dugg for summarising what everyone was thinking in a short, badly worded post, and the ironic thing is that if you read the rest of the comments (all 621 of them) it does turn out to contain exactly the kind of Zealotry I mention in my post.

There was a time when something like this would have got to me. But not now. Life's too short. Now I take a Zen like approach to things and say "Hey, this is the beauty of the internet. Anyone with access to a PC (or Mac) can say whatever they want through the medium of freedom of speech and occasionally there are diamonds in the middle of all the crap" To those of you who posted comments: You know which of you posted diamonds, and you know everyone else is a cretin. Right?

Photo courtesy of Darkpatator