Thursday, December 11, 2008

'Political' Behaviour in the Social Media

Earlier this week I stumbled upon two fantastic articles, one by Simon Owens the other by Michael Garrity. Both articles examined strategies adopted by the Digg community to push certain articles onto the platform's front page; in effect manipulating the social media. Whilst many Digg power users would quickly defend this strategy as little more than article promotion efforts, to borrow a phrase from Owen it would indeed appear that all votes are not created equal. As it becomes increasingly difficult for high quality content to achieve front page recognition on Digg, the presence of political behaviour quickly becomes apparent.

Political behaviour in the social media can be defined as behaviour that has not been officially sanctioned by the platform, and which has been strategically designed to maximise self interest. Whilst it is arguable that many of Digg's top submitters have earned their ability to consistently push content onto the platform's front page through painstaking network creation and maintenance, this degree of process manipulation has invariably detracted from the overall user experience. Democracy has, to an extent, been removed from Digg. Whether or not the platform is the victim of its own algorythms is questionable, however as Owens points out, as long as there are scientific algorythms, there will be some smart type attempting to manipulate them.

Whether or not Digg is viable under its current strategy is debatable. What is clear is that by removing democracy from the platform, the transparency thereof is similarly jeopardized. Whilst political behaviour may result in short term gains for those engaged therein, such a strategy is non viable in the long run. By jeopardizing both democracy and transparency, the platform has unintentionally alienated a large proportion of its users. As the content becomes less and less about quality and more about who you know, the number of active users engaging with the platform will invariably drop.

Whilst Digg retains its position as an enjoyable distraction for now, the question of how long it will remain so lingers. Take heed Digg before the majority of your community deserts you.

Show the Rogue some Stumble love

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