The response to the new Digg released this week has been as mixed as can be expected for a total relaunch of a site with a lot of history. But a very loud contingent of Diggers is very pissed off: the people who used it to promote themselves and their clients. As it evolved to hugeness, Digg saw its community suffer as spammers, marketers, and voting rings gained too much influence over the site. Of course, the spammers, certain marketers, and voting rings loved it — they had access to the crowdsourced content aggregator that at its peak commanded 29 million unique monthly visitors.
Online marketer Neal Rodriguez, who wrote an ebook claiming he drove "over 37 million pageviews and closed millions in sales for clients through social media," is especially miffed. A one-time power user, Rodriguez has had a lot of advice for Digg over the years. He's argued that Digg should "embrace marketers" and once chided the site for banning users that used scripts to automate actions and modify parts of the site.
Rodriguez is dismayed by the lack of user influence in the first version of Digg built by new owner Betaworks. "I’ve witnessed digital genocide," he wrote in a blog post at Forbes. "No user or common sense will dictate how the Digg website will be built or function." He plans to address his concerns to the Betaworks team in detail. "Although, I doubt they’ll listen, I will still write up what I think they can do to fix the platform and keep it alive," he wrote. "Subscribe my newsletter, and I’ll send it to you once its up."
Rodriguez's peers in online marketing are no less upset. "We’ve posted dozens of stories today to Digg without a single one making it into the upcoming section," wrote JD Rucker, editor of the social marketing blog Soshable. "In one fell swoop, Digg has imploded," David Leonhart writes at seo-writer.com.
The criticism comes wrapped in populism. Digg disenfranchised its users, the spammers and some marketers argue. To some degree, this argument resonates with Digg fans. The placement of stories is now influenced by their popularity on Twitter and Facebook and the homepage is also curated by three editors, which may make some hardcore Diggers feel like they've been sidelined. The fact that years of comments (and links) have been erased from the web is another pain point. (Betaworks is working on a solution to release the old Digg data, encouraging users to sign up at digg.com/archive.)
A very loud contingent of Diggers is very pissed off
But complaints from spammers and marketers is encouraging for those who are rooting for Digg's return to glory. "The fact that these folks are pissed off is a good sign," said one source in the aggregation industry. Rodriguez and Rucker, specifically, are "shady online marketing scum who tried their best to ruin the organic internet through dirty tricks," he said. As one commenter wrote on Hacker News, "The spammers and the clowns paid to spam digg for SEO lost all their work. That's quite possibly the best part of the new digg, especially if they can be kept out."
It's too early to say whether marketers will find a place in the ecosystem of the new Digg. The people who sold access to Digg and sites like it usually find new ways to abuse such systems each time they're flummoxed. But judging by the vitriol spewing from some online marketers, it seems Digg's new overlords are doing something right.