Digg users revolt against MrBabyMan – Should it be the system instead?

May 18, 2008

Digg users revolt against MrBabyMan - Should it be the system instead?Digg is currently experiencing a mini-revolt against its most successful Digger, MrBabyMan. But shouldn’t the revolt be against the system which makes that level of success possible instead?

Digg is currently the biggest of the multitude of social bookmarking sites plaguing the Web. While there are plenty of alternatives, Reddit, Propeller, and the over hyped Mixx to name but three, Digg is the only one with the clout to currently cause servers to overload, and sites crash. But it’s not without its problems, one of which is how certain users have much more power and influence over the community than the rest of us mere mortals.

Chief amongst these powerful users is MrBabyMan, who has managed to get 2,400+ stories to the Digg front page since becoming involved with the site. That’s more than anyone else has managed, and when you think that a normal level user can maybe hope to get maybe 6 a year on there, is a pretty astounding achievement. But the question remains of how he does it. Is he gaming the system, or is the system broke in the first place?

A revolt has broken out over this very issue over the last few days, prompted of all things by a jokey cartoon (Pictured below) which compared the U.S. Federal Government’s economic stimulus plan to the way MrBabyMan plays the system to beat other submitters to the front page. When this cleverly edited cartoon hit front page, it gave many users with an axe to grind against MrBabyMan their opportunity to kick him where it hurts: in the comments.

MrBabyMan Bad

This lead to MrBabyMan, real name Andrew Sorcini, to announce on Twitter that he may quit the site if that’s the way the majority of the community feels about him and his practices. But what exactly are his practices, and do they amount to cheating or just playing the game as it’s meant to be played?

Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb looked in to the issues surrounding this revolt, and even spoke to MrBabyMan and some of his fellow Digg loving friends on Skype.

The main accusations being levelled at Sorcini are that he submits stories already submitted knowing that his influence will mean his submission will jump above the original, that he has an unfairly large amount of friends he can use to garner Diggs from, and most controversially that he is being paid to submit stories for people.

Sorcini claims he never knowingly reposts something that has already been submitted unless it was poorly submitted and/or performing badly. Fair enough, but who is Sorcini to decide whether something has been submitted poorly, or the timing over whether it’s performing badly?

On the second point, it’s clear that Sorcini does have a huge amount of friends on Digg, and according to Kirkpatrick, it’s made up of “SEO marketers, PR agents turned would-be social media experts and other unsavoury folk”. But that isn’t wrong in the world of social bookmarking, and is surely a group of friends that everyone who wants a fair crack at success craves for.

The accusation of being paid for submitting stories is a controversial one. It does certainly happen in the world of marketing and when I was a regular on Propeller, formerly Netscape, I was actually approached with a strategy that would end with me being offered money for making certain submissions. But MrBabyMan denies he has ever been paid for his activities on Digg.

While I refuse to kiss Sorcini’s butt in quite the way Kirkpatrick has in his fluff piece, I don’t believe the guy has actually done anything wrong. The real problem, and the thing which Digg users should really be revolting against is the system itself.

The algorithm needs changing from the top down to allow every story submitted to have a fair crack at making front page and driving traffic to a site. At the moment, unless you spend half your life on the site, you stand little to no chance of ever making an impact.

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