Lessons from the Groundswell: Digg.com

It's safe to assume that if you're reading this, you've heard of Digg.com. You know, just one of those sites that pioneered a new way to aggregate content on a single page where users determined what was most important.

But what I didn't know (and I'm, again, assuming you didn't either) is that Digg had a true test of character on April 30, 2007 when a blogger posted this, leaking a new HD-DVD Processing key.

According to the book Groundswell, Digg was catching some heat on the fact that this post kept rising to the top of Digg.com's home page. You know, lots of lawyers, threats, maybe even a strongly worded letter.

But even though Digg didn't write the content, admins were forced to work to keep it off the main page- but that does not stop the groundswell- online users and creators of content. People just kept reposting it on their personal blogs.

That's basically the whole point of "Goundswell" - you can't control what people say. You just have to provide a forum for interaction and listen. You'll probably pick up some tips that will help your company/product/whatever in the end.

In true rebel fashion, Digg decided to steer clear of censorship and agressive moderation of news stories- therefore making the "hands off" policy public with this announcement:

Today was an insane day. And as the founder of Digg, I just wanted to post my thoughts…

In building and shaping the site I’ve always tried to stay as hands on as possible. We’ve always given site moderation (digging/burying) power to the community. Occasionally we step in to remove stories that violate our terms of use (eg. linking to pornography, illegal downloads, racial hate sites, etc.). So today was a difficult day for us. We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

Digg on,


If you're interested at all in social technologies and how they are changing the way "traditional" business has been done in the past, check out Groundswell. It's not too "techy"- so even if you studied finance 15 years ago you wouldn't be lost.