Web 2.0 experiments with open content are showing the value of moderated forums. Democracy is great, but chaos isn’t necessarily so hot.

Once upon a time tech types used to track stories on Digg.com. When a post got promoted to Digg’s front page it would bring your site a huge amount of traffic. The web economy is a numbers game — the more views you get the more likelihood of getting links, clicks on ads, subscriptions, and so on. Therefore, getting on the Digg front page was valuable. And when something is valuable, people will figure out ways to improve their chances of getting it.

What happened at Digg was that a clique of “power users” gained control of the system for their mutual benefit. The voted up each other’s stories, and voted down those of others. As a result, Digg became less useful to regular users. It no longer has the influence it once had. It is said that Digg blacklisted stories from some sites and manually killed others. Finally, last week, Digg announced fundamental changes to its algorithm.

Occasionally you will see stories in the upcoming section with 100+ Diggs – this is evidence of our promotion algorithm hard at work. One of the keys to getting a story promoted is diversity in Digging activity. When the algorithm gets the diversity it needs, it will promote a story from the Upcoming section to the home page. This way, the system knows a large variety of people will be into the story.

In other words, Digg is counting some votes as worth more than others (shades of Animal Farm). Similarly, Google once counted a link as a link in figuring page rank. Now they use a complicated formula for determining the value of links, and they further moderate page rank with several other factors. Finally, with Wikipedia we have seen problems caused by ineffectual refereeing of stories, which has led to the creation of Citizendium, a sort of refereed version of Wikipedia, which frequently has more reliable content.

And that’s why we need editors. Without some directing vision a publishing company is nothing but a random house.


RELATED: Digg Demonstrates The Failure Of Completely Open Collaborative Networks