Digg and the Mob Mentality 31 December, 2006 — Stuart Brown

Or, what to expect from people if you get Dugg

Posted in Social Media, Analysis
Tagged with: , ,

I was reading this entry on Ryan Tomayko's weblog, and I was reminded of numerous examples of 'Digg mobbing' that I've seen before. Essentially, a blog entry or page gets posted without the owners knowledge or consent, and before they know it they're flooded with hundreds of emails and comments on Digg disparaging their site, viewpoints, and making a variety of personal attacks.

Somehow, the thousands of people sent towards your site simultaneously are worse than the sum of their parts - their opinions, views etc can bounce off each other in the Digg comments, and if negative comments gain momentum, you can expect some bilious and visceral responses indeed.

I've never incurred the total wrath of Digg before - I try to keep things civil, if nothing else - but for every story I've seen hit the front page, there's been a selection of negative comments (some valid, some written by idiots and trolls).

I try not to read the comments, most of the time - but it's like driving past a car accident. Sometimes it's hard to look away, and I'll find myself reading them anyway. It's an interesting experience, to say the least, but it's also a great place to look to get some honest (if slightly sensational and personally biased) feedback.

Almost as quickly as they come, though, the Diggers will move onto the next story, then the next. Like a horde of rampaging buffalo, they trample on delicate opinion, weak hosting and bring them down with little mercy. I should know; I've seen them come many times - so how does one prepare for the horde?

Keep an eye on Digg submissions

It's possible to search by URL via Digg's advanced options. It's also possible to subscribe to an RSS feed for the search. Combine the two and you can get notification of whenever somebody submits something of yours to Digg - allowing you to brace for impact.

Make sure your hosting is up to scratch

Digg takes a toll on all but the hardiest of hosting packages. Peak traffic from Digg can send anything up to 10,000 visitors an hour to your site - nearly 200 per minute, with spikes twice that at certain periods, so if your hosting starts to brownout on days when you hit 100 visitors / hour, then you might consider optimising or upgrading.

Bandwidth is another concern - if you're hosting images (or worse still, videos) then the cost to you could be significant. Modern Life is a text based site, relatively lightweight, but a couple of Diggs per month will still got me through around 30Gb of data transfer in December. Thankfully I'm on an uncapped bandwidth plan, but bandwidth costs are certainly something to consider otherwise.

Don't read the comments!

Simply put, if you're of a nervous disposition, don't read the comments on Digg. If you are foolish enough to read them, do so with thick skin and don't be tempted to respond to any negative comments - remember there are more of them than there are of you!

The best thing to do, perhaps, is to give it a couple of days, let everything simmer down - then read the comments, garner some useful feedback, and see what useful tips or information you can pick out from the wreckage.

Disable comment posting on your blog

I'm not a big fan of managing blog comments - I've got better things to do than sift through hundreds of ads for pharmaceuticals - so there are no comments here. In the case of being Dugg, this is very likely a good thing. Allow an opinionated soul to express disgust on your site, and before you know it there will be a hundred comments of a similar hot-bloodedness.

I do love to gain feedback from my readers, so I have an email address posted at the bottom of every page - but my email client can deal with the spam and my delete key will deal with any verbal assaults. Not that I've had anything of the sort, mind you - entering into private discussion is a whole different ball game to posting a public (and anonymous) comment.

Summary

I hear the primary strength of Digg being referred to as its 'community'. It's certainly like no community I've ever known. It's a rampaging mob, hungry for blood and willing to lynch anything and anybody that opposes the common dogma.

I still like it though, if only for the puerile drama and interesting links.