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Digg Dirt: From the Digg Army to Ron Paul

21 June 2007 2 Comments

While it’s been expressed in piecemeal over news articles, blogs, and even Wikipedia, I have yet to see an accurate picture of the true history of Digg. After examining a laundry list of sources. This is as close of a timeline as I can nail down. The tale is triumphant, sordid, and still far from over.

December 5, 2004
Digg.com opens registration to the masses.  Jay Adelson, chief executive officer of Digg.com:
“We're talking thousands of users in the first months. By six months, we were at about 20,000 to 30,000 registered users and maybe two million page views per day.”

Shortly after
Digg adds Google AdSense to the website.

July 1, 2005
Diggnation, a weekly video podcast about the week’s top dig stories, is launched. Kevin Rose, founder and chief architect of Digg, and Alex Albrecht host.

July 2005
Digg is updated to Version 2.0. The new version featured a friends list, the ability to digg a story without being redirected to a “success” page, and a new interface designed by web design company Silverorange.

April 19, 2006 – April 23, 2006
ForeverGeek.com notices a pattern of digging on Digg.com frontpage items and questions the democratic environment. They post that a group of dedicated Diggers (the “Digg Army”) were digging each others posts, propelling their submissions to the front page. Kevin Rose, Digg's founder, was apparently part of this circle.
Wired and other magazines report and weigh in on this.

ForeverGeek.com is banned from Digg. Rose cites the reason as being that ForeverGeek.com was using fake accounts to digg up certain stories. This appeared to be difficult to prove and ForeverGeek was eventually un-banned.

April 24, 2006
Many users part of the Digg Army “mysteriously disappear.”

June 26, 2006
Version 3 of Digg was released with specific categories for Technology, Science, World & Business, Videos, Entertainment and Gaming as well as a View All section where all categories are merged.

July 18, 2006
Jason Calacanis of Weblogs Inc, AOL, and Netscape offers $1000 a month to top diggers to entice them to switch to the new Netscape social media site.

July 20, 2006
SEOMoz reports that the Top 100 Users on Digg control 56% of the homepage content.

July 26, 2006
John Graham-Cumming decides to post dual-post Digg and Reddit in a joke playing on the idea of “recursion.” By submitting both to each site pointing at each other, each separate submission received a large amount of traffic. Although done as a joke his profile was banned soon after.

August 2006
Digg gets “gamed” by AOL Spam, a Fox News contributor, and even Libetarians.

August 1, 2006 – August 18, 2006
A blatant example of top user site manipulation:
A cadet at the United States Air Force Academy is asked to participate in Digg as part of an assignment. She takes the handle “Aliwood.” She receives no dig success until she contacts a top100 Digger. He mentions it on his blog , then Digg the article himself. 60% of her posts were then promoted to the front page, with one of them getting over 1000 digs Most of the Diggs, however, appear to be based on the story around her assignment, rather than the newsworthiness of her stories. In a few days her account and her posts were all deleted.

August 2, 2006
Netscape successfully buys 3 of the top 12 diggers.

August 16, 2006
Diggnation wins the 2006 Podcast Award for best technology podcast.

September 2006
Jesusphreak notices that a significant proportion of the frontpage articles are submitted, then dugg by elitetop 20 bloggers. These diggers digg each other’s submissions propelling them to the homepage. Digg’s algorithm, it’s demonstrated, places weight on reputation.

September 9, 2006
Digg changes it’s algorithm. The Top Digg User “p9s50W5k4GUD2c6” publicly states his disapproval of Digg’s changes and resigns from the site.

October 2006
Usersubmitter.com launches. The site hosts a “Pay Per Digg” service designed to manipulate Digg.com for the profit of marketers.

February 1, 2007
Digg removes its list of Top Users from the site. A minor backlash occurs on Digg resulting in several members leave the site.  Steve Rubel believes Digg is demotivating their top user audience.
Some consider this the moment that Digg.com jumped the shark.

March 6, 2007
UserSubmitter.com officially packs it in and puts the site up for auction.

May 1, 2007
The AACS Encryption Key Controversy:
An article appears on Digg’s homepage containing the encryption key for the AACS digital rights management protection of HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Digg, on the advice of its lawyers, removes submissions about the secret number from its database and banned several users. Many Digg users view this as a Digg bowing to corporate interests and limiting free speech.

Jay Adelson, chief executive officer of Digg, says this is merely an attempt to comply with cease and desist letters from the Advanced Access Content System consortium.

As a result, the community staged a “digital Boston Tea Party” with numerous articles and comments being made using the encryption key.

The response was directly responsible for Digg founder Kevin Rose reversing policy and stating:
“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.”

May 9, 2007
Digg Gets Political
A petition is created to get Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show as a guest. The petition states that Paul has been “largely ignored by mainstream media and that he deserves a chance to show the nation his views and policies.” Digg picks up the story, and it experiences the Digg Effect.

June 4, 2007
Ron Paul appears on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Coincidence?

June 20, 2007
Digg overtakes Facebook as both  cross the 20 million visitors milestone. This number is significant as YouTube was bought out by Google at this level of critical mass.


So there you have it — Digg in all of its grime and glory — or at least all of it that I could find.  If nothing else, this should serve to put the current Digg discussions in perspective. The site continues to evolve as it has in the past. We are left to speculate on where it is going.

Next post, I'll show you my effort to contact Digg.com.  Even if they don't respond, I've found some fun little tools to track the community. See you soon.

Three major sources for this timeline:


  • Anonymous said:

    Sounds like an outline for a new film: Lord of the Dggs!
    “Wizards should know better!”

  • Anonymous said:

    It's a conspiracy! Becuase we all know the Internet revolves around DIGG!