Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Area Man Posts to Digg, No One Notices

Bloomington, MN - Area resident Steve Williams has known his share of setbacks. The divorced father of two has been forced to rent a room from his parents after losing his job at the local office supply warehouse. For solace Williams has turned to the vibrant internet community, and a web page called

“It’s a great site,” Williams explained. “You can read news other people have posted, you can ‘digg’ it, you can comment on it, and you can post news of your own. It gives me purpose right now. It makes me feel like part of a community.” is a popular on-line site where users provide the content by submitting links to news stories. Members cast their vote—known as ‘digging’—on various posts and the most popular earn a spot on the front page.

“The front page, that’s where you want to be,” said Williams wistfully. “That’s what you work for. I’ve never had a story make it there, but that’s my goal.”

Williams has found the competition among members to be extremely fierce since thousands of stories are contributed every hour under a myriad of subjects. He recently posted a story that received only one Digg.

“Every story gets one dig by default,” Williams admitted. “It was a good story too, on the new Adult Swim show ‘Frisky Dingo.’ I really thought it was going to create a swarm.”

A ‘swarm’ is where Digg members begin noticing a story and rapidly vote for it, causing a virtual swarming effect around it. Williams showed me an example by going to a screen where new stories appear and users begin furiously voting on them, causing a swarm of bubbles around the story.

When submitting there is always the danger that a story will be a duplicate, like the time Williams posted a story about the House of Representatives lifting its boycott of french fries and someone commented that the story had already been posted.

“That story received one comment, a link to a different spot on Digg where the story had already been posted.”

To prevent duplicate posts checks the link to each story to see if that link has already been posted. National news often appears on multiple sites, making duplicate posting almost impossible to avoid.

“In that event, Democracy takes over,” Williams explained. “Usually the story that gets posted first gets the most digs. If a duplicate story appears people usually just don’t vote for it.”

Sometimes though, members enact a sort of vigilante justice by posting comments on duplicate stories, sometimes accusing the poster of trying to steal a scoop.

“I’ve been flamed a few times for posting a story someone else has already posted. I mean, I’m not doing it on purpose. I’m not trying to steal anything. If Tom Cruise gets fired by Paramount then fifty people are going to post links from different sites. That’s the way it goes.”

A ‘flame’ is an internet expression for a heated on-line exchange, often defending a point of view. Arguments about Microsoft versus Apple, Java versus .NET, Firefox versus Explorer, Democrats versus Republicans, are obligatory. ‘Flame wars’ are a common occurrence on the internet where virtual prestige is important.

Despite the setbacks, Williams has vowed to continue to post stories and, maybe someday, make the front page.

“I guess I’m just an optimist. I just found a news story bashing Widow’s Vista, those are always extremely popular.”

Maybe that one will create the elusive swarm Williams has been waiting for.

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