But Web 2.0 isn't just about who you know, it's also about what you know. Or, at least, how much you share what you know. "Wikipedia is such a good resource, it seems a shame to let gaps remain unfilled, or errors go by uncorrected," said Richard Farmbrough in a SMITH magazine interview about his more than 163,000 edits to the online encyclopedia, the most of any human user. Farmbrough says he's driven more by an "obsession with continuous improvement" rather than any drive to be No. 1 on the list of top Wikipedia editors, but he does recognize the problem in other users. "'Editcountitis' is a well-known affliction in the Wiki community," Farmbrough told SMITH, "and to try and reduce it, I would freely state that I consider many editors have made more valuable contributions to the 'pedia than I have."

Yes, even an academic endeavor like Wikipedia can turn into a game for some editors. Wikipedia's own page on "editcountitis" describes one of the classic symptoms as "thinking of your position in The List as a competition." The page helpfully reminds sufferers "there is no prize for making 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 10,000, or even 216 (65,536) edits." That doesn't hinder the obsessive editors, some of whom will submit pages without checking for typos just so they can raise their edit count by fixing them later. "Remember what we're all doing here is building an encyclopedia, not competing to see who makes the most edits," the page reminds readers.

Quantity isn't the only measure of success on the web, though. Increasingly, sites are turning their content into a popularity contest by letting users vote for their favorite submissions. Take Digg, a link-sharing community where the criterion for front-page news placement isn't accuracy or relevance but the number of votes from other users.

image

And what's a popularity contest without a list of winners? Digg creator Kevin Rose explains in a blog post that the site's "Top Diggers" page was created "when there was a strong focus on encouraging people to submit content." Mission accomplished. A May 2006 study by Jason Calacanis found that the top 10 Digg users combined to spend roughly 3,400 hours submitting content to the site in about a year. It seems a little crazy, unless you compare it to the thousands of hours top Halo 2 players put into their favorite pastime. For the top performers, submitting to Digg is less of a chore and more of a game.

"Digg's public top submitter list didn't drive my submissions as much as it gave me a barometer to gauge my success by," says Andy Sorcini, better known as MrBabyMan, the top submitter on the current incarnation of the Top Diggers List. Sorcini achieved success with Digg early on - his fifth submission got enough votes to make it to the front page - and while Sorcini says he didn't change his submission strategy after that, this small recognition did drive him to stay active. "I've always submitted stories that have appealed to me personally. By that time, however, I was hooked. I did want to see more of my stories on the homepage."

RELATED CONTENT
Comments on