Digg Dug

John C. Dvorak just nailed something that has been bothering me all week.

Meanwhile this democratization of the news … is seen by the idealists in the community as profound. I see it as increasingly dangerous, for a number of reasons.

John’s thinking is this (and I, for once, agree with him): people are flawed.

There are oodles and oodles of stories floating around the net right now about how Digg works, so I won’t waste my time (or yours) adding to the noise. Suffice to say: it does.

But it depends on people. People like you and me, volunteering our time to, in aggregate, do the same work an editor of a magazine may do for another site … yeah.

When you read Digg, you’re seeing news culled from all over the web and voted upon by people you assume to be (hope to be) like-minded, fair, smart individuals. Why, then, would you ever need to buy a newspaper, or visit a commercial news site ever again? After all, Digg works and works for free.

Make no mistake, this is utopianism in every way, and there has never been a utopian mechanism, society, or process that has worked for long before it fails. Digg, because of this history, is bound to suffer the same fate. It will get corrupted, collapse under its own weight, or just stop working. Until then, enjoy it while you can, comrades.

Dvorak’s typically clich?aden punditry aside, his point is valid. At some point the machine will get away from its creators. Some would argue that this has happened already. What you will get at that point is anybody’s guess.

The possible nefarious uses to which Digg’s technology could be put is worrisome for the same reason that the New York Time’s recent indiscretions shook the foundations of the journalism community: when you’re peddling news, no commodity is as important to the consumer as trust.

Right now Digg, and by extension the un-paid volunteers who are doing the “Digging,” have the trust of millions of users and counting. More, as Dvorak points out, than the New York Times itself. Yet unlike the Times, should that trust fail, there is no mechanism in place by which to restore it. More worrisome still, we may not even notice when it’s gone.

That the internet literati, usually the most cynical and paranoid conspiracy-theorists around, have embraced this technology speaks to the charisma of Rose and his kin, and charisma coupled with a good idea is usually gold in the world of tech. But I’m afraid I have to side with John C. on this one.

The worst part though? I found this story through Digg.

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