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12/01/2006

What to do when Digg turns on you (post a new story to Digg, it turns out)

O'Reilly editor, Steve Mallett, felt the rough side of the community-edited aggregator, Digg, when a story on it accused was accused of stealing code for page designs (CSS) from the Digg site itself (get more detail from this post on the O'Reilly Radar blog).

The story quickly grabbed the interest of Digg readers and their votes of interest sent it shooting up the rankings.

As it turns out, it was all a misunderstanding, and the origins of the disputed software code were tracked down to an open source service that didn't know it was appropriating privately owned intellectual property.

All of which, though, raises some interesting issues from a communications point of view. O'Reilly has a good reputation which was under fire.

As Nathan Torkington on O'Reilly put it:

This is a classic Web 2.0 problem: it's hard to aggregate the wisdom of the crowd without aggregating their madness as well.

He sums up some of the issues thus:

Slashdot has issued retractions, often updates stories, and regularly posts collections of "further details on ..." notes. BoingBoing updates stories as soon as new facts come to hand, even if it means they've admitted "whoops, that wasn't true at all!". It's more complex with community sites, because editors don't make the editorial decision to run a faulty story but nonetheless have to live with its consequences. And everyone has to deal with the situation when their site has been used to further someone else's agenda. Digg is still learning how to deal with this, and I look forward to seeing how they tackle it in the future.

There's some useful debate after this post in the comments section. The most practical suggestion that caught my eye was that the best way to counter it would be to submit a story yourself - this would probably be better as post or interview on a friendly or corporate community blog than a rebuttal on a corporate press release site in terms of getting more "Diggs" (Digg votes).

In fact, the blog post linked to above, on O'Reilly Radar served as an excellent rebuttal in and of itself. At the time of this post it appears on Digg with 1894 "Diggs", which means it will have made the front page and got in front of most of the readers who saw the original erroneous story. Corp comms lesson here, then: be aware of what is being said about you and be able to respond quickly to get your story on Digg too.

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