Perverse Incentives On Digg
1 min read

Perverse Incentives On Digg

There’s a great, old-fashioned investigative journalism piece on Wired about gaming Digg, which details a successful effort to buy a fake story onto the homepage. Here’s what jumped out at me:

Despite their doubts, Diggers kept digging my blog. There’s a perverse incentive here: Diggers who vote early on stories that become wildly popular become more “reputable” in the Digg system. If you’re trying to move up the Digg ranks, it’s in your best interest to vote on anything that looks like it’s gaining popularity. And my blog, with its flurry of paid votes, fit the pattern.

Wow, a perverse incentive indeed, especially in a system engaged in a life or death struggle against gaming. Perverse incentives for momentum actors sounds like the stock market circa 1999.

I don’t think Digg is headed for a crash, but if their war on gaming forces them to remove many of the incentives from the system (e.g. removal of the top diggers list), you have to wonder whether there will be enough incentives left for the system to function at its current high impact velocity.