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25 August 2007 @ 10:19 pm
Digg headlines and sensationalism  
I've been thinking today about ways to make Digg better. My main beef with Digg is that it's flooded with misinformation - and it's done through sensationalized headlines. There are lots of upper-case stuff, lots of buzzwords like "breaking" and "confirmed," identifiers like "[pic]" or "(VIDEO)" - but the worst part is just the fact that users are fine with Digging up interesting headlines, while the articles focus on something entirely different.

There was a headline yesterday about how Mother Teresa always questioned her faith and found it very difficult to find God, late in her life. The corresponding Digg headline was "MOTHER TERESA REVEALED: She was an Athiest and had NO Faith!", while the article had no mention of the term "atheist" nor did it say that she lacked any faith whatsoever.

The positive side of this article was the first few comment replies, which were voted up by hundreds of other Diggers:

"Every Christian has a crisis of faith at times. Even Christ was tempted by Satan and offered many things as he sufferered. That does not mean that Mother T gave up her faith. Your troll fu is weak. This is not even a good try."

"Read the article, people. She was not an atheist. She simply did not feel the presence of God. But faith doesn't require any feelings. Faith is simply the will to believe. She perservered in her faith despite that, and indeed came to the conclusion that what she was going through was sharing in the most profound part of Christ's passion --- the part where he cried out "My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?" The quote in the Digg summary is taken way out of context. It's a hypothetical --- a rhetorical question."

I would say that the way to make Digg better is by improving what makes it Digg - its userbase. There do seem to be a lot of bright people who mark articles when there's something wrong with them, and even better, speak out in the comments to tell the truth of the matter. But that number is greatly overshadowed by the hordes of people who Digg these articles up and come away thinking they have the full story by only believing what they see in the headline.

I propose some sort of system that tells the truth behind the most-Dugg headlines. Either a blog, or a wiki. Something that is there for the Digg population to contribute toward so the truth is known about each and every article that is posted up.

There are two already-available, widely-used sources that are often used to verify whether something is true. Wikipedia is one of them, although it obviously cannot always be trusted, as anyone at any time can edit what they've read on Digg into related articles. Snopes is another one, but it's only run by one couple who can't get to fact-checking every single thing that pops up so rapidly - and although its forums demonstrate a good community dedicated finding the truth of the matter, it doesn't seem to affect the mainstream.

The thing is, a blog or wiki like this, which is there to provide the correct information about articles posted to Digg, must have some way of reaching the general Digg readership. The best way would be to incorporate it into Digg itself. Perhaps after a certain number of people vote, the title/description of pages can be changed to reflect the article's content more accurately. Or perhaps a link next to "Comments" that goes to a page called "Paraphrase" where Digg users can collaborate on a better version or summary of the article.

I think there are a lot of ways to aid the flow of information on Digg. The manpower is there, as is the aspiration to spread truth rather than sensationalism. I do think that Digg itself needs to take the initiative to enact some sort of system like this - and it is in their interests to do so - but in the meantime, Diggers can always take it upon themselves to create some sort of unofficial system of their own.

And uh I'm wondering if you guys could maybe digg this.
 
 
 
Psycho Joepsyjoe_dilandau on August 26th, 2007 08:12 am (UTC)
Grabbing someone's attention is the main focus of advertising. Once you have people looking, the job is essentially done. I think it would be best for the people who submit interesting articles on Digg to adapt those sensationalist styles. To work within the rules of the system. For example, here's a subject I saw on the top 10 headlined as, "Largest Helicopter in the world [PICS]" and the highest dugg reply is someone complaining that he submitted the same type of subject, but others pointed out that he failed to put in an eye grabbing headline and description. There are obvious buzzwords and a style in use currently that I think should be adapted by the ones who want to submit interesting and correctly informative articles and get them dugg up.
Jeffrey Carl Fadenjeffreyatw on August 26th, 2007 08:18 am (UTC)
Yes, it's true. I'm guilty of it too: PHOTOS: 4 stories of Donkey Kong, made from 6,400 Post-Its! got almost 3500 diggs, while a direct link to an entry I made about it, "Donkey Kong attacks Santa Cruz," got about a hundred. I used "PHOTOS" and references to large quantities of both post-its and stories, and of course, a Nintendo reference helped a lot.

So I understand the need to make gripping headline names. I just think complete inaccuracy goes a bit too far.
Mattwhitenoise on August 26th, 2007 10:20 am (UTC)
Maybe they just need to make "Bury: inaccurate" have more weight. I mean, if a story is so inaccurate that people are calling bullshit in the first few comments, there should be a lot of people burying it, right?
Josephloccster on August 26th, 2007 01:50 pm (UTC)
If I had an account I would digg you
eric_andrew on August 26th, 2007 11:30 pm (UTC)
Maybe if Mother Teresa had been an atheist she wouldn't have had those fucked up beliefs about poor people needing to suffer so that they would be closer to Jesus.