Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
How The Washington Post built — and will be building on — its “Knowledge Map” feature
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
April 11, 2009, 11:26 a.m.

Yet another reminder that users are in charge: the DiggBar backlash

If you needed any further proof that this is an age driven by users much more than publishers, look no further than what’s happening right now with Digg.com, a site you probably think of as a stand-in for all that is user-generated, unedited and anarchic.

Well, it turns out, to their users, that the plucky startup is just as much an outpost of the clueless empire as any other publisher, if it takes actions that users deem to be rooted in bad decisions.

It all started, simply enough, when Digg decided to launch an URL-shortening service (like tinyurl.com, is.gd and tr.im), with a twist. Under their URL-shortening scheme, a thin “DiggBar” would frame the site being URL-shortened:

diggbar

That’s where things started to go wrong. Because a framed site (shades of 1998!) has no visible URL at all. The only URL that remains in the browser points back to digg.com.

This did not sit well with some well-placed users, chief among them John Gruber of Daring Fireball, who began beating the drum against the move just a few days ago:

All sorts of sites tried this sort of trickery back in the mid-’90s when Netscape Navigator 2.0 added support for the <frameset> tag. It did not take long for a broad consensus to develop that framing someone else’s site was wrong. URLs are the building block of the Web. They tell the user where they are. They give you something to bookmark to go back or to share with others.

The DiggBar breaks that, and I’ve seen no argument that makes it any more sense to support this than it does to support 1996-style <frameset> site embedding.

So, shortly after it was announced, I wrote code to block it from Daring Fireball.

This is what DiggBar visitors see now when linking to Daring Fireball:

gruber1

What did Gruber do? He saw something he didn’t like. He stewed for a while. He made a public case against it. Then, he killed it, remotely, at least as far as his slice of the internet was concerned.

Had that been it, the Daring Fireball reaction would have made for an interesting slide in a presentation on user dynamics, but much like recent Facebook revolts, Gruber’s complaint and action tapped a vein of frustration, this time among a community that could actually do something about it: geeks.

Now, there’s similar blocking for WordPress, Expression Engine, Ruby on Rails and Django, all popular content-creation tools. There’s a DiggBar-blocking Greasemonkey script for Firefox and a javascript plugin-in. And this weekend, Engadget.com began blocking the DiggBar. All of this happened — as far as I can tell — without coordination or collusion. Users with skills had their own Tea Party to protest what they saw as unjustified action by Digg.

This hasn’t played out completely. I’d be surprised if there aren’t coders at work at Digg right now, building a solution. At least, for Digg’s sake, I hope there are. As Eric Schmidt said last week, you  do not want to be pissing off users. Because users are empowered, whether it’s as elaborate a reaction as is happening against Digg, or the simply act of voting with their feet and moving on from a site that  they no longer see as acting in their interest.

POSTED     April 11, 2009, 11:26 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
How The Washington Post built — and will be building on — its “Knowledge Map” feature
The Post is looking to create a database of “supplements” — categorized pieces of text and graphics that help give context around complicated news topics — and add it as a contextual layer across lots of different Post stories.
How 7 news organizations are using Slack to work better and differently
Here’s how Fusion, Vox, Quartz, Slate, the AP, The Times of London, and Thought Catalog are using Slack for workflow — and which features they wish the platform would add.
The New York Times built a robot to help make article tagging easier
Developed by the Times R&D lab, the Editor tool scans text to suggest article tags in real time. But the automatic tagging system won’t be moving into the newsroom soon.
What to read next
1119
tweets
New Pew data: More Americans are getting news on Facebook and Twitter
A new study from the Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation finds that more Americans of all ages, races, genders, education levels, and incomes are using Twitter and Facebook to consume news.
701Newsonomics: The halving of America’s daily newsrooms
If you’re lucky enough to have the right deep-pocketed owner buy your paper and steady it, you’ve won the lottery. If you’re in a town whose paper is owned by the better chains, or committed local ownership, your loss will probably be mitigated. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.
575How 7 news organizations are using Slack to work better and differently
Here’s how Fusion, Vox, Quartz, Slate, the AP, The Times of London, and Thought Catalog are using Slack for workflow — and which features they wish the platform would add.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Vox Media
The Atlantic
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
Press+
The Bay Citizen
MinnPost
Los Angeles Times
The Daily Telegraph
Time
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Media Consortium
The Orange County Register