• Thor Muller

    About Thor Muller

    Thor is perhaps best known as the co-founder of Get Satisfaction, where he served as its original CEO (2007-2009) and later CTO (2009-2011).

    29 Comments

    1. I smell the beginning of the end. If Digg were to have followed your advice they may have kept the good will of their ‘community’ but would still have broken the law (and more blatantly at that). In the end having a large and passionate audience is not enough if that audience is taking you down a dangerous road, legally, or otherwise. What if a private bank account made the front page, or instructions on how to make a poisonous gas? The problem with slippery slopes are that they are an indicator that you’ve gone down the wrong road in the first place.

    2. This is the best analysis of this issue so far…
      This also harkens to a simple concept known as “Fair Process”. HBR published a piece ten years ago titled “Fair Process: Managing in the Knowledge Economy” that essentially states what is common sense; people want to understand the process by which decisions are arrived at and feel that those processes are fair and transparent. What is remarkable is that the study found that the process is more important than the decision… In other words, it is generally more important to people that the process is fair and transparent than that whether the outcome favors them.

      Digg has totally missed the point and taken this as some call to arms for the freedom of information and fighting “the man” – when in my opinion, this is about the lack of transparency in their own business decision-making. Thanks for the insightful post.

    3. Fighting abuse is daily routine of Digg including banning accounts and deleting links. It was impossible to predict that deleting that particular listing and banning a few user accounts would cause such uproar. However, you made one interesting point – maybe socialnetworking sites should inroduce some open mechanism of censorship accounting users opinion.

    4. I think Digg’s fundamental problem is that, long before this happened, their “passionate users” actually hated Digg. At the first sign of trouble they were ready to destroy the site.

      Your advice about transparency would have helped, but they would have had to start following it long before yesterday.

    5. @Morris: To quote Churchill, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

      I don’t believe there is anything illegal in publishing the details of internal decision-making, including how to respond to cease-and-desist letters. In this case Digg could have bought enough time to have taken this step. It’s true that in some instances (such as the one you mention with the bank account) action may have to be swift and unilateral, but these are generally non-controversial. And there’s no reason why they couldn’t expose all instances of censorship and deletion in some form. Again, the idea of transparency is to avoid being coerced by a “large and passionate audience” by involving that audience in the process. As Josh points out above, it is “more important to people that the process is fair and transparent than that whether the outcome favors them.”

      My suggestions about transparency are meant for all businesses, not just social Web sites like Digg. On the Web customers of any company have the means to make themselves heard. Just talk to the many local businesses that are now at the mercy of Yelp’s amateur reviewers.

    6. if only there was a platform that enabled this kind of dialog between companies and their users…

    7. They could have just switched two numbers in the middle of the code and no one would have probably noticed…

      But I think you have a good idea.

      And I agree that many users of Digg are just chomping to bring it down so they can brag and claim they have “power”.

    8. @Morris: I hardly think that discussing the legal dilemma among the community constitutes an illegal action. Oh, and btw, you can mix bleach and ammonia to make a poison gas, big deal.

    9. Nice summation Thor, and I agree with the premise that as much communication in real-time as possible is crucial … though I do think it’s easier said then done sometimes.

      However, wasn’t this blog entry to their community by Jay pretty forthcoming about their conundrum? Or was it after the problem had already blown up? They don’t have comments in the blog, but I’m sure they have plenty of other channels for communicating with a lot of members. I would also suspect they had direct communication with lots of trusted members during this time and were testing the community temperature as best they could.

      In the end the rules and norms are only as respected as the members feel like. I do think if they had tried to curtail their members’ mob-like activities on the sites that got dugg over the last year, and encouraged more civil behavior, they wouldn’t have felt that mob turn on them.

      However, I do think they did a good job of bending and not breaking entirely when the pressure cooker was about to explode. I wrote about it here: When the Campers Take Over The Summer Camp. I also think their legal defense will be pretty easy due to the appearance of that key sequence on far too many sites to make it a meaningful loss to Sony. (But, I’m no lawyer)

      Finally, companies will do well to have you advising them when they have such problems. The more internal emotion you can take out of a big community issue the better your chances are of doing the right thing.

    10. @Ted: Great points, Ted, and you’re so right that it’s easier said than done. Jay’s post was indeed published after the deletion, which is the first difference in approach to what I’ve recommended. The second difference is that they should have invited the audience to express themselves in a candid way. It could have made all the difference if they’d given the community a release valve earlier.

    11. If the owner/moderator of a site cannot set limits as to what is allowed on that site, then the ‘community’ will be happy to trash it. Digg is the perfect example.

      Digg has a big problem with community members behaving badly (burying posts that some of the community don’t like rather than allowing the popularity of each post decide rankings) and the owner has been letting them get away with it either out of laziness, fear of reprisals or similar political leanings. The community then surmised that they could do as they pleased.

      Like spoiled children with no parental authority.

    12. @Valerie: Interesting point, though I don’t think communities are “happy to trash” their environment at all. With the right tools for self-organization — think Wikipedia — we’ve seem them work with no outside censorship at all. Your notion of ungoverned communities as a violent, anarchic horde (i.e. the “spoiled children with no parental authority”) is the prelude to authoritarian rule, and I hope we’d agree this a dangerous path to go down. Fascism is out of fashion for good reason.

      Of course, businesses should retain their right to self-determination. But they don’t and never will own their customer communities. The only option is true engagement.

    13. I think your point is a great one. Greater transparency could have made this a much smaller deal.

      I would have actually taken it further and posted the letter and encouraged people to contact the company that sent the notice to express their displeasure. That would have focused all that energy on the real target instead of the Digg moderators.

    14. I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your whole philosophy/approach to online communities. I’m a latecomer to all this. I haven’t really participated much in social sites yet. So much of the interaction I came across was just catty or dumb or fake-feeling. Your posts (and other wonderful things I’ve come across recently) remind me to keep looking. It’s nice to know there are others out there looking to really communicate and be authentic.

    15. I felt this perspective was short-sighted, and that people are generally able to accept decisions they don’t like, if they’re involved in the process and understand all the data. I haven’t had data to support this until last week, when I read the comments in this post, detailing the recent community revolt on participatory media site Digg involving the publishing of a key that decrypts HD-DVDs.

    16. Hello!
      Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
      PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
      See you!
      Your, Raiul Baztepo

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