Digg this: Growth of the NEW influentials!

Here’s my 3-part corollary to my previous post on Community Rules w/ Digg.

Un: Is Digg in trouble?

The lingering question on my previous post was this: Will Digg’s new rule to remove the “Top Diggers” category on their blog, remove the incentive for their users to continue digging posts?

Deux: So who’s influencing Digg?

I know all of you are cognizant of the Tipping Point‘s definition of “influentials” — “tiny minority of special individuals, often called influentials, who are unusually informed, persuasive, or well connected”

A new HBR research paper (via Kottke) contends that the influencers are not as influential:

In recent work, however, my colleague Peter Dodds and I have found that influentials have far less impact on social epidemics than is generally supposed. In fact, they don’t seem to be required at all.

So what 2 factors influence the “global cascade”:

1. non-celebrity influentials:

Yet it is precisely these non-celebrity influentials who, according to the two-step-flow theory, are supposed to drive social epidemics, by influencing their friends and colleagues directly. For a social epidemic to occur, however, each person so affected must then influence his or her own acquaintances, who must in turn influence theirs, and so on

2. a critical mass of easily influenced people:

the widespread propagation of influence through networks—is the presence not of a few influentials but, rather, of a critical mass of easily influenced people, each of whom adopts, say, a look or a brand after being exposed to a single adopting neighbor. Regardless of how influential an individual is locally, he or she can exert global influence only if this critical mass is available to propagate a chain reaction.

Trois: The jury’s out, but here’s my take:

Steve Rubel believes Digg shall decline now that the “Top Diggers” category is gone and so is the motivation? However, I believe that’s NOT the case. Digg hasn’t existed for the sole purpose of the Top Diggers. They’ve thrived on the thousands of non-celebrity influentials that populate their core demographic — young, techie males.

In my opinion, Digg has a critical mass of non-celebrity influentials who can easily step in and continue digging for the opportunity to influence their peers. Furthermore, I’d agree w/ Ed Kohler that this development helps removed the intimidation factor that “Top Diggers” has caused until now.

What do you think? Will Digg survive and if so, how & why?

Quick Update: Since I haven’t been able to leave comments to this post, I’ve decided to respond to Mario and Damon’s comments right up here:

Mario, looks like Digg IS serious about reducing Top Diggers’ influence. Check out this recent blog post on further efforts to reduce the influence of top diggers. Also, Damon, I agree that this development may not be as damaging to Digg since it now gives hope to the other diggers to outgeek the Top Diggers. It’ll be interesting to see if they continue digging now that even the pride factor has been removed.

Thanks for your comments, guys…

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  1. Damon Billian

    Digg will be fine. And while influencers are indeed important in the early phase, they become less important when a critical mass of people is reached. Does it suck for the top “diggers”? Sure. But I don’t think it will be too damaging because they aren’t directly paid for their efforts (some people do things for pride alone).

  2. Mario Vellandi

    I think it’s only in the best health interests of Digg that they removed the top diggers. Now they (formerly top diggers) can pursue other hobbies and enjoy the finer aspects of life….bike riding, volunteering, playing frisbee with friends 😀 While some new faces can step up to the plate and geek webbookmark it out! To give some vibrancy to the program…Digg should clear everyone’s ratings every four months. That should clear the egos of some of the maniacal bookmarkers out there who feed on virtual social approval and appeal.

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