Watching a “Digging”

If you haven’t visited digg.com, you probably haven’t been online much in the past year. It’s quickly become the web portal of choice for a huge swath of the internet.

Digg has become so popular that ad agencies have been accused of offering payola to the most popular Diggers — members of Digg who have come to be known as authorities in the Digg community.

When a web site gets Dugg, it means that a sufficient number of Digg members have expressed interest in the site that it — momentarily — gets placed at the top of the Digg home page, and is visited by thousands — even tens of thousands — of Digg users. There are other sites that do the same thing, like Reddit and Del.icio.us, but none is as popular as Digg.

As I write this, my post on Cognitive Daily is in third place on digg.com, having spent upwards of 30 minutes in the top spot. That may not seem like much, but it’s been enough to generate over 8,000 visits in an hour. In the next few hours, it will become the most popular post on CogDaily, ever. Yesterday the story was linked by Reddit, and that rated about 7,000 visits. During an ordinary week, that would dwarf our usual daily traffic, but this week, it’s going to be eclipsed by Digg in less than an hour.

It’s hard to get any real work done when you’re watching your “popularity” escalate on a minute by minute basis. Take a look at this graph of today’s traffic:

We were having a pretty good day, just riding the residual effect of the Reddit link from yesterday. Ordinarily, we get about 100-200 visits an hour mid-day, and we were doing almost 500 an hour, until the link from Digg hit their front page. Now all that other traffic seems inconsequential. Even yesterday’s 7,000 visits now look like just a foothill compared to today’s mountain of traffic:

The problem, as I alluded above, is that this false “popularity” tends to choke out all desire to do work. I’m supposed to be writing up an article about how music has semantic meaning (fascinating stuff), but I can’t resist heading over to sitemeter and looking up the latest stats (this just in — 17,000 visits so far today). And yet, the popularity won’t last long. Tomorrow, Digg’s hordes will be off to crown their next king for a day (or 30 minutes, as the case may be).

A few Digg readers might pop over to CogDaily to see if I’ve posted anything new, though, and I need to write something if I ever hope to see them again. It’s moments like this that I head over to one of the few coffee shops in the area that doesn’t offer free wi-fi. That’s where I’m headed now.

… after I check the site stats, one last time.

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