Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Digg Dugg, Part Deux

When I went to bed last night, Digg was in a state of lockdown - stories being deleted and users being banned. I woke up this morning none the wiser, and was planning on talking about Digg's reaction for a bit.

But then, around 9PM last night, Kevin Rose (Digg's owner) had a change of heart:

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

And I'm not really sure what to make of this. It still may be too early for proper analysis, so bear with me if I 180 on this in a couple of days.

Last night, I blogged about the beginning of the kerfluffle, and (in my near-brain-dead state) said that Digg's users were acting like "spoiled children" and wondered if the consequence of too much information is that "that we no longer exercise discretion in the sharing of it." And I still kind of agree with that. I'll be frank: I find Digg's primary user base to be biased and narcissistic. But that is the price of an experiment like Digg, which allows anyone to vote and comment on news stories. Hell, that's the price of any democracy: that the system can and likely will be co-opted by people who are short-sighted regarding the consequences of their actions, who are obsessed with their own personal agendas, and are not necessarily thinking of the survivability of the whole.

I intended to applaud Digg's discretion at cracking down on this story, because the owners of Digg need to exercise their own self-interest (IE, the survivability of the site.) But in retrospect, I think their decision to allow the hex code to be shared is in many ways more true to the spirit of the site they founded. Rose's blog post made clear that the consequences of this action could very well be that the site gets shut down, and if Digg users still want to vote the story with the hex code up, so be it.


There's the other aspect to this story - the information aspect. While Digg may be the focal point of this battle, a Google search for the key (not linked here - I refuse to be a part of this "revolt," even though I may have quietly squirreled away a copy of the key on my thumbdrive) and it returns some 36,000 hits (source: BoingBoing) - as of 9AM PST on May 2. And that number will only grow. The AACS is basically fucked here: the DeCSS DVD key shared circa 1999 was only of interest to a much smaller web-based community. Now, it's literally everywhere, and someone with a dial-up AOL account can have it in seconds (even if they wouldn't know how to put it to use.)

It's simply not possible to put the genie back in the bottle at this point. The question becomes, and it's one I've asked before, at what point does responsibility and discretion kick in?

I don't have time for a proper thought experiment on this, so I'll simply ask the question and let it percolate.

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