Digg and Reddit Augment Memetic Outbreaks

I’ve been noticing a trend between the memediggers such as Digg and Reddit and memetrackers such as Tailrank and Memeorandum.

The memediggers occasionally cause an outbreak in a meme which arose a few months (or years) back but that might be popular in a community which hasn’t seen it yet (they haven’t yet developed a memetic antibody).

I just was on Reddit and noticed that they were promoting two older stories on their home page. One was How to throw a no-hitter on LSD the other that struck me right away was “We Are Morons” and other insightful comments in leaked Win2k source code. Since Kuro5hin has timestamps on their articles we can see that the later was published in 2004.

Digg demonstrates the same characteristic. Awesome homemade flamethrower (which was just on the home page) was a video uploaded to Google in Feb 2006.

These older-content stories account for less than 10% of the posts on both systems but what’s interesting is that the memetrackers have an almost 0% rate of finding older posts. Tailrank will discover one occasionally but the rate is probably one every other month.

In the past these outbreaks have occurred over IM networks and the only people that have noticed them were the server administrators. They see a spike in traffic and then after a few days it will fall away.

With the memediggers this re-infection is easier since all it takes is a small percentage of a population to find the story interesting and it will make it to the home page.

The memediggers are really good at figuring out if a story is boring but not very good at figuring out if a story is cool but old.

Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so. I think Reddit and Digg are somewhat democratic but of course democracy isn’t perfect. I think it’s a matter of audience.

I’m not sure why memetrackers don’t demonstrate this behavior. It might be because the bloggers act as a good filter since they tend to be news junkies. Since Reddit/Digg make it easier for non-bloggers to ‘vote’ this might yield a less efficient old-content filter (again… not making a judgement call here).

Which leads to an interesting property/vulnerability.

Want to generate a ton of traffic to your site?. Go back in time and find the hottest stories from 1995-2000. Then create a few blogs which can host the repackaged content.

“Woman gives live birth on Internet” will all of a sudden generate a ton of traffic because the small population of Reddit/Diggers will see the story and quickly promote it to the front page of the site.

Would this be spam? People are voting for the content! Maybe the problem is that democracy isn’t perfect especially when you rely on voter intelligence.

Benjamin Franklin once said “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”

Either that or this is the memedigger version of a Diebold voter machine.


  1. The algorithm on both are far from being where they should be.
    It needs a couple of competitors to make it evolve






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