By now you’ve probably heard that Digg has removed their “Top Users List.” The list previously ranked every registered Digg user by the number of stories they submitted that reached Digg’s front page. As the popularity of Digg increased, so did the exposure of the users ranked at the top of this list. In fact, the top 100 members have gained quite a bit of exposure and notoriety.

However, as Aaron Wall wrote today, with increased exposure comes increased scrutiny and criticism. As expected, Digg’s top members are no exception to this rule. As Kevin Rose put it, “Some of our top users – the people that have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours finding and digging the best stuff – are being blamed by some outlets as leading efforts to manipulate Digg.” So, in response to the increased criticism and an ever increasing amount of “noise around this topic,” Digg “decided to remove the list beginning tomorrow” and true to their word, replaced the list with a link to their blog.

The move has created a ton of buzz and discussion, throughout the online community. As expected, blogs across the net (here, here, and here just to name a few) have covered the story and offered their opinions about the controversial decision. However, Rose mentioned that this decision came out of a “discussion with many of those who make up the Top Digger list”. So, since most angles of this story had already been covered and covered well, I decided to go straight to the source, Digg’s top user, DigitalGopher, to find out what he thought about the decision.

You’re the #1 ranked user of Digg and have been for some time now. You might very well be the person most affected by the decision to remove “the list”. What do you think of this move?

I have mixed feelings about it. The reason is… I think the top users list really does have value. There’s a whole slew of folks on Digg that use it as a motivator to submit stuff to Digg. And, if successful, seeing their name move up the ranks. It’s the same reason people strive to be good on video games: so that they can move up the ranks of some online leaderboard. It’s the same concept, but less competitive. That said, I tend to use the top users list less for what digg thinks we do, which is to find friends. In fact, I probably don’t use it much at all. But I am a bit frustrated that folks that spend a lot of time on Digg would not get a little bit of recognition. i think it’s the least Digg should do, and something I hope will be in the new roll out of a new list whenever that comes out. I was pretty indifferent about the removal yesterday. But it’s easy for me to say that since I’m already ranked pretty high. I know many lower ranked users are pretty pissed. But, as I said, now I find myself a bit more mixed.

Kevin Rose said that this was in response to a lot of criticism of the top users and an increasing effort by people to game Digg. What effect do you think this move will actually have on Digg?

Well, in the short term, not much. I think people will continue to submit as usual (I certainly do so for the love of the site). But several others may not do so in the long run once they see that it doesn’t yield anything. At least before they had the exposure via the list that would keep them motivated. Now, I’m not so sure. If anything, it’ll be an interesting sociological experiment - What keeps people voluntarily contributing even when the slightest bit of reward is taken away? However, I can’t see the status quo being beneficial in the long run. But if a new way of recognizing all-around contributors comes in to place, all this will be history and be forgotten.

It certainly will be interesting to see if submissions drop after this. As you said, without that motivation of moving up the list, who knows… One of the things that caught my eye in Kevin’s post was that he said the move was made after “discussion with many of those who make up the Top Digger list.” Were you consulted about this decision?

I don’t know if consulted was the right word… I’m not convinced my opinion as a single user would have counted. But, I was approached about it, yes.

Let me ask you this, given that this move has already been made, and it appears that Digg’s “Top User List” might very well be gone for good (at least in its current form), where do you think Digg is headed in the next several months?

I do think Digg has a ton of room and potential to grow. I just hope that the founders’ vision and not the “hive user mentality” or outside pressures dictate where the site goes next. That would be all I would hope for as a top user.

DigitalGopher’s mixed feelings surprised me a bit. To be honest, I figured he would be quite upset with the decision. However, his carefully worded response to the question about his input into this discussion intrigued me. I decided to contact a few other top members to find out if they shared DigitalGopher’s feelings on the issue… To read that, however, you’ll have to wait for the next post. For now I’d like to once again thank DigitalGopher for taking the time to discuss this with me. Also, if your worried that you simply can’t live without a list of Digg’s Top 100 members, never fear, a Digg member has come to your rescue and created his own list of Digg’s Top 100 Users.

Until next time…