Over the last few weeks, I've been neglecting writing and technology all together. I've had a few ideas, but nothing I felt a lot of passion, motivation, or drive to pursue. I haven't been following TechRepublic, Twitter, Digg, Facebook, FourSquare or even the online Android game — The Great Land Grab — as religiously as I normally do.
That is, until one morning when I woke up, grabbed my Droid, and refreshed my Twitter feed (having Tweets push was wiping out my battery life). I follow a guy named Paul Baldovin, who I believe is tech writer in the UK. He retweeted a post by Stephen Fry that read:
"Highly disturbing. http://bit.ly/dDhevd Another good reason to avoid Digg."
This link went to post by oleoleolson, who disclosed a list of users that were members of a conspiracy group called Digg Patriots (DP). I recognized some names from my own "friends and followers" list on Digg.
Like other social networking web apps, Digg allows you to make personal connections with users who post things you want to see. I've got 13 "friends" or "fans." I actually follow a few people just because I really disagree with them, and I want to see every post they make so I can argue their points. I'm certain some of my friends and fans follow me for the same reason. So, it isn't exactly like we're all pals in a big group hug.
I've argued a lot in defense of conservative perspectives on Digg, but not one of these "friends" sent me a private message saying, "Hey, want to join a group that goes around burying liberal stories and digging conservative stories in order to make Digg less biased?" So, if this is a massive conspiracy, the group is either really selective, or they're horribly remiss about recruiting other like-minded individuals to maximize their ability to effectively achieve their goals.
Anyone who follows Digg for any length of time cannot honestly, in good faith, claim that there is a conservative, right-wing bias to the volume of posts on the site. In fact, the opposite is true — probably not by intent or even design, but simply because of the demographics that Digg largely attracts (mostly males between the ages of 18 and 34).
From what I've seen, the majority of front-page, most-Dugg articles that have any kind of political or ideological bias to them are items that the liberal left will embrace — stories about global warming, stories that make conservatives look like morons, stories that build up science and disregard religion as a primitive superstitious myth – that, and crude college humor, amusing viral pictures and movies or stories that appeal to techies, nerds, and dweebs.
I wouldn't be surprised at all to find that the only way that conservative stories ever get to the front page on Digg is because there's a group of organized individuals doing everything possible to make that happen. In a nut-shell, conservatives on Digg are hopelessly outnumbered.
There's no doubt that young, liberal, democrat users with at least some higher education are disproportionately represented among Internet users as a whole. So, a site like Digg is clearly exposed to this built-in bias – but there must be some way of leveling the playing field so that alternative voices are represented.
I'm more than happy to engage in discussions with people who I disagree with politically and philosophically. I want to make sure they have an equal opportunity to have their voices heard and their opinions available. If Digg should be avoided, it's because it encourages group-think and the suppression of competitive, minority viewpoints.
If Digg succeeds in becoming the main distribution point of media by crowd-sourcing, this would effectively censor the voice of minorities. Only the most popular — which is almost always not the most TRUE — articles, opinions, and information would reach us.
Ultimately, crowd-sourcing is only good if you've got a quality crowd. Otherwise, the founding fathers had a name for this. They called it "The Tyranny of the Democracy."
With no conflicting information available, there's no room for disagreement. If the majority voice says 2+2 = 5, then that's what people believe. This is a complex and potentially very important issue, and oleoleolson seems to have missed most of that, opting instead to embrace a biased, partisan political response, which is the root of almost every political problem we face today.
Despite how much Digg irritates me, claiming that there is a vast right-wing conspiracy to censor Digg is beyond hyperbole – it's completely detached from reality. It's like claiming that because some terrorists are Muslim, all Muslims are terrorists, or they at least implicitly condone terrorist activities.
There's no proof this is anything but a grass-roots, informal collection of conservative-thinking individuals who have loosely organized to try and combat a perceived bias on Digg with no endorsement by the larger base of conservatives who really don't care if Digg is full of college-aged ideological morons who blindly follow the dogmatic rhetoric of the liberal democratic party.
My take away from all of this is that partisan political pundits on both sides aren't interested in the truth, or in a level playing field, or in reasonable discussions. They're only interested in promoting their own political agendas and biases with no regard for thinking about the deeper implications of achieving those goals.
It's time for the rest of us to start thinking critically, rationally, and rejecting political fear-mongering that's intended to lead us into blindly following, without question, and regardless of political philosophy. I can summarize this post in a very simple, three word sentence. "Think for yourself." That says it all.
Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his professional role is as a Linux support engineer for a fast-growing Linux/FOSS consultancy group. You can follow him @dcolbert on Twitter or his personal blog, located at http://donovancolbert.blogspot.com.