I felt the digg effect

Note: This was first posted May 26, 2006. Things have changed with DIGG since this posting but it still has relevancy given the nature of social media.

A few days ago I flew to California and as usual, I took some pictures out the plane window. I like taking these pictures as anyone who’s followed this weblog will attest to and some of them turn out pretty well: the subject matter is interesting and the photograph, even though taken through a plane window, is technically acceptable.

After arriving in LA I lazily took a look at the images I’d gotten on the trip out and some of them looked pretty good so I did a bit of work on them, thought about and wrote captions, and uploaded to flickr and then blogged them here from there. I have another photo site which I’ll announce here shortly and I upload only my best images there. A few from this set made it to that site as well, which means I thought I had some interesting images.

Note that most of my captions are descriptions of both the image and my feelings about the content of the image. I try to make the captions interesting and put some time into writing them.

Over the course of yesterday the new images got some nice comments on flickr from many of the people who usually comment on my work and from a few new ones and I felt good about the images, knowing I had some good stuff and I was looking forward to getting home and doing some printing.

Land's End

Later in the day I noticed that this image: Land’s End was getting quite a bit of traffic and I had no idea why. I noticed the word “dugg” in the comment string and even though I’d gotten the digg.com RSS feed for a while (I grew tired of it) I didn’t put two and two together. Well, it seems that someone “dugg” the photo: Incredible Photo: “Land’s End”, put a post on digg.com about it, but not only that, he interpreted my caption as making an environmental statement about erosion (I was not). I don’t blame him for this, he didn’t know me or my writing style but anyone who does knows that I use visual metaphors and in fact the image does make it look like the less developed (un-farmed) land is eroding away. Or, one could look at the image and say that farmland is taking over. Who knows.

Digg is a very popular social bookmarking site that has unique tools that allow users to vote or “digg” a particular bookmark. They can also comment on the bookmark and the digg comment string for this post while not as long as some, goes off on an environmental crusade tangent because of the context in which this fellow dugg my image.

The important thing is that my little backwater flickr stream got churned (hopefully not eroded) over the course of the next few hours. That image alone got 10,000 views in the first hour, another 10,000 in the next hour and when I went to bed last night it had close to 30,000 views. This morning it has over 40,000 and on digg.com the post was dugg over 1100 times. Last night the churn affected my ability to use flickr; my space was bogged down in it. This is really something because yahoo/flickr uses some serious iron to run this photographic community.

I feel like a guy who was displaying his photographs on a card table who got overrun by a mob. My flickr mailbox is exploding, my other images have also now been churned by this crowd and the erosion story, while I did my best last night to put a stop to it keeps on going. People have now blogged the image and the caption all over the world and it’s being discussed in threads off of flickr.

All of this brings to mind Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point and a great article he wrote prior to it in The New Yorker: Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg. This image tipped although I’d be interested to know if it would have tipped had I not written a caption that used the word “erosion” in it. Gotta watch those words, they can be loaded. Or, learn to use more loaded words.

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