Two weeks ago, I wrote:
In terms of editorial and quality, I am unconvinced that a voting system like Digg’s can produce a quality editorial product.
Everything we do to “edit” the [Guardian Unlimited] site seeks to keep a balance between editorial instinct and the desires of the audience, and that, in doing that, we may be reflecting the “community” more fairly, both mathematically and ethically, than the likes of digg.
So how do you reflect the community more fairly? Paging Mr. Surowiecki:
In order for a crowd to be smart, [Surowiecki] says it needs to satisfy four conditions: 1. Diversity, 2. Independence, 3. Decentralization, and 4. Aggregation.
Much of the online media we’re familiar with uses a mix of humans and automated systems to perform the aggregating task. Human editors choose the stories that will run in the newspaper (drawing from a number of sources of information as Lloyd illustrated), blog authors select what links and posts to put on their blog (by reading other blogs & media outlets, listening to reader feedback, and sifting through already aggregated sources like del.icio.us or Digg), and the editors of Slashdot filter through hundreds of reader submissions a day to create Slashdot’s front page. Google News uses technology to decide which stories are important, based primarily on what the publishers are publishing. Digg and del.icio.us rely almost entirely on the crowd to submit and determine by a simple vote what stories go on its front page.
Some of these methods work better than others for different tasks. The product of 50,000 diverse, independent, decentralized bloggers is probably more editorially interesting, fair, and complete than that of 50,000 diverse, independent, decentralized Digg users, but the Digg vote & tally approach is less time-intensive for all concerned and the information flows faster. A site like Slashdot sits in the middle…it’s a little slower than Digg but offers a more consistent editorial product. A hybrid Digg+Slashdot approach (which is not unlike the one used by individual bloggers) would be for Digg to produce a “Digg digest”, a human selected (could use simple voting or let the most highly respected community members choose) collection of the best stories of the day that incorporates what was said in the comments and around the web as well. Actually, I think if you wanted to start a blog that did this, it would do very well.