Pencil Drop (The end of Digg as we know it?)

So, the latest bit of civil disobedience from the seventh grade is the pencil drop (nothing new). Word goes out that at exactly 2:04, everyone drops their pencil.

Teachers hate this.

Coordination turns random events into noticeable events.

I’m on record as being a huge fan of Reddit and Digg and the other social bookmarking sites. I’m still a big fan. But I wonder about the self-inflicted damage of their success.

Now that they are so powerful (the front page is worth hundreds of thousands of impressions, for free, in one day, among some of the most influential people online) people are starting to notice.

They’re noticing by encouraging their fans to post in a coordinated way.

Sometimes they do this in ways that most of us would consider ethical (hey, please Digg this post if you think it’s worthwhile) while others are hiring clickfarms in India to do it for them. The leverage is just so great, it’s irresistible (in some categories, just a few hundred Diggs is enough to work your way up to the top).

As this gaming approach catches on, I have no doubt that the social networking sites will do a pretty good job of stopping the spammers. But they can’t (and shouldn’t) stop the semi-organic ones, the good blog posts where the blogger asked for the Digg and made it easy, right?

So the market will adjust and the good will still win.

Except it won’t. It won’t because the truly good, the overlooked, the stuff that is built by someone who doesn’t know how to IM the top Diggers, doesn’t want to pay a bribe or even know how to put in links to the sites–those pages can’t possibly compete with the coordinated pencil drop. So they disappear.

I’m fully expecting that sometime quite soon, the front door won’t be open quite so wide… that it won’t be so easy to get a dubious page into the clickstream. The idea of social bookmarking isn’t going to go away, I think, but it can’t help but evolve.