Digg, Over-Extrapolation, and Monoculture 2.0
What would cause Jason Calacanis, a very smart person, to make such a huge mistake?
My guess is that he believed that (a) what the cool kids were doing would spread to the larger population, and (b) Digg users were the cool kids. If so, he was far from the only person in the Web 2.0 world to have these beliefs; many have drunk of the Kool-Aid.
(b) first. Digg users are not the cool kids. For one thing, they’re overwhelmingly male, and in addition I’d bet that overall they’re pretty dorky. They don’t seem to be interested in what other cool kids are, like clothes. Meanwhile, one of the front-page stories when I checked just now was “Having a clue as the main requirement for open source”.
As for (a), cool kids are herd animals more than the rest of the population. Popular nightclub? Not for long: a newer one will become cool and everyone will go there instead. (Which is why Ken Schafer and Ross Rader predicted that MySpace would lose its #1 spot.) Fortunately for the general economy, not everyone makes purchasing decisions based on what is most popular at this very moment. And not everyone wants their news items selected that way either.
To be fair, there is also reddit, which has a slightly older demographic, and furthermore tries to deliver items of interest to the particular reader by checking popularity among readers with similar histories. But, so far anyway, it’s not all that different from Digg.
Is the Digg approach viable within communities that are less skewed? I think Jason Calacanis thought it would be, hence the reinvented Netscape. That he failed does not prove that it can’t be done, so let’s watch and see.
More for the Monoculture 2.0 file.