Some of you will already have seen this story, but it’s really worth taking a closer look at it to understand some of the ways that online “community” gets stuck at the border, and at how online “mobs” turn to the oldest and ugliest stereotypes in the book once they’re mobilized.
It all started on September 2 when Oliver Sun, a self-described “mixed Chinese who lives in Shanghai and Switzerland and lives off his websites,” came across a Chinese website called Digg.cn and wrote a post for his must-see wonderful new China Web 2.0 blog, Wangr [English version, with links to Chinese], which he co-edits with James. Oliver noted that the digg.cn site was pretty much an exact copy of the American Digg site. For those of us who don’t use Digg, the basic idea is that people tag (or “digg) online news items or blog posts, which are then voted on or “dugg” by other users. The ones that seem most important/interesting to most people will get the most “diggs”: a user-generated recommendation system. To get on the front page of Digg, then, is to be top of mind for the most people within the Digg user base.
I’ve seen Digg.cn in the past. Occasionally someone will “digg” a Virtual China post. But the numbers of digger/recommenders are so small — often 10 or less — that it hadn’t seemed like it was running quite up to speed yet.
Oliver’s post very quickly attracted a lot of attention, that is, “diggs,” on the American Digg site. Some Diggers didn’t take kindly to a Chinese version that looked almost exactly the same as the American site, so they used the structure of the Digg system to join the Chinese site, tag politically sensitive or even fabricated stories, and get their friends and fellow Diggers from the US site to join in and “digg,” pumping up the numbers, ensuring that their entries would dominate the site until the Digg.cn editors decided to delete them.
I blogged about some chinese digg.com clone that was actually the total same.
After that and about 700 diggs the whole site was just trashed and burned.
diggers went on there and totally crashed it, made real mean and racist
comments as well as they uploaded a few very nasty pics.
Reading down the Diggers’ comments on Oliver’s original post is illuminating–you hear all the arguments being trotted out in other contexts about China’s so-called lack of creativity. And then, you see the mob forming. Here are some excerpts. Please note, I’ve pulled out quotes that represent some of the views there, but the posts here were not written in direct response to one another.
These guys did a straight copy of the entire Digg.com site! Well
everything seems to be original creation of digg….the colors, the CSS
style sheets, the functionality of the site, what else?
…In my opinion, this can be useful for people in China. We love digg,
why can’t they have a version in chinese? Maybe they could team up with
digg.com and have digg go international. This could actually be not a
…Respect copy right and get some creativity of your own for gods sake…
…Nobody is stopping people from making international versions of digg.
Just don’t call it digg, don’t copy the design 100% and don’t
own version of digg as long as they put in the work to make it from
scratch like everyone else.
…They (or should I say we?) complain about stringent copyright
enforcement from the music and movie industry, DRM in music and movies,
etc, but when they see a Chinese site breach Digg’s copyright, they
bitch and cry foul for the first time in their lives.
and then: I think the digg army should help take this down… eg: infultrate it with “stories” about goatse, lemonparty or tubgirl?
later: Please, you may strongly hate them for cloning digg, but thats no
reason to act like a slurring moron and submit things like “DIGG.COM
OWNS U CHINKS” to their page.
Digg that… and their frontpage will crash every IE that visits that site.
Oh, you’ll really have to go read the whole thing yourself.
As Oliver says: …things like witch-hunts still find lot’s of followers.
The angry mobs still are around, and more importantly they’re easier gathered throught the net. One well-known or even not so well known blog can destroy a whole community or business.
and a reader comments: sites like digg can attract web attention very quickly and at such
enormous scale. like many mob actions, things can turn ugly fast…