Saturday, August 07, 2010

PZ and Digg

PZ Myers is, of course, a God to whom we must all Bow Down and Worship. But he's not always right. He makes a fundamental mistake in his evaluation of Digg. The problem is not with the "Digg Patriots"; the problem is with the premise of Digg itself, or, rather, with how one takes Digg. Digg is a method to discover web sites and works that are uncontroversially popular, in much the same sense that Wikipedia exists to document (relatively) uncontroversial knowledge. Anyone who uses Digg or Wikipedia to find important or authoritative information on socially controversial topics — whether that controversy does or does not relate to any objective or scientific controversy — is using a hammer to drive a screw.

Not that I in any way approve of their positions, but the Digg Patriots are exercising their freedom of speech; they are in no way limiting or compromising freedom of speech. They are using one specific private system of measurement, a private system that has no responsibilities at all except to its creators, to express their opinion, specifically their opinion that Pharyngula sucks.

I don't think Myers' suggested strategy — that admirers of Pharyngula and other pro-science, pro-skepticism and liberal sites vote those sites up — will be effective. Digg exists to highlight uncontroversially popular sites; there's little difference in the Digg universe between (apparently) uncontroversially unpopular sites and controversially popular sites.

Vox Populi is nothing more or less than just Vox Populi; the Voice of the People is neither the Voice of God nor the Voice of Satan. If you want to be popular, snark on celebrities or put funny captions on pictures of cats. If you want to talk about the truth, don't expect to be popular, and especially don't expect to be uncontroversial, and don't be all butthurt when you're not.


  1. Yes, they're exercising their freedom of expression by using many accounts per person and evading lifetime bans for violating the very lenient terms of use. How foolish of Myers to not realize that.

  2. Indeed. Freedom of speech means freedom of speech.

  3. So you find it legitimate for a single person to masquerade as dozens, amplifying their opinion's apparent worth by that much?

    I suppose you find the astroturfing activities of politicians and corporations equally valid? After all, they also have an idea, and they're also using any means necessary to make their belief appear legitimate without having to resort to facts.

  4. I didn't think Peezee was acting "butthurt" in his post. I perceived him as simply trying to rally his own troops to exercise their own speech. If he were "butthurt", I would have expected him to rather rally his troops to lobby Digg itself to suppress these "patriot" douches.


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