I'm not suggesting that top diggers are a myth; instead I am going to debunk the myth that top diggers control Digg.
Digg is a social news aggregation site where members (or diggers) submit interesting news items, videos, podcasts and other links to the community at large. The other diggers then throw their support behind articles (digging), ignore articles or bury those articles for various reasons (dupe, lame, spam, inaccurate or wrong topic.) Diggers can also leave comments that are attached to the submission. There have been a few other problems citied aside from the myth of the "top digger" such as the "bury brigade" that is rumored to prowl Digg and quash any story they feel does not belong. This can be especially deadly if they mark as spam for that can lead to a site being banned from Digg.
I'm getting a little bit side tracked so let me regain my focus.
The myth of the "top digger" is often represented by a study that shows 90% of the content that reaches Digg's home page (sometimes referred to as the front page) gets there because a top digger, and his legion of supporters, decided to put it there. Granted there are certain items in the Digg algorithm that do weigh a digg based on the popularity of the submitter and the age of the digger's account. In fact, there was a great out cry from the diggers a few months back when Kevin Rose announced some changes in the Digg algorithm.
What these "studies" often do not look at is the fact that all of the top diggers that they claim "control" Digg were once regular diggers. There is only one digger to whom the claim of "controlling what gets on the home page" truly applies and that would be none other than Kevin Rose. Kevin has a 101% popularity ratio (I guess Kevin watches too much This is Spinal Tap?) in that all of his stories always make the home page. He could submit an article about pictures of potatoes shaped like celebrities and it would make the home page! In stark contrast to that is the fact that the current top digger digitalgopher has only a 48% popular ratio. That means over half of the stuff he submits never makes it to the home page. Out of the current top 30 "top diggers" only webtickle has a popularity ratio close to that of Kevin Rose and his is a mere 74%!
I'm now going to break down the "Popular News Archive" for January 22, 2007
Out of all of the stories submitted to Digg on that day (or within a certain hour period prior to that day) only 139 made it to the home page. Now, if the myth is to hold true then 125 of these stories must come from top diggers! Because I am far too lazy to click on 139 links I will instead define the "top diggers" has those who are in the top 30 spots of the Digg top users page.
Number of stories from "top diggers 1-10" -> 24
Number of stories from "top diggers 11-20" -> 20
Number of stories from "top diggers 21-30" -> 7
Number of stories from "not-top diggers" -> 88
It looks like about 63% of the home page stories for January 22, 2007 came from diggers who are not in the top 30. How many of those stories came from diggers from way in the back of the pack is currently unknown to me and mostly irrelevant as the myth often states that the "top diggers" are in total control of what makes it to the Digg home page. If you look at the popularity ratio as a measure of Digg success you will see that the only "top digger" to appear in the top 30 list when sorted by popularity ratio is webtickle with his 74% popularity ratio.
If I had better access to Digg's database I could form a "more perfect" report to discredit this myth instead I will show you how a few of the current top diggers break this myth all on their own.
The current holder of the number one top digger spot is digitalgopher. He joined Digg on October 25, 2005 and he has a 48% popular stories ratio. George W. is currently number 6 on the list and he joined on July 20, 2005 which is well before digitalgopher joined. The number 10 spot is held by chrisek who joined on August 8, 2006! If the top diggers had a monopoly on the content that reaches the home page how could any new blood make it into the world of the top diggers? If they control 90% of what hits the home page it would be a case of the rich getting richer and the poor suffering from inflation!
No, the top diggers do not control what hits the home page. In fact, it is the Digg community itself who controls who becomes a top digger! If someone consistently posts good content their stories will get promoted.
Digg looks for block voters and deals with them in their own way. They typically send out warning letters first and then ban accounts for this practice. Some have questioned why Digg offers the "friends" system if it wants to discourage block voting well... I do use the Digg friends feature but I do not use it for block voting. Sometimes one of my friends submits a good story and I digg it, other times they submit junk and I don't.
That is my take on the top digger myth. Make what you will of it.
I just took a quick peak at the Digg home page and this is the breakdown I saw out of the 15 stories on the home page:
Top Ten Members -> 1
Top 100 Members -> 7
Top 1,000 Members -> 9
Members above 1,000 or no previous home page stories -> 6
Members since 2005 -> 4
Members since 2006 -> 15
Members from last 5 months -> 3
You know what? I'm just not seeing the myth played out here