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Digg, Mixx and Viral Negativity in a Social Network

Arrington writes that some of Digg’s unpaid editors are moving over to Mixx. Since they aren’t compensated for their work, switching costs amount to getting some of their friends to switch too. This is an interesting case study in the value of social networks. If the creators of the “user generated content” decide that the environment has become poisoned with negativity, they may decide to pull up stakes and migrate to another more friendly environment.

One Digg user makes the claim, in Arrington’s article, that:

I think Mixx has a real chance for success…Mixx has a much more positive audience than Digg. It always amazes me that even the most popular and highest quality articles can get so many negative and unnecessarily degrading comments on Digg. So far the users of Mixx have proven to be quite a bit more pleasant, something that I know will be welcomed by most users.�

Negativity can quickly become viral in a social network, especially where some kind of voting takes place. Competitive strategies can overtake collaborative strategies and then the community’s overall output starts to become skewed. To combat the negativity, the owners of the site make rules to curb some forms of competition, and before you know it– it’s not that fun anymore.

It’s interesting to watch the figures of game theory play out before your eyes. Should part of the valuation of a business that depends on social networking and voting be dependent on its ability to enforce and maintain a friendly environment? See Craig Newmark for a lesson in how this can be done.

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