2007 / 31 October

To Shout or Not To Shout: The Digg Dilemma

A little while ago Digg had an update that incorporated a few new features into their site. One of those features was the Shout, which allows you to easily send messages to your friends and share stories from Digg pages.

“Shout is a general purpose microblogging feature in Digg, but keep in mind that despite the protestations of many diggers, the ability to shout a story submission to friends was built-in from the beginning, and therefore it was always intended that a Digg user do so.”


Once sent, the recipient of a shout will find it in their profile page as well as see an indication as to how many shouts that user has received since last visiting their profile page.


There are two ways to use the feature. You can visit someone’s profile and select the “send shout” icon or scroll down to the bottom of their recent activity section and fill in the shout box. The “send shout” button near their icon only takes you to the bottom anyhow.

Second way to use the feature is to click on the “share this” icon found under any submission.


This will open up a Shout screen where you can select your friends from a list, type a message, and send the story to the selected friends.


So let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of using the Shout feature and some tips to survive the experience.

Although created with the intention of encouraging user interaction, it was inevitable that certain people were going to abuse the Shout feature to spam and self promote. With this in mind, Digg introduced the feature with the ability to adjust your settings to allow only friended users or no users at all to be able to send you Shouts on Digg.

“With the introduction of shouts, Digg became less of a social news site, which previously drove its success, to more of a social site with a lesser emphasis on news.

The content on Digg’s front page is now promoted from either people who have successfully been able to spam their friends through shouts or who have gamed Digg behind the scenes. In other words, it’s become more of a “who you know” and “how many people you know” society than a pure democracy. This is ironic because Digg uses this exact wording in their emails:

“Digg encourages users to digg stories independently of each other. Otherwise, companies can create tens, hundreds, even thousands of accounts and artificially inflate the Digg counter. Techniques like that defeat the democratic nature of the digg philosophy. Instead of the community deciding (Digging) for the story, a small collective is deciding (Digging) the relevance of the story and getting it to the homepage, or at least attempting to. That’s not a democratic process and it’s imperative that the community decides the story’s relevance.”

How do shouts promote democracy? Do they promote awareness? What about people who don’t have friends or who don’t want to spam their stories? The “democratic” vision that Digg has created with the introduction of the shout system is inherently flawed, and without any formal statements from Digg regarding this discrepancy, shouts go directly against what their policies suggest.”

Tamar Weinberg

A large number of Digg users were happy with the site the way it was and many thought that features such as the comment system and having an image section should be addressed instead of adding more social interaction features like Shouts and profile updates.

It didn’t take long for the worries these users had to come true. Shouts started to come in mass floods and in many cases for articles the receiver had already seen and dugg.

“The Digg shout feature is a great one, in theory. It allows people to communicate with each other without having to exchange personal information such as instant messaging user/screen names or email addresses (in the case of gmail, msn, and yahoo).

In practice, however, it is a disaster. Less than 0.1% of the people using the feature actually use it to communicate with a fellow Digger, to strike a conversation and make a new friend. On the contrary, people abuse the feature to spam their submissions to as many eyeballs as they can trick into becoming their friend, until the story reaches the front page of the site.

In essence, do I love the idea of Digg shouts? Yes. Do I absolutely abhor the way people are abusing it? Hell yeah. Do I have faith that Digg will improve the feature to curb abuse in the near future? Less and less every day.”

MSaleem (Muhammad Saleem)

It is possible to abuse this feature, and that’s really determined by the person you’re shouting a story submission to. I use it mainly to reply to people shouting to me, although I will every once in a while use it to ‘shoutspam’ a story I feel is particularly noteworthy. I do try to keep track of users who would prefer not to receive shouts, in any case. ”


Not all users felt the shout system was a bad thing.

“Whether users like it or not, Digg is the one who released the “shout it” feature. For those users who do not like it, they can turn it off and for those who like it, they can keep it on.

I personally think shouting is a great feature as long as you don’t abuse it and you only shout great

Neil Patel

So with the split in the mindset behind most users and how they viewed the Shout system, we found the following situations.

One, some users stopped digging anything but Shouts, thinking if the post was important enough then you would Shout it to them.

Second, the users who didn’t like Shouts decided to start burying the stories. I am sure they are selective, but looking for people that were abusing the system or sending a Shout for an article they already dugg and then begin burying future shouts from that user.


That leaves you with a 50% chance at either succeeding or failing with your submission when you use the Shout feature.

“Be very careful when shouting – it’s a complete crapshoot.

When it was first launched, it was quite effective, almost every time you used it – it worked (as long as you used it in moderation). Unfortunately people completely abused it and brand new users would come on, add a million friends and shout them all to death. People got really sick of it. Crap easily made it to the homepage.

Now just as many people who will digg something from a shout – will bury something from a

Chris Winfield

So should you stop using the Shout feature all together…? Well No, but here are some of my tips and suggestions for using Digg’s Shout system.

1. Let your submission grow on it’s own

You have a group of friends and these friends probably read your submissions. If they or other users like your article then they will digg it.

2. Don’t shout people who have dugg your story

Nothing says “I don’t mind wasting your time” like sending someone a Shout for an article they already read and dugg.

3. Be sparing with your Shouts

Think of a Shout as picking up your phone to call a buddy. Do you call them about everything you saw on the internet or tv that day as it happens? Probably not. So why are you Shouting 4 or 5 submissions to your friends a day? Slow down and don’t lose all your friends overnight.

4. Don’t SPAM

Even as your friend… I am going to bury dumb stuff. Do not send people your spam or they will KILL YOU, or at least want to.

5. Wait until you need it

Wait until your submission is in need of the extra diggs before risking your friends and the submission. If your submission has 20 diggs at 23 hours then it is time to let it go. If it needs 10 more and you feel you would probably not make it anyhow… then roll those dice.

6. Shout a Shouter

People who Shout are not as likely to get mad at you for Shouting. Why not track who is sending you Shouts and only send those people Shouts.

I would like to part on two small points. If you don’t like Shouts… Turn them off. Stop burying people for using the system Digg gave them. If you don’t accept shouts… Dont send them. It is hypocritical and as a good friend of mine says… “I mark those users in red on my list and then delete them.”

It is, however, possible to abuse this feature, and that’s really determined by the person you’re shouting a story submission to. I use it mainly to reply to people shouting to me, although I will every once in a while use it to ‘shoutspam’ a story I feel is particularly noteworthy. I do try to keep track of users who would prefer not to receive shouts, in any case. “

  • Great overview, ideas and recommendations for using the shout feature in Digg. Really appreciated and people should definitely check this post out.

  • I personally have turned off the shout feature. I have never sent a shout to try and beg for diggs. I think that it’s spam, and since those were the only shouts I was receiving, I turned it off. I’ve heard Mu say that he buries shouts that beg for story diggs. I’m not keen on the feature. The concept is cool, but it’s being abused like crazy! – michaelnew20 on Digg

  • I have too many friends so Digg is not allowing me to use the shout feature. If I could though, I probably wouldn’t.

  • Brent Csutoras / (Author) November 1, 2007 AT 11:31 AM

    “I have too many friends so Digg is not allowing me to use the shout feature. If I could though, I probably wouldn’t.”

    I thought they fixed that about 2 weeks back. I have quite a few friends too and was not able to use it at first but can use it now.

    Double Check.

  • I appreciate this article, Brent. I have underutilized the shout feature and I appreciate your take on it. I don’t mind some shouts, but too many are… !

    (translation: annoying as hell!)

  • I almost never respond to shouts. I receive the email but don’t open it because it takes too much time to learn what is on the other end of the shout. I would need to open the email and click-through, just to read the title, then click again to see if the article is worthy of a vote. It doesn’t sound like much but it ads up. Email spam works much better on people like me.

    So… Here is the secret to getting your spam voted on…

    “Subject Line Bait” I don’t have enough time to investigate every spam request I get so if the subject line is lame, (“Please Vote!” or “Please Digg!”) I won’t even open it.

    If you spend a lot of time crafting the “Title Bait”. The least you could do is follow through and make the subject line of your email spam worth opening.

    Digg users have a lot learn from the good email spammers. A subject line like “This will make you laugh” or “Incredible Picture!” or “This is Amazing” or “Check out my new list of whatever” or “This is just too weird” will get me to open your email spam almost every time.

    The SU feature where a message pops up and the page refreshes works wonders on me. Posting something in the SU message about “If you like the post, please click on the Digg button as well” will usually get an additional vote out of the deal.

  • I didn’t really understand the shout feature until as of late. I have had a Digg account for a few months, but I never added any friends. Once I did, I received shouts from the same people—HOURLY! It began to get a little burdensome, tiresome, and frankly annoying.

    This article/post really cleared things up. I would like to promote more of my friends’ work, but I am beginning to think that they are shouting just everything they can get their hands on (much like that phone calling analogy you mention in the article.)

    So this gives me a basis to work from.

    Thank you, again!

  • Great post, Brent. I’ve turned shouts off, as they were getting to the point where they were ridiculous. Especially when I started seeing shouts by the same user for the same story in the same day!

  • i dont respond to digg shouts anyway.

  • I use shouts very sparingly. Almost all of them are to tell my Friends that I have just submitted a new entry they might enjoy. I’ve only shouted a couple of items submitted by someone else, things that seemed widely relevant but easy to miss. All my Friends are either people I’ve hand-picked (I find the recommendation service very useful, but I don’t read lower than about 16% match) or people who have chosen to follow me that I’ve Friended back because our interests overlap.

    Some people do overuse the shouts, but I can always cut them off my list if I see the same person being consistently irrelevant.

    What I really disapprove is “swap” shouting, where people promise to shout each other’s posts just because they are friends, not because the material is good or interesting or relevant. I won’t do it for other people — though I’ve been whined at for that, and I’m sure it lowers my success rate — nor do I want others to do it for me. My shouts always say things like “If you like this article, please consider Digging it.”

    I don’t submit everything I write online, either; I pick out a few items that are especially sharp and relevant to a wide audience.

    Digg would be more useful if more people were careful about using it, but spammers infest everything sooner or later.

  • I signed up for Digg recently so I missed a lot of the changes you described above. I didn't know what "Shout" was until I read your article. It makes sense for a limited number of high ranking users to have the ability to collectively choose the top stories. These people built credibility by using Digg over the years and why shouldn't they have an advantage.