A recent post on the Blog Herald caught my eye. It deals with the idea of transparency in social news sites (i.e. Digg, reddit, Netscape, etc...).

I have a few views on the subject and I would like to share them with you.

1) The Wisdom of Crowds - This is the idea that Kevin Rose claimed to be behind his creation of Digg. It appears that Kevin Rose did not understand this idea as it is based on the crowd not knowing what the rest of the crowd is doing. Digg is not based on the Wisdom of Crowds but is instead based on Group Think.

2) The Social - In order for a site to be social you have to allow for people to easily communicate with each other and pass news stories around. For a time, Netscape had a very good messaging system in place where users could message each other privately.

Stories soon surfaced that this feature was being abused to get stories on the front page and it was removed. Hey Netscape, there is a telegram here for you, it says:

"What part of Social Networking do you not understand?"

3) Secrecy - Who truly benefits when users in the social group are allowed to do things in secret? Digg hides information on who buried a story and why. Netscape implemented a feature called Sink which is entirely public.

Are you worried about hurt feelings and flame wars? Please, secrecy does not help anyone in regards to social book marking sites. If someone is marking every story as Spam I would like to know so I can ignore that user!

4) Customization - I want more customization on my social book marking sites. Digg allows me to hide certain categories from view but, it should go a step further.

What these sites should do is give you the option to ignore not a category of content, but specific websites and users. Think about that for a minute. If a particular user is constantly marking stories from johnchow.com as spam why not just let them block all stories from that website from ever appearing to them? Why should I be punished because of something they do not like?

Just think, if you were on Digg and blocked every story from Techcrunch, Apple, enGadget and the main stream media sites it would be a very barren home page. But, it would be customized to not show you things that you would bury. Great idea, no?

Conclusion
If a website truly wants to be a social book marking or social news site it needs to encourage it's user base to become an active participant. It needs to be more transparent in what it does and it should be based on the Wisdom of Crowds rather than Group Think. It can do this by:

1) Keep all voting information secret until a member votes a story up or down.
2) Facilitate communication between users.
3) Allow ALL information (votes, buries, comments) to be public.
4) Allow members to block stories from sites that they do not like.

The community is what social book marking and social news is all about, not the website and not the people behind the website. Vote with your clicks, ignore a website and it will sink.