Can QlikTech Reveal Digg’s Secrets?

How do you get a top listing on Digg, the community site that ranks news stories and Web sites based on popularity?

Perhaps only the founders and high-level technical people at Digg know the true answer — the algorithm and policies behind Digg’s ranking system — but that hasn’t stopped others from trying to “game” the system.

In fact, Digg just announced it made a few tweaks to its popularity algorithm, which the company said would ensure a wider group of users would get a bigger say in getting submission promoted to the home page.

A separate announcement came yesterday from QlikTech, a business intelligence software provider. QlikTech said its free Dugg Analyzer tool isn’t meant to give anyone an unfair advantage, but to help users understand what kind of Digg entries are floating to the top.

“Today, if someone wants to make something popular on Digg, they don’t know what metrics are being used,” Anthony Deighton, vice president of marketing at QlikTech, told “Digg is good at telling you what’s most popular right now, but not over time, and there is no neutral or third party to tell you that.”

“There is no analytic view of aggregate postings over time, or cross-dimensional views or particular category breakouts,” he said. “That’s what we’re good at providing.”

At press time, a Digg spokesperson said no one from the company was available for comment.

Digg’s secret algorithm and ranking policies — and its occasional changes to each — have long been the subject of scrutiny from users.

While it reveals few details of how either work, Digg co-founder Kevin Rose said in a recent blog post that the company recently changed its system to ensure top-ranked stories come from a wider group of sources.

“Our goal is to give each person a fair chance of getting their submission promoted to the home page,” Rose wrote. “When the algorithm gets the diversity it needs, it will promote a story … to the home page. This way, the system knows a large variety of people will be into the story.”

The changes come amid charges that Digg’s system has been dominated by a tiny percentage of its users.

QlikTech said it’s simple to look at Digg data to determine that a small group of around 100 people is responsible for 40 percent of the site’s posted content — content seen and read by thousands. Still, this is down from a previously reported 56 percent of most popular content in 2006.

Another recent change noted by QlikTech relates to YouTube’s prominence on Digg. Historically, it said, the video-sharing site had been the most linked-to site on Digg by a wide margin, receiving than 10 times as many front-page rankings as the second most-popular video site.

Since August, however, there has been a sudden drop in the number of YouTube stories reaching the front page. Today, YouTube news now rates similarly in popularity to other video sites, according to QlikTech.

Deighton said his company doesn’t have any special access to Digg data; the BI vendor said it just uses the public API the site makes available.

“What we do doesn’t make Digg any less in control, if anything, it helps them and users check for fraudulent behavior like the same user registering 5,000 accounts,” Deighton said.

The company’s new Dugg Analyzer is one of many free services the company offers to show off its software’s analytic capabilities. In the past, QlikTech has offered free analyzers for fantasy football players and another showing relationships between different wines and food.

The next freebie in the works, set to come out around the time of the Grammy Awards, is designed to show where songs received radio station airplay. QlikTech is working with another company that collects such data.

“In this case, we can say with certainty it’s not a fair market,” Deighton said.

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