With Digg on the Wane, Where Are its Former Power Users?

With "king of all social media" on the wane, where have all the Power Diggers gone?

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At the height of his power, Andrew Sorcini was one of the most influential people on the Internet. Back in 2009, Slate deemed him the "the king of all social media" for his ability to drive millions of page views in server-crushing traffic to dozens of websites each week. Under the pseudonym mrbabyman, Sorcini was one of the most well-known Power Diggers, an elite group of Digg users who, back in the site's heyday, had managed to game the system so that their submissions to Digg made the coveted front page, sometimes several times a day. Though at the time the site boasted millions of active users who submitted upwards of 20,000 links every day, only a very small number of those submissions received enough diggs (a "digg" is something similar to the "Like" function on Facebook) to reach the front-page threshhold--as few as 200.

Digg tried its best to tailor its algorithm to democratize its front page as much as possible (in other words, make it so any user had an equal chance to create a front page-worthy submission), but this didn't stop this small group of roughly 100 to 200 people from securing a sizable percentage of the front page submissions. Because of this widely disproportionate power, the existence of the power users was extremely controversial. More casual users hated them because they felt their own submissions were getting short shrift and Digg's employees worried the power users would cause new users to grow frustrated and leave. In fact, it seemed that on an almost weekly basis Digg was rolling out a new feature to make it harder for the power users to game the system. "As for my opinion, I despised the power users and thought they all should have been banned for collusion," wrote one former Digg employee recently. "MrBabyMan was digging stories 24 hours a day. This guy either doesn't sleep or he hired people to digg stories for him."

[READ: LinkedIn and Other Social Media An Essential Tool for Job Seekers.]

Love them or hate them, Digg's ability to send upwards of hundreds of thousands of visitors from a single link made the power users a force to be reckoned with, and many website owners began courting them, sometimes with money. But that was when Digg reigned supreme, before a swift downfall in which it bled millions of users and ceded much of its power to other social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit--the last of which most closely resembled Digg's platform and voting mechanism. Though Digg reached rock bottom earlier this month when it was announced the site had been sold to Betaworks for $500,000, a mere fraction of the $200 million valuation it held just a few short years ago, observers have been charting its decline in readership since as early as 2010. So where have all these power users gone? Did they stay paddling on a sinking ship or did they take their influence and penchant for spotting viral-worthy content elsewhere?

Sorcini, who lives on the West Coast and edits film animation for Disney by day, was one of the thousands of Digg users who participated in the "great migration" to Reddit. In the days following Digg's release of its disastrous "Version 4" redesign in 2010, Reddit reported a steep increase in new registrations, and it's commonly considered the network that essentially absorbed Digg's user base. But though Sorcini counts himself among this migration, his immersion into Reddit was purposefully gradual. "I moved to Reddit early on under a different alias to give it a try to make sure to test the waters out since I didn't want to completely abandon my place at Digg," he said. "And eventually, a year after establishing myself on Reddit, I added another alias, my own therealmrbabyman alias, and dove into the site."

The reason for the alternate pseudonym, he said, had to do with the fame that had amassed around his original mrbabyman handle; with that fame came a lot of baggage. "I basically wanted to see if I could do it," he explained, "if I could still have the skill to curate content on my own merits." It quickly became apparent that his influence had transferred to the new site after he amassed thousands of Karma points (which you receive every time someone upvotes one of your submissions). At one point he found himself among the top 10 users on Reddit.