Why can't Digg's algorithm do something about rampant teenage sex?

If you don't care about the inner workings of social bookmarking/news aggregation sites - Digg, in particular - I'd suggest that you move along; nothing to see here.

However, the Diggers among you - and I'm told that's 1 in 5 of NetworkWorld.com readers - are aware that recent changes in the Digg submission-ranking algorithm has caused great consternation among long-time Diggers, who believe they are being unfairly punished for having gotten good at Digg's game, a game that has attracted multimillion-dollar acquisition interest from the likes of Google and Microsoft.

Not my fight, but it seems to me there is another problem - one directly relevant to the bigger Digg brouhaha - that Digg software engineers might address to make that site more useful to readers and more fair to these already-irritated regular content submitters: They should do something about all these sexually transmitted diseases among teenage girls.

As I type (as opposed to when you'll read), here are five of the nine top "Hot in Health" stories as ranked on Digg's page devoted to health issues ... and, yes, they're all duplicate versions of the exact same news story:

1 in 4 Teenage Girls Has a Sexually Transmitted Disease

Study: 1 in 4 teen girls has an STD

1 in 4 teen girls has sexual disease

STDs rife among US teenage girls

Tainted Love: 1 in 4 teenage girls in USA has STD

Now, I know enough about the Digg demographic to appreciate the fact that any combination of the words "teenagers" and "sex" is a sure-fire draw, but Digg's rewarding of this obsession seems to be a bug not a feature. The reason that this should matter to Diggers is that the "Hot in ..." lists for each subject area are a key means of exposure needed to make any given story "popular" - in other words, to have it hit Digg's coveted front page. If these "Hot in ..." lists are jammed with multiple copies of a single story, the odds of any particular submission making it all the way upstream to the site's front page become even longer.

And, while I'm not software engineer, it would seem that two factors about Digg might indicate that this single-topic dominance is fixable: 1) every submission is time-stamped, so giving preference to first and/or earlier entries should be easy and 2) the site already has an elaborate duplicate-determination system, which while largely ignored by submitters seemingly could be used to impose just a measure of discipline in the interest of providing better "Hot in ..." lists.

In other words, some combination of the two would seem capable of staunching this epidemic of teenage sex.

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