Deflecting Digg

— Topic: Content Management

Update: Due to concerns over accessibility voiced by my friend Nathan Logan, I have decided to remove my embargo against Digg. My opinion of their community of users as a whole still stands, but I have been persuaded that it is unjust to shut out a majority of people because of misbehavior by a few bad apples.

My Reason

It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to do this. After being on the front page of Digg.com twice in the last two months (one, two), I have learned that these are not the type of visitors I want on my site. Let me prefix this explanation by saying I do not have anything against the creators of Digg.

In fact, I think that the whole idea of social bookmarking is pretty ingenious. Rather, it is the sum total of asinine comments that are left both on their site and mine that has made me decide to deflect incoming referrers back to the Digg front page. I have also removed the 1-click Digg link from this site. In fact, I just got rid of bookmarking links altogether. I still have great respect for the Del.icio.us service, because they started the whole social linking and bookmarking craze. Likewise, I enjoy Newsvine because it fosters a more civil environment, comprised of a much more discerning readership.

I am not alone in this. Other professional web designers / developers have gone through similar experiences. The trouble is, we write articles that appeal to a certain audience, of those who appreciate the nuances of what we are talking about: CSS, Design, JavaScript etc. These articles get linked to, and then become “mainstream,” which is not the intended target demographic.

Dustin Diaz recently spoke about this problem with his article on dealing with negative comments. The flaming he got came as a result of a rather clever article he wrote on how to create an Ajax Style Switcher. He was also heavily linked to for compiling what he considers the Top 10 JavaScript Functions.

Andy Rutledge posted an article recently that gave a light-hearted facelift to the popular search giant Google. I and many others in the design community appreciated the notion, and linked to his article. Again, the boom of visitors attracted so much attention that it had a lot of negative feedback. Due to this type of behavior, he left Stylegala and has no comments enabled on his site.

It seems that Digg is the domain of angry teenagers with gobs of time on their hands, basking in the glow of utter anonymity, all entered in some sort of contest to see who can use the “F” word most often and in the most creative manner. – Andy Rutledge

My Method

Since I’m using Textpattern, I will explain how to go about modifying the default .htaccess file, to include a new rewrite rule tailor fitted to Digg.com. This could of course be applied to any problematic domain name you want. When you open up the file, you will see something that looks like this…

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -f [OR]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -d
RewriteRule ^(.+) - [PT,L]
RewriteRule ^(.*) index.php
</IfModule>

Before the closing </IfModule> bracket, you will need to add this code…

#Blocking Digg...
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} digg\.com [NC]
RewriteRule .* - [F]
ErrorDocument 403 '<meta http-equiv=refresh content="0; url=http://digg.com/" />'

Note that the #Blocking Digg part isn’t necessary for this to function, but it helps me remember what lines to add back in when I upgrade Textpattern. So, your final .htaccess file should look like this between the conditionals:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -f [OR]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -d
RewriteRule ^(.+) - [PT,L]
RewriteRule ^(.*) index.php
#Blocking Digg...
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} digg\.com [NC]
RewriteRule .* - [F]
ErrorDocument 403 "<meta http-equiv=refresh content='0; url=http://digg.com/'>"
</IfModule>

That will set up an “infinite” loop, so to speak, redirecting incoming links that come from Digg back to its front page. Hopefully, this will exhaust the short attention span of the types of people who like to leave useless comments. It’s like the old joke about the business card that says on each side: “To find out how to keep an idiot busy for hours, flip this card over.” – Happy deflecting!

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are mine alone, and are not necessarily shared by any other living person.