Thursday, January 1, 2009

Your Top 15 of 2008

With personal top 10 lists flowing through the blogosphere for the past month, I'd like to start the year off with a top 15 list based on the opinions of millions of other people- Digg's most popular stories in the past 365 days from January 1st, 2008- Jan. 1st, 2009.

Digg, a popular social news aggregator, allows users to submit links to images, videos, and news articles on the Internet. Users can then "digg" these stories, or vote for them to increase their popularity on the site, making them more likely to get responses and appear on the homepage.

With over 29 million unique visitors in the past year (, in comparison, got just over 15 million visitors in the same time frame), Digg has become somewhat of a cybercultural indicator for what is notable on the Net. The "Top in 365 tab," then, is a digital road map for which moments were most important to Digg users in 2008:

15. "The Constitution Dies Tomorrow" // 14,834 diggs
Digg users have made it clear that they are extremely skeptical of the Bush administration's expansion of executive powers. The average American can’t do much about this directly, but discussing it is our best defense- something mainstream news seems to have forgotten.

14. "Coolness" // 15,188 diggs
I think this has a lot to do with the "at-least-I'm-not-that-guy" reaction mixed with a little "I-can't-look-away-from-the-car-wreck" phenomenon. The 15 thousand diggs on this article is the virtual equivalent to a rubbernecking traffic jam.

13. "Jon Stewart Annihilates Sarah Palin's Media Surrogates" // 15,860 diggs
Nothing was more pleasing to liberal voters than to watch Republicans squeal under the tabloid-esque headlines of 2008 vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, and let’s face it, Digg users tend to be pretty liberal. The brutal contradictions of Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly, and Dick Morris over the Alaskan Governor exposed on Stewart's The Daily Show were pure music to their ears. Yet I think we all can agree that you could not script these clips better, and that the GOP probably should be shopping around for a new image.

12. "You should never ask for help on the internet" // 17,315 diggs
"Wrong place wrong time dawg," is all they really had to say, but instead, they made the funniest thread 3com11 had ever seen and accrued over 17 thousand Diggs. As hellsing47 responded on Digg, "This is a shining example of the internet at work." Indeed, where else would completely anonymous people bother to take the time out of their day to work this photoshop magic?

11. "This is how police SHOULD react to protesters" // 17,462 diggs
This is quite possibly the nicest officer in the entire United States police force, and we are lucky to be able to share it on the Internet. With such wide coverage of Iraqi journalists throwing shoes at our President, Illinois governors selling Senate seats, and Wall Street investors sucking the entire global economy into a financial black hole, let's be lucky that this guy made it to the top 15 this year to give us some sense of American human decency.

10. "Click if your computer screen is dirty." // 18,655 diggs
Digg users have really dirty screens? Love puppies? Watch Kevin Rose on G4 Tech TV? It’s hard to tell.

9. "Senator Obama will be President Obama." // 19,510 diggs
The 2008 election was a Digg hit. Every single day, the homepage had something juicy on the Obama/Biden vs. McCain/Palin showdown that kept me refreshing the site hourly. Sometimes I still think the post-election Digg seems a little tame…

8. "Digg this if you're sick of power users stealing stories" // 19,572 diggs
This one snuck its way into the top 15 last minute, yet I think it exemplifies one of the beauties of social news aggregator websites: the impeccable ability to truly have voices heard. When users feel that something is compromising the integrity of the Digg website, they can vote it up on that very same site and the Digg team will take notice. Maybe the United States government should take a look at this model? Are they already listening?

7. "Ninja cat comes closer while not moving!" // 19,716 diggs
What 2008 Internet top whatever list would be complete without a viral video involving a cat?

6. "George Carlin has died" // 20,406 diggs
One of the most widely respected comedians of all time honored with over 20 thousand diggs.

5. "Heath Ledger is Dead" // 23,117 diggs
I think this shows the pure shock of Ledger’s untimely death. With a highly anticipated role as The Joker in "The Dark Night" that didn't disappoint, people found it hard to reconcile his liveliness on the big screen with the shroud of his death. We’re even still waiting on The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

4. "Digg this if you are sick of $cientologists burying articles" // 26,575 diggs
Do Digg users have faith? Who knows, but they do not like any groups who bury articles for a personal agenda. Again, this is another instance of the Digg community effectively speaking out against a potential Digg flaw.

3. "Digg's April Fool's Day Joke?" // 32,380 diggs
A company-wide April fools joke is a great sign of a solid business plan these days, as made evident by this one's 32 thousand diggs. People view such antics as an affirmation that there are real people behind the administrative duties. Digg's presentation of a random symbol instead of a number of Diggs was on par with Google's post-dated and hand delivered emails. Maybe the auto industry will give us something good this April?

2. "Barack Obama wins the 2008 Presidential Election" // 34,472 diggs

1. "Digg This If You Voted For Obama!" // 36,754 diggs
It's really no surprise the Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency takes the first and second most popular stories of 2008. His is a phenomenal story, and Digg users love Barack Obama. His young, tech-savvy aura is understandably appealing to the demographic which is in stark opposition to McCain's grandpa-needs-help-on-the-computer-again reputation. Barry is the first president ever to have a computer in the Oval Office. Let’s hope he stays plugged in.

So why should anyone care what people on Digg decided were the most significant stories of 2008? What do sneaky cats, super-cool collar poppers, and President Elect Barack Obama have in common? Nothing, and this is exactly the point. There is no partisan agenda, no financial incentive, no top-down control of expression. These stories are related purely by the voting that put them here in a way that you and I can be an active part of.

Digg and other social news sites such as and StumbleUpon represent a new generation of the global public, an informed public that understands the power of the Internet for an active exchange of information. As the world falls into a brand new economic model amid a tumultuous international scene, education and participation for global constituents is crucial, and the Digg community is on the front lines of this breakthrough.

Things are going to change this comming year. Let’s hope those in power understand this ideology shift, and shift with it.

Happy 2009, everyone. Keep Digging!

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