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Two days ago, I had my 24th birthday. Growing up, my parents had never extended me much leeway when it came to my birthday. It was a time when I should reflect over the previous year, and try to set an example for the next year. Over the years, this has kind of sunk in and my birthdays have become more of a non-event that few people even know about.

Therefore, I was a bit surprised when I received a lot of facebook wall posts from people wishing me a happy birthday. Some of them were from people I barely knew or talked to for a long time! What is going on here? Last year, I hadn’t received a single wall post from anyone, so where do these people all of a sudden come from?

I soon realized that it was because of the feature on facebook where people can see the latest activity of their friends when you log in. When someone wishes me a happy birthday, other people can see that wish, and become aware that it is my birthday. Therefore, they kind of just “tag along” and send their birthday wishes as well.

This poses an interesting situation much like Digg. If one or two people remember your birthday and posts on your wall, then your birthday gains attention and you get a whole bunch more posts. It’s like once that particular idea gains a certain amount of popularity, it just starts exploding as everyone starts to understand it. If you don’t get enough wall posts, then like Digg, the story “dies” and doesn’t gain much popularity.

This really extends to pretty much any idea that spreads through the population, as Digg and facebook are just technical extensions of the natural way things work. When “news” come up, people talk to each other about it, and at some point, it’ll die, or spread wildly to become something that everyone knows about.

The really interesting part is that the difference between the two might just be the difference of a few people! For example, a story on Digg that’s been dugg 18 times may be at the top of page 2, and just doesn’t get noticed. However, if it gets dugg 20 times, then it might be on the bottom of page one, getting significantly more notice, which in turn allows it to get to another more popular page, etc. In that case, the difference between millions of people noticing and having a failure is just a few extra diggs! That last little bit of effort you put in to promoting your idea could really be worth a lot more than it appears on the surface!

This seems like an important consideration especially whether you’re running a business or trying to spread a new idea. Just a few extra customer recommendations may make your company the one that dominates your specific market! Just a few extra people subscribing to your ideas may make it the one that gets adopted!

It seems like the line between success and failure may just be those last extra couple of steps.

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2 Responses to “The Happy Birthday Digg Effect”

  1. JP Russell on November 22nd, 2007 5:28 am

    Whatever way you look at it, I hope you had a good birthday.

    I think a lot of it has more to do with the content. For example, anyone can send a happy birthday wish, but only people “interested” in a topic will comment on that topic, especially if it is controversial.

    It has also been my experiance that ‘Wall of text’ entries often get much more comments then blog comments. Usually the posts are quick and short, and sometimes not at all flattering.

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