If 2007 has been the year of web 2.0, then it has also been the year of Digg.com. The site has seen meteoric growth in users and attention, as it seeks to harness the collective news judgment of armies of volunteers, who log in to vote stories, videos and pictures up or down. Digg started out as a place to eavesdrop into the hallowed halls of Apple, or bash Bill Gates for the latest Windows hiccups. But it soon expanded beyond tech talk to include politics, science, culture, not to mention the bizarre and hilarious.
According to a recent survey, tech and science stories (including environmental ones) make up 40% of Digg submissions. Although there are now social news sites dedicated specifically to the green sphere (Hugg, part of Care2 and About My Planet's Grow), as well as others in the social news game (the 'soon-to-be-Propeller.com' Netscape, Newsvine and Reddit), Digg still commands a dominant lead over traffic and buzz. Its pages are now perused by users with such monikers as ecogal80, EnviroGirl and Ecochick, as well as the requisite guy humor (dirtyfratboy, tush, doodirock2, doggybum) and uber geeks (OBKenobi, Geekforlife, macbot). The following is TDG's list of the top green diggers, pulled together by a subjective process of talking to their peers, watching their online activity, and gauging their relative effectiveness in bringing green content to light.
Although anyone can submit a story to Digg, power users have much more impact in attracting notice and votes. The ranking of top overall diggers here was helpful, but was not used exclusively. Contrary to popular belief, top Diggers are not all young adult males posting in their pajamas from their parents' basements. Many are middle aged with families and real jobs. A growing number are women. Most of the top diggers are 'green,' in my opinion, says Kelly Lenfest (tomboy501). That's encouraging, because as the world teeters on the edge of potentially catastrophic climate change, species loss and explosive consumption rates, these online warriors are fighting to educate the masses, day after day, without pay.
Real Name: Mark Johnson
Location: Seattle, WA
In the Digg community, one name rises to the top whenever people are asked about environmental content: Aidenag. Self-proclaimed news junkie Mark Johnson is particularly good at sleuthing out green hard news and science-based analysis. When a new study comes out, I go find the source, says Johnson. I subscribe to Nature. I like to be able to make first-hand decisions. Johnson says he first got into Digg when he saw how little media attention a vast slurry spill received in Appalachia in 2002. Ever since I've been trying to get things like that out, he says. For example, his recent submission of a New York Times story on Bush's push for more mountaintop removal coal mining made it to Digg's sought-after front page, generating thousands of clicks on the piece.
Real Name: Mahesh Basantani
Location: Lucknow, India
A student of biotechnology in the Botany Department of India's Lucknow University, Mahesh Basantani is arguably the most prolific submitter and digger (voter) of green content. Not surprising given his academic pedigree, Basantani tends to uncover a lot of stories about genetic engineering and emerging green technologies, though his interests are clearly diverse. Basantani's website is loaded with highly technical scientific information. Emails seeking comment were not returned.
Real Name: Muhammed Saleem
Location: Chicago, IL
Occupation: IT/Social Media Consultant
A successful blogger and online marketing maven, 22-year-old Muhammed Saleem writes for copyblogger.com and works for the emerging firm pronetadvertising.com. He has a degree in economics from the University of Chicago. Not a lot of people are submitting stuff about the environment yet; it's not quite mainstream, says Saleem, who certainly does his part with a wide range of green stories. A lot of Diggers are just concerned with tech, humor, space exploration, health and fitness and research. He says those who are interested in green content generally fall into two groups: those trying to get the word out and global warming deniers, who often comment and post aggressively. Topics the broad Digg community does appreciate, says Saleem, include alternative energy and vehicles and other tech-friendly fare. You have to position the story with an angle that will appeal to the site's core, he says.
Real Name: Reg
Location: Denver, CO
Occupation: IT Consultant
Reg, who asked to keep his last name anonymous, took his moniker (for a Japanese corporate conglomerate) from a William Gibson novel. He recently sold his consulting company, and is thinking about ways to legitimately and openly monetize his knowledge of social news and networking. Of the top Diggers, Reg says, We try to push causes we care about. For Zaibatsu, this includes many green stories from diverse sources. He particularly likes nature stories, and says he lives adjacent to a protected greenbelt. I love coming on Digg and seeing news before it makes it to mainstream sites, says Reg. As for his top-level Digg peers, he says, We move millions of dollars worth of bandwidth a day, each one of us.
Real Name: Andrew Sorcini
Location: Glendale, CA
Occupation: Film Editor
Digg's undisputed top user is MrBabyMan, who has dugg more than 34,000 stories and submitted more than 6,000 since signing up in December 2005, a year after the site debuted to the public. Named by his wife because of his childlike attitude, MrBabyMan has long been a fan of green content, especially stories that incorporate tech. His process is instinctive. I can look at an RSS feed of news stories coming up, and the ones that are diggworthy pop up as big red flags for me, says Sorcini. He adds that like-minded diggers often help each other, and suggests greens develop more relationships to share stories. View a video of MrBabyMan here.
Real Name: Kelly Lenfest
Location: Honolulu, HI
Occupation: Construction Management
Kelly Lenfest is a self-described tomboy who is making waves in a traditionally male-dominated medium. [For green content], she's one of the best, says Mark Johnson. She gets the stuff that everyone else misses. People just aren't chaining themselves to nuclear weapons facility gates like they used to... or marching... but, you can post your heart out on the internet on sites like Digg and feel like you are doing something, says Lenfest. That's a double-edged sword. In some ways, you could argue that the social news audience is using their 'activism' to feel warm and fuzzy, without really doing anything substantial. Lenfest says stories about species extinction often resonate on Digg, although the community is suspicious of those who seem to be jumping on bandwagons without facts or embracing extreme theories. What interests me most is the changing face of our planet, she says. Also, corporate shenanigans!
Real Name: Matt
Matt is highly recommended by his peers for uncovering a wealth of great content on healthy (and eco-friendly) food and alternative health, as well as related issues. Webcure votes prolifically on stories (more than 15,000), and is more selective about submitting than many top users. Matt's blog is packed with info on food safety, allergies and healthy living. He did not return repeated emails.
Real Name: Jonathon D. Colman
Location: Washington, DC
Occupation: (Green) Digital Marketing
The youthful Jonathon D. Colman is the senior manager of digital marketing for The Nature Conservancy, one of the world's biggest and (arguably) most successful environmental groups. He served in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso, giving rise to his handle. Colman epitomizes today's hip young greens: he's wired, but also very outdoorsy. He actively seeks out and promotes a wide range of green content from many creators.
Real Name: Linda S.
Location: Cleveland, OH
Occupation: Aspiring Filmmaker
Another leading female Digger, Linda has a wide range of interests, especially science, technology and nature. Some of her recent green submissions include debate over organic food standards, toxic fumes from microwave popcorn and dramatic imagery of wildlife.
Real Name: Derek van Vliet
Location: Toronto, Canada
Occupation: Software Developer
Derek van Vliet makes this list because of past glory on many environmental stories, although he hasn't posted anything new to Digg in more than 80 days (he has cast some votes). Friends say he has recently been devoting much of his time to other social sites, especially Netscape.
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