Lately I’ve seen more and more of these Digg / del.icio.us buttons cropping up, and I’m not really sure I approve.
That’s not to say I disapprove of either site as such: I use del.icio.us a fair bit to mark things of interest for future reference. I can not only save links which would clutter my bookmarks menu (and be vulnerable to a local system failure), but I can also see who else has bookmarked them—and what they’ve bookmarked that I might be interested in.
However, I draw the line at putting a set of buttons on every article I write encouraging people to add it to Digg or del.icio.us. There’s an arrogance implicit in it that I find distasteful: it seems to say that everything the author writes is so good it deserves to be promoted by you, the reader.
To reiterate: there’s nothing wrong, as I see it, with promoting others’ work. That’s a large part of what the web is about: point other people to stuff you’ve enjoyed or found useful. There is, however, a large distinction between someone adding one of your articles to Digg or del.icio.us, and you actively seeking out and promoting that end.
One could of course argue that it’s simply about user convenience: it makes it easier for readers to promote your work on one of these sites. After all, clicking the link is an entirely voluntary act; no one makes them do it.
But this is an obfuscatory argument. It’s not that much work to Digg something, and del.icio.us even has a Firefox extension to make the process easier. The degree to which these buttons make the task of the user easier is minimal: their main effect is psychological.
Ultimately, the point of these buttons is to make it psychologically easier for users to add someone’s work to one of these sites. They present an option that may not have occurred to the reader, and bring it to prominence in the minds of those who already see it as a possibility. Moreover, they don’t simply present the option: they promote it.