Kevin Rose writes on the Digg blog:
Some of our top users are being blamed by some outlets as leading efforts to manipulate Digg. These users have been listed on the “Top Diggers” area of the site that was created in the early days of Digg when there was a strong focus on encouraging people to submit content. The list served a great purpose of recognizing those who were working hard to make Digg a great site, as well as a way for new users to discover new content. Now, as the site has matured and we regularly get 5,000+ content submissions per day, we believe there are better ways to discover new friends based on your interests and what you’re digging.
After considerable internal debate and discussion with many of those who make up the Top Digger list, we’ve decided to remove the list beginning tomorrow.
It’s obvious that Digg is removing the “Top Digger” list exclusively to try and thwart companies that aim to recruit Digg’s top users into some kind of Digg payola scheme, and I don’t blame them for trying to stem that tide. They shouldn’t, however, claim that they’re getting rid of it because it will no longer serve its purpose of helping users “discover new friends.” The purpose of the “Top Diggers” list is to recognize the Top Diggers – plain and simple. Users may have added the top Diggers as friends, but most likely as an attempt to get more recognition for their own submissions.
It’s an exercise in futility. A competent programmer could easily throw together a page scraper to determine the top submitters, so when the dust settles, Digg will still have problems with pay-for-play, but the most prolific users will no longer be recognized by Digg for their work that makes the site so successful.