Tag Archives | Digg

Digg’s “Drastic Changes” = Playing With Fire

Kevin Rose has gone on record saying the next version of Digg, due within months, will feature some drastic changes that in his own words will leave some of their users “shocked.”  It isn’t altogether clear exactly what Mr. Rose has planned, including navigation bar and Digg button changes, and a greater focus on “real-time” content.

Another big change is that there would be a greater focus on what those more closely associated with a user are digging rather than the user base at large. Previously, the concept of digging meant all users had a say in what content made it to the front pages of the site.

The switch appears to be a response to a overall paradigm shift when it comes to social networking. Sites like Twitter and Facebook have made consumers more apt to follow what their friends are doing rather than some random Internet user they may no nothing about.

Call me crazy, but I feel drastic changes like what seems to be proposed here are often perilous. Users are accustomed to one way of doing things. If you change too much of what has made you popular, you risk alienating and frustrating your loyal users. Will Digg’s changes do just that? It’s hard to say.

I’m just hoping here that they’re not planning to change too much of the user experience, or that could definitely spell trouble.

(Hat tip: Telegraph UK)


Digg This: The White House's Social Media Experiment

Reviving an experiment it conducted during the transition, the Obama administration is using a Digg-style collaborative system called Open for Questions to collect questions for the president to answer. Here’s why it’s doi–oh, heck, wouldn’t you prefer to hear it from the horse’s mouth?

Open for Questions lets registered users submit questions and vote on questions submitted by others. I can’t understand why the interface is trapped inside a tiny window that involves lots of scrolling, but the questions that are rising to the top are no worse than those that citizens tend to ask when presented with the opportunity at town-hall style meetings with elected officials. Here are the ones at the top of the rankings when I checked:

Open for Change

I’m not sure what anti-tampering measures are in place at Open for Questions–you gotta think that even now, someone’s plotting a prank like the one that resulted in Hank the Angry, Drunken Dwarf being voted People’s Most Beautiful Person of the Year in 1998. And I found that it’s more fun to read the unfiltered questions that the service shows you for voting–they’re wackier and crankier. A high percentage are from folks who are fretting about immigration (illegal and otherwise), and some are from conspiracy theorists, obsessives, and people with unique ideas for fixing the economy:





The president will answer questions from this round of voting tomorrow (on the Web, naturally). I’m not sure if he’ll simply respond to the most popular ones, no matter what they may be–or if he’ll be more selective. Betcha that none of the four above will make the cut, though..


The Diggbar is Just Not a Good Idea

digg-logoA Flickr photo has set off a firestorm of speculation across the web as to the social news sites future plans, which apparently involve the launch of a application-free browser toolbar. It would appear that the toolbar would work much like application StumbleUpon debuted last year.

SU originally started as a browser add-on, however it ditched that model to use HTML frames instead in September. Users start their experience from the SU homepage, and their browsing afterward appears in the framed user interface.

A user would be able to digg stories without actually going to the site, as well as submit content. Like SU’s app, they would also be able to randomly surf to another digged site from the toolbar itself.

It would also allow for the easy sharing of digged sites through Facebook messages, e-mail, Digg “shouts,” or through Twitter.

Now this sounds all well and good, and interesting, so how is it a bad thing for Digg? Simply put, its going to add a significant amount of noise to the site. Digg’s submission process acts somewhat as a filter of sorts, discouraging people from digging everything and anything.

Using a toolbar would simplify this process dramatically. It would also probably have the effect of muddying the site with a lot of submissions that are of little value. This would also cheapen Digg’s brand in my opinion.

While yes I understand the sites desire to increase traffic, I am not so sure going to a toolbar may be a good idea.


Digg’s Problems Aren’t Going to Be Easily Fixed

There are stories on the Internets today about Kevin Rose’s talk in London during the Future of Web Apps conference. Specifically, Rose was tapped to to talk about the future of online news, and he was surprisingly candid about Digg’s problems while there.

A common critique of the site is that while it may sport some impressive user numbers — some 30 million per month, it only has a userbase of three million members. Of those, it’s likely that far less actually participate in “digging.” This means a fairly small number of Digg’s users are essentially driving what everyone else sees.

What results is a skewed sense of news, and has led to the criticism of the site, much of it warranted. It is also what led Netscape to create its own clone of the popular social news site (now defunct), and also gave birth to Yahoo Buzz.

Both those services did or have some editorial control over submissions. Digg has repeatedly refused to exert any over its own site, preferring to hand the keys over to Diggers.

Therein lies the problem. Rose is lamenting that the site needs to move beyond geekdom and get “real world relevance.” The way Digg is currently set up, that’s just not going to happen. When your user base is generally the same subset of online users, they are going to probably like the same thing.

Stories of a particular type will always rise to the top, while stories that may have relevance to others stay buried. Digg’s challenge is to start mixing it up, and giving other types of stories more visibility.

But that’s not just going to happen. Digg users aren’t going to start digging stories that are anathemic to their interests. In some cases they may need to be force fed them, which it is apparent that the company has no intention of doing.

Personalization may work, and from the reporting I’m seeing of the conference that seems to be the route Digg wants to take. But it still does not solve the problem Digg currently has, which is news filtered through folks with roughly the same exact worldview.

That’s not going to be fixed by redesigning your website.

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New iPod Nano? Sure. This One? I’m Skeptical.

Digg’s Kevin Rose has blogged that new, cheaper iPods will arrive in the next two or three weeks. That I can believe. (I’d bet on the outer edge of the prediction timewise or even a bit later, since Apple will almost certainly need a little time to invite journalists to a press event to roll out the new line.) But Rose has also posted a photo of what is supposedly the new iPod Nano in a skinny form factor that looks more like the original Nano than the current, more squarish design:

Like all alleged spy shots of unreleased products, this one is conveniently fuzzy-wuzzy…actually, it appears to be in black and white. (How come nobody with access to a top-secret product ever has a decent digital SLR handy?) But the shot is clear enough to see that the touch wheel has a menu button, backward and forward buttons, and a play/stop button.

And that’s why I think this photo is a fake. Presumably, the design involves holding the iPod in portrait mode when listening to music, and rotating it into landscape orientation to watch video. But in landscape mode, the orientation of the touch wheel doesn’t make a lot of sense: Backwards becomes up and forward becomes down, and the “Menu” label is sideways. Yes, you could figure it out. But I have a hard time believing that Apple would do anything so apparently ungainly and inelegant. (The iPhone’s rotating screen makes perfect sense, since the touch-screen controls rotate, too–and note that the one button on the iPhone’s face was designed to look exactly the same no matter what the orientation.)

Full disclosure: I’m probably predisposed to hope that this isn’t the new Nano, since I think the current square one is one of Apple’s nicest industrial designs ever. (I’m not sure why, but think of it as being a little guy; there’s something human about the proportions and styling.) If this one looked like an improvement, I might be more inclined to suspend my disbelief. For now, though, I don’t wanna believe.

Let’s end with a flashback to late 2006: Kevin Rose said that the iPhone was on its way (right!) but said it would be released on all carriers simultaneous, would have a slide-out keyboard, and would sport dual batteries (wrong, wrong, wrong)!

I hope that once again, he’s right on the timing and wrong on the details…

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