Thursday, June 14, 2007

What is the purpose of Digg? Let's count the ways

On any given day, an estimated 15 million blog posts are being made, out of which 6000 or so are submitted to Digg, not more than 20 posts get any respectable attention – the rest are just spam, at least that’s how the big users see them as – lame, incorrect, these are some of the most common epithets being ascribed to buried stories.

Now, what is the point of existence of sites like Digg?

1. Is it outstanding journalism?
If that is the case then I think the likes of New York Times, Washington Post, Economist, Christain Science Monitor and others are better served by a new digg-like system, which only aggregates stories from the top 100 news outlets in the world.

Digg as the modern version of the supermarket tabloid with a geeky edge is not far off the mark.

The Top Digged stories of today are:

Find out what (American) accent you have. (very short quiz)
911 refuses ambulance for woman dying in ER waiting room; nurses dont help
China Threatens War Over Bush Handshake
Gizmodo: Digg Spam Sucks
Teach the controversy: Pi = 3.0 (textbook stickers included!)
11 Worst 007 Gadgets
Judge suing dry cleaner cries over pants in court
Iran moves to execute porn stars
BBC: World Now in America // pics
Hilton's parents skip line on jail visit -unfair

2. Or, is it allowing a few blogs to come out and becoming mainstream news outlets themselves?

This seems more the case. The charm of Digg as a source of traffic is not what it was before. Randfish at Seomoz complained that the site was not getting as much digg traffic as before.

Harry Maugans did a study and found that only 15 or so sites have dominated Digg while it has been existence – so Digg as a champion of open source, web 2.0 style, anything style articles is surely out of question.

I was not surprised to know that big blogs such as Lifehacker have their own policy of putting dig buttons only on exclusive and original stories – these blogs are not blogs, but aspiring big-ticket magazines and Digg is their path to glory.

For example, have a look at Lifehacker’s official Digg Policy.

3. Is it letting users discover better news?

For that you must compare all the big sites – Slashdot, Nytimes, BBC, Metafilter, Newsvine, Reddit and others and find out for yourself what you have been missing. Other than the Paris Hilton story in 2005, I haven’t come across a ‘unique – only-on Digg’ story. The Virginia Tech story got faster home page traction on Newsvine than Digg, where it got stuck in the middle pages.

For tech stories of depth, Slashdot is any day better. But if if you are in for boobs and gadgets maybe Digg is fit for you..

If you are patient enough, you might find gems while browsing tag on the quiet but effective

4. Is it making Users happy?
If there is one category of users that Digg makes happy is that group of 14-24 year olds who make snap judgments on the merits of a story about Obama’s Kennedy like appeal (By the way Diggers are heavy on someone called Ron Paul), decisions that make or break many an online entrepreneur’s short-term fate.

These guys may be good coders but does that mean all coders are all-around Mensa geniuses? I don’t know. But i bet the judges during the inquisition period in Europe took a little more time.

Some of the Digg users are happy making pithy comments but if it is valuable comments you are looking for, Slashdot, Techcrunch are more worthy places to be at.

At the end of it all, Digg is mostly about a select group of people, putting a select group of blogs and news outlets on top while the most blog posts are discarded to oblivion.

People have long debated the merits of social news, about the possibilities of better Digg-like systems; however, little has been done on this front so far.

The situation of all those eager bloggers and all those posts going nowhere doesn’t make you happy.

The whole world is not crap or ‘lame’ as a digger might put it.

There may not be 15 million original blog posts a day but there may be thousands and in the way it deals with most submitted stories, Digg is no better than a web 2.0 baiter such as Andrew Keen who believes that it is all amateurish trash.

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