How do you digg? Do you digg up articles that fascinate you? Articles that your friends recommend? Articles you want to check back on later? Do you use it as a social news system, as intended, or as a bookmarking system? The problem, as I see it, is that as cool as digg is, there’s no real guide as to how to use the site. I think it can be fixed with a few minor changes. Read on for more.
Digg‘s big problem, I think, is that’s it’s now in Slashdot territory. Too many sites buckle under the weight of the traffic digg sends its way, consequently, you find several stories a day pointing to an unresponsive website. Worse, you end up with site after site pointing to a WordPress database connection error page. This is especially frustrating when the WordPress blog points to an embedded video from YouTube, break.com, or Google Video, all of whom could have otherwise handled the traffic.
We know that often times, once they make the front page, stories continue to receive diggs even if the site is unresponsive. Why? How can this be? This exposes a major flaw in the system – if the title and description are good enough, people will digg it, no matter what is on the other side. And that suggests we need two things.
First and foremost, we need bookmark functionality. Make my digg history almost worthless by allowing me to arbitrarily bookmark posts – seriously. This way, I can digg posts that I think should be in the front page without worrying that my history will be diluted. Maybe a bookmark (but not a digg) counts as a quarter-digg in the algorithm (or something like that). This way, I can bookmark a post to revisit it later without digging it now. I can choose to digg it later or not.
The idea of “digg” I think has always been to play the word “dig,” such as “Yeah, man, I really like this site. Ya dig?” How can you digg something you haven’t seen?
If bookmarks were implemented, posts wouldn’t necessarily continue to accumulate diggs even if the page goes down. Loyal readers suckered by a good headline, as I was yesterday when I kept going back to a posts entitled “Uber-Nerd Calls 911” which pointed to this clip from Reno 911, wouldn’t be forced to digg something just to remember to come back to it. The site went down mere seconds after being front paged, and then to rescue to the poor site, the video was temporarily removed and links to other videos were put in its place. Now, sure, there’s DuggMirror, but DuggMirror can be blocked by robots.txt, so it’s not a sure thing, and it requires me to remember or bookmark, rather than simply click a link on digg.com itself and have a pending list of links to revisit – my digg bookmarks.
This is very different from the recently introduced “My #1” feature, which is mostly useless to me. This allows you to chose a story you’d like to feature, for some unknown reason, but only from the stories you’ve dugg. Furthermore, since I added something to “My #1” the day it was rolled out mistakenly (due to a *Digg* coding error at that!), it’s stuck there, the first story in my myone section. I can’t remove it, even though I haven’t even dugg it.
Now, this could go the other way. While some may be more reserved in their digging once they can bookmark, it can be argued that adding bookmarks could potentially mean more diggs. Once you can segregate your important stories, a digg is easy to hand out with no limits. So the next step is that instead of the links going right to the site, the links should all be measured. I wouldn’t mind seeing a digg link point to http://digg.com/link/ae59f907b23 and then having my own personal “clicked link” history too.
On top of that, the number of actual clicks could factor into the algorithm. I’m betting that several people digg each front page story without ever having looked at it. Like all trends here, this is good and bad. It’s possible that I may feel as though this piece should be shared, particularly if it’s a headline like “Rumsfeld Quits!” that I know to be true whether I read the article or not. But for most stories, the number of clicks should matter. If the number of diggs paces the number of clicks, for most stories, this is suspicious. And I bet it happens a lot. This goes double for comedy videos or submitters who conjure great headlines.
Yes, I always check out the window.status onmouseover, but this could easily be replaced even if the link doesn’t point to the URL is redirects to. Perhaps this feature could even be toggled for the ultra paranoid who are freaked out about being monitored. I just assume that since HTTP is sniffable by anyone who uses TCP/IP and has access to routers, my click history – at least at digg.com – isn’t that sensitive.
The last big problem I see with Digg is the ever-growing stream of duplicates. Yesterday, someone submitted this genius piece. It was probably the 20th article about the Macbook Core 2 Duo release. Since it was a dupe, the author got around it by pointing to the site: http://www.apple.com/powerbook. Of course, since there is no Powerbook anymore, it redirects you to a meaningful page, but one that has already been submitted. This is silly – the author almost assuredly knew this was a duplicate story and purposely entered this URL to fool the digg engine. 2300+ diggs later, it paid off. Digg needs a better way of monitoring dupes. Wikipedia has an interesting practice – when a potentionally controversial entry is linked from an external source that drives large amounts of traffic in, the administrators lock down that entry for some period. Perhaps digg needs some site admins whose job is solely to monitor the site, a few smart operators to scan the Matrix. When there’s an announcement such as new Macbooks or Vista’s RTM, they look for dupes and simply blow em away. Sure, is is community run. But I’m sure the community agrees that softing through the same stupid announcment 20+ times makes digg.com/view/all/upcoming a real chore.
Digg is a great site, its only shortcoming is that various methods of using the tools provided to us make for results that are inconsistent. Furthermore, bad links can be, and often are, dugg up if the site is down but the title is good enough. A few changes to the core of the site would make the entire thing much more usable and would make the concept of a digg more valuable.
So, in summation:
- Digg should add a bookmarking system independent from the digg system
- Outgoing clicks should be measured
- Hire community moderators to weed out duplicate posts