How Digg is Dropping the Ball (limited to 3 issues, begrudgingly)

Thumbs Up DiggIt’s been nearly a year now, but when Kevin Rose boldly announced that “you’ve made it clear” and “If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying,” in regards to the the HD-DVD key that was published everywhere, Digg was on top of the social media world with a true opportunity to be the site “for the people.”  While the move to ignore a cease and desist declaration was a bit less bold than most understood at the time (it was everywhere at that point), it was still a public relations goldmine that Digg could have very easily parlayed into perpetual success.  They just had to do one thing…

Listen to your people and deliver what they want.

Over the last year, Digg has focused on several issues.  While all of these have importance, Digg has paid these issues more than enough attention.  In most cases, they’ve paid too much attention them.

Gaming of the System

One thing is clear.  Digg gets spammed.  With the search engine optimization benefits, the potential traffic explosion, and the somewhat addictive lure of front page submitting, Digg is hammered more than any other site on the Internet by spammers and self-promoters.  Still, there seems to be a sense of desperation coming from the Digg camp — they protect their algorithm better than Google and change it more often than Yahoo.  Most of the “improvements” are designed to keep people trying too hard to get to the front page from getting to the front page.

While nobody wants a system that is gamed, their focus should be more on quality and less on the “you can’t beat us, damn it” attitude.  The algorithm as of today is more difficult to game for most, but the quality of the front page has gone down tremendously month after month and duplicate stories are gaining traction over the originals.  Recently, stories from the exact same source with the exact same headline are popping up with the second or third resubmission hitting the front page before the first:

http://digg.com/odd_stuff/Rick_Rolled_to_child_porn_you_re_a_pedophile_says_FBI — 50 Diggs

http://digg.com/world_news/Rick_Rolled_to_child_porn_you_re_a_pedophile_says_FBI_2 — 3040 diggs, submitted afterwards and pushed to Upcoming in All section with 32 diggs (while the original submission had 44)

The reason for this is what brings us to the second issue…

WHO submitted is more important than WHAT is submitted

Quality is not nearly as important as it used to be.  Need proof?  Check out the Digg “coverage” of the last Super Bowl.  What hit the front page first?  An ESPN story?  Perhaps FoxSports or TheSportingNews?  Nope, Digg promoted Thomas L. Shaffer’s blog coverage.  While I would love to pull it up and show some of the issues with this, the link now yields a 404 error.  BTW — this is nothing against this guy’s blog, but it shouldn’t have been the story about arguably the greatest upset in Super Bowl history.

Currently, there are two Tina Fey stories on the front page.  Funny gal, yes, but not worth a double dip an hour and a half apart.  Still, this kind of “quality” is running rampant on the front page.  As one top 5 Digger told me the other night…

“Upcoming sorted by most is where the real stories are.  I’d rather read something that gets 150 Diggs from a good source than some of the s__t that’s hitting the front page at 29 Diggs lately.”

Communication

When Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson said on The Drill Down that they were planning on some way for Diggers to interact with them, they referred to Town Hall Meetings that would happen “every couple of weeks, maybe every month.”  When the announcement came down 3 weeks later, it was declared as “once every 3 or 4 months”.

To make it worse, it wasn’t a Town Hall Meeting.  They took 20 questions accumulated through comments on a digg post about the issue.  This could have been handled via a recorded video or a podcast — no reason to have a set time and place for the “event”.  Then, they took the opportunity to take live questions emailed to them.  This was good, except for the fact that they answered 4.  Four questions, 2 of which were not very interesting, and then they appeared to be in a rush to get off the air.  All together, it lasted a little over an hour before they had to rush off to more important business than addressing their users’ concerns.

I was floored.  I could write so much more on this single issue of the so-called Digg Town Hall, but I just can’t without shaking.  It angers me that we were finally given some form of communication that was (A) a scam, and (B) cut very, very short.

There are other issues, many of which are more important than the ones discussed here.  Shout spam, comment suckage, transparency issues, autobury (sshhhhh)… the list is large, but definitely not the content for one post.

With changes coming to Propeller, Reddit, Mixx, and StumbleUpon, and with upcoming social media sites currently in development, Digg needs to either address their issues or sell while they’re still hot.  Their value is dwindling in many people’s eyes.

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Comments

  1. says

    I completely agree with the upcoming story filter. Very often the popular upcoming stories are far superior to the front page. It’s a shame that Digg can not figure out how to make it their algorithm work well.

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