Digg normally rolls out new features poorly. The debacle that was the “new and improved” dupe detector has yet to show signs of improvement. The Diggbar changes are still a sore spot for many, especially in the way that it was rolled out, changed, and re-rolled out.
Digg Trends is, for now (crossing fingers), a new feature that seems to be doing what it’s supposed to do.
I was terrified when I saw the story below listed as a Trending Topic and held this blog post until it had finished it’s 10-minute trial. Thankfully, Digg Trends (and the Digg community) kept this story off of the front page. “Failed! Just like nu metal, this trend failed. It won’t be promoted.”
While it hasn’t yielded the true “trending topics” as often as would be expected, there have been some significant victories that shine a glimmer of hope on the concept that Digg can finally enter the breaking-news arena. The idea behind Digg Trends is that if a story is important enough to garner a large number of Diggs in a short period of time, then that story will be given a 10-minute opportunity to be deemed worthy or not for the front page.
In theory, if a big story such as Michael Jackson’s death were to get submitted and start skyrocketing up with upcoming Diggs, it will be given an opportunity to make it to the front page more quickly than before. In theory, this is a brilliant move, as it allows truly important stories to be “vetted” to the front page.
One may ask, “Why would it need to be ‘vetted’? Why not just see the story getting a lot of Diggs and promote it without using this feature?”
The problem that Digg has had to face for nearly 5 years now is that they are often the targets of gaming. Because of the tremendous traffic opportunities that a Digg front page story presents, many attempt to artificially inflate Digg counts. They are forced to put spam-countermeasures into their algorithm to prevent the wrong stories from hitting.
These countermeasures are what prevent stories such as Michael Jackson’s death from hitting the front page despite hundreds of Diggs in the first hour. With Digg Trends, a story like that would trigger the “vetting” and allow it to hit the front page as the breaking news story that it was.
So, how is it doing? Here are some stats from the first 30 stories to go through the Digg Trends ringer:
Digg Trend Stories: 30
Promoted to the Front Page: 25
Promoted Stories Buried from the Front Page: 1 (the first 1)
Total Digg Trend Stories Buried: 3
Promoted Stories were Actual “Breaking News”: 4
Stories Receiving over 800 Diggs: 5
Stories About Health Care: 3
Stories About Michele Bachmann: 2 (1 promoted, 1 buried)
Stories About Animals: 3 (pigs, goats, and crabs)
Stories About Aliens/Space Travel: 2
Domains that Hit Twice: 4 (CNN, NYTimes, Techcrunch, YouTube)
Stories About Glenn Beck, Megan Fox, or Bacon: 1 (but it was buried)
While the goal of focusing more on “trending topics”, whether it’s breaking news or highly supported topics, hasn’t come through as expected, it’s still a tremendously successful beta launch considering the complexity of the Digg algorithm and the implementation of this type of structure. The two biggest news stories since Digg Trends launched (Health Care Passing and Orlando Shooting) both hit and were promoted through Digg Trends, so that aspect is strong.
As long as it isn’t too easy to game, this new feature appears to be heading in the right direction.
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