I’ve been a huge fan of Digg since at least 2006. I was never really swayed one way or another by the ‘revolts’ that rocked the site. I just used it find good stuff to read and that was enough for me.
What I liked about Digg was that it wasn’t Reddit. Don’t read into that too much, Reddit is awesome, I just use it in a different way. It’s so full of inside jokes and community self-references that I go there more to socialize than to consume. Whereas Digg, even at its peak was accesible to anyone, whether they were cool enough to be a part of the inner circle or not.
A number of things have changed at Digg over the last few years and I find myself using the site less and less. Today I decided to figure out why. For me, it was far too easy to explain it away as a result of better places for discovering content coming around. There have always been better places for discovering content, this used to be among the best. So what changed?
1. Digg was my prism for the web.
Twitter is a wonderful serendipitous maze for discovering things you didn’t know you were looking for during the process of finding the things you were. For me, the point of Twitter is to consume more than I need so that when I do need something specific I have more places to find it.
Facebook, assumes that I care what my ‘friends’ are interested in. I don’t. My friends are my friends because of what we don’t share in common, not necessarily because of what we do. Therefore, the ‘interest graph’ of people who are my friends is often completely and utterly irrelevant to me. This is because algorithms have yet to get good at figuring out what interests me about each friend and when.
So where do I go when I don’t want a firehouse of random pieces of information, but I also don’t want to use my friends as curators?
Well, that place used to be Digg. I could let strangers do all the work of finding good stuff to read. Not my friends, strangers. This is because I want to know what people who aren’t necessarily like me think.
2. Too Much Choice
Digg used to be simple. “Here is the most popular stuff from around the web today.” That’s it. Simple value proposition, thus what I expected of the site was obvious. More or less they’ve kept that experience. That is, until you actually start navigating the site.
What is this thing and why do I need it? What is it telling me? It looks cool and I’m sure it’s useful but this gives me more options when I actually want less. I clearly haven’t even taken the time to figure it out, because I don’t want to spend any more time doing anything but reading content. I’m just here as a news consumer.
3. Following Individuals Doesn’t Add Value For Me
I mentioned I like letting strangers curate what’s popular from around the web for me. Strangers with an ’s’, as in collectively. This is because it made for an interesting ‘picture’ of the web as assembled by many.
If I wanted to follow the particular interests of individuals I’d be happy just going to back to Twitter or Facebook. At least there I also get bits of their personality. Here it’s just random links. I prefer my web refracted by a prism, not the laser focus gaze of a single person. What about following my friends? Not my thing, See #1.
4. What is the difference between a Newsroom and Newswire?
Both have categories. Both have other filters. Both exist on a site that I thought was already my filter. These features seem to add more complexity where what I really want speed and simplicity.
5. Too many ‘Tops’
Top News in All Topics used to be an authoritative list on what was the ‘best of Digg’ and therefor, one communities take on what was the best of the web.
Now, because there are soo many Top choices on other parts of the site, I don’t have a clue what is the more valuable list to pay attention to.
This is perhaps because some users are looking for nuanced mechanisms for discovery out of Digg, and Digg has obliged. But I’m just looking for simple discovery. This is because the site has always leaned more towards that sort of offering and so that’s where the utility lies for me. This is because I’m here to consume content, not engage with the middle man delivering that content.
I’m not slagging off Digg, these are just observations of my own behavior as it relates to the site. I am a content junkie. I dive deep into discovery with applications like Google Reader and the plethora of tools out there for mining Twitter. Google+ and Facebook seem to think they can tell what I’ll find interesting algorithmically. Fair enough, sometimes that’s useful too…but what I miss is my human prism of the web.
Photo by Lowercased