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Digg your own hole

Internet | Friday, October 17th, 2008 | 8 years, 9 months ago

My name is Brian and I’m a reformed Diggaholic. Yes, I used to be addicted to Diggahol; the informational ambrosia of content on Digg.com.

I began as a lurker in early 2006, sopping up the then tech-only news stories whenever Slashdot, my home page of many years, hadn’t saturated my sponge. I loved Digg’s concept of democratizing news, empowering its readership to grant its yea or nay for each story and each user comment, imposing the law of the jungle to separate the cheetahs from the zebu.

My impressions at that time were largely favourable but not wholly impressed. My own attempts to submit stories I found interesting all fell flat with fewer than 5 Diggs, and the sophistication of conversation fell far below that of Slashdot which uses a similar peer comment ranking system. Digg’s biggest asset was the sheer volume of stories, titilating me technologically at all times between less-frequent but generally harder-hitting Slashdot stories.

About a year later Digg’s eyes widened like saucers at the prospect of broadening its audience, so they opened the system up to the most mundane of news – non-tech news. At this point the floodgates opened and the masses flocked to Digg like Fox News to conjecture. With this influx of traffic came increasingly pervasive ads, many of which were animated and covered the primary content, uninvited, until being manually dismissed.

I enjoyed, but mostly endured the new news topics, largely because I had to. I had a user account which enabled me to toggle categories on Digg’s front page, but I chiefly navigated Digg through an RSS feed which was the same for everybody, including all topics. This subjected me to endless celebrity gossip, brainless top-10 lists, and worst of all, American politics. Specifically, Ron Paul and his overly aggressive supporters provided the last straw.

By this time the persona of Digg’s founder, Kevin Rose, appeared to have changed as well. I knew him first as a mousy troublemaker as “The Dark Tipper” on TechTV’s The Screen Savers show, offering black hat networking tricks and shadowey . He’s since seemingly evolved into a juvenile frat boy, hosting a variety of podcasts and web TV shows, openly drinking malt liquor and guffawing over the day’s sensationalist stories about sports bloopers and Hooters restaurant embarassments. Even his attempts to return to his more credible roots, by means of technology web shows, fell flat as he’d introduce fascinating topics involving meticulous handiwork, only to “start wipe” past the squeamish details in a fell swoop of brainless TV magic. I felt like the world had successfully swallowed Kevin Rose.

I’ve not returned to Digg since April, and have experimented instead with hosting my own RSS aggregator servers and similar solutions. I feel that in this day and age the ideal solution is for MY news to come to ME, not for me to seek out other people’s news as I did on Digg. Perhaps others agree with me.

A speculative story on the Search & Social blog prompted me to check out Digg’s Alexa traffic ratings myself. I was pretty astounded at the sharp dropoff of viewers around June of this year:

The increase in traffic from August 2007 through June 2008 is almost linear, with a sudden dramatic dropoff immediatley after. I wonder what could be the cause of this? Rumours of a Digg buyout have circulated for years, yet never seemed to find a suitable beau. If my web service showed such a linear increase in traffic I’d be reluctant to pin a price on it as well. Could it be that Digg has missed the gravy boat?

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