Digg your own hole

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

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?


When six million words ain’t enough

1 picture = 1000 words
video = 24 pictures per second
my YouTube video = 3:11 (251 seconds)
251 seconds x 24 frames x 1000 words = 6,024,000 words

You know what would clarify 6 million words? About 100 more words!

I’ve had some pretty amazing viewership numbers (nearly 68,000 as of this writing) on my very simple YouTube screencast of my old song, Technophrenia, being played in ModPlug Tracker. I enabled email notifications for the comments and have been doing my best to reply to people’s questions about how I wrote the song. Unfortunately, YouTube’s comment system is atrocious and randomly discards my replies even after it assures me they’ve been successfully submitted.

I noticed some videos featuring very annoying “annotations” superimposed over videos and assumed it was some kind of new ad system, but after delving into the interface I realized I had the opportunity to annoy my viewers as well! I enthusiastically created a little realtime walkthrough of the mechanics of writing a song in MOD (or similar) format. It was an uphill battle, though, since the annotation interface is extremely buggy and glitchy. Luckily it seemed to auto-save about every minute so although I had to refresh the page after making pretty much every little adjustment, and even though the entire YouTube website became unresponsive for a while (did I DOS them with my refreshes?), I never lost any progress.

Here’s my annotated video. If you have exceptional patience maybe you can do something similar for your own videos. (I tried to embed the video but annotations only show when you view it on YouTube’s site).

Hypnotic Melody – Technophrenia (annotated)

Incidentally, can anyone out there recommend a good self-hosted Flash video player app that I can embed on my blog? I’d rather host the videos myself to ensure reliablility.


Analyse this

Google Analytics has just implemented a sexy new layout and it’s pretty slick! They’ve changed the default summary from 7 to 30 days which gives a better visual overview of trends, and they’ve squeezed more features onto each screen. Me likey!!

One feature I like is the ability to export results to PDF. The reports it generates are very attractive and well laid-out. I’d like to share one of these reports.

Fear not, there is absolutely no identifying data about any one user, anonymous or otherwise, in this report. I’m not terribly interested in the comings and goings of individual users anyway so I don’t care to track them. For the most part Google Analytics focuses on broad trends more than sessions.


Download my Analytics report here

P.s., if you see my Snap Preview plugin you’ll probably be as impressed as I am that hovering over a link to a PDF actually shows a preview! Man that’s cool!