Digging into Digg in Real Time


There’s an article in today’s Wall Street Journal about Digg, one of the core Web 2.0 web sites. Here’s the brief history and purpose of Digg according to the story:

What would happen if a Web site’s readers — instead of editors — could decide which stories should be published? Technology journalist Kevin Rose decided to find out. Two years ago he started a technology news site called Digg.com. The Web site lets users submit links to stories they recommend, along with brief summaries. Users also vote for submissions by clicking on a button labeled “digg it.” Each person can vote once per story. The most popular stories — determined by a formula the site doesn’t disclose, including factors like the number of votes received and the time of day — are automatically promoted to the site’s main page.

That sounds both visionary (particularly 2 years ago), useful and very much consistent with the move to the edge we’ve been talking about. All that makes it a little embarrassing for me to admit that I’ve never used Digg. Apparently I signed up in August 2005, because I have an account. But until today I’ve never explored or used it.

Let’s dig into Digg in real time and see what the big deal is. This is where multiple monitors and Firefox tabs become very handy.

Logging in and Profiling Up

I remembered my name and password after a couple of false starts. First stop, the Profile Page so I can fill in my particulars. There are three tabs there: Digging History (I don’t have any yet), Friends (I don’t have any of those either; I’d write Steve Rubel and ask if he’d be my friend, but he doesn’t read email from the hoi polloi so I better not) and Personal Profile.

Digging History shows what stories you have Dugg (more on that below). I am a man in need of a history, so I went back to the front page and saw some story bashing the RIAA’s cousin the MPAA. I dug it, so I Dugg it by clicking on the Digg icon. Clicking on the Digg item represents a vote for a story, which moves the story up the Digg list. When I clicked the Digg icon, the Digg number for that story immediately went up by 1 and a link to that story showed up in my Digging History. I now have a history.

Friends shows people you have added to your list of friends. You can search for friends by username, email address, name or location. I searched for Steve by name and email address and came up with nothing. Bummer. I did find Scoble (who I actually do consider a friend), but he hasn’t used his Digg account either, so he can’t show me the ropes. I’ll have to find some friends later, so on to the Personal Profile.

Your Personal Profile a place for, yes, your personal profile (name, email, website, IM address, etc.). It would be cool to have a place for links to other similar sites here- Delicious, Bloglines, etc. There is also a place on the page where your Digg stats are displayed (mine are pretty dismal since I’ve only Dugg that one story) and a place to select some display options for browsing around the Digg site (same window, new window, etc.) I made my selections and headed off to find some interesting stuff to read.

And Did I Find Good Stuff to Read?

Clicking the Home link at the top takes you back to the Digg Front Page, where the top stories appear based on a secret formula based on factors like the number of votes received and the time of day. The idea is that users pick the stories that get to the top, and that this citizen media approach will generally move faster than, and consequently scoop, old media. According to the Wall Street Journal story, Digg got the Google Pack story out hours before anybody else.

The stories I found were, as expected and as desired, heavily tech weighted and happily different from the ones I’d already seen this morning via my RSS feeds and daily reads. There were some stories about Firefox 2.0, a live rocket launch, WiFi and the NSA spying on us.

I am a big Firefox fan, so I followed that link, which had been Dugg 961 times (front page stories ranged from 71 to 969 Diggs). I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know, but I did find a source for Firefox news I didn’t know about.

All in all, it looks like a good place to mine for news and interesting content.

But Somehow it Feels a Tad Stressful

And that’s the strange part. I can’t explain it but something about the voting process feels a little stressful. Almost like a news story beauty contest. It’s a subtle feeling, and not one that will keep me away. But it’s definitely there. I wonder if it’s just me or if this is something others have felt?

Conclusions and a Digg Submission

I have added Digg to my daily reading list (yes, I know I’m probably the last person on earth to so do). I think it will be a good resource, notwithstanding the vaguely stressful feeling it gives me.

I’m going to publish this post and then submit it to Digg. Digging my own post may be a violation of some policy that will get me booted and keep my Digging History at 2 forever, but I’m going for the full immersive experience here- and so far I think it’s pretty cool.

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