Saturday, October 21, 2006

So what's up with Digg?

First thing: I am an utter newb when it comes to So a lot of this post amounts to stupid user questions. But hey, maybe I'll get some answers. I did try to do some searching, but the sheer volume of "digg" hits with any given keyword makes this somewhat challenging. The voume is one of the things that makes Digg useful, but I normally read it through an RSS feed.

Yesterday, I was in a debating mood. So I waded into a Mac security discussion on Digg, here:
This is me on Digg:
(And no arguement from me that the original article there is inflamatory and inaccurate. I wanted to argue with the people who don't know the difference between threats and vulnerabilities, and so think the lack of threats mean there are no vulnerabilities.)

A few brief observations. First off, tons of Mac fanboys who aren't particularly knowledgeable about security, but have a lot of blind faith. No surprise. If I make a post to the contrary, give a counterexample, or ask someone to explain their position, it gets dugg down. Also no real surprise, I've seen this happen before with other users. But I find the volume and consistency of that behavior interesting. It appears that if you don't like or don't agree with someone's post, you give it a negative digg. Well, I don't, at least not yet. If you're discussing something , simply shouting down the other person is pointless and rude. But I see that that is how it works. I'm guessing it's gameable, too? By just simply having multiple accounts?

I see that as broken. And this is from the point of view on a longtime Slashdot user. Sure, I'm used to seeing unpopular opinions modded down on Slashdot in a similar fashion. But not nearly to the same degree. Why is that? Because Slashdot has caps on both mod points, and how high or low something can be modded? And most people don't get mod points often? Because you have to supply a reason for the moderation (interesting, flamebait, etc...)? Because you can see someone's ID number, and can tell how long they have been on Slashdot? Because you can't both moderate and participate in the same discussion? I'm not sure, probably some combination of those and other factors I haven't observed.

I will throw one opinion out there, that it's probably a bad idea to simply give people an infinite supply of anonymous red buttons to shout down someone they disagree with. Especially if those buttons don't obviously represent some objective quality of the post in question.

Now, some regular bugs/questions/feature requests:

  • Why aren't discussions threaded? Why, in order to reply to a particular comment, do I have to go find the parent to the whole thread? Then I probably have to click "show comment" because it was dugg down too far. Then click reply. Then scroll all the way back up and find the post I wanted to reply to. Then manually copy the person's username into my post to show which person I'm replying to. Then cut-and-paste the text I want to quote. Doesn't seem very Web2.0y. How about if there's just a "reply" button on every post so that it's clear who I'm replying to, and it could even autoquote. You know, like every email client for the last 20 years.
  • How do I know when a discussion I'm participating in has been responded to? Part of this is related to the previous threading issue, I'm sure. It's hard to track who is talking to whom, when the discussion is almost entirely flat. So, fix that, and then give me the option of getting an email when someone responds to me. Or at least a link somewhere on the site where I can see new responses I haven't viewed yet. Where's my "subscribe to this thread" button?
  • There's no way for me to link to a particular comment?
  • When digging stories, I can filter by particular topics and properties of the sumissions (age, popularity, etc..) How do I filter out the ones I've already dugg?
  • Where is Digg's todo/upcoming features list?
  • Where the bug database for Digg, so I can see if these things are known or have been requested?
I'm not just trying to complain. Some of these things must have simple answers, and if someone would supply those for me, I would appreciate it. I have tried to do some searching, but "digg" and any keyword you can think of will simply pull up a list of stories that have been linked from Digg for that topic. There needs to be a keyword that indicates that it's about Digg itself, "metadigg" perhaps.

And, naturally, I have dugg this blog entry, so I can see some of the rest of the proccess, and maybe some answers to my questions. If you diggers do end up coming and helping me out, then I thank you in advance.


Anonymous said...

Digg is less usable than a plain and old-fashioned web forum (you can't reply with quotes, etc.), it's difficult to have a proper discussion, there is so much noise, the discussion is getting too cluttered. And yes, the moderation system is a joke. If you get negative diggs for a comment it just means that some people strongly disagree with your take. They don't have to motivate their opinion, they can have a valid point… or not.

I don't think people need multiple accounts, who needs sock puppets when you have a lot of like-minded cronies? It seems you're trying to take Digg seriously, Digg can be great to increase your readership if you're into that sort of thing (it's like a popularity contest) or if you're looking for an entertaining read or a giant playground. It's pretty useless to filter news stories, anything can make it to the front page: How I fooled Digg and made it to the frontpage.

I'm under the impression that Digg users think they are part of the web elite or something, when in fact they're not more knowledgeable than your garden variety forum poster. Sorry guys, posting on a hyped Web 2.0 site will not make you insightful.

Ryan Russell said...

Anil: Nice experiment, and good observations as well.

Some further thoughts:

I've submitted a few stories, including this blog entry. Zero response. One was rather anti-Mac, while the other pointed out that Slashdot seems to have swiped a digg feature.

I didn't expect much response out of the Mac story, since I have obviously observed that there is a strong Mac fanbase on digg. However, I have also observed a strong us-vs-them sentiment with regard to Slashdot, so I kinda expected some reaction to that one.

But I got zero response. As in, not even dugg down. (I think. Can you go less than 1?)

And another observation outside of digg itself: I think they have far more Mac zealots, and I think they may be much less informed. Or at least, it seems there is a very vocal yet ignorant group of Mac fans on digg. It happened again today.

Part of that realization is the fact that I've had zero negative responses to my Mac blog entries. As of this writing, I haven't had to delete any comments, and I've left it fairly open.

And again, I'm not going to force someone to run their website any way other than how they want, but geeze, it's really hard to see the utility for anyone who wants a real discussion.

But realistically, I can see where popularity is its own reward, and the people who run digg have to be a little reluctant to mess with it too much.

Anonymous said... FTW