Welcome to the new Digg , somewhat different from the old Digg. In version 4 of the popular news aggregator site, rolled out today to users, will the new features manage to renew the site’s popularity, reversing the trend which has dropped them from 30 to 25 million visitors per month this year?
Success breed imitators, and in reworking the site, Digg’s drawn major inspiration from highly popular social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. The mechanism that affects a Digg user’s experience in the new version is the use of their social graph. Your “social graph” is your personal network of connections: people you know and (presumably) trust.
A crucial part of creating the user’s experience in the new Digg involves the onboarding process, in which a user sets up their list of people to follow the first time they log on. Users can utilize their already established social graph by importing information from their Facebook, Google, and Twitter accounts in order to see the people they’re already following elsewhere. Digg also provides a list of suggested profiles, which oddly enough seems to only feature celebrities, company profiles, and publishers, rather than popular users.
The list of people you follow - friends, taste-makers and publishers -- creates the “My Latest News” page, which shows only stories dugg by people you are following. Digg’s fleshed this experience out pretty thoroughly, showing why stories are appearing by showing the icon of the user whose Digg has made it appear them. You can expand the entry and see the list of everyone I know who dugg it. Beyond that, comments by people you’re following appears there, providing more information that lets you decide whether or not to click through and read the piece. A leaderboard to one side also shows the hottest news dug by your friends. Digg says the new process will allow small publishers more influence than the old version. In the past, only 120-140 stories make the Digg home page. Now, when you Digg a story it goes to your follower’s My News page, where they can Digg it in turn, starting what Digg founder Kevin Rose describes as “a chain reaction throughout the Digg universe that actually spreads your story to more people than would actually see it on the front Top News section on the site.” The Top News page still exists, giving insight into what Rose calls the “global zeitgeist.”
One advantage over sites like Facebook is touted by Digg’s creators: the elimination of things like status updates from the feed. That’s a crucial difference, as anyone whose Facebook feed is full of friends’ latest Farmville updates can attest.
Digg’s categories have been redone: subcategories have been removed, leaving only the top topics: Business, Entertainment, Gaming, Lifestyle, Offbeat, Politics, Science, Sports, Technology, and World News. The Images and Videos categories have both been removed, putting those of us seeking our daily dose of baby elephant videos and Lolcats to look elsewhere for our fix. Changes in a user’s Digg profile are notable as well, most importantly the ability to add links to your web sites in your profile for added exposure.
A notable miss is the lack of ability to cross-post. As someone who’s got their social networking presence on various sites linked in an intricate web, I’d like to be able to autopost to someplace like Twitter, and it seems a little churlish on Digg’s part not to include such a feature. Digg’s promised more features are forthocming, though, and perhaps that’s on the list. Another is the loss of the Diggbar , a bookmarklet that allowed users to interact with Digg while browsing other sites.
A major change is the loss of the “bury” button, which removes a feature that users had used to game the system. Is this a response, perhaps, to a story that swept the web last month, revealing a cabal of conservative users who organized in order to promote the stories they approved of and bury stories whose slant (or user’s political affiliation) they didn’t like? Even if not, it’s a change that is welcome, and perhaps overdue.
Along with the cleaner and significantly less cluttered interface, the submissions process has been made easier . Upon entering a URL, Digg fetches the picture and lead-in to the piece in a way that is oddly reminiscent of StumbleUpon ’s interface. Digg goes beyond this, though, in simplifying the process further by having Digg select the category
Publishers that have verified their ownership of a site can automatically input their content into Digg via RSS. Every story that comes in through this means automatically receives a single Digg so it will appear in your followers’ streams.
Overall, I’m pretty happy with the new Digg. Given the sheer volume of information available on the Internet, news aggregators provide a useful way to sort out the gems among the chaff. Unfortunately, with the old Digg, the channel got clogged and worse, sometimes directed in ways that I didn’t appreciate. In its place, I’d found a Twitter list more useful for researching, since it allowed me to follow some of the people making the news as well as those reporting it. With the new Digg I can subscribe to publisher feeds, and beyond that sorts through those feeds for me, based on my social graph as well as my preferences.