In an update to my last post on Digg, the good news is my colleagues and I are now unbanned from Digg, following several emails. It’s good that the ban was lifted, as not only would it have left some of my colleagues unmotivated about social media, but I’m also quite determined to see if there’s a way to be successful at driving traffic on Digg without gaming the system – and to do that requires legitmate access rather than cheating and going through proxies, or using autoscripts etc. There’s quite an interesting profile of the top Digg user, MrBabyMan on ReadWriteWeb, and whilst our own Digg saga was developing, there was a rash of stories regarding whether or not he uses a script to autosubmit content.
But whatever happens, during my last post, I referneced quite a few sites which provide a major developing threat to Digg, as it continues to inhabit a world between the massive traffic of Yahoo Buzz, and the smaller focus of sites like Sphinn on the same technology premise.
RSS sharing: Personally, I use two web based RSS readers – Google Reader is my main reader, but I keep an account at Feedeachother because I got to know the sole person behind it, Udi Falkson, it’s got a lot of features which are as good as Google Reader, and it’s good to have a place for feeds which I read for pleasure and aren’t work related, stopping my main reader becoming incredibly overwhelmed. What both sites offer – and what almost every RSS reader contains now – is the ability to easily share stories with friends and fans via the sites themselves or emails etc. As user networks grow, this provides one major method for content of interest to appear in front of me.
Social news aggregators: In Web 1.0, this meant Digg. Now, however, it tends to mean sites like Twine and Socialmedian. These services combine uploading discovered content with methods to follow ‘friends’ who submit quality news, and to comment around it, re-share it, and discover more via recommendations. Numbers at the moment are small as Twine is still in private beta, and Socialmedian has recently emerged, but they’re growing:
Social networks/microblogging/lifestreaming: Lumping together everything from Facebook to Twitter to Friendfeed basically revoles around one thing. Recommendations from friends. I build networks on these sites from people I know or discover who share interests with me, and therefore, their recommendations carry a certain weight with them. Can I say the same about 800 random Digg users or Amazon reviewers? I know which of my friends can recommend video cameras, mobile phones, or good hiphop. And I’ve already built up this information in getting to know them and adding them. Do I want to have to start researching each Digg user, particularly when the top Diggers tend to submit and rate so much it’s seemingly random – one of the flaws of the Shout system and blind digging the content your friends send for reciprocal links.
Niche ranking sites: It doesn’t take much to create a ranking system – probably less work than getting an article on the front page of Digg! Hence sites like Sphinn, which concentrate on Marketing news and discussion. And bearing in mind that the ‘Digg Effect‘ is infamous for traffic which may have a high Bounce Rate, and low loyalty, the smaller niche sites have a benefit for attracting and interacting with likeminded individuals. Plus you need far less popularity to get to the front!
The majors: I’ve already mentioned Yahoo Buzz and the huge amounts of traffic it can bring. As major newspaper and media sites evolve towards becoming more digital, they’ll increasingly be seeking ways to aggregate and curate online content. They’ve got sizeable audiences, and a wider perceived range of interests than the ‘Digg Crowd’. If you’re not looking for technology specifically, would you browse Digg, or an aggregator run by the New York Times or the Guardian?
Something completely different – human search: I’ll be honest and admit I didn’t see a use for the likes of Mahalo when I first encountered it. Why search within a far smaller sea than Google can trawl, and rely on weak-minded humans rather than our robot overlords? But I always like to use something for a while before making a judgement, and I’m glad I did, because the Mahalo homepage and the plugin for Firefox have become really useful for seeing popular stories and sources of information (the plugin also improves Google search with a handy summary information box!). Now I get an overview of recent stories, which have had an element of human filtering. And it’s showing pretty good growth:
All of this information is coming to me without needing to visit the Digg homepage on a regular basis, or research the small group of Digg users who can effectively make or break a story. I could subscribe to sections by RSS, but given the churn of stories, and the fact I’m not interested in every car or internet news story, it becomes problematic. Instead, I can rely on friends and family who know me to be able to show me things they think are a) Cool, and b) Things I’d really like by their own self-selecting mechanism and no real effort on my part.
I’m intrigued to see how other people feel, especially after some of the great comments to my last post on Digg. At the moment, I can’t see an easy solution for Kevin Rose and the team, but I’ll try and outline some possibilities in my next post.