You are hereDigg Comment System Improvements for v4

Digg Comment System Improvements for v4

By hagrin - Posted on 19 August 2006

Call me "obsessed much" and I would agree with you. My interest in Digg isn't to bash it or degrade it, but to make Digg the most valuable resource for technical information on the Internet due to its sophisticated ranking system, active user base and ability to pull in information from all over the Internet. However, especially since the release of Digg v3, I have become more and more irritated with the way Digg seems to be shaping itself and would like to point out the issues and point out some possible solutions/improvements. I would post this on somewhere other than my blog, but Digg doesn't really give their users a forum to discuss topics like these in-depth (we all hate blog spam). First, what I see "wrong" with Digg -

The "What's Wrong" -
1) Digg's comment meta moderation doesn't work -

  • All users have the same weighted voice - if a comment is posted at the beginning that "sounds" smart, uninformed users will think that post is factually correct and the comment will be "dugg" up. In fact, a correction could come later and the correction will not be dugg as high since it wasn't posted in a timely fashion in some instances. In several cases, the incorrect post is difficult to correct due to the number of positive diggs resulting from the placement of the comment, the fact that people mindlessly digg comments that already have a lot of diggs (i.e. "group think"), and that people who previously thought the comment was accurate cannot correct their vote.
  • First comments get moderated more - the moderation system is uneven for the order of posts to a story. Due to the huge volume of even first page stories, people rarely have time to read all the comments associated to a story and only the comments near the top of the page are moderated with any type of frequency. I call this phenomenon the "commenting flurry" that occurs when a post hits the front page.
  • Wasted diggs - what is the difference between +5 diggs or +125 diggs? Since people browse generally not to see negative posts or minimal negative posts (most browse at +0 or higher), positive diggs past a certain point are superfluous since they don't change user commenting weight or the reader's experience.
  • People get "dugg" up for asking "dumb" questions - you should not be dugg up for contributing a simplistic question to the conversation. In some cases, the question is dugg higher than the informative answer. For instance, someone may ask what a technical term means and receives more positive diggs than the actual, very informative answer which is inherently wrong. This phenomenon, plus other comment rating issues, makes browsing comments at a level higher than +0 diggs impossible without losing valuable content that exists within story-based comments.

2) Digging to Read Later - The other day I saw a story hit the front page RSS feed that only had 100 diggs, no comments and the site was experiencing the "Digg" effect (when a site effectively gets DDoSd into submission and the story no longer loads). However, since the topic is interesting, users have started to use Digg as a "social bookmarking" application and effectively throwing off the ranking/weighting system that is at the belly of how Digg works (however, many argue that Digg is in fact a self-proclaimed bookmarking system; although, I would argue the bookmarking mindset directly interferes with how the rest of Digg works). Although a very useful and smart action from the user perspective, this bookmarking action actually throws off the integrity of the Digg ranking/weighting system. A great example of this can be found here. If a story is Dugg to the point of throwing 404 errors and hundreds of people want to bookmark an article based on title alone, what will prevent baseless, incorrect, sensational stories from hitting the front page if they have well-written, interest catching headlines?

The Possible Solutions -
Generally, it's good practice that when you point out a problem that you offer a solution. So, here's the best ideas I came up with over the last month or so while raiding the train to and from work every morning -

1) Users need the ability to create their own authoritative universe - Yikes, that was a mouthful. This idea is an extension of the "Friends and Foes" idea from *gasp* Slashdot *gasp*. However, where Slashdot gets it wrong due to their awful interface and failure to take the idea to the next step, I propose a more dynamic way of altering the way comments are displayed to the user. The idea generally revolves around the following logic:

  • User A diggs up or down a comment and/or story of User B's (Edit: As one commenter (ok, the only one) has pointed out, this solution isn't really meant for stories as much as it is the commenting system.)
  • Based on those diggs, future comments or stories posted by User B would appear promoted or demoted (i.e. weighted) to User A creating a custom "Digg experience" that evolves as the user contributes to Digg
  • This would eliminate the need for users to "ban" problem users and preserve threaded replies to previously banned users (currently, if you ban a user, you will also "lose" the comments made in threaded reply to that banned user)

What problems does this solve? Well, digging up or down posts that have already been firmly entrenched (i.e. have +/- 20 diggs already) are still worthwhile to input your opinion which solves the "wasted diggs" problem. In addition, this could potentially solve the incorrectly dugg up and dumb questions problems as you continually mod up or down other users and your "own universe" on Digg evolves to provide you with the most efficient output possible. Obviously, this would be a feature that you could turn on and off as you may want to see highly rated posts by everyone else, but this feature provides users like myself the ability to shape Digg and create de facto "authoritative sources".

2) Make Further Use of the Friends Feature - As a corollary to the above, if you make someone a friend, a user will not need to go through the process of digging up User B's comments and would just need to make them a friend to weight them positively.

3) Require Users to Click on the Article Link - Before being allowed to Digg an article, force users to have to click on the article link before being able to digg its content. This should at least prevent the "mindless" digg where users digg stories that they haven't at least tried to read (the page could have 404'd but that's near impossible to track). The drawback to this solution would be that this could "destroy" the bookmarking aspect of Digg, but I would argue that it would be a worthwhile feature to separate outside of actually digging an article.

4) Provide Users a Bookmarking Option Separate from Digging a Story - Since many users love Digg for the bookmarking functionality it provides (and solutions should not remove useful features, but improve them), Digg should think about providing a stand alone bookmarking feature that exists outside of digging an article. This would keep the integrity of the weighting/digging system in tact while still allowing users to "tag" an article if they cannot read a story at work or the article's web server is under the Digg Effect.

Hopefully, some of these ideas can pickup momentum and maybe we'll see them implemented for v4. However, I'm worried that one of the best tools I have for keeping up with technological news and information is steadily becoming cluttered and noisy and I have found myself looking for a more efficient alternative. Again, I apologize for the blog spam; however, without a better alternative, this seemed like the best method to get those ideas out there.