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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.

The Increasing Irrelevance of

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

I'm not usually one to bash a website that completely dominates anything I have ever done, but I feel the need to vent since I feel as if I have lost one of the better tools I had., a social community, recently expanded its range of approved topics from strictly a technical site to a fully functional, talk about basically everything site. While the tech part was so highly successful that "digg" is becoming a recognized verb (much as "google" was recognized recentl by Websters), the recent additions of new categories (especially the political section) has increased the noise to signal ratio and the effects have been disasterous.

For those who need bullets, the new categories have caused the following problems:

  • The main RSS feed is now useless - with almost 200 stories making it to the front page every day (according to the rss/index.xml feed), the sheer amount of stories makes reading all that content basically unreadable. There's too much noise and too often, I find myself almost missing high quality content because it is sandwiched around left or right wing political propoganda.
  • Increasing Duplicate Content - I have also noticed a major trend where front page stories are actually hitting other sites well before they hit Digg. One such site, Reddit, I have noticed that most of the better political discussions will later be cross-posted to Digg. While many will reply with "But I don't read Reddit", the problem is I, and many others, do and the duplicates cause another source of noise. Don't think dupes are a problem? Just search most Digg and Slashdot comments - you're bound to see the Dupe Patrol hard at work.
  • Millions of Visitors, but Rarely Thousands of Diggs - Although you can't expect everyone to sign up for a free service and contribute content, the disparity between the number of site visitors versus users who actually contribute to Digg is growing daily. In fact, as offers have popped up from Netscape trying to steal the top Digg contributors, one has to wonder what would happen if you took away the major contributors from Digg and exactly how the community would fill in the gaps. Also, even though stories should promote to the front page based on what the "masses" prefer reading or find valuable, very rarely do stores get over a few thousand Diggs meaning that the actual sample size might be much lower than most think. With the new categories, Digg has seen more users, but the amount of comments and actual user cntribution doesn't seem to grown at the same rate.

So what now for Digg? Honestly, nothing. There is no way they will revert back to the old Digg which focused only on technical content. Techies do not click on ads and venturing into areas outside of tech news on Digg should increase the clicks per page impressions on their ads which should increase their revenue. Digg is building a very fanatical user base, but will they stay so zealous if other, more powerful, more transparent social information sharing sites come along?

Flash SEO

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

In the search engine optimization world, web design in Flash provides additional SEO hurdles to obtaining premier Google or Yahoo! SERPs. To help web designers and SEOs combat the obstacles caused by Flash, Search Engine Watch compiled a list of valuable resources and posts that talk about Flash SEO. If you're a Flash designer and you're looking to provide your clients the best possible chance (based by design alone) to rank highly in the search engines, the links in this article are a must read.

Build Your Own DVR

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

Sick of the subscription fees, hardware installations and limitations that come from such DVR systems such as TiVo and your cable companies DVR options? Well, Lifehackers shows you how to build your own DVR. This is a terrific guide for creating your own low cost DVR system which is accompanied by screenshots and great detail. The DIY article talks about using SageTV as your software application to control your DVR PC. I will definitely be taking a look at this article when I get a chance this weekend and only wish I had this setup for the NCAA Basketball tournament.

AJAX News and Tutorials

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

If you don't get your fill of AJAX news, tutorials and concerns over at Digg and Slashdot, I now bring you AjaxImpact. AjaxImpact is your one stop shop for everything AJAX although I believe it's missing a few APIs that have been developed by the community which could be useful. However, with a centralized database of articles, tutorials and news, you are sure to find everything you are looking for here when it comes to web development with AJAX.

Blog Clutter and SEO

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

Rachel at Cre8d-Design has a great post concerning blog cluuter or "noise" when dealing with social bookmarking applications. The new trend seen on many blogs is to include a whole bunch of links to the bottom of their posts so that users can add their stories easily to social bookmarking sites.

Obviously, there are some pros and cons for this inclusion. First the pros could be seen as:

  • Additional functionality for the user especially those without bookmarklet functionality installed into their browsers.
  • Ability to specify the most appropriate tags and description for your post by defining them in your custom link back to the social bookmarking site.
  • Potentially increased web traffic as your stories are bookmarked more frequently.

There are definitely benefits to including these links on your site. However, what are the drawbacks? Some of the drawbacks (some pointed out by Rachel) include:

  • Not all users even know what a social bookmarking site is. Although is a tech blog, there is a substantial amount of readers who come here who aren't technical or up-to-date with every Web 2.0 social community site. Therefore, having a link (like I currently do) that says "Add to" may seem confusing and will increase the noise on a site.
  • If you include textual links back to these bookarmking sites, you run the risk of substantially lowering your keyword density for the terms you want to rank highly in search engines.

The arguments for and against are both extremely valid and really do show the current power of social bookmarking really needs to be balanced by good design and solid SEO principles. I will evaluate how I will use social bookmarking here on over the next few days.

Internet Hype and its Value

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

I recently added Reddit as one of my RSS feeds and it finally paid off with an interesting article. Jakob Nielsen wrote an article, "Hyped Web Stories Are Irrelevant", which talks a lot about the Web 1.0 and the current Web 2.0 "bubbles" and how much of the discussion matter being discussed daily really plays no major role in the shaping of the Internet's future. He uses Google's share price, AOL's potential mergers and the power of bloggers versus mainstream media as examples of overhyped stories.

This article really had me thinking about the merit of posting news like I currently do as opposed to just focusing on a service that will provide real benefit to the community. Since there are places like Digg, Slashdot and others, do readers really need another tech blog that offers only marginal insight into current tech stories being discussed around the web? What should the real purpose of be in the long run?

Tom (z6) and myself have been throwing around ideas for quite a while to expand the services of and article like this really opens up my eyes as to the real value of the web - information through services. It's not enough to offer up information (i.e. like WikiPedia who is steadliy becoming the online encyclopedia of choice), but to provide a service that is wrapped around that information. needs to shift its business model into this frame of thinking so any ideas or suggestions are welcome.

April Fools Over - Internet Restored

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

Well, with the madness that it is always April Fools Day on the Internet, it's nice to have everything back to normal today and some real information and news coming through my RSS feeds again. The worst performance on April Fools Day has to go to Slashdot for their over-the-top, you killed the joke the first three times rendition of trying to act like 14 yar old girls on MySpace. About the only funny thing they did all day was change their layout to pink, but even that was played after a few hours.

So, I hope everyone enjoyed their day off from actually using the Internet for information (well, and pr0n) and let's get back to business. This week should have the new corporate web site I have been building released so it should be a big week for me. Everyone enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Best April's Fools Joke - Google Romance

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

Hahaha, you have to love Google sometimes. Google announced that they have released Google Romance. In my morning daze, I forgot that today was April Fool's until I saw the following underneath the right side box:

"Post multiple profiles with a bulk upload file, you sleaze."

Hahah, I seriously lost it at 9am on a Saturday morning (waking up my brother I think). But the jokes don't end there! In the FAQ, Google writes:

Then we'll send you both on a Contextual Date, which we'll pay for while delivering to you relevant ads that we and our advertising partners think will help produce the dating results you're looking for.

And of course, if you actually tried to upload a profile, well, you received the extremely funny "Profile Upload Rejected" error message. That error message made me think back to the movie Clerks ...

"No time for love Dr. Jones."

AJAX Tutorials

By hagrin - Posted on 05 August 2006

Max Kiesler has compiled a pretty good list of AJAX tutorials that exist on the web that go beyond just giving readers a code snippet. If you're looking to implement some AJAX on your web pages (I know that I may at some point once I figure out the SEO concerns of an AJAX blog/site), these tutorials are a great place to start.