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The Degradation of Digg's Front Page

I’ve found myself visiting Digg less and less recently. The reason? The content on Digg’s front page.
The problem isn’t necessarily that the content is bad, in fact most of it is good, but more and more Digg’s front page is turning into a rehashed list of stories that are already being well covered on the Internet. A visit to sites like TechMeme and Megite usually yield many of the same stories that are on Digg’s front page and in fact a lot of them are usually on the news aggregators well before they make it to the popular page on on Digg. Anyone with a semi-decent collection of RSS feeds in their reader will have seen a good majority of the stories that will appear on Digg’s front page hours before they get there.
frontpagedigg The Degradation of Digg's Front Page
Scanning the front page of Digg, I see a constant stream of stories that I have either already seen, or rubbish that I have no desire to read. Add to that the site’s scalability issues and massive slowdown when browsing while signed in, and I hardly even sign in anymore. Do I really need to digg any of the five Apple TV articles that I’d already read hours ago or yesterday? No.
After talking with several other Digg users, I know I’m not alone in my thoughts on this. So what is the reason for the “mainstreaming” of Digg’s front page?
The total number of submissions is up, with the number of stories in the ‘Upcoming Stories’ section is constantly hovering between 6,000 and 6,500. So it has nothing to do with a lack of content on Digg. But instead I believe that some of the more interesting stories that aren’t covered by several other big sites are having trouble being found.
This could be an indirect result of the removal of the top user list. I say this as a former top user of Digg, but not because the top users would always submit the quality content, but more because they would “digg-deep” and find great stuff that was already on Digg as well and in turn their thousands of combined friends would find and digg some of those stories, pushing some of them to the front page. With the removal of the top user list, participation of many (not all) of the top users has certainly gone down and this combined with the mass-burying of stories for no reason has in my estimation, killed off some of the quality outlying content that used to shine on Digg.
More then the top users though, I do believe that uncontrolled and unreasonable burying is hurting the timely representation of useful content on Digg. It may be time for Digg to start revealing the names of users who bury any given story, just as they display who dugg it. Netscape of course does this, and it seems to add a bit of integrity to the whole process. Digg certainly doesn’t want anyone to buy into the notion that there is a ‘bury brigade‘ out there, but until there is a bit more transparency in the whole process, it seems kind of hard to believe.
The idea is not to present the doom of Digg. Digg is still as strong as ever in terms of being a driving force of massive amounts of traffic towards interesting content. There are still many great stories that see the front-page of Digg, but there are many more that can never quite get that far anymore.

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14 thoughts on “The Degradation of Digg's Front Page

  1. Without the top users, Digg’s content has become more random. More Reddit-like, if you will. It’s not necessarily a bad thing: there’s lots of fun stuff to read there. But as a source of news, it has degraded. Top users could push a news item to the front page partly based on their influence. Now, news has a harder time going through because it has to fight the ’50 pictures of cute dogs’ type of stories. If no one puts in special effort to push real news to the front page, it will get stuck.

  2. About 8 months ago I had over 500 articles submitted by friends today I have 60 (the majority of my friends were top 100 users.) This shows how the majority of top users have stopped participating in Digg. I kind of view it like this many of these users helped build the community, but after accusations and better offers are no longer participating on Digg. To some this may seem good because they assume most of these users were gaming the system, but actually most of these users were providing great content and actively digging stories in the que.
    The vast majority of diggers have no reason to actively submit and participate with no top users list. So what you get are people who occasionally submit stories leading to duplicates and lackluster material. When I take breaks away from the site I do not feel like I am submitting quality material, due to the fact I haven’t been keeping up with the latest stories.

  3. I just think that Digg’s day has come and gone. I gave up the ghost there months ago when I realized that the general nature of the comments was pretty juvenile and insulting. It’s just proving a point about the mindlessness of the masses. Nothing to see here (or there) move along.

  4. first they (users, media, even this this site and/or affiliates of it) complain that the digg homepage is getting determined by only the top users…digg adjusts their promotion algorithm to get more diverse submitters on the homepage. now you complain that isn’t enough diversity on source material? sheesh, you even admit digg has good content on the homepage. does nothing make you satisfied? is this site just a complaint blog? and PLEASE tell me you’re not a netscape navigator. if you are, you’re no better than the muhammad saleem character who rarely identifies his affiliation with digg’s main competitor. if you are a navigator, i SERIOUSLY recommend that you identify your affiliation at the TOP of this blog post.
    the best part of this story is you using saleem’s story (The Bury Brigade Exists, and Here’s My Proof) to further your argument. just like saleem, it’s bad journalism. digg categorically invalidated the “PROOF” that both of you bloggers use make your points (http://blog.digg.com/?p=66). but i guess it’s better to only use information that furthers your point and gives half-stories. i’m not saying the brigade doesn’t exist, but using THAT saleem story is suspect and ultimately irresponsible reporting/blogging.
    my suggestion…instead of being an outright complainer, mention things that digg is doing well and then counter that with your argument(s). this post is wholly unprofessional, sensationalistic, and ultimately irresponsible. but, since this is a pro-netscape site i assume the automatic digg-haters will have something to respond with. i look forward to your replies :)

  5. Spot on. The performance of the site has gotten so bad that I can hardly use it even without signing in. On top of that the “Fark-ization” of the submission and comment quality is almost complete. In times past, I would never miss a day of checking Digg…these days I couldn’t care less, I’ll get all the same info from sites my RSS reader.

  6. @A BIT OF TRUTH: first of all I am not a Netscape Navigator nor have I ever been. I have an account on Netscape but I rarely use it. In the whole Digg vs. Netscape debates I have almost always sided with Digg (though I do feel that Netscape does do certain things better).
    Now to respond to some of your points.
    In my post I am not using Muhammad’s post to further my argument. I simply linked to it to give readers some background on the idea of the bury brigade. Perhaps I should have linked to Digg’s response as well, though I found it quite vague and more of a “just trust us” statement then an explanation of anything.
    You yourself admit the brigade may exist, and I agree. I simply suggested that Digg make the system of burying more transparent so the debate can be ended one way or another for sure.
    The point of the article was not to point out the good and bad of Digg. It was simply to point out a trend I have noticed recently on Digg; and after some discussions with other users, they have noticed the same things; I felt compelled to write about it.
    I do think there are things Digg does well. I do like a lot of the content still. My problem is that I’m seeing a trend over the past few months where the content is shifting towards that of a news aggregator like Techmeme, only it’s slower…so I’m finding it less and less enticing to visit Digg (especially while signed in) as much of what is becoming popular now are things I’ve already read hours or days before on my RSS feed and on the said news aggregators.
    I complain because I care. I like Digg, I’ve long been a vocal supporter (see some previous posts labeled ‘Digg’ on http://www.parislemon.com). I haven’t been writing for Pronet Advertising very long but I don’t believe they were the ones suggesting the top users were running everything in their previous articles about Digg (http://www.pronetadvertising.com/articles/category/digg/).
    I assure you that there is no agenda behind my words. They are simply some observations that I hope Digg will take into consideration if enough people agree with me.

  7. I’m more of a reddit type – I like finding the random stuff. If I want the news, I go to a news site. But I’m more prone to submit to trailfire, but only because it takes less effort. I don’t really care about being a “Top User”

  8. I agree with this post, and I think it is very objective. That being, there are other aspects of they way people at Digg also moderate stories and links to certain web sites. Has anyone ever done an investigation of this? Also about the banning of entire web sites (domain names) that carry articles/stories that are deemed offensive by the moderaters. Yet many web sites are still not banned, why is that?
    I don’t know the answers, but my URL has been banned for about 5 months now although it has nothing offensive on it at this point.

  9. Thanks for the comments all. It sounds like MOST of you agree with the post. It’ll be interesting to see if this trend continues if Digg will make yet another algorithm change or actually make bury data available (I’m guessing the algo change or more likely: does nothing).

  10. I also agree with your post… I have been using Digg for a long time… but I prefer to use Profigg now… it is much better… you can even win books, cds, etc.

  11. Insightful post, MG.
    I’m with Stan and Hemphill on this one too. There is definitely a more random feel to FP, and you see a lot more duplicates and re-posts of older stories as well as the standard meme-fodder. This is probably a function of the a newer user base and user turnover generally speaking.
    Chris Hemphill touches on another interesting point in his comment too, that I’ve noticed as well — the ever diminishing amount of “friends submitted” stories in my queue. I was never officially a “top 100 user” (but quite close – inside the top 200) most of my friends were either A) Top users -or- B) up-n-coming, yet very active users like myself.
    I still enjoy digg and remain loyal to the site, but I have noticed the community has lost a little bit of its magic now that a lot the regulars are gone.
    @ A BIT OF TRUTH: the real digg die hards never had a problem with story diversity, the system, or algo, etc… Last fall (2006), as momentum *really* began to build for the site – a lot of primarily new users, who didn’t understand the “friends” system, etc starting complaining and digging their conspiracy theories of how Digg was being “gamed”
    Speaking for myself and some other digg friends – most of us were shocked when Digg.com listened to this “noise” and changed around their algo/system according to the (disproportionate but well publicized) amount complaints from mostly complete noobs, who are no longer even on the damn site anymore…your comments @ MG and this site are misdirected. If you have such an axe to grind with them, and think its so biased, why are you here? (no offense)
    Best,
    Chris