If you hadn’t already heard – Digg is dying. Yes, the social media monolith, that used to make servers administrators shake with fear at its mere mention, is leaking users and cool points faster than Kevin Rose. It’s no surprise he has chosen to distance himself and concentrate on other projects. Traffic is down, and users are leaving left right and centre for greener pastures after the failed attempt to relaunch with Digg version 4.
Getting to the home page of Digg was once the whole grail of publishers everywhere, and although the site still sends huge waves of traffic to websites, it is nothing like the Digg effect of days of yore.
Stepping up to the mark in its place, is the mighty Reddit. A community where more intelligent debate, intimate social connections are forged, and altruism really matters. It’s classic good verses evil stuff, and David just threw his first rock at Goliath.
A number of reasons exist in my opinion why Digg has effectively shot itself in the foot.
Design by Committee
Right now Digg V4 resembles the Homer. Constant tweaks have alienated the audience, with no attempt made to consult the primary audience before removing key features such as bury and history search.
In comparison the design of Reddit is reminiscent of pre web 2.0 days, and is a hat tip to bulletin boards when community mattered. It is minimalist chic at its best, serving the primary function of its users. Unlike Digg, it isn’t conceited or flashy – allowing the content to lead over design.
Digg users revolted, and rightly so. It’s startup suicide (and arrogant) to make sweeping changes without at least forewarning users that they are coming, and gauging opinion – and yes, Mr. Scoble I’m aware that a volvo is a porsche designed by committee, but when you are a 40 million user base built around community values, that’s a hell of a risk to take.
The reliability of Digg has been directly proportional to the fallout, and folks get very tired very quickly of poor response times, obvious bugs and general sloppiness. That’s not to say that Reddit has been without it’s own problems, but they held their hands up, and the community answered.
In addition to that the underlying software powering the community is open source, so if there’s a bug, there’s a community of programmers there to spot it, and submit a fix. A community empowering itself.
When you’ve got investors breathing down your neck, its difficult not to bow to the pressure to deliver additional revenue with all those users. Digg was built on the premise of gain users for free, get them to click on adverts, make money. Digg will continue to struggle with this approach and forced into more abrasive, disruptive advertising, further alienating their audience. In short, Rose sold out with larger publishers and monetised content more frequently reaching the home page.
Reddit on the other hand comes straight out asks for help and provides additional features in exchange for membership accounts. Those users choosing to do so not only have bragging rights, but are proud and loyal members who on the whole feel they are giving back to the community for their contribution. Which do you think is the more sustainable business model?
Community Ethos / Direction
In all its shiny glamour, at the crux of it somehow using Digg still feels harsh and cold. Stories and hyperlinks lead with the social aspect of the news an afterthought. Yes comments are available (as with Reddit), Yes, users can friend each other (as with Reddit) – but somehow the sense of community gets lost.
Kudos is achieved simply by Digging other users stories, with the current messaging architecture politely reminding you who has scratched your back, and encouraging you to do the same. This leads to blind digging, with users often not reading the stories submitted or even caring. A feature implemented in earlier versions to prevent this behaviour seems to have fallen firmly out of the specification of v4. Either that, or its simply no longer working.
Digg is flailing wildly, and lacks direction. Tweets such as this show just how much Kevin no longer really cares.
The Reddit community frequently promotes stories which are simply community conversations (no hyperlinks to a third party site) to the homepage. Think of it as a social forum where threads can receive visibility, and comments have the same privilege. The growth in number and size of new communities on the site, with users being able to easily to create new sub topics has accelerated its growth, and spawned niche topics which everyone can be a part of and find a home in. Well thought out ideas or concepts can also being cross promoted within the site.
Users who provide value to the community get a shout out on a sub reddit. Digg on the other hand used a user hierarchy to showcase its top users which later had to be abandoned due to corruption and sums of money changing hands between power users. Whilst Digg concentrates on user actions within its reward system , Reddit concentrates on community participation, and hand picks an appropriate user. This is a much more subtle way of rewarding users, that can’t be exploited easily.
Overall Reddit to me has a stronger hand. Users care about and protect the community. They and aren’t just out to be top dog or promote themselves or their own content. Intelligent debate takes place, and sub reddits such as IAMA provide useful content to the web that doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s no wonder that average visits currently stand at 15 minutes per user. Community integration and participation within social media is in my opinion where we’ll see growth in 2011, and Reddit positions itself firmly at the centre of that.
Here’s hoping that the success achieved in 2010, rolls over in 2011. Sayonara Digg it’s been nice knowing you. Now go get an account, and get the warm fuzzy feeling of community for yourselves.