Digging the news

Lately, I’ve been trying to get a feel for Digg. It’s a sort of mashup of Web 2.0-ness: part social bookmarking, part blog, part news editorial board, all wrapped up in a crowdsourced community.

Mostly, I’ve known about Digg from the controversies — the DVD hack, the Ron Paul minions, the bury brigades, and other “madness of crowds” incidents. But, despite the potential downside, or perhaps because of it, the site is popular, currently ranked 95th by Alexa.

In many ways, Digg is difficult to grasp. Perhaps it is because my experience in virtual communities has primarily been in community-based blogs — once you learn how to use, for example, Daily Kos, you pretty much know the blog paradigm. But Digg is different, and it’s mashup-ness adds to the confusion. It’s a way to bookmark sites and articles, but there are no tags. There are, though, categories in which to place submissions, but they are both very broad (“Political News”), and yet also very limited (no categories for Culture. Or Food!!! What is a world without food???). The site seems to be primarily a place for technology and political news.

Digg is not a great space for personal expression. User submissions are limited to a 75 character title, and a 350 character text box to summarize their link. Often, users simply paste in a quote from the linked material. Unlike a blog, where users post lengthy diaries, exploring issues and personal convictions and ideas, the expressiveness of Digg comes from the crowd — stories “bubble up” to the top (based on a secret algorithm to prevent others from gaming the system). Personal expression is limited to comments, which appear along with every story. The comments are generally a free-for-all, some insightful, others simply name-calling or spam, not unlike many community-based political blogs. Similar to the way blog comments can be “troll-rated,” users on Digg can vote to digg or bury comments with a thumb’s up or down click.

Because of the lack of focus of the site (it’s not just a left-leaning Democratic political blog, for example), it’s difficult to know where to start. I’ve decided on a strategy of primarily reading the “Political News” section — I’m curious if others have also settled on certain practices within Digg?

I started this post with a reference to getting a “feel” for Digg. The wording is intentional, as social media seem to have a tactical quality to them. Twitter, for example, has been called a “social sixth sense.” Right now, I feel Digg is too disjointed for me to “feel” anything with it. It’s frenetic, and I’ve been unable to fall into any behavioral patterns. In other social media, again, political blogs, I have a routine — check the front page, check responses to my comments, check the Diaries page, etc. On Digg, I’ve been unable to find a comparable practice.

It’s very possible, of course, that this is simply because Digg is new to me. Over time, perhaps things will settle in.

Stay tuned…

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