I’m Digging it

Hey guys, so I an invite to the Digg 4 Alpha a few weeks ago and I’ve just had a chance to start playing around with it in any meaningful sense. I thought I would write a brief review on my thoughts and share it with anyone else who’s interested.

In my opinion, the best (and long delayed) new feature of Digg 4 is the socialization and personalization. If you’re familiar with the old (current normal) Digg, you know that the homepage is often cluttered with random articles that are popular for the most active Digg users, but not necessarily of any interest to you. This significantly reduces the value of the site for those who do not fit the profile of the typical Digg user (in fact most mainstream people do not fit this profile). Even when I digg a story that I care about, it’s usually buried in some deep dark corner because it fails to gain traction. As a result, I (and I venture to guess many others) lost interest in the service.

Well Digg 4 changes a lot of this. When you sign into the new Digg, you’ll get two tabs, “My News,” and “Top News.” The latter is pretty much like the original Digg with the most “dugg” stories from the whole user base. “My News” though is much more interesting. When you sign in for the first time, it will scrape your Facebook, Twitter and email and suggest people or news outlets for you to follow. From there, you basically get a feed of every digg generated by those that you’re following. In addition, there’s a sidebar called “Top News from people you follow” which is a sort of “Top 10” list of stories dugg by your social circle.

I really like this new level of personalization. For a company that was a pioneer just a few years ago, Digg has been surprisingly stagnant in the innovation department. Without these social features, it risked becoming irrelevant. I think Digg 4 is a step in the right direction, but they still have a lot of room for improvement. First, I would switch the location of the live feed and the top 10 list. If the emphasis is really going to be on curation by your social network, then it should be front and center. I also really hate the sponsored articles mixed in with your live feed. It’s confusing and takes away from the quality of the feature. Kevin Rose, you need to take a page from Google here and put paid results off to the side or at least highlight them with a different color.

Of course, the social features don’t feel really robust right now because most of my friends are not on Digg (not that I know of). This is really the core (and possibly) fatal problem of Digg as a whole. Even though the new features are cool, it feels kind of redundant with Facebook and Twitter. Right now, I’m pretty much following a fraction of the same users I follow on Twitter for the same content. Digg gives you the additional ability to comment and rank them by diggs, but Facebook arguably gives you the exact same features, except more of my friends are on Facebook. One thing I will give Digg is that it’s purely news, so I don’t have photos, events or other wall posts clogging up my Digg feed. However, without a strong user base, network effects prevent it from having a competitive advantage over Facebook or Twitter.

While Digg 4 is no game changer, it does at least make me interested in Digg again. Hopefully, they’ll get good feedback from alpha testing and make additional tweaks before it’s released to everyone. In the meantime, I have 5 Alpha invites for anyone who’s interested. Send me an email or leave a comment below!

Want to know more? Don’t just take my word for it. Check out Leo Leporte’s live reaction when he first tried out Digg 4 on This Week in Tech.

Sports Bucket List

My sports withdrawal has gotten me thinking about what events I would like to see in person. Pretty soon, I started making a bucket list of all the sporting events I would like to attend during my life. Currently I only have a few basketball, football games, and the French Open (US Open soon) under my belt, but I’m going to make it a goal in life to attend all of these events:
  • NBA Finals game
  • Super Bowl
  • College Football Bowl game
  • Final Four game
  • All four tennis Grand Slams
  • Premiere League match
  • Champions League match
  • World Cup
  • Summer Olympics
  • Winter Olympics
  • World Series game

Best Sports Time Zone

Well, it’s that time of year again. The weather outside may be beautiful, but in terms of sports I follow, this is the worst time of year. Basketball season is still months away and even the free agency buzz has died down. Football won’t get started until September either. There are no tennis Grand Slams until the US Open (which I got tickets to!) Even though I picked up a little bit of football (soccer) over the last year, the World Cup is over and the Premiere League doesn’t come back until August. In other words, for the next few weeks, there’s absolutely nothing going on in the sporting world that I care about.

So I thought this would be a good time to reflect on something I’ve been thinking about over the past year. Having lived in several different timezones, I’ve started to notice that some of them are good for watching certain sports while others are not. So if I had a choice as a sports fan, which timezone would I live in? At the moment, I’m going to leave out DVR and ESPN3 replays because as someone who checks social media and news sites several times a day it’s just not practical to hide from the results.

Let’s start with the East Coast of the US. With a large population and TV market, a lot of sports are tailored to this region’s prime time. Most basketball games take place from 7-11pm in the evening and football games are on Sunday afternoon. In other words, these are times when people are home and able to watch these games. With tennis, it depends on the tournament. Australian Open is just weird because the Land Down Under is so far away (which is why I don’t usually watch much of this Grand Slam). The US Open is obviously perfect on the East Coast because it takes place in New York. Wimbledon and French Open aren’t too bad. The 5-6 hour difference with Europe means you can at the very least catch the evening matches in the afternoon. For the same reason European football (soccer) is watchable if you’re willing to get up early¬†occasionally. However, things aren’t perfect. The second game of an NBA doubleheader can go well past midnight on the East Coast, and even in college I sometimes have a hard time staying up if I have an early class the next morning.

So let’s examine some other regions. This past year, I was in Europe for a large part of the time. The main advantage over there is obviously soccer. All the big match-ups are in prime time, including this year’s World Cup thanks to South Africa being in a nearby timezone. Even if you’re in England watching a La Liga match, it’s not too bad because there’s only an hour difference. The same holds for the French Open and Wimbledon. With American sports though, I found it’s a lot harder because the time difference works against you. Afternoon football games were watchable because it was evening in Europe, but basketball was really hard especially in the playoffs. I stayed up once to watch the Magic-Celtics series and I literally saw the sun rise before it was over.

That’s not a problem here on the West Coast. When I was younger, I always wished I lived in the Pacific timezone because then I could watch the late game of NBA doubleheaders at a reasonable hour. You have to remember a few years ago the West was much better than the East with teams like the Lakers, Mavs, Spurs, Suns, Rockets, and Jazz in their prime, although the East has fielded more quality teams lately. However, there are a lot of disadvantages here too. For one, watching soccer and tennis is hard. I did get to see some of the World Cup, but the early matches are often over before I woke up for work and even the latest matches finish in the early afternoon. Likewise, I watched very little Wimbledon this year, partly because it conflicted with the World Cup, but also because play usually finished before I was up on the weekends. I won’t be here for football season, but I imagine the 1:00pm games are a little early on a Sunday morning.

This is the same problem with China’s timezone (the entire country is under Beijing Standard Time). Since I’ve mostly gone back during the summer, there hasn’t been much sports to watch, but I do remember trying to watch the NBA Finals one year. While the NBA TV broadcast did use the classic NBA on NBC music, it was really early in the morning. I just can’t get used to the idea of watching sports in the morning. Likewise, soccer games are during the midnight and early morning hours when people usually sleep.

So it appears that all things considered, the East Coast has the edge. Other timezones I’ve stayed in are good for certain sports, but EST seems to give me the best bang for my buck. Of course, I could be biased because I’ve lived on the East Coast most of my life and followed sports and teams in the timezone as a result. Anyway, I guess you can’t have everything.