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!