The Fountain of Digg

The technology news site sets a new standard for collaborative information filtering

| February 16, 2006

Using the internet can be like drinking from a fire hose. The amount of information available to humans has far surpassed our ability to process it, making the practice of filtering essential to sanity and success. Since people with a strong interest in computers and technology (a.k.a. 'nerds') are early adopters of new tools, sites that collect and cull technology-oriented news are on the cutting edge of filtering technology. Slashdot has been the most successful of these sites for a number of years, using a hybrid model of user participation and centralized editorial control that has made it one of the most visited sites on the internet. While Slashdot remains the gold standard for many die-hard technologists, growing dissatisfaction with the site's editors and a desire to further harness the internet's decentralized, democratic nature have led to the emergence of Slashdot's usurper, Digg.

Digg's non-hierarchical model of collaborative information collection, filtering, and processing is starkly different from the traditional, centralized editorial model. After setting up a free account with the site, a user can submit a story (typically a link to another site accompanied by a short description) to a shared pool where it is scrutinized by other users. If users like the story, they can 'Digg' it with the click of a button, increasing its prominence in the pool. Users can also mark the story as lame, inaccurate, or otherwise undesirable (which, if done en masse, removes the story from the pool), comment on the story, moderate the comments of other users, and even blog the story on their user pages. If a story gets enough Diggs, it is displayed on the front page and syndicated via RSS (a kind of personalized news feed). Stories are categorized, so users can choose to focus on reading and filtering only those topics that interest them.

While Digg founder Kevin Rose has expressed a desire to expand the site's focus beyond technology, a number of Digg 'clones' have already sprung up to help bring homegrown shape to the internet's glorious chaos. These clones range from the general to the specialized, the prurient to the sublime. Some standouts include:

There are also a number of non-English clones, like the Spanish-language men?ame, and location-specific clones, like the Irish news site kick. While the traditional editorial model may never be fully displaced by this wave of digital populism, Digg and its ilk have brightened the future of participatory media.

Go there >>Digg

Go there too >>Slashdot

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