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Articles: Do You Digg The New Media?

I became addicted to the news at a very young age. At 11 years old I remember salvaging every old black & white TV I could get my hands on. Then I set them up all in a row so that I could watch every channel at once. Later I dreamed of becoming a journalist myself, in either TV or print. One thing that is consistent between the gathering of both TV and print news is that news items are filtered through a few individuals who decide what will "make the news" that day. The beginning of the internet news age did not vary much from that old model, because just one or two people had editorial control over what news made it onto the news website.

But there is a new age of internet media news aggregates online: web sites filled by the writing of unaffiliated reporters and user-decided reporting. These news sites are attracting millions of people each day. Old school news junkies like me have taken some time to adjust to the editor-less news gathering trend, but with the release of 3.0, I think I am ready for this new world.

Digg is a user-controlled aggregation site. Digg users submit links to articles or points of interest on the web, creating short descriptions and headlines of full news stories. That alone is not anything revolutionary. The unique element comes from how stories are ordered on the site. Every user gets to vote on the quality of the news link, i.e., do they "digg" the story or not. Each user gets to vote one "digg" per story. If many users like the story, then it moves up the list until it reaches the front page. There are subcategories to help users focus on their interests, mine of course is the Apple section. Each subcategory operates the same as the site as a whole. Good stories move up the list and bad or uninteresting stories fall down the list until they disappear altogether. To fight self-promoting stories or spam, users can also "bury" a story and force it off the site faster than ignoring it does alone. Digg has social features that let you link to "friends" and see what they are digging and allow you to form a smaller community within the larger user base.

The most difficult adaptation in using Digg is changing from a passive reader to an editor. Digg only works when everyone takes the time to look at the newly submitted stories and then "digg" the good stories. Voting in this manner is going to depend largely on personal tastes and opinions. To balance the biased diggs of others, a large number of people need to participate. In a big enough group, individual opinions are marginalized and only the commonality of the group is represented. That's the theory behind Digg... and it works. The skeptical side of me wondered whether the collective mind could generate quality news. I worried about fart jokes and Britney Spears' pictures shooting to the front page of Digg. Amazingly, the dedication of the digg users has resulted in a reliable news site, much in the same way that the user-written online encyclopedia is a dependable research source. The result of is a news site that is far less biased than ones that rely on only a small group of editors.

In a system like Digg's, there is no editorial control. No one person can step in and hide an embarrassing story. This became ironically clear when AOL/Netscape implemented a dramatically similar site to at The top story for many days was a comment by Digg co-founder Kevin Rose on how Digg was stolen by Netscape too early, and that the best features were going to be in Digg 3.0. I am sure Netscape would have wanted to bury that story, but the users controlled its placement with votes. So it stayed in place at the top. The only filters for Digg and Netscape are the users themselves, so any censorship would have to be an agreed-upon censorship.

Digg's success can be measured by its effect on linked-to websites. When a Digg story makes it to the front page, the amount of traffic to that site can bring down a web server. This used to be called the Slash-Dot effect because of the popularity of links that grew from the traditional tech aggregation site: Even PowerMax's website has been brought down by a front-page link from Digg. The sudden attention can be overwhelming; a month's worth of traffic can happen in just a few hours.

I am giving up some of my old ways when it comes to the news. I am starting to trust in the intelligence of my fellow Digg users. However, Digg can always benefit from a few more participants. My user account name is loebjack, I invite you to join digg and add me as your friend. Then start digging and show me what you are interested in. Together we will determine what "makes the news" today.
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