If you solely rely on Digg for your daily news, you’re probably reading trash - The Intrepid

Thursday, October 23, 2008

If you solely rely on Digg for your daily news, you’re probably reading trash

Humans are lazy creatures. We don’t want to seek out information. We want to be told what to like and what to avoid. We’re always right, and we don’t want our worldview challenged. God forbid we have to think.

This mentality has fueled the growth of different types of news aggregators, including Digg, Buzz, The Huffington Post, and iGoogle. While each aggregator acts slightly different, they all have a similar purpose: to tell us what to read.

The internet is a big place. With millions of articles, pictures, videos added everyday, trying to keep up with the latest news can be a hassle. Here is where news aggregators are a great help. They help us find what we like, and filter out what we don’t.

Different news aggregators act in different ways. Sites like the Huffington Post or the Conservative Voice are political aggregators. These sites tend to highlight articles that correspond to an ideological or political viewpoint. You won’t see very many anti-Obama articles highlighted at the top of the Huffington Post, or anti-McCain articles on the Conservative Voice.

Successful political aggregators know their audience. While these kinds of aggregators have a clear bias, they are still valuable information resources. The Huffington Post might be pro-Obama, but the site’s staff still does a great job highlighting and commenting on the important news items of the day.

Sites like Digg and Buzz are substantially different. While the site controls the content of the Huffington Post, users control Digg and Buzz’s content. These kinds of news aggregators are probably best referred to as “mob-rule” aggregators.

On Digg, users are able to submit or “Digg” articles, videos, or pictures. These “Digged” items are then displayed on the site. As more people “Digg” something, the more prominently the item is displayed on the site. It usually takes a thousand or a couple hundred Diggs for an item to appear on the front page. Most of what is submitted only receives one Digg and is quickly buried under an avalanche of new items.

Sites like Digg also have a bias. That article you wrote on Neo-Classical painting might be fantastic, but it’s not going anywhere on Digg. The articles that reach the front page usually have some sort of shock value or other sensational element.

Right now, the most “Dugg” articles highlighted on Digg’s home page are: “Where have all the Bumper Stickers Gone?,” “Obama has some Fantasy Football Skills,” and “Animal Planet’s new “Whale Wars” promises blockbuster action.” Suffice it to say, but if you solely rely on Digg for your daily news, you’re probably reading trash.

Digg also has other problems. The site’s mob-mentality makes it easy for false information to flourish. In 2006, Steve Mallett, an O’Reilly Network editor and blogger, was falsely accused of stealing Digg’s CSS code and spamming the site with Diggs. The charges were false, but that didn’t stop Diggers from catapulting the article to the site’s front page. The correct story eventually came out and Digg removed the original story but not until Steve Mallett’s name was pulled through the “digital” mud.

Despite its problems, sites like Digg are indispensable to newspapers, web magazines, and bloggers. Everyone wants traffic, whether for advertising revenue or just personal gratification and if enough people “digg” your work, it’s the ticket to fame and fortune.

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