While this was originally intended to be about Digg, by the time I was done I discovered that to a fair degree it’s also about reddit and Del.icio.us. I haven’t used Digg or Del.icio.us nearly as much as reddit, for a number of reasons — some particular to the way I use the web, and some related to the information I provide below about why Digg sucks, especially in relation to its competition. I have used all three enough to have a pretty clear idea of how they work, and why that doesn’t work for me, however.
This SOB entry was largely inspired by my recent attempt to make some real use of Digg again. It didn’t work out so well.
- Digg doesn’t know how to organize its interface. It’s difficult to find the things you want when you’re new to Digg — while with reddit and Del.icio.us, all the links you need are right at your fingertips. Del.icio.us has some interface issues of its own as a social network facilitator — largely because it’s designed to provide personal bookmark caches with the ability to accrue more from like-minded individuals rather than targeted specifically at the social aspect — but it’s a darn sight better than Digg in that regard.
- The submissions process at Digg is obtuse. Compare reddit: I’m looking at a page, and I decide it deserves to be reddited. I click on the “reddit” bookmark in my browser, and it automatically takes me to the submission page with all the form elements filled out. If the webpage in question had already been submitted, it just takes me to that article’s page, where I can upvote it. There’s no need to search to see if it’s already submitted, and there’s no need to go to the website (as with Digg) to submit it.
- Digg is webmaster-driven. The whole focus of Digg’s tools and interface enhancements seems to be on letting webmasters pimp out their own stuff, rather than on users of the website submitting things that are actually worth something to them. This produces different emergent properties of the system: rather than the most generally valued stuff rising to the top, you get the results of the most dedicated users (willing to put in the effort of working with the Digg interface) and self-promoting webmasters gaming the system. Contrast reddit and Del.icio.us, where more benign emergent properties have a fighting chance.
- Maybe I’m just imagining this, but Digg programming-related stuff is all about Java, and other daycoder topics for people working in little gray cubicles working on their particular little cogs of a huge, soul-sucking enterprisey system who think this makes them l33t, while reddit tends more toward interesting hacker languages that inspire passion about topics other than “Is that code object-oriented enough?” For example, I see lots of Lisp, Haskell, Ruby, and Python on reddit, and a healthy disdain for Java. Del.icio.us, meanwhile, pretty much runs the gamut — because it’s more a collection of individuals using the same service than a community, you see a wider range of programming interests than either reddit or Digg. This is good if you want more variety, but not so good if you want to filter for content that matches your own proclivities.
- While the reddit community’s self-conscious faux-intellectualism is at times a little tiresome, it encompasses a bit of genuine intellectualism. Digg seems to lack that entirely. This is one case, however, where Del.icio.us is the clear winner: you can easily forge more direct connections with individuals who have a genuine intellectual bent and track their activity on the site. Just as reddit is about the aggregate, Del.icio.us is about the individual. Digg, meanwhile, is about the mob.
- Politics — redditers as a whole seem far more aware that the political sphere affects their lives, and seem to care quite a bit more about that, than Diggers. This leads to more interesting, relevant political material, and discussions of that material that is at least representative of the views of people who notice the world around them and put some thought into it (I won’t discuss the failings of common political views, even on reddit, here). Digg, meanwhile, seems to harbor the politically ignorant. As always, Del.icio.us is more of a shotgun-effect in terms of its political awareness.
- See Why does Digg suck?. The relevant bit is at the bottom of the page. Hint: text-search in your browser for digg.
- While Del.icio.us and reddit have no such pretensions, Digg claims to be about technology. Meanwhile, better technology articles are more easily found on either Del.icio.us or reddit than on Digg — especially if you’re looking specifically for programming stuff (which I usually am), and I’m not just talking about Java vs. Haskell. For instance, a nontrivial percentage of top Digg stories these days are about iPods and text messaging, or something equally vacuous. There’s a small, but noticeable minority of completely off-topic items that make it occasionally necessary to wade through announcements about famous actors being gay at Digg, whereas I have no such problem on programming.reddit.com, for instance. What’s up with that?
- Provincialism: if you’re not one of the faithful, you’ll be burned at the stake for your heresy. Of course, I happen to disagree with a fair bit of what the said (there’s just no way to reasonably run a social bookmarking site with Digg-traffic pre-warnings as he suggests), but that doesn’t mean a link to his site should be labeled “bury this” for the crime of saying something less than glowing about Digg. The same sort of thing doesn’t tend to happen on reddit, and on Del.icio.us the mechanics of the site’s social networking pretty much make it impossible.
- This one hearkens back to an attitude similar to the pro-Java sympathies — I find the black-and-white worldview of Digg in general, as though MS Windows and MacOS X were the only operating systems in the world and there’s an unquestioned orthodox answer to the question of which is better, repugnant and annoying. I guess that might be indicative of a common cause with the lack of interesting political material in the off-topic stuff: people are willing to accept the two-party view of politics, so they don’t examine the evidence that both wings of the Republicrats suck; they are willing to accept the two-player view of the operating system market, so they don’t examine the evidence that Apple isn’t much different from Microsoft under the surface, and as bad as MS Windows is MacOS X has also managed to screw things up a bit by eliminating many of the benefits the underlying technologies could provide.
Here’s one last bonus item: I’m kind of put off by the fact that most Diggers seem to think Digg is the only social bookmarking site in the world. That doesn’t really relate to whether or not Digg is any good to use, but it’s still annoying and strangely ignorant.