Ryan Sholin twittered to me before I left something very true, to the tune of: ‘Digg is really powered by the users – so the headquarters is nothing to gawk at.’
I agree completely, in fact, I bet most of the people at Digg’s headquarters would agree as well. But hey, I’ve been an active member of the site for over two years – as far back as the 1.0 version of the site. I’ve written about it on this blog and for journalism trade publications.
I’ve been critical – but hopefully in a constructive way, because I believe Digg touches on something that journalism needs to catch-up with. Creating community around content. Besides – it isn’t every day you get to go to the corporate headquarters for a cool valley start-up valued at over 300 million. So while I take Ryan’s point to heart, I was excited.
It was a great lunch: Topics ranged from the difficulties of managing a site like Digg to the meaning of ‘democracy.’ Or at least – how new media tools can help to inform citizens in a democracy.
Anton Kast is a rare breed of brilliant. Of course – you would expect nothing less from the lead scientist of Digg. He is not only well versed in code, but human nature. He is articulate about the strengths and weaknesses of social news sites in general, and how the issues that all community sites focus. There were, of course, some things Anton couldn’t talk about – things related to how they weigh different users against each other. I’m sure there is a system of trust that allows Digg to judge how honest a digger is, what that rubric is, I have only guesses.
I do know that Digg is making every effort to get diversity – that seems to be their guiding principle. While at NewsTrust we put value on principles like "accuracy" and "fairness" – Digg doesn’t look at the content, but rather the diversity of contributors. That’s their golden measurement – at least, that’s what it sounded like in the language I kept hearing.
They want to increase the community of people who tend to the upcoming section, as well as the diversity of people who hit the front page. As a user – I applaud such efforts — especially in bringing more people into the upcoming section. I told Anton about my biggest critique of the site: What caused the IM epidemic in my opinion is still when they removed the "digg it" button from my friends submitted list.
But onward: The lunch was also to discuss NewsTrust.net, where I’m a contributing editor. Anton is actually the most articulate in pointing out the differences in these two services: Whereas the definition of a Digg is vague and varied – it can mean I liked this, I found it entertaining, I agree with it, I benefit from it, etc. The one thing that is consistent with Digg’s across all these meanings is that it is public. A Digg is a public statement.
Rating a story on NewsTrust is much more focused – we are asking people to rate stories based on defined rubric in an attempt to find good journalism. There is a way to make the two services complimentary and Fabrice and I were throwing ideas there way. Who knows what will come of it.
Without a doubt, however, Anton was receptive and had constructive things to throw back at us. More digesting will take place.
Then of course – we got to meet the Diggfather himself – Kevin Rose. I’ve been very critical of Digg in the past, again always trying to be constructive – but now I have to eat my own dirt. One thing I have been critical about Digg has been their lack of responsiveness to the community. In fact, I’d argue that has been my main contention.
So, when I met Kevin Rose and I was introduced as Digidave – I didn’t expect him to know who I was. But he did – he even knew my Digg user-icon "oh yea, the Mickey Mouse icon, right?" – That was me.
This obviously doesn’t solve the problem of being responsive to users – but it does at least make me feel like Kevin does pay attention to the users – he tracks them and follows them. I am a long-time active user – but somewhat under the radar. I could perfectly understand if he had no idea who I was.
At the same time: I have been critical, even critical specifically of Kevin Rose – and I wanted to explain myself to him, since I had his audience for a brief minute, but decided to just smile and walk on.
Perhaps next time I’ll have a chance to get into a healthy conversation with him about some of the things I think, as a user of the site, can be improved.
So that was my lunch at Digg. Now back to work.