Digg 3.0 was launched last night. To those who are unaware about Digg, it a user-driven social content website. where everything on digg is submitted by the user community. Other digg users read the submission and they “digg” (i.e., vote on) what they like best. If your story receives enough diggs, it is promoted to the front page for the millions of digg visitors to see.
This is not a review of Digg. I know that there are many Digg evangelists out there who defend (or oppose) Kevin Rose’s baby with the same zeal as they are with Microsoft and Apple. Lets me just say that the new version of Digg achieves what it was sent out to do, which would be to aggregate news articles and present it according to what the public perceives as news-worthy.
The vision of Digg is so simple that it is a wonder why traditional news sites never thought of it in the first place. I guess it was arrogance on their side, thinking that they could dictate news-worthiness as long as they have the best journalists, the best writers, and a captured audience. It’s true that wisdom begins by admitting what you don’t know, and the creators of Digg probably realized that news-worthiness is not dicatated by a handful of people, but by the so-called “wisdom of crowds.”
Now I have a concern about this “wisdom of crowds” concept. What is considered news-worthy by the majority may not necessarily appeal to me. Looking at the top Dugg stories for this week alone, here are what Diggers consider as the most news-worthy articles:
- Digg version 3.0 launched (naturally)
- Warren Buffet donates $44 billion to Bill Gates’ foundation (I don’t care unless the money finds its way to the Philippines)
- Scientology (I really don’t care about Tom Cruise’s so-called religion)
- Go Daddy’s mistake (I also don’t care about Go Daddy)
- Rubik’s cube solved by Robot (There are still people who can’t figure out the solution?)
- A video of an F-22 going vertical (Cool, but again, what do I care?)
- Amazing photos of a bedroom decorated to look like Super Mario World (strange but again, what do I care?)
- Digg version 3.0 with a Right Hand menu (so what?)
- Circuit City will have a July 4th sale (no Circuit City in Philippines)
- An IQ test (this was interesting and hence I dugg; I am a sucker for IQ quizzes)
- PS3 controller (am not a die-hard gamer)
- Ipod factory in China may be breaking the law (I found this VERY relevant, given that Western companies offshore their processes to Philippines)
Obviously, many stories are important only to Westerners. Warren Buffet, Scientology, and Go-Daddy would probably be of interest only to a limited few. Many articles will probably have zero relevance to the average Pinoy. And many are definitely irrelevant to me.
And this is where Netscape’s Digg clone and even the Philippines’ own oks.ph are missing the boat. It’s not about aggregating the news. It’s not just about people casting their vote. It’s about presenting the news which are news-worthy to the individual. Mainly, ME! I am a Pinoy with my own Pinoy interests. There is indeed a deluge of data and information out there, and the designers and programmers have to figure out a way to sift through all the noise and junk and create a system where the user decides what is news-worthy. It is the same way that Google bested Yahoo, Lycos, and other struggling search engines by developing an algorithm to display the most relevant search results.
As a news aggregator, Oks.ph looked like it was in the right direction. And up to today I still subscribe to its RSS feed. But oks.ph suffered from lack of features, stagnation, and uni-dimensional thinking. Plus possibly poor marketing. And also a lack of incentive, which I’ll deal with later. Oks.ph has to go beyond simple voting if its “oks” or “not oks.” It should plagarize Digg’s concept of “front page news” and collaboration. There is a potential for a lot of superficial and trivial news. I, for one, don’t really care about Pinoy Big Brother or Friends are friends because they share common interests and beliefs, and it would be nice to see what my friends voted as “oks.” Digg was able to recognize this and add this as a feature in version 3.0. I have added a few bloggers to my Digg friends list, just to see what interests them. If it interests them, then it must be interesting to me.
But I can understand why oks.ph stagnated, and my guess would be its lack of a revenue model. Bragging rights can only get you so far. The main drivers of revenue for the internet, aside from the obvious e-commerce, are advertisements. In the Philippines, this is one untapped market. Only Friendster, through its FADs, seems to be doing this. It would be interesting if Google Philippines can entice Philippine entrepreneurs to signup for Adsense, and I bet they will if Google can ensure that only ads of Philippine companies are displayed to the Pinoys surfing locally. Using Acmetech’s Adsense tool, you can view what Google ads will appear, and the majority of ads are on phone cards, cheap travel to Philippines, GSM phones sold abroad, and date sites. Not exactly the items that will entice an ordinary net surfer.
I personally wish we had a Philippine “digg” site. Imagine the potential for actually aggregating all our complaints about PLDT’s customer service or our feedback on Smart’s WiFi offerings. Do people really care about Arroyo’s policies? Or about the Cha-cha? Or about her stomach ailment? It’ll be interesting to find out what Pinoys consider as news-worthy.