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At its peak, the social-news site Digg.com was one of the most heavily trafficked Web destinations around. The user-driven site delivered a mix of tech news, "man-bites-dog" stories and quirky images. But ever since it launched its latest "V4" redesign, traffic numbers have dipped and loyal visitors have revolted. Trying to lure them back in, Digg started rolling back the site's older features, including a paginated homepage and user submission logs. Unfortunately, the concessions may be too little, too late for jilted users who have moved onto competing sites such as Reddit. Is Digg finished?

  • Everything's Going to Hell, writes John Boitnott at VentureBeat: "Site co-founder (and former CEO) Kevin Rose said the site did, in fact, lose visitors when it attempted to move from its third design to its current fourth incarnation. Multiple publications also reported that he was feeling 'burned out,' perhaps to the point where he may not be at the company in six months... The site’s traffic has nosedived in the time since the new design emerged, and many publishers have reported lower or inconsistent referral traffic compared to before. One of the biggest user complaints in recent weeks has been an increase in 'spam' material on Digg’s front page from sites that held no interest to the community. Several sites, including “travel-online-free.blogspot.com” as well as 'herbalremedies-free.blogspot.com' reached the front page partly because whoever ran the sites corralled enough votes without moderators noticing. The submissions were eventually removed from the site."

  • Digg Needs to Reconcile Competing Interests, writes Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic. The content shown on Digg has long been selected by the site's "Power Diggers" who collaborate to boost specific articles onto the Digg homepage, explains Madrigal. The fact that Digg can be "gamed" by these influential actors leaves average readers feeling alienated:

I think the site's gameability, though, generated what our own John Gould calls "microhate." Casual users still visited the site but they were frequently mildly annoyed. Users knew that they were practically excluded from participating actively in the site. Or worse, their contributions were worthless, despite the site's nominal "democratic" voting methods.

And that's ultimately the problem: technology companies love to talk about "serving their users," but users are not a unitary population. Sometimes, one group of users wants something fundamentally different from another. And yet Digg needs both of them to succeed as a service. ...

Can the site strike the right balance with design tweaks? I don't know, but the hardcore users' opposition to any serious changes is going to make it tough.

  • It's an Impossible Balancing Act, writes Kevin Hall at Dvice: "Only time will tell if Digg tries to roll back and appease its loyal fanbase or if this is finally the last straw that will have Diggers looking elsewhere. Digg exists in a tough space: it needs to honor the users who built up the site, attract attention (and money) from content providers, and make itself a place where non-regulars can visit and find interesting. Right now, with traffic down, users pissed and — as a result of said traffic — content providers' interest waning, Digg appears to be failing on all those levels."
  • Digg Co-Founder Kevin Rose Speaks About Problematic Redesign  "It’s always a battle for us, it’s like an arms race. We have the same problems Google does with people trying to manipulate search results with SEO, except on the social voting side of the house," Rose said to TechCrunch's Alexia Tsotsis. "If I had to do it all over again I would have kept all those features we had on the old site, and let the users try them out first and see if they had a taste for the new features and only then, if they really liked them then rolled them out to everybody else"

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