Digg Town Hall: The pseudo-live blog

Tracking the second "town hall" meeting that the social news site has hosted, led by CEO Jay Adelson and founder Kevin Rose.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
6 min read

Social news site Digg hosted its second quarterly "town hall" event on Monday night, in which executives Jay Adelson and Kevin Rose answered questions from the site's notoriously loyal, notoriously vocal user base.

Here's what went on:

5:48 p.m.: Next Town Hall is August 14. Next Digg Meetup's in New York on June 4. "Thanks to all the Digg users for all of your support. Thanks for being patient with us with these changes. We love your feedback," Adelson says.

5:45 p.m.: Live question No. 6: What were Adelson and Rose drinking at the beginning of the show? A Midwestern variety of ginger soda (not ginger ale, Adelson stresses), called Vernor's. Not beer!

Live question No. 7: Another Facebook mini-feed-related question. Can they manually choose which stories wind up in the feed? Rose says they're working on maybe doing something like that, possible. "We'll have like a 'socialize it'" tab so that you can Twitter, Pownce, Facebook, etc. a story.

Live question No. 8: The Upcoming page is a mess. Could it be a stream in Flash? Rose says Digg Labs has some kind of project in the works that's "halfway there."

5:41 p.m.: Live question No. 5: What if you screw up on a submission? There's no easy "edit." Rose reminds users to use the "preview" button before you Digg. The company's support team can also help in extreme situations.

5:40 p.m.: Rose says he's using Qik to live-stream a dodgeball game between Revision3 and Digg on Tuesday. Hope that camera doesn't get destroyed.

Live question No. 2: Digg's podcast section? "Dead?" "Really, what podcasts are are video or audio files," Adelson said. "What we're going to do...we have a plan of basically integrating podcasts into basically the video section."

Live question No. 3: There's a dog in the room, and the questioner wants to know why. It's an employee's dog, Adelson says, and said that prospective employees should like the perk that you can bring a dog along.

Live question No. 4: Can politics be separated out of the "world and business" section? "The U.S. politics drowns out anything else." Customization and personalization will help, Adelson says. Rose adds that politics is getting on the verge of meriting its own category.

5:36 p.m.: Live question No. 1: If I use the Facebook mini-feed feature, does it really have to send everything I Digg to Facebook?

Rose: "We should say that your stories aren't automatically getting sent to Facebook." It's not like Beacon. Facebook uses its own algorithm to determine if multiple friends Digg something, or if they're getting clicked on a certain number of times, they'll get shown only to a certain subset of friends or to all of your friends. Sounds a bit convoluted, but OK, Kevin, we'll believe you. "I don't know how they do it," he says.

5:34 p.m.: Question No. 9: I only want to see, like, really important stories in categories I care about--like if I don't care about politics but then Obama wins the Democratic nomination, I'd like to see a story in the politics category that gets over 10,000 Diggs.

"This is an awesome idea. I love this idea," Rose says. They'll look into it.

Last pre-submitted question. Weren't there supposed to be 10? Did I miss one?

5:31 p.m.: Question No. 8: Can you add a feature to report a story as a duplicate?

"The No. 1 priority is for us to automate this," Adelson says. They have a new version in testing.

5:28 p.m.: Wow, you'd really think Digg had turned into a war between the politics wonks and the tech nerds.

Question No. 7: Why am I getting random friend requests? Sorry, buddy, but that's called "social networking." There are random people out there. Adelson says he thinks adding external social graphs, like that of Facebook, will help.

Adelson also says he's a big fan of Ning.

5:26 p.m.: Question No. 6: A longtime Digg user says that he's disappointed it veered from its roots as a hub for "fun, unique tech stories." It's been taken over by spam, "special interest groups" and "rude, agenda-driven people." Adelson says, "I hear you. There are issues" with regard to spam. "Future changes to the algorithm are going to be huge." With 15,000 submissions a day, there's going to be some spam in there. Personalization and customization will help.

5:24 p.m.: Question No. 5: Browsing is so hard! The Upcoming section is impossible to navigate. Rose says this will be the first area of the site where personalized recommendations start showing up because there are so many stories flooding in that the section just isn't helpful anymore.

"If you're not registered and you're not logging in to use Digg," Adelson says, the whole Story Suggest thing won't be relevant. But if you actually use the site, Rose adds, it'll be relevant.

5:22 p.m.: Question No. 4: Will Digg make it possible for you to block certain words from your Digg experience, say, NSFW? (That's a tag for "not safe for work.") Rose says a NSFW filter is in the works, but declines to say they'll do anything about blocking certain words.

5:20 p.m.: Question No. 3: Is there going to be an official Digg forum? Was mentioned in last town hall, Adelson says, and it's something they're working on. "We went and checked a whole bunch of different solutions and there's a ton out there." They've narrowed it down to a few. Expect it in the second half of 2008. They don't want it to just be another bulletin board system. "It's serving a lot more purposes than just a bulletin board.

Something else that came up in the last town hall: search. That's also something they're working on. "Once you open the door to search, it's even more intense than forums," Adelson says of the options out there.

5:18 p.m.: Question No. 2: "Useful information is pushed aside for whatever the mob wants." The questioner wants to know if anything is going to be done about the mob mentality that tends to skew Digg in favor of Ron Paul, iPhones, etc. "Politics is exploding right now," Rose says.

"We're never going to have the ultimate homepage that is going to satisfy everyone," Rose acknowledges. They're working on the StumbleUpon-like Story Suggest feature as well as friend suggestions. "We realize that there's issues in this."

Adelson: "One person's spam is another person's exciting story."

5:14 p.m.: Question No. 1: There are fewer tech stories on the Digg front page. Can there be a filter? "I've had enough of Huffington Post stories for a lifetime," the questioner asks. Adelson acknowledges that tech news, which started up as Digg's lifeblood, makes up a smaller portion of the front page than it used to. Politics, given the '08 election, is on the rise. You can customize your own Digg feed, but Adelson says nothing is planned to block a specific site (i.e. Huffington Post). "We want to anticipate what you want rather than you blocking everything...like stamping on ants."

5:11 p.m.: Adelson and Rose say thank you for voting on them for the Webbys and for the Time 100. Adelson was on the list. They've got a meetup at the Studio B nightclub in New York on June 4. That's during Internet Week New York.

5:10 p.m.: Adelson talks about infrastructure. 26 million unique visitors, more than 230 million page views per month. "We've been doing a lot at Digg about scaling things like our databases." Adding Digg Images last year meant they had to step up the architecture. "All of this work certainly consumes a lot of our resources." But users don't necessarily see the progress. P.S., they're hiring!

5:07 p.m.: "Import Facebook" feature for the Zuckerberg-founded social network. Digg is a partner. "It's a very cool feature," Rose says.

5:04 p.m. Kevin goes through a rundown. The much-anticipated new comments system on Digg will come out this week, they hope. Also, check out the Digg blog if you want to see what the company's doing with regard to data portability.

5:03 p.m.: Hi everyone! Jay and Kevin say they're "very excited" to be able to talk to the community. Jay says they want the entire Digg community, not just a small subset, to participate in the Q&A. They want to cover topics that weren't covered in the last town hall, but the format will be the same.

No live chats, Jay says. It's hard to have 5,000 people at once shooting questions off. And if you're having trouble with the sound or video, hit "refresh."