Can you Digg it?

February 1, 2007 by Staff Writer

As a reformed Luddite with my own websites, I often find myself curious about technology. Coming from an era when the clocks on video tape recorders continually flashed on and off because nobody on the planet knew how to set them, or turn them off, the Internet for me is both a world of awe and massive frustration – things change just too quickly! 

While I have been fiddling around with websites on what I knew to be the Internet, it seems an entirely new Internet has emerged around me – Web 2.0. Not only is Web 2.0 new, it’s important – important enough for the 2006 Time Magazine ‘Person of the Year’ to be everyone involved in it (although the cynical amongst you might suggest the chances of repeating their 1938 mistake in 2006 could have made Time Magazine play it safe!).

What is Web 2.0?

So, what is Web 2.0? Well wikipedia suggests Web 2.0 “refers to a perceived or proposed second generation of Internet-based services—such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies—that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users.” OK! Right!

Erm…

Let’s take a closer look at this – let’s focus on the item at the start of that list - social networking. Looking at social networking will give you the thrust of what Web 2.0 is about – people providing content… websites taking the profit!

What is Social Networking?

My venture into any Internet initiative happens when something is thrust into my face long enough for me to start to get annoyed by it. For me surfing the net and seeing little notes dotted around websites inviting me to ‘Digg It’ or telling me that something was “Del.icio.us” had the same impact as a fly buzzing around my head – you can swat the damn thing away as long as you like, but eventually you have to get up and sort the damn thing out.

This is my attempt at sorting out social networking…

Since I started using the Internet, I have seen countless websites I have been interested in and often put them on my browser’s favorites list. Sometimes, I find a site that I know one of my friends or colleagues would like, and I cut and paste the website’s URL into an email, and fire it off to them. Likewise, they do the same for me. That, it seems, is the basic premise of social networking – the fact that people are inclined to share new discoveries.

Social networking sites work as an alternative to your browser’s favorite function – instead of saving your favorites on your browser, you save them on a site. However, being on a site, these favorites can be open to the perusal of other people, who based, on the topic content of your favorites, can get a feel for the things you are interested in. If your interests match, someone might want to befriend you and share what the websites, stories, etc. they have found covering your areas of mutual interest. You in return can share yours and even add links in the accounts of people you know will be interested in something. When enough people with a mutual interest get together, you suddenly have a community, and that is when things start to get interesting and you live the rest of your life on the Internet.

Are you Digging it?

Being the site with the most buttons dotted around the Internet, Digg.com was my first real Web 2.0 experience, and what a fascinating tool it proved to be. Register for Digg through a simple procedure and you immediately encounter masses of ‘News’. These are the ‘Stories’ that that people have bookmarked on the site.

When you are in the site, you note that next to the stories are invitations to ‘digg it’. If you read a story and appreciate it, you can click on this link to register a vote of appreciation. The stories on the front page represent those stories that have been ‘dugg’ the most times. From the same interface, you are invited to ‘add stories’, and this is where you can begin bookmarking the stories that interest you. Stories are placed in a range of categories under the headings of Technology, World & Business, Videos, Sports, Science, Entertainment and Gaming, although the site does seem to have more of an emphasis on science and technology than similar sites.

Digg.com is not restricted to the written word. The site allows users to upload videos and ‘digg’ them in the same way as they ‘digg’ an article. A recent addition, the site allows users to find, upload  and rate podcasts.

That’s great – but how does this help people with websites?

The implications for people with websites are enormous – here is a potentially unlimited source of visitors. The first great thing about Digg.com is it gives users the option to email friends (members to the site and nonmembers) and particularly interesting listings can go viral. Likewise, with people sharing each other’s lists and voting on items of interest - there are plenty of ways a link to your site can generate visitors. At the bare minimum, the handful of visitors you may have got from an article, etc. could turn into a trickle. However, if your website makes it to the front page of Digg,com, better still into the top 10, you are going to receive some serious traffic.

Some estimates suggest that Digg’s top 10 front-page items drive between 10 and 20 visitors a second to a site. When a listing starts creeping its way to the front page of Digg, webmasters often prepare for an avalanche of visitors. Some webmasters change dynamic pages (in .php, .asp, .asp.net, etc.) to plain html to allow more visitors to access the same information. They even reduce the size of images and notify their hosts and ISPs to prepare for additional server and bandwidth usage.

Wow? How easy is it to get on the front page?

For people with commercial websites or pay-per-click advertising, and even Adsense, bringing so many people to your website has obvious advantages.
And therein lies the rub.…

As with Google, some people invest a considerable amount of time manipulating votes in a bid to enjoy the benefits of the site. They surreptitiously add links to their sites, and join people who are prepared to exchange votes. They even join “Digg crews” – groups of people who will exchange votes to push each other up the rankings. Although Digg was ‘founded on ideals of democracy’, it now apparently employs an algorithm (ala Google) that spots voting patterns and penalizes manipulators. How easy is it to get on the front page? Using ‘black hat’ tactics, it is anyone’s guess – but if you really consider how you can benefit the Digg community, things might become more certain.

When you become a Digg member, you can create a profile for yourself. Other members can visit that profile, and this is the information it can contain:

- Your real name
- Your location
- AIM/Yahoo/MSN/ICQ/gTalk (for real time chats)
- Your website (although there is no direct link to your website, you can present your full URL and people can cut and paste it into a browser).

Wouldn’t you pay for an advert like that on a popular site?

I believe that if you respect the Digg community, consider what people there are interested in, and provide it, then people will contact you, your name will get known, and the rest will follow. Provide what people need and they will not be especially concerned about the source – whether it is your own site of somebody else’s.

Are there any tips and tricks to make the best of all of this?

As mentioned earlier, black hat approaches are probably not going to help people in the log run, but there are a few things you can do to “oil the wheels” as it were. As I said earlier, my interest in this was spurred by seeing little tags everywhere inviting people to ‘Digg it’. This is what reminds people to bookmark an item and if a link appears on a page, linking becomes much more convenient. You can set up links so that they transfer your visitors to the Digg login page, and then once the user has logged in, the URL details are there ready for them to complete the details and save the link. This can really pay off in terms of visitors so it is well worth doing. 

So, that’s it then – throw a Digg link up on the site and wait for everything to happen?

Erm… No. There are significantly more social networking sites than just Digg.com. Take a look at this press release about a new social networking site that you can access through a mobile phone:

http://www.prweb.com/releases/social_networking/mobile/prweb501057.htm

Have a look around the page and see what you have got… alongside “Print this Article” and ‘Digg’ it you can ‘Bookmark with del.icio.us’, ‘Bookmark with Y!MyWeb’, and you can even ‘Stumble It’! What does it all mean? It means there are plenty of other Social Networking sites out there to look at! Here are some that I know about:

Del.icio.us (http://www.del.icio.us.com)

Very much along the Digg lines, Del.icio.us seems to have convenience sorted out – the site offers you a couple of icons that will fit on your browser that offer the option to surf the net and simply save whatever you come across. When you save an item you become its editor – Digg allows you to list the url, provide a description of the site/page, add some notes, and provide some tags which will function as key words for searches through Del.icio.us. Links go through the rankings when people save them into their own bookmarks.

Del.icio.us has got the social networking aspect really sorted – you can set up a network that gives you access to other users. Of course, you can invite people you know to join your network, as well as other members. Adding new people to your network gives you access to their bookmarks, and this is where the sharing element can make a link to your site go viral! You can even easily transfer any of the content you find in Del.icio.us to you blog, and aside from proprietary Weblogs the system is also set up to move content to your Blogger, Typepad, Live Journal, Moveable Type or WordPress site. Del.icio.us also offers quite a few more categories that make it substantially easier to use than Digg. A genuinely excellent site and one you should look around.

Blink (http://www.blinklist.com)

Like Del.icio.us, click on a Blinklist link as a member and you are invited to bookmark a pageYou provide a title, a URL, notes and tags. Unlike Del.icio.us, you have a 1-5 star ranking to offer an item you are bookmarking. No buttons on your browser, Blinklist recommends you put the site URL in your browser favorites to access the site. No video, podcats, etc. although again a significant emphasis of making friends, caring and sharing. The first thing you notice about Blinklist is people need significantly less ‘blinks’ to get on the front page than you do ‘diggs’ for Digg.com or ‘saves’ for Del.icio.us. Watch this space though!

Furl (http://www.furl.com)

Registered for this, didn’t get a notification. When I have seen a Furl link on a page, I have never been able to save anything! Nevertheless, little Furl buttons are seen on the Internet websites as regularly as acne on a teenagers face, so their really must be something behind it. Let me know if you have had more success than I have!

Stumbleupon (http://www.stumbleupon.com)

Stumbleupon has the dubious distinction of taking up the most space on your browser, and unfortunately, in my case, crashing the browser on occasions. However, when it works, which is most times, it is very convenient. This is a splendid site – its blurb probably says it all:

“It helps you meet people with common interests by browsing & reviewing webpages. Feel free to browse around profiles and contact people you think are interesting. Telling others about yourself also helps people discover you - extending your network of friends and acquaintances.”

From the browser buttons Stumbleupon provides you can give a site a “thumbs up”, or a “thumbs down” (which drives similar content away from you). One button appears to access sites for you random perusal, which I could not really work out. However, the social element is very strong here, so add a picture! I liked the fact that you could bookmark photos, videos, wikis and news.

Google and Yahoo! My Page

Google and Yahoo! My Page are very much places to store the links you are interested in along the RSS lines, and that is about it – there is really no social networking aspect… yet! Watch this space though… It’s bound to happen!

OK – that was what I looked into, but there are herds of others including Bloglines, Blue Dot, GiveALink.org, Kaboodle , Ma.gnolia, Newsvine, Reddit… The list really does do on, and on, and on and… There are though a couple of sites that take social networking to its zenith.

MySpace (http://www.myspace.com)

MySpace is the golden chalice of social networking sites. It seems people live here, so enter with respect, get talking to people, offer them a few things they need, and they will soon visit you at your site. Joining in rather than just posting an advert will really reap enormous benefits. Owned by an Aussie (Rupert Murdoch) who once said that he could not understand the ‘information superhighway’ (as the Internet used to be called), this is one of the few websites there are websites about. Check here:

http://www.famouspeopleonmyspace.com/

Film, events, videos, music, comedy, classifieds… there is not much this MySpace does not touch and its growing by the nanosecond by appealing to the younger age group – the ones who always seem to have a lot of money!

YouTube (www.youtube.com)

Very much a social networking site but one organized around video. You can actually upload video to their servers, use it on your own site, set up a channel with a certain theme, and make friends and share their video lists. This, for example, is the wealth of video material YouTube offers on the subject of web hosting:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=web+hosting&search=Search

Again, do not place an advert like some people do, scour the channels and groups, and find out what people need. Provide a tutorial or whatever it is, and link to your website.

There is so much potential here, Google bought the site… Need I say more? 

SecondLife (http://secondlife.com)

An abstract one this but worth a mention…

What can be said about SecondLife that does not sound insane? This is virtual world where people have an alter ego represented by an avatar and go about business in pretty much the same way they do in the real world – except of course they appear in SecondLife as a 8 foot-tall rabbit or however else they appear. The Second Life world has a currency where people make money, and this has an exchange rate with US dollars. People make money building houses for other people in the Second Life realm, make and sell sunglasses, and can amass enough real world money through their efforts to make them millionaires. A number of companies have set up business in Second Life. These include Apparel, who opened a virtual clothes shop, Starwood Hotels, who have set up hotels, and IBM. A Swedish Embassy recently opened there, too! How does this affect you? Perhaps not too much right now, but this is definitely a venue you should keep your eye on and one that you can make real world contacts that turn into revenue for your website or services.

What do you know?

OK, that really is just scratching the surface. Is there anything I have missed? Anything incorrect? Anything the needs enhancing? Sites I have not covered I really should have?

Let’s do this a low-tech social networking way… Email your comments, amendments or additions to this article, and I will post them…

I am sure there are some real experts on this area out there that we can all benefit from.

Staff Writer


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