This past week has been all about the connections users have with each other on social news sites; the very fabric that makes up the social environment. Newsvine added ways for users to connect with each other. Digg took some away. Netscape did a little of both.
Spy vs. Spy
Newsvine launched a new feature called Newsvine Live last week. This is a tool that lets users track each other’s actions (votes, comments, submissions, etc.) as they happen on the site. Digg users will recognize the similarities between this and Digg Spy.
It was implemented with the high level of design and functionality that we have come to expect from Newsvine. And they raised the bar while they were at it by providing a live chat built into the page. Newsvine Live also has the granularity of being able to see when a person votes on a comment.
Digg made big waves this week when they announced they were removing the top diggers list in an effort to stave off accusations of top diggers manipulating and gaming the site. However, within hours, Cristopher Finke (who actually works for Netscape) had recreated it using publicly available information.
Reactions to the top diggers list being removed varied from delight to displeasure. Many were disappointed that diggers would no longer have a recognition system. Still many others were understanding and appreciated that Digg was looking out for its top users as well as the whole site in doing this. So far one high ranking digger has noted that the solicitations he usually received on a daily basis from content producers have sharply declined since this move.
Personally, I never like to see features taken away from users. However, I understand that there are times when the best interest of the product calls for such a thing. And I think this is one of those rare cases. I also believe that Digg is capable of connecting users and giving them recognition in better ways.
Netscape did some feature-removing of their own this past week. In particular they removed their users’ ability to broadcast site-mail to all of their friends (albeit for a trial period of 2 weeks). It may sound like a small change, but this feature was quite regularly used by users to easily promote their submissions to all of their friends.
As a result it left some of the top users of the site displeased with the change. Still many other users were sick of the regular flow of site-mail soliciting votes and how it was affecting the front page of the site, and therefore welcomed the move by Netscape.
At the same time, Netscape also added a “Share This Story” feature that makes it easy for users to send stories to each other by email or private message. This is similar to the “Email This” feature on Digg, but with the added ability of reaching any user on the site via site-mail.
It makes sense to internalize the ability for users to notify other users of their stories. We all know that if it wasn’t happening within the site, it would be happening by email and IM (as it does on Digg) so why not get the extra page views and serve some more ads?
The connections between users of social news sites are the glue that holds them together. The more connected users feel to each other, the more willing they are to come back. When adding features that connect users, it seems like these sites can do no wrong. It’s in the removal of features that they have to take special care not to destroy connections that have been created.