A snowball has been growing over the past month. Big players are creating Digg-style social apps left, right and center. I’ve been waiting for the snowball to slow down so I could write a piece on all them, but it just keeps growing and gaining momentum. So I decided to just go for it. I wonder how many new ones will pop up before I finish writing…this…sentence.
Yahoo! Suggestion Board
Have you ever wanted to know how to get hundreds of Digg users swirled into a blind rage? Well I’ll tell you, but you must use this information only for good purposes. First create a suggestion board for your products. Make it function and look similar to Digg. Then give Digg credit in a blog post about your new suggestion board. There it is: your recipe for disaster.
Yahoo! launched their new Digg-inspired suggestion board because they recognized that through Digg-style voting, users could more efficiently tell them what suggestions were of greater importance to them. Users submit suggestions, and other users vote them up. What they were not expecting was an overwhelming negative reaction from a mob of angry Digg users though. There comes a point when the wisdom of the crowd succumbs to mob mentality. This is way past that point.
Now that the mob has taken their pitchforks and gone home, the Yahoo! Suggestion Board function pretty well.
Just one day later, Dell unveiled their very own product of “Diggspiration”. Ideastorm is a similar concept to Yahoo!’s Suggestion Board, but a little more open-ended. Users submit everything from product feedback to requests for new products or features to, well, anything they want. They then vote on submissions they like, Digg-style. The most popular ones bubble up to the top of the front page.
Microsoft MSN Reporter
Also just one day after Yahoo! was spotted getting their Digg on, Microsoft was caught brushing up against the Digg meme in a big way. MSN Reporter (available in Belgium and Norway) is a social news site that proclaims that “you are the writer” and encourages you to share news with other users. Of course the voting we have come to love and trust is included.
Speaking of social news, one of the most well read national newspapers in the United States, USA Today, recently integrated a slew of social features into their site. Among other things, readers can now contribute photos, music and movie reviews as well as participate in comment threads on every story and recommend (think vote) stories they like. It was most impressive to see a bonafide member of the mainstream media take this plunge.
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
Believe it or not, the United States Patent and Trademark Office is getting ready to harness the wisdom of the crowd. Starting in the spring, they’re going to be posting patent applications online and inviting readers to discuss them. Users will be able to rank comments and the most “respected” of them will be made easily accessible to examiners for consideration. Their thinking is that their examiners will have better access to information that is relevant to their work if it is socially driven, and this will help them process the ever-increasing number of patent applications they receive.
Yahoo! Japan’s Minna No Topics
Finally, back on the social news front (and on the Yahoo! front for that matter) is a socially driven Japanese site called Minna No Topics (“Everyone’s Topics”). Yahoo!’s second homage to Digg hits a little more close to home, being centered around news. Like Digg, users contribute news, vote on news and comment on news. The site also features tags and profile pages for users.
It has become clear in the last month that the voting implementation made popular by Digg is transitioning from merely being awesome to a web standard. The most exciting part is the variation of big players and the purposes that it is being applied to. From “old” mainstream media to patents to customer support. All are big enough that they will foster their own unique communities. This will no doubt cause more sites to apply democracy-based systems for the benefit of their users.
Derek van Vliet is a Toronto, Ontario native who has been programming for most of his life. In the last year he has been active in social news. He is currently a top 10-ranked user on Digg where he goes by the name BloodJunkie. He is also a professional social bookmarker (aka Navigator) on Netscape, where he goes by the name Neophile. Check his blog at http://neothoughts.com.