Here’s a list of ideas I’ve had over the past year or so while using social news sites. Most of them are ideas that I think would improve sites like Digg, Netscape and Reddit in one way or another. Admittedly, one or two of them would just be interesting to see implemented on an experimental level. Either way, feel free to rip each and every one to bits.
I’ve often thought that if we concealed the submitters’ and voters’ identities, it would increase the quality of the content. I believe there would be much less mutual “back-rub” voting. It would also stem some of the scheming that goes on involving paying people under the table to submit content since the people making such offers could not verify who is submitting.
Taking anonymity a step further, I would be interested to see what would happen if all individual achievement tracking was removed from social news. Digg has already taken a step in this direction in removing the top digger list. It removes what was a key motivation for many users, but what remained was the focus on quality content.
No More Submitting
What if you didn’t have to submit content to social news sites? I’m tempting fate just by suggesting such a thing since I’m paid to submit content to Netscape as a Navigator, but hear me out. Imagine if social news sites crawled RSS feeds to gather the latest content. That would certainly cover most of the content appearing on these sites. Then you could save submitting for the rare piece of content that doesn’t belong to an RSS feed and get right to the voting and commenting. Spotplex is already doing this. There, you don’t even get to vote. A page-view is your vote.
I want to be able to vote for or against the source domain of a story, not just the story itself. Or alternatively, I’d like to be able to vote for or against the RSS feed that a story belongs to. Digg already does this with podcasts. I would then like the rating to count towards whether or not stories from it are promoted. This could also serve as a way to let users filter out stories by source.
Provide Webmaster Metrics
Imagine all the fun metrics Digg could provide site owners. As owner of a couple of sites, I would love to know who the most frequent voters on my content are, what content is generating the most votes and comments. Which content is generating the most positively rated comments and the most negatively rated comments. The possibilities are endless. Let me claim my domain and then give me access to the sweet, sweet numbers.
Lose the Dupes
Isn’t it about time that the duplicate story situation was taken care of? There have been a number of great ideas for how to make it a non-issue. If you took away submitting as I mentioned above, that would no doubt create more dupes but no one would be responsible. I don’t think there’s a way to get rid of dupes altogether, but they can be made a non-issue by allowing us to combine submissions and vote for which is the most relevant. Combining dupes would allow conversations on a topic to stay in one place and votes to contribute to a single submission, rather than being split across multiple ones. In turn, this would add to a social news site’s efficiency in delivering up to the minute news.
End Blind Voting
I think most users will agree that nobody should be voting on an article they haven’t read. Yet so many do. So many in fact, that often times the big social news sites tend to look more like popularity contests. There’s very little you could do to force someone to consume content before voting without ruining the user experience. I think it would be good if the vote/bury/sink buttons were locked at least until the user clicked the link to the article. Many of these sites use redirects to link to the content, so it would be easy to track who has read what (if they already aren’t). Simply lock the voting button until the user hits the redirect for that link.
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.