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Kevin Rose steps down as CEO of Digg (digg.com)
191 points by zain on Aug 31, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 95 comments

I think if digg changed their entire concept around into one that takes all of the news and combines stories into threads, ala techmeme, they'd be a king again. I'd love to have the stories from TC, read write web, and all the other blogs on a particular topic consolidated into one story with links to the externals, an intelligent description created from all the posts combined, and maybe even a little meter to weigh the particular blogs/sites involved.

Right now Digg is just adding to the information overload. I think we're all pretty exhausted with information. I'll see something pop up on twitter, I'll see it here as well, or on my RSS reader from another site. We're all talking about similar things. We need a global sort of decentralized "permalink" concept. Digg has the resources to do this. They can "digg" the web, instead of me digging stories. They'll find out what's hot via continuing user submissions, observing the twittersphere, popular blogs, etc... and then report to me a summary of everything regarding, for example, OpenSolaris being canned.

Yet another chaotic "stream of conciousness" comment from me... but I'm just getting the discussion going.

EDIT: this could work for everything... I obviously care mostly about tech and shy away from politics, but it would be cool to have all topics of a particular issue, with their weight on the political spectrum. Just another example.

We need Google's "Priority Inbox" for RSS feeds. The signal to noise ratio in my newsfeed "inbox" is way out of whack.

Google Reader has "sort by magic", which basically does that by ordering posts by how much it thinks you want to read them.

Rather than an AI algorithm which needs to learn my personality or needs me to learn its personality, so I can direct it better, I would prefer to have a social network leveraging RSS reader. One which understands that I have already mentally delegated the cognitive load for various topics to people I know, who I accept as knowing more than me on those topics. I'm going to need to ask them later if some story is BS or not anyway, why not put that process in the RSS readers?

Posts user A has read and liked would trickle though the social graph out to other users who have delegated to user A in on the related topics (or delegated to someone who delegated to A, etc). Sort of distributing the job previously done by a newspaper's editors out to the people I know and already trust in those sections/topics.

I'm so sad that Google lags on deploying these features to the apps accounts. I'd love a "Give me all Gmail features, when they happen" option for my Google apps account. But, don't even get me started on how effed up the integration with all of that is. I want michael@whalesalad.com to be my google ID, not some random gmail address I had to create. UGH.

For what it's worth, the Priority Inbox is supposed to be rolled out to Apps users at the same time as the general rollout in the next week.

I have the priority inbox in my Gmail and in my Apps right now. As far as my accounts go, they were rolled out simultaneously today.

I circumvent this by having a gmail account and an apps account, forwarding everything from the apps account to my gmail, and using the "Send mail as" feature to complete the illusion.

Check out Fever: http://feedafever.com/

I actually own a license, but I never enjoyed it.

I never wanted to pay for it, but the idea excites me.

What didn't you like about it?

Check out http://www.newsblur.com/. The guy who made it has a background in AI, and designed it to analyze stories and guess what you will/won't be interested in.

I just tried it out. It seems slow, clunky, and often unresponsive.

Sorry about those bugs. They've been fixed now! The slowness was caused by scaling issues which have now been resolved. Everything is super-fast again.

could this be what you really want?

Not likely.

There's a decent amount of overlap among the feeds I read. I would love to see Google Reader combine any articles that point to the same link into a single thread.

That inbox-esque aspect is one reason I just stopped using RSS entirely. There are some nice aspects to it, but on the whole, I feel that the read/unread business bugs me more than it helps me. I'm not sure where I saw this analogy, but it really does feel as if a magazine had this "53 STORIES YOU STILL HAVEN'T READ" counter flashing at me. I'd rather just read the magazine as I want to, and throw it out when I'm done. Same with websites--- I'll visit and read them if I want to read their content. No reason I need it pushed to me with some software keeping track of reading it as if it were a TODO list. Sometimes I forget about particular sites or blogs for months, and then remember and read them, and somehow that's fine with me too, since much of the best content isn't so time-sensitive that I need to know about new articles within a day of them coming out.

I believe you are describing the technology behind http://www.newspond.com/ -- without the existence of user-manipulated weight (up/down vote).

How is that different from Techmeme?

I'd say this is extremely poor timing considering the backlash that version 4.0 of digg.com has been getting. It reeks of knee-jerk-ism.

It really surprises me that nobody in the boardroom thought to say: "This might look bad. Let's hold off for a couple weeks until the buzz dies off."

I'm sure the option was on the table to "hold off" but in disaster-mode (which is what this is) one of the board's functions is to restore shareholder faith.

They aren't going to do that by sitting around, so decisive action was taken. As another poster in this thread noted, the search was already on for potential CEO candidates to replace Rose - that process probably got expedited to avoid a further downward spiral.

The problems with V4 are nothing to do with technology or audience fit etc etc, it's bigger than that - it's a management issue. Management launched a buggy product that nobody wanted. And management just got replaced.

I disagree. When in disaster-mode for a privately held company, the board should not be focused on restoring shareholder faith -- but in restoring user/customer faith.

Digg's customers are its advertisers, not its users. The users are the product they sell to their customers.

So Digg might in fact be doing right by their customers in this case. They're certainly bringing in more money than Reddit.

Good point that the users are the product...and no one would assume that you could keep customers happy without paying attention to your product, although I must say that Digg is doing a pretty decent job of responding to user concerns and clearly communicating the order that they will be implementing changes. I have noticed far fewer 'broken axles' and now everyone will be watching to see how quickly they implement features from v3 that everyone is clamoring for.

One would hope the two go hand & hand.

Yes, one would hope, but don't think we've seen that for the last 10 (or probably more) years.

lets call it "stakeholder" faith then, and include members of the userbase who have invested their time in the site.

I would count them as a group who is not prepared to sit around to wait and see what happens - they want things fixed yesterday. Giving Rose a 2nd, 3rd chance etc doesn't build trust with this group IMO.

It didn't get expedited, they announced both changes last week:


Seems to me that digg is having a myspace moment. It's failed to keep up with innovation as the world has changed around it. Digg's value-add has been left in the dust by more targeted sites (reddit, HN, even twitter, facebook, failblog, 4chan, etc.), and they can't fix that problem without fundamentally reinventing digg.

They did just fundamentally reinvent Digg. That's the problem. They went from being the largest community on the web to being an RSS reader where all the feeds suck and there's no way to change them.

(Technically you can change them, but what I'm describing is the experience that 95% of the users will now have with the site.)

Good call. Digg watchers and insiders speak in hushed tones about "the algorithm" and how hopefully Digg will tweak it to great effect.

On Reddit you get an open source system with a one-stop appliance for any would-be submitters. The comment sorting algorithm is explained in a blog post by the xkcd guy (http://blog.reddit.com/2009/10/reddits-new-comment-sorting-s...).

On the flip side, reddit may not be profitable.

> reddit may not be profitable.

Considering they just had to beg for donations...

There's a difference between "not profitable" and "not profitable enough."

Also a difference between "not profitable because they can't be" and "not profitable because they refuse to be".

Reddit is having financial issues because Conde Naste does not give them any money. I assume they are taking money from what little they make from ads.

Reddit Gold was an immense success, allowing them to spin up a number of virtual servers.

Speaking as one, I noticed the slowness and time-out problems basically went away as soon as they spun up those servers.

Whatever the financial relationship with Conde Nast, Reddit Gold is definitely a success.

HN might benefit from that.

The concept of Digg before was fine all they needed to do was remove the power from the power users so everyone gets a shot at hitting the front page.

Now user submits are really hard to hit the front page since their idea of a change algorithm is allowing auto submissions to hit front page with less than 30 diggs while user submits need over 100.

I'm not sure any of those sites are more innovative than Digg. I do think that you're right though that ultimately MySpace was doomed by its own community, which is similar to Digg. It's a catch-22 really, do you decide to turn your back on your current community to grow?

Facebook did, or at least turned its side, when it opened the site to everyone instead of just college students.

4chan and innovation? Wha?

At least when it comes to internet culture, it's where a lot of stuff originates these days--- the same jokes and memes will eventually filter down to digg/reddit/elsewhere a bit later. Sort of the role that SomethingAwful, Fark, and digg have played at various times, to various extents.

That's community, not tech innovation.

Sure, but digg (like most social media companies) has always been more about innovation on the social side than on the technical side. The actual technical meat behind digg or twitter isn't what made them successful; finding a way to make themselves the center of certain kinds of culture is.

Innovation is what happens when you take the friction out of a community.

moot can't really build much on the platform he adopted from 2chan. He's probably going to innovate in the web community / imageboard space with his new startup Canvas.

Well they added Captchas recently, if that counts. I suspect it doesn't.

Its not as bad as taking the MySpace CEO position, but what would Digg's CEO do to really grow a business like that? Could it ever be a $100M+ revenue, profitable company for the long term?

They have taken $40M in funding, have 50+ employees and I have no idea what their revenue is, but I bet its under $15M for for selling ads.

Good luck to them, hope he has the courage/support to do something radical.

Digg never seemed like the kind of company that was run by an engineering culture. It feels like a MySpace type of company, where they have good marketing / media people but not about the technology and platform. One thing that suggests this is that most of the early engineering talent has left [http://atomized.org/2010/08/they-can%E2%80%99t-go-back/] , which is not something you see at Google, Facebook, or even Reddit. The new CEO might benefit from turning this around to avoid disasters like v4.

I'm not sure I'd agree with this. Digg seems to be more sophisticated technology wise than pretty much any competing site. Besides some basic scalability issues and a few bugs when launching a new features, all these sites don't require much in terms of engineering. It's much more a question of content programming and community building. Reddit and Hacker News may look successful because of an engineering culture, but I'd wager that's more about having a strong identity than the site's underlying technology.

Google was founded to solve an engineering problem. Digg was founded to solve a social problem. Their respective cultures aren't surprising.

I doubt there's a correlation. Facebook is engineer-driven and was founded to solve a social problem. And the problem google solved was borderline social. Don't mean to be argumentative- I just think that it's a choice that leadership tends to make early on that's unrelated to the problem being solved, and that one of the two choices/cultures seems to do far better than the other. (could be confirmation bias, but I kind of doubt it).

Poor Williams! So Rose says to the guy, "Here you go ... I broke everything and chased away our most loyal users and now I’m leaving you to stand behind it and defend it. Have fun!"

This comic strip might be one of the most insightful contributions to the topic: http://ncomment.com/blog/

That is seriously incredible and brought me up to speed. Do you know if that was illustrated over the weekend or is a lot of it mash-up/collage? Either way - awesome.

it's old. pre Digg 4.

They seriously didn't have v4 in beta long enough. I got accepted to the beta a little while back and it had lots of issues even then with the broken axle and other errors. For a change that substantial, they really should have had a very long beta period where they slowly brought people in.

I was shocked when I heard it was going live because I knew from the beta that it wasn't even close to ready.

They have been working v4 for a long time and yet the site is unusable. I guess the rush came from investors to push it out which was not a smart idea.

This shouldn't be of any shock to anyone. Rose is not a CEO type and has admitted so in the past. When he launched Digg he promptly went to his known acquaintance, Jay Adelson, to lead the company while he remained as the chief architect. It was only time until he found somebody else to take control of Digg while he led the charge in his prior role.

Is it a coincidence that the replacement came in right after a poor launch? We could speculate that all day but this CEO was likely already inbound before the launch. Today just marked it official.

What a nightmare. I think Digg v4 should have been launched as a separate startup, helmed by Kevin ala Pownce. It's just too different, and it looks like they may have killed the goose that laid the golden egg. What a disaster..

I'm not really sure how golden those eggs were, truth be told. Was digg profitable? How profitable? Not enough for a company that has taken in $40 million in VC money, for sure...

It could have been profitable if it wasn't. Up until recently Reddit was being run by only two or three engineers on a shoe-string budget. Digg had way too many employees, way too much ambition.

At one point they have SEVENTY people! That's pretty insane for what Digg is if you ask me.

Seventy paid (salaried) employees?

Instead of a separate startup (with a different brand/trade-dress) maybe a v4 as an opt-in alternative on a subdomain similar to what Facebook offered with lite.facebook.com would have been better received.

(Or alternatively v4 at digg.com and v3-features at discussion.digg.com with some tie-in.)

Can someone please un-editorialize the title?

The CEO transition has been planned for months. It may be poorly timed, but the title of this link makes it sound like he's resigning due to the v4 launch issues.

It's kind of telling that the digg blog now has the same blue that twitter's blog has. Hopefully the CEO can do something about the complete absence of original thought.

That's an interesting take coming from you.

If I go to digg.com, I get a message about digg having a broken axle (i.e. it does not work). Is that just me?

I guess he pulled the plug on the way out

I can't get to the site at all now. My browser does 'waiting for digg.com' like they're not even ACKing.

It's not just you. I tried it from various IPs and get the same broken axel page.

Not just you. Techcrunch had an article on it a few days back: http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/26/digg-fail-ox/

It just came back up.

Anyone have insight into the timing of this? I understand they have been looking for someone for a while and this timing may simply be a result of an ongoing process coming to a close... but at the same time I'm sure there has been a lot going on internally at Digg since the launch of v4. Either way, the recent Digg events have been very public and very interesting. I think there is a decent amount to be learned from all this, or at least that is how I am rationalizing closely watching this all unfold.

Pure speculation: they'd been looking semi-casually for a while, interviewing prospects, etc. The VCs were probably hoping Kevin would pull a Steve Jobs comeback. Then the Digg v4 fiasco happened. The VCs pulled the trigger and fast tracked their most promising candidate.

They said before the launch that they were going to announce the new CEO this week.

But, that doesn't sound dramatic enough!

Any time you're hoping for someone to pull a Steve Jobs comeback, you're already in deep trouble. There are very, very few Steve Jobs types in the world.

What a cop out. Kevin Rose has been hyping Digg v4 for months. He should stand behind his product, his vision, his creation. He should go down with a fight.

To be fair, he'd always planned this to be temporary. In his podcast with Tim Ferris just a couple of weeks ago, he said he'd be stepping down pretty soon.

But he is leaving at the worst possible time. A big upgrade requires months of follow up work and he should know that.

I'm not usually an internet tough guy, but this is outrageous. If I was a digg engineer I would be livid. The captain sailed into uncharted waters and then abandoned ship. He should protect his crew. He should do everything in his power to save the ship.

There's been a steady stream of digg engineers (and product managers, dbas, sysadmins, VPs) heading out the door for at least 2 years. So the ship is long since abandoned, the "captain" stayed on.

One of these sites just needs to install a sliding bar at the top. All the way to the left is Failblog pictures. All the way to the right is academic articles. Build this.

This is an incredibly difficult thing to do. You're essentially going to have to rely on your users to categorize things, which they probably won't do.

One person's academic article is another person's lolcat picture.

This was exemplified to me recently on http://newslily.com/; We had a new user who was constantly submitting things that he thought were appropriate for "science" or "medicine", but they weren't (at least not in the opinion of most of the users). To him, this was hard science; good stuff, but it was mostly things that we weren't interested in. How would the slider work for him?

The solution (one that is similar to what digg did [although we've had this for about a year, humph]) was effectively user-whitelisting. Now, what you see on the front page of the site is things that our moderators have approved, and what you see in the various categories (or "upcoming" section) is things from users that you have whitelisted.

A major misunderstanding (and why I think that user-whitelisting is better than what reddit or HN do [and is also why I think a control like what you're talking about wouldn't workd]) is that people are not all the same; this is why I like the idea behind what digg did (hey, it's worked for facebook and twitter, right?)

I tried with this but the layout breaks; you get the idea. http://aggreddit.com/?r=WTF+Pics+Science+Funny+AskReddit+Phi...

I feel bad for Kevin, to be stepped down from his own startup, it was his idea, it was his money, and now some VC guys just throw him out of the window. I don't believe Kevin just stepped down because of the V4 fail. Specially when he just became CEO again a couple of months ago.

Digg just became a zombie site, as a user, everytime I visit I feel like i'm visiting my RSS reader, it just doesn't feel to have any human interaction except for the comments.

Would it be pretty bad if they rolled back to V3 ? I mean...this version 4 is really not working out for anyone.

Kevin said right after Jay left that he was only a temp CEO. Did you even read the other comments on this story?

you mean read > 50 comments ? Sorry but no. But thanks for the update tho ;)

Yes, I can see how taking the time to educate yourself would slow down your hobby of spewing out libellous crap on the Internet

Geez, I didn't know that linking to Reddit from the Digg front page was that big of a deal.

Just like Technorati, Digg's failure at coming up with a business model that doesn't annoy it's entire userbase has rapidly faded it into irrelevancy. Does Digg have a lot of hardware? I hope they use dovebid, so I won't have to register with a new auction site for the bankruptcy specials.

This is old news, he submitted his resignation to Reddit a few days ago. (/I know I know, old joke, mod me down.)

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