My Go To Websites

There are a half dozen websites I visit every day–often multiple times a day.

Huffington-Post-Logo1Huffington Post– My go-to news source. I’m not proud to say that.

HuffPo represents so much that’s wrong with journalism. There are click bait headlines and lots of stories based on other people’s reporting (it’s gotten better with time). Often HuffPo’s treatment of a story instigates me to go elsewhere for details.

The far left column is opinion from bloggers and celebs. I never click there.

The center column is curated&#185 news. Pretty decent lineup. Huffington now has pretty good writing, plus wire service and affiliate access.

The right column is tabloid. There is at least one salacious link to some young hottie “rocking her bikini.” I click those every time. Mission accomplished, Arianna.

Huffington Post has attempted to create an online video channel with live broadcasts through the day. I’ve gone and been quickly bored. Now the main site reuses clips of the broadcasts always attached to buzzfeedish teases.

When I click a HuffPo link and its one of their in-house videos I click away and feel duped! It really ticks me off.

Editorially, HuffPo is left-of-center.

reddit-logoReddit— A sparse website, Reddit isn’t much more than page-after-page of links. Its power is in customization. Reddit is individually configured. My Reddit favors geeky stories connected to my interests.

Reddit uses a system of voting to promote or ditch stories. It seems effective. I’ve seen comments saying the system gets gamed. Not to me.

The front page is constantly turning over. I like that.

ycombinator-logoHacker News— Compared to Hacker News, Reddit looks like Tiger Beat!

This is a current Hacker News headline:

“TurboFan” – Experimental new optimizing compiler for Google’s V8 JS engine (

Hacker News is owned by Y Combinator.

Y Combinator provides seed funding for startups. Seed funding is the earliest stage of venture funding. It pays your expenses while you’re getting started.

There are many people much nerdier than I on this site. Lots of talk of startups and failures.

MediaiteMediaite— This is from Dan Abrams.

From TV green rooms to the corridors of the senate to the latest hashtag revolt, is a trusted source on the intersection of politics and media across the political spectrum.

There’s plenty from CNN, MSNBC, Fox, CNBC and the others to give Mediaite fresh fodder, though there’s not as much updating on the weekend.

Every night Mediaite produces its own copy of Jon Stewart’s first block bit. I see it nearly three hours before I legitimately see Stewart! Why does Comedy Central allow that?

header-12-4-11-01ROMENESKO— This is Jim Romenesko’s blog. A newsie from St. Paul he’s been gossipping journalism for 15 years. It’s inside baseball for sure, but always entertaining and often illuminating.

Most of Romenesko’s daily news comes in the morning. This is another site that gets very quiet on weekends.

Times change. My most read sites today are different from just a few years ago. Gone (to me) are Slashdot, Digg, Drudge and a few others. Awful Announcing, Mashable and Boy Genius Report are on the rise.

I’d like to know your favorites, but please, ONLY ONE PER COMMENT. The automated spam detection software goes after multiple links in comments. Too many and your comment will never see the light of day. Sorry.

&#185 – When did ‘curated’ actually become a word? It works here, but this is a word I never heard until four or five years ago.

Flame Out At

Digg was hurting. Its employees were hurting. The bad news didn’t end there. Yesterday a bombshell exploded. In earlier time it would have immediately made the front page of Digg itself!

If you’re outside the techie world this might be a story you haven’t heard yet, but it’s huge. It concerns Digg a site that allows users to submit links to stories. How the rest of the community values those links decides whether they receive more or less prominence on Digg’s front and succeeding pages.

A front page hit on Digg (as had previously been the case with could bring a website to its knees under a tsunami of traffic!

Digg was great for finding hidden gems and then giving them wide play. It was one of my first stops every morning then revisited as the day went on.

Digg grew with such ferocity Business Week featured a front page article on the site and its founder Kevin Rose. They claimed Rose’s stake in Digg was worth $60,000,000. Not bad for a site started 18 months earlier with an idea and a few hundred dollars.

As with most websites Digg has evolved over time. The Business Week article came around version 3.0. Recently Digg has gone to version 4.0 and that’s when the wheels began to fall off the bus!

Along with a new look came a new lineup of stories on the front page. Major websites were getting more prominence pushing the smaller more eclectic sites Digg was known for spotlighting aside. Stories were getting play that would have never been dug by diggers before. Rumors began to fly Digg’s traffic was rapidly dying as users became disaffected.

Yesterday Digg slashed its staff. Here’s how Information Week reported it.

Digg gave pink slips to 25 of its 67 employees, reducing its workforce to 42 people, said former Amazon executive Matt Williams, who joined Digg as CEO about six weeks ago, in a letter to staff.

“We must significantly cut our expenses to achieve profitability in 2011. We’ve considered all of the possible options for reduction, from salaries to fixed costs,” he said. “It’s been an incredibly tough decision. I wish it weren’t necessary. However, I know it’s the right choice for Digg’s future success as a business.”

Digg was hurting. Its employees were hurting. The bad news didn’t end there. Yesterday a bombshell exploded. It was a story that in earlier times would have immediately made the front page of Digg itself!

Did Digg game its own system to benefit publisher partners?

The source was a blog which laid out in meticulous detail how Digg first allowed large sites to submit their own links (instead of waiting for them to be submitted by users) then created automated dummy users to “dig” the stories onto the front page. The implication was money was changing hands to buy exposure on Digg.

The tech community is incensed and Digg which held an exalted place in that community is now reviled. Some are predicting the site will be unable to weather this storm of bad publicity. I have never seen opinion change this radically this quickly.

It’s rumored Kevin Rose turned down numerous earlier offers to sell Digg for eight figure amounts. Oops.

Ross Ching

Ross and I have known each other via the Internet for a few years. Until this evening we’d never met.

While Stef and Helaine were bowling tonight (Ray Romano. Next lane. “Oddly attractive in designer jeans,” reports Stef) I was driving to Westwood to meet Ross Ching. I am a fan.

Ross and I have known each other via the Internet for a few years. Until this evening we’d never met.

I marvel at his meticulous work in time lapse. His videos have been seen millions of times online. He is the master of this genre and smart enough to see he has to keep ahead of the pack.

Smart is the part of Ross that’s most impressive. He has a better ‘big picture’ view of life than I had… than I think most 24 year olds have.

He started as a teenager making skateboarding videos with his friends. They were slick for high school level production. People were impressed. He kept moving.

Ross began shooting time lapse using a DSLR, a still camera, with an intervalometer to control the shutter. He shot the low hanging fruit–clouds, stars, the graceful motion of water. With his series of Eclectic videos and the help of Twitter and Digg he became well known. Again he kept moving.

A film school graduate from San Diego State and Ross works for a production house here in Los Angeles. He shoots music videos and commercials. He keeps adding to his technique.

While we sat drinking coffee I watched his video for Kina Grannis’ “Valentine.” Then I watched again. The second time through was spent hitting pause and quizzing him on the shoot and how he achieved what was on the screen. Though post-production is sometimes looked upon as a magic bullet this shoot’s success was cemented in pre-production and detailed planning.

I suspect Ross is organized in ‘real life,’ maybe obsessively so. He’s definitely organized as a director. I wonder if he understands how valuable that is?

I gave him some advice: Don’t worry about money. If you’re good the money will find you. Enjoy what you’re doing. That’s much more important. Successful people are nearly always doing what they enjoy.

Too Much Democracy

I read a lot of tech news online. It’s pretty tough to find a technical subject I don’t want to delve into.

Finding these articles can be tough, so like many people I harness the power of the Internet by going to ‘aggregator’ sites. These sites don’t usually produce content on their own. Instead, they link to other sites where the articles are kept.

Originally, my favorite was Slashdot. There were times I’d go there a half dozen or more times a day.

The way Slashdot works is, people suggest stories, editors check them out, they get posted. When first discovered, I liked Slashdot a lot.

Over time it got too slow for me. I’m not talking about how long it took for a page to load. It wasn’t pushing enough links my way.

Next came Digg, a San Francisco start-up headed by Kevin Rose, formerly of TechTV. This site also takes suggestions from readers. Instead of having editors pass judgement, Digg encourages their readers to digg a story (or not). Get a lot of digs and your story hits the front page and gets read by lots of people.

The more I liked Digg, the less time I spent on Slashdot.

Then came Reddit. Like Digg, this site’s content is juried by its readers. What I liked was, more stories made the front page and the lineup was volatile from hour-to-hour. There was lots for me to read.

The more I liked Reddit, the less time I spent on Digg. Even worse (for them), Slashdot was falling off my radar.

Now there’s a problem. A small community, like Digg or Reddit, can easily be overrun by single issue zealots. For Reddit especially, that means supporters of Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich.

Stop – I’m not criticizing either of these candidates. What I’m concerned about is how their supporters have hijacked these sites to get their points across. I want to read tech, not hear about who feels short changed and why.

Having no editor should lead to a democratically juried site. Instead, it’s leading to anarchy.

At the moment, I still read all three. Their order of importance in my life is currently Digg, Reddit, Slashdot… but Reddit is getting very close to dropping to number three.

Digg And The HD-DVD Crack

Among the geekier sites I visit on a daily basis is Digg. Most of its users are younger, smarter and more computer savvy than I am. Hanging out there is like being in the world’s nerdiest club.

All of Digg’s content is submitted by its users. Mainly you see links to other sites and attached comments from Digg users.

The site name comes from its modus operandi. An entry’s popularity (and hence its position on the site) is decided by how many registered users “Digg” it.

Right now Digg’s home page is a shambles. Digg’s users are in the midst of a protest. The site has been rendered worthless.

What’s going on maybe a harbinger of the anarchy ahead within Internet ‘communities’.

It started this way. Someone cracked the digital rights management key that protects HD-DVDs. Though HD-DVDs were designed to change encryption schema under just such an occasion, this discovery is so deep within the process, it pretty much leaves these disks (the disk makers actually) defenseless.

Though worthless to me, having this little string of numbers will allow a skilled programmer to do anything he wants with these disks.

Digg’s users, propeller heads that they are, posted the story and the magic number on the site. That in turn brought on a takedown letter from the attorney’s representing the HD-DVD alliance (here’s a similar one that went to Google).

What was Digg to do? Leaving the number up opened the site to legal action under the federal DMCA. On the other hand, once the secret was on the Internet, it was public knowledge. There’s no way to protect the key anymore.

Digg acquiesced and its users went nuts!

Now, every story on Digg’s home page contains the number! Some of the entries have the number hidden in plain site while others make no pretenses about what is being posted. Some of the posts are cleverly sophomoric. All are worthless to regular Digg users.

Digg’s real content has been buried. That’s what an online protest can do.

I have no idea how this will turn out – right now it’s ugly.

Are there different rules for the Internet? Does information really yearn to be free? Can Digg’s owners regain their website?

Right now at least, there are no answers.

Blogger’s addendum: This is big enough that it’s now made the front page at Drudge. On top of that, the Digg site seems to be down. This story has not ended.

Update @ 2:47 AM – Normally I’d create a second entry to continue this story, but I want to keep these together. Kevin Rose, the guy behind Digg, has posted this on the Digg blog: