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:
Digg This: 09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0
by Kevin Rose at 9pm, May 1st, 2007 in Digg Website
Today was an insane day. And as the founder of Digg, I just wanted to post my thoughts
For years, I’ve been a huge Slashdot fan. Slashdot is techie news in a modified blog form.
Slashdot’s slogan says it all: “News for Nerds. Stuff that matters.”
Why Nerds is spelled with a capital “N” is beyond me. We’ll let it pass.
Over the past few months, my allegiance has shifted. Now my favorite techie site is Digg.
As far as I can see, Digg is sloganless.
Slashdot solicits stories from readers (basically references to things published elsewhere), which are perused by editors. So, what is posted is what strikes the editors as interesting.
Digg works differently. Readers still submit stories, but on Digg they’re juried by other readers. Are they good enough? Have they been “dugg?” If a story is approved by enough readers, it is promoted to the home page.
Digg is the product of Kevin Rose, who I remember from The Screen Savers on TechTV. Someone I know, who tried to solicit business from Kevin, described him as a genius. I have no doubt.
Someone must be making a fortune, because this site costs relatively little to mount and the Google ads displayed¹ can be lucrative (I made $3.22 Sunday!).
I find Digg has more stories than Slashdot, and since every story submitted (good or bad) is available, I can always kill time looking at what others have found interesting. Slashdot only lets me see the editor’s choices.
I have become an online news junkie. I can’t get enough. It is an addiction. Digg does a better job feeding this addiction – it’s that simple.
Actually, my addiction goes beyond tech news. I have become a sponge for what’s going on whether it be politics, business, technology. I don’t care. I like a good story. I like to read.
Often, I am upset or disappointed that more isn’t going on… or that websites whose content I enjoy aren’t updated often enough (especially true on weekends).
I don’t know how many more Internet new junkies there are? I can’t be alone.
¹ – In order to check out Google’s ads, I had to turn off Adblock, an amazing extension for my Firefox browser. I see hardly any ads on this PC and never see pop-ups or pop-unders. Never.
Do you need a TV station to have a TV show? Yes and no. The advantage of a TV station is, it is a known commodity, usually with a well visited address.
If our newscasts on Channel 8 were to move tomorrow to the SciFi Channel, ratings would plummet. That’s not to say bad things about SciFi, we just have better channel position with more traffic.
The disadvantage of a television station is it usually has high fixed costs. Smart operators are trying to work those costs down through automation and other technical advances. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t – but it’s obviously the wave of the future.
This leads to a question. Is it possible to have a successful TV show without having a TV channel (or cable network) behind you?
I’m wondering if the answer is yes after having seen a show produced by systm.org. It features Kevin Rose who was on Tech TV’s The Screen Savers.
The show I saw last night was well produced, but on a topic so technically dense that few except the chronically nerdy would have watched. There were no commercials – how can it be economically sustained? Using the bittorrent protocol it took around 10 minutes to download.
Of course, it was free.
What I watched looked as good as anything produced for over-the-air or cable TV. If it had been something more attractive to a wide audience, with some way to pay the freight, I think it might be successful!
Bittorrent is an interesting distribution method, because it uses the collective bandwidth of the users, not a central server paid for by the program’s distributor. That’s a major cost saving when each viewer needs to receive hundreds of megabytes of data.
For attractive media (defined as something a specific group of viewers would seek out, because it scratches a specific itch) this might be a godsend.
Think of subject matter like photography, knitting, ham radio and kayaking. Each of these has a dedicated base of fans who want to see more on their hobby or avocation, but there’s not enough audience tonnage to make this work on an established channel. Because the audience would be sharply targeted, each set of eyeballs would be worth more to advertisers or underwriters (this is non traditional media – why not a non traditional economic model).
It could be commercially viable – though more on the retail level than the mass marketing we’re used to on TV. In other words, it makes sense for a person or small group of persons to do this. It doesn’t make as much sense for a larger, high cost basis organization to get involved.
The big question is, will people do all the things necessary to download these files? Is there a way to preserve the cost structure as it is and make it seamless for the end user?
This could be very exciting.