There are problems with Digg Reader, but maybe the biggest is that there’s a big demand for a reliable Google Reader substitute and very little time to make one. Digg Reader is now live and working, but it’s a bit Spartan. Despite that it might be a shot in the arm for Digg.
Digg was for a while the top social sharing site on the internet. People would submit stories and vote them up or down and stories making the front page would be wildly popular. It’s since been eclipsed by other sites for various reasons and now while Digg isn’t actually rubbish, there’s not a compelling reason to visit there instead of any other social news site. Digg Reader could be that reason.
As I said the current interface is bare. The import from Google went smoothly enough and the site can handle folders as well as feeds. Navigation is a bit awkward, rather like Google Reader, but there are key shortcuts like j/k for the next/previous items. Sorting my folders and renaming them was the easiest task, even easier than Google Reader. I haven’t got integration with Pocket working yet. I don’t know if that’s because something is broken or a problem with demand volume. I haven’t tried connecting Twitter or Facebook. One integration that definitely works is Digg. You can bookmark sites privately or digg them publicly. If people come to this site then Digg has massively increased its active userbase and made itself a lot more relevant. What makes this even more interesting is that this also goes the other way.
There’s a Popular tab on Digg Reader. If I click on that I can see which posts from my feeds have been picked up by other Digg users. It’s a simple but effective way of using social bookmarking to highlight any stories I might have missed. It’s not perfect. Some of the feeds I’m subscribed to are Mac news, so this section it dominated by stories like Will a Beige iPhone Kill Q3 Sales for Samsung?, but when there’s more time to handle weighting this could become very useful. For example I could weight my Botany folder 20 and Mac as 1, so that it takes 20 diggs for a Mac story to have as much impact as a Botany story in my Popular folder.
Digg is also planning to open the API to other developers. The result could be an ecosystem similar to the one that surrounded Google Reader. I can see how this would make sense for Digg as it pulls users into their news service. It also makes the site more appealing as I couldn’t get on with the default Google Reader interface. I only really started using it properly when I got 3rd party apps that made it more friendly.
My biggest concern at the moment is that I don’t know if Digg is picking up all my feed. I do know it’s not picked up all my feeds yet. I have Leaf installed to watch Botany sites and that has been pinging during the morning, but not all these stories have appeared in Digg Reader yet. It might not be broken as such, but it may be slow. Whether or not that’s a design problem or a we’ve just opened up and we’re trying to work out how to cope with demand problem, it’s too early to say.
Digg Reader is definitely a work in progress. There’s plenty of things that need adding. For example I can search on Digg for Science and there’s a link to an RSS feed of the search. There’s no one-click button to add it to Digg Reader. That’s such an obvious thing to do that the only reason they haven’t must be a lack of time. Throw in less obvious integrations with bookmarking and linking there’s a lot of potential. Right now it’s usable, but not particularly distinguishable from its competitors. However, given the server demands that’s no small achievement in the time they’ve had to develop the site.
If they can keep up this pace of development then, by the end of the year, Buzzfeed might be looking to Digg and not Reddit as the source of its stories.