During Digg’s Townhall (embedded below) this evening, founder Kevin Rose and CEO Jay Adelson announced that the shout feature on Digg will be removed later this week to be replaced with a new share option that will “streamline your ability to share on Facebook and Twitter.”
According to an e-mail from Digg tonight, it will likely happen Thursday. “We’ve elected to remove shouts in favor of more popular sharing options, based on user feedback and broader market research,” a Digg spokesperson told us. The new share feature will also include an e-mail option.
“Right now Digg is really focused on these product updates, you saw some of the things we’ve released recently [Facebook Connect, Diggbar, search], we really want to move Digg into more of a real-time environment.” Adelson said during the Townhall. Dupe detection, which has been promised to Digg users at about six previous Townhalls, is also on the way, according to Adelson “in just a few days.”
The shout feature on Digg has been the bane of many a Digg user for some time. While originally created to encourage user interaction, it quickly became a hot tool for spammers. Additionally, many folk, including Mariana Peyton, who put the question “When will you resolve/shut down the shout feature and finally solve the power user issue?” to Adelson and Rose tonight, felt it was a tool used by power users to stake their claim on the site and get their submissions to the front page quicker.
While Digg has yet to activate the new share feature, Muhammad Saleem, social media strategist and an active community member on Digg, tonight told ReadWriteWeb he can understand why Digg would want to remove the shout feature. “It’s become a way of spamming stories to hundreds of people to amass votes and promote junk,” he explained, “so I am definitely in favor of the removal as long as a new, better feature takes its place.”
Unfortunately, he doesn’t think that a Twitter-share or Facebook-share option would be a better alternative – or even a good replacement for shouts.
The Problem with Shouts
Saleem explained that Digg instituted shouts as a way for people to share stories with each other, assuming (or hoping) that people would share a story or two now and again with 10-12 of their close friends “like Kevin would send stuff to the Digg team, I would shout something to The Drill Down team, etc.”
The problem, of course, was that the feature opened the door to a huge spam fest. People started amassing friends by the hundreds, and then shouting their stories to them in an effort to get the Diggs necessary to get to the front page. Most Diggers would tell you that once Digg realized how the system was being abused, they started limiting the feature, or minimizing the impact of the feature by requiring more Diggs (diversity) for stories that were getting votes as a result of shouts.
“Now,” according to Saleem, “they need a better mechanism that still enables people to share things without being penalized, and at the same time they need a system that doesn’t get abused.”
Because the system can still be abused.
According to Reg Saddler, a.k.a Zaibatsu, power users don’t use shout. “Shout is superfluous on Digg. You use it to help out others, but you don’t really need it to get the word out about your stories.”
Saddler, once a power user on Digg, is now making a name for himself on Twitter. According to Twitalyzer, Saddler’s ‘clout’ value stands at 100%. “On Twitter, I can send a tweet out every single hour to my 83K followers and drive traffic to Digg,” Saddler pointed out, “If you are a power user and you have a fan base on Twitter, you don’t need the shout feature on Digg.”
This is not to say he spams his audience with worthless content; quite the opposite, Saddler has a keen eye for breaking news and is happy to share interesting stories with his online friends; Twitter just allows him to do it in real time.
So what’s the answer?
Whether Digg offers its users shouts, Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail, they’ll likely be faced with many of the same issues.
According to Saleem, the only option that could work is for Digg to come up with more ground rules, but even that is a tall order. “They are leaders in the space, meaning they face issues many others don’t face because they’re not at the same level; the solutions they need are to problems that haven’t existed before for other companies.”
So what do you think? Good move on Digg’s part or do you have a better solution in mind? We’d love your thoughts.
Disclaimer: The author of this post co-hosts The Drill Down with Reg Saddler and Muhammad Saleem.