Digg held its first “town hall” meeting tonight in conjunction with the video-streaming site Ustream.tv. Digg chief executive Jay Adelson and founder Kevin Rose answered 20 questions (and a few follow-ups) submitted by Digg users and voted as the most important.
The event, which streamed live from 6pm until just past 7pm had a massive amount of people watching – over 1,850 at its peak.
Adelson and Rose led off by announcing some huge site statistics. The site is now getting 26 million visitors per month. There are over 10,000 submissions every day – and since it’s inception, there have been over 200 million stories “dugg” on the site.
They then took turns reading the user questions out-loud and did their best to answer them. The vast majority of the questions were re-worded inquires about the same topics (or “dupes” as they’re known in Digg nomenclature). Those hot topics were: auto-bury brigades/secret moderators, algorithm changes, the comment section, and the problem with – naturally – dupes.
Jay Adelson early on proclaimed very clearly: “we do not have secret moderators for Digg”. Clearly a shot at what has become a common line of thinking among many in the community who see stories buried for seemingly no reason at all.
When a later question came up about the possibility of Digg showing who buries a story just as they show up diggs it, Adelson said, “I’m open to the idea of transparent buries eventually.” However Kevin Rose was quick to downplay this and instead suggested that perhaps they could show the number of buries a stories has received rather than the actual users burying it. The thought process here is that, showing buries could cause massive in-fighting among users.
Kevin Rose did recognize major problems with the site’s functionality. “We realize it’s broken today – both search and dupe detection.”, he said. He promised that fixes were coming soon for both. He also acknowledged the the podcast section of the site had basically outlived its usefulness and would be retracted back into the main part of the site.
On the topic of algorithm changes, Rose and Adelson both preached patience. They spoke of little tweaks they do here and there to perfect the system and acknowledged that sometimes it takes time to get it working correctly. Rose also let slip apparently a little more than Adelson would have liked when talking about the algorithm, seeming to suggest that they do in fact look at things such as story click-throughs, to see if people are blind digging or actually going to a story. Rose noted that they track a lot of factors to know if people are trying to manipulate the system.
At one point, Adelson let slip that they were considering an area of Digg built around “cities” to add to the site’s diversity. This would seem to indicate that Digg is evolving to meet features that it’s competitors feature such as Mixx (our coverage). Rose, meanwhile, talked of an ‘Upcoming’ section that suggested stories for you to Digg based upon your based digging experience.
A complete overhaul to the comment system should be expected sometime in April they noted. One of the new features it will contain is the ability to see how many positive and negative votes each comment has received.
All in all the town hall was repetitive, featured a lot of “we’re working on that” and skirting of direction solutions to problems raised in some of the questions. When one of the two (Adelson or Rose) seemed ready to tackle a tough subject such as making bury data transparent, the other was quick to pull them back to reality. This happened numerous times throughout the evening.
Still, it’s hard to see the event as anything other than a success when you consider the alternative: angry users talking revolt (our coverage). Users mainly want to know that they are being heard, even if nothing actually comes of it. Digg has promised many more of these events – the next being on May 28th.
They also plan on holding live in-person town hall events at different cities around the U.S. this summer and presumably going forward. That is, unless they sell first – which, not surprisingly, Adelson also gave a big ‘no comment’ to (our coverage).