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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Aggregator Wars

Link aggregator sites like Digg, Reddit,and Stumbleupon seem popular, judging by how busy they are. The situation has grown more interesting with Digg apparently losing marketshare lately and Reddit growing. Change never ceases.

These sites allow users to present content in the form of links. They curate content, sort of. Enthusiasm (supposedly) fuels these sites, but much of that enthusiasm is self-serving, as you might guess.

When I first saw Digg, the voting system that pushed stories to the top of the list immediately put me off. Popularity rules. Could this system be gamed? Well, I guess so.

Furthermore—for me at least—these sites depend too much on the ephemeral Now. What’s hot today is cold tomorrow. Shrug.

The styles of the three sites range widely. Digg is slick and coolly professional. Reddit looks homemade, and in fact offers a lot of homemade amateur stuff. Stumbleupon is more like Digg but with a stronger gaming aspect. I feel like all three demand a commitment that I do not want to make. You have to consume your share of the content vigourously.

The developers of these sites possess a generic sense of content that distresses me. Their vision of content entails nothing more than stuff people will consume. Maybe I’m stuck in an old paradigm, but I would like to see some curatorial force behind the onslaught of stuff. Instead, we have popularity contests.

To be honest, I prefer Newser, which has a People magazine vibe to it. The headlines are juicy and lots of pictures tempt you to waste your time. It’s an online newspaper. It works.

Do these sites have a future? They do not rouse my interest much. Twitter and Facebook seem to have them beat. That too could change.

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