The problem with aggregators like Digg and Reddit

First of all, yes, I use Digg and Reddit. For those who don’t know, these are two of the most well-known “Web 2.0” sites. People send links about some news (or something interesting) and other people vote for such links. The most voted links go to the main page, from time to time. It is interesting to see where the collective mind goes, even when you find yourself in one of the retarded corners of the internet.

The biggest problem with them is that there is no way to point that one history is the same as another posted already. While I’m not sure about it, I hope the both sites would consider that, if someone post a link that was already posted, it would count as a vote for the first story and not create a new thing so people have to vote for it again.

Even with link dup checking, there are still some problems: Imagine that I find something interesting in the web, so I post some very small description on this website with a link to the original story and post my blog link on Digg/Reddit. Then I just sit down and wait for people to come to my site and I get a lot of money from Google Ads (no, I don’t have Google Ads on this site.) This is called “link-hijack” by the Reddit community and, more than once, I saw links with “Non-Link-Hijacked” in the title, which means someone decided to pick the original link and post it instead of someone else blog.

There are some link-hijacks that are a little bit more complicated to catch. First, let’s say someone find an interesting image. You can post it on tinyimg, imageshack or even in your hosted Gallery, with all those lovely Google Ads. There is no link for the original story and, most of the time, since the image appears on several different places at the same time, you lose the track of the original. Also, there are some stories which are, actually, part of the same big event. One of the examples that comes to my mind is the “This is cool”, which appeared on Reddit (sorry, but it is quite hard to find anything on Reddit after more than one week.) It was a photo of Barack Obama pointing to something. Someone photoshopped it, putting some sunglasses and added the link with the title “More cooler”. Then it started: People added an explosion on the background (you can see it here, which was posted under the story “Cooler”), and people put a nanchuck on Barack’s hand (see it here) and posted under the title “Coolerer”.) So, the joke spawned over several different links, and over several different links. There is no way an engine would recognized them as the same thing (and, most importantly, are they the same thing?)

That brings a question: what it is more interesting, something that people say “this is interesting” or something that gets a lot of attention on the web (like the original link-hijack)? Personally, I think that the even behind such stories and links is the main factor. Posting a link which explains climate change is destroying the environment and another link where scientists make pretty graphs showing that there is no relationship between global warming and the decline of pirates are, in fact, different stories, but they are linked by the same event. And that’s the problem with those aggregators: they care about links, not events.

Now, to be completely honest, I don’t think anyone would come an easy solution for that. It is easier to track links than events. And how would you check if link X is really related to link Y? Again, you have to trust that the community would take care of showing that X and Y are linked (or not) by some mechanism (tags? direct dragging links to say that they are related?) The first think that comes to my mind is something like “Human Brain Cloud” does to create the relationship between two words: the more the people link those two, that relationship becomes stronger and all the other ones, weaker. The problem is: would you really expect that people would sit down and say that link X is related to link Y? Over and over again? Instead of just clicking an arrow that points up or down? No, I don’t think so. You’ll have to search the current links, see of there is anything related and create the links.

But, in the end, I can see that cool things would emerge. Like you could be seeing some news report about google, which points to another news about how the energy usage is going up in the world, which is related to another story about Finland hoping that big datacenters move there where it is cooler (so no need of air-conditioning) and energy is plenty. Too bad we can’t expect that people would actually sit down and relate stories.