Digg Sucks at Finding Breaking News

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It may be a bit ironic for me to complain about Digg’s inability to break news, because that’s hardly breaking news itself — Digg hasn’t been very good at timely reporting in a long while. But this morning, while reading my feed of tech “news” from Digg, I was struck by just how little of it was actually news to me.

That’s a major difference from 2006, when Kevin Rose bragged about Digg’s news breaking speed at the Web 2.0 Summit. Back then, news of Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation from George W. Bush’s presidential cabinet reached the Digg front page in about 3 minutes — about 20 minutes faster that Google News had the story. “People can break news faster than machines,” said Rose.

But Tuesday night’s fire at the Apple campus in Cupertino, California is a demonstration of just how much has changed at Digg since then.

This morning, while checking my feed of Digg’s front page tech news, one that I hadn’t check since yesterday afternoon, I noticed a store called “FIRE Breaks Out At Apple Campus” that had hit the front page at around 3pm PDT on August 13. Odd, I thought to myself. I’d been hearing about that story ad nauseum all over the web that day — surely Digg must have had something up before then.

A quick search of Digg’s main page stories for “apple fire,” though, revealed that the late afternoon story was the first on the fire to hit the main page. Given the high concentration of Apple users on Digg, and how many Apple-related stories hit the front page each day, that seems like a ridiculously long time after the fire (the first media reports of which started flooding in within an hour after the fire started at 10pm PDT on August 12, and hit Twitter around the same time) for the story to finally get visibility on Digg.

I first heard the news on the “machine” curated aggregation site Techmeme, which had the story at 3:20am PDT (August 13) — a full 12 hours before Digg — according to their river of news, and kept it near the top of the site all day while everyone and their dog in the blogosphere chimed in.

That Digg is no longer a great place to read about the news first isn’t surprising — algorithm changes aimed at fighting spam and stopping people from “gaming” long ago robbed the site of that ability. But letting a fairly important news story (given the 1000+ diggs and 200+ comments that the story eventually got) sit for more than 24 hours after it happened (and 15 hours after the first version was submitted) before making it popular robs the site of its ability to at least function a worthwhile news discussion community, too.

Josh CatoneJosh Catone
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Before joining Jilt, Josh Catone was the Executive Director of Editorial Projects at Mashable, the Lead Writer at ReadWriteWeb, Lead Blogger at SitePoint, and the Community Evangelist at DandyID. On the side, Josh enjoys managing his blog The Fluffington Post.

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