Back in the RSSR

My reddit account just turned 8 this year, in that time the more I visited reddit, the less I checked RSS feeds. To the point where I completely stopped reading them after Google killed reader. Reddit was where I got all my news and that was fine.

But over the years – I don’t know if it’s reddit that’s changed, if it’s me or a combination – I’ve started using reddit less for pure news and more for pure diversion, cat gifs and memes. When I do end up reading news, I usually just read the headline and skim the comments for someone’s summary or an interesting discussion point.

As I thought about this more, I realized that I have not been reading much, period. This is a bad thing.

For the past month or so I’ve been trying hard to get back into the habit of reading RSS feeds and it’s going fairly well.

Ironically, my reader of choice is the new(ish) digg.com, the site I quickly abandoned when I made a reddit account 8 years ago. The new Digg reader is quite good. It does three pretty interesting and useful things. (1) It mimic’s Google’s old reader fairly well; (2) It has a popularity feature that shows you the most popular posts from the feeds you follow – handy for a quick read; (3) “Digg Deeper” scans your Twitter feed and exposes popular links from the people you follow (not dissimilar to something I built for myself when Twitter first launched [relevant]).

Reddit is so Awesome!

The top story in the programming subreddit for most of yesterday was a self-post abou the sorry state of subway.com’s HTML. Take a look for yourself, it’s easily the worst major corporation website I’ve seen in years. The post has garnered 2537 up votes (1134 downvotes) to date; based my previous experience, I suspect this sent an extra 10,000-20,000 visitors to subway.com. I left a comment suggesting that Subway work on their site…

Today, subway.com still has terrible html. But they did fix a giant javascript switch and replaced it with this comment:
/*
Now the that big switch is gone, here are some fun facts:
1. This site was created in 2002, using Visual Studio 2003.
2. Yes there was some editing done in frontpage. The editors worked better than VS 2003, and we had a license for it.
3. A lot from the funky mark-up is from some early generation .NET thirdparty controls we've been maintaining.
4. We look forward to updating the site as much as you (probably more in fact!)
Thanks for the QA, Redditors!
*/

Or, to put it another way:

Reddit Accomplishments for Sept:
1. Convince Steve Colbert to hold a rally – Check.
2. Raise hundreds of thousands for educational charities – Check.
3. Help some dude who needs a new wheelchair with funding – Check.
4. Get Subway.com to optimize their website – Check.

What wonders await for October?

Is Reddit better than Digg?

This week has been a bit of a revival in terms of my computer usage, I’ve found a great photoshop alternative and now I think I may have found a Digg replacement. A few weeks ago my good buddy notian mentioned that he had started reading the social news site reddit, I’d heard of the site before and never gave it much thought. But, I decided it was time to give Reddit a chance, I added the main RSS feed to my netvibes News tab at the end of last week. As I checked the feed more frequently I started to see a lot of stories that weren’t popping up on my digg widget, my slashdot feed or any of the other main news feeds I read. I started checking out the site a few times durning my work day, created an account so I could vote and I’ve barely checked digg since.

For several months now I’ve found Digg a little frustrating to actually use. With 6 main categories – each with numerous sub-categories, a video section and (a useless) podcast directory there is just way too much content to be able to follow casually. The customizable topics feature helps a little, but with such a large userbase the front page content changes really quickly. I always feel like I miss tonnes of good stories. Digg’s comment system has never been great, but the new threaded/fetch on request comment system is borderline terrible – I don’t understand how they cannot afford enough servers to push out their comments properly. I was a pretty big fan of Digg’s last redesign when they first launched it, but when you compare it to reddit’s simplicity, Digg looks like the 40lb gorrilla it really is.

Reddit’s design is far more functional/utilitarian than digg; it has good navigation, a lack of ads and it’s just plain usable. Reddit’s story placement algorithm is far superior to digg, they seem to use a formula based on votes over time, possibly taking into account click-thrus and comments over time as well. I’m finding that stories stay on top of the list much longer – up to a day or more – and new stories generally rise to the top a lot more slowly; this has the net result of giving me more time to look at a story. I know that if I don’t read the story right away it will still be there later – Reddit also has a ‘saved’ stories feature that I just noticed, again making it easier for me to read a story later. The actual content of the stories appearing on the front page seems to be quite diverse, stories related to a given subject seem to move up and down the list in an organic wave. Reddit seems to be a bit more of a Zietgiest. It’s hard to say whether or not their algorithm would scale well to meet the Digg’s traffic, I suspected it would.

If you don’t really care about getting the latest news right away and/or you don’t have the time to wade through a thousand stories an hour, give Reddit a try. You’ll still be getting your news way faster than your non nerd friends anyways.