Skip to Content
Uncategorized

The Speed of Social News Sites

Social news aggregator Digg.com was able to spotlight Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation faster than machine-operated Google News.
November 14, 2006

Less than 10 minutes after the news of Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation hit the wires last week, the information was visible to hundreds of thousands of people via the homepage of Digg.com, a social news aggregation site that relies on readers to submit and promote interesting news stories.

According to Digg founder Kevin Rose, the Rumsfeld news was submitted to Digg three minutes after the Associated Press released it; four minutes later, the story had acquired enough “diggs” to jump to the front page of the site. The speed at which the Rumsfeld news–a quick read at only two sentences–was promoted to the front page of Digg “broke a record,” said Rose last week at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

But the incident is more than a milestone for the social news site: it underscores the power that legions of citizen editors have to determine the importance and timeliness of news. By comparison, Rose said, Google News, a site that uses algorithms to find and establish the importance of news (based on the reputation of news sources), took about 25 minutes to pick up the story.

How did so many people find the Rumsfeld news amid the thousands of other headlines submitted to Digg that day? According to Rose, 33 percent of the diggs that helped propel the story to the front page came from the data visualization tools called Stack and Swarm, which graphically represent stories and their popularity. The effect was particularly striking in Swarm, an application in which stories appear as small floating circles that grow in size as users digg the story. At one point, said Rose, the circle that represented the Rumsfeld news swelled so large that it encompassed most of the screen.

Data visualization tools such as Swarm are crucial to sifting through the hordes of detritus on Digg. Because of these tools, Digg was able to harness the collective intelligence of its users and serve up speedy results that, in this case, bested Google’s specialized algorithm. The incident illustrates that when social sites can meaningfully tap into the brainpower and enthusiasm of their communities, they are not just a novelty or a Web 2.0 fad. They may well be essential.

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Our best illustrations of 2022

Our artists’ thought-provoking, playful creations bring our stories to life, often saying more with an image than words ever could.

How CRISPR is making farmed animals bigger, stronger, and healthier

These gene-edited fish, pigs, and other animals could soon be on the menu.

The Download: the Saudi sci-fi megacity, and sleeping babies’ brains

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology. These exclusive satellite images show Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway In early 2021, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia announced The Line: a “civilizational revolution” that would house up…

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.