There have been many Digg clones over the years. Some, including Mixx, have gained traction and even taken some disgruntled users away from Digg. In light of Digg's second town hall meeting taking place in a little over an hour, we got a pitch from Sift'd, a Digg clone whose owners claim to have addressed many of the issues brought up in the last town hall meeting.
While I think the site is bound to get a cease and desist from Digg for copying the popular social site's look and feel, it packs a serious punch when it comes to functionality.
One of the biggest differences is in the algorithm, which takes a story from each section and promotes it to the front page based on its popularity from the upcoming section. From that, the most popular of those stories makes it to the featured section--aka the front page of Sift'd. The algorithm also keeps too many stories from a single section from making it to the front page consecutively, choosing instead to promote something from another section, even if it's not as "hot." In practice this would keep several photo, video, and political stories from cluttering up the front page right next to one another. Unfortunately, at the moment it can't be tested since the site is devoid of users and submitted stories.
Another difference is the submission process. While similar to Digg, Sift'd's system allows for a much larger range of content to be added, including multiple images and videos (only from YouTube right now). Digg's system allows for a single thumbnail, taken at the time it scrapes whatever URL you provide. Sift'd does the same thing, as well as letting you upload your own image if it's not able to grab something when it goes through that page. I doubt anyone's going to want to attach six YouTube videos to a story submission, but Sift'd developers have approached it with an "if you build it, they'll come" mindset I find refreshing.
Also tweaked from Digg are some of the community interactions. You can still see what your Sift'd friends are up to, but there's none of the mini-social network that's been built into Digg with its shouts and profile pages. The commenting system lets you view comments on up to five levels of threading (meaning you can view a comment, plus four people who have responded in line to one another), as well as rate individual comments using a system similar to Yelp's, with varying attributes like funny, insightful, or "trolling." Users can also insert videos, images, and some basic HTML code to spice up what they write.
So is Sift'd "better" than Digg? No, but it's certainly an impressive effort. It's simple to submit stories and just as easy to vote for them. I also prefer the Sift'd comment system to Digg's current iteration, but even that is due to change any time now. It's also worth noting that it's already got an API with plans to extend it to user data--the kind of thing that can be used to create some of the neat visualizations seen on Digg. The one thing missing right now is users to make it all worthwhile.
I'm interested in seeing what comes of Digg's second town hall meeting Monday night (stay tuned for coverage), as well as some of the changes the company makes in its next major release. If anything, Sift'd proves how quickly some of these changes can be made on a smaller site that doesn't need to deal with some of Digg's growing pains of having to make sure everything will work for its 26 million users.
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