On Monday, Jay Adelson announced he is stepping down as CEO of Digg, and founder Kevin Rose will take up the reins. TechCrunch suggested the change was less amicable than the cofounders made it seem.
On March 24, I interviewed Adelson about his plans for the upcoming site redesign. Now all of those plans are up in the air, and Rose, who is rumored to be dissatisfied with the redesign, may delay the relaunch, but Adelson's responses give an interesting perspective on where he was planning to take the company:
MB The strategy of the new site makes me think of startups like YourVersion or iCurrent that are trying to create the personalized front page of news. Are you trying to do that with Digg, and if so, does that mean you’re going after more demographics beyond the tech geek crowd?
JA: Yeah. I hate to be so simple, but yes. I think that what we consider to be personalization is different than what these sites have done historically and the reason is that our personalized homepage isn’t just your version of the newspaper. It really has to combine two things together: it has to combine our interest graph, which could be what topics you’re into and what areas you comment on or dig or retweet or whatever, combined with your social graph information—these are stories that interesting to your social graph or your Twittersphere, or have a certain amount of velocity in those areas. If you combine your interest graph and your social graph together, you’ll have something that is ranked specifically for you, right? But it’s in the Digg context, so these are the Digg story items that you see today with the Digg buttons, so it’ll just be ranked; the relevance of that list will be tuned to your topics and your social graph. So it’s a little different than these other takes, which are mostly topical that are mostly based just on the click-through data on those sites, whereas this is very much not just what’s happening on Digg, but what’s happening off of Digg, and I think it’s going to be heavily influenced by engagement, so if a friend of ours engages with something, it’s going to increase its rank for you.
MB: So you’ll take in information from Twitter and from Facebook and use that to figure out what sort of stuff I like.
JA: I think that’s one source. Our expectation is the first time you visit Digg, there’s a limited amount of signal, so I’m going to take signals from wherever I can get it—from how you interact with Digg, from what you Digg, from what topics you view, from maybe the search query you typed that landed you on Digg. And then of course if you register on Digg via any of these systems—let’s use Twitter for example—I might know now what links are being shared within your group of people you follow. I can also figure out who you’re influential to when you retweet something, and so all of that information, I’ll track and traverse and collect and understand as a signal. I’m obviously not going to show you everything that happens because the point of Digg is to filter the noise, not just throw it all at you. And so we’ll use that as a signal for the Digg version of PageRank—sort of our ranking of stories.
I asked Adelson about the decision to make it possible to Digg without having to log in, and whether that would increase Digg fraud. Adelson said on the whole, it would increase the “resolution” of the algorithm Digg uses to determine relevancy by increasing use.
He said the company would be sending out beta invites in April to randomly selected users from among those that have volunteered to test it out. The executive change on the eve of those invites suggests that they may not be coming just yet.