An open letter to Kevin Rose

Full disclosure: I've been in Armenia for the last 3 months and have no idea what's going on internally at digg - the following is wild speculation. I can, however, tell you all about how a Kiva Fellowship works </shamelessplug>.


It's been a while since you cleverly debuted digg on ScreenSavers on that "Slashdot Killers" segment.

Funded by Y Combinator, Steve Huffman and I started work on reddit in June 2005, which we launched a month later. A month after that, we learned about digg and realized this was going to be an interesting new space -- we had some catching up to do.

Remember those great days? It was long before Facebook was confusing people with awkward privacy settings, before Twitter existed, and even pre-dating the "social media" industry -- back when "social media gurus" were simply called "tools."

You built a remarkably popular website with an adoring fanbase most companies can only dream of. Diggnation was a brilliant decision and paved the way for Revision3, which doesn't get half of the press it deserves. In short: you were in the zone.

And we got lucky, frankly. We sold to Condé Nast in 2006, which stayed hands off, let the site keep growing, and even encouraged us to open source -- the site has grown to over 1/2 million unique visitors a day. And all of that is run by only 4 awesomesauce developers (edit: and one fantastic community manager!); I think the math comes out to 1 dev for every 2 million monthly uniques. 

You chose to grow with venture capital and you've no doubt (I hope) taken some money off the table in your Series C round.

I say this because this new version of digg reeks of VC meddling. It's cobbling together features from more popular sites and departing from the core of digg, which was to "give the power back to the people."

Those are your words from that aforementioned 2004 video segment.

Now what matters is how many followers & influence a user has and how many followers & influence they've got.

Where have we heard this before: Twitter? Facebook? GoogleBuzz?

Kevin, you absolutely deserve all the credit for starting the movement -- fascinating things happen when online communities can efficiently share content. Whales get silly names and we can expose the tragedies our fellow man endures faster than ever before.

It's a damned shame to see digg just re-implementing features from other websites.

But I've got a strong feeling it's not you making these decisions anymore; and to see your baby abused like this must be awful.

This really should've been called "an open letter to digg's VCs" (but what kind of linkbait would that be?) because they really ought to give the power back to the founder.

All the best,

Although Steve Huffman & I founded, we've both since moved on. In case you're curious about what we're doing now, I'm working on breadpig and Steve is getting a pilot's license while enjoying married life (sorry ladies).

26 responses
What makes you think the VCs are responsible? Couldn't it just be his vision for the future?

The old model for Digg doesn't seem to be working. Look at their traffic.

Could the future really look that much like facebook & twitter? There's a problem neither site solves: my facebook friends aren't as diverse as I'd like for me to find the best variety of good content online at any given time and conversely, there's no great noise filter in the twitterverse (trending topics mostly make my brain hurt).

And I want to punch myself for saying 'twitterverse.'

Yeah, but do you think the better alternative to this new direction is the way Digg currently works?
I wrote an article three years ago saying Digg should be doing exactly this, in light of the launch of the Facebook Platform.

Eli White commented on the blog (not present because Disqus overwrote my WP comments), so I know at the time someone from Digg read it.

But today? After Facebook launched the like button? Too little, too late.

Hey Alexis..I was going to respond here, but it got pretty lengthy, so decided to write a post on it myself.

I hope you read it :)

What a novel idea you are offering for the VCs to take their hands off and give the power to the founder. This attitude is what differs a kid with an idea from a businessman who takes the idea and makes it profitable. Kevin chose to make money and chose the way of making it through VCs and for a good reason I suppose. He could have hung out and wait for the magical wand of business world to come down from the sky and touch him.

If you are taking the VCs money, you need to give them back something. Site, in it is infancy and purity, I am sure was not anything like it is today, but at that time it was not making money and I am sure the developers were working for stuffed crust pizza from "the hut", with the hopes of making it rich one day. Their ship came and they hopped on. Unfortunately, nothing in this life is free. If you want to ride that ship, you need to pay the price by relinquishing control.

I advise you to grow up as well. Your attitude is not that of a businessman.

mel - i dont think you have a single clue what he is talking about.

stuffed crust pizza is by far the best.

i wouldn't go onto your blog and make fun of whatever it is you old people like to eat.

get a life, man.

@alex. will digg become another followers/friends == Power...? not sure... you could be right, but each network seems to push itself towards a unique position. We'll see where the new digg is headed soon enough. If it gets messy, they can always re-evaluate and change. (ideally)

@melB "Your attitude is not that of a businessman." <-- ridiculous.
@mel - I don't think you have any idea on what Alexis is talking about.
Something smells fishy about this "letter". Sure, we've seen the basics of these features elsewhere. But so what? Digg and Reddit are pretty similar, but that doesn't mean there's no reason for them both to exist.

Twitter = short messages + links, built on a follower model, unfiltered feed, re-post discussion model

Facebook = messages + links + behavior, built on a friends/follower model, with a feed filtered by upvotes, comment/re-post discussion model

Digg = links only, built on a follower/category model, feed filtered by upvotes, comment discussion model

Reddit = links only, built on a category/whitelabel model, feed filtered by upvotes, comment discussion model

Do you not recognize that there are different social physics involved in each of these models? That there are different uses to each of them?

I'm honestly baffled. Reddit is probably more similar to Digg than the new Digg is to Twitter. And you obviously understand the ways in which Reddit is differentiated from Digg.

What gives? What is this post really about?

I'm confused about who the news belongs to. I always have it in my head that if you name's in the news, then the news should be paying you. Because it's your news and they're taking it and selling it as their product… If people didn't give the news their news, and if everybody kept their news to themselves, the news wouldn't have any news.
I'm with Dustin on this one. I believe this is Kevin's vision and I can see the potential in it. Kevin is a huuuge Twitter fan and the new digg will focus on promoting "reach" more than "diggs": it's better to see what's been dugg by people I follow and respect than getting trashed with stuff most of the internet diggs but I don't personally dig (pun intended).

I never got much into reddit/digg/etc mainly because of all the trash that gets thrown at me. I already have a hard time focusing on getting things done and spending time on these sites will invariably leave me with a "I shouldn't have wasted 2 hours on this" feeling afterwards. With this new direction, I might promote more content on digg and less via Retweets and Likes. I want to share quality content and I want to see content shared by people I respect/follow.

I don't think this has anything to do with VC funding… at all. This directions reeks "Kevin Rose" from every pore.

Damn, you are a Digg v4 Prophet
Alexis...I have to admit that you were right. I was wrong. Kevin does seem to have pandered to his VCs, and I stand corrected.

I guess I was hoping for the best.

Not to mention a designer too.
I couldn't agree with this more. I remember reading an article a few weeks ago (haven't found the link) outlining the circumstances behind Jay Adelson's departure as CEO. Halfway through the article it also mentioned that Kevin hadn't been involved in the day to day operations in some time, which leads me to believe that he no longer wields any kind of meaningful control over the direction of the site.
Digg just isnt like it use to be. Here's my "open" letter to Digg and Kevin Rose:
The irony in this post now is off the charts. Hey Alex, how is reddit doing these days? Nice drop in the rankings there. Keep supporting the SJW agenda and watch your site burn....
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