I’ve written and currently maintain several websites, each of which has a different following and a different size readership. But lately, I’ve been thinking about a new project I have in mind. Of the big “tech” websites that I visit each day, chiefly amongst them Reddit, Digg, OSNews, and Slashdot, I feel each is flawed in its design.
Digg and Reddit are completely community controlled. While this is a great idea in general, it rarely works out the way intended. Like so many user generated content sites, Digg and Reddit are filled with nonsense comments, inside jokes, and are completely overrun by groupthink. So, on any given day, lately at least, you’ll find the same tone: pro-Apple, pro-Ron Paul and Mike Gravel, pro-Atheist, pro-Ubuntu, anti-Republican, anti-Religion, anti-Microsoft, and lately, anti-Israel. And as these topics continue to appear, the opposers leave as new members are encouraged and recruited creating a vicious circle. The groupthink becomes worse and it becomes a community massively stroking itself. I’m not even saying I disagree with those stances, but I don’t think there is any point whatsoever to a group of like-minded nimrods modding each other up over and over for comments like “Happy cat says ‘Teh intarweb is a sereis(sic) of tubes!’”
OSNews and Slashdot, on the other hand, are both editor controlled sites. And while there is some degree of democracy in both via peer moderation, both are heavily admin influenced and frankly, filtered and ultimately biased, although less so than the above. Both OSNews and Slashdot, as a result, are slower in posting news (Slashdot is much worse at timely news) and offer significantly less content rotation, however, they both feature original content as well.
I think the features introduced in the OSNews beta show where I’d ultimately like to go: community building. K5 was a good example, except it was almost all original content and ended up with too many snobby users who voted things down based on English grammar alone, which is tough when you cater to the internet, which is a world beyond just the US. I’d like to see links and original content, and a community that lets people post their own articles, their own blog/diary/journal/whatever, and group the content in a way that makes sense for presentation. The site will have to focus on two very different goals: persistent and ultimate respect for the user and his contribution, as well as a captain who can keep the site from leaning too far left or right. I don’t know how this can be accomplished, but it’s clear to me that to achieve this goal, I will almost certainly need to start from scratch.
So I’m in the “plotting” stages of a new project, a new website to incorporate the best of both worlds. I don’t have a lot of answers yet, but I’m trying to sketch something up: How can a site let admins filter news without affecting it? How can we allow the community as much control as possible without allowing so much abuse and juvenile junk? How can groupthink be combated in EARLY stages? How can content be rapidly replaced without repeating the same stuff over and over?
On the design side: How can a site be pretty and modern without being heavy? Reddit is awesome and fast, but ugly. Digg is gorgeous but ridiculously slow on page loads. I’d like to land in the middle, with emphasis on lightweight and fast and pretty.
I’m open to the concept of partners on this project as well. I’m really looking for something that isn’t run with an iron fist and something that doesn’t degenerate into the mess you see in YouTube comments.