Digg.com users launch new revolt over comments system

Digg users protest new comments system

Digg.com Thursday found itself facing the wrath of its notoriously vocal users once again as complaints poured in about a new system for posting comments.

The complaints starting rolling in within a few hours after the comment system was launched Thursday evening. By Friday morning, the volatile Digg.com users -- they had staged one of the first online revolts against a social networking site last month -- had "Dugg" almost 5,000 comments that they wouldn't be "force-fed" the new system.

Users complained that the new system takes too much time to load pages and criticized the new requirement to click to read replies to posts. A post by DefectDS, the most popular comment this morning, noted that "loading one set of replies sometimes loads as slowly as loading the pages with all the comments expanded."

He added that users would not be "force-fed this [expletive]. Get over yourselves and realize that this new system is not working out."

Another user who posted as Stealthboy, advised Digg to adopt the style of its main competitor, Slashdot.com. "The current system is broken on so many levels that it really needs to be scrapped until a new Slashdot-style system can be put into place. Please just go back to the old way right now," said Stealthboy's post.

The complaints by Digg.com users are notable because their revolt last month ended up in an online riot that many analysts and academics called a test case to determine who has control over user-generated content on social networking sites.

The earlier revolt was started after Digg.com succumbed to legal threats and began removing a software key for cracking encryption technology used to limit the copying of HD-DVD Blu-ray discs that was posted by a user. In response, outraged users repeatedly posted the key, eventually forcing the company to relent and allow the key to be posted.

Digg did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the latest user complaints.

Ironically, the changes to the comments system were made to try to appease a wider audience of Digg users, according to a blog post by Daniel Burka, creative director at Digg. The new system added more sophisticated threading aimed at allowing more experienced users to use advanced threading if they opt to but closing all comment threads by default to make things simpler for novice users, Burka wrote.

In addition, the changes in the new system include a new user interface using Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) that only loads the first level of comments and only up to 50 of those, he wrote. "[Before] lots of comments broke the page," Burka wrote. "If there was a comment thread with a couple of hundred comments or more, the sheer size of the HTML download and rendering simply froze your browser for a few seconds or longer as it loaded the page. Yeah, that's a problem."

He also acknowledged that some users would be critical of the system and said the company would adapt the system to quell those complaints whenever possible. "There are certainly certain drawbacks to the new system that will rankle some commenters (e.g., not being able to read every comment without clicking), but I'm pretty confident that the trade-offs we made were the right ones. The comments are now lighter, faster, more powerful, simpler, and more flexible."

However, another user who identified himself as Nougat, said that the changes also eliminated the conversational nature of Digg. "This makes us all more obviously just a bunch of idiots shouting into the void, and I hate having that pointed out to me."

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Heather Havenstein

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