Bloggers launch Sk*rt, a 'Digg for women'

Site uses ranking concept on topics with greater appeal to women

Three bloggers have launched a news-ranking site aimed at melding the concept of Digg.com with topics such as parenting, fashion and food targeted more at women.

Sk*rt, which was launched last week, is the brainchild of Gabrielle Union, a a blogger who is a former art director for a New York advertising agency and a mother of five. Union, of Westchester County, N.Y., liked the concept of Digg but found the site lacked news stories on some topics she was interested in. She contacted bloggers Laurie Smithwick, who runs a Web design firm in North Carolina, and Laura Mayes, who works for an advertising agency in Texas, and the three came up with the notion of Sk*rt.

They had aimed for a quiet, "soft" launch later this summer, but moved up the date after the positive response from the blogosphere resulted in a front page post to Digg itself. The heavy traffic from Digg brought the site down for a few hours, but helped assure the trio of the potential interest in the concept.

"I thought Digg was brilliant," Union said. "But I didn't find myself going back very often because the content wasn't quite right for me. [On the Web], there is a sense that you are missing something that you can't get from your favorite blogs ... a sense of, 'I missed this great article, or there is this great conversation happening that I didn't know about and would have liked to participate in.' Sk*rt solves that for me."

Smithwick used open-source Pleg software to create Digg clones for the site because "we knew at least at the outset we wanted to emulate Digg. We weren't trying to reinvent the wheel. We just wanted to reinvent the categories."

Then came the e-mail that the three sent out to family, friends and business associates on June 4 to help drive a small amount of traffic to the site to help update the content.

"By the end of that day, people were blogging about it left and right," Mayes said. "The response was so dynamic and immediate, [and] the next day we were on the front page of Digg."

They were aware that the host they were using for the site wasn't scalable, Smithwick continued, but "we didn't plan on a major onslaught [of traffic]. We thought we had a good idea, but we didn't know how everybody else was going to feel about it. Our server did not do very well, but we were very quickly back up and on a dedicated server that is very scalable."

Although unlike Digg, Sk*rt doesn't allow users to vote down stories they are not interested in, users can vote for stories they like, which will increase the story's ranking on the site. In addition, Sk*rt offers a bookmarking tool so users can add a link while surfing the Web and an option to subscribe to the content other users are adding to Sk*rt. The site also includes an RSS feed for popular stories, those that are moving up in rank or for all submissions.

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Heather Havenstein

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