Digg has always made its message clear: it's not social news, it's democracy.
The company's executive team--founder Kevin Rose, and CEO Jay Adelson--thumbed their noses at the DMCA complaint they received when users "dugg" a crack code for the now-defunct HD DVD technology. They also decided to connect with their users through "town hall" events Webcast live four times a year. So it's perhaps fitting that for the company's third quarterly town hall, Rose and Adelson set up shop in the "Big Tent" new-media hall at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. (Digg is a "Big Tent" sponsor.)
It'll be following up with an event held in partnership with MySpace at the Republican National Convention. The company also kicked off a "Digg Dialogg" event series, in which executives ask users' questions to prominent guests. Adelson, who called it a "perfect alignment of Digg and elections," interviewed House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the inaugural interview, in partnership with CNN's iReport.
"They're your raw questions," Rose said, his characteristic mop-top haircut forsaken in favor of a buzz cut. "They were completely unfiltered."
To be fair, Digg owes a lot to politics--its energetic base of news hounds loves election coverage, and the national elections inevitably pull a lot of traffic to the site.
The questions were largely technical ones that dealt with the minutiae of Digg culture: Adelson said that the "shout" communication system will be tweaked to limit spamming and a private message system is on the way, better technology to flag duplicate stories ("I hate this!" Rose said on the problem with duplicate story submissions) is coming this fall, and Digg is working on a way to let members flag stories as "not safe for work."
Most of Rose and Adelson's answers, which they breezed through more quickly than with previous town halls due to time constraints on the Denver stage, fell into the niche of "good suggestion, and we're working on it."
One question asked if Digg could institute a forum for members. That was a more contentious point for the company executives. "We do want to have forums for our users to communicate and support each other," Adelson said, but added that he's working on matching up the authentication system so that it uses the same credentials as Digg itself rather than an external forum system.
Rose was less enthusiastic. "Everyone has forums and it's always the same crap," he said. "It doesn't necessarily mean that they're helping elevate the good questions and helping the conversation come through."
A few genuinely good ideas came up: one question suggested "geotagging" for stories to group them into local news stories, something that could make the site legitimately compete with sites like Outside.in and city blog networks like Gothamist. "Yes," Rose said. "We've thought about this as well and it would be really cool if we could start to group different events around you." Adelson added that Digg has "a few projects on the way...think 2009, realistically, for some of this stuff."
Despite the somewhat dull nature of many technical questions about recommendation engines and comment improvement, Adelson and Rose insisted that those are the questions they want to hear because it's where Digg users can really make a difference in shaping the site's direction. "It's really important to know what you guys are thinking. It keeps us honest," Adelson said.
The next Digg town hall will be held on November 6--two days after the U.S. presidential election. Its next meetup, however, will be off American shores: Rose will be taping his Diggnation podcast live from London on October 10.