MIAMI--If you believe the blog rumors, Digg founder Kevin Rose is constantly dealing with a community that threatens mutiny at the drop of a hat, perpetual acquisition offers from companies such as Google and News Corp., and the aftermath of that thumbs-up BusinessWeek cover that made him one of Web 2.0's most recognizable shaggy-haired poster boys. Oh, and then there's this Yahoo Buzz thing that's getting a whole lot of press.
So here at the Future of Web Apps conference, I sat down with Rose to clear the air. He's participating in a panel on Friday called "How to Build a Web App in 45 Minutes," and he said we ought to get excited.
"It's going to be awesome. It's probably going to be the best panel of all time," he said with a mildly diabolical grin. "I've got so many ideas for Web apps. I'm going to freaking rock this panel."
Kevin Rose is, after all, known as an idea guy. Not only did he found Digg, but he also created a video production company, Revision3, and a microblogging tool, Pownce. But, he says, Digg is his main focus by far. He's especially psyched about forthcoming developments to the site that will offer personalized recommendations based on a user's past activity, suggesting to them not only news but also other Diggers who share similar interests. (Does this mean that people will start using Digg as a dating site?)
Working with Digg's notoriously vocal community has been quite a trip too.
"It's been a really fun learning experience," Rose said. "Six months ago, I wouldn't have called it fun because I really just couldn't figure out how to best work with the community."
Eventually, he explained, he and the rest of Digg's team asked the community for specific, structured feedback on what they wanted to see on Digg, and that's when the experience changed. Rather than getting demands, they were getting answers.
"Once we did that, rather than the community saying, 'You suck, Digg--fix your comments,' it was a lot more structured," Rose said. "We got a lot more valuable input from the community."
He's not concerned about emerging competitors, either, because he says none of them have particularly impressed him. "I've Buzzed a few stories," he said in reference to Yahoo's new social-news endeavor, Yahoo Buzz. "I think that a lot of people like the idea of potentially getting their articles in front of a lot of people on Yahoo's Web site, and that's a huge carrot to hold in front of people, but functionality-wise, it's really lacking on the community side."
Rose also told me he doesn't want Digg to cash out with an acquisition anytime soon. "I've had several friends that have been acquired by the Yahoos and Googles of the world," he said, "and while there is some upside in certain things, for the most part, it slows things down. You can't get a product out the door fast enough." Hear that, Rupert Murdoch?