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Digg gets a rethink

Dying social network Digg, designed as a site to share news on the internet and allow people to judge its importance to decide which become today's headlines on the site's homepage, was bought over by a new team roughly two months ago for a trivial amount of money. Now the new Digg team have explained their plans for revamping the social network to make it relevant once again, in a blog post at detailing discussions over the last six weeks.

One of the major sticking points in the new rethink is to refocus the site around getting to the content people want in the simplest ways possible, dropping anything that isn't constructive to that process. Gizmodo published an article today about one such move, ditching the much-loathed Diggbar; but other plans include dropping Newsrooms; and renaming “Newswire” back to its original name, Upcoming.

Perhaps most telling of all though is the new Digg team's assessment as to the role of Digg in the modern internet. Rather than encouraging people to stay on Digg and ignoring every network, the new Digg is being designed to get you to the content you want to read quickly, in the belief that the easier it is to discover things using the network, the more likely you'll come again to find new things (now where have we heard that before…?); as well as to embrace the networks people have already to judge the relevance of articles. While you can still "Digg" articles on the site itself to increase their score, Digg scores will now also consider how often an article has been shared on Facebook and Twitter to determine an article's overall importance, thereby highlighting the articles most grabbing of people's attention whatever network they use.

Diggs: 54. Tweets: 46. Facebook mentions: 112. Total Digg Score: 212.
An early mock-up of the new Digg scoring system. Although this article only has 54 Diggs, it scores 212 due to the many mentions of it on Twitter and Facebook. Clicking the overall score shows a breakdown. (Image Credit: RethinkDigg)

Also of note is that the early launch of the new Digg will lack a comment system, to give the developers time to consider how to "do it right". As posted on RethinkDigg:

At launch, v1 will not include a commenting system. When Digg was founded in 2004, it was one of the only places on the web to have a conversation with like-minded people. Today, conversations happen everywhere, and the problem that Digg started to solve in 2004 now has no shortage of solutions. We knew that if we were going to support commenting at launch, we had to do it right, and we knew that we couldn’t do it right in six weeks. In the coming weeks we will conduct a few experiments in commenting that will inform more permanent features.

Time will tell if the rethink of Digg by its new team will help make it relevant to the modern world and keep it away from Death's Door. What are your views on its chances?

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    Today is World IPv6 Day – why it matters

    When you want to call somebody over the phone – or maybe even using Skype or other VoIP services – you connect to them by dialling or having something dial their phone number, right? Every house, business and mobile phone around the world has their own, unique phone number; and all the numbers in the same area are decided by the phone company in charge and distributed supposedly at random based on the rules they’ve defined for that area. But what if a phone company runs out of numbers for the area? The simple solution is to make more numbers, by coming up with a new area code or even a new rule for generating numbers so that they can have a whole new bank to draw from.

    The internet works in a similar way. Every device that connects to the internet – whether a computer, an iPod, a smart phone, a games console, or anything really – has its own “number”, known as an IP address, to identify it. To connect one thing to another across the internet, the two devices use their IP addresses to “call” each other and make a connection. So that people don’t have to remember these numbers themselves, DNS Resolvers attach website domains to IPs, so that when you type in the address to a website on an internet browser, the device does the hard work for you.

    Like phone numbers, IPs are mostly randomly assigned, but they’re defined by a strict set of rules; and controlled by a regulator (ICANN) who set rules as to what IPs can be given out in different parts of the world and when, which they usually do in blocks to give web hosts in different regions a bank of IPs to use before they need to request more. The current rules are known as “IPv4”, and state that IPs are made up of four numbers, separated by dots, with each number allowed to be between 0 and 255 – making over 4.29 billion number combinations.

    Amazingly, over the relatively short span of the Internet’s life so far, the net has grown at such a rapid pace that we’re now almost at 4.2 billion unique devices on the internet at any one time; and so the numbers left have almost run out. If they run out, it’ll become difficult for anything new to come to the internet. So we need to make more numbers. Luckily, computer boffins realised this possibility some years ago and designed a new standard, known as IPv6. This uses new rules to make numbers which allow for larger chains and more numbers in each part, potentially allowing for more than 340 billion billion billion BILLION addresses – several hundred times more than what we have now.

    Problem solved, right?

    Sadly, actually implementing IPv6 is a technical difficulty in itself, with servers needing to be reworked; equipment needing software updates and in some cases older equipment even needing to be replaced to take advantage of it. It’s estimated only 5% of the internet uses IPv6 and, until most places start using it, we can’t yet fully take advantage of it.

    Today, World IPv6 Launch day, is an attempt to change that: today, internet providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, as well as major internet properties like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, are all turning on IPv6 in an attempt to push forward this future of networking and hopefully keep the internet growing for many more years to come. Turning on IPv6 today does not mean that IPv4 will simply disappear: While its use will gradually diminish, there’s still millions more servers to switch and tons of equipment to update. But this first step will hopefully encourage others to also pick up the pace and get us moving forward soon.

    You can rest a little easier now 🙂


    New Features and Updates now live on Technically Motivated

    Technically Motivated was down for an extended period from Friday to Sunday to perform major site maintenance. During this time, as well as fixing the issues myself and many readers had come to notice throughout the site, I also worked on and tested many new features and enhancements for the blog, which I’m pleased to announce are now live. Read the rest of this entry »


    Rumour: Microsoft phasing out Microsoft Points


    A rumour making the rounds today is Microsoft will phase out its Microsoft Points currency by year's end, in favour of real currency. According to InsideMobileApps, the change will affect Windows Phone, the Zune Marketplace and Xbox Live.


    The site claims "a source" provided the information and notes that mobile developers with Microsoft publishing agreements are being told to plan their upcoming downloadable content and in-app purchases in accordance with the change. Finally, customers with Microsoft Point balances at the time of conversion will have it switched to the their local currency.


    Two developers we spoke to who are working on Windows Phone 7 and Xbox Live content told us they hadn't heard anything about such a conversion. However, both noted that sometimes Microsoft doesn't tell them about major changes until it becomes need to know. They also hadn't heard whispers about the conversion until we contacted them.


    Checking in with Microsoft, a company spokesperson told us: "We do not comment on rumour or speculation."


    Update: Microsoft Switzerland has reportedly told that the rumour is not true. The Google translation is a bit confusing, but it roughly translates: "We can not confirm these rumours – we are currently satisfied with the current Xbox Live Business model."


    Google Offers Easier Way to Transfer Video From Google Video to YouTube

    Google Video is shutting down. That’s no surprise. Having been surpassed by YouTube for the longest of time, and Google subsequently acquiring YouTube in 2006 making their own service almost redundant, Google stopped accepting new videos to the site after May 2009 and urged people to move to YouTube instead. Now Google have announced the official death of the site – videos already on the site will no longer be available after April 29, and the site is shut down completely after that.

    You’d expect, if Google’s reason for closing Google Video is that YouTube has made it unnecessary, that therefore Google would allow a quick way to move from Google Video to YouTube in order for users to take advantage of the superior platform and not be forced to lose anything. But, originally, Google hadn’t even planned to do such a thing. The original message about Google’s Google Video closure stated that users would be allowed to download their video manually until May 13 and keep it to hand to do as they wished with it; but there’d be no automatic migrations, and the service – and all data on it – would be taken permanently offline some time after that date.

    Numerous voices spoke out, asking why Google couldn’t just create a quick way to transfer videos between the two services. Google listened. And now, good news: The company’s backed away from its original plans and done just that. Read the rest of this entry »


    Wikipedia is too complex for many people to edit, admits founder

    In a revelation I can only describe as being in the “no duh, Sherlock” variety, Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales has recently admitted to the BBC, that the encyclopaedia site ‘that anyone can edit’ is too complex for many people to modify.

    “We have to support our old power users because they build the site. But we also need to have a ramp for new users,” he told the BBC. “If you click edit and you see some Wiki syntax and some bizarre table structure – a lot of people are literally afraid. They’re good people and they don’t want to break something”.

    Wikipedia currently has an average of 400 million active users on the site, and have lofty expectations to try to make this number reach a billion by 2015. Wales reportedly believes that in order to achieve such growth the site will need a new interface, as the existing one leaves may people ‘afraid’ to contribute to the site because they don’t understand Wiki syntax – and so, when they edit pages and see what appears to be a lot of complicated code inside, they avoid editing it out of fear that they’ll break the page.

    Now if you ask me, this should have been apparent to Wikipedia ages ago. Indeed, I know many people who say that they find Wikipedia “too complicated”, and I’m sure you do too. Improving the interface and simplifying editing would definitely be a huge benefit, in my opinion – but I don’t believe that’s the ONLY thing hindering people from contributing to Wikipedia rather than just using it. (Myself, I feel that there is also an off-putting tone from the intense detail expected in some of the articles, and the slightly over-bureaucratic nature of certain decision-making exercises, but others may feel differently). In any case, I think it’s about time Wikipedia acknowledged the need to simplify their website – but what do you think? Comments appreciated as always!