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by Mike Zazaian September 6, 2006 - 12:06pm, 1 Comment

Digg and Slashdot are changing the way we learn about the world, but do we realize just how special they are?

Digg and Slashdot It seems that everytime somebody talks about CNN or FOX News they also complain about how a certain story was handled or covered. Viewers claim bias, negligence, and that the networks are more interested in quarterly earnings than reporting “the truth,” whatever that may be.

Digg and Slashdot, however, two popular online news communities are immune to these remarks, and for a good reason: the readers are the writers. Slashdot users submit about 700 stories per day, which are trimmed down by the editors to 30-35 solid stories to be published. Of their 5.5 unique monthly visitors, most are engineers and IT workers, making for a user base with a huge wealth of knowledge on the site’s “Tech” theme. This method of reporting gives an open source feeling to the site, and with so much news being reported it’s impossible to miss anything important.

Such groundroots Journalism isn’t going unnoticed by the old school journalists in “Meat Space.” David Kirkpatrick, senior editor of Fortune Magazine recently wrote an article regarding this very phenomenon.

Slashdot and its sibling site, SourceForge.net, the de facto center for posting and downloading open-source software, are among the most important and emblematic Internet businesses of our age. But so well do they cultivate an “of the people” aura that when my colleague Dan Roth and I had lunch with executives from the two sites last week we were both surprised to learn that OSTG is wholly owned by a publicly-traded company, VA Software (Research).

Digg operates on a different premise, and perhaps even a more innovative one. Whereas Slashdot is written by users, the content is still manipulated by the editors. Granted, this gives a certain amount of control to the branding of the publication, but a site like Digg hands this control over to its users, assuming that the userbase is the most capable of choosing what’s important. According to Valerie Williamson, vice president for marketing at OSTG, the Open Source Technology Group, which operates Slashdot.

Everybody’s talking about the participation age, but we’ve been living it for eight years.

While the methods of Slashdot and Digg differ, they both offer fresh and innovative ways to distribute ideas. Digg is especially intriguing, and seems to be the most organic way for media consumers to get the greatest breadth and depth of what’s going on in the world. Digg is successful because it operates around the very precepts from which the internet was born, that uniting millions of people and their ideas in a single forum will generate a product that is greater than the sum of its parts.