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Digg Stories Bore You After An Hour

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Remember the good old days, back in 2006, when an online article had a freshness date of roughly 36 hours? A couple of scientists have found that’s about 35 hours too long these days.

Digg Stories Bored You After An Hour
Digg Stories Bored You After An Hour

The analysis of Digg by researchers Fang Wu and Bernardo Huberman of HP Labs in Palo Alto discovered a couple of concepts about the site, as noted in a report at New Scientist Tech.

First, Diggers make great lab rats:

The team say that Digg provides an ideal "natural laboratory" for observing the collective behaviour of online news readers. This is because the choice of links on Digg, and the prominence these are given, is determined by users.

Second, stories don’t hold Digg attention spans for very long:

Through a statistical analysis of the site, the researchers discovered that just a handful of stories hog most people’s attention and most links seem to lose their appeal in just 69 minutes.

Wu and Huberman say the finding could perhaps help website designers find new ways to keep people interested when faced with an avalanche of information.

Plenty of websites love to get a rush of Digg attention. There’s nothing quite like several thousand people hitting a web page at once to help boost the page view metrics. Digg users have engaged in a running battle with the SEO crowd over attempts to game Digg for this kind of attention.

That attention doesn’t last for long, not at 69 minutes a shot.

To find that number, the researchers dug into the 29,864 most popular stories on Digg for 2006. The report said the histogram of that data followed a ‘log-normal‘ distribution.

In more easily digestible language, it means that the majority of stories receive relatively few votes while just a few get the majority of clicks. Which is how Digg operates. As the researchers looked closer at 1,110 stories in January 2006, they found the Digg rate slows down over time, the 69 minute figure they cited as a measure of a story fading in popularity.

Again, that could be just a function of stories moving off Digg’s front page. The researchers think it can be interpreted as the collective "attention span" of Digg users. Considering the youthfulness of Digg’s userbase, that makes the 69 minute figure a lot funnier than Wu and Huberman probably intended.

They’ll probably see that for themselves once their research hits Digg.

Digg Stories Bore You After An Hour
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