Interview with FirstDigg

With us today is top digger and the brains behind SocialBlade.comFirstDigg.

1 – Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’m 28 years old, currently live in New York (the state, not the city), and like long walks on the beach — wait what type of interview is this again? =]  I’ve have been working in the telecom/networking/software industries since I graduated college (go UMass!) and am originally from Massachusetts.  I like to travel and have been able to do my fair share of both business & personal travel over the course of my life so far and have met many cool people in the process.

Meeting Israeli Diggers: MediaSight, TalSiach, FirstDigg, AllINeed

Meeting NYC Diggers: numberneal, FirstDigg, gbarberi

Meeting fellow YouTubers (some famous some not so)

2 – What made you first interested in Digg?

I’ve been a Digger for almost four years now joining shortly after the site was created.  I believe I first heard about Digg from the TV show The Screen Savers when Kevin was introducing it to the world. For many years before that I had been going to Slashdot for my news and Digg looked to be an up and coming replacement for old-style media. At the beginning I still needed to visit other sources because Digg just didn’t have everything, but I loved that anyone could submit something and you had the ‘preview’ of what was going on in the upcoming section where you too could help out and pick what was good and bury what was bad.  At the beginning I did a lot of looking around in /upcoming, but after a while it got overwhelming and I stopped going there.  A little over a year ago though I decided to try my hand at submitting and I discovered a completely different side of Digg, both rewarding & challenging but above all, addicting.

3  – What inspired you to create SocialBlade?

When I first started submitting to Digg it was purely to see ‘what it would take’ to hit the front page, but after the first day of doing that I quickly became addicted. I found that I was good at it and that I could use this skill to hopefully fill in some of the missing gaps in news articles that didn’t make it to Digg.  I then started to look around to see who was most successful on the site and started studying them a bit to get tips.  One of these people with Muhammad Saleem.  What he was doing on twitter was occasionally when one of his stories hit the front page he tweeted a [Digg Threshold] message with some data on # of Diggs, etc.  I found that information very interesting, but found that there was no way to find out how many Diggs a story took to hit unless you saw it at the moment that it did hit.  Since this information wasn’t available anywhere I decided to take a crack at the Digg API and see what I could come up with, and that’s where SocialBlade came from as a permanent source of this information for everyone.

4 – Tell us about SocialBlade’s improvements over time, and plans for the future?

Since SocialBlade went live almost a year ago it has added graphs, trends, and one of its most popular features, the top user listings.  The top user listing section though I can’t take all the credit for, though I’ve done a bit of improvement to it. Christopher Finke is the original author of that but discontinued it releasing his code.  I picked it up and integrated it into SocialBlade to continue to let people see that information. As for plans for the future, I’ve have a ton of ideas just haven’t had the time to create them yet.  One of the things I had wanted to do for example was create a sort of user portal around the site where you could create an account & customize what you saw, and also get alerts when stories you are tracking/submitted go popular. Hopefully someday I’ll get the time to create that.

5 – Views on Digg criticism / bannings? Surely you have something to say, as SocialBlade has the Digg Graveyard.

Lets be honest here, some people truly do abuse the system and do, even beyond TOS violations, and do unethical things to get stories onto Digg. There are sites that sell Diggs or automatically Digg stories for you and I do believe that those type of things shouldn’t be tolerated. That being said I am against the complete all out ban on scripts and I feel that many of the bans may be unsubstantiated.

I’m a programmer and a hacker (the good definition of the word) at heart and I feel that there are so many things that scripts can do to enhance a website.  Scripts are just tools which are neither good nor bad.  With tools you can build anything from a spaceships to bombs.

Just to illustrate the point, I use a whole horde of greasemonkey scripts across the internet to to add features to sites that are missing.  For example I hate having to click on the next page button time after time on websites to continue to use the site.  I prefer to be able to just keep scrolling down and down the page and have it automatically loaded for me, and on Digg, Flickr, Twitter, and many other sites I’m able to do this with a script called AutoPagerize. Just so there is  no confusion though let me say flat out, I don’t use any scripts on Digg to automatically Digg anything or any malicious or gaming scripts so if you’re reading this Digg, don’t ban me please!

So in short, I feel that scripts themselves should not be a reason for banning, its what you do with them & what ones you use that should be looked at. Also, the bannings aren’t really helping anything anyway. It’s the fundamental way social news is built that is not working right now.  That’s what needs to be worked on further.

Lastly you asked about the Digg Graveyard. When a digger gets banned, or “buried” by the Digg staff there is no way to know unless you try to visit their profile page.  The Digg Graveyard was created as sort of a community announcement to let people know who was no longer with us, and approximately what date they were buried. Since this information was getting passed around anyway, I just figured it’d be nice to see it all in one place and have it be automatically updated.

6 – We don’t see much of you on other social networks.  Why not?

Since I am using the social news networks primarily as a reader and not a marketer or blogger Digg does a fairly good job of delivering what I need in terms of news. I did use Reddit for a little while but I found its interface to be much less manageable.  If I’m gone from Digg for a few days and want to catch up on news for example I can, just start on page one and keep going until I see something I saw before.  This isn’t, or at least wasn’t the last time I checked as feasible on sites like Reddit.

Basically though, what it comes down to is this.  Digg has a good enough interface & enough sources to deliver enough of the news to me that I don’t have the time nor feel the need to push into many other social news networks.  So when submitting, I’ve dedicated some of my free time to filling in the holes I’ve found on Digg, helping to give back to the community there.

Anyway, regarding social networks outside of social news, I have become attached to Twitter & YouTube.  Make sure you follow & subscribe to me! =] I have accounts on other sites including Facebook, and Linkedin, but those are more to keep a profile and I don’t really do much with them.  If I was to measure the amount of time I spend on different websites online, probably at least 50-75% of that time could be split between Digg & YouTube.  YouTube is my other hobby.  Ever since I got an HD camcorder a year and a half ago I’ve been making videos on my free time for there.  Nothing all that spectacular but I entered one of my videos in a contest and won a trip to Singapore from it.  Diggers may also enjoy my April Fools’ Joke from last year “YouDigg” or a video I recorded from the Digg(nation) Meetup in NY last year.

7 – What do you think the future of social media holds? Will Digg make it? How about other competition social news/networks?

I think Social Media or Social News specifically does need a bit of work, but still has the potential to succeed in the future.  If an algorithm can be created to fairly and accurately detect what you are interested in and deliver news from the entire web in a timely manner that matches those interests to you filtering out everything that isn’t interesting to you then I think social news will defiantly be a winner.  Digg currently does not meet all those criteria, but I believe is striving for that. I think we are a long way still from eliminating ‘old media’, but I think over the next ten years social media (and Digg) will evolve to deliver a much more accurate picture of what is hot news in the world & interesting to you as a reader.

Digg definitely has a big head start, but if someone else beats them to the punch on these things it’s still anyone’s game.

8 – Any advice for those that want to become “top diggers?”

Most people consider “top diggers” to be the person who has the most front page stories on Digg, and while I do agree that is part of it, to me a “top digger” has always also meant being the must successful with each submit as well.  In addition to learning the ins and outs of Digg and how the site ticks, and spending a ridiculously amount of time on the site, I really recommend thinking like an editor.  After all that’s what everyone else on the site is supposed to be doing when digging up or down your story.  The biggest thing I can say is submit only quality stories. Don’t submit things just to submit even if you know that it will do well on Digg because its the right type of a story.  That just clogs up the tubes and is effectively social media spam.  If you focus on quality you will do well, become respected, and everyone will benefit.  That’s always been my goal. 🙂

Overall Top 1000 (sorted by Popular Ratio)

Top Active (90d) (sorted by Popular Ratio)

9 – Any final words?

Thank you first for giving me this opertunity to express myself and explain to everyone a bit of what I do.  If you’d like to learn more about me follow me on my social news profile on Twitter or my alternative profile, subscribe to me on YouTube, check out my site SocialBlade and of course add me as a friend on Digg.


  1. JD Rucker

    FirstDigg doesn’t know much about Digg. Heck, 20% of his submissions don’t even hit the front page.

    JD Ruckers last blog post..College Football Playoff System

  2. Brian Wallace

    @JD Rucker: indeed, he’s such a slacker. Think of all the minutes he wasn’t Digging to have this interview too 🙂

  3. Brett Borders

    This is a super-good quality interview. Nice job Urgo & Brian! Stumbled, delicoused, Sphunn and Tweeted!

  4. Brian Wallace

    @Brett Borders: thank you so much – that means a lot to me coming from you, as you’ve had a bunch of great interviews on rockstar lately 🙂

  5. DiggBoss

    Jason – you promised , you would change your 2bit avatar. Damn still looks kinda well ugly.

  6. p@r@noid

    Take my interview someday .. can give you more insight of social media. 😛

    Though there was nothing to learn here apart from talking abt social blade.
    keeping diplomatic stance is not good all the time.

    p@r@noids last blog post..160by2: Send free SMS in India

  7. Brian Wallace

    @DiggBoss spider > D 😉

    @p@r@noid: enlighten us….

  8. p@r@noid

    @ Brian First thing first what are we discussing here?
    Are we here to read the experience ? If it is the case there should be more from the firstdigg.
    I don’t meant to offend him and I enjoyed his interview but I expected more from him.
    being a social media expert it’s very important that he should have included something which people are not aware of like Datawhore did when he talked about digg banning.
    he talked about scripts like ” Pagerization” and we are not sure if it is a safe script or not. I mean if he started talking about script he should have mentioned few points here.
    Reddit interface undoubtedly is bad but ask any social media expert to compare between existing websites like Digg/SU/Reddit/propeller/Buzz and more more. I’m sure no one is going to deny the impact of Reddit…

    I felt bad because there are so many things which could be added here and I feel sad that I can’t see here.

    First Digg if you reading this let me know I will love to take an interview of your’s where Instead of self promotion I will rather love to talk about social media with you which will help many of the readers.