For some eight years, Slashdot has been the most well known provider of News for Nerds. I doubt that anyone would disagree with me if I said it wasn't well deserved.
The editors of Slashdot know well their target audience, and (for some strange reason), they know which articles tend to fit into the site well and which ones don't. Digg (pushed heavily by Kevin Rose, formerly of TechTV), is a newcomer to the world, but has still managed to become a formidable force in terms of the number of visitors it is able to pull to the sites it promotes. I recall hearing on an episode of TWiT that Kevin hoped to outdo Slashdot at some point in time. So, it makes sense that they should be compared.
Let me begin by saying that I use both Digg and Slashdot on a regular basis. The news that each of them puts up tends to be very different, but still valuable. But neither of them can replace the other. Due to the editorial nature of the sites, Digg and Slashdot attract a very different nature of story. To demonstrate my claim, I will use my two previous blog posts to show off which articles tend to do better on which sites, and in doing so, I will determine the core differences in target audience of the two sites.
The first article I wrote, a quick rundown of the features in Deer Park (Firefox 1.5), became front page Digg material. The second article, an introduction to Competitive Programming got Slashdotted (but as of yet, not Dugg). Firstly, I believe that neither of them had a particularly good quality of writing, although they still got their points across well enough, so I will not seek to compare the two based on quality of writing (i.e. They will accept articles, provided they get their key points across).
For the purposes of this article, the comparison of the articles they will accept can be broken down into these categories:
- Possibility for Discussion
As I mentioned before, Slashdot and Digg are radically different in the way that they go about promoting stories: Slashdot being controlled by a handfull of editors, and Digg being controlled by the people browsing the site. This tends to match the audience of the respective sites – Slashdot attracts programmers and Linux Hackers, whereas Digg tends to attract the tech enthusiast and Blogger culture. The types of articles that get accepted tend to reflect the people who go on these sites.
Digg generally prefers shorter, articles that are easy to digest, and the article needs to focus on things that fit into “mass market” computing. This is why the Firefox article did well in Digg – the content in it was concise, and focused on something that the “average” tech user would find interesting.
Slashdot, on the other hand seems to prefer longer articles, and these articles have to fit the niche market that Slashdot holds: the Programmer/Linux Hacker group will generally look to articles that are more suited to the Open Source/Free Software mindset and/or Programming culture, and articles that look into experience in these areas are often the ones that are looked at more favourably.
In conclusion, articles covering broader computing topics are better suited to Digg, but if your article falls into the Slashdot Niche, then submit there.
Possibilty for Conversation
A key thing that sets Slashdot and Digg apart is what happens to articles after they reach the front page of their respective sites. While both sites value the information that they put on their front page, Slashdot tends to value the discussion made by its members more than Digg. Whilst you may get quite a few comments to an article on Digg, generally, there is a lot less in the way of coherent conversation – the comments may just be a quick addition to the article being Dugg, but there is no interaction between the commentary.
Slashdot, on the other hand, has a far more defined sense of community. This, once again is where the personal experience side of the stories you write comes into play. If a Slashdotter has some experience relating to the article that has been written, then there is more chance of him commenting on the article. It can be said that the discussion following an article on Slashdot can often be more important than the article itself – thus articles generally need to be open to commentary more than other articles covering the same subject matter. This is where the Competitive Programming article really succeeded. As an article, it was fairly imcomplete in terms of what it could have said, however, drawing on the experiences of the Slashdot community, it gathered the experiences of a wide-ranging community, and they all joined together to form a large discussion of the subject.
In conclusion, for an article to succeed on Slashdot, it needs to suit discussion more than it does for Digg.
It really doesn't need to be said that Digg is first and foremost a news aggregator, and articles that succeed there only succeed because the material they cover is of interest to a broader audience – this is not anything against Digg – in fact, they herald it as one of their strong points. So do I. But because of this fact, they don't have as defined a sense of community as Slashdot does. Whilst Digg is a good place to put news articles, and even the occasional random blog post, the best place to put things that are of interest to Slashdot's audience is (amazingly) Slashdot.
So, it is highly unlikely that Digg will ever replace Slashdot as the source of choice for those people who currently read Slashdot, but it will still remain a force for news in its current form.