Last week the Economist (subscription required) had an interesting article about researchers in an HP lab that have been comparing strategies for maximizing readership on Digg via the layout of the front page. They were trying to answer the following question: Should the most recent stories be on top? That’s the way Digg is now, but maybe it should be organized with the most popular on top?
The study concluded that it depends on how quickly readers tire of a new story. They developed a mathematical model to prove this and showed that if the flow of content slows beyond a certain level, then it would be better for the site to switch to an organization by popularity. Wow. You know Digg itself is popular when HP researchers spend over a year simulating Digg to figure out how the site should organize its front page.
Incidentally, the Economist has decided to get a little more social. I’m not sure when this implementation happened (though it must have been within the last few weeks), but the site now allows subscribers to comment. At the bottom of most of the articles it says, “The Economist welcomes your views.” But only the number of comments are shown on the same page as the article. You have to click through to a different section to read them.
What I found particularly ironic is that a story about Digg has only received two comments. That just goes to show that the Digg commenting crowd and the Economist reading crowd haven’t been properly introduced.