Digg, Pligg, SpyMy

You know Digg.com, don’t you? If you haven’t heard of it before (how was your vacation to Mars?), here’s the definition from their website:

Digg is a technology news website that employs non-hierarchical editorial control. With digg, users submit stories for review, but rather than allowing an editor to decide which stories go on the homepage, the users do.

You can read all about them at Digg’s FAQ section.

Digg was founded by, among others, Kevin Rose, formerly of TechTV fame. Despite it having been around for a relatively short time (read Wired News’ Digg Gets Kiss From a Rose for the backstory), it has already become a strong rival to heavyweight tech-site, Slashdot – although some may be quick to point out that both sites tend to complement each other rather than compete.

Such is the buzz on the net that even Kottke was moved to discuss it on his post, Digg vs. Slashdot.

Given the popularity of Digg and it’s relatively unique approach to content and news aggregation, it was only a matter of time before Digg clones began to surface. You can find all the clones by doing a search for Digg clone on Google.

This, by the way, is an issue in itself, because strictly speaking, Digg’s design and code is copyrighted. It is almost impossible to obtain the server-side PHP code that runs Digg (unless the server was broken into), but of course, stealing the HTML/CSS/JavaScript/other client-side code is mere child’s play.

Things really got interesting when a Spanish digg-clone called Meneame.net released its PHP code as open-source, and although it was all in Spanish, sites like this Spanish Digg Meneame Installation Instructions suddenly allowed anyone to host their own Digg-clone themselves.

And before you know it, an “open-source content management system” was created using the Meneame code – it’s called Pligg.

The unfortunate part about this is the use of CSS and images which appear to be a direct rip-off of Digg’s code. If you view Pligg’s CSS source, do a search for digg. The fact it’s there at all is disturbing.

When O’Reilly writer Steve Mallet was alleged to have created sites like LinuxFilter and iTunesLove, it generated a howl of criticism and protest over at Digg, with founder Kevin Rose making a rare comment on the Digg post:

I’ve seen a ton of digg clones, but this is the first to actually copy and paste CSS and use our images. Daniel Burka (digg/mozilla.org designer) put a lot of work into creating the site – it’s sad to see someone steal it (and illegal).

But, of course, if Steve Mallett simply used Pligg to run his site, then the real blame should be placed on the Pligg creators. An article at O’Reilly (Digging The Madness of Crowds) clears it up further by putting the blame back at meneame. Indeed, one of the Pligg developers commented on that article (it’s the first comment) as follows:

I’m one of the Pligg developers. We took the Meneame code in early December and translated it to English. We then decided to add new feature and make it easier for other to use and translate to other languages. We did not realize, until now, that the CSS was taken from Digg and modified to fit Meneame. We just never thought to compare. Now that we do know this, we will rectify the situation.

Well, so far they haven’t done much rectifying, but perhaps it’s early days yet.

The question remains: what are the Digg team going to do about this? Rumours continue to be circulated regarding lawsuits and what-not, but at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be likely.

In the midst of all this, we now have our own Digg clone – SpyMy. (Malaysia Boleh?) Comparing the CSS code to Pligg’s, it’s pretty obvious SpyMy is being run on the Pligg CMS.

Not that that is a problem – for now. Since Pligg’s code is open-source, SpyMy is in the clear regarding any claims of rip-offs and plagiarism. (BTW, Diggers themselves have found out about SpyMy. Follow the discussion here – SpyMy – a Digg clone?).

But if (or when) the Digg team decide to take action against Pligg or Meneame, what will happen to all the sites running on Pligg/Meneame? While the mood among Diggers maybe somewhat cynical now, (“it’s the 21st century, the age of the internet, you can’t stop things like that, etc”), that does not necessarily mean that the Digg team aren’t considering the legal implications of possible copyright infringement seriously.

Personally, I hope for several things to happen:
1. Meneame to apologise for lifting Digg’s CSS code.
2. Digg to release their source code under the GPL.
3. Liverpool to win the EPL, Champions League and everything else in between (I just thought I’d slip that in..)
4. SpyMy, Pligg and all Digg clones to live happily ever after.

The fact that SpyMy has already found favour with a few Malaysian blog-taikos (Jeff Ooi, Aiz, Mack Zul) should encourage SpyMy founders to build further on the foundations they’ve laid down.

Just a few days ago, Swifty was found musing on whether BlogsMalaysia should emulate Digg, while I myself once wondered if PPS users could be given more power in rating the pings.

Looks like SpyMy has made our wishes come true. So go over there and support them, ya hear?


11 thoughts on “Digg, Pligg, SpyMy”

  1. Yeah it’s a pretty interesting development.

    I’ve been following the whole thing aswell, being an avid Digg fan.

    I would say though most non-tech people don’t know about Digg or the concept just like Slashdot.

    Digg has bettered Slashdot for me, more news faster, Slashdot is the same stuff 3 days later.

    Slashdot is just good for the humour and discussion in comments.

    I just think this is needed for this region as good as PPS is, it’s getting hard work to wade through it.

    The Pligg code is based off Meneame so I’d say it’s him at blame not the Pligg guys, they only found out when the story got Digged and like you said even Kevin Rose himself commented (so did the designer).

    SpyMy has changed all the images from Digg and has made a best effort to change the CSS (the code is pretty messy at the moment though).

    But it’s a work in progress and SpyMy will be contributing back to the Pligg project to make it better and legal, standing on it’s own feet.

    Plus of course making SpyMy better for all it’s users.

    And like you say it is early days, Pligg just started in December so it’s less than a month old, they are working on using Smarty templates for the next version with a totally fresh css/html layout.

    (Yeah I still read PPS)

  2. Pingback: SpyMy.com
  3. Community rated content isn’t new. Kuro5hin.org for example has been around since forever. I’m baffled, what’s so special about digg.com?

  4. hey i just returned from mars – this is the first time i heard of digg.com.

    i tend to agree with lionel. there are lots of community rated contents/blog aggregators around, so what’s so special about digg.com… and spymy? (apart from it being new). anyway of course i will drop in spymy to look see.

  5. Kuro5hin isn’t user rated at all, it’s based on slashcode, so it’s exactly the same as Slashdot.

    You submit a story, an editor has to approve it, then people comment.

    The only part that is user rated is the comment section, with the whole karma thing, so you can browse comments at a certain level (-1 or +1).

    The thing with Digg and SpyMy is there ARE no editors at all, you submit a story it shows up instantly, then people can vote on it.

    If enough people vote on it, it will be published on the front page, so you know what’s on the front page is worth reading, and when you have free time you can check out the Queued stories (Spy for stories) and vote up new stories you find interesting.

    There is no editor involvement and no waiting, what’s news is there instantly and gets voted up instantly.

    Digg has overtaken Slashdot to a degree as the news is instant, Slashdot tends to publish the same things as Digg but 2-3 days later as the editorial process takes time.

    SpyMy is like Digg but aimed at the Singapore/Malaysia region, Digg only covers tech stories.

  6. SpyMy: Kuro5hin is based on the Scoop engine and is entirely user-driven. It’s done a bit differently than Digg, but it had more problems with the editors being absent doing other things than them having to approve stories. I believe that the site is still run that way, with Rusty Foster only taking on a minimal role.

    FWIW – it’s the same CMS that runs political blogs DailyKos and RedState.

  7. I don’t think digg has anything to worry about. Digg is an excellent Tech site. Pligg, which is similar to digg in functionality, is not based on the same code, but a complete rewrite. It’s similar, but definately different.

    Pligg enables its users to setup shop serving any kind of content, not just ‘tech’. Why setup another tech site? There are thousands of them. Enough already. That being said, the “digg-like” technology could be used to create a thousand great ‘non-tech’ sites. Cool.

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