DISCLAIMER: I’m a long-time reader of Slashdot but am not registered. I’ve been reading Reddit for a bit over a year and I’ve been a registered user for a few months. I’ve been reading Digg almost since it’s inception and registered used pretty much the same time. Nowadays I frequent to Digg less and less often.
Digg, Reddit and Slashdot are websites that carry links to “stuff that matters”, “whats new on-line” and stuff. They also contain discussions on those links and the material behind them. They have distinct approaches to this same idea and I’ll compare them from my personal and objective perspective.
Slashdot is a venerable nerd-site. The discussion on Slashdot is by far the best of the three. There really isn’t a subject that half-a-million nerds couldn’t empty. There is always someone who has worked on the issue for 20 years or was the student of the person in question or lives next-door to that spammer in the article. The discussion is infact so good that I rarely read the actual articles themselves. This is so common that is in fact a running joke among slashdotters. “I didn’t RTFM” is probably the most common excuse for quick replies.
Reddit is the newest addition to my regularly visited sites. Everyone can post links to it and vote on those links. The highest voted (and popular) links get to the main page. The stuff on Reddit is fast to renew itself and the discussion is second of the lot. The comments are mostly short and endless pun-threads litter almost any discussion. There is a notable drop in the level of the discussion in the past few months (and some say in the past few years).
Digg was probably one of the first “submit your own story and vote them yourself” -websites. It is also the one with the lousiest discussions, containing mostly just one-liners and (dis)agreement with the subject without anything substantial to add.
Slashdots commenting system is probably the most complex having moderation and meta-moderation allowing you to moderate other peoples moderation. All the comments have a rating from -1 to +5 in several categories, containing funny, insightful and troll. It is probably thanks to this long-evolved system that keeps the level of discussion so good. Uninteresting stuff quickly falls out of radar for most people, although all the comments are readable to anyone so wishing. Well-scoring comments gives you karma, which can be used to moderate other peoples comments. Also the range of -1 to +5 easily gives you an idea of how good the comment is according to the masses. Reddits and Diggs commenting systems’ allows the comments to have much bigger values in both direction, which can be confusing since the score depends greatly on the popularity of the discussion-thread itself. Also the qualitative moderation of Slashdot gives you a quick idea what the comment is like. This means that people make the effort of keeping the funny comments apart from the insightful ones.
You can post your stories to Slashdot but they have a bunch of half-illiterate editors making the pick. This means that the blurps that accompany the posted links often contain a number of typos (obvious ones too), mis-guiding wording and all the bad argumentation you can read. Diggs and Reddits article submissions contain only one link and in Reddit the text of the link is all the submitter can submit with the link itself. In Digg in addition, there is a short description too. This doesn’t keep Digg or Reddit free from mis-guiding wording or submitters from taking some liberties with naming those link-texts. It is indeed a skill of its own to come up with a good, concise link-texts. At least in Reddit, same links often get submitted with different texts and usually just one makes it to the first page.
There being a layer of editors in Slashdot keeps it mostly free from some of the stuff that burdens Digg and Reddit. There is usually at least 5 links to pictures on the front page of Digg and Reddit and while some of them are fun and even interesting, they can be rather boring and the discussions about them mostly aren’t interesting in any way. There is also certain pictures that come up every now and then.
There is certain USA-centricity to all the sites mentioned. This is probably most pronounced in Reddit where the realization that petrol costs $4 per gallon has produced endless links to articles explaining why this is, why it’s going to get better/worse, how it was in the seventies, what alternatives there are for petrol-running cars and so on. Politics is one clear example of this, which shows in Slashdot and Reddit. I am probably more aware of the political situation in USA than I am of Finland because of this.
Personally, my preference of this sites goes in reversed order of the headline. Slashdots discussions gives me such a well-rounded and thorough handling of subjects that I think is practical, thanks to its long history, it also sports a number of nerd-luminaries in its users. Reddit provides light-entertainment and sometimes gold-nuggets worth keeping. Digg is usually good for checking out if you’re bored and exhausted all the other options.