Scoble’s Phantom Links
You may or may not have read Scoble rant here about Techmeme not putting most linked stories on its front page.
TechMeme (which started out as a blog news engine) has totally switched its focus away from blogs. I’m tracking the Plaxo news. I was among the first two sites out with news about Plaxo’s new 3.0 platform. I have the only videos. Posted two of them. I have one of the first real reviews. Google’s blog search shows I have the most inbound links. Om Malik, who posted a story about Plaxo two hours after I did, even linked to me.
Yet the top article right now? One by the Register which doesn’t even have comments and doesn’t link out and doesn’t have screen captures (like other articles do) and doesn’t have video and doesn’t even have any real news.
You can read Doc Searls respond to Scoble about this:
And some don’t bother to play at all. Yours truly, for example. I don’t follow Techmeme, Digg, Memeorandum or TechCrunch any more than I once didn’t follow Daypop or Slashdot. Somewhere way back there I began following topics more than bloggers. Last couple of weeks or so, for example, I followed Supernova and VRM, together, because VRM was a subject of special interest to me that was discussed at Supernova. If in the course of looking into topics I run into one of the popularity-following (or -making) sites, I’ll go there. But I don’t start there.
Every one of these valuation engines has its own weighting system, of course. But many links from many bloggers does not true authority make, especially when the system is gamed in the manner that Kent nails rather well. We’ve gone from SEO (search engine optimization) to BVE (buzz volume elevation). The results are often useful, but they can also turn the blogosphere into high school.
In his post he links to Kent Newsome’s hilarious post about this:
Scoble says he has all the inbound links and ought to be the top story about whatever the top story is at the moment. He’s said basically the same thing before. Here’s the problem with that: Scoble could write a post about arm farting and 30 or 40 people would immediately link to it, hoping he might link back. Scoble has more yes men than Michael Corleone and Michael Arrington combined.
In other words, all those people linking wildly to Scoble aren’t doing so because they think he is the world’s greatest authority on arm farting. They are simply holding out their hands eagerly and hoping Scoble will shake it (via a link) as he walks by. Getting a link from Scoble is almost as good as getting arrested with Paris Hilton. It’s not Scoble’s fault he’s the king of the blogosphere any more than it’s Paris Hilton’s fault she’s in jail.
But none of this is a sound basis for deciding what is top news and what isn’t. There needs to be more to it. There needs to be a balance between popularity, authority, freshness and inclusion. Most of the target audience for Techmeme already subscribe to Scoble’s blog. They are at Techmeme looking to see what others are saying about various topics. And let’s not kid ourselves, a ton of Techmeme readers are bloggers who want to be included in the conversation. To remove the opportunity for inclusion would change Techmeme in a fundamental and adverse way
Unfortunately no one has yet come up with a magic silver bullet or ( if I may mix my metaphors) the PageRank for blogs. Its a though problem to solve. Do you crawl the linking websites to see if they actually talking about Scoble’s expertise Arm Farting, or is it simply a link farm blog? Come to think of it, how do translate a blogs authority? Page views? Subscriber stats (Google will have no doubt added this in to their blog search)?
Authority is more perception than anything else. You can’t get an algorithm to perceive the difference between Bush’s authority and Scoble’s ( that is authority as in “do people listen”).