Sunday, August 14, 2005

When Comments Become Posts

When I'm about to leave a comment that exceeds three paragraphs I know it's time to just write a post. See, I'm a blogger, I can do that (unlike the vast majority of people who read blogs, but do not blog themselves.

The post in question is this one by BlogHer speaker, Barb Dybwad.

Although Barb admits briefly that all the controversy and discussion around the Technorati Top 100 is "...distantly, it’s about having your voice heard" she generally doesn't get why people care. That Web 2.0 is precisely about the long tail and cutting out the middle man of mainstream media and reaching directly to the people you want to reach.

Barb's perspective is one held in common by most of the people who, in vocal numbers at BlogHer, told us all to make our own list of what matters and to stop caring about these tools like Technorati or any other "popularity" metric.

And I feel I must, as the lonely standard bearer of people who do care, try to explain a bit about why I a) care in the first place, but more importantly why b) even if these tools are only for we shallow few who do care, then they should at least operate as promised and deliver believable results.

I think most people will grant you that linking leads to traffic. Whether you keep that traffic is all up to you and whether they find your site worthwhile once they land there, but linking helps get more people there.

Sure, there are many bloggers who don't need or want large audiences, and they probably can't imagine what the fuss is about.I don't blame them. And I will step right up and say that if I care about traffic or rank on my Personal Blog it is nothing more than ego (this despite the fact that said personal blog is how I got my column at the Metro and how I got pegged to write the blog for the Santa Clara County Democratic Party.)

But there are also bloggers who want to, for example, persuade...really would you write a political blog if you didn't want to persuade? And if you passionately believe in your cause don't you want to persuade as many people as possible? I know I do. That is why I care.

And if you're marketing your business to people who *aren't* bloggers, then sure it'd be great to reach those 100 "right" readers, but marketing is a numbers game, and you really will have to reach some large number to find the "right" ones. That's just how it works. And sure, you can find and email other bloggers in your area directly, but remember, [CORRECTED] only 1 in 5 blog readers is a blogger. The majority are not.

Not only that, but if you're in a business where those people who are deemed to be "authoritative" or "well-regarded" receive offers to speak or write or otherwise pontificate on their subject matter, and if said opportunities inevitably lead to wonderful networking opportunities and actual business (and I believe such opportunities often do) then your livelihood will be enhanced by getting yourself added to the list of authorities. That is why I care.

So even if you leave ego out of it, there are plenty of reasons to care about being noticed, being read, being linked to and being well-ranked.

So, that's what make it so aggravating when the tools that purport to do this are inconsistent at best, exclusionary at worst. Over at our BlogHer site we have a blog roll that is automatically maintained via Bloglines. As far as I can tell Technorati is not capturing these blog roll links in its count. As all the BlogHers import this blog roll to their blog to form a community and to help lift that community up and lend it greater exposure, sure we're achieving the community part of the goal, but that's it. And why? Hopefully not because Bloglines could be considered competitive in some of its feature set.

Probably not, probably it's an oversight or some technical issue. Hell, there was a while there when Technorati wouldn't capture any Blog Roll links from blogs published via iBlog a blogging tool exclusively for Macs.

Meanwhile, people consider this an authoritative tool. People like Steve Rubel advise people/companies to partially judge a blogger's "credibility" by checking their Technorati rank.

So, yeah, I care.

Along with realizing that every bit of advice Barb gives is wise and should be followed, I also believe I have to care about today's tools and how well they work...for my own business, and for my clients.

Elisa, you captured all the reasons the Technorati Top 100 counts, but...I don't care. Would it be nice to be in there? Yeah, I'm not going to say no. But, I still don't care. Cause, my blog serves the right people, and those people don't care about Technorati. How do I know this? I know it because I get consistently good traffic, it brings me business, and it attracts ads.

I used to feel the same as you -- that Technorati should be held to its own standards. But, I'm a busy lady. I don't have time to worry about Technorati, or whether I'm in the Top 100 there. My blog does exactly what I want it to do.

Looks like yours does too. So, I understand what you're saying, but I'm not convinced it matters. To me, anyway.
Wow, you're quick!

Well, I ended up focusing on how I don't trust Technorati as a tool, but I also meant to explain why I care about traffic in general.

Which you say you're getting a good amount of, and that it's enough to be able to attract advertisers. I mean, I agree one doesn't have to be in the Technorati or any other top list to get traffic. As someone said in the BlogHer opening session, one can have traffic without links. Absolutely.
Whether or not we (as individual bloggers) care about Technorati, some people use it as a basis for economic decisions (as you say in this post, Elisa). And that scares me... because the more I dig into it, the more I believe that Technorati just doesn't work as it claims to. From there, I have to ask, *is* the Top 100, as reported by Technorati, the actual Top 100 according to Technorati's own criteria? *Is* Technorati's published ranking of an individual blog reflective of a full calculation using Technorati's own criteria? Simple tests appear to show otherwise - and at that point, *any* decision based on Technorati becomes completely arbitrary. In my opinion, of course!

The latest instalment of my own, er, "adventures" with Technorati may be found here

Cheers, Koan
Tecnorati's credibility is owed to Dave Sifry's credibility--not necessarily to what it does well. Yet whether or not it works well seems to be moot--as in Rubel's post about Robin' Good's criteria for measureing a credible blogger.

But, it kind of begs the question: what sort of credibility is someone trying to ascertain? Unless one is in a niche, and is post linked as well as blogrolled all over the place, ascertaining credibility is something of a subjective judgement. The credibility here could simply go to the blogger who's been blogging the longest and able to accumulate more of a reputation. Blogging really isn't an exact science, and its human aspect can't really be quantified in a neat little algorithm. Instructing someone to use Technorati to assess credibilty is, at this juncture, a bit premature.
Hi Elisa -- thanks for your great reply. The main gist of my response is... I agree with you! It's not that I don't get why these lists are important -- I do. And I realize that in the business world particularly, even if someone happens to agree with my perspective, there is yet wisdom in practicing some non-duality there and taking advantage of whatever metrics and methods will help promote your business. And I agree it's important to hold those metrics and methods to some agreeable standards of functionality and reliability.

My post was pretty polarized to the opposite end of the spectrum, mainly because I don't see that approach get nearly as much attention as the A-list approach -- which is part of the whole problem to begin with, because the A-list's approach has all the force and weight of popular amplification behind it. I don't think it has to be an either-or choice between one method or the other -- I'm mainly arguing for balance. It gets frustrating trying to deal with the obvious shortcomings of these tools, and it's draining to expend energy talking about what's wrong with them and envisioning solutions (I know because I am doing this constantly ;)). It just seems like there's a way to fill the well by remembering there are other ways to connect, and that those small and individual connections made can be just as invaluable for health and sanity as well as for business. e.g. How to reach people who are non-bloggers -- Google can bring them to you (Technorati probably won't), but also the bloggers who are "nodes" in your niche will also be acting as intermediaries for their colleagues who aren't bloggers, and connections can happen that way, as well.

I think that both of our approaches are useful, but one of them gets a lot more airtime and emphasis than the other. I'm just arguing there could be a better balance. Now I must end this before I surpass the 3 paragraph threshold and have to turn it into a blog post! ;)

P.S. I really hope that Koan will write the "Adventures with Technorati" hypertext thriller. ;)
I guess you're not counting your P.S. as a paragraph!! :)

I've been wondering why I'm so sensitive to this issue...I mean I actually agree that the tools are good for some things and irrelevant for others. I agree that I don't even use the blog-specific ones as often as I use Google, precisely because I don't trust them. I agree that my rank or lack thereof has not prevented me from direct networking to like-minded people in and out of the blog world and accomplishing desired goals.

I think, if I delve into my psyche, that I am rebelling against a subtle subtext that it is more noble to not care! Am I the only one who feels this undercurrent of judgement against people who deign to care about such an old-school, hierarchical construct?

Wow, I feel unburdened now that I figured that out!

And as far as Koan: she is doing what I have never had the patience to do, but have often wanted to. I eagerly await the next installment myself.
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