Link Love Lost or How Social Gestures within Topic Groups are More Interesting Than Link Counts (Napsterization)

A discussion about creating a new metric for understanding blogs is something I think the community should have the chance to participate in to find a different way of perceiving a blog, or the ripples a blog makes. Partly I believe this because of the frustration people express about Google’s secret algorithm for pagerank, where they feel something this powerful should not be secret (update: the algorithm is not secret but the ordering of the search results is secret). And partly because I see that blogging is a opportunity for people to talk transparently, so why shouldn’t the algorithm used to express our weight in the blogosphere also be open. Bloggers should have input about the importance of one social gesture over another, one metric over another, and know what it is that is included because it will be used to describe them. And also, I cannot assume that the ways I read blogs is the same as everyone else, so I’d rather have a community algorithm in the sense that the community has commented on the weight of some metrics over others within the algorithm, and not just assume that the ways I or others weight these gestures in our blog search are correct for everyone.

A closed algorithm is purported to be a kind of spam control, as opposed to an algorithm that is open. But a community based standard means the community can help police those that try to game it, if we put in place mechanisms to flag those who abuse the system. Transparency as it exists in open source software, and as it should exist here, is the opposite of security by obscurity. But creating this is also an experiment, and help is needed in order to make creating a community based algorithm possible.

Currently, blogs are measured in systems like Technorati or ranked in PubSub by links or by number of subscribers to a feed in Feedster. In particular, these are the not very interesting, subtle or telling measures used to make indexes like the Technorati Top 100 or the PubSub 100 or the Feedster 100. In Particular, the Technorati Top 100 is based purely on inbound links. All of these lists tend to favor those who blog in more general, popular topic areas, and not those who are specialists in an area.

For many bloggers the relevant sphere of influence is not overall popularity, as those indexes express. It’s influence and connection within a community. And the relevant measure of connection isn’t the number of connections — it’s the depth and impact of those connections. This is about celebrating the niche, and measuring engagement over time. (more..)