Techmeme: We are the 1%

Gabe Rivera, the creator of, has an interesting post over on the Techmeme blog today.  In it, he talks about why Techmeme links to them instead of you.  It’s interesting for two reasons.  The first is that most of the tips he gives for showing up on Techmeme are sound journalistic tips that anyone writing news articles on any subject would be wise to follow.  The second reason that it’s interesting is because it reveals a new depth of behind-the-scenes at Techmeme that hasn’t been very publicly acknowledged before.  In particular, this bit jumped out at me:

How can you improve discoverability? First, encourage tech blogs to link to your post, particularly the tech blogs Techmeme frequently links to.

There are some other bits, and, like I said, they are valuable too.  But, let me pick at this one for a bit.  I once claimed that this site had been included in a Techmeme blacklist.  Gabe, himself, stopped by and left a comment claiming that one doesn’t exist.  Do I still feel that way?  Yes and no.  I’m not as convinced that one does exist as I was before.  But, based on that tidbit from Gabe’s post today, I’m left wondering if it isn’t actually a blacklist that is the issue, but an overly weighted whitelist.  Of course, I won’t rule out a bit of both.

But, let’s play with the idea of an over-weighted whitelist for a minute.  Techmeme has a list of sites that it frequently links to.  Some, deservedly so.  Sites like TechCrunch are leaders in the tech news industry and as such, they often break exclusive news.  So, yes, if I were Gabe, they’d be on a list of constantly crawled sites.  There are others that I would include as well.  But, if that list is weighted a bit too heavily, it’s entirely possible that those sites would get first shot at the headline, based on the algorithm alone.

IMG_6321 © by michaelarrington

If a smaller tech site broke the news, and had an equally good headline, equally good content, and, overall, matched or bested the TechCrunch article on the same subject, TechCrunch would get the headline on Techmeme.  And, despite claims otherwise, I sincerely doubt Techmeme’s editors would attempt to override that.  Why would they?  They have a relationship with TechCrunch.  It’s not a paid relationship, but, similar to any relationship that two businesses have that regularly work together.  Some might call it a crony relationship.  And, when you have one of those relationships, you are going to naturally favor the other business in that relationship.

For those of us who don’t have that relationship with Techmeme or TechCrunch, it looks a lot like a Gatekeeper sort of scenario.

Occupy Wall Street might call them the 1% of tech blogging.

Now that I’ve railed on that a while, I think it’s important to take note of some of the tips that Gabe gives out.  Because, when it boils down to it, if you can get past the gatekeeper scenario, the rest of the information is really pretty solid advice.

To appear on Techmeme, do this:

– Break a major story.
– Report/summarize/write up a big, developing story. Be early, or better: first (mindful that this doesn’t trump other considerations).

– Got a press release or non-exclusive briefing? Write the very best take. Highlight what’s important, what’s fascinating. Be lucid and critical.
– Make sure your headline is clear and contains all major details (proper names, dollar amounts, dates, etc.) If you’re posting on Google+, make sure the first line of your post functions as a headline.
– Link generously to stories on other sites to establish context and cite sources. Sometimes including a Techmeme permalink is the best way to do this. (Self-serving but true!)
– Articulate something lots of people are thinking, but not putting into words.
– Write the kind of story an Apple or Google exec would share with their fellow execs.
– Write the kind of story people will talk about at an industry cocktail party.
– Write the killer analysis piece that tech pundits can’t help but to link to. Yes, be a “thought leader”. If your post is linked enough, the automation behind Techmeme will notice and attempt to surface it.

– Tip Techmeme on Twitter. (Include “Tip @Techmeme” when you tweet your link.)
– Summarize a major story that’s behind a paywall. Techmeme rarely features paywalled stories, but may link to you. Link prominently to the source story, of course.
– Say what you’re going to say early in your post. The reader wants to know soon whether there’s a payoff to reading, not 8 paragraphs in.
– Include relevant images, videos, or figures in your post.
– Time some analytical pieces for weekends and other slow times when they’re easier for Techmeme to discover.

Some of that is somewhat obvious.  Breaking a major story is obviously going to help you out.  But, the key takeaway is that you’ve got to have a spectacular headline.  You’ve got to have a well written article.  You’ve got to cite sources when you can, and bring in the conversation by linking to relevant information.  In short, be damn good at what you do.  Don’t put up shit and expect that you’ll hit the top of the list.  Leave that to the gossip column writers.

Pagerank Should NOT be Gotten Rid Of

In case you’re wondering, it’s been 5 months since the Google PageRank was last updated.  Before the flames start, I should clarify that statement.  PageRank actually updates dynamically.  What is normally called a PageRank “Update” is really just the pushing of a snapshot of the dynamic PageRank out to the Google Toolbar and to the static servers that it can be retrieved from.  Google search doesn’t use the static one. Duh.  Google gets free reign to use the dynamic PageRank.  Why? Because they make it.

They also get to change the algorithm at the whim of their engineers.  For that reason, the length of time since last update, and a few other reasons, there are many people who are calling for PageRank to be abandoned.  There are just as many that think it already has, we just haven’t been told about it.  I sincerely hope that both groups are wrong.

Why?  Because PageRank has become a standard.  There are many, many websites that use it as a metric for position, price, and power.  I must admit that using one metric like that is a bit on the wrong side.  It’s akin to only having one advertising revenue source on a website.  All well and good until that source stops working.

But we still can’t get rid of PageRank.  We need it.  It’s too much of a standard to just drop like a lead balloon.  What we need is an independent body that will conglomerate that and other metrics and then convert them into one, unifying, metric.  For the same reason that Alexa is frowned upon as a traffic gauge, we cannot depend on one metric alone.

What would my ideal metric include?

  • Pagerank
  • Alexa Rank
  • Compete Rank
  • Subscription rank (not currently possible as it’s not available on all blogs)
  • ?  Other’s could be integrated as they are developed.

How would the metric be calculated?

PageRank, Alexa, and Compete would be the core as they are the leading metrics.  The problem here is scale.  PageRank is on a scale of 1 to 10.  Alexa is a numeric rank based on position.  As is Compete.  Each is skewed a little in it’s own way and we can’t really play favorites, so we have to find a way to equally include each.  Obviously, we can’t just do an average of any sort.  That just wouldn’t work.  We need something that would scale.  Here’s how I would do it.

Take PageRank and multiply by 10.  Now it’s on a scale of 10-100.  Take Alexa and divide by 10,000.  Now it is roughly on a scale of .0001 to 300.   Compete is a little bit different.  There are several metrics that we can choose from, but the one we’ll use for this demonstration is Rank.  It’s a measure of time spent on the domain vs the time spent on the internet.  It’s a combination of a unique monthly count and the time spent on a site.  An “Engagement” metric.  Now we take the rank and divide it by 10,000.  Again, this gets us a rank between .0001 and 100 (Compete rank only uses the top 1 million sites based on unique people count).

Now we have a PageRank on a scale of 10-100, an Alexa score of .0001 to 300 and a Compete score from .0001 and 100.  Now, here we have a choice.  We can divide our answers and get a scale where the higher your score, the better, or we can multiply and the lower your score is the better.  We’re all about feeding egos around here, so I’m going to pick the divide answer.  Divide the PageRank score by the Alexa score and then divide the PageRank score by the Compete score and add the two together.  If you are unranked in both Alexa and Compete you end up with a score of 0 no matter what your PageRank is.  If you have a PageRank of 10 and are number 1 on both Alexa and Compete, you end up with a score of 2,000,000.  You might be thinking that that is a pretty large scale, but the beauty of it is that there is room for a lot of movement and a lot more detail in the ranking.

There are several other ways you could go about using those ranking metrics to come up with a unified ranking system.  Each with it’s own merits and with it’s own flaws.  What is important in creating a unified ranking system is that you attempt to keep things equal.  No one component should create a drastic skew in one direction or the other.  With this system I just explained, I think that is true.  (note: I may be wrong, as I wasn’t very good at math in school.)  But if your blog has a page rank of 10 somehow, but only shows an Alexa score of 1,350,789 and a Compete score of 999,145, you would only have a rank of  about 1.75.  As a comparison, this site has a PageRank of 5, a Compete score of 138,160 and an Alexa score of 159,484.  That give it a rank of about 0.68.  This site would still rank higher even though it only has half the PageRank.

I’m sure that someone, somewhere would find a way to game this or any other ranking system, but the more sources we have to rank with, the harder it becomes to skew the rank without gaming all of the sources.

What are your thoughts on ranking and metrics?

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Apple Fanboys get Burned. Whiners.

<rant> (you’ve been warned)

Look.  If you’re going to be a devout fanboy, you can’t whine when you get burned.  So what, you sat in line for 24 hours and got one of the very first Apple iPhones.  Do I feel sorry for you?  No.  What now?  Steve Jobs announces a $200 price drop for new iPhones.  Whoops.  I guess that’s what you get for being a fanboy.

Of course, Steve isn’t blind or deaf, so your whining did get you $100 of that back if you bought early.  You’re lucky to be getting even that.  Frankly, if you’re dumb enough to be so enraptured with a company or item that you’re willing to stand in line for more than an hour or so for the ability to buy it, you deserve to pay a premium for the item.  The only good reason to do that is to take advantage of someone stupider by selling it on eBay for twice the premium you paid for it.  That’s a good use of your time in line.  Getting paid for it.

And why was the iPhone such a brilliantly great gadget up until the other day?  What changed?  When you thought it was a  $600 gadget it was the greatest phone ever.  At $400, it’s suddenly a horrible gadget from a horrible company?  BullSh!t.  You got your teensy feelings hurt and you’re holding a grudge.

And what the hell were you doing paying $600 for a phone in the first place?  You’re probably the same people who complain when your $300 bottle of wine doesn’t have the exact taste it was supposed to.  If you can afford to waste $300 on a bottle of wine, you have no right to complain about it.  What you should be complaining about is how people like you have way too much damn money and it isn’t fair to smarter, more sensible people.

Consider that $100 premium you paid a fee that you pay to Apple for being allowed to be a Fanboy.  And don’t think for one minute that I’m letting you get away with the “early adopter”, cutting edge, bull either.


P.S. Gizmodo has a few ways that you might (might) be able to get more than $100 back.

< /rant>

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Pagerank Update coming

There’s been a little bit of talk about it, and I too believe that a pagerank update is on it’s way.  Depending on the day, this site varies between a 5 and a 6 on the future pagerank tools.  In the last few days, a fourth datacenter is reporting down, which seems to indicate that they are beginning to ramp up for the update.  Hopefully the little bit of preparation I did will help with my pagerank here and on my other sites.  Mostly, I just did link building, but there’s a bit of SEO going on in the backgrounds as well.

Since I don’t work for Google, I can’t say exactly the procedure for it, but I’m guessing that they take a couple of the datacenters down at a time, update the code, test them and then do a quick update on all of the rest of the datacenters before bringing them all online with the new code.  At least that’s how I would do it. Having never worked at a large datacenter, I could be completely wrong.  Maybe Matt Cutts will enlighten us.

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