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.

Is Flickr Holding Photos Hostage?

Mike Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch, published a post today saying that he won’t use Flickr anymore until they release his photos that they are holding hostage.

My Pro account expired at some point, probably because I missed an email or my credit card number changed. I wasn’t using Flickr as much, having moved more to Facebook because of the structured people tagging feature. But then one day I was searching for an old treasured photo that existed only on Flickr and on the hard drive of some long forgotten and discarded mobile phone.

Flickr won’t show me that photo. If your pro account expires only your last 200 photos are shown. The only way I can get access to that photo is by paying the Pro fee.

His complaint is that if you upgrade to a pro account, upload a bunch of photos, then let your pro subscription lapse, you don’t get the same benefits of having a pro account.  What?  I wasn’t sure I had read it correctly either, at first.  But, I’ve looked it over several times now, and that really is what he’s whining about. I can say that he’s whining, because he says he is, too.  (I probably would have anyways.)

One of the comments on his post (comments run by facebook btw.  What do you think will happen when facebook decides to stop supporting that or charge for it, Mike?) has a pretty good comparison that makes Mike sound even more whiny.  The commenter compares his complaint to that of a person who rents a self-storage unit, stops paying for it, but still thinks he should be able to get his stuff out of it.  Wrong.  What they’ll do is lock you out of it, then auction your stuff off.

The truth, from where I stand, is that Mike came up in the dot-com boom era of giving everything away for free and supporting it with ads.  So, a lot of those services would have existed back then.  The problem is that, at the moment, ad revenue isn’t quite cutting it.  Some of these places are actually trying to show some positive revenue.

On top of all of that, he expects to be able to upgrade to pro, use the benefits of pro, then selectively keep the benefits of that elevated status even though he is no longer paying for the pro benefits.  I got news for you, Mike.  The benefits go away when you stop paying for them.  And, if you go and sign up for a new free account at flickr, it very clearly tells you that only the last 200 images will be accessible.

If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have gone pro in the first place.  You should have found someplace that offered the full service you wanted for free.  I’m not entirely sure such a place exists, but feel free to look.  In the mean time, I should hope that Flickr doesn’t take you too seriously and decide to test your lawyer mettle with a little bit of a libel suit.  They don’t have much of a case, I don’t think, but Yahoo has spend more serious money on less serious things.

Also, quit whining.

Is Mike Arrington Catty?

I certainly think it’s possible. You see, he can’t seem to help himself sometimes. Perhaps it’s just his personality? This latest bit, where he finishes calling Robert Scoble a sellout is a good example. Backstory? Way back in January, Scoble announced that he would soon be adding advertisements to his blog through his new employer. Today, he released the redesign of his blog and with it, those advertisements. Well, one advertisement to be exact. Robert has been sponsored by the folks at Seagate for a while now. Mike’s problem with it seems to only be that he has the advertisement on the blog.

If you ask me, it’s just another layer of transparency for Robert. We all knew that he was sponsored by Seagate. He doesn’t try and hide it. Now newcomers will know who his sponsor is as well. If you ask me, it’s better that the ad is there as opposed to it not being there and someone seeing a post where Robert talks about Seagate. Not that he would without disclosure. He’s pretty good about that. Much better than about 95% of the blogosphere. Better than Mike.

I’m not even that big of a fan of Robert’s. He talks alot about things like Twitter and FriendFeed that I really don’t care for. Most of his content is on similar subjects. I don’t do video very often, so I can honestly say that I’ve never watched one of his videos. For many, he’s a tech blogging superstar. A true A-lister. Many would call Mike Arrington the same thing. And in many ways, both are right.

I’m not sure whether there is bad blood between the two of them or not, but one thing is for sure, Mike is taking every opportunity to throw a little mud Roberts way. To me, that’s catty. But then, I’ve thought that of Mike for a while now. Of course, that makes me a little catty towards him. Oh well.

It just seems like Mike can’t decide whether he wants to write for TechCrunch or for ValleyWag.