Arm Farting in the Blogosphere

Everybody’s talking about Techmeme today…again.  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.

All of which means that, at least at the top of the blogosphere, links are less about authority and more about popularity and power.  Power to control admission to the in-crowd.  Just like in life, some go radical and reject the system that excluded them.  Others waive expectantly, hoping they’ll get called over to play.  Most are somewhere in between.

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.      

I have no idea how Techmeme works under the hood, but it seems to do a good job of picking out appropriate stories and discussion links.  Sure, I get the point that the Register and the New York Times are not blogs.  But be that as it may, I find Techmeme to be a lot less biased than most bloggers, A-List and otherwise, when it comes to picking up interesting and relevant links.

Meanwhile, Louis Gray has a case of the new blogger’s blues: “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten to a story before ‘the big guys’ get it, only to be ignored.”  We’ve all been there brother, but stay the course and you’ll get some exposure via Techmeme.  No, you won’t get to be the main topic link very much, because A-Listers and a lot of wannabes will always link “upstream” in an effort to protect or obtain a membership card.  But you’ll get in the discussion links (where I live).  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it more productive than waiting for a link from one of the A-Listers or wannabes?  Absolutely.

The blogosphere is not a level playing field and there are as many motivations for blogging as there are bloggers.  This makes the trip up blogger’s hill a steep one, but Techmeme has always struck me as a reasonably fair and informative place to start.

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