Marshall has a thoughful post about some of the issues surrounding tech blogging and the challenges of surfacing new voices within a system that increasingly seems to center on a handful of good blogs again and again rather than helping bring more attention to the *best* writing on a given topic.
Marshall thanks for a thoughtful post. Although I think “A list” blogs are generally very good, I think ranking and commercial issues are keeping a *lot* of quality writing from surfacing. Huge search engine advantages are enjoyed by blogs with extensive incoming links.
Links can be a pretty good and democratic measure of what users want, but with so many A list blogs using very strategic linking, combined with so many “wannabe” blogs linking to existing A lists, combined with A listers rarely linking to even the best writing of others for competitive and commercial reasons, the system is probably no longer working well to bring new voices into the mix.
Solutions? Aggregators like FriendFeed should surface more new writers and content proactively rather than defaulting as they have. A listers should commit to featuring new voices much more regularly, and new voices should find a way to band together so the best writing – rather than the best linking and strategy and commercial cleverness – tends to prevail.
TechMeme has rapidly become one of the key techno watering holes in the blogosphere thanks to how it helps sift through tech blogs and posts to winnow out those getting maximum buzz. Todd recently suggested he thinks a lot of SEO firms are gaming techmeme, especially by post plants from A list bloggers – the implication is that they are paid for this.
He’s largely wrong about this and has given *way* too much credence to the always inflated claims of SEO companies (his inspiration for the post was a small SEO firm in Honolulu).
Of course Tech blogging, and most of the web for that matter, and much of the offline world, have been “damaged” with respect to objective quality content by various tactics that come about as the inevitable result of content monetizing.
But take a look at the prominent TechMeme posts tonight – it’s clear that these are generally spawned from sincere interests and not “planted” as part of advanced SEO tactics. Do any plants happen? A few, but in SEO you have to balance the chance you’ll “sneak in” a good plant against the greater chance that you’ll permanently tarnish the blogger’s reputation cause a scandal (Wal Mart’s Edelman fiasco), or simply spend a lot of time and money for a marginal result. The best SEO strategies rely more than ever on getting legitimate content and placements.
Now, Robert Scoble has a great video post today that is a lot more interesting because he’s trying to reverse engineer TechMeme, something a lot of people in tech are interested in for several reasons. Robert also manages to feed the new little Scoble during his impromptu 2am advanced tech blogging lecture, which is really a fun statement about how far social networking and life/work integration has come in the past few years.
I hope Gabe responds to Robert to clear up some confusion though he may want to keep the TechMeme algorithm top secret, following in Google’s footsteps.
Some key points by Robert as he speculated about the TechMeme algorithm:
Tech blog database of perhaps 10,000 blogs.
Blog rankings (see TechMeme leaderboard) used to reflect their authority and thus “weight” the power of outbound links from those blogs.
Reciprocal linking is not as heavily weighted as one directional outbound linking.
Robert suggests an experiment to test some of his ideas and I hope he does it, though Gabe may simply shut down that post or (if he wants to mess with his TechMeme folks) manually override the algorithm so it does funny things that lead to wrong conclusions. Scoble’s Breeeport experiment was fun a few years ago, and this stuff can be a great way to bring more transparency to the mysteries of content ranking.