How we're twisted by the top-100 lists
Tuesday, October 9, 2007 by Dave Winer.
When I got a prominent link from a TechCrunch piece on September 30, it generated 228 hits (according to Google Analytics). Now it could be there was some other reason less than 1 in 1000 of the readers clicked on the link, or it may be that these sources are over-reporting the influence of TechCrunch.
It could be that the position it occupies on these lists is largely "game" because there are non-editorial incentives for blogs to point to TechCrunch, esp in the Techmeme cloud. Since Arrington's pieces tend to rise to the top of the page, pieces that link to them become more visible (they show up in the Discussion links), and the chances that another blogger is going to point to them go up. All it takes is one or two of those pointers to promote your piece to the top level, and that really boosts your visibility, and now that the Leaderboard is there, it could make that status semi-permanent, creating an even greater incentive to point. So people can and do, at least sometimes, point to TechCrunch not because they think one of their pieces is worthy of a comment for its own sake, rather because it gives them status and flow, and if they're running ads on their site, money.
The only way TechCrunch could be sure that this wasn't the reason people point is if they put a line in their robots.txt file that keeps Techmeme from crawling the site. Then we would know that when someone points it isn't for the Techmeme flow and status, because there would be none. Maybe they will do that. Honestly, I think it would be great for the tech blogosphere if they did. It would force more of those 609K people to use their subscriptions, rather than depend on Techmeme to find the important TechCrunch pieces. In other words it might actually have the effect of boosting the influence of TechCrunch. No matter, that's up to Mike and Heather, I'm just speculating.
And in case anyone accuses me of spamming Techmeme with this piece, I've added a line to my robots.txt file that tells Techmeme that it is not permitted to crawl my site. So you won't see this piece on Techmeme, nor any other stuff I may write today. And no one will point to this piece for the TM juice it provides, because it doesn't provide any. It might be a refreshing break!
PS: I turned off TechMeme, as an experiment, on January 24, and turned it back on on April 12.