As the results start to trickle out of the Total Politics rankings for 2010, the inevitable carping and whining commences as to how unfair it is that the ‘same people’ always appear at the top, how it is an incestuous circle of friends who link to each other to keep out the ‘newcomers’.
“And true to form most of those top blogs are publishing the list with links, which means they are pushing those blogs up the rankings and cementing their places at the top leaving the rest scrambling around for crumbs.”
As with most things ‘Internet’, there is an element of conspiracy theory in that remark. A suggestion that there is some powerful cabal that has clandestine meetings to decide who they will promote. I thought I would take a look to see how true that was.
The Total Politics ranking is made up of votes from individual e-mail addresses belonging to readers of Iain Dale’s site. Whether each e-mail address belongs to only one reader is a matter that has been much speculated upon in these days of freely available hotmail and gmail accounts. No matter, let’s not go there. At the end of the day it is a ranking of reader’s choices, and whilst there is a possibility that individual bloggers could be registering multiple votes for each other, it would require a huge amount of effort and remembered passwords to secure a place at the top by this method.
Since Iain requires your ‘top ten’ blogs to form a valid vote, it also requires a huge amount of effort on the part of readers to register any vote. I suspect that most people write out the top five or six quite easily – but how many people even read ten blogs every day? They must scratch around in their memory to fill in the rest of Iain’s form. It stands to reason that the blog you ‘stumbled over’ once, that had something of interest, but when you went back hadn’t been updated for a month, is not going to get a look in.
I read Guido every day, I read Iain every day. I do so because they invariably have up to the minute Westminster gossip. They have up to the minute Westminster gossip because they are physically part of that incestuous village. Hence they will always be ‘top’ of my must read list. If someone else comes along that has the same access to gossip, I will be following them just as avidly. In other words, it is not because they are ‘Guido’ or ‘Iain’ that I follow them, it is their content that I follow.
Now the link ‘obsession’ and Wikio. If I follow up on a story that they have published, perhaps find out more about it, then I credit them as the originator of the story, by way of a link. I don’t want to be accused of plagiarism, no other reason, no secret agreements made in dingy basements! I have linked to Guido precisely twice since I started blogging. Guido has linked to me precisely three times since I started blogging. All three links in respect of the Nick Hogan story, which I trust you will agree was a newsworthy story in its own right. Guido has put a link to other stories of mine on his sidebar – but, and it is a big but, Guido’s sidebar does not go out on his RSS feed, therefore has absolutely no influence whatsoever on the Wikio rating which is comprised of links that appear in the RSS feed. What it does do is drive readers over to your blog to see what caught Guido’s attention – and some of them may like what they see enough to remain as regular readers, who knows, there is no way of measuring that. What I have said of Guido also holds true for Iain Dale, Iain has linked to me precisely five times in the eighteen months since I started.
You can check all this quite easily by going to http://labs.wikio.net/ – there you can look to see who is linking to whom and what articles they are linking to. It is instructive, and may go some way to lancing the boil – I have managed to ‘rise through the ranks’ without being part of any supposed cabal. I have never met Iain or Guido!
Which brings me to the ‘blogroll’ issue. My blogroll has always consisted of those blogs I read every day. As this blog has become busier, I have less and less time to read. Most of my reading is of government documents, court cases, and academic papers. I have less and less time to root around in the blogsphere. Consequently the blogroll is becoming meaningless – and yet every day I get e-mails from people asking me if I would ‘exchange links’ with them on my blogroll. I always hesitate before replying, I don’t want to give offence. I certainly don’t want to appear to be one of the fabled cabal only linking to the top bloggers, and yet, inevitably, that is the way it is becoming.
I am giving serious consideration to ditching the blogroll altogether. I am also giving serious consideration to ditching my ‘Saturday Evening Posts Worth Reading’ feature in its present form – since that, inevitably, is only sending out links to those I am reading, a smaller and smaller circle. What I would like to do, and here you all have to play your part – why should I do all the work around here? – is to give you an e-mail address – [email protected] – and invite you to send me in links every week to the pieces you have found on the Internet that you have most enjoyed. You are the ones with the time to read the lesser known blogs. You are best placed to decide which blogs should be getting a wider audience. That way my Saturday night feature will be a cross between the Total Politics vote registering readers interest and will bring the lesser known blogs a Wikio registering link from me.
Let me know what you think, let me know if you can be bothered to do this!