Pulling Rank

The Feedster 500 fun continues. I guess that I must have mistyped in the search box when I was looking for myself in the list the other day, because I thought I wasn’t in it but actually I am, #368. That delights me because now I can say, without any possibility of sour grapes and as a member of that group, I think the list is stupid. Finally, I get to criticize this line of thinking from actually within the group. Right on!

Scott Rafer left me a comment on the previous post, suggesting that the list is good as a gateway to let those who don’t know where to start in the blogosphere to get going and to find things of interest to them. I have to say I’m not sure I buy that. It seems actually less likely to get to a specific weblog of niche interest from the Feedster 500 than from randomly surfing webpages related to that interest. By definition, this list is of most general appeal and farthest away from that sort of thing on average. I suppose you could luck up and find what you are looking for as the top post on Boing Boing, but the smart money wouldn’t bet that way, and that can’t work for everyone simultaneously.

The killer commentary on why this list is silly was provided by Chris “Long Tail” Anderson, who attacks it less from whether this is a line of thinking worth pursuing as I did, but from whether it is effective for what it is trying to do:

These lists are, in other words, a semi-random collection of totally disparate things.

To use an analogy, top-blog lists are akin to saying that the bestsellers in the supermarket today were:

  1. DairyFresh 2% Vitamin D Milk
  2. Hayseed Farms mixed grain Bread
  3. Bananas, assorted bunches
  4. Crunchios cereal, large size
  5. DietWhoopsy, 12-pack, cans
  6. and so on…

Which is pointless. Nobody cares if bananas outsell soft drinks. What they care about is which soft drink outsells which other soft drink. Lists only make sense in context, comparing like with like within a category.

and later

My take: this is another reminder that you have to treat niches as niches.
When you look at a wildly diverse three-dimensional marketplace through
a one-dimensional lens, you get nonsense. It’s a list, but it’s a list
without meaning. What matters in the rankings within a genre (or subgenre), not across genres.

My thinking remains unchanged so far. I think the Feedster 500 is pointless and that line of thinking is inapplicable for new media. Until we get beyond this obsession with the numbers, we will never fully tap the potential of the new part of new media.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

4 thoughts on “Pulling Rank”

  1. Scott Rafer says:

    You’ll notice that most of what Chris listed would make a reasonable breakfast. I prefer coffee not soda in the morning, but it manages to be diverse AND coherent. New readers need exactly that. A day or a week later, they’ll graduate into a niche about which they are passionate and never look back. Hopefully, our search will serve them well once they make that deeper leap.

  2. that.man says:

    How do they know that #500 has 809 links and #1 has 54,380 links?
    Are these links to their RSS? or visits to the blog?
    What is the plubline here?

  3. Scott Rafer says:

    It’s the links in the RSS feeds. That’s all we see.

  4. dave says:

    Scott, now you are just being goofy. You are drawing significance from Chris’ made up example? Suppose instead the top three things are orange juice, Tide and milkbones. What would that tell you?

    Feedster is a good tool for finding this stuff by searching, but I still think the list is somewhere between useless and harmful – as are the equivalents from anyone else. We don’t need more rankings or hierarchies ore emphasis of who is on top and who isn’t. Fuck the A-list, the B-list, the Z-list. I don’t want any list whatsoever.

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