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Fun With TechMeme Numbers

Or, a response to a response, et cetera

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Last week, I posted an opinion piece about TechCrunch’s prominence on TechMeme. There wasn’t a lot of response—if that tells you anything about what my opinion’s worth—but there was a point brought out in the comments section of that post, and a blog post elsewhere echoing. So that’s good enough for me to do a follow-up and extend on a point.

Gabe at SXSWGabe at SXSW
(Photo Credit: SXSW)

So this is kind of like the reader mail response segment. Before you begin, if you haven’t already, read this, where I criticize giving TechCrunch a position above not just highly-authoritative sources (that doesn’t bother me as much, vive la revolution) but also above original sources.

In the comments section, someone appearing to be TechMeme founder Gabe Rivera responded:
 

You got me thinking…
 

Techmeme is 93% TechCrunch-free, despite TC’s thought leadership and #1 spot on the Technorati 100. Maybe 7% presence is too low. Thanks for the post!

 

Technically, I could contact Gabe to confirm that comment, or do an IP trace, but it doesn’t matter for our purposes. I’ll concede it could or could not be him since the point is what is more important for the conversation. From here to the end of this response we’ll think of the commentator as "AssumedlyGabe."

Chris Shipley, writing for The Guidewire—I’ve heard of him, for full disclosure of my egomaniacal ways, via Google News alert for my pen name, which led me to his blog—takes a similar point of view:

But with due respect, I think Jason misses the point so obvious when reviewing the leaderboards’ Top 100 sources.

There’s no questioning TechCrunch’s popularity, but with just a 7% presence among the many links TechMeme mines and promotes, it can hardly claim total world domination. Nor can any of the other blogs that make the leaderboard’s Top 100.

The leaderboard, in fact, is a perfect illustration of the Long Tail…. Whatever you think about TechMeme’s algorithm, fact is that the site is discovering links from sources that’d the average reader wouldn’t have time to investigate on his own.

Point taken on how useful TechMeme is when it comes to presenting a wealth of sources that pop up in the conversation, especially those that might otherwise go unheard.

I commented on Chris’s post, a comment I will reproduce here to reinforce my original point:

Hi Chris. I’m happy you thought my thought-piece on TechMeme was worth a mention. Thank you for participating in the greater conversation.
 

Gabe Rivera (who, at least, appears to be Gabe Rivera–you never can be sure in comments, can you?) had an opinion similar to yours. He phrased it as, basically, “TechMeme is 93% TechCrunch Free,” which is certainly true, and then went on to opine that since TechCrunch was the #1 blog on Technorati’s Top 100, maybe he should weight the blog *more* heavily.
 

Looks like I struck a nerve. That’s okay. It’s my job to do so as a conversation leader.
 

It’s important to remember that statistics are often up to interpretation, as is most of the human experience. When you compare TechCrunch’s 7% to USA Today’s 0.18%, you could also rearrange the number to mean TechMeme is 99.82% USA Today free, ranked 98, just above Steve Rubel’s MicroPersuasion.
 

And that’s Gabe’s preogative [sic] to weight the sources as he feels is just. It’s his site. (It’s hard to ignore sometimes, though, reports that he and Arrington are pretty tight.)
 

All that aside, the point I was trying to make was not that TechMeme is 93% TechCrunch free, which is similar to your point, but (mostly) that TechCrunch’s regurgitative posts–where TechCrunch bloggers report what the subject of the blog post has already posted on his own blog–should not receive billing over those original sources.
 

It’s like crediting Thomas Edison for what a French guy did first.
 

That doesn’t take away TechCrunch’s right to report what’s going on or link to whom they please in any voice or fashion they see fit, but it should be something on the mind of a man running a (currently) very important news/blog aggregation site.
 

Cheers, and thanks for reading.
 

Really, that I would be so concerned about TechMeme and source-weighting is a testament to its strength, necessity, relevance, and validity in that great big world of aggregators. Writing about something—even if critical—is a compliment. At least, that’s how I take it when others write about me. Being wrong is much better than being ignored, right?

Faithful readers, what do you think?
 

Fun With TechMeme Numbers
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  • http://techmeme.com/ Gabe

    …your point has been made by others so many times in the past, that I’m justing interepreting it as the latest attack post (given that WebProNews doesn’t appear so much on Techmeme compared to TechCrunch), hence my flippant attitude. Maybe you’ll deny that, but that’s how I’m going to view it.

    BTW, have you seen this? http://www.wesmirch.com/lb ? 11.3% for People! The horror!

    One factual point: Techmeme’s a priori "weighting" for TechCrunch is equal to that of dozens of other sites on the "Leaderboard".  External factors, mainly inbound links, account for the difference you see.  Which leaves your posts and comments spreading a fair amount of disinformation and innuendo.

     

     

    • Jason Lee Miller

      Thank you for your thoughts. Let me clear a few things up. First, as I jokingly tried to say in the original editorial (people often don’t get my jokes–that’s ok), it really doesn’t matter to me or the publication where we rank on TechMeme. We’ll take our place among the Washington Post and others. It’s certainly not about that, and I defended your right to weight sources as you see fit. We’re not so insecure that we’d be offended or that we’d launch a crusade of any type.

      Secondly, fair criticism is not an attack. At no point did I say TechMeme wasn’t valuable or a great site. In fact, I said the opposite. The site is so good and filled with potential that it is open to criticism. We criticize Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, any noteworthy web property out there, not because they are inferior or without worth, but because they are important. Criticism, as I take it, is a compliment and testament to that. I wasn’t on the job a week before people started taking shots at me. It’s part of the public life. It’s part of putting yourself out there and learning how to roll with the punches.

      This is the reason scholars have to defend a thesis. It’s not an attack. It’s questioning. I understand that you are sensitive about your creation, but please don’t confuse criticism with attack. I have no agenda and to prove it, I’ll shut up about it. I’ve broached the topic; there’s no need to hammer.

      If my information is wrong, I apologize. Please correct any factual errors. If you disagree with my opinion, though, please don’t label it as an attack.

      Cheers and good luck.