Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Have Problems With Authority

Technorati is a terrific resource. I much prefer it to any other tool for finding individual posts and even blogs about specific topics.

That said, I'm really not a big fan of their "Authority" metric for a number of reasons.

1. It's based solely on how many other blogs link to you, not how may incoming links you have from all sources. This seems like the same kind of close-mindedness that many bloggers decry in the traditional media, only in reverse. Bloggers hate when the media dismiss anything having to do with the blogosphere out of hand as inherently less relevant than something one of their own comes up with. Why then would Technorati do essentially the same thing? Is a link from one of my sports-related posts really a more valid measure of how "popular" (Technorati's word) another blog is than a reference on, say, It smells sort of like high school cliqueishness -- the opinion of anyone in another group doesn't matter as much as the opinion of people in MY group. The risk of that sort of thinking is that you eventually lose sight of the complete picture when you consistently exclude outside views, and end up with a skewed sense of self-importance. Technorati Authority fosters that among bloggers.

2. Despite this supposed myopic focus on blogs, Technorati doesn't seem to actually include ALL blogs. I'm not exactly sure what their definition of a blog is. I've usually considered it to require things like a personal voice (or voices) rather than an institutional one, tag-based archiving and the ability for readers to both subscribe and post comments. That could be why things like the "blog light" functionality we added to last year doesn't seem to qualify. It has commenting, but not subscription or archiving. What, then, about something like Associated Content? They call their contributors "content producers" rather than bloggers, but they sure walk like ducks. So for whatever the reason, Technorati doesn't actually include the input of everyone they claim to in their rankings. I guess there's someone in every clique who nobody actually listens to.

3. Technorati only counts a link from any individual blog to your overall Authority once in a six-month period. I think I understand the motivation -- you want to prevent anyone from artificially cranking up their Authority by having a couple of their buddies with blogs "stuff the ballot box" on their behalf. But once every six months seems a little excessive and basic. I'd think a slightly more complex algorithm that factored in both time and frequency on a sliding scale would be an improvement. So the first link from a particular blog earns full credit, a second link from that same blog a day later is worth very little, a third link three months later is worth somewhere in between and so on. Someone geekier than me could figure out the specifics, but the premise seems sound.

4. Assuming this whole thing is automated, what the heck takes them so long to make their updates? For something that measures one of the trendiest tools on the interweb, it certainly doesn't move at the speed you'd expect. And the inconsistency is maddening to me. My own Technorati page, for example, doesn't show any of my posts from the past SIX days. But it did record a new incoming link from just two days ago. But my Authority hasn't been updated yet to reflect that link. When do they say this blog was last updated? Four days ago. Talk about not inspiring a lot of confidence or credibility.

Maybe I'm making too big a deal of this. But if I was the only one who cared, then four of the top 10 links when you do a Google search for "technorati authority rating" wouldn't be to tips on how to increase it.

UPDATE: I tried SIX TIMES to send the content of this post to Technorati using their contact form to get their feedback, and each time got a page with the following text after clicking the Send Message button:

"Doh! The Technorati Monster escaped again. We're currently experiencing backend issues and are working to resolve them as quickly as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate your patience."

When I hit Refresh, I was taken back to my form with all my input fortunately still there but the following message at the top:

"Your Captcha response was incorrect. Please try again."

Trust me when I say my Captcha response was NOT incorrect.

*beats head against keyboard*


James O. Clark said...

Oh my. How I can't stand Technorati. For years I wish they would just go away, so I would not have to justify adding in a "most authority" blog into our influencer tracking reports.

We're testing out Radian6's new application for infuencer identification. They have a cool, almost "equalizer adjustments" to place a value on what you think is important for influence.

My advice Steve is to never go to Technorati again.

It's liberating. :)

SteveHarbula said...

That's the problem -- I can't stop going. I HAVE to know what my Authority is. I CRAVE metrics, even ones as obviously flawed as this one!

Rohit Bhargava posted some good thoughts earlier this week about blog metrics. Bright guy I met earlier this year at SXSW. You'd probably appreciate his perspective.