TechMeme: the anti-linking engine

I’ve noticed this several times and thought I’d bring it up.

TechMeme seems to penalize bloggers who link to other bloggers. Most bloggers believe that a major part of how TechMeme decides which is the most important story is to count links. That isn’t true in following mine, and other people’s results.

I believe there’s a “linking penalty” on TechMeme. At least it seems that way after doing my own link counting.

Let’s say there’s three stories.

Story A links to B and C.
Story B only links to A.
Story C doesn’t link to anyone.

Who will be most popular at TechMeme? Often times “C” will be. But shouldn’t “A” be? Since that’s the one that has the most inbound AND outbound links?

In my experience it won’t be and that often C, who didn’t link, or get linked to, will often be the top pick.

Why is that? Because I think Gabe wrote an anti-gaming algorithm which looks for bloggers linking to each other. I believe his algorithms are penalizing bloggers who often link to each other.

Here, look here at the story about Google Gears on TechMeme.

There are currently five articles that are showing up as headlines on TechMeme (this was the order that they appeared at time of writing — being higher is better).
1. By Artur Bergman on O’Reilly Radar. (His article doesn’t link out to other bloggers who covered this story).
2. By Nick Gonzalez on TechCrunch. (Nick links to me).
3. By Martin LaMonica at CNET. (His article doesn’t link out to other bloggers who covered this story).
4. By me. (I link to both Artur and Nick’s articles).
5. By David Berlind at ZDNet. (His article doesn’t link out to other bloggers who covered this story).

Now, how many blogs are linking to each?

Artur has three links, according to Google’s Blog Search at the time I wrote this article. (No outbound links).
Nick has five links. (Nick links to me as his only outbound blog link).
Martin’s has zero links. (No outbound links to other bloggers).
My blog has eight links. (The most links!!! and I link out to two other bloggers, so most inbound and most outbound links).
David Berlind has no links. (No outbound links to other bloggers).

So, lesson learned. If you wanna be the top dog on TechMeme, don’t link to anyone else but get them to link to you.

Or, is something else going on? I’m sure Gabe will say that most of the eight people who linked to me don’t count to his algorithm because he only looks at what the seed bloggers (folks who’ve been hand picked to be counted) are linking to. That might be true, but I’ve looked at enough result sets now to start a theory that there’s something else other than a straight counting of links going on.

Comments

  1. Hey Robert,

    Oh, I always love to read reverse engineering reports…

    Techmeme’s algorithm is so complicated at this point that I could write a long article on various ways linking can help you and/or hurt you, ranking-wise. Instead, I’ll just make the following vague claim: linking to new news in a way that doesn’t appear to be an act of quid pro quo should never hurt you.

    Remember, so many factors enter Techmeme’s rankings lately, that it’s easy to attribute to link patterns something that’s actually caused by other factors.

    BTW, is it just me or is the amount of news today freaking you out?

  2. Hey Robert,

    Oh, I always love to read reverse engineering reports…

    Techmeme’s algorithm is so complicated at this point that I could write a long article on various ways linking can help you and/or hurt you, ranking-wise. Instead, I’ll just make the following vague claim: linking to new news in a way that doesn’t appear to be an act of quid pro quo should never hurt you.

    Remember, so many factors enter Techmeme’s rankings lately, that it’s easy to attribute to link patterns something that’s actually caused by other factors.

    BTW, is it just me or is the amount of news today freaking you out?

  3. Gabe, I think that not having search and instead forcing someone to go back to the exact place in time and view news in its original context is brilliant, I love the Page Version feature on techmeme.

    From what I can tell, that algorithm is updated pretty frequently and it is hard to figure out exactly what the sauce is. I am starting to think that sources are being classified at some point. Blogs and sites that release new news, and blogs that mostly comment and link. Blogs that generally break new either start the thread or get their own branch if they are writing a related but slightly different story. Blogs that generally link and add a small blurb get a link at the bottom of whichever story they replied to.

  4. Gabe, I think that not having search and instead forcing someone to go back to the exact place in time and view news in its original context is brilliant, I love the Page Version feature on techmeme.

    From what I can tell, that algorithm is updated pretty frequently and it is hard to figure out exactly what the sauce is. I am starting to think that sources are being classified at some point. Blogs and sites that release new news, and blogs that mostly comment and link. Blogs that generally break new either start the thread or get their own branch if they are writing a related but slightly different story. Blogs that generally link and add a small blurb get a link at the bottom of whichever story they replied to.

  5. Gabe: the problem is when Google sticks four of us in a room and tells us the same news, doesn’t it make sense to link to the other three people? But in this case it definitely penalized me for doing that.

  6. Gabe: the problem is when Google sticks four of us in a room and tells us the same news, doesn’t it make sense to link to the other three people? But in this case it definitely penalized me for doing that.

  7. “the problem is when Google sticks four of us in a room and tells us the same news, doesn’t it make sense to link to the other three people?”

    But it is the final Google page that you all link to that should be at the top of the Techmeme list – isn’t it? Or am I missing something.

    It seems like you just want Techmeme to be a list of who is linking to news – personally I’d prefer to the see the page with the most inbound links at the top (the actual news) and then a list of people who link directly to it and then a list of people who link to those people who.. you get the idea. Doesn’t it make more sense that the actual news come at the top?

  8. “the problem is when Google sticks four of us in a room and tells us the same news, doesn’t it make sense to link to the other three people?”

    But it is the final Google page that you all link to that should be at the top of the Techmeme list – isn’t it? Or am I missing something.

    It seems like you just want Techmeme to be a list of who is linking to news – personally I’d prefer to the see the page with the most inbound links at the top (the actual news) and then a list of people who link directly to it and then a list of people who link to those people who.. you get the idea. Doesn’t it make more sense that the actual news come at the top?

  9. Ross: absolutely! But under your scenario the page with the most inbound links, IE, the one with the most news (which still is mine) is not currently at top.

    Here’s the thing: often times the official Web site doesn’t have the best news. Certainly doesn’t explain why it’s important to pay attention to.

  10. Ross: absolutely! But under your scenario the page with the most inbound links, IE, the one with the most news (which still is mine) is not currently at top.

    Here’s the thing: often times the official Web site doesn’t have the best news. Certainly doesn’t explain why it’s important to pay attention to.

  11. Ivan: Scoble needs to be at the top of techmeme, top spot = more clicks, more clicks = more money, more money = bigger car.

    Maybe it’s easier to blaime techmemes ‘broken’ algorithm than scobles sloppy reporting?

    Follow the money :-)

    ^^^– joke. Come on Scoble. You asked for a ribbing with that post ;-D

    monk.e.boy

  12. Ivan: Scoble needs to be at the top of techmeme, top spot = more clicks, more clicks = more money, more money = bigger car.

    Maybe it’s easier to blaime techmemes ‘broken’ algorithm than scobles sloppy reporting?

    Follow the money :-)

    ^^^– joke. Come on Scoble. You asked for a ribbing with that post ;-D

    monk.e.boy

  13. Hi Robert, I have no idea how TechMeme works but I can offer an explanation about linking to other bloggers from my Google Gears story… My story went up right at 4 PM PT when the embargo lifted, so as far as I know, there wasn’t anything to link to!

  14. Hi Robert, I have no idea how TechMeme works but I can offer an explanation about linking to other bloggers from my Google Gears story… My story went up right at 4 PM PT when the embargo lifted, so as far as I know, there wasn’t anything to link to!

  15. Martin: there were four stories posted within one minute of 4 p.m. — I ended up linking to two of them and TechMeme linked to the rest. If you were using Google’s Blog Search to look for other stories you would have found ours within a few minutes and could have added those links to the bottom of your story (which is actually what TechCrunch did).

    Unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend doing that based on TechMeme’s anti-gaming algorithms.

  16. Martin: there were four stories posted within one minute of 4 p.m. — I ended up linking to two of them and TechMeme linked to the rest. If you were using Google’s Blog Search to look for other stories you would have found ours within a few minutes and could have added those links to the bottom of your story (which is actually what TechCrunch did).

    Unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend doing that based on TechMeme’s anti-gaming algorithms.

  17. “But in this case it definitely penalized me for doing that.”

    How were you penalized? Did you have to pay a fine or spend a night in jail? Your poor ego must feel terrible.

  18. “But in this case it definitely penalized me for doing that.”

    How were you penalized? Did you have to pay a fine or spend a night in jail? Your poor ego must feel terrible.

  19. Scott: this isn’t ego anymore. It’s business. Most people here are getting paid per 1,000 visits (I’m not) so getting linked to by TechMeme is very important to those of us who are trying to make blogging a career. I’m not the only one worried about this, by the way. I’m just the only one stupid enough to talk about it.

  20. Scott: this isn’t ego anymore. It’s business. Most people here are getting paid per 1,000 visits (I’m not) so getting linked to by TechMeme is very important to those of us who are trying to make blogging a career. I’m not the only one worried about this, by the way. I’m just the only one stupid enough to talk about it.

  21. Blogging is about linking and tracking-back. There was much more linking happening three years ago when most bloggers were software developers.

  22. Blogging is about linking and tracking-back. There was much more linking happening three years ago when most bloggers were software developers.

  23. Not surprised at this at all Robert. Not saying it is the correct way to calculate who is most relevant. The meta point I take away based on what you are shaing in this article is that you all ended up on page 1, right?

  24. Not surprised at this at all Robert. Not saying it is the correct way to calculate who is most relevant. The meta point I take away based on what you are shaing in this article is that you all ended up on page 1, right?