Social Media is Rigged
Preface: This is one of my classic rants about unfairness on the web and a readers’ favourite. The original post was written several years ago but it got lost by a corrupt database so I had to copy it over from a Blogger backup. As a consequence I lost literally hundreds of comments. Oh well, that’s the way it goes with computers sometimes.
I have since updated the original title “The Blogoshere is Rigged“. So is it still as relevant today as it was then? You tell me…
(Un) Equal Opportunity Bloggers
Jessica Guynn poses the question:
“Why is this supposedly democratic medium recreating real-world inequality? A blogarchy has emerged from the Internet equivalent of an “American Idol” popularity contest. This elite clique of bloggers — the so-called a-listers who get checked out more often than Lindsay Lohan — attract the largest online audience. All those eyeballs can deliver cachet, cash and the coveted contract for a blook (a book based on a blog).”
Jessica goes on to discuss inequality in the blogosphere where it seems that 1% is getting 99% of the traffic. But she goes too far when she whines that most of the a-listers are men.
She seems to have forgotten that the Huffington Post, Ann Althouse, the Wonkette et al are blogs run by women a-listers. So I don’t want to turn this into a pissing match between the sexes.
Trust me when I say there are a whole lot of male bloggers that are in the same boat. No matter how hard they try and tweak their sites or write killer posts they just can’t seem to crack the barrier.
But the truth of the matter is there’s a disproportionate amount of traffic going to only a privileged few that have eked out their own network hierarchy within the blogosphere.
And so, a complex social phenomenon becomes purely mathematical: The more links pointing to you — especially from big-time bloggers — the more readers you will have (according to the method of judging blog popularity by number of links)… talk about creating a powerful, self-reinforcing and very exclusive network.
The Blogosphere Social Media is Rigged
Unfortunately this sort of BS became self-perpetuating when old-school blog search sites such as the Truth Laid Bear, Technorati, and the Sphere et al started the a-list mentality with their stoopid juvenile popularity ratings. Even Google’s Blog Search had a “Sort by Relevance” filter which was the default setting.
But now it’s even worse when anybody can get friends, family (even Granny) to Google Plus them to the top of the heap in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages). In social media we now have Klout to do that for us. It never ends.
The a-listers bank on the gullibility of social media newbies who don’t know any better. After all, we just want to belong don’t we? So we hang around the alist like a pack of stray dogs at the corner store hoping they will throw us a bone or two (i.e. mentions).
We can’t even install a news reader without a ready-made alist pre-installed for our convenience. Twitter comes with a recommended follow list and a perusal of the search engines (I call them search filters) will quickly point us in their biased direction.
So where does that leave the rest of the 99%? On the outside looking in that’s where. Like I said before, the Blogosphere has turned into one big frat party. And here I thought we left jerks like that back in school. Silly me. What a crock. Feh!
More Signal, Less Noise:
These alist types subscribe to the theory of “More Signal, Less Noise”. Meaning — YOU are the noise. Like for example Scoble blocking me on Google Plus cause he didn’t like my criticism of security holes in the cloud.
Sure, a few of the stuffed shirts deserve to be there. There’s no questioning that. BUT I can find better blog writers any day of the week than most of these so-called a-listers.
So here is a dirty little secret for all of you not yet in the know.
The blogosphere social media has been rigged. The majority of the a-listers only got where they are because they are lucky to have high profile jobs, are members of self-serving marketer networks that they created, are better at gaming Google/Social Media, or were linked to by other a-listers that they sucked up to.
It is a self-serving megalomaniac gang of social climbers that there ever was.
So what can you do about it?
Well for one thing you can stop linking to these a-list nincompoops. Don’t give them any of your love. If you still have a morbid curiosity and want them within easy reach then just bookmark them. But whatever you do DO NOT give them a pagerank boost by linking to them in your blog.
Here’s one or two tricks for your consideration. If you feel that you absolutely must link to them, add the rel=”nofollow“ attribute to the link so that the search engines won’t rank it.
If you subscribe to their newsfeed do NOT use their Feedburner link so they can show off their 1 million subscribers. Instead, use the direct feed links provided by their blog service — i.e. RSS or Atom.
For all you Wordpress users out there, install the NoFollow Reciprocity plugin and add the a-listers you no longer want to give your Google juice too. It works like a charm.
Don’t be a fool and follow them in social media. If you feel that you absolutely must watch them then stuff them into a private Twitter list.
Take the power back and deny their petty egos by starting your own friends network who share a similar focus and values. Mention them often, link to their posts, comment on their blogs or social network and create your own support group. That’s a good place to start.
Or better still, just suck up to them and hope that you get mentioned. Just kidding of course (I think). Show me love.
*This article was recently updated since it’s first publishing 2005