Thursday, November 24, 2005

NZ Bear, TTLB, and TrackBacks

There's been lots and lots of discussion in the blog-o-sphere about NZ Bear's decision to stop counting TrackBack links in his Ecosystem. Not to mention his most recent decision to consider "weighing" outgoing links.

Since this little blog is one with lots of TrackBack links posted, this little blog would quite possibly be affected by the decision.

So what?

Back in February, when this little blog began a large jump in the Ecosystem (from nowhere on to #332 in 57 days), I said:
If you have been to those sites I listed, you'd know that there is no way I should be ranked above them in any way whatsoever.That means there is a flaw in the rankings.

As I understand it, the Ecosystem reads links on the front page of Web sites to other Web sites. Then totals them up and ranks them. This counts BlogRolls. Here's where something bothers me. Let's say I'm on the Alliance BlogRoll (I am). Let's say I'm on the Homespun Bloggers BlogRoll (I now am). And let's say Goober's Blog (not to be confused with the Goober Queen) is also a member of both. Does TTLB count that at 2 links for me? I'm thinking that, at most, one BlogRoll link should be all that's counted. But, that may not be possible. Still, I can join a bunch of BlogRolls and move up in the Ecosystem. That doesn't seem right.

Likewise, I'll post little link-dumps listing stuff I saw that day that was interesting or funny or something. I'll also send TrackBacks to the posts I link. Is that a breach of etiquette? Should I only send them if I'm writing a full post and not a little "go read this" kind of thing?

I still feel that the Ecosystem needs tweaking. And it looks like Bear is tweaking it. And, I hope, for the better.

Now, would this little blog drop like a stone? Maybe. So what? We ain't got no business being in the top 100 -- much less top 40 -- anyway.

Now, just why have we had those Open TrackBack posts anyway? Some folks seem to like them. Quite honestly, they're a pain. But a little background on how they came about. Here anyway.

I saw several blogs I visit run "Weekend Open TrackBacks" -- a way to get a post up there but not have to post anything. Hey, we all do it. A post that asked for others to link.

And I saw some with "Inline TrackBacks." You know, the TrackBacks appear on the front page right under the posts. Outside the Beltway had (and still has) their daily "Beltway Traffic Jam" as a way for bloggers to promote themselves. And I've taken advantage of that many times.

I liked the idea of those kind of posts from time to time. So, I started putting up a post at lunchtime that listed some of the posts I found on my BlogRoll. Or by way of my BlogRoll. And I added Inline TrackBacks and an invitation to add posts.

People responded. Big time.

So much so that when I missed a mealtime post, I got questions about it. That's when I realized some people looked forward to them. Which suprised me, but hey, if I knew what people wanted I'd be smart and rich. Anyway, I started doing two meal posts a day, then three.

Then, one day, some lefty blog somewhere was reviewing righty blogs and mentioned this little blog, calling it "basically a links site." Which surprised me ... until I realized they were right.

But what's Instapundit? Basically a links site. So, I considered it a compliment.

Then, one day, something happened that really bothered me. Somebody treated a Headline News post as an Open TrackBacks post. They linked to it, but their post had nothing to do with my post.

Since having Inline TrackBacks on one post meant having them on all posts, it was just a matter of time before it happened.

That's when I started tinkering with the code. I made it so that only posts of certain categories (currently, "Open TrackBacks" and "Articles of Interest") showed Inline TrackBacks. Other posts in other categories (or no category) had TrackBacks, but they weren't "inline TrackBacks." Basically, if the post invites you to leave a TrackBack, then by all means do and it'll show up on the front page. But if it doesn't, treat it like a standard blog post.

Recently there has been an explosion of blogs offering Inline TrackBacks/Open TrackBacks. Even to the point where some Open TrackBack posts consisted of nothing but TrackBacks from other Open TrackBack posts!

Now, I've seen Open TrackBack blogrolls. I've been invited to join some. I have not followed through. And really don't plan to. Not that it wouldn't be of benefit. But my intent with these "Articles of Interest" isn't to garner links. It's to give links.

I appreciate when folks link to me and I do whatever I can to return to favor or pass it along to others.

My blogdaddy RightWingDuck (I don't know if he knows that ... or if he cares) makes an argument (in comments) that quality posts like his get small reward while link dump posts like some of mine get big reward. And he's right.

So, will NZ Bear's new tweaks and modifications help give a truer view of things? Maybe. Maybe not. There are some issues he has to overcome.

TTLB plans to quit counting Inline TrackBacks. That's all well and good, but Don Surber takes his TrackBacks and then enters them at the bottom of his posts. So he gets around it.

TTLB also plans to "weigh" links. That is, somebody with a large BlogRoll (like this little blog) doesn't count as much as a blog with a small blogroll. I wonder how he'll handle Instapundit, who has blogrolls totalling 300 links. Yes, I counted them.

As Bear says:
A link is a recommendation; it says, "Go look over here, and you'll find something interesting." So should a recommendation from someone who says everything is interesting be considered as valuable as one from someone who seems to choose their recommendations with more care?

Well, again, what about Instapundit? At 10:00 PM last night, his main content contained 126 links to other sites. (116 if you don't count his 10 links pimping Open Source Media Pajamas Media) Yes, I counted them.

So, if sites with lots of links don't count as much, then it's possible that a link from Glenn Reynold's Instapundit (which will drive the most traffic -- which drives advertising dollars) are worth less than links from, say Bachman's Public Eye blog.

And that's not right, either.

So, best of luck trying to sort it all out. Someone will find a way to game the system.

And some will simply benefit from the system without even trying. Like this little blog.

UDATE: Good stuff on same topic at Outside The Beltway, Aaron's cc:, Atlas Shrugs, Samantha Burns, The Politburo Diktat, Iowa Voice, Fistfull of Fortnights, phin's blog


  1. To hell with it. The EchoSystem was set up to make Glenn and Michelle feel good because Kos was kicking their ass. He has 5 times as many unique hits as Glenn. All this BS about the Echosytem and nothing is perfect is a load. Go by unique links, like Technorati
    But then Kos kicks their ass again.
    I finally did what I should have done when I figured out what he did: I severed all ties with NZ
    I go by Technorati

  2. My linkfests continue. Every post is a linkfest from now on!

  3. And Basil, you nailed it. The word HEH is not a post
    Michelle got 27 links for a 12-word post
    And this BS about Link Slutting -- when NZ then turned around and held his own trackback on Thanksgiving
    And what about those who beg Glenn to link them?
    Screw it. My blog, my rules

  4. By the way, your links to OTB do not count toward you. He gets the credit, you don't. Check out your links. He was 34th or something like that. He should show up as giving you links
    I told him about this a month ago
    You've been Punk'd

  5. I would have told people earlier but I feared a lawsuit
    By the way Surber will be getting more hits. And yea, I am taking my ball and going home and if people don't like that or wanna mock me, the web address is
    I've been dissed by the best: Robert C. Byrd

  6. I don't think you'll see that much of a shakeup. Some folks will drop, some will move back up. In the grand scheme of things the percentage of folks affected will be minute.

    However I'd be willing to bet your rankings won't be affect that greatly. As I've said before, the more popular blogs will always rise to the top.

  7. Don:
    Hey, if I didn't get credit for some TrackBacks in the past, then all the better for me. That means that what ranking we do have here is more towards what many would "legitimate." Either way, this little blog still has no business in the top 40.

    Thanks for the kind words. Funny thing: since the announced change, this little blog has RISEN five spots. Of course, it'll fall soon. It always does. Such is life in the Ecosystem.

    Personally, I'm just trying to find a new place to eat pizza so I can blog about it.

  8. Well I am one of the little blogs that benefits from the Open Trackbacks here and at The Poltical Teen, and Don Surber. I for one appreciate what you folks have done.

    TTLB can do whatever he likes with his system. It is "His" system.

    No one has to click a link, or read a post left on an open trackback if they don't want to. So I really do not understand what the harm is. *Shrug*

    Maybe someone can explain how big bloggers are hurt by Open Trackbacks.

  9. Well, since the advent of this community blogroll groupie things (I don't know what else to call them - the alliances, pro-life blogrolls, 'Blogs for Bush,' etc...), I have had the thought that this would alter the number of links to weblogs, and would artificially raise the Ecosystem rankings of those sites that are in those communities. I remember thinking that perhaps there should be a special listing for those bloggers who are not part of any of those special group blogrolls... That might be too much work, and by now, so many of us are part of one of those, I don't know if that would be a good thing. But perhaps there is some way to exclude, from the number of links each blog has, the number of those links that are part of the blogrolls to which each blog belongs. If there was some algorithmic method to do this, then that might restore some usefulness and meaningfulness to the Ecosystem.

    Just my two cents...

  10. Ugly:
    I've seen ... for a while ... some complaining about the Open TrackBacks. I guess they finally complained loud enough, or enough joined in. Or Bear has disliked the practice all along and has been working on the new system for a while and just now finished it. Just my thoughts.

    Bear even runs the Alliance BlogRoll. Or at least, one of them: the one sorted by Ecosystem ranking; Susie maintains the alphabetical blogroll.

    There had been discussion at other blogs that Bear might be refusing to count the Alliance blogroll. I don't know if that was true or not, but it'll be interesting to see how he handles blogrolls.

  11. [...] Basil, proprietor of the best link restaurants in town doesn’t really care about his ecosystem rating and wonders how to differentiate a blog that posts mainly links (via inline trackback or manually) is different from, say, Instapundit. Nail, meet sledgehammer. [...]

  12. Basil writes: "Then, one day, something happened that really bothered me. Somebody treated a Headline News post as an Open TrackBacks post. They linked to it, but their post had nothing to do with my post."

    I think this was before my time (I've only been making a mess of things in the 'spere for a couple of months), but if it was me, I apologize :-) I like the Headlines though.


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