Saturday, January 29

I Repeat My Standard Auctoritas Rant

Do a Technorati: Search for, ranked by "authority." It's great: I can see who my friends are, discovering new ones and seeing which ones are the most worth knowing. Right? Wrong!

I have a standard rant I do from time to time about Technorati's habit of equating "authority" with the number of inbound links. It's like timing the lunch hours of traders as a way of indexing the performance of the New York Stock Exchange.

Let me just put it this way: The publication I work for is a genuine authority on the subject it covers. Really, I'm not just saying that because the marketing guys told me to. You just won't read detailed coverage of the financial services technical standards bodies or analysis of the minutiae of trading algorithms in very many other publications, and we are proud to see once in a while that one of the big boys like the WSJ or the FT has cribbed our coverage of an issue as background to their reporting for a much wider general audience.

Not everyone can subscribe to us because we make a living knowing who are readers are and selling ad space on a "highly qualified" basis: You know when you advertise with us that Joe Sohenso of the X Corporation is pretty likely to see it. Not that different from the relevant eyeballs that AdSense says it can deliver.

Authorities are people with special interests and deep knowledge who are usually too freaking absorbed in incredibly boring, arcane shit for any sane general reader's tastes.

Authorities are the folks you turn to when the plate tectonics of the Indian Ocean suddenly become relevant. It's the macrogeology geek's moment to shine!

Does Technorati help you to do this kind of search? No. It directs you to the most recent or the most "authoritative" source on a given keyword, but there is no measure of relevance. By those lights, the publication I work for, with a small certified subscriber base that you can look up in the usual places, means nothing at all. If you want to know about the fine points of engineering better BBO on the intermarket trading system, don't read us, noooo. Read the WSJ, with its gazillion subscribers, which will tell you all about it once every few months from a non-specialist point of view that will mean very little to you. I'm not criticizing the WSJ, God bless 'em. That's just not the nature of their job over there.

Sure, everybody was talking about e-typography during Rathergate, but how many of them were bona fide expert-bloggers on the subject? it was just a noise machine amplifying rumor and racking up hits as you jumped from blog to blog trying to find who might be worth believing on those technical points. If blogs are going to do the work of the news media, they have to point you straight to the nitty gritty instead of wasting your freaking time. This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this is a life too short in the big freaking city.

At work, I--to take an example I supposedly know a lot about--want to be able to find other people who know a lot about contemporary grammar and punctuation, newsroom management, ethics, headline and lead graf writing, and issues affecting my industry. I like to think I'm one of those experts, and that my blogroll should yield some extractable data that hints at that fact. I don't have time to waste plowing through every idiot who has an opinion on the subject. If I did, I would gladly do so because I get a kick out of reading blogs. But I don't.

I call this process karass discovery, and submit that it is the unfulfilled promise of what the Bloggercons are fond of calling "the blogging industry." To be fair, guys like Ross Mayfield are all over this design parameter, which may still be a bit futuristic, but then they are not targeting the general marketplace of half-baked ideas. Might make a good project for those creative folks at Google now that they have all that market capital to play with!

I am voice crying out in the wilderness. Won't anyone hear my please, pleas?


Blogger Ross said...

I hear ya!

1/30/2005 04:22:00 pm  

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