Shelley Powers has a good pair of posts critical of TechMeme, a technology meme-tracker. In her post entitled Techmeme tells us to Feed the Daddy she writes

Techmeme heard the recent discussion about sites not appearing, and responds with a post (at on how to show up on techmeme. The money shot:

Early on I noticed my system occasionally missed good posts from blogs that link back to my sites. So recently I extended my system to take referrals into account. Now if your blog or news article sends a moderate level of traffic to one of my sites, it will be evaluated for inclusion. Linking certainly doesn't guarantee you'll appear, since all posts are run though the usual tests for newsworthiness. In fact, extra steps to avoid spam are now in effect since faked referrals and splogs are already commonplace. So in summary, sending memeorandum (or Techmeme or…) visitors is another way to "enable discovery of your post".

In other words, if you puff up Gabe Riviera's empire, giving it lots of Google rank, as well as do all the marketing for him (such as techmeme's primary gatekeeper, Scoble, for whom Riviera sends special love and kisses), you might be able to 'buy' your way into being listed.
I'm not sure what the goals of TechMeme are but it seems rather weird to use link exchange as a mechanism for getting sites into TechMeme's index. I doubt that will improve the 'quality' of the service and instead seems like a rather tacky 'scratch-my-back-and-I'll-scratch-yours" ploy. If the intent is to determine if the site has enough traffic to be worth including, why not look at its Alexa statistics or Technorati rank [as flawed as they are] instead of requesting a tit-for-tat link exchange? I think Gabe got some bad advice there.

In her followup post entitled Feed your Daddy Follow-up, Shelley adds

I wouldn't 'fix' Techmeme. What I would like to see is a growth in sites that provide topic aggregations, each using its own metrics and filtering algorithms. The more of these there are, the more likely we'll see a more fair distribution of attention, as well as a greater variety of stories, and more timely ones at that. In history, a way to discover an unbiased view of a fact or an event is to seek out at least three separate sources of information. The same can be said of topic aggregators. More than three; I'd actually like to see at least five.

One of the biggest problems with Techmeme is that it is asserted to be the 'ultimate authority' on what are the top stories in technology (or politics for Memeorandum). Yet according to it, 30% of us spend all of our time talking about Google, 10% of us discuss new startup funding, 10% talk about Microsoft, how it is, or is not clued; probably about 15% of us talk about some variation of gadget, typically iPod and now Zune; the rest talk about Techcrunch, Scoble, Second Life, or Techcrunch and Scoble in a Second Life. I could go on, but the point is that Techmeme is based more or less on seeded terms and seeded webloggers, and it can't shake that influence. As such, it provides an incredibly skewed look at the tech area of weblogging–completely ignoring most of what is truly technology.

Techmeme serves a purpose for those who are into Google and VC and San Francisco and startups and money, and Michael Arrington and Calacanis, and Scoble and the scene there, and that's fine. But that doesn't make it an authority on what's important, interesting, or even timely.

As usual Shelley hits the nail on the head. TechMeme is good at what it does, gathering the popular or interesting links among the Silicon Valley blogger crowd. However this is just one particular view into the technology industry and specifically the technology blogosphere. Most of the content isn't particularly relevant if you aren't a regular reader of sites like TechCrunch and Robert Scoble's blog.

Me, I personally would prefer a meme tracker that was heavy on bloggers like Sam Ruby, Tim Bray and Jon Udell instead of the large number of PR hacks and VCs that populate TechMeme. Where I disagree with Shelley is that I don't think the answer is more meme trackers each with their own bias yet which will likely overlap significantly. We already have that today, if you read sites like TechMeme, TailRank and Megite. I think the future is in personalization and not more news aggregator whose bias you can't control.


Friday, November 17, 2006 12:37:28 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Well Dare, I've seen you land on Techmeme while check your referral page. I bet you're doing this to discover new, related, posts, some of which you might even link to in the future.

And that's quite fine with me, BTW.
Friday, November 17, 2006 2:09:51 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I read TechMeme regularly. The fact that I work on Web stuff means that my professional interests align with the content that it typically picks up. On the other hand, as a coding geek I'd rather see a more developer-centric meme tracker for my personal usage.

I'm probably going to end up writing on for myself once I get the current version of RSS Bandit done.
Friday, November 17, 2006 2:12:02 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I'm not sure that you are disagreeing, personalization probably is the answer.

It's funny, but I was thinking of Sam Ruby when I wrote some of this. I don't think I've seen him on techmeme. I think Jon Udell once, Tim Bray a couple of times--in fact, very few of the tech people I read show in the list.

Friday, November 17, 2006 2:41:10 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Dare, Sorry, I wasn't clear enough. My point wasn't that you were dishonest about how you use Techmeme. (I don't think you are at all.) My point was that Techmeme, much like a blogger such as yourself, finds utility in tracking referrals because discovering related content makes the product better, not worse. I don't think that's tacky. (Though the "Featured" box on the political site is a little tacky, though cool and fun.)

About putting a personalized filter in your aggregator: it'll highlight a few interesting topics daily for a small slice of your users, which is nice, but won't be a transformative leap unless you have a dozen Ph.D.s and several years at your disposal.
Friday, November 17, 2006 3:00:43 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Perhaps the future is a "best of both worlds" approach, one that shows you the popular topics in your own subscriptions, popular topics outside your subscriptions, and the intersection of the two. That way you could find out the popular discussions in your areas of interest, and still discover when topics that interest you are being discussed in feeds you're not subscribed to.
Friday, November 17, 2006 12:52:19 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
"I think the future is in personalization and not more news aggregator whose bias you can't control. "

You nailed it. Let's hope it's not like the newspaper filtering agents crap from back in the 90s. MyPlanet.
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