From TruthLaidBear, evidence of the continuing segmentation of the weblog world by traffic numbers.
The saga of the alpha bloggers goes something like this: in the weblog world, people have total freedom in who to link to. The links therefore exhibit a pattern of preferential connectivity, and resolve themselves in the by-now familiar power law distribution. A power law distribution, being a smooth curve radically weighted to one end of the distribution, has no “typical” point — the average, the median, and the mode weblogs are very different animals.
In particular, to mis-quote Faulkner, the
linktraffic-rich are different than you and me. (Update: thanks to N.Z. Bear for pointing out that the suspensions were for gaming page view counters, not inbound links.) Although there is no point where a formal line can be drawn, there is a subset of people with a disproportinate amount of links, traffic, and influence who are, by tradition called the alpha bloggers.
Now, TruthLaidBear posts new evidence that this unequal distribution has become so important that it is being conciously manipulated
Effective immediately, six weblogs are being put on notice that they are about to be suspended from the Ecosystem. […]
The reason for these suspensions is that it has come to my attention via the Commissar that some weblogs are posting multiple SiteMeter counters on their pages which point to other weblogs. The result is that when a visitor lands on their main page, the visit is not just counted for their own blog, but is also double-, triple-, or in some cases quadruple-counted as a visit to the other blogs.
What this means is that the SiteMeter counters for the blogs in question are flatly inaccurate: they are being inflated by visits which didn’t really happen on their pages. This also makes the Ecosystem Traffic Rankings inaccurate, defeating the whole purpose of the rankings, and is therefore intolerable.
Traffic numbers have become such a powerful feed-forward* mechanism that sites are now gaming the system to get into alpha blog territory. The inequality observed in February, in the original Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality
is nothing compared to what we’re seeing now.
* Feed-forward is the little referenced cousin of feedback. In a feed-forward system, change in one variable tends to accelerate change in the same direction. A thermostat is a feedback system — the temperature rises, and the thermostat reacts by turning off the heater until it falls again. Feed-forward, by contrast, leads to runaway reactions, as when a weblog gets more links because it has more links.
Update: A comment from N.Z.
Bear, the author of TruthLaidBear, which I’ve copied from the comments section to here:
Strictly speaking, the example you quoted represents the “last straw” in a series of behaviors I considered abusive with regards to the Ecosystem. To be precise for your readers, the quote above actually refers to a lesser-known part of the Ecosystem which provides rankings based on SiteMeter visit counts (as opposed to based on links). (That ranking can be found here: http://www.truthlaidbear.com/TrafficRanking.php)
However, the individual in question has also demonstrated a history of attempting to manipulate the traditional, link-counting part of the Ecosystem as well, so your point remains quite valid.
I continually am struggling to provide a service which both offers a simple, easy-to-understand “map of the territory” of weblogs, but at the same time is resistant to abuse. With this latest incident, I’m afraid, no elegant programming solution was available, and so I’ve had to take a more crude approach and directly limit one individual’s participation in the ranking system.
Solution unsatisfactory, indeed: but the best I can do at this point…