Following Liz's read of BlogHer, one of the more interesting points to come out of the conference is the need for constituent algorithms -- ways of revealing hidden groups. For the BlogHer community, the Technorati 100 was more than a whipping boy, but an index where a group was under-represented. Mary Hodder's approach, spot on, is to develop alternative indexes.
No index is all-inclusive and all are biased. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Each is just a way to view the world and it's information. But the interesting part is the sociology of how coders frame the world with each index and how we accept, reject or game the indexes that frame us.
Think about the politics at play with the US Census, Gerrymandering jurisdiction or any list constructed by the mainstream media. Or how we over-react any time someone makes a new blog index when it hints at a hierarchy. Suddenly we are thrown back to gold stars, grades, being picked for the kickball team, caste judgments, nationalism, ageism, other isms, clicks, ins and outs. But an index is just one way to view the world. What happens when creating and distributing an index is as democratized as blogging is today?
Each index is an attempt to institutionalize, where merely publishing it with credentialed claims invites circumspect vigilance. Somehow we teat lists as authorities, further incenting people to create lists to claim authority. Lists are just groupings, or clusters, but as such, we treat inclusion seriously. With easy group forming, we also get easy group representation -- so on the whole the scarcity of groups decreases with the right and convenience to fork.
Other great idea to come out of BlogHer was a list. Mary started a Speaker's Wiki as a simple answer for event organizers that say there aren't enough women speakers. What's great about this idea is that was implemented on a Sunday morning. Initially, it's an answer, but I think it will raise some questions. The index begins with all women. But will it evolve to reflect the state of the events markets with a male-dominated power law? Or will it shape the curve? As the gender or other balance tips, will it spawn a fork for under-represented constituencies?