I started this post late last week after PostRank was launched as an API. Conveniently enough, Alltop launched Frienderati today, which caused some interesting discussions on FriendFeed and gave my post a little more relevance.
Why is it that people feel the need to rank things? Is it the simplicity of looking at things in a list? Is it the desire to know what is going on? Or is it the desire to be popular? Disappointingly, I think popularity is the answer. Bloggers want to have a blog post become popular because it drives traffic to their site. Once they get traffic, they typically get more subscribers, which generally will give them more exposure to others and thus driving the traffic up more.
On sites like Twitter and FriendFeed, they do not provide “leaderboards”. However, both sites provide an API. Of course, someone developed rankings for both of these sites. This is rather ironic because both sites are meant to help with “discovery”. On Twitter, you are trying to find out what various people are doing or talking about. Most people are not on Twitter to hear more from the “A-Listers”. FriendFeed is about finding out what your “friends” are reading. Do you really care what stories are popular?
I understand that news sites may want to show stories that are popular. TechMeme does exactly that, find the stories most talked about recently. This is perfectly reasonable, but people have even complained that TechMeme just covers the same sites all the time. So, people go to FriendFeed to find out what people are talking about. One of the first complaints is that it is an “echo chamber”. Many blogs seem to talk about the same thing.
Duh. Bloggers have blogs because sometimes their opinion needs more detail than a simple comment on another blog. Again, I thought that was the point of blogging, everyone gets their own voice. So, by now you are wondering what the point of this is. This week, PostRank was launched as a separately available API from the people giving us AideRSS. Wonderful, another “how many times your article has been shared by people” tool. I have nothing against AideRSS or PostRank, but do we really need another one? We have Technorati, which people say is irrelevant anymore. We also have the Google Reader tools of RSSmeme and ReadBurner. Both of these tools present the most popular users and the most popular stories.
The interesting part of the Frienderati announcement was the conversation. The main complaint was that the list seemed to be those people most follow, most likely the “A-List”. This is probably true, but there were some names included that were not in the top 100, myself in particular. I am not going to be confused for an A-Lister an time soon. I am not sure what the “formula” was to generate the list, but that is not the concern. I understand that people dislike yet another list of the top 100 anything. I also feel the same way about a lot of these ranking lists.
I guess my problem is that we probably have enough rankings to follow already. Do we really need an API for one? People are always going to be creating these lists, do we need to try and deconstruct them or even invalidate them? Can we just talk about good content?