Rankings Suck, So Now What?

In my last post I asked Do We Need Rankings For Everything? The rant was based on the new API for PostRank from AideRss, the launching of Frienderati.Alltop and the ensuing discussion. Yep, it was one of those good, old-fashioned, “I am a cranky old man” rants. Thankfully, Melanie Baker from AideRss beat me with a stick in the comments. The main thing I had ignored was the “business side” of rankings and why bloggers love them. As Melanie said in the comment:

It’s business for some of those bloggers whose rankings help them get advertisers or new consulting clients, which means income for supporting their families.

Bloggers want rankings because they tell the blogger how well they are doing. Personally, I still do not like them, even when considering the business reasons. However, bloggers do need some way to determine the progress of their blog. I follow my subscriber numbers as if my life depended on it. Even though the numbers are fairly inaccurate, it gives me something to look at.

But what do bloggers really need? Rankings are not quite right because they focus on the top tier or the A-List most of the time. So, how do we judge how well we are doing? Honestly, I think it is mostly just the subscriber number and the number of comments on each post. If you ever get so large that you make one of these ranking lists, then you can worry about them, but most of us will never get near the top 100 anything.

So, what do we need? Mark Dykeman has a great satirical post about RookieMeme. The idea was to have a way for new blogs to get a chance to be seen. The comments on the blog and the discussion on FriendFeed are worth the read as well because some people are actually looking into a similar idea. Around the same time, the omnipresent Robert Scoble asked for something simple, a TechMeme for blogs:

I want a Techmeme without any business news. Just blog posts that make me smarter, or give me things to try. I think that’s why I like FriendFeed so much. Far less “so and so buying so and so” kind of news, and more about “here’s how to take a better picture” or “here’s a new iPhone app.”

The discussion on FriendFeed was very interesting and a few startup sites were mentioned. So, there is a need and a desire for such a thing. So what does this type of site need to do? Obviously, blogs need to be registered and discovered. Posts from these feeds should be available based on tags or from categories. A person should be able to register and define their own interests. They should then be able to read the posts that interest them at their leisure. Lastly, they should be able to share the posts with other people, to help spread the word about new blogs or minimally interesting posts. These features do exist currently, but are spread across a few applications. First, Google Reader and its’ sharing functionality are a good idea. If you have this included with the social aspects of FriendFeed, that is a good start. Yes, I know there is overlap, but sharing in Google Reader is much more direct than dumping a share into a river of shares on FriendFeed. For the intersting topics, take the ideas of NoiseRiver. Currently there is nothing better for tracking “interests” on FriendFeed besides searching. Lastly, dump all of this stuff into the mioNews interface. It is a familiar “email-like” interface, and you can easily group shares from various people.

How does this solve the “do we need rankings” problem? It does not solve it directly. What is does is give your blog a way to get seen by more people. The social infrastructure on FriendFeed has shown that new blogs can be discovered. However, there is no way to tell a specific person, “Hey read this, you might find it interesting”. And when the day is done, an API will probably be created for this ideal application. Then some smart developer can come along and create rankings for those blogs most read and shared, again.

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