BlogNetNews Ohio rankings scheme, and a real way to measure the influence of blogs

[This post was updated at 10:24am to reflect info for which I was given permission to post.]

That’s scheme as in design, not as in scam.

Maybe.

We’re not sure yet.

BlogNetNews has something that it’s calling Ohio’s Influence Index and it’s accompanied by something it’s calling Ohio’s Most Influential Political blogs [sic]. I don’t buy these monikers as far as measuring any kind of influence I am interested in knowing about. It’s a ranking, and maybe it’s got some connection to influence. But, based on what I currently know about the system, I don’t see any causal connection between the measurements that BNN compiles in order to produce the ranking and actual influence.

Here’s more information I received, I believe from Dave Mastio, this morning:

Our system is a hybrid of link tracking (like Technorati), traffic monitoring like (compete or Alexa) and user input (like Digg, but users don’t know they’re voting when they’re voting) with a final twist — instead of looking at influence over all time, BNN’s rankings are for seven day periods and then the slate is wiped clean. (As far as the weighting and the exact factors, I can’t say because then people could game the system.)

The result is that small-readership or newish blogs can rise to the top for a week with a few good posts and the largest readership blogs can fall off if they’re not posting much.That’s what has caused the complaints in VA — some folks think they should always be on top because they’ve paid their dues.

and this too:

Tis indeed experimental and will change over time (just like google’s search methodology and ranking have changed tons over the last decade).

And it does depend on how you define influence — I am trying to take any kind of approval/moral evaluation out of it. Abe Lincoln and Adolph Hitler were influential leaders. Our definition also takes the reputational aspect out of it. The Volokh Conspiracy is influential because people judge its writers to be smart, but some weeks VC has no influence cause it doesn’t write about the top stories. Drudge is influential, but not because anybody actually respects or believes what he writes.

For those folks who want to read about the Virginia controversy mentioned by BNN in its email that announced the rankings, here are just four of what I’m sure are many posts about it. I don’t know any of the bloggers or the blogs – I just found the posts via a Google blog search:

Blogosphere Battle Royal

Not Larry Sabato vs BlogNetNews

Friday Whine and Cheese: Ranking the Ranking Systems

Blogging aka Navel Gazing

If you prefer more obvious and direct attempts to determine how blogs influence our political attitudes, if in fact they do, please fill out this survey that researchers at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville are conducting. Barbara Kaye of UT and Tom Johnson of Texas Tech (more here on his web page) are responsible for the survey and apparently have been examining the influence of blogs, via academic research, for some time now.

For example, here’s an abstract about a study they did in 2000 regarding the Internet’s effect on political attitudes etc.:

This study surveyed politically interested Internet users online during the 2000 presidential election to examine their motives for using Web, bulletin boards/electronic mailing lists and chat forums for political information and to determine whether political attitudes, Internet experience and personal characteristics predict Internet use motivations. The findings indicate that each Internet component satisfies slightly different needs, which can be predicted by some political attitudes and demographics, and Internet experience. Additionally, results from this study are compared to findings from an earlier study of politically interested Web users during the 1996 presidential election.

Googling Kaye and Johnson by name but without quotations turns up several other academic papers they’ve produced about this topic and related topics.

No mention of figuring out influence via any methods that would be analogous to BNN’s method. BNN’s method is more like a meta-method though, using systems already in existence that assign values to blogs according to their criteria, and then BNN somehow aggregates via its own formula those values into a new list.

And yes, full disclosure – WLST is near the bottom this week – and it wasn’t on the list last week. No surprise to me. At it’s best, when I’m not bar mitzvah planning let’s say, I view it like the Paris Review or the New Yorker: it’s not how many read it, but who reads it. And if The Chief Source is even below my ranking? Well, that says it all really – because they do fantastic work.

6 thoughts on “BlogNetNews Ohio rankings scheme, and a real way to measure the influence of blogs

  1. Kyle, I have no illusions. I may get melodramatic about things, but I follow reality pretty closely most of the time. This blog goes as I go, and I go where primary caretaker takes me. And if that’s out of the house for 10 hours shlepping, shopping and shuttling, I’ll be drafting you guys too.I mean it – we are very lucky here in the Ohio ‘sphere. We really care about this place we live in.

  2. Geez Jill, flattery will get you everywhere. Thanks for your kind words. We’re proud to be drafting off of you.

  3. I know you may laugh at this, but one of the only reasons I’m giving the ranking any credence is because it consistently has you near the top. Your blog absolutely deserves that because it cuts across so many barriers to provide information unavailable elsewhere in a tone not offered by most bloggers. Seriously – it’s the bellwether for knowing that the rankings aren’t total bunk. Yours, Word of Mouth and a couple of others are ones I look for to know that things are okay.

  4. I was surprised when I saw where Glass City Jungle was at, but rankings are like polls. It’s nice when you are ranked high but in the end it really doesn’t change how those of us who blog for the love of it, blog…:-)

  5. Thanks for adding that, Dave. I appreciate your tolerance for skepticism – it’s not personal and I suspect you know that. I admit to feeling that the list tips right but I do understand what you say about how it can fluctuate and why. Again, my biggest concern has to do with people from outside the Ohio sphere thinking it’s some down and dirty quick way to scope out Ohio’s political blog landscape. Maybe it is, but then again, maybe it isn’t. It’s like my approach to blogs in general – I resist my impulse to judge a blog by one or two posts. You really have to read and browse before you have a real sense of what’s going on. IMO anyway.Thanks.

  6. One thing I’d add to your comments is that BNN tracks roughly 90 Ohio blogs, so anybody who ranks in the top 20 is among the most influential. I wouldn’t infer anything negative about being in the teens as compared to the single digits. Sometimes the differences we measure are very small.

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