Techmeme adds an author leaderboard, introduces a linking-based metric to rank by "Leadership"

Wednesday, May 20, 2015 2:03PM ET
by Gabe Rivera (@gaberivera)     Permalink

Update for July 19, 2017: Today, Techmeme's Leaderboards changed in three ways:

  1. The biggest difference is that we modified how "Leadership" is computed to better reflect the volume of inbound linking authors and publications receive from industry sources. Previously, a post simply appearing on Techmeme would boost Leadership inordinately, even if had attracted relatively few inbound links. Now we only take into account posts that receive above a basic threshold of inbound linking. As a result, originators of scoops and other highly-cited pieces are better represented.
  2. Both lists now draw on 180 days of Techmeme history, up from 90 days.
  3. We now only show 50 entries instead of 100, since comparisons past 50 are less meaningful given the small differences in "Presence" or "Leadership". (If you desperately need more data for any reason, tell us why at )

  4. Earlier post: Today we've expanded our Leaderboard page to offer four lists instead of one. In addition to ranking publications, we now rank authors. On top of that, we've introduced a second ranking method that takes links into account, to better reflect more influential writers and publications. We've also expanded the window of Techmeme history the leaderboards draw on from 30 to 90 days. A larger data set makes the results less susceptible to daily swings.

    Why this? Why now?

    To explain today's changes, let's rewind to the year 2007, before Techmeme had a leaderboard. Back then, a story would appear on Techmeme when our algorithm found the number of tech blogs linking to it was sufficiently large. As a result, Techmeme was a good reflection of technology's most-referenced stories. Given this function, people soon began asking for a leaderboard of the publications most frequently on Techmeme, since it would reflect the most-referenced publications. So when we eventually did introduce it in October of 2007, it made a splash.

    Over time, however, we changed our story selection in a manner than muddled what this leaderboard represented. In December of 2008, we introduced human editors, giving them final say on the stories we posted. Increasingly, many of our selections reflected not the most-linked stories in tech, but rather accounts of news events our editors decided were best for our readers. For instance, when a big announcement appears on one of Google's blogs, we'll often post a story from a publication putting the news in a fuller context, even though Google's announcements usually receive far more links than any news publication. As a result, our leaderboard over time tended to weigh sites that explain news a lot more than it did originally, making it harder for sites specializing in scoops or insights to rank as highly.

    Even as our leaderboard became less about the most-cited publications, interest grew in tracking something else on Techmeme: authors. For several years, CrunchBase published leaderboards ranking authors using data scraped from Techmeme's archives. (CrunchBase removed these lists following their redesign.) Meanwhile, the continued rise of Twitter and Facebook, which make it easy to follow individuals, combined with the escalating battle for tech writers with its much-ballyhooed poachings, led to an environment where personal brands for writers rivaled brands of publications. As a result, someone at nearly every top technology publication on the hunt for talent has asked me personally in recent years for data on the top Techmeme authors.

    These two considerations led to the new lists we introduce today. Not only do we finally offer our own author leaderboard, but by ranking publications and authors taking links into account, we restore the original importance of linking in our leaderboards.

    The details on Leadership vs. Presence

    Prior to today, we ranked publications only by Presence, defined as what percentage of headlines featured on Techmeme came from a particular publication. Presence-based author and publication leaderboards now appear as the third and fourth lists on our leaderboards page. The leaderboard we published up until today, of course, corresponds to the fourth leaderboard here ("Publications, ranked by Presence").

    Our new "Leadership" metric measures the amount that tech sites and social media posts captured in Techmeme's tech-focused crawl link to the posts featured on Techmeme. The percent shown in the table is derived by dividing the total value for a given author or publication's posts by the total value for everybody's posts over the past 90 days.

    Why the name "Leadership"? First, because other writers tend to follow the writings of these authors with rewrites, responses, and other sorts of follow-on reports. And second, as a fun nod to the notion of thought leadership simultaneously valued and scorned by the industry.

    To conclude, some Q&A:

    Q: Why are sites from Google, Microsoft, and Apple listed as publications?
    A: While it would technically be more accurate to label these as "sources" rather than "publications", most listings in our "publications" lists are publications, and most people will visit these lists to compare publications, so we'll stick with the word "publications".

    Q: Why have the numbers from yesterday's leaderboard shifted so much from those shown in the fourth leaderboard? Aren't they supposed to show the same thing?
    A: Even though they're both Presence-ranked publication leaderboards, recall we're now using a 90-day window instead of 30, so you're seeing the effect of 60 more days of history suddenly added to the data set.

    Q: If a post I co-authored makes Techmeme, does that count toward these leaderboards?
    A: Yes, Leadership and Presence are evenly split between authors when there are two bylines. This is possible because we crawl and record both authors, even though we don't list double-bylines on the front page of Techmeme. You can even verify we're capturing these using a Techmeme author search. A search on Douglas MacMillan, for instance, shows posts MacMillan co-authored. Note that if posts you co-author appear on Techmeme and don't come up in searches of this sort, please let us know as there may be a crawling issue. Unfortunately, posts with three or more authors don't count toward author leaderboards.

    Q: Will you add these new leaderboards to Techmeme's sister sites?
    A: We plan to, eventually, starting with Mediagazer.

    Q: Is it weird that the #1 author by Leadership is a full-time college undergrad?
    A: Maybe, but he sure does get a lot of scoops.

    Q: Why is Gigaom listed in the publication leaderboards? Didn't it shut down?
    A: It ceased operations less than 90 days ago so it's still among the top publications in the 90-day window on which the leaderboards are based. It will fall off completely in a few weeks.

    Q: I am not a blogger or publisher so why should I care about these lists?
    A: If you ever wish to influence the tech news media, you'll find these are good people to court. But if you haven't figured that out already, you probably won't succeed in influencing them. So never mind.

    Q: I love John Gruber. He's great. Why isn't he on your Leadership leaderboard?
    A: Although he's in the top 150, he's not in the top 100, and we only show the top 100. While his posts that make Techmeme do tend to be heavily cited in the tech world, they don't appear there too often (just twice in the past 90 days), in part because he mostly posts links with short commentary, which doesn't work well for Techmeme. Although Leadership is weighted by links, it's only weighted by links on posts that appear on Techmeme. Perhaps in the future, we'll add another list that ranks infrequently appearing yet heavily cited authors higher.

    Q: I hate TechCrunch. They're jerks. Why is TechCrunch #1 on the publication leaderboards?
    A: While TechCrunch has accrued some haters over the years for various reasons, they offer a lot of exclusive news and a good number of real scoops, even if publications like Wall Street Journal may lead on scoops that concern bigger companies. (Let's hope Verizon doesn't ruin TechCrunch!)

    Q: My awesome six-month-old blog, SiliconPrattle, is nowhere to be found on your precious lists. Is this because you're jerks and have blacklisted me?
    A: No, in fact we haven't heard of your blog, sorry.

    Q: Isn't this Leadership number some arbitrary meaningless garbage measure that you're concocting to justify your stupid pointless leaderboards?
    A: It's arbitrary in the sense that it is determined by the sites Techmeme crawls to present its particular filter on the news. But this news crawl, and the resulting link data for computing Leadership represents our very best attempt at capturing the online references to postings that signal importance and influence. After all, our algorithms use the very same link data to recommend posts to our editors and to influence the order of stories on our home page. It's very useful data.

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