Trolling for links: The top tech bloggers

As we all know, the number one rule of the blogosphere is that you must write about the blogosphere (it’s like the opposite of the Fight Club), and in the absence of a “bitchmeme” for this weekend — although Twitter’s intermittent issues come close — we have some link-trolling extraordinaire from Henry over at Techcrunch, who has parsed Techmeme’s links for the past four months or so and come up with a list of the top tech bloggers (according to Techmeme, that is).

I was pretty chuffed to find my name in the number 9 slot, up there in the top 10 with stalwarts such as Larry Dignan, and of course Mike Arrington and Erick Schonfeld from TechCrunch. Although it seems that my place at number 8 could be in jeopardy — that relentless new guy, ParisLemon (aka MG Siegler), is apparently going to get moved into my position once Henry combines MG’s posts at ParisLemon with his posts at VentureBeat. (Update: Henry says he’s not combining multiple authors, so I am safe in the top 10 apparently). As they say at the Oscars, it’s an honour just to be nominated along with such talented, etc.

One of the amazing things about this list (apart from my presence on it, of course) is the size of the disparity between Mike Arrington and the rest of the list. In less than four months, he has written 207 Techmeme-headline blog posts (that presumably doesn’t count his posts over at Crunchnotes). That’s an average of almost two posts every single day. I’ve averaged a measly one post every two days — and if I could have cranked out one more I would have beaten that bugger Thomas Ricker at Engadget. Is that why I’m writing this? Of course not. Just saying 🙂

Bloggers need to try even harder

Update:

Fred has an update on his post in which he makes it clear that he wasn’t picking on Matt or Erick, and he has also retired the term “journablogger.” And Mike Arrington has now come to the defence of Erick and Matt, and questioned Fred’s motives in posting what he did — although I think Mike overdoes it a little in his post.

Maybe Fred’s post was flawed (which he admits on his blog and in a comment at TechCrunch), but I still think it’s a worthwhile discussion to have. But then, I guess I’m a traditional journalist. Mike says he doesn’t care about being balanced, he just wants to be right. I think that’s a natural impulse, but it can have unpleasant side-effects.

Original post:

I have to give VC blogger Fred Wilson some props for calling out what he calls “journabloggers” like Mashable, VentureBeat, GigaOm, TechCrunch and so on. Fred’s point — one that others have made as well — is that it’s easy for such sites to fall into the trap of posting salacious headlines that aren’t fully backed up, whether because they want to be first, or because they simply want to boost traffic.

The example Fred uses is a VentureBeat post about visual-search site Like.com (formerly known as Riya), which Matt Marshall says has seen its traffic climb to the point where it is beating competitor ThisNext — a claim that Fred takes issue with. He also mentions a recent post from TechCrunch, and his point seems to be that Matt and Erick Schonfeld could have done a bit more research to back up some of their claims.

Matt seems like a stand-up guy, and I know Fred didn’t bring it up to pick on him, or on anyone else for that matter (and just to be clear, neither am I). I think it’s good to point out when the bloggers we read aren’t thinking things through fully or are falling short (and that includes me), provided it is done in a constructive way. The great part about the blogosphere — which Fred didn’t really mention — is that it’s easy to flesh out and/or correct a post when something like that happens.

VentureBeat, for example, responded to Fred’s concerns (which Matt commented on at Fred’s blog) and added them to the original post. That’s a substantially better response than Fred would have gotten from traditional media, I expect. Steven Hodson at WinExtra makes a good point: if the top “journabloggers” get too comfortable or lazy, all that does is open up opportunities for new ones, which is good.

Steve Rubel throws a softball to Gates

Bill Gates, co-founder and chairman of Microsoft and the world’s richest man, met with a bunch of technology bloggers yesterday, including Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome, Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, Liz Gannes of Gigaom.com and several others. Everyone got to ask one question and there was some general discussion for about an hour with what some described as a very relaxed Gates.

Some of the questions — like Mike’s question about DRM, which I wrote about here, and Liz Gannes’ excellent question about the future of web-based applications — were fairly hard-hitting, but others… well, not so much. Like Steve Rubel’s question: “What’s on your Zune?” (This wasn’t the only softball, of course; there was also a question about what Bill has on his Christmas list).

softball.jpg

Trevor Cook, who writes at a blog called Corporate Engagement, takes Steve to task for this question in a recent post. He notes that Edelman, the PR firm where Steve works, represents Microsoft (which he freely admits in the post) but that he says he was there “as a blogger.” So if Rubel had a month to plan for it, why didn’t he ask a better question? Cook’s post is entitled “Rubel inadvertently demonstrates the value of traditional journalism.” Cook says:

I’d hate to see blogging just become a way of the powerful giving the appearance of being open and accessible by using these carefully orchestrated events with people who seem to be overcome by their audience with the great monopolist. There is not going to be much ‘speaking truth to power’ in these situations.

This is a fair point (Todd at Geek News Central asks the same thing). Yes, Steve admitted he works for Edelman, but says he was invited as a blogger (and therefore was supposedly independent). So why such a lame question? I realize that Steve is not — nor has he ever claimed to be — a journalist, but still. That kind of thing makes Barbara Walters’ Oscar special seem hard-hitting.

Court says that bloggers are journalists

It appears that one of the perennial blogosphere vs. journalism questions — can bloggers be considered journalists, and therefore subject to the same protections? — has been answered in the affirmative by the California court of appeals, in the case of Apple vs. a bunch of rumour sites that spilled the beans on various new products before Steve-o wanted them to.

As the court put it: “In no relevant respect do they appear to differ from a reporter or editor for a traditional business-oriented periodical who solicits or otherwise comes into possession of confidential internal information about a company.” Pretty straightforward. The court also said:

“We decline the implicit invitation to embroil ourselves in questions of what constitutes ‘legitimate journalis[m].’ The shield law is intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news, and that is what petitioners did here. We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish ‘legitimate’ from ‘illegitimate’ news.

Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment, which is to identify the best, most important, and most valuable ideas not by any sociological or economic formula, rule of law, or process of government, but through the rough and tumble competition of the memetic marketplace.”

This is huge (assuming Apple doesn’t appeal, which I think they shouldn’t — but you never know with Steve). And it helps to quash the notion that journalism is somehow a secret art that only J-school graduates or carefully-trained acolytes can practice properly, a notion that many journalists would love to have accepted as reality, for obvious reasons.

In reality, journalism is something that just about anyone with a functioning brain-stem and a command of language can engage in, and that includes bloggers. You don’t have to have a license, you don’t have to pass a test (not even a spelling test) and there’s no college or body that regulates the practice — you just do it, and you’re either good or you’re not. Period.

Public service notice: Toronto blogger meetup

A short public-service notice for anyone who is planning to attent the bloggers’ meetup with Shel Israel (co-author of Naked Conversations) in Toronto on March 6th – Alec Saunders notes that the venue has changed. It was supposed to be the Peel Pub, but that venerable bar is no more and has been replaced by Filthy Mcnasty’s – who are apparently so McNasty that they don’t return phone calls. The new venue is Shoeless Joe’s on King Street east of Spadina. A map is here (Alec used Mapquest, but as anyone who has seen the Lazy Sunday video knows, Google Maps is the best – double true)