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Echorati

I’ve remembered what it is I wanted to talk about, thanks to Phil Ringnalda, whose last name I’ve finally learned to spell correctly.  Phil just posted that:

Apparently the in thing to do with your blog this month is to add links to each post’s Technorati cosmos, down in the place where you would have a comments link if you had comments.

I first spotted mention of this over at Tantek’s weblog, and since meyerweb doesn’t (yet) support comments or [track|ping]backs, I was initially intrigued.  About six seconds later, I had lost most of my interest.  There were two primary reasons why.

  1. Unlike comments and trackbacks, a “comment cosmos” link (hereafter referred to as “echorati”) offers no information about how many comments will be returned, assuming any at all.  True, we can probably assume that any given Boing Boing post will have at least a few links back to it, and that the popular ones will have dozens or even hundreds.  99.9% of weblogs will have no links to 99.9% of their individual posts… but there’s still no way to know without clicking on the echorati link and hitting Technorati’s servers, which are already kind of flaky.

    (Yes, the service is free, but it also returns a lot of incorrect data, PHP configuration error messages, and so on—when it responds at all.  Echorati links are just going to increase those problems.  This isn’t criticism of the “Technorati sucks” variety; I really like Technorati.  It’s more criticism of that service’s present stability, which I suspect they would agree with me is not as robust as we’d all like.)

    One way to solve this dilemma, as others have suggested, is to have a script that queries Technorati to get the number of echorati links, so you can put right on your site how many there are—again, assuming there are any.  But that leads us to my next objection…

  2. Technorati cosmos data expires.  In other words, if a link to something is on a page that hasn’t been updated in a while, that link falls out of the cosmos.  So however many links comprise an echorati cosmos in, say, the first week after a post is published, that count will fall over time to zero.  Let’s say that a year from now, somebody stumbles across the Boing Boing post about using Technorati to create an echorati cosmos.  They click on that post’s echorati link and Technorati returns “Ouch! 0 links from 0 sources.”  The impression is that nobody ever commented on the post, even though we know that’s not true (as of this writing, there were 29 links to said post).

    So any mechanism that queried Technorati for the number of links in an echorati cosmos would have to keep doing it, and the numbers would slowly drop over time until they finally hit zero.  I don’t know what the expiration interval is at Technorati, but it can’t be more than a few months.  If they start getting slammed by echorati queries, they might have to reduce the interval.

The perhaps obvious solution is to modify your echorati mechanism to ask for the links, harvest them from Technorati, and register them locally as you would a trackback.  That works when Technorati can identify a post, but I’ve noticed that doesn’t happen with regularity.  That means you’d just be harvesting their main URLs, not the URL of their comment on your specific post.  I’ll take a recent ‘popular’ meyerweb example: my post “Conspiracy Theory.”  Of the first ten “freshest” results returned this morning for that post’s echorati, three lacked a “Read Full Post” link.  Technorati also returned 20 results and claimed the post had 12 links from 12 sources.  I then hit the “rank by authority” filter and got 26 links from 26 sources—what was that about service stability?—and five of the top ten had no “Read Full Post” link.

I suppose that echorati harvesting could be an interesting minor addition to the linking toolbox, but I don’t see it replacing trackbacking and comments any time soon.  The capability will have to be built into popular blogging packages to gain any sort of currency, and even then I suspect it will be presented as a part of trackbacking.  Maybe they’ll be called “linkbacks.”

On a related topic, check out Ping-o-Matic.  It’s already replaced the bookmark group I had set up to do my own pinging.  Okay, so it replaced a bookmark group with a single bookmark.  It’s still progress, right?

I’m feeling much better, thanks.  It’s a good thing, too, because I have to give two presentations tomorrow at NOTACON, and two more (one of them the conference keynote) on Tuesday at the 5th Annual Webmaster Forum.

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