Technorati ‘Authority’ – the cool kids’ table

I just read this post over on Scoble’s blog pointing out the new feature on Technorati search. Parts of the below post is cross-posted there as a comment, but since it is such an important piece of news and potentially so much trouble, I felt I needed to post it here for you as well.

I agree with Stephanie (a like minded innovative spirit from Switzerland I just met via the BarCamp channel on IRC this past weekend while we both virtually attended Northern Voice) – like pagerank, popularity is just one approach to determining relevancy – but it too can be gamed and often has nothing to do with ‘authority’, though Technorati positions it as such incorrectly. As hacking memorandum showed, even the best of algorithms can be gotten the better of. It just feels off I guess, so I investigated further…

As an optional feature it is ok I guess, but just because some people are sitting at the cool kids table does not mean they are the authority. Funny how most of us geeks never sat at the cool kids table growing up and how we detested such egocentric attitudes – but now we are just emulating what we secretly wanted to be a part of before in so many parts of our online and offline lives.

So in trying this feature out, I did my oblilgatory search for ‘BrainJams’. When applying the filter for ‘a lot of authority‘, my posts are not even included in the list, though arguably, as one of the founders, one might expect me to have a lot of authority on the subject. To be fair, when I tried ‘a little authority‘ it seemingly removed several blog spam posts – but then again, one search with this level filter returned 178 posts, the next returned 193. This inconsistency of search results (and ongoing unreliability to even return results on occasion) is a continuing problem with Technorati that I expected to be fixed by now.

An interesting thought on this just came to me which hopefully some people here can expand further:

    Popularity = awareness * excitement
    Authority = awareness * (understanding + experience)

The feature on technorati may prove to be useful over time, but I still think it is a combination of human inputs and computer algorithms that are necessary for truly relevant results. When it comes to understanding levels of authority, I believe the same general rules apply. The logic boards are good for linear processing, but the human brain is what will put things in the proper context… I suggested to Kevin Marks via chat during Northern Voice that the real key to improving result relevancy was simply adding a button next to each result that enabled the community to filter out the splogs (spam blogs) much as Craigslist has the miscategorized or inappropriate buttons on each posting there. He said they considered it, but did not elaborate further on why they chose not to implement it.

As it is, this feature seems like a way of filtering out the long tail edge thinking so searchers can focus on the head of the tail – ultimately reducing the variety of inputs and leading to more like minded thinking from those people who want to be sitting at the cool kids table.

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