Techmeme: A Cautionary Tale

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for the past several weeks as I watched this blog drop from high 40s on the techmeme leaderboard to the 50s, to the 60s, to the 70s, and now as of this weekend, off of it completely. Yes, my ego hurts when this blog no longer ranks as one of the most important tech blogs. And I am trying to keep that in check as I write this because I think there is something important going on at techmeme that we need to think about as we look forward to emergence of the "curated web".

I’ll take full responsibility for not writing stuff that the top tech blogs think is interesting enough to link to. I realize that what gets on techmeme is the stuff bloggers are writing about and linking to. If this blog has become boring, then that’s my fault.

But there is something else going on. When the techmeme leaderboard was first launched about 45 days ago, there were about twenty blogs written by one person on it. The top "individual blog" was Dave Winer’s scripting news in the mid 40s, Scoble was in the mid 50s. Matthew Ingram was in the 40s or 50s too.

Today, Nick Carr is the top individual blogger at 22, Scoble‘s in the mid 40s along with Matthew Ingram. But after that, there’s maybe five or six individual bloggers on the leaderboard. It’s filling up with the likes of CNET, USA Today, Bloomberg, PR Newswire, and so on.

Not that that is a bad thing mind you. But the site has changed. I still go to it every day to take the temperature of the tech blog scene, but I don’t see my friends on it so much anymore. No Jarvis, no Calacanis, no Rex, no Feld, no Doc, no Ash. And I certainly don’t see their posts anchoring memes anymore.

So what happened? I think it’s pretty simple. Everyone knows that you can write to techmeme if you want to be part of the conversation. Can’t think of what to write about? Go to techmeme, grab one of the memes, write a post that links to it, and your post will get picked up on it. Dave Winer predicted this would happen four days after the leaderboard launched.

Mainstream media wants to be part of the conversation as they should. It’s not surprising that they are using the same tricks the bloggers have been using for years. And they are using them effectively. The links on techmeme are getting more mainstream every day.

The other thing that has changed is that many of the blogs I "grew up" with are not individual blogs anymore. Rafat has a team, Arrington has a team, Om has a team. ARS, RRW, SAI, Valleywag are all group blogs. They are much better at putting out a stream of blog posts all day long, but they aren’t the same thing as Mike and Om blogging along with me. And you can’t compete with an army of bloggers on the techmeme leaderboard.

For years, I’ve been using curators to filter my web experience. I can’t and won’t subscribe to the hundreds (maybe thousands) of blogs I want to stay on top of. I realize that everything I write here, or on fredwilson.vc, unionsquareventures, or at newcritics, won’t be read by every reader/subscriber. I know that all of you are doing the same thing as I am. We are relying on the world of social media curators to surface up the things that are interesting and we read that.

Techmeme has been the killer social media curator for my world of tech blogs. Lore has it that it was created using Scoble’s OPML file. It doesn’t matter to me if that’s true or not, I love that story. Because my OPML file was unusable until I found Techeme and after that I stopped reading feeds and started reading curated feeds.

But curated systems will be gamed. Everything on the Interent will be gamed. And user generated content won’t stay "user" generated forever. The pros will crash any party that’s worth crashing and make it their
own. 

I don’t think this is a bad thing, it’s just worth noting.