Social Media Scorecard

Internet | Language/Structure
If you want to know something about social media, blogs, etc. these are the people you might look towards and this is the information you may be able to collect. I have consolidated the data in this chart. Unfortunately, it tells you nothing at all — nothing about the particular expertise of each person in producing good information or interpreting it.

Three months ago I did a similar project to list 25 online political writers. In that exercise, I mostly focused on evaluating the structure of each site as it related to expectations of blogging and journalism. Here I am trying to figure out how to answer a different question: who is recognized as having something original– uniquely linkable– to say? Here’s the chart. The explanations for the columns follow.

Site Occupation CLUB Location Intro Blog Freq Subs Links Srcs A1 A2 A3
Dave Winer/Scripting News Entrepreneur CL__ US-Seattle 1994 1997 1094 4629 5271 4361 5 2 1
Robert Scoble Software Dev. _L__ US-Seattle 2001 2001 800 202 4910 3057 6 7 4
Joi Ito Entrepreneur CL__ JP-Tokyo 1993 1999 120 519 4743 2393 40 59 20
Jeff Jarvis/BuzzMachine Media Executive CL__ US-NYC 2001 2001 763 1307 4029 2832 5 5 2
Dan Gillmor Columnist CL_B US-BayArea 2000 2001 184 912 3551 2574 19 16 8
Corante Many-2-Many social tech

2003 105 665 2400 1108 23 37 38
Howard Rheingold/Smart Mobs Writer C__B US-BayArea 1993 2002 504 42 2350 1507 5 5 3
Jay Rosen/PressThink Journ. Professor CLUB US-NYC 2003 2003 37 224 2110 1068 57 84 88
Rebecca Blood Blogger C__B US-BayArea 1999 1999 146 154 1823 1458 12 8 3
Anil Dash Software Dev. CL__ US-BayArea 1999 1999 42 131 1711 1425 41 20 7
Tom Coates/Plastic Bag Web Producer ____ UK-London 1998 1999 120 272 1421 1188 12 6 2
Shelley Powers/BurningBird Writer ___ B US-St. Louis 2002 2002 101 146 1403 765 14 19 13
Daniel Drezner Pol. Professor CLU_ US-Chicago 2002 2002 146 2 1310 1025 9 6 4
Jon Dube/ Editor CL__ US-Seattle 2000 2003 350 464 1157 901 3 2 2
Online Journalism Review journalism
US-Los Ang. 1998 2004 350 130 1071 780 3 2 5
David Weinberger/JOHO Consultant CLUB US-Mass. 1999 2001 320 955 1029 770 3 2 1
David Sifry Entrepreneur C___ US-BayArea 2002 2002 43 886 984 672 23 22 15
Halley Suitt Writer CL__ US-Mass. 2001 2001 250 430 744 562 3 2 1
danah boyd/Apophenia PhD Student C_U_ US-BayArea 1997 2001 63 98 691 542 11 7 4
Steven Johnson Writer ___B US-NYC 1995 2003 19 522 573 485 30 14 14
Liz Lawley/MamaMusings Tech. Professor CLU_ US-NY 2002 2002 60 110 501 406 8 5 3 women/tech

2003 29 1073 451 375 16 8 8
JD Lasica/New Media Musings Writer CL_B US-BayArea 2004 2004 241 402 442 308 2 2 3
KairosNews pedagogy

2000 117 297 360 240 3 3 1
Susan Mernit Consultant CL__ US-BayArea 2003 2003 442 319 305 218 1 1 1
Six Apart Prof. Network tech network

2004 2004 120 111 290 208 2 2 4
Ethan Zuckerman Researcher C_U_ US-Mass. 2003 70 132 239 134 3 5 5
Seth Finkelstein/Infothought Software Dev. ____ US-Mass. 2002 2002 58 134 223 151 4 4 3
Mary Hodder/Napsterization Researcher CLU_ US-BayArea 2002 2003 43 250 143 105 3 3 3
David Wilcox/Partnerships Consultant ____ UK-London 1996 2003 73 30 105 66 1 2 2
Nancy White/Full Circle Consultant _L__ US-Seattle 2004 2004 164 120 82 26 1 1 2
Eszter Hargittai Comm. Professor C_U_ US-Chicago 2002 2002 27 25 48 28 2 2 2
Jon Garfunkel/Civilities Software Dev. ____ US-Mass. 2004 2004 45 27 48 38 1 1 1
This data was collected from Bloglines, Technorati, and each blog during the weekend of March 26th-27th. Data for SmartMobs was added March 30th. The principals were invited to respond to the data and to the findings below.


  1. Who’s who: This is not the A-List. These are people who identify as bloggers (with one exception– me, as a reference point) and who seem to write about social media a good portion of the time. They are listed in order of the number of incoming links. As it happens, this list follows a logarithmic scale: the top 6 are linked to over 2400 times; the top 13 are linked to over 1200 times; the top 19 are linked to over 600 links; the top 25 are linked to over 300 times. There are 33, including 6 group blogs. Of the individuals I have briefly met 7, and have corresponded with 6 others. Ihave only listed English language bloggers, so I am missing Jean-Pierre Cloutier of Quebec, il est l’un des interprètes les plus populaires de blogueurs dans le monde de langue française.

  2. Some of the names are abstractions. For compactness I have compacted some names of people I don’t know personally: Liz Lawley is Elizabeth Lane Lawley; Jon Dube is Jonathan Dube, whose CyberJournalist blog is affiliated with the American Press Institute. Howard Rheingold’s SmartMobs is group-written. JOHO is short for Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization, which is represents the online publishing collection of David Weinberger: and he calls his blog “JOHO the Blog.” Weinberger, Lawley, and boyd contribute to Corante Many 2 Many.

  3. The occupation is grossly an abstraction, particularly with “Entrepreneur” or “Consultant.” Thus I have concocted the anagram CLUB to denote some more practical considerations: Conference-goer/presenter? Linked to by other people in this list? University-affiliated? Book-published? When people talk about the A-list, they are thinking of the people who have letters in this CLUB.

  4. Location is close to reality, though it’s been noted that those on the conference circuit seem to live mostly at airports. Not surprisingly, the top US tech centers are represented. “BayArea” is the San Francisco Bay Area, including Silicon Valley and Berkeley. The US-Mass. are people who live or work in Cambridge, MA, home of Harvard and MIT. Ethan Zuckerman, who lives in Western Mass., supplies this headline for his blog: “My blog is in Cambridge, but my heart is in Accra.” Two are from the UK and one is from Japan.

  5. There are two years listed: the first marks when the person began writing online; the second when they began publishing more or less regularly via a blog. Thus Steven Johnson is recognized for launching FEED in 1995. My own initial foray into online publishing, the development of a college webzine in 1994, is of trivial importance to my pedigree. The point here was to try and recognize the varying experiences. (Seth asked me in a follow-up whether USENET postings from the 1980’s were significant…)

  6. Frequency representing the number of individual posts published in the first 12 weeks of 2005. Some software is makes it easier to count than others– MovableType and Drupal number their posts. For certain sites like Scoble and SixApart I had to estimate. This number generally is inversely related to the size of the posts. The variance in the number of posts is due to writing style; some perfer the classical blogging approach of “filter” links, while others supply “filler” of travel plans and travel photos, etc.

  7. Subscriptions come from Bloglines. These are imperfect, since many blogs supply multiple feeds. And there is no clarity on how these reflect the number of readers overall, since many use tools other than bloglines.

  8. Links and Sources are provided by the Technorati service. For Dan Gillmor, I have combined the links to his old San Jose Mercury News column/blog. It was not feasible to include the links from every outside website; Eszter Hargittai pointed out to me that many people link to her stories not on her own blog but on the popular academic group blog Crooked Timber. And fundamentally the links and sources are very rudimentary data. The assumption that a link is the most effective vote of confidence in an online resource underlies both Google’s PageRank and Tom Coates’s analysis. Many of these links are provided context-free in blogrolls. In the last few months, David Sifry introduced a way to indicate a link can have neutral scoring or negative scoring. He could collect data as to how this has been used, but so far he has not presented it to his blog.


If this data had much use we might try to run a little rudimentary analysis on it. I do it here because my curiousity demands it.

It would appear that the number of links a site gets correspond the amount of separate material published on that site: the more you write, the more people will link to you. So then there is some other factor, call the amplification factor A. The bigger factor A you have, the more effective a writer you are, the more likely it is that a given piece you write somebody will find useful enough to cite later. If you have a small A by virtue of posting many times, you would reconsider whether it is necessary to post so many times, or merely wonder whether A is a useful measure at all for effectiveness.

That is of course my larger point, that a rational measure of effectiveness could be developed, but it has not been.

Divide by the number posts in the last 12 weeks: call that A1. Now let’s consider that many links to sites are listed in blogrolls once, so let’s discount all of those, and subtract the sources from the links and divide that into the frequency. We re-scale it and call it A2. Finally let’s factor in the number of years that a person has been blogging, suggesting a larger total number of links. We re-scale it and call it A3. This number could be improved by just fishing out the total number of posts, but remember: these are cheap calculations of imperfect data.

But we still see some patterns. We could think of these as some leading indicators of how things could be.

So who’s on top?

For one, not my friends. I have never met Rebecca or Seth, but they have been of tremendous help to me over email conversations. Seth and I share similar perspectives and reading habits, are in recent days we may be seen posting in tandem on various blogs on this list. I am so grateful to them both that I have rewarded them by putting them in the bottom half of the final ratings, with me.

Four stand out each time: Rosen, Ito, Corante, Sifry. Johnson, Dash, Powers split fifth place.

As for the leaders, anyway you look at the numbers, one things stands out: what Jay Rosen does has no relation at all to what Dave Winer does. Rosen posts 3 times a week, and posts long essays with long follow-ups recapping the conversations. “News is a conversation, not a lecture!” he is fond of saying– yet few mimic his structure. Rosen is able to achieve the popularity he does not by the blogging style (the reverse-chronological format is hardly necessary when articles are that long), but simply by making the sort of concrete statements and presentations of fact that can be debated.

Corante’s Many-2-Many group blog also gets high marks, because that’s where Clay Shirky holds court, who also has the good habit of making concrete statements (Liz, danah, and David Weinberger also contribute). Perhaps this reflects that most pieces published on collaberative sites tend to be more on-topic than a personal blog.

David Sifry also gets high marks since he posts from time-to-time about something very concrete and in demand: technological developments and raw data from Technorati, which indexes weblogs. Like Jay, he escapes the common perception of bloggers as commenting on other news regularly– he’s the one producing the news.

Steven Johnson is one of the pioneering Internet journalists, and is the author of a number of books related to social media, dating back to 1997’s Interface Culture. Joi Ito and Anil Dash were both instrumental in the founding of Six Apart, the company which supplies the popular blogging tools MovableType and TypePad. Ito was its first investor and Dash was its first employee, so I would guess that they are well known throuth the users of Six Apart’s software, which through growth and acquisitions now provides services for 6.5 million bloggers worldwide. If I were a user of Six Apart software, I would make sure to read them as well.

Who’s underrated?

As we apply the newer factors, Shelley Powers overtakes Anil Dash. Shelley is a tremendous writer, having authored/co-authored a dozen technical books. She also avoids the practice on riffing on the news, in the classical blogging tradition– she writes original that are worth linking to and conversing over. (And that’s not even factoring in that a good deal of her writings have nothing to do with technology, they are just breathtaking travel pictures.) A couple of weeks ago, she implored for David Sifry to retire the Technorati “Top 100” ratings: “too much like Google in that ‘noise’ becomes equated with ‘authority.’” Curiously, as I’ve remove the noise from the ratings, Shelley’s ranking rises. So I’ll close with her closing words to that piece:

If I had a wish right now, I would wish one thing: that we remove all of our blogrolls and take down the EcoSystem and the Technorati 100 and all of the other ‘popularity’ lists. That whatever links exist, are honest ones based on what has been written, posted, published, not some static membership in a list that is, all too often, stale and out of date, and used as a weapon or a plea.

I would suggest the same for your syndication lists, too–when did you last update it to reflect those sites you really read? I would be content,though, if centralized aggregators such as Bloglines stopped publishing the number of subscriptions for each feed. After all, what true value is this information?

Then we would all start fresh. It would be a new start, and the emphasis would be less on who we know and who we are, then what is being said.

Afterword. I sent this to the principals listed above, and heard back from nine, and many gave constructive comments. First I tightened up the analysis section, trimming out some speculative statements that really had no bearing on the main point.

A couple of people questioned my including Shelley’s quote. Her point was not to banish rankings from the Earth. She advocates we all “start fresh”– not only Technorati but the people (the blogging public) that supplies the raw atoms for Technorati to aggregate its data. We see the current data as misleading and unhelpful. As Shelley’s solution is a bit unlikely, I propose a different tack: the development of more advanced methods for classifying online opinion and opinion-makers.