Update: Blogging is Time Consuming

April 30, 2007

Business Week has the scoop; the number of active blogs in English is decreasing. David Sifry, whose Technorati reports can make it sound like the internet’s 70 million blogs will continue expanding ad infinitum, was called into question by Heather Green at Business Week.

Sifry’s numbers on the actual number of active English language blogs (at least one posting in the past three months) reveal there are really only 15.5 million active blogs worldwide.

Total English Language Blogs in Decline

In May 2006, 36% of all blogs tracked were active, and as of March 2007, that number has fallen to 21%.

In a further sign of decline, the number of daily English language posts has fallen to 495,000 in March from 507,000 in October.

Why Are Blogs in Decline?

ValleyWag offers some speculation on why blogging is levelling off. Namely, after the initial gold rush, people are realizing that successful blogging is time consuming and requires hard work!

The blogosphere is filled with experts touting how-to’s on Part Time Blogging, Full Time Income. I chafe a bit when I come across these as I think they are a bit deceptive and may lead people to blog for the wrong reasons.

Zach and I have never monetized the ValueWiki blog, but I can hardly imagine what our eCPM would need to be to justify the mind-numbing hours it takes to research and format a post like Top 100 Finance Blogs or Top 50 Web 2.0 Blogs. I’m not convinced that ad income is a good rationale for anyone to begin blogging. It could very well be that blogging simply because you enjoy it is the only sustainable motivation.

Blogging is a Time Suck

I think I went into blogging with some misconceptions about the time requirement. Tracking my traffic and feedreaders, I suspect I need at least 10 posts a week to retain my readership, and at least 15 posts a week to grow my readership. This really stretches the definition of “part time.” It’s not that I’m a slow writer so much as a slow reader…staying current on the blogosphere requires a lot of daily reading.

I also notice that most of the “A List” Bloggers came early to the race. Developing a loyal readership was arguably easier in 2005 than it is in 2007. I imagine it will be increasingly difficult for new bloggers to penetrate into the ranks of the A-List. The increased competition for eyeballs may be a part of the reason why new blogs are declining.

Rowing Upstream

Growing blog traffic and technorati rank is like rowing a boat upstream; if you’re not going forward you’re going backwards. If I go a lazy week without posting anything noteworthy, my technorati rank slides quickly since the rest of the blogosphere is continuing to build their link cache. For those like me who make the mistake of occasionally following their stats and rankings, it is a never-ending arms race!

I’m not surprised to view these charts of the blogosphere plateauxing. Like other internet booms, we may be entering a period of “consolidation.”

I would be curious to see numbers on average time bloggers spend blogging. If anyone has these numbers, or would like to provide their own, please drop a note in the comments.

8:31pm…done blogging today…


Quietly Stepping Down From My High Horse

April 30, 2007

David Gerard kindly requested ValueWiki be added to the InterWiki map, and MaxSem promptly approved it. ValueWiki is now part of the InterWiki map.

This means at least two things:

Firstly, if there is a giant InterWiki Map Conspiracy, as TechCrunch has alleged, ValueWiki is now a part of it.

Secondly, this sucks a fair amount of steam out of my snark-attack yesterday.

With Apologies to Furries and Doom Fans and Other Wikis

I stepped on a few furry toes yesterday with Time to Abolish or Overhaul the InterWiki Map. While folks seemed to mildly accept the logic of my argument, there was a fair amount of eyeball-rolling over my method of expression. Consensus was there are better ways to make my point than arguing that other wikis are just as irrelevant as ValueWiki! Suffice it to say, Wikifur is a very active and civil community, very little of which seems to have anything to do with having sex or being a Nazi.

That said, I am extremely pleased to see the topical discussion generated. Sadly, nothing drives traffic like controversy. My more civil posts often seem to generate far less interest.

The Logic of the InterWiki Map

Yesterday I noted that the stated purpose of the Interwiki Map was to create a faster link syntax for editors. Based on this assumption, I argued that InterWiki Map inclusion was arbitrary because it seemed to unlikely that any Wikipedians would find it time-saving to type:

“[[CommunityScheme#Link]]”

Rather than:

“[http://community.schemewiki.org/#Link]”.

Zach suggests I take a different approach to understanding the InterWiki Map. He says I should think of the InterWiki Map as a way for the MediaWiki community to agree on trusted sites that can remove the protection of “nofollow”. If Wikia provides the best source of information on Doom II, and the MediaWiki community agrees Doom Wiki is a trusted site, why shouldn’t the community agree to confer PageRank authority?

This is a nuanced issue and I’m still in the process of sorting out where I stand. In all fairness, ValueWiki runs ads and stands to profit from any PageRank the InterWiki Mapping confers.

As I noted yesterday, some InterWiki Map requests are immediately approved, some are rejected, and some languish for months. Perhaps my angsty post yesterday is really a call for a clearer criteria for InterWiki Map inclusion. This would do much to dispell TechCrunch’s insinuations of Wikia nepotism.

Why Google PageRank is Important to Wikipedia

David Gerard has a funny open letter to SEO-spammers and Googlemancers in which he fairly sums up the Wikipedian spirit. Part of my fondness for Wikipedia comes from Wikipedia’s aura of incorruptibility; refusing to run ads or bow to the pressures of SEO. I take David’s point and whole-heartedly agree with the spirit of his argument.

That said, I wouldn’t be a Wikipedian if I didn’t find a way to split hairs over nuance. Google was very important to Wikipedia’s early development, and continues to drive new users to the site. Here’s Jimmy Wales contributing to Wikipedia:What Google Liked back in 2001, and encouraging other users to Be Bold in updating the list. Here’s Jimbo editing the Aria Giovanni Penthouse Pet article in 2001, and writing in the edit comments, “I wonder if Google will like this page…” Getting Slashdotted was a pivotal moment in Wikipedia’s early history; the ensuing traffic is credited with fueling Wikipedia’s momentum. To this day, Wikipedia’s high page rank continues to drive new users and fuel growth and relevancy.

Part of Wikipedia’s stellar PageRank is due to “nofollow.” Picture all of the internet links as a series of tubes. Pouring water into the tubes is a way of visualizing PageRank. Sites with tons of inlinks and no outlinks end up with a lot of water. Sites with PageRank 8 “tubes” flowing into them get a lot more water than sites with PageRank 1 tubes. In fact, it is logarithmicly higher. Granted it’s a clumsy analogy, but I suspect Wikipedia’s internet prominence owes a bit to its “nofollow” policy.

Apologies again to Wikifur. I am very much enjoying the discussion on the Wikipedia List right now. Very interesting to hear all opinions.


Time to Overhaul or Abolish the InterWiki Map

April 29, 2007

The Wikipedia Mailing List is discussing a fascinating point. Why aren’t Wikia links restricted under no-follow?

For that matter, why are all the arbitrarily favored sites on the interwiki map benefitting from Wikipedia’s stellar PageRank?

Nik Cubrilovic covered this conflict-of-interest story for TechCrunch yesterday, spreading the news to 100,000’s of TechCrunch readers. Time to carefully consider this policy.

Who Profits from the InterWiki Map?

A PageRank 8 link from Wikipedia is SEO Gold. Wikipedia is one of the highest PageRank sites on the internet; a direct link can give your site a tremendous boost in search engine rankings. Recognizing the value of these links, MediaWiki software automatically adds “nofollow” to outgoing links in an effort to discourage linkspamming.

Only sites on the InterWiki Map receive PageRank from Wikipedia.

If your Interwiki site is for-profit like Wikia, receiving 100’s of PR8 links from Wikipedia, this translates into thousands of dollars of increased ad revenue, as well as a competitive traffic advantage over every non-interwiki site.

Can Anyone Explain the Logic of the InterWiki Map?

So there are huge monetary and traffic advantages to being included in the InterWiki map. So the map must be a pretty exclusive list, right?

Wrong.

Look at the completely arbitrary hodgepodge of sites allowed on the interwiki map. First of all, there are a large number of for-profit sites commercially benefitting from this PageRank gold; sites like WikiTravel, the Cellphone Wiki, and Comixpedia.

Next we have for-profit sites like Del.icio.us which is not even a wiki! Whatever happened to never commoditizing Wikipedia?

The map is dominated by a dozen Wikia sites, including Wikifur, a site dedicated to people who have sex in animal costumes.

Presumably the sole stated purpose of the InterWiki map is to allow people an easier syntax for linking to useful sites. But who needs a faster way to link to the New Paltz, NY Community Town Wiki? Or a wiki devoted to the middle earth game of Wurm?

Why the InterWiki Map is Arbitrary and Unfair

Case in point.

ValueWiki, a site covering 65,000 publicly traded stocks, funds, and securities, was rejected from inclusion in the InterWiki map. The request was simply deleted without any explanation.

Yet it seems clear that potentially thousands of Wikipedia pages could relevantly interlink with thousands of ValueWiki pages. ValueWiki contains many articles on publicly traded companies that simply don’t exist on Wikipedia.

But presumably, it is more important to include the for-profit Doom Wiki on the InterWiki Map, for all the Wikipedians who need to quickly link to a wiki about a PC game from 1993.

To give a sense of the power Wikipedia’s PageRank 8 confers on ad sites like Doom Wiki, consider that of ValueWiki’s 23,801 inlinks, the highest PageRank inlink is a 6. This is how rare a PR 8 site is.

Add NoFollow to the InterWiki Map, or Delete the InterWiki Map Altogether

This list is arbitrary favoritism. It commoditizes Wikipedia, and provides an unfair competitive advantage to a number of for-profit sites. It is also deeply unclear the InterWiki map saves anyone much time when writing links. I can understand shortcuts for Wikipedia’s sister projects, but I find it hard to believe many Wikipedian Canyon-enthusiasts have memorized the syntax for linking to CanyonWiki.

The Map provides no explanation or criteria for why ValueWiki is excluded from the list. But more importantly, it provides no explanation for why dozens of arbitrary sites are included in the list. I refuse to believe that Nazis who have sex in animal costumes are more relevant than ValueWiki.


Google to Overtake Microsoft by 2014?

April 27, 2007

ValleyWag has an interesting analysis of all the stunning dot-com earnings announcements this week. If everyone continues at their current growth rates, Yahoo will languish and Google will overtake Microsoft in total earnings by 2014.


Southern California Overtakes New England in Startup Activity

April 27, 2007

When I moved to Los Angeles, I didn’t know it was going to turn into a hotbed of startup activity. VentureBeat has the scoop.

Venture capitalists invested $1.122 billion into Southern California companies during the first quarter, compared to only $984 million into the Northeast companies centered around Boston, according to VentureOne/Ernst & Young.

VentureBeat reports that Southern California has surpassed the Northeast in VC investment for three straight quarters, proving a trend. Between Silicon Valley and SoCal, the state of California now receives more than half of all North American venture capital money.


The Myth of the “Paid Basher”

April 26, 2007

“I think you’re a paid basher looking for some cheap shares!”
InvestorsHub Message Board

Post anything mildly critical on a stock message board, and chances are someone will eventually call you a paid basher. No matter how cogent your argument, you will soon find yourself on the defensive, with your credibility on the run.

I am NOT a paid basher, I am not paid for posting anything on this or any other board. If marilynt claims I am a paid basher, I request that the proof be put on this board…I know if I accused a poster here of being paid to pump this stock, my post would be immediately removed. Posted by LoanStew on InvestorsHub

“Confessions of a Paid Basher”

To prove “paid bashers” exist, message board regulars will post this Confessions of a Paid Basher, allegedly written by a guilt-ridden employee of Global Calumny Funds in Stamford, CT. This confessed “paid basher” outlines how he is paid to manipulate stock message boards, and cites specific message board aliases such as Janice Shell. This article is held up as final proof of the paid basher conspiracy. But there’s just one problem…

It’s a Fake

The first version of the “Paid Basher Confession” was posted as a joke in November, 2000 to the Raging Bull message board by Steve Tracy, aka Firebird_1965. Tracy claimed to work for a boiler room operation in Stamford, Connecticut called Franklin Andrews Kramer & Edelstein. The ensuing frenzy prompted RagingBull to remove the post. However, it quickly migrated to other stock message boards and continues to wreak havoc to this day.

The post is linked to regularly from every stock message board. Here it is on April 18, 2007 on StockHouse.ca’s “BullBoards”. Here is the same post over at Allstocks.com. And here it is on Digg.com.

The original hoax is so specific, that its details now appear as referenced facts throughout message board culture. Notice how the pay structure details are noted in this “Bashers Handbook” on Stockhouse.ca. Or notice this poster’s reference to Mendacious Capital Partners. “Mendacious” is alleged to be hiring paid bashers, and is also located in Stamford, Connecticut. Look at the care that went into creating this website. But tell me, what sort of investment company would name themselves, “Mendacious”?

Why Paid Bashing Doesn’t Exist

There are only two possible profit motives of “paid bashing”: to short a stock or buy it at a cheaper price. But either explanation falls flat. Only microcap stocks are small enough to conceivably be manipulated by an online message board. But it is virtually impossible to find a broker who will allow anyone to short a stock under $5. Not only is shorting penny stocks closely regulated, but it seems obvious that brokerages would quickly go bankrupt if they allowed the practice.

As for the idea that an investment company would need to manipulate message boards to buy penny stock shares at a cheaper price, well, I find it deeply unlikely. I’ve followed these accusations on stock message boards for more than a decade, and not one ounce of proof has ever been produced. It is clear that the burden of proof is to provide evidence that such operations do exist, since there is only evidence that they do not.

Myth-Busting

ValueWiki welcomes your investigative journalism. If you can prove the existence of a paid basher/pumper company, please email me at jonathan (at) valuewiki (dot) com. I will preserve your anonymity and publish any verifiable information you can produce.


TheStreet.com Acquires StockPickr

April 26, 2007

TechCrunch announced today that TheStreet.com has acquired their partner site StockPickr. TheStreet.com formerly owned 49.9% of Stockpickr, but has now purchased the remaining 50.1%. Stockpickr was founded and run by former hedge fund manager and published auther, James Altucher.

About TheStreet.com

TheStreet.com (TSCM) was started in 1996 by now-famous investing pundit Jim Cramer. The online investment site did not turn a profit until nine years later, in 2005. Continually expanding its internet presence, on March 8 TheStreet.com announced a distribution deal with Howard Lindzon’s popular Wallstrip.

About StockPickr

StockPickr founder James Altucher has commented that he will remain actively involved with the site, which would indicate TheStreet.com has wisely retained him on an earnout. I wouldn’t be shocked if a similar deal will be announced with Howard Lindzon. TheStreet.com would be wise to pull WallStrip’s popular content in-house, if they have the chance.

The consensus in the Finance 2.0 space is that this deal signals a growing embrace of Web 2.0 innovations by the financial world. This may encourage further experimentation and growth by startups as well as established companies.