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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How to Game the BNN Ratings:You Can Be #1, Too!

For two of the last three weeks, this blog has been rated as Pennsylania's most influential poliblog by BlogNetNews. That just drives some people nutz, which makes it worth it.

Pottstown plagiarist, editor, columnist, blogger, politician, Greek lover, intellectual and celebrity TONY PHYRILLAS (all caps, please) will have to put off his usual "I'm the greatest blogger in the universe" post for at least another week. Closer to home, a Team Casey member jealously snarls, "God knows you have enough enemies of your #1 rated Blognet HATE Blog. You should be proud. It is what America Loves. Bull Shit."

Gotta' love it!

Let me tell you a bit about BlogNetNews (BNN). It's basically a blog feed aggregator, arranged state by state, founded by Dave Mastio. "I've worked for newspapers including USA Today, The Detroit News, the no-longer-with-us Knight-Ridder and The Washington Examiner. I've also worked as a speechwriter for the Bush administration ... . I am starting a new media company called BlogNetNews.com focused on finding ways to make social media more useful to specific communities of readers."

I've been hooked to BNN since Mastio started. I like it, if only because it creates another outlet in which bloggers can be seen. It's another way to get a blog's content found and read. (He only posts excerpts. You have to click and will be redirected to the originating blog if you wish to read an entire post.)

In addition to being an aggregator, Mastio has added two interesting features. The first of these, which is relatively noncontroversial, is his BNN Bulletin. I've loaded this tool on my left sidebar. You can choose liberal, conservative, all or media blogs. I have opted for all - as much diversity as possible.

Mastio's second feature, the BNN ratings index, is a lot more controversial. Back in June, it was viewed as something fun, not taken very seriously. But now, some bloggers view founder Mastio as a "threat to the blogosphere." They've threatened class action lawsuits and are running around with pitchforks. One blogger actually turned off his RSS feed, an amazing act of stupidity, to keep BNN from syndicating his content. These folks apparently never heard of the "fair use" doctrine.

What really pisses them off is they are not rated as highly as they think they should be. Lefties immediately note that Mastio-Bush speechwriter connection, and Mastio himself has added fuel to the fire by starting RightyBlogs. He denies leaning left or right at BNN, and I believe him. "I’ve worked in journalism since 1995 and nobody has ever accused me of such a thing. Messing with the data would destroy BNN’s credibility and with it, the viability of BNN as a commercial enterprise. Since I quit my full time job with The Virginian-Pilot to devote myself full time to expanding BNN, that would be rather self-destructive."

Another blogger suggests it's "trivially simple for diligent or nefarious people to game the system to improve their ranking." Mastio responds, "Since BNN's influence ratings are something I take some pride in, I'd welcome your instruction in how easily they can be manipulated. If you'd be so kind as to use your ideas on how to manipulate it and make yourself number one for this week, I'd welcome the opportunity to learn from any flaws you discover. Just let me know how you do it and I'll make sure we adapt the programming to make it impossible."

That blogger quickly backed off.

Not me. I think it's possible to game the system. What's more, I think I've done it. I'll explain how you, too can be Number 1. When Dave sees this, he can correct me if I'm wrong.

First, you need hits. In most cases, that requires informative and entertaining content. But you can still get away with a lousy blog that contains nothing but "I Hate All Democrats" or "Ed Rendell Picks His Nose and Eats it" posts. How? Simple, silly. Try self-loading software, just like TONY PHYRILLAS (bow your head, please). Ten hits will easily become one hundred.

Second, visit BNN and rate your own blog. Conservative blogs like TONY PHYRILLAS (please genuflect) are always rated very near 10.0 for the week. I decided to give my own blog a few 10.0s here and there, and voilĂ  - Number one, baby! Unfortunately, the bastards are on to me. Monday morning, when I went to rate one of my blogs, I was a pitiful 1.0, which is as low as I can go. The vast right wing conspiracy has put me in my place. In fairness, it's possible I did it to myself by accident. I screw up like that. You see, I'm a Democrat.

The third way to game those ratings is by simply clicking on your own posts at BNN's "most clicked posts" function. I never really noticed it until Friday, when I saw something very odd. Casey's new blog, to which no one links, had a goofy post with an uninteresting and long headline about a dashboard light or something. Yet there were six clicks on that blog! Yeah, right. I decided to look into this. Lo and behold, TONY PHYRILLAS (sacrifice a chicken, please) also had multiple clicks on six different posts that day. I decided to try it myself, and was able to click on my own post eleven times from BNN, creating the false impression that everyone was just dying to read about a Lehigh County tax rebate. I did it again on Tuesday.


All three of these blogs made the top twenty. Some bloggers get there by simply clicking on their own posts in an attempt to obtain an unfair advantage. If others were clicking on those posts, there should be some correlation with another feature, "hot comments." After all, a blog generating lots of clicks should be generating lots of comments, too. But that never happens.

Going back over the past few weeks, I notice that some blogs ranked in the top twenty apparently use this "most clicked posts" feature regularly to increase ratings. You can click on the blog from BNN and easily create the false impression that your blog is widely read. Chief offenders are TONY PHYRILLAS (sacrifice a Democrat, please) and THE CENTRIST (where TONY PHYRILLAS just happens to be a contributor and cross-posts).

The fourth and final way to game ratings is by crossposting at several blogs, making sure that you create links for yourself. TONY PHYRILLAS commonly does this with THE CENTRIST.

So that's my take on how to game the ratings. As much as I love me, and I do, I am by no means the most influential poliblog in Pa. on this or any other week. I'm number one, but don't belong there. Capitol Ideas, Pennsylania Ave. and Pennsyltucky Politics are just three of the poliblogs I think of as superior poliblogs. But they don't game the system. Unlike TONY PHYRILLAS (buy a ticket to his next breakfast, please) and yours truly, they have ethics. I will say this. I'm the most influential poliblog in Nazareth, at least on Main Street.

As I've said before, most people think of me as #2, anyway.


A.J.C. said...

I tested your click theory today and you're right, every click is counted.

TP's fingers must be cramped from all that self-promotion.

Anonymous said...

Great way to start the day, funny as hell!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks. I'm afraid to check my rating today. I hope it's not a minus 10.0.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to thank me too Bernie, I am good for 20 hits a day. :):) Henry

Dave Mastio said...

Bernie, Bernie, Bernie,

I am buried today, so I can't afford to get too deep into this. I if I miss one of your points, it is because I am going fast, not because I am trying to dodge it.

1) Your first point is dead on. Remember we are not trying to measure "influence" in the cosmic sense -- We can't tell if Barack Obama lifted his health care plan from posts on this blog. The best we can measure is how much influence someone is having on the conversation in the blogosphere -- and that can be a bad thing.

2) You can click yourself to the top of the most clicked feature, but it doesn't mean we have to count all those clicks for the influence rating -- due to the wonder of IP addresses. (That's how we limit votes to once per day per blog.)

3) Rating yourself high and rating your "enemies" low works out to a wash.

Anyway, changes are coming to the influence setup as soon as I get to writing up the explanatory parts.

And as always, you post is a great read. I particularly like your summary of the various BNN controversies.

By the way, a new BNN sister site is coming out this summer at progressisphere.com -- we need a northeast editor ... interested?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Progressiphere? An editor? Moi? Sure, that way, I can make sure I'm always on top.

Keep up the good work. I like what you do and think it brings us together.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, you just revealed "the man behind the curtain" like in the Wizard of OZ. I hope alot of people aren't upset that you exposed their tactics. This was like BLOG-GATE! Make sure and check under your car and look for mysterious wires that lead to your radio. (smile)


Bernie O'Hare said...

Alphonso, Blog-Gate? Damn, you're good! I'm so glad we can hear from you.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I drive as '95 jeep. My radio stopped working when someone tried to steal it and took off all the frickin' knobs for some reason.

A.J.C. said...

I particularly like your summary of the various BNN controversies.

The controversies aren't new. They have actually existed for a long time now.

Not to begin attacking Mastio and I hope he checks back to read this, but what does he plan to do with such controversies, such as the unethical (and possibly illegal) practices by TP?

The BNN feed is a great way to keep blogs linked together, but when someone like TP comes along don't you think it stains the credibility of the site? Seeing him on BNN (along with the conservative advertisements) also projects a bias, and issues like this concern me.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I can't speak for Dave, but it sounds like he intends to tighten up on his parameters to make it harder to game the ratings.

Bill said...

thought I would check out some of those blos you mentioned. The link to Pennsyltucky Politics blog states that it stopped on August 15th, 2008.