I found Liam Cassidy's blog because I use search tools to feed my own ego. He said the magic words know "Naked Conversations," and there he was in all my RSS feeds. Once I got to Liam's site, I not only liked what he said about the book, I discovered someone new who shared my interest on a variety of subjects.
He mentions, for example, the ability of bloggers to shout back at big branded companies and to tell others about shoddy support. I care about this and have been known to climb a soapbax with megaphone in hand on this issue. He writes how bloggers seem to champion fair play. I have some religion on this issue as well. In fact, Liam's post got me to do what I assume he wants me to do. I followed my ego feed to his post. I liked it. I looked around the whole blog and liked other stuff, so I subscribed and now I am attempting to send some traffic his way by pointing you to check out his blog as well.
If patterns prevail, Liam will get a few more hits, and then a smaller percentage will subscribe, and maybe point others his way if he keeps writing on matters that are useful or interesting to his new subscribers. This is how the network works. the power is not really in the rank, but in the network of blogging. The topic determines the neighborhood of that network.
This brings me to the one key point where I am not joined at Liam's hip. He and I do not precisely agree on how influence works.
"I'm not complaining," Liam says, but "rather, commenting on what I think is an interesting emerging condition, or state, in the blogosphere. When it comes to influence, some bloggers, to paraphrase, Benjamin, the wise old ass an Orwell's Animal Farm, "some bloggers are more equal than others," then goes on to offer a few good pointers on how bloggers can make themselves better noticed.
There is undeniable truth in what he says. If I write something, it may have some degree of greater influence than Liam, because, according to Technorati, I have more readers and links than he does--at least at this moment, and if Robert Scoble writes about it, Technorati says he's ten times more influential than I am.
But that perspective overlooks the real power of the blogosphere, which is in the network, not in us nodes, some of whom are old asses, even if the wisdom part remains in doubt.
The nodes are highly dynamic. Eighteen months ago, Michael Arrington was virtually unknown. Now he's the top blogging influencer if you happen to be a Web 2.0 company. If Michael pisses off too many people over too long a period of time, or if people display more brilliance, provide better information or write with greater prolifically, than Michael will get pushed off the rankings mountain. This will be difficult, because along with pissing off lots of people, Michal is extremely good at what he does.
But he's only relevant in an increasingly slender slice of the blogosphere pie. He's worthless to you, if your passion is hummingbirds or sports or politics or cooking.
Liam mentions the influence of Paul Thurrott's Internet Nexus regarding product support issues. In that category, Paul has great influence today. That is because Paul continues to contribute on that topic. Other people like Jeff Jarvis and others come and go.
What gets your rankings up is by writing about things that are relevant to others on a shared topic. What keeps you climbing in the ranks is to keep contributing to the relevant community. I'm told the alleged "Top 100" blogger list has a 60% year-to-year turnover rate.
I've written too many times about the list of unknown bloggers rising to the top by: revealing Dan Rather's sloppiness; photo blogging punctures in an Alaskan Airlines jet in flight; exposing rotten working conditions; the horror of being in a London tube when a bomb goes off; the wrath of a tsunami hitting Phuket's shores; the need to connect with loved ones after a hurricane wallops a small town and so on. Some of these blog authors rose to the top for a day then disappeared. Others have remained prominent.
For business people, the day to day contribution on a specific topic have brought them to prominence. Arrington is a shining example. My friend and client Pat Phelan has risen up several hundred thousand ranking places, not by writing on spectacular topics, but writing prolifically and with relevance just by writing about what is interesting and valuable in the area of low-cost phone calling. The same goes for another friend, Web strategist Jeremiah Owyang, who has become prominent by showing how corporations can either build communities or become influential over existing ones. In fact, he has followed all the pieces of advice that Liam offers at the end of his column.
The way all this happens is not by watching the rankings and determining your position with it. It is by watching the network and determining how you can benefit those in closest proximity to your position in it. We are all nodes on the social network. We are all connected.
Liam, who says he has relatively low ranking has addressed issues that are proximate to me and I enjoy decent rankings. I amplify what he has to say. Some people follow my link and check out Liam's post. If they like it, they check out what else Liam has written about recently. If they like that, they click on an icon and subscribe. If Liam keeps posting things that are relevant to a particular network neighborhood, than he rises in popularity. In that popularity there is influence. To become even more influential he has to remain generous with thoughts and information that are valuable, and hen the other nodes keep pointing to him.
This is a very long way of saying that it's not about the rankings which are temporary. Michael Arrington is considered on top of the influence pile for Web 2.0 start up companies. Eighteen months ago, very few people ever heard of him. If over the next 18 months, he may become the leopard frozen at the top of the mountain, or he may disappear. Sooner or later we all disappear, making room for Liam and the multitude of new bloggers coming in every day.
Or may these are just the mutterings of an old ass. Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. This happens to be my favorite of American holidays. We should all remember once a year, all the things we have to be thankful for, don't you think?