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May 29, 2006

Best Blog Forward

Via Alex: Kevin Lim is requesting that bloggers write a post about their most popular blog entries and to tag the entry through Technorati with bestblogforward. Because I can never resist an excuse to go digging through my archives, I'm happy to comply. As Alex notes, Kevin suggests three different methods for selecting "most popular" entries: by comments, by hits, or by Google. Of course each approach will produce vastly different results, but that's part of the fun.

One of my top entries via Google is a book meme that was circulating in winter 2005. The next entry on Google surprised me a little. When Sin City was in theaters, I wrote an entry, Visualizing Sin City about a website that compared panels from Frank Miller's comic book with stills from the Robert Rodriguez film adaptation. Other top entries were my reviews of Crash, Gunner Palace and United 93. Similarly, I get a number of search hits for a post linking to New Ki'd's pineapple salsa recipe.

In terms of comments, my most popular recent entries would be my top ten movie list for 2005 and my announcement that I have been hired for a tenure-track gig at Fayetteville State University. An entry from a couple of years ago on the Democratic primary for Georgia's 2004 Senate race has drawn the most comments of any entry I've written, including several posts from the candidates themselves.

But I'm more interested in those entries that continue to get comments months or years after I've written them, and here two entries really stand out. The first was an entry I wrote on an ABC special about Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code back in 2003. The entry gets an unusual number of hits becaise one of my commenters misspelled "Magdalene," and it continues to attract people who are curious about Brown's conspiracy narrative, the novel's gender politics, or other similar issues. I write the entry simply to express curiosity about the book and its cult status.

The other frequently visited entry mentions my sadness at learning about the execution of David Harris the very week I was teaching the documentary The Thin Blue Line. While Harris is clearly guilty of murder, I mentioned in passing that Errol Morris's documentary had humanized him for me. The entry has continued to be one of my most visited, and commenters have used the entry to discuss the politics of the death penalty, to talk about the documentary, or in some cases to mourn Harris's death. I might not have written the entry if I wasn't teaching the film that summer, so I find it fascinating that the entry remains one of my most popular two summers after I initially wrote it. I think that speaks to the power of Morris's documentary more than anything I had to say about it, but like the "Mary Magdalene" entry, I'm not sure that I intended the entry to be "popular" or what it means that these entries seem to be more popular thn others I've written.

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Posted by chuck at May 29, 2006 10:28 AM

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(I tried to post this comment before but it didn't work. I hope it goes through this time)

This is an odd tag. ;)
The ranking by popularity is really undermining the relevance of search engines on the internet... Not only the misinformation goes unchecked, but sometimes, as you point out, misspelling (or erroneous facts) become a bigger hit than the truthful information itself.
How ironic, we'd need to know about most common mistakes and typos to find more results in a search query.
Search engines need another type of ranking to sort through this wealth of content which pertinence varies greatly. Why always by "popularity"? We know the majority doesn't always make right...
And this is what entices bloggers to follow the trends just to get more hits, so popularity calls more popularity, in a snowball effect.
I'm quite wary about the "popular" approach.

Posted by: HarryTuttle [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 1, 2006 7:56 PM

Harry, the comments seem to be working now. On most Google searches, there will be a prompt for the correct spelling, but blogs, especially those that are heavily linked, often clutter searches, with the result that misinformation finds its way to the top.

I tend to agree with you about popularity not necessarily being a good measure of quality, so within my own blog, I wanted to explore how certain entries become "popular," and my only conclusion is that it's partially by accident. If that mispelling of "Magdalene" didn't appear in my comments, that entry likely would have disappeared into into the digital ether.

Posted by: Chuck at June 1, 2006 8:37 PM

Yeah is it correct spelling that Google prompts or "the closer word with more hits in the database"?

I know your post didn't mean to condone popularity ranking. It's funny to look at it indeed.

Posted by: HarryTuttle [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2006 11:16 AM

Sadly enough, because my blogging software doesn't have spellcheck I sometimes use Google searches to check my spelling on certain words or names.

Posted by: Chuck at June 3, 2006 11:22 AM

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