In this post Adam Greenfield points out a recent bit of Eyebeam reBlogging to illustrate the damage that resyndication feeds could do to Google ranking and giving-credit-where-credit-is-due. Specifically, when Eyebeam reBlogged an item about Jim Davies' Pac-Man Paintings Page, it did not assign the primary, "top of the post" link to the original source but rather to a downstream reblogger. Thus, instead of clicking surfers through to Davies' page, the top link takes them to a secondary source. Greenfield believes such practices muddy the web waters and fears that ultimately a reBlogger could beat out Davies, the content originator, for top Google ranking.

I was the reBlogger at the time so here's an explanation. First, in defense of the Eyebeam reBlog software, it does give the reBlogger a choice which link to use for "top of the post" status, so it's not purely robotic. I chose the link I chose (we-make-money-not-art's reblogging of the item) because w-m-m-n-a had picked and (as best I can recall) resized the photo accompanying the Davies plug and added (admittedly very slight) editorial commentary. I figured that since Davies was being reBlogged so many times he'd ultimately get his due (which at the moment appears to be slashdotting), and I'd give credit to the reblogger who packaged the item in a way most to my taste. And, to be perfectly honest, I thought Davies' art was topical and only mildly amusing so this was my way of hedging a critical endorsement.

As far as Google getting skewed by my capriciousness, jeez, who cares? It's an erratic search measure at best and plain screwy as a measure of intellectual worth. Thanks to Google, my current largest hit-getter is a drawing of gay furry porn I linked to over two years ago, to make a minor point about, ironically, the vernacular side of the Web mooting earnest new media initiatives. As far as I know, I'm the only person who ever linked to it, and it gets disproportionate attention because Google Images pulls it up as an example of the hugely popular "yaoi" (male-male manga) search term. That comes from the URL, not me--I didn't even know the term in June 2002 (in fact, I thought the furries in question were a male and a female). I guess my point is that sometimes it only takes one link to make something "a hit," and getting credit as a "discoverer" of an artwork can result in a tidal wave of unwanted traffic. Not quite the same, honor-wise, as publishing an article in a peer-reviewed journal, for either the critic or the critiqued. To conclude, as David Byrne once said of the government, "Don't worry about Google."

- tom moody 9-25-2004 6:14 pm

Hey, Tom -

I hope you don't really feel I was "singling you out." I just chose the top reBlog post at the time I started writing, and found that it met the criteria I had in mind - it was based on a feed, it presented an item that had already gone through two degrees of republication, and so on. So please don't take any of my comments personally.

FWIW, too, I had inferred some of what you say about not wanting to necessarily endorse with your imprimatur something that was whimsical at best, so that definitely comes across...
- Adam Greenfield 9-25-2004 7:43 pm

Hi, Adam,
No, that's just a bit of mock outrage to spice up the larger argument, about Google and whatnot. I did want to make clear to those who didn't know that Eyebeam is discretionary, unlike some RSS recyclers that really are robots, and just inject the thought that there might be a conscious reason for not linking to something directly. I also wanted to kvetch about that yaoi link, as a random example of Google's irrationality. That gripe didn't actually address your post.

During my reBlogging gig, I found the amount of previously-reBlogged links pretty daunting, and generally tried to cut through to the real deal, but sometimes it just took too much detective work. I think the way to look at it is, whether the original post has the number one ranking or not, blogging and reBlogging gives it recognition, and as long as it's in the top ten or so, the system is working. Google seems to be constantly cacheing and de-cacheing my writing, so I just can't take it too seriously.
- tom moody 9-25-2004 8:05 pm

hey guys, thanks for starting this debate. i think it's important, and it's the kind of thing i've thought about on the back burner since i started working on the reBlog project almost a year ago.

I really want to find the right way in RSS or Atom or something to include the chain of via's and rebloggings and such for a given post.
- fruminator (guest) 9-27-2004 9:33 am

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