Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 28, 2006 7:37 AM

I Don't Get The Z-List

I believe it was President George W. Bush who said (and I quote), "fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again." I did take part in one Blog Chain Letter (the Five Things Meme), but I'm just more than a little confused about why I should bother with this new one (or any other for that matter) that is making its way across the Blogosphere called, The Z-List.

It all started over at The Viral Garden - a Blog maintained by Mack Collier - with a post called, Revenge of the 'Z-Lister'. Here's a breakdown of the idea:

- Create more link-love for Blogs that you appreciate which may be unknown.
- Cut and paste The Viral Garden's list into your Blog, add your own favorite Blogs and post the list on your Blog.
- All Bloggers can take part by cutting and pasting the post they originally saw and creating a new post on their Blog.

In the end, this Z-List meme should game the Technorati system which uses the number of Blogs that link to a particular one to determine its "authority" (is this even true?). As the meme spreads, this Z-List would get longer and longer giving more Blogs more exposure and links. Collier also asks that people do not include their own Blog.

Why would anyone want to game Technorati?

Why not just add the Blogs you like to your Blogroll? Most people paying attention to their own traffic would notice that you've added the link to your Blogroll and, if your Blog is any good and they like your content, would probably add you to their Blogroll.

I took a look at a lot of the Blogs - a good list is now housed over at Seth Godin's Squidoo where he created a lens here: The Z List - and I'm still lost over how this whole Z-List works.

Why would anyone want to read a post filled with hundreds of links to other Blogs (I've seen some Z-List posts that have over two hundred links in them)? In my humble opinion, Blog postings like that remind me of the early days of link farms. If you really want to know what I consider the "best of the best," I've created a Blogroll (it's over there on the left) and if I catch anything new that's got my attention, you can be sure I'll add it - that's the whole ethos of a Blog - if you like what I Blog about, maybe you'll like some Blogs that have my attention.

I just don't see the attraction of this meme. Maybe I'm being a little Scrooge, but it really has got me confused. I do my best to not link to Blogs unless I really appreciate them and think that you will too. By letting that spirit go, I'm just becoming a traffic whore. I'm sure people who are digging the Z-List meme are getting some traffic spikes and maybe there are a handful of new readers who may not have been exposed to their Blog before, but I'd much rather have people like Seth Godin link to me because of something I've written on my Blog or contributed to his by adding value to the community and the conversation.

Then again, based on the success of the Z-List, I'm probably in the minority. Most people just want the link-love, Technorati rankings and traffic. If you read the original post over at The Viral Garden, the spirit of it was to create attention to some marketing Blogs that may not have all that much traffic. If you look at what it has become over at Seth Godin's Z-List Lens, you'll see a very different meme has taken place.

Sidebar: this Twist Image Blog has shown up on many people's Z-List.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by seth godin
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch

    from the mail I'm getting, it's not about gaming the system. It turned into an easy way to find overlooked blogs... like that table at the front of the bookstore.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitch Joel
    Mitch Joel

    I love that part of the bookstore Seth - it's where I got my copy of Small Is The New Big :)

    I guess this quote from The Viral Garden's initial post really threw me:

    "The idea is to create a meme built around giving link-love to the blogs that deserve it, and hopefully turn Technorati's system of using a blog's # of links to determine its 'authority', on its ear."

    I also see a lot of Blogs on the list that certainly don't fall into the "blogs that I feel aren't getting their due."

    Reply
  • Posted by C.C. Chapman
    Mitch Joel

    So glad I'm not the only one who kept seeing this pop up and wondering the point. I mean I totally understand the concept of link love, but something about this one just didn't do it for me. :)

    I love that table as well. It's very dangerous to me and my wallet.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mack Collier
    Mitch Joel

    Hi guys, if you come into the list late, or don't read The Viral Garden, it's easy to wonder why this is a big deal or why you should care.

    Personally, I have never been a fan of any type of ranking systems, and I think ones such as Technorati's simply spurn the 'A-Lister' debates that seem to pop up every few months. And I think the great thing about blogging is that it gives everyone a voice. But when you add ranking systems and link counts, that voice can be pushed down to the bottom where it will never be noticed, if your blog doesn't have enough links.

    So the 'Z-List' meme was designed to give exposure to 'all the little guys'. The blogs that IMO were putting out great content, but being overlooked because they didn't have enough links to have 'authority', according to Technorati.

    And it's working, many blogs on the list have added well over 100 links in a couple of weeks. But the REAL benefit from this list, is that most of us have found several great new blogs to read. I've added about 10 blogs to my Bloglines that I had never heard of 2 weeks ago. That's invaluable to me.

    And what's better, it builds community. I now regularly email several bloggers that I had again, never heard of a few days ago. Most of them tell me of doing the same thing.

    So in the end, I guess it's just a great way to build community. Sure the links and traffic are nice, but as we all know, those will disappear again soon enough, without content to keep them there. The real benefit is finding great new reads and getting to know some of these bloggers. At least that's been it for me.

    And Mitch, you're exactly right, I see plenty of lists that have the so-called 'A-Listers' on them. That was never my intent with the list, and I purposely excluded several 'A-List' blogs that I personally love, simply because they weren't the 'target' of this list. But that's the great thing about the list, it doesn't belong to me, it belongs to the community, and they can do with it as they wish. Even the Squidoo page that Seth created, I told him that I'm not a big fan of the voting aspect, but since he's also a member of the blogging community, that list is his property as well, so he can also do with it as he wishes.

    The list belongs to all of us and we can all find our own value from it. If you just want a bump in traffic and links, you'll get it. If you want to find some great new reads and get to know some great new bloggers, you'll get that as well. If you don't understand why it's a big deal, and want to pass on the whole thing, that's definitely an option as well.

    Reply
  • Posted by Chris Kieff
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,

    I think one major point that many have missed is Seth's perversion of the intent of the meme.

    MATT said "In an effort to bring more link-love to those blogs that I feel aren't getting their due,"

    SETH said, "The idea is to add your blog, a few others perhaps, and then post."

    Seth perverted the original concept of altruism into self-promotion. Which he denigrated further by creating a lens with negative voting. Where a few could then down vote many others deserving of better treatment. (Many original Z-listers have minus 8 votes?!?)

    Talk about missing the concept, or the holiday spirit. Seth should be ashamed! And he should fix the lens so negative voting is disabled.

    Chris

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitch Joel
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for the clarification Mack. I've been a huge fan of The Viral Garden from (almost) day one. I liked the spirit of the Z-List and, if you follow this Blog, you'll know I am all about community.

    You're right. It is about the community and if people want to use a post like Z-List simply to get links and boost traffic versus those that would like more people to know about their Blogs, it is their choice.

    I'm probably just getting a little overwhelmed with all of these Blog Chain Letter-type memes in general.

    I appreciate your thoughts and passion and, more importantly, what you've done to give those who have a voice, but not necessarily an audience... an audience.

    Reply
  • Posted by Nudecybot
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, thanks for writing on this.

    Search technologies just aren't good enough yet to find good" content. This still requires there to be people out there willing to sort through the content who also share my values (so it probably needs to be me or someone who knows me). Obviously the issue of trusted content is one of the reasons editorial roles are so critical in the content ecosystem. We need people to filter through the masses. Community based collaborative filtering helps to some extent.

    How can I trust anything on the Z-list? What are the criteria for being included on the Z-list? Who is the community doing the filtering? The Z-list simply does not have the minimal characteristics I require to spend lots of time sorting through and looking for writing that speaks to me. I might as well use Stumble Upon...

    Since I don't trust the list I'm not sure I want my blog to be part of it either. Who knows where that list is going to go.

    Strikes me as yet another pyramid style link gaming. The value is high to the first people on the list with diminishing returns. Inevitably quality will dilute and there is the risk of having questionable links associated with the list.

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitch Joel
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks Nudecybot (if that is your REAL name ;)

    I trust people recommending other Blogs on a Z-List under these assumptions:

    - They're not doing it for a reciprocated link.
    - They're doing it because it's a great Blog that others should read.
    - They're just as excited to list that other person's Blog as they would be if someone listed theirs.

    I'm all about community - but community is only built by those that have passion and are willing/wanting to share and experience it with others. I think your comment on this being a "pyramid style link" vibe really hit the nail on the head. I also don't think Mack built this meme with the pyramid in mind... others grabbed, changed and did with it as they wished (essentially, turning it into a pyramid).

    Welcome to the community :)

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    If the aim is to a) give exposure to 'all the little guys', and b) 'build community' then "blog carnivals" (see link below) seem much more legitimate to me.

    http://blogmoneymakingmachine.blogspot.com/2006/12/successful-blogger-gets-50000-visitors.html

    I don't know much about this tactic either (I came across this blog earlier today) but perhaps The Z List advocates would be interested to give it a try (if they haven't already).

    Maki

    Reply
  • Posted by Bernie Goldbach
    Mitch Joel

    I've enough reading and listening and viewing in my daily routine without engaging in another exercise. There's plenty of engagement behind clickstreams that appear on well-written blog posts. In my life, I have enough of a challenge when trying to ensure I give an honest reading to conversations bubbling up alongside posts and podcasts.

    Reply
  • Posted by Karin
    Mitch Joel

    Quote Chris Kief: "Seth perverted the original concept of altruism into self-promotion. Which he denigrated further by creating a lens with negative voting."

    Agree, with another thought in mind: the Plexo thingy just got launched ;-)
    This is IMHO not the way to be 'remarkable'

    Reply
  • Posted by jf.sellsius
    Mitch Joel

    I get the original intent of the Z-list & it's fine with me. I love to promote new bloggers in my neck of blogville. Why not?

    I have no opinion on the Z-mutations other than any negative digg-like rating system is not the high school cafeteria I want to eat in, even if I get to sit next to blogtown's starting quarterback.

    I'm OK with self-promotion but don't drown me in it. I'm a fun loving capitalist.

    What I dont understand is the bloggery that says "content is king, just post good content and you'll get the attention". Apparently that must be a crock. If content is king, it's a naked emperor.

    http://tinyurl.com/ydpzgr

    Reply
  • Posted by Sean Moffitt
    Mitch Joel

    Happy New Year Mitch,

    I see you've become the focal point of conversation here again...always a nose for the headline.

    My view:
    1) I'm a big fan of Mack so I'm biased - I think his objectives were noble and expected outcome altruistic, Seth's weren't bad either but I have to agree the negative voiting piece is a bummer

    2) I'm fighting two forces - being over-memed but also wanting to help the community, the 1% percenters get some exposure - I'm trying to be a better blog participant this year so I've erred for the latter

    3) The outcome based on being on the list myself is that I received more curious readers to my blog, never a bad thing

    4) I'm overwhelmed by the list - it's too bad somebody (like Seth Godin has suggested) couldn't categorize the list by type of interest to make it have some meaning and more searchable

    For me, The Z-list is a nice effort, an interesting blogging phenomenon and something that will inflate artificial traffic for some and level off for most a month from now...

    Look forward to a great 2007...cheers.

    Reply
  • Posted by Sunshine
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks for your post and for sharing your take of the Z-list. I really liked reading the discussion here and Seth definitely has a good point with "the table at the front of the bookstore" idea.

    Although I found the "Naked emperor" comment LOL funny, I have to disagree with "jf.sellsius". Content is king if you are in a small enough "content pool" but that is the irony of the internet and the blogosphere. It gets bigger every day.

    Reply
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