House Majority Leader Race: Final Hours

Tomorrow, the House GOP will meet to elect their next majority leader. And so, one last time, I’d urge anyone concerned with the need for reform in Congress, or with the success of the Republican party, to contact your Representative and urge them to support a candidate who will commit to real reforms. (The House switchboard is (202) 224-3121 ).
I have endorsed John Shadegg as the man I see as best suited to driving real change in the House. But this is a three way race, and one which requires that the winning candidate receive 50% of the votes. Should none of the candidates meet this bar, a second ballot will be held between the two front-runners.
It is my sincere hope that Shadegg is one of the two candidates in the run-off. But politics is the art of considering all the possibilities, and so I think it is important to not just endorse Shadegg, but also to state clearly that, should the runoff come down to John Boehner vs. Roy Blunt, my clear preference would be for Representative Boehner.
I believe Shadegg is the right choice for the GOP at this pivotal moment. But I also am impressed with Boehner’s anti-earmarks stance, and he definitely conveys his interest in genuine reform more convincingly than Rep. Blunt.
So I would encourage you not just to let your Representative know that Shadegg should be the first choice, but also make clear that if it can’t be Shadegg, it has to be Boehner.
Less than 48 hours left. Make those calls now…

George W. Bush: Porkbuster!

From tonight’s SoTU:
“I am pleased that Members of Congress are working on earmark reform – because the Federal budget has too many special interest projects.”
From the Porkbusters team, I say: welcome aboard, Mr. President!
I’ll spare you the lecture on how cutting pork and limiting frivolous spending is a clear winner of an issue for Republicans (and a relatively painless way to earn back some fiscal-conservative credits that you’ve lost), as I’m sure Karl has already walked you through that. So let me just remind you that it is, indeed, the right thing to do, and an issue that I hope we’ll have your support on in the months to come.
Having the Presidential bully pulpit keeping Congressional feet to the fire on the need for earmark reform is a Very Good Thing — and one that I sincerely hope is not a This Night Only performance.

State of Flux: Where is the Party of Reagan?

Where Is The Party Of Reagan?
“In the scenario that Roy Blunt is elected to be the new majority leader; I will withdraw my membership from the Republican Party and become an independent. I became a Republican a day after I swore in as an US citizen. But I am now reconsidering my membership.
I became a Republican long before I became a US citizen, long before I came to the US, long before I was old enough to vote. I was a young boy in Vietnam listening clandestinely to Voice of America (VOA) over a short wave radio…”

Where, indeed? As we say, read the whole thing

John Shadegg for Majority Leader

Up until a few weeks ago, if you had asked me if I cared about who the House Majority Leader was for the Republicans, I would have looked at you like you had two heads. Sure, I’m politically wonky, but internal GOP leadership struggles? Please.
But that’s because I was being a bit of an idiot, and more to the point, not paying enough attention to the genuine battle over reform that is playing out in the leadership race. I’m not a diehard GOP partisan, and I don’t think of the Good of the Party as a goal in itself. But I do believe in limited government; in expanding transparency and openness in the functioning of Congress; in limiting the power of lobbyists and raising the power of individual citizens. And of course, I believe in the corrupting influence of “pork” earmarks, and the need to clean up both those small fiscal disasters, as well as the larger budgety issues weighing down our national finances.
The Majority Leader race is turning out to be a referendum on exactly these principles. In one corner, as the frontrunner, you have Roy Blunt, who took up the reigns from Tom Delay and whose campaign slogan might as well be “business as usual”. And on the other end of the spectrum, John Shadegg, who is leading a small but growing revolt among members who recognize that for the good of the GOP, and of the Congress and nation, it’s time for real change, and real reform. (Somewhere in the middle is John Boehner.)
I don’t warm to politicans all that easily. But Shadegg, with a 97% rating from Citizen’s Against Government Waste on pork issues, impressed me with his anti-pork credentials. And his answers to our questions on policy and reform were good ones, showing not just a grudging acceptance of the need for a reform, but a real passion for it. And lastly, if intangibly: listening to the way he handled himself on the blogger call, I just plain liked the guy. He spoke candidly and openly; seemed honestly interested in answering questions, and sincerely committed to the ideas he was championing.
As Glenn points out in his own post in support of Shadegg, it is pretentious for a blogger to declare an “endorsement”, especially for a leadership race in which nobody but Congressmen can vote. But for whatever it’s worth, Shadegg has my endorsement, and my support.
It isn’t my support that Shadegg needs, however. He needs Representatives, and most particularly: he needs the members of the Republican Study Committee, the conference of diehard conservative Republicans which he once chaired — and he needs all of them. Many RSC members endorsed Roy Blunt before Shadegg entered the race, but have not yet publicly committed to support their former leader.
Even as somewhat of an outsider to hardcore conservative activism, I can see how baffling it is for RSC members to not be supporting Shadegg as the standard-bearer for limited government and reform at this crucial time. And if you’re equally confused, there’s something you can do.
The list below shows RSC members who are currently stated as endorsing Roy Blunt, along with their DC and district office numbers. Pick up the phone, give them a call, and urge them to give Shadegg their support. Especially if you are in their state, or even better, their district.
The next few weeks may well determine both the course of the Republican party for years to come, and the chances for real and meaningful reform in the way Congress does about business. If you care about either, pick up the phone, and help John Shadegg get the support he needs.

Continue reading “John Shadegg for Majority Leader”

John & Al, Paris & Nicole

All politicians “play to the base”, making occasional outrageous statements that engage and excite their core constituencies, but won’t necessarily help them with the electorate as a whole.
At some point, though, you have to begin suspecting that a politician may no longer even be trying to win elections, but rather has crossed over into a continual base-appeasing mode that guarantees sufficient attention to fund ongoing campaigns, without any particular regard for whether or not any will ever be successful. The process of campaigning has become an end in itself; a permanent job description, rather than a step towards actual elected office.
Today’s example: John Kerry’s call for a fillibuster on Alito’s nomination.
Kerry has become the Paris Hilton to Al Gore’s Nicole Ritchie on the stage of American politics: creatures whose fame has become self-sustaining; and who remain in the public eye not because of any achievement or acumen, but who are simply famous for being famous.

House Majority Leader Candidates Agree On Key Reforms

Last week, all three candidates battling for the House Majority Leader position appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program, and each also conducted a conference call with bloggers. Over the past several days, I’ve parsed through the transcripts of all six sessions, and extracted out the candidates’ answers to key reform and policy questions.
The full table of results can be seen on the main GOP leadership page, and there are predictably some key policy differences between the candidates.
But in reviewing their responses, what struck me is how all three were willing to make broad commitments to key reform measures. Those who, like myself, are most focused on this race because of an interest in implementing genuine reform, will be heartened to see the wide consensus on proposals that probably would have been considered radical just a few months ago.
For example:
– All three candidates said they would support a measure to require ‘earmarks’ be identified by the name of the suggesting member of Congress
– All three candidates endorsed the application of FOIA to Congress, and the suggestion that all legislation be posted on the Internet 72 hours prior to a vote
In addition, the candidates expressed dissatisfaction with the free-speech limitations imposed by McCain-Feingold, and generally agreed that reforms are needed in the area of subsidized travel for Congress.
If this all seems too good to be true: well, maybe it is. But thanks to the work of the team of bloggers who participated in these sessions, we now have quite a few commitments to reform on-the-record from all three candidates. So whoever wins the race, we should expect — and, politely, demand — to see some genuine action on implementing these proposals.
The Majority Leader election is scheduled for February 2nd, less than two weeks from today. But for those of us interested in achieving real change in the way Congress does business, that will be just the beginning…

House Majority Leader: Blogger Endorsements

Now that the blogger conference calls are complete and the race for House Majority Leader is heating up, I’ve set up a mechanism for individual bloggers to log their endorsement of a candidate.
if you want to have your position noted, post your argument and include one of the following exact phrases (quotes and formatting are not required) in your post:
“I endorse Roy Blunt”
“I endorse John Boehner”
“I endorse John Shadegg”
(For group blogs, you can also use the appropriate phrasing “We endorse”)
The Ecosystem will search for the phrases above, and show detailed results here, as well as listing summary statistics on the main GOP leadership page. And yes, for me to scan your blog properly you need to be registered in the Ecosystem, which is painless, free, and can be done right here.
Please note that your position will not show up immediately, as the scans are run regularly every evening.

An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers

I’m pleased to present the following statement on behalf of the undersigned bloggers.

-N.Z.

An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.
We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.
But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.
As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.
Signed,
N.Z. Bear, The Truth Laid Bear
Hugh Hewitt, HughHewitt.com
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit.com
Kevin Aylward, Wizbang!
La Shawn Barber, La Shawn Barber’s Corner
Lorie Byrd / DJ Drummond , Polipundit
Beth Cleaver, MY Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
Jeff Goldstein, Protein Wisdom
Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
John Hawkins, Right Wing News
John Hinderaker, Power Line
Jon Henke / McQ / Dale Franks, QandO
James Joyner, Outside The Beltway
Mike Krempasky, Redstate.org
Michelle Malkin, MichelleMalkin.com
Ed Morrissey, Captain’s Quarters
Scott Ott, Scrappleface
The Anchoress, The Anchoress
John Donovan / Bill Tuttle, Castle Argghhh!!!
If you would like to be known as also supporting this statement, please include a comment below, or Trackback to this post on your blog.
Update 1/15/06: As a next step in the effort to help push forward a reform agenda in the GOP leadership fight, I have published a page where bloggers and blog-readers can submit questions which they would like to see answered by the candidates, and vote on which questions submitted by others they like best. Ultimately, I’ll submit the most popular questions to the three candidates’ offices, and hopefully we’ll be able to actually get some responses. Please check out the questions page here, and join in with your suggestions and feedback!

Porkbusters: Next Steps

Things have been a bit quiet on the Porkbusters front for the past month, given the holidays, the Congressional break, as well as other competing priorities for both Glenn and myself.
But it is a new year, and we are gearing up to push forward with new ideas to expand and continue the work we started on Porkbusters in 2005. So, we wanted to open the floor up for suggestions. How can we evolve the project to have the greatest benefit? What features would you like to see on the Porkbusters pages? What types of issues should the project be focusing on?
Comments are open below, and we’re listening…

Blunt, Boehner and Pork

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the pluses and minuses of the two frontrunning candidates for the Republican’s next Majority Leader. One issue I certainly wanted to understand was their position on pork, and so I headed over to Citizen’s Against Government Waste to check how they were rated. Here’s how they stacked up:
John Boehner: 75% positive score for the 108th congress
Roy Blunt: 65% positive score for 108th congress
So: both candidates make it into CAGW’s “friendly” category, but neither are lighting up the sky as blazing stars of Porkbusting.
Any chance we can throw these two back in the pond and ask for a do-over…?
Update: Can’t throw these two back, but now there is an Option C:
John Shadegg: 97% positive score for the 108th congress

Happy 2006

Happy New Year, everyone.
Mrs. Bear, Larry the Car Broker, a couple other friends and I rang in the New Year at the Orange County fairgrounds last night. Quite a fun event, actually: five stages with different bands playing throughout the night, including Violent Femmes, Sugar Ray, Joan Jett, Berlin, and a bunch of others. And not to be outdone by Times Square, midnight featured the “orange drop”, which you can see occuring from my slightly-less-than-ideal cellphone pic to the right. Laserbeams and fireworks, too!
It’s an unsurprisingly slow-moving day of recovery today, but I have big ambitions for TTLB in 2006, and I’ll be sharing a bit more of where I plan on taking the site over the next days and weeks. Stay tuned, and hope you had a happy and safe New Year…

A New Bearmobile: Thoughts on Car Buying

It was a long time coming, but yesterday I finally retired the old bearmobile (which provided thirteen years of honorable service) and purchased a new buggy.
The experience was actually a pleasant one: although Mrs. Bear and I did purchase a car for her use a few years back, that was a hurried process, as for various reasons we Had To Get A Car within a few weeks. So that left little time to enjoy the research and selection process: which for an analytical type like myself, is the fun part.
This time, there was plenty of that. So, I figured I should share my thoughts & lessons learned on the process.
Selection & Research
The absolute best tool I found for online research is the Consumer Reports New Car Buying Kit. For $39, you get three months of unlimited access to their car database. This includes detailed reviews by the CU staff, specifications and ratings on each vehicle you are considering (both the base specs/measurements/features of the car, as well as CU’s ratings and crash test results), and full pricing detail comparing MSRP, “dealer invoice” and the price you should be bargaining for on the vehicle, including all options (more on this later).
Most usefully, the CU car kit also provides a widget that lets you select up to four vehicles at a time and compare their specifications and ratings side-by-side across all categories. Very handy: I found myself printing these off and carrying them around with me during my research quite a bit.
Beyond the CU tools, manufacturers web sites are also useful, of course. And many of them also have comparison tools (from allegedly neutral data sources) that let you stack the manufacturer’s vehicle up against its competition. These are useful mainly to see which attributes each manufacturer highlights as “advantages” — browse the comparison tools of all of them, and you’ll start to get a good picture of the strengths/weaknesses of each.
Lastly, there are plenty of sites online that offer car reviews, including Consumer Guide, Yahoo Autos, Automotive.com, and Cars.com. My preferred technique is to simply use Google to search for reviews on the specific make and model I’m looking for. I’ve found that the following syntax works best: “2006 Honda Accord” review .
Be sure that you understand when the vehicle you are looking at last went through a major redesign, and what changes (if any) occurred in the current model year. Generally, reviews of the current model year will mention this information: then you can use that data to expand your review search. (If, for example, the 2006 review for a vehicle mentions that it was redesigned for the 2004 model year, you can then also look at 2004 and 2005 model year reviews for a wider set of reviews).
Also be aware that all the online “build and price” tools you will find where you can select the options you want are a bit deceptive — including the ones on the manufacturer’s sites. Consumer Reports, CarsDirect, and the manufacturer’s own web sites will let you configure option packages which, while not technically invalid, will be practically impossible for you to find, unless you’re willing to wait for a special-built model to come from the factory (if such a thing is even feasible). Make a point of understanding what option packages are actually commonly available, so you don’t get a surprise late in the process and either can’t get the gadgets you want or end up with a few extra grand on the price you weren’t expecting due to “required” options you weren’t aware of.
Safety & Crash Tests
There are two major sources of crash test information for cars in the U.S.: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The NTHSA is the official government agency charged with smashing up cars, while the IIHS is a nonprofit group funded by the insurance industry.
The two groups perform different types of crash tests. As I’m not a safety expert, I won’t offer any opinions on the merits or disadvantages of the tests themselves, other than to state the obvious, which is that ideally, you want a vehicle that performed well on both the IIHS and NHTSA tests.
Frustratingly, you might not be able to find crash test data for all vehicles — particularly from the NHTSA. My understanding is that NHTSA selects a subset of vehicles each year which they predict will be big sellers to test — so if you are looking at a lesser-known model, you might be out of luck. While this makes sense from a government-spending perspective (test the cars that the most people will drive), it might leave you with just the IIHS tests to rely on.
Test Drives
Of course, everything on paper doesn’t matter much unless it feels right behind the wheel. I never liked going to car dealerships much in the past, for fear of being hassled/harassed, but it didn’t really bother me much this time. Just walk into the dealership, scope out the vehicle you’re interested in, and ask to take a test drive. Generally, it’s as easy as that. After the test drive, your sales rep will frequently ask the classic question “is there anything I can do to get you to buy today?” — just politely but firmly decline, and most won’t bug you further. They’ll usually want to get your name and phone number: if you don’t want to get harassed but are too honest to give a fake number, give ’em your office number (not your home or cellphone).
Closing the Deal
OK, so you’ve done your homework, and have found the Perfect Car. Now you want the Perfect Deal. How do you get it?
In theory, you could go about it the old fashioned way. March right into a dealership, tell ’em what you want, and ask for their best offer. Stare into the whites of your sales rep’s eyes; look deep into his soul (if he has one; not necessarily a good assumption) and let the test of wills begin. A couple of hours and a few trips to “check with my manager about what we can do here” later, you might walk out with a good deal. Or, you might get screwed.
I’m told some people enjoy this kind of bare-knuckles negotiation. But then, I’m also told that some people enjoy bungie-jumping and eating sardines, so my conclusion is that some people are idiots.
No, in today’s car buying environment, you have two real options if what you are focused on is the bottom line price you’ll pay, and not the thrill of the chase. One is Internet services like CarsDirect, where you select a vehicle online, and their staff finds it for you at a predefined special price. The other way is to do what I did, and use a car broker.
The reason that negotiating at the dealership is now only a game for suckers is that via a car broker or (reputable) Internet service, the department you are dealing with at the car dealership is the “fleet” department. This department (or person), isn’t tasked with making enough profit to pay the salaries of all the charming sales personnel you meet roaming the dealership: they can sell a car for a price that is significantly lower than the truly “best” deal a sales floor manager could offer and still have it be considered profitable business for the dealership. So what the means is that it doesn’t matter how skilled a negotiator you are: if you’re talking to the sales floor staff, it is pretty much impossible to get as good a deal as you could via a service that goes through the fleet department.
And going the other route is also much easier. In my case, I was lucky to have a friend in the business: Larry at Fleet Auto Buyers in Costa Mesa, CA. (No, Larry isn’t paying me to plug his service, nor did he even know about TTLB until I told him after we closed the deal. Although now that I think of it, I might make him buy me a beer).
Here’s how the process worked with Larry: late Wednesday, I gave him two vehicles that I had narrowed my choices down to. On Thursday, he had found out their availability in the area and gave me pricing. Friday morning I filled out a one-page credit application (the only form I filled out myself in the entire process) and sent it back to him. Around noon I made my final decision told Larry to pull the trigger on one of the cars he had found.
Larry got the vehicle from the dealer, and I met him at his office late Friday. About fifteen minutes of signing the inevitable required forms, and a half hour of “ooohing” and “aaahing” at the features of the vehicle as Larry explained them to me, I was zooming away in the new Bearmobile. Final price I paid? $600 under dealer invoice, which is about as good as you’re going to get. (The auto broker’s fee comes from the dealership, not from you, so that really was the final price.)
So bottom line on closing the deal: avoid the dealership sales force. If you’re in the Southern California area, I can definitely recommend Fleet Auto Buyers (and I’ll bet Larry might have references to other brokers if you call him from somewhere else). And if you can’t find a broker to trust, consider the online services like CarsDirect.
Conclusion
So that’s the story of my car-buying experience. Take it for what it’s worth, because as they say: your mileage may vary…

Bloggingheadstv Reminder


I’ve mentioned Mickey Kaus and Robert Wright’s bloggingheads.tv in the past, but it’s time for a reminder.
If you enjoy reading this blog, or, for that matter, any blog, you should be watching this show. Kaus and Wright are two of the sharper knives in the drawer of Internet punditry, and through their dialogues bring out the best in each other. Both are passionate, but neither is particularly partisan, and it is extraordinarily refreshing to listen to two smart guys simply trying to parse through the latest events and make some sense of them.
And yes, the technology actually is impressive. Even though I’ve watched every single episode they’ve produced thus far, I only just realized last night that they are streaming at 300kbps — which means you can watch the video full-screen on your monitor and it appears almost as clear as a normal TV broadcast.
Anyway, I’m a big fan, so I’m going to keep talking about them until y’all give them the audience they deserve. So save me some posts and just go watch…

Help Wanted

Folks:
I am taking a long overdue step, and looking for some additional help to keep the Ecosystem and other TTLB functions running at their best. If you are interested in any of the positions below, please e-mail me, and if not, I’d appreciate your assistance in spreading the word. Thanks!
-NZ
Ecosystem Administrators
Historically, my ability to provide prompt and effective ‘customer service’ to bloggers has been somewhere between miserable and nonexistent. It is time for that to change: my goal is that in the near future, any and all support requests will be dealt with within days or hours, not weeks or months. But, it’s foolish to think I can do that on my own, and so, I’m looking for several people to help out.
The primary responsibility of this role is simple: reviewing support tickets submitted by TTLB users and addressing them appropriately, using the same behind-the-scenes administration tools that I use. In return, the administator(s) will be listed prominently with links back to their weblogs at the top of the Ecosystem navigation bar.
I hope that this position will appeal to a few up-and-coming bloggers who have enjoyed the Ecosystem, and who would benefit from the added exposure and visibility that working with TTLB would provide. No, it’s not going to make you rich (or even pay your beer money), but it help you might get you noticed.
LAMP Guru
TTLB runs on the traditional LAMP (Linux / Apache / MySQL / PHP) platform. I am looking for a platform expert who knows the ins and outs of running a high performance system on LAMP to perform a technical audit of the exisitng TTLB architecture and code, and make recommendations for potential performance, stability, and operational improvements.
For the audit, I am open to discussions on paying real dollars or other forms of compensation. Assuming the audit goes well, this may also lead to an ongoing relationship when I need additional development assistance or consulting expertise.

Once again, if you are interested in either of the above, or know someone who might be, please drop me a line, and thanks…

Ecosystem Changes Unveiled

Folks:
Over the past week, I’ve continued testing various tweaks and enhancements to the Ecosystem’s ranking algorithms, and am now ready to explain what changes have actually been implemented.
First, though, a statement of principle. The goal of the Ecosystem is, and has always been, to provide as accurate as possible a measure of the relative popularity of blogs. It is imperfect: it is now, always has been, and always will be. But as long as it is taken with the appropriate grain of salt, I still believe it can provide a useful metric of how blogs are doing in their quest for visibility and recognition throughout the blogosphere.
But keeping the system relevant requires more sophistication than it used to: simply counting links doesn’t cut it. And a large reason for this is that some bloggers have started to find ways to succeed in raising their link counts which really have nothing to do with raising their actual popularity in the blogosphere. And that’s the disconnect that I’m continually trying to close: to make it as hard as possible for someone to raise their Ecosystem ranking without it being due to a real gain in their “true” blogosphere popularity.
It’s an unreachable ideal, but hey, it keeps me off the streets.
A few notes on the changes:
– To complete work on the latest changes, I had to perform another hard-reset on the link database yesterday, and so we will be slowly accumulating link data back up to the standard 7-10 day window over the next week. But it is my hope that this is the last full-reset I’ll need to do for a while; my apologies for the annoying jumping around your rankings have seen over the past week.
– I also made a significant change that, unfortunately, has the result of demoting many blogs on the lower ends of the Ecosystem. From now on, the “Insignificant Microbe” category is devoted solely to blogs with zero inbound links. Many of these blogs had crept up into the higher categories — thereby bumping up the blogs above them even further. Having shoved the zero-link blogs down to Microbe status, everybody on the bottom end of the system also slid down a bit.
– To allow bloggers to verify their link counts, I have now re-enabled the functionality that allows you to view the full list of links that the Ecosystem has detected going to your blog: simply go to the Details page for your weblog, scroll down, and you’ll see a link to ‘show all links’. If you are unhappy with your new link count or ranking in the Ecosystem, check here first: if there are links missing from other Ecosystem-registered blogs, let me know what they are. If there aren’t, then chances are your blog is where it is supposed to be.
Finally, some additional detail on the changes themselves. Listed below are exerpts from the newly-updated Ecosystem FAQ, which describe the specific changes that have been implemented that affect how blogs are ranked. Please take a look; comments and feedback are of course welcome.
Thanks all…
NZ


What is the ‘nofollow’ tag, and how does the Ecosystem handle it?
The nofollow tag is an attribute that was introduced by Google to help reduce comment and trackback spam. When the Ecosystem sees a link marked as ‘nofollow’, it is completely ignored (the link will not be logged at all). Most weblog software now marks inline trackback links as “nofollow” by default, which means that the Ecosystem will now ignore inline trackback links that it finds on a weblog’s front page. This is by design: in recent times, “open trackback” posts have become widespread, and have led to a distortion of the Ecosystem rankings, particularly for bloggers who made a deliberate habit of trackback-pinging multiple ‘open trackback’ posts for every single one of their own posts (and thereby getting 5-10 “free” links for every one of their posts, grossly inflating their ranking). By ignoring inline trackbacks, the Ecosystem only counts links which a blogger has personally added to their page, which is a better indicator that they find them valuable — and that the linked blogger deserves ‘credit’ for them.
Note that as the policy for TTLB is now to ignore inline trackbacks, the ‘nofollow’ tag is recommended for use so that the Ecosystem can properly identify them. If you choose not to use the ‘nofollow’ tag and have inline trackbacks on your front page, the Ecosystem may default to other, cruder methods of weeding out the inline links, which may result in non-Trackback links being missed.
What is the difference between the “link count” and “link score” shown for my blog?
The link count for a blog lists the raw count of links found pointing to that blog (with the exception of ‘nofollow’ links, which are totally ignored as noted above). In the past, the raw link count seemed a good measure of blog’s relative success and popularity, but in recent times, the blog world has grown more complicated, with more intricate patterns of linking that can distort such a ranking system — sometimes deliberately, sometimes simply as a consequence of the natural evolution of the blogosphere.
To address this issue, TTLB now calculates a link score for each blog which ultimately determines where the blog falls in the Ecosystem rankings. Unlike the raw link count, the link score attempts to correct for issues such as the following:
Blog Networks: Recently we have seen the rise of ‘networks’ of blogs, often founded as commerical ventures, such as Weblogs, Inc. and Creative Weblogging. Frequently, blogs in these networks include not only permalinks to other member blogs in their blogrolls, but a rolling list of posts from their sister blogs as well. Networked blogs, therefore, immediately end up with a signficiant number of links that don’t necessarily say much at all about how popular they are to the general blogosphere, which is what the Ecosystem is attempting to measure. So: TTLB now adjusts a blog’s link score to ignore links that come from sister blogs in the same network.
Excessive links from blog-to-blog: One link from blog A to blog B shows that A thinks B is interesting. Two or three links from A to B shows that A thinks B is really interesting. But how about 10 or 20 links? We’re now seeing small, informal groups of blogs which seem to link to each other’s every post, thereby inflating their Ecosystem rankings. In addition, given that it is quite easy, and frequently free, to set up a blog, there have also been blogs which seem to serve little purpose but to link to other blogs and provide them a rankings boost. So, to combat these problems, the Ecosystem now puts a limit on how many links any blog can provide to another blog before it flags those links as suspect and ignores them.
Excessive links from a single blog in general: Should a link from a blog with 2,000 links to other blogs be worth exactly the same as a link from a blog with only 200 outbound links? A link is a recommendation; it says, “Go look over here, and you’ll find something interesting.” So should a recommendation from someone who says everything is interesting be considered as valuable as one from someone who seems to choose their recommendations with more care? I say “no”. And so there is now a cutoff point for total number of outbound links a blog can have, after which, each additional link causes the “weighting” of a link from that blog to decrease slightly. As I know this is a controversial measure, I’ve made the limit very conservative: by my estimates, less than 5% of all blogs will be affected by this limit. So unless you link to more blogs than 95% of the blogosphere, you don’t have to worry about this change.