On Sunday I was pleased to see that Washington Post staff writer Dan Zak had transcribed my poster in his article on MTV’s Real World filming in DC. So pleased in fact, that I spent about an hour writing and formatting a blog entry about the article.
Fast forward to this afternoon. I decided to go back to the article to see what kind of reaction Dan Zak’s article made on-line. The metrics for ascertaining this information is somewhat straightforward; the more comments the article generates, the larger the reaction. This, however, only gives the basic information of who decided to comment on the Washington Post website. The second metric that can be used to gauge the popularity of an article is to see who is blogging about it.
Since the Washington Post’s print edition does not make it’s way out of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia to other parts of the United States and the rest of the world, bloggers are an integral part of the Washington Post’s digital distribution model. As a way to track this digital diaspora of off-site responses to an article, the WashingtonPost.com has a link posted in each article that is supposed to show who is blogging about the article you are reading (see red arrow above). This link is managed, err, powered by a third party called Sphere, which is supposed to track instances of when bloggers use the URL of a specific article in their blog entry.
So why wasn’t my blog entry mentioned? Does this third party widget not work as well as it should? Are the 206,000 websites that Sphere.com says are using their product not really getting the best product they thought they were receiving? Or is there some form of censorship that is being employed at the Washington Post to scrub out blogs that the web editors don’t want their readers to see?
In my opinion, I think Sphere.com is not working to the best of it’s theoretical ability. I say this because I would rather not think there is some sort of censorship taking place– but I will not rule that prospect out. In my original blog entry I made sure that I hyperlinked to the article, used the entire name of the article, included the name of the author, and I even sent a trackback to the URL on the WashingtonPost.com. Combined together, all of these factors should have put my entry in the “Who’s Blogging” listing. But, alas, its not.
This has some important implications. First and foremost, the author of the article is not able to fully see the extent to which his article was covered on-line. His boss might incorrectly assume by reading the Sphere.com information that the article had minimal on-line reaction and possibly make future editorial decisions based on this partial & incomplete information. Secondly, WashingtonPost.com readers are unable to see other opinions about the article. Instead they are only offered the opinions written by other WashingtonPost.com readers (which I’ve griped about before) and not writers who have their own established blog and dedicated readership. Lastly, since I was not given credit for writing the sign transcribed in the article, I was further excluded from receiving any residual credit, and the WashingtonPost.com readers were never informed of why the sign was put up in the first place.
In conclusion, I hope the WashingtonPost.com and/or Sphere.com fix this widget or refrain from this type of subtle censorship. This exclusion of other viewpoints only hurts their readership and stifles subsequent information discovery. My opinions are just as valid as those expressed by the commenters on WashingtonPost.com and its disingenuous to present a link that appears to give accurate information about who is blogging about an article, when it’s clearly not showing all the bloggers who took the time to participate in the discussion.