The Elite 100

100 might just be the most elite number in the world. Why is it the most elite number in the world? Well, there are 100 U.S. Senators, quite arguably the 100 Most powerful men and women in the world. There are Fortune 500 companies, but more important in the pecking order are the Fortune 100 companies. Searching Google for top 100 will net you a variety of listings of top 100s in every concievable area.

The latest ‘Top 100′ came today with Techmeme identifying it’s leaderboard where the top Techmeme headline contributors are listed for the past 30 days. This leaderboard will shift, of course, as the thirty day window shifts, but I find it odd, and frankly, mildly disturbing that this list has come out.

It’s not that this is a walled garden that disturbs me. It has long been known that Techmeme tracks whomever it wants. It’s not even that I can’t see some members of this list receiving enough readership to make this list. I mean, the Sydney Morning Herald who was on this list earlier in the day, is certainly a respectable publication – but top 100 on Techmeme?

My distaste in this list really goes back to something that I’ve asked people occasionally and no one seems to have an answer for. Just how does one get on Techmeme?

With Digg, we know that users can submit links and the story will either be Dugg, and rise in popularity, or it will be buried. With Stumble Upon, we know that stories that are “Stumbled” are then shared with other users that fit a certain inclination and demographic based on preferences. With each of these massive traffic drivers, there is a calculable investment that needs to be made to achieve success. There are deliverables. There are certainly things that have to be done to get to the point. These services, like them or not, provide interactive value to the user.

Techmeme does not, as far as I know. There is no way to provide stories for consideration and in fact, selection of stories for headlines is seemingly arbitrary. For instance, my review of FeedBurner some time ago was picked up by Techmeme but another FeedBurner story – the one about Google Reader reporting its stats to FeedBurner – was a huge story everywhere. I was one of only four people who had early access to this story and I broke it before TechCrunch – but TechCrunch got the love. I didn’t get a “comment link” on that headline.

I don’t say that as someone who is bitter. On the contrary, I understand that this is how things work and Mike Arrington covering the story is a much bigger deal in terms of exposure than I. My big concern here is in transparency and consistency. There is no consistency in how Techmeme seems to work and there is nothing that gives any technology writer insight into how their stories might end up listed.

Interestingly, there are sponsored links. So there actually is a way to get listed in Techmeme if that is the route you want to take to get there. Otherwise, Gabe Rivera, how exactly did those top 100 elite folks get their positions? Google has a closed algorithm, but at least there is some market evidence as to how stuff works with PR and SERPs. There does not seem to be anything that can be pointed to for Techmeme and I just have to wonder – how exaclty does this whole thing work? Or is it just a closed circle? Inquiring minds need to know.

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

One thought on “The Elite 100”

  1. You hit upon something that just seems so typical of the insular and somewhat self-inflating world of Silicon Valley. “Let’s tout a new leaderboard that does not reveal how it gets to that data and seems to give unorthodox weight to a select few. Moreover, one of its leaders is also the site that tends to write glowing reviews about anything AJAX-y.”

    All sarcasm aside, there is something about this list that makes me non-plussed. Additionally, the fact that it is TechMeme makes me even more annoyed. TechMeme to some extent has all of the problems I personally have with digg, but it at least masks how stories get to their position on the page.

    Uncov has a great piece on this leaderboard, and that post continues to prove why I like Uncov more and more each time I read it.

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