Is Techmeme a splog?

There’s an interesting discussion going on in the comments of a post at the Instigator Blog (or as I like to call it, Yoskoblog) about a new website called Social Rank which is launching dozens and eventually hundreds of niche blog aggregator websites.

It struck a nerve for me because I’m noticing a lot of automatically-generated “blogs” pinging my posts and upping my Technorati rating. These blogs work by searching the blogosphere for keywords, scraping a quote, adding a link and sending a pingback. The posts are all of the same structure:

[Name (sometimes a random name or literal “unknown”)] wrote an interesting post today about [Title of blog post]. Here’s a quick excerpt: [excerpt from post].

I’m not sure if the business model is to get traffic through pingbacks or if they’re part of some larger splog scheme, but needless to say the pages are filled with Google ads.

I commented that people are going to be turned off by Social Rank’s websites if only because of their similarity to the autoblogs. People want aggregated content, but evaluated in some way by real people (think Fark or Digg).

A couple of bloggers also got pretty pissed because Social Rank was sending them pingbacks, which the website quickly stopped and apologized for.

The other concern is that if these websites become popular, spammers will begin to figure out ways to game the system. I imagine it’ll probably happen accidentally, a side-effect of traditional splogging methods. But once they figure it out, expect it to be exploited.

Ben made an interesting point to my main argument: Is Techmeme a splog? It’s automatically generated, with excerpts from other blogs. It has ads and is trying to make money. But it feels different somehow. It’s like Google News for blogs.

Is there a difference? Is Techmeme bad? Is Social Rank good? What is the real difference between a junk splog and a good automatic aggregation website?

7 thoughts on “Is Techmeme a splog?

  1. heri

    if techmeme is spam, then Google search is spam too. Because hey, they take content from other people’s websites and make money by inserting ads alongside the content.

    on the other hand, social rank is clearly spam for me. a blog = a real human writer behind. by saying they will launch 1000 blogs, it means they will be computer generated.

  2. Fagstein Post author

    That’s an interesting way of looking at it. But how do we gauge an owner’s intention? Social Rank’s owners have been commenting on blogs critical of them. Does that make them OK? Google’s goal in life is to make as much money as possible. Is that bad? Does their “do no evil” policy make up for that?

    Do we really care what someone’s motivation is if they make a good website?

  3. Vishen

    Hi Heri

    We never said we were launching 1000 blogs. And if you saw that anyway on the web, I apologise for the typo. What we said is that we’re launching 1000 blog communities. Each SocialRank site works with a few hundred blogs in their niche. Just like Techmeme.

    We just launched and yes we carry adsense. But c’mon – do you really think this is making us money at this early a stage? The adsense is just to help ease the server load cost.

    The team behind SocialRank are well established entrepreneurs and programmers. We build and run the company

  4. Name

    Techmeme is definitely a splog. It offers no original content or value whatsoever. It’s an RSS aggregator with ads slapped around it.

    Social Rank is the same. No original content. To call this trash a “community” is a slap in the face of real online communities like Digg, Metafilter, etc. This is just the same old get rich quick scheme, leveraging other people’s REAL content to make a buck, while offering nothing of value whatsoever. Disgusting.

  5. Talat

    I think no one needs to be told whether SocialRank, TechMeme or for that matter Google is some kind of parasite or not. All one needs to do is to ask one a simple question. Is it adding any value to your browsing experience? When you go to, is it guiding you to good content? Is it acting like a good filter? Is it saving you time by putting on your plate the top 15 stories on your plate? If you are satisfied, and if you think it adds value to your browsing experience then you need not be told by anyone else how the service is, and vice versa.

    Also value has different meaning to different people. For some Google might be a web scraping annoying bot, but for some it may be a satisfying service. Each one on his own. If SocialRank somehow adds value to your browsing, I will feel satisfied.


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