Donald Sensing has noticed, as I’m sure many of you have, that the TTLB Ecosystem has been a little whacked out of late:

the Number 1 ranked blog today is one I have never heard of before, Downtown Chick Chat. How did it displace Glenn Reynold’s Instapundit from the No. 1 slot without garnering a lot of blogosphere attention beforehand? And how can the Ecosystem attribute to it more incoming links than there are blogs tracked by the Ecosystem?

There was a site called Operation Codemuffin in the same situation for a couple weeks. What happens is that they listed as their secondary URL http:// ______. They get credit for EVERY SINGLE LINK in the ecosystem! People used to do the same with blogspot–using just without their site name in front of it–and got credit for all the blogspot sites. As to how there can be more incoming links than total blogs, that’s not hard: you get credit for every link to the blog’s main page plus every link to every permalink.

There are currently at least two sites in the top 20 –Downtown Chick Chat at #1 and Cicero’s Ghost at #17– that are getting credit for links that aren’t theirs. Both are rightly Insignificant Microbes. CG has been occupying his spot for nearly two months, getting credit for the entire xanga domain. Also, Daily Kos/PSR at #4 –two truly popular sites– are being lumped into a single count because there’s no apparent way to accurately distinguish between the two since PSR is a subdomain of Kos. A couple of sites are also getting credit–to the tune of several hundred incoming links–for internal links (that is, references to other pages on their own site).

There are also several highly ranked sites that, by my definition at least, aren’t weblogs. Blogwise (#5) and Blogs Canada (#19) are aggregators with no original content. The Drudge Report (#13) is a guy reporting news on the web, but it’s unarchived, there are no permalinks, and there’s no continuity–it’s just one page.

N.Z. Bear has been tied up of late and, it’s my guess anyway, that he never dreamed the Ecosystem would ever get this big. It’s almost impossible for one man to police in his spare time. He wrote a while back that he was thinking of spinning the Ecosystem out to others into more manageable chunks. It may be time to do that or at least get some help editing the system. I don’t have the techical skills to work with the code, but could certainly help check site URLs before adding them to the system.

Update: As a clarification, I have no reason to suspect that any of the sites involved intentionally exploited this weakness in the system; it’s almost certainly the case of misreading or misunderstanding the instructions.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I didn’t know about this, but I’m not surprised. That’s why I make my own decisions about which sites to vist.

    BTW, the Ecosystem also undercounts many sites. For instance, it has me twice: and with different numbers for each. If you added the two together, you get a realistic number. I submitted the problem to N.Z. Bear long ago, but no word back. No worries, his system is currently just a toy and most people recognize that. However, it does provide some interesting feedback and potential for gaming.