Can you drink beer and stare at your navel at the same time?

I did try to promise myself I wouldn’t return to the subject of the Wikio beer blog rankings again. Frankly, there aren’t more than 50 people in the country interested in them. If that. (Of which navel gazing, more later.) But I indicated, I believe, when I raised the subject before that Wikio’s presentation of its rankings as being properly meaningful, rather than simply an artefact of the way it fixes the measurements, is actually harmful to those rated lowly by its methodology, who deserve much better.

Wikio’s methodology statement says

The position of a blog in the Wikio ranking depends on the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs. These links are dynamic, which means that they are backlinks or links found within articles. Only links found in the RSS feed are included. Blogrolls are not taken into account, and the weight of any given link increases according to how recently it was published. We thus hope to provide a classification that is more representative of the current influence levels of the blogs therein.

But does Wikio’s methodology really reflect blogs’ influence, and blogs’ importance? I have serious doubts. They’ve decided that recent links from other bloggers are far more meaningful than numbers of links or numbers of visitors, without giving, as far as I’m aware, any rigorous justification for this: it’s just their opinion. Which is not necessarily any better than your opinion, or mine. And the result is that the three British beer blogs that Alexa says come one two and three for highest number of visitors come 37, one and 65 in Wikio’s rankings. Now, any system that ranks the blog with the third highest number of hits as only the 65th most important is, you might think, curious. But only if your dictionary defines “curious” as “a crock of shit”.

As you can see from the table below, there are currently at least four beer blogs in the Alexa top 20 that Wikio reckons aren’t in the top 40 and two in Alexa’s top 10 that aren’t even in Wikio’s top 60. Wikio’s top 10 and the Alexa top 10 have just four blogs in common. Blogs such as Beermerchants, BarBlog, Beer Reviews, Lager Frenzy, Real Ale Blog and TTBOOB (and I am going to be SO in trouble for turning Melissa’s “Taking the Beard out of Beer” site into an acronym there) are damaged by Wikio’s rating system, because it makes them look much less popular than they really are. Continue reading

So who IS the most popular beer blogger in Britain?

How do you measure popularity in the blogging world? Wikio believes it has the answer: take each blogger and assess “the number and weight of the incoming links from other blogs”. It then produces a ranking of “the most influential blogs in the UK and Irish blogospheres”.

But having seen my own Wikio ranking bwoing wildly up and down over the past three months on the basis of what I know (because I track the links into my blog) are tiny, tiny differences in the numbers of links being made from one month to the next, I don’t believe Wikio rankings are actually reflecting anything meaningful. And yes, because I have a big ego (or I wouldn’t be a blogger), I do look at people higher than me in the Wikio listings, and think: “I can’t believe HE’S more influential than I am …” (Incidentally, if you believe you may be the “HE” referred to there, don’t worry, chances are it’s someone else. Or not.)

Is there a better way of measuring blog popularity? Well, sheer numbers of visits is a good one: and you can gather that information for any website, by entering its url at Webdatah here and within 60 seconds or so out will pop your global website rank courtesy of Alexa (which is part of Amazon). Now, Ron Pattinson is not the only nerdy number-cruncher who can whip up an Excel spreadsheet around here, so after some tedious data-gathering, I can now present to you the Z-A league table (that’s Zythophile-Alexa, not Zak Avery) of British beer bloggers, as ranked by Alexa’s measurement of average daily visitors and pageviews for the past month.

(Update: indeed, now I’ve checked even further down through Wikio’s listings, a site it reckons is only the 22nd most influential beer blog in these islands IS ACTUALLY THE FOURTH MOST VISITED. Which downgrades Wikio’s methodology even further, to me: because if you’re the fourth most visited, you ain’t merely the 22nd most influential …)

So here is the (updated)

British and Irish Beer Blogger Popularity League Feb 2010 Continue reading

Michael Hardman MBE – Mighty Beer Enthusiast

Congratulations to Michael Hardman, one of the four founding members of Camra, appointed an MBE (that’s Member of the Order of the British Empire for my overseas readers) in the New Year’s Honours List “for services to the Campaign for Real Ale and the brewing industry”.

Since Michael has probably done more, in his way, to promote the cause of good beer in Britain than almost anyone else alive or dead, and yet remains remarkably little known even in the UK, an MBE is the least recognition he could get from his country for 37 years of service to the national drink, with Camra, with Young & Co as the London brewer’s long-serving PR man and, until very recently, as PR man for Siba, the independent small brewers’ organisation in the UK. An MBE is what they give you for being school lollipop lady*.

Without the pioneering efforts of Michael Hardman, first chairman of Camra, first editor of What’s Brewing, Camra’s newspaper, editor of the Good Beer Guide from its second edition in 1975, when it became a proper, professional effort, to 1977, there would probably, today, be fewer than half a dozen small breweries in Britain making cask ale, less than a thousand pubs selling it, and there certainly wouldn’t be the 550 or more new breweries in the UK that drinkers can currently enjoy, all direct beneficiaries of the good beer movement that Michael Hardman helped push-start.

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Lessons from blogging 1: most people can’t spell Allsopp

It’s been a year since I started beer blogging, and the big lesson I have learnt is this: a majority of the population thinks Kirstie Allsopp’s surname has only got one ‘p’ in it.

One of the coolest wrinkles available from good blogging software is the ability to see what words people have put into search engines in order to be guided to your pages.

Kirstie Allsopp, the presenter of the TV property programme Location, Location, Location, was mentioned in a piece I wrote about people descended from brewers. Ms Allsopp is a direct descendant of the family that ran one of the biggest pale ale breweries in Burton upon Trent.

Since that post, searching for Kirstie has been the sixth most popular reason for people using Google and the like to wash up on the beach at the Zythophile. But two thirds of the people looking for information on the lady think her name is Allsop, with one ‘p’, although they must have read her name to know who she is. What does this say about the intelligence of people who watch TV property programmes? Don’t email me: just because I ask the question doesn’t mean I don’t know the answer.

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On being a blockhead

In April 1776 James Boswell noted the “strange opinion” of Samuel Johnson that “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

As a professional writer, I stand alongside Johnson on this one. Being paid to put words in a readable order beats not being paid to do the same thing. Yet, as Boswell commented immediately after recording Johnson’s words: “Numerous instances to refute this will occur to all who are versed in the history of literature.”

In the age of blogging (and what a great blogger Boswell would have made) more writing is being done for no money than ever. Since this is my 50th blog entry, which represents (at the going rate per word for commissioned articles on most UK magazines) more than £10,000-worth of writing I have given away for nothing in just six months, it seems a suitable time to ask: am I a Johnsonian blockhead for being a blog-head?

Boswell recorded Johnson’s “blockhead” remark after the Doctor had told him that he would not be writing up a proposed trip to Italy because, although he would like to do so, no one would pay him for it The reason why I blog is because on this site I write about those things that interest me, but that no one will pay me to write about.

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