Vanity is the Quicksand of Reasoning: Beware of Top 100 and 50 lists!

26 08 2009

During the weekend I added some links to sites referring to this blog in the sidebar. There was the 3rd place in the Medgadget competition for the Best New Medical Weblog in 2008,  a nice critique by Danielle Worster (the Health Informaticist) in the “Library + Information Gazette”, the inclusion in the Dutch Twitterguide and a place in the Top 50 Health 2.0 Blogs list of RNCentral (”the place to learn about nursing online”) in 2008.

And recently I was included in another ranking lists, to which I was alerted by a personal email of Amber, saying:

Hi,

We just posted an article, “100 Useful Websites for Medical Librarians” (http://http://www.nursingschools.net/blog/2009/100-useful-websites-for-medical-librarians/). I thought I’d drop a quick line and let you know in case you thought it was something you’re audience would be interested in reading. Thanks!

Both the RNCentral and the nursingschools.net lists are subjective ranking list of useful sites on nurses-oriented webpages. And although subjective, they contain numerous excellent and trustworthy sites. I was honored and pleased that I was included in those lists together with the Krafty Librarian, David Rothman, the MLA, the NIH, and NLM.

In all fairness, there are also many list (in fact far more such lists) that do not include me. I remember that there was a list of 100 top librarians with quite a number of Australians and no @laikas. I found one post at Lucacept – intercepting the web saying:

BestCollegesonline.com has posted a list of the Top 100 Librarian Tweeters and I’m honoured to say I appear on the list. In fact, there are five Australian Librarians who made it on the list. The other four were heyjudeonline, neerav, bookjewel, gonty.

Unfortunately, they didn’t include Kathryn Greenhill, an amazing librarian who is currently in the US and putting out some very helpful tweets from conferences she is attending while there. She is sirexkathryn on Twitter.

Other great Teacher-Librarians to follow include …..

Check out the list and see who else is there you might like to follow. I know that my professional learning has benefited from the generous nature of Librarians who are active on Twitter.

This shows that people are pretty serious about those lists and sensitive to who is included or not.
There were some mild protests from a few people on Twitter, i.e. from Shamsha here (RT means you repost a tweet, so @shamsha retweets my retweet of @philbradley‘s tweet of the bestcollegesonline list) and from @BiteTheDust (here) regarding @laikas’  omission from the list. However, I’m sure there were many others studying the top 25, 50 or 100 lists with a frown. But wouldn’t any list look different?

25-8-2009 13-32-32 shamsha

25-8-2009 17-40-09 bitethedust

Apparently it concerns the same bestcollegesonline.com-list as referred to by Lucacept.

Back in April there was also a Top 50 Librarian Blogs- list published at the getdegrees.com. This provoked a blogpost from the UK-blog Cultural Heritage ” Top 50 (insert topic of choice here). Quote:

The colleague who alerted me to this noted that all of the blogs listed were published by librarians in the US and wondered whether we should be doing our own list of top UK librarian blogs. Further, she wondered, if we did, who would we be putting at the top and why?

Who (are on the list)? and Why? Those are good questions!

This reminded me of a recent remark of @aarontay on Twitter, He sighed something like. “Now I’ve seen 3 of those list. Who makes those lists anyway?” That is a 3rd relevant question.

I couldn’t find @aarontay’s original Tweet (Booh!, these are not archived), but here is a message I found on FriendFeed:

25-8-2009 14-31-57 aarontay 3 lists

Friendfeed not only keeps the messages but also shows the comments. Apparently Ellie (from Ellie <3 Libraries) found evidence that such sites were dodgy as @aarontay had suggested. Some quotes from her post:

Both this site (http://associatedegree.org) and Learn-gasm – who has the top 100 blogs post going around currently (www. bachelorsdegreeonline. com) are sites designed solely to earn revenue through click-throughs.

The “bachelorsdegreeonline” at the end is a tracking mechanism to allow collegedegrees.com to reward sites that send them visitors.
While all the schools linked to are legitimate schools, both are misleading sites since they only link to schools that offer an affiliate kickback. They also only link to forms to enter your contact information at third party sites, not to the actual school websites.

While the content of the top 100 blogs and 25 predictions lists is completely non-objectionable, the fact that librarians are taking these sites seriously is.

What the author is doing is trying to increase his traffic and SEO. He likely does some minimal investigation to determine what sites would have the biggest impact – so in that sense, the lists are probably somewhat representational of influential sites – like I said, the content isn’t the objectional part. He creates the page with the links to the 100 top whatever, then emails all of them to let them know they’re on the list. Every one of them that posts that they’ve made a top 100 list and links back to him increases his site’s page ranking. The more important your site is, the more it helps him, both in search engine algorithm terms (being linked to by someplace important counts for more than being linked to from less popular sites) and because it brings him more incoming traffic. Which also increases his site’s page ranking (and the chance of someone clicking through in a way that gets him paid).

…But, this particular little batch of sites that is currently targeting higher education – they are ones that are ostensibly trying to help people find colleges, choose degrees, etc., when in fact they are only linking to forms to enter your contact information for a small subset of online only colleges that offer affiliate linking programs.

…on the surface they seem related to education, some have .org addresses, but when we start looking at them critically they fail every test easily – no about page (or at least nothing informative on it), unauthored posts,  little to no original content. One of the main components of being a librarian is teaching people to think critically about information, so when we fail to do so ourselves I find it incredibly frustrating.

O.k. that hit the mark.

A good look at the sites that linked to my blog showed they were essentially the same as those mentioned by @aarontay and Ellie. With links to the same schools.

Vanity or naivety, I don’t know. I didn’t pay much attention, but I still (wanted to) quot(ed) them and didn’t doubt their intentions. Nor did I question Clinical Reader’s intentions at first (see previous post).
In some respect I really dislike to be so suspicious. But apparently you have to.
So, I hope you learned from this as well. Please be careful. Don’t link to such sites and/or remove the links from your blog.

Vanity is the quicksand of reason George Sand quotes (French Romantic writer, 1804-1876)


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8 responses

26 08 2009
jennylu

A great post; it is important to recognise what these sites are up to. I do admit I suspected it was a link baiting site, but their list did include some very good people who are sharing excellent information through Twitter. One of my primary reasons for writing the post was to highlight people on Twitter who weren’t listed and who are very good practitioners sharing what they find and what they do. I hope you haven’t left with the impression that I am only posting for vanities sake! I am an educator trying to utilise the communicative potential of the Web for education. I’m attempting to push boundaries for my students and I’m sharing what I am doing through my blog.

26 08 2009
Twitter Trackbacks for Vanity is the Quicksand of Reasoning: Beware of Top 100 and 50 lists! « Laika’s MedLibLog [laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com] on Topsy.com

[...] Vanity is the Quicksand of Reasoning: Beware of Top 100 and 50 lists! « Laika’s MedLibLog laikaspoetnik.wordpress.com/2009/08/26/vanity-is-the-quicksand-of-reasoning-beware-of-top-100-and-50-lists – view page – cached #RSS 2.0 Laika's MedLibLog » Vanity is the Quicksand of Reasoning: Beware of Top 100 and 50 lists! Comments Feed Laika's MedLibLog Hallo iedereen! Friday Foolery : On Homeopathy, Nutritionists and Toothiologists — From the page [...]

26 08 2009
laikaspoetnik

Dear Jennylu,

I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I point a finger at you.
It is clear from your post that you were honored to be on the list, but surely it was no vanity. And indeed you paid most attention to highlighting others who deserved to be on such a list too.

Vanity is an exaggerated term. What I meant to say that we’re all easily flattered when we’re included in such lists, but also that we take such lists very seriously, exactly because there are so many excellent people on it. We take it seriously when we’re on such a list, and we take it seriously when others are on it or not on it. That’s why we retweet such lists, mention it in our blogs and discuss who we think that should be on it too. And each time we are linking to the spam site, providing them with traffic….

Your post was just an example, as were the others to highlight this. My attitude was not different then yours, but in my case I didn’t even suspect a link baiting site. That’s why I said “vanity or naivety” – and I was pointing to myself…

27 08 2009
jennylu

No worries. I just wanted to clarify things from my my perspective. Healthy debate and discussion is what blogging is all about. I am much more wary of these sites now and your post reinforces the need for this.

Cheers,

Jenny.

1 09 2009
Beware of Top 50 “Great Tools to Double Check your Doctor” or whatever Lists. « Laika’s MedLibLog

[...] Beware of Top 50 “Great Tools to Double Check your Doctor” or whatever Lists. 1 09 2009 Just the other week I wrote a post “Vanity is the Quicksand of Reasoning: Beware of Top 100 and 50 lists!” [...]

24 04 2012
Health and Science Twitter & Blog Top 50 and 100 Lists. How to Separate the Wheat from the Chaff. « Laika's MedLibLog

[...] @Prof_S_Hawking). And @nutsci (having read two posts of mine about spam top 50 or 100 lists [1, 2]) recognized this Twitter list as spam: Beware of "top 100 scientists" and similar lists [...]

28 05 2012
Even the Scientific American Blog Links to Spammy Online Education Affiliate Sites… « Laika's MedLibLog

[...] numerous occasions [1,2,3] I have warned against top Twitter and Blog lists spread by education affiliate sites. Sites like [...]

15 10 2012
Silly Sunday #52 Online Education Sites: and the Spam Goes on. « Laika's MedLibLog

[...] many occasions  (here, here, here and here [1-4), I have warned against top 50 and 100 lists made by online [...]

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