Well, the link scrooges are out and about, preaching the gospel that miserliness is next to Godliness. The theory seems to be that links given by the generous should be devalued, and that the most precious of links are given only by the stingy. Imagine a blogospheric barometer that creates incentive not to link very often, and most days you've got an incentive not to link at all. This is blogging "the old fashioined way" I've read. Well, I guess.
I guess I should feel cheap and dirty if someone gives me a link that came too easy in the judgement of the scolds from the Junior Bluenose Blogging League . "Link slut," they whisper. "Link whore" they cluck. The tawdry shame of it all.
It's history repeating itself all over again. Remember when Mozart was scolded for blogging with "too many links?" The Beatles blogged back, "the links you take are equal to the links you make. In the Bible we find Parable of the Links. It's all so disconcerting.
Today I'm just gonna be a link slut. No trackbacks, just Happy Linksgiving wishes to some blogs I feel like linking to
About the open track back mini-controversy, you wrote to Don Surber: "I'll explain my reasoning more when I post about it. Given that I haven't done so yet... where did you hear about the change?"
I confess, Don heard about it from me, and I'll explain how I figured out the change after addressing a few points from your post today. You wrote:
Over time, I've noticed that some bloggers are using Open Trackbacks to systematically work their way up in the Ecosystem rankings, and more recently, to ensure that their posts are flagged on my Top Posts pages.
So this weekend, I decided to do something about it. I implemented a simple solution: when the Ecosystem scans a blog's front page for links, it now simply ignores any inline trackback sections that are found, while still counting the links within posts or on a blog's blogroll.
I plead guilty, but I don't feel very guilty. Well, except that my Open Tar Pit #4 made it into the TTLB "Top Posts" page the other day. It wasn't my intention to crowd a more informative post out of the category.
You also said:
I haven't announced the change because a) I was still debugging it and b) I didn't really think anybody would notice so quickly. But it turns out, Don Surber and some others are apparently watching my stuff so closely that they figured out what I was doing almost immediately (which, I think, says something in itself).
Don emailed me asking if it was true that I was filtering open trackbacks, and I responded that I was, but that I hadn't yet announced anything as I was still working on the system. A few minutes later, Don posted my email on his blog (without asking my consent, although I would have granted it). I'm also told that certain other bloggers (not Don) are emailing around trying to fire folks up about the grand injustice of it all.
Since I was the first to notice the change, I'll weigh in here on a few things. I'd been using open track backs as a means to promote my blog and get more readers. No one wants to spend a lot of time at the keyboard just posting into the ether. My blog isn't an aggregator, I'm more interested in deep digging. I often put hours, or sometimes dozens of hours into a post. Why wouldn't I want to promote it? Some of my posts have been noted at TTLB as "hot posts," which has generated a fair amount of traffic for my blog, and yes, I used the open track back system to achieve that. More importantly, as I saw things, my posts were featured in some of the "hot topics" categories, like Bob Woodward and Plamegate.
For anyone who thinks that's been easy, I've spent a lot of time locating the current open trackback threads and then manually tracking back to them, in order to generate links and readers.
So, when I noticed this past weekend that the "hot posts" updates had halted, I wondered what was going on. As I kept an eye on TTLB movement in "hot topics" and the Ecosystem, I thought I detected a filtering pattern regarding open track backs, but I looked around TTLB and the blogosphere a little and didn't find anything conclusive, or any information at all. Since I wasn't sure whether a filter had been implemented or if something else might be going on I decided to ask around privately.
Here's the e-mail I sent out yesterday to folks at about 15 or so OTB blogs:
I have a question for Open Track Back participants, which I'm
addressing to a few of you whose email addresses I could find. Does it
appear to anyone else that TTLB is filtering certain links, though not
all, by members of the trackback alliances, since about Saturday?
Very few alliance members in the "Today" columns, compared to last
week, and the posts that are there have much fewer links than what our
posts were putting up in those columns last week. I posted a couple of
articles yesterday that were linked by many of you, and there was nary
a blip on the TTLB radar. I've appreciated all of your trackbacks last
week because they helped bring in hundreds of new readers.
Am I the only one detecting a trend? If so, what are our options? Is
it possible that TTLB has installed a script that targets the Open
Track Back blogrolls in some way?
I should also add that I posted a cut and paste of a few days worth of TTLB's recent "Top Posts," which I thought further illustrated the trend.
So, the purpose of my initial e-mail was to start a private conversation about what might be going on at TTLB and what adjustments might be made before going off half-cocked, not to "fire folks up about the grand injustice of it all." If some folks got fired up, that was sui generis.
And while I'm at it - I want to call a few bloggers on the carpet. Torches were being lit and pitchforks grabbed without ever having tried to discuss the issue. Calls to protest were urged without any suggestions on how to perhaps do this differently. Protesting without suggestions for improvement or change - sounds familiar I'm sad to say. All I'm seeing are posts condemning this new possible change or posts saying who cares. How about a thoughtful post on why this might be a reasonable step to take and how it might be improved upon.
I'm 100% in favor of this approach. Ignoring inline trackbacks doesn't entirely solve the problem, however the problem might be defined. Since I use Haloscan I link to trackbacks manually, so it seems the links I post are still counted. There are other workarounds that would be simple to undertake that would defeat any filter that might be implemented, but I don't want to describe them here, I want to to participate in a conversation and hopefully reach a consensus that assumes and ensures mutual good will among the various parties involved. If open trackbacks are determined not to be kosher for the Ecosystem, I won't be doing any workarounds. But I wonder if subject-specific track back parties, blogbursts, blogswarms, carnivals, etc. won't also be hindered because of the new open track back filter. Wouldn't an honor system be a better way to go?
Here's problem with your current solution: you're throwing some baby out with that bathwater. All of the links below are specifically about your post at TTLB. They took a fair amount of time to locate and organize. Every link I've made here will be counted by TTLB, but when I track back, which will take some time, any inline links to my round up won't be counted. Would these really be junk links?
In an interview on Larry King Live tonight, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward inadvertently revealed that his unnamed source in the Valerie Plame case was a man.
I've transcribed the following exchange from about the middle of the interview:
Larry King: "Your source, did the source indicate whether Mrs. Plame was an undercover agent, or desk analyst?"
Bob Woodward: "Good question, and specifically said, uh, that-- the source did-- that she, uh, was a WMD, weapons of mass destruction analyst."
...If you were there at this moment in mid-June when this was said, there was no suggestion that it was sensitive, that it was secret, that--"
Larry King: "How'd it come up?"
Bob Woodward:"It came up because I asked about Joe Wilson, because, uh, a few days before, my colleague at the Washington Post, Walter Pincus, had a front page story saying there was an unnamed envoy--there was no name given--who had gone to Niger the year before to investigate for the C.I.A. whether there was some Niger-Iraq uranium deal, or yellowcake, uh, deal. Uh, uh, I learned that the ambassador's name was Joe Wilson, which was, you know, Wilson eventually surfaced, I, I guess a few weeks later. So I said to this source--long substantive interview about the road to war--uh, you know as, at the end of an interview like this, after you're doing an interview, uh, on television, you might just shoot the breeze for a little while, so I asked about Wilson, and he said this. Most, uh, uh, kinda offhand, uh, one of those things, and so I, I didn't think much of it."
Clearly, when Woodward says "he" here it's a reference to Woodward's source, not to Joe Wilson.
As he had in his November 16 press conference, Woodward had been careful tonight avoid gender specific personal pronouns up until this exchange, and had referred to his source as "the source," "this source," "my source," etc. Throughout the interview, Larry King had been careful to phrase his questions of "him or her," and "he or she." King didn't follow up on Woodward's gaffe.
This new information, though not altogether surprising, simply increases the likelihood that Woodward's source was Ex Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, as it eliminates Susan Ralston, Mary Matalin, Catherine Martin, Claire Buchan, and Jennifer Millerwise as possible sources for the leak of information about Valerie Plame's C.I.A. employment to Woodward.
Don Surber posts a good rant today, OSM=MSM -- WTF?, which catalogues a series of gripes against the new OSM "Open Source Media" megablog. Everything has its growing pains, but Surber struck quickly, using a stealth method of taking over the whole darned enterprise.
While Woodwardgate rumors swirl around both Richard Armitage and Steven Hadley, it's becoming clear that it was Armitage who informed Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that Valerie Plame worked covertly for the CIA.
In his -press conference last week, Bob Woodward stated that he'd been questioned by Plame leak presecutor Patrick Fitzgerald about inteviews Woodward had with "three current or former Bush administration officials that relate to the investigation of the public disclosure of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame."
According to Woodward, Official #1 made a "casual and offhand" comment that "Wilson's wife worked for the CIA on weapons of mass destruction as a WMD analyst," in a "mid-June 2003" conversation.
Official #2, White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, was interviewed by Woodward on June 20, 2003, and Woodward's "tape-recorded interview contains no indication that the subject" of Valerie Plame arose.
Official #3 was Scooter Libby, currently under indictment for perjury allegedly given to Fitzgerald's grand jury in the investagation of the unauthorized leak of Valerie Plame's CIA status. Woodward conducted two interviews with Libby, June 23 and June 27, 2004, and doesn't recall discussing Plame with Libby, nor do his notes indicate he did.
All three officals released Woodward from confidientality agreements in order for him to testify under oath with Fitzgerald, but only Official #1 has not released the reporter to disclose his name publicly. Based on the scorecard below of information regarding 42 "current or former Bush administration officials," it's clear that Armitage was Official #1, the source of the leak.
Among the criteria for inclusion on this list was that an offical was either contacted by Fitzgerald in the investigation, has denied being Woodward's source, has been mentioned as having knowledge of Plame's CIA status before it became public knowledge, or was a member of the nine member White House Iraq Group (WHIG), and early focus of Fitzgerald's investigation. Much of the information came from earlier lists by National Journal, and also from Think Progress, though this is the largest and most current list that is publicly available. Since Woodward has said that Libby was not is Plame source, I've linked denials or non-comments from other officials where I could find them:
***Update, 9:00 pm,11/21: In light of tonight's inadvertent disclosure by Bob Woodward that his source was a man, the five women who'd yet to deny they were Woodward's source--Susan Ralston, Mary Matalin, Catherine Martin, Claire Buchan, and Jennifer Millerwise--have been eliminated from any possibility of being the original leaker to Woodward of Valerie Plame's employment with the C.I.A.***
Armitage's failure to deny that he was Woodward's Plame source is a rather loud non-barking dog. Evan Thomas and Michael Isikoff write in Newsweek:
So who is Novak's source-and Woodward's source-and why will his identity take the wind out of the brewing storm? One by one last week, a parade of current and former senior officials, including the CIA's George Tenet and national-security adviser Stephen Hadley, denied being the source. A conspicuous exception was former deputy secretary of State Richard Armitage, whose office would only say, "We're not commenting." He was one of a handful of top officials who had access to the information. He is an old source and friend of Woodward's, and he fits Novak's description of his source as "not a partisan gunslinger." Woodward has indicated that he knows the identity of Novak's source, which further suggests his source and Novak's were one and the same.
If Armitage was the original leaker, that undercuts the argument that outing Plame was a plot by the hard-liners in the veep's office to "out" Plame. Armitage was, if anything, a foe of the neocons who did not want to go to war in Iraq. He had no motive to discredit Wilson. On "Larry King Live" last month, Woodward was dismissive of the speCIAl prosecutor's investigation, suggesting that the original leak was not the result of a "smear campaign" but rather a "kind of gossip, as chatter... I don't see an underlying crime here."
The obscurity of Armitage's contact with Fitzgerald is another interesting point, since there is also confusion about Official #1's prior contact:
Woodward, November 16: "Asked if this was the first time his source had spoken with Fitzgerald in the investigation, Woodward said 'I'm not sure. It's quite possibly not the first time.'"
In other confirmation hearings, both Condoleezza Rice, who was national security adviser in 2003 and is now secretary of state, and Robert Joseph, who was a member of the National Security Council staff and is now under secretary of state, acknowledged to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that they had been interviewed about the leak.
Hard to imagine that getting by Woodward or anyone else at all familar with the case or Woodward's source.
But what of Hadley?
From Decision '08" "The Times of London becomes the first major media outlet I'm aware of to confirm - sort of - the scuttlebutt that Stephen Hadley was the source for Bob Woodward."
THE mysterious source who gave America's foremost journalist, Bob Woodward, a tip-off about the CIA agent at the centre of one of Washington's biggest political storms was Stephen Hadley, the White House national security adviser, according to lawyers close to the investigation.
A spokeswoman for the National Security Council (NSC) denied that Hadley was the journalist's source. However, in South Korea on Friday during an official visit with President George W Bush, Hadley dodged the question.
"I've also seen press reports from White House officials saying that I am not one of his sources," Hadley said with a smile. Asked if this was a yes or no he replied: "It is what it is."
A White House official said the national security adviser's ambiguity was unintentional and repeated that Hadley was not Woodward's source. But others close to the investigation insisted that he was.
The Sunday Times' story is little more than an uncredited rehash of several Hadley stories posted by The Raw Story in the aftermath of Woodward's revelation:
In a questionable feedback loop, Raw Story links to the Sunday Times' Hadley "scoop" based on Raw Story's stories at the top of their own page this morning. Raw Story hedges a little in the same banner by linking to the Newsweek story that spotlights Armitage as Woodward's likely source:
Confirmation of Hadley's contact with Fitzgerald was rather elusive. From the Washington Post and the Texas Political Resouce Page we get this fragment of a now premium-access L.A. Times story by Tom Hamburger and Sonni Efron:
When the disclosure of Wilson's CIA mission to Niger put the White House on the defensive, one administration official said it reminded a tightknit group of Bush neoconservatives of their longtime battles with the agency and underlined their determination to fight.
Many of those officials also were members of the White House Iraq Group, established to coordinate and promote administration policy. It included the most influential players who would represent two elements of the current scandal: a hardball approach to political critics and long-standing disdain for CIA views on intelligence matters.
The group consisted of Rove, Libby, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., then-national security advisor Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, and Mary Matalin, Cheney's media advisor. All are believed to have been questioned in the leak case; papers and e-mails about the group were subpoenaed.
The problem with this report is that it omits several members of the White House Iraq Group: Rice aide Jim Wilkinson, Bush legislative liason Nicholas Calio, and Karen Hughes. Hughes was interviewed by Fitzgerald, Wilkinson has not had contact, and there is no indication that Calio was contacted. So was it the blanket understanding of Hamburger and Efron that all WHIG members were contacted? If so, that's clearly an error, but it also seems rerasonable that Hadley was contacted, given his proximity to the story and Fitzgerald's interest in the White House Iraq Group.
In any event, Hadley does sort of seem to fit Woodard's remark that his source's post-Libby indictment discussions with Fitzgerald were "quite possibly not the first time" though he was "not sure."
There are reports that Wilkinson did testify, but they appear to be based on an errant Bloomberg News report, which has since been corrected by Bloomberg: "Corrects third paragraph to delete reference to former White House aide Jim Wilkinson." Via ABC News: "According to Bloomberg, 'Wilkinson has said he was not questioned.'"
Lawyers involved in the two year old probe said that two former Cheney aides had a hand in obtaining information about Wilson and shared it with Libby after the chief of staff had personally requested such information.
Those aides, David Wurmser and John Hannah, are now cooperating with Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's probe into the outing of Plame's identity and CIA status to reporters. Wurmser and Hannah have agreed to cooperate with Fitzgerald after being told that they faced indictment for their role in outing Plame. The officials had told Fitzgerald that they were acting on orders from Bolton to obtain such information. Hannah a key aide to Vice President Dick Cheney and one of the architects of the Iraq war, and Wurmser was Cheney's Middle East advisor and an assistant to Bolton.
It's not clear, if the above is true, why Fitzgerald wouldn't have contacted Bolton.
On another note, from the Washington Post, "Bush and Cheney were not placed under oath -- the reasoning apparently being that they had no direct involvement in the potential criminal activity under investigation: the leak itself. "