Elderblog Sutra: 5

This entry is part 5 of 13 in the series Elderblog Sutra

One of the challenges of writing an elder blog is that by definition the archives are extensive, and of very mixed quality. At some point, all formally imposed structure — categories, tags, series, “best of year” or “most popular” lists — buckle under the sheer weight of content. Once you’re past a few hundred posts, with reasonably dense internal back-linking, your only hope for recovering some sort of structure from what is essentially a little walled-garden artisanal web is algorithms. Thanks to John Backus, I have an algorithmic lens on the unkempt wilderness of ribbonfarm for you today.

John mined the archives to compute the internal linking structure, which I then massaged further into an internal page rank for the archives. Here’s a little video of John playing with a graph visualization tool.


And here’s the spreadsheet with the mined data. Feel free to make a copy and play around with the data and my PageRank-esque formula, which generates this view of the archives:

The “Adjusted Page Rank” here is a function of three variables:

  1. The number of posts linking to a post. A good post should inspire the author, and hopefully other contributors, to cite it in future posts.
  2. The age of the post. If a post doesn’t accumulate backlinks, it sinks into obscurity. About half the posts in our archives have no backlinks.
  3. The “weight” of the author. Contributors who have written more are weighted less, so Sarah and I have the two lowest weights, at 1.0303 and 1.0037 respectively.

Note that external inbound links are specifically not included in this ranking. This is a purely internal measure. If you want the formulas:

Author_weight = 1+1/(num_posts)

Adjusted Page Rank =  Author_weight*num_links/age

Where num_posts is the number of posts with at least 1 backlink.

Obviously, there’s room for enhancements here, but it’s a start. Thanks John!

Series Navigation<< Elderblog Sutra: 4Elderblog Sutra: 6 >>

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. On my (rather old) blog, I have promoted and repurposed “comments” for another use. In the “blog” view (the stream-of-everything in reverse chronological order), this new kind of comment appears alongside, and is given almost the same visual weight as, actual posts. If I publish a comment on an article that is ten years old, that comment appears right at the top of the blog (and RSS feed), and of course includes a link to the parent post. This way, posts with truly evergreen subject matter get regular fresh attention no matter how old they become, through the addition of links and other notes. (The flip side of this promotion is that comments are no longer allowed to function as a kind of “per-article chat”.)

    I believe that in order to apply your pagerank system to this blog I would have to count each “comment” as a backlink.