A friend recently said that she read the Popular Posts sidebar on Kottu first, which surprised me. I find that I consult it a lot as well. What shows up is usually good, and then it’s interesting to watch the rankings change. It also gives stuff a shelf life beyond their time on the front page. Recently, Sitting Nut commented on Kottu, criticizing it in particular for the Popular Posts, and how clicks there are counted as well. That’s an issue which I thought about as well. It’s a choice, but I thought simplicity would be best. As per the other issues I tried to address them in bits here.
The Popular Posts theoretically measure popularity. It is, of course, a qualified measure since a blank post titled ‘Sri Lankan Girls’ will get more hits than something interesting with a more boring title. In this case popularity simply means clicks. The Popular Posts measures clicks.The click can be on the main page, the second page, third page, or on the Popular Posts list itself. The measure is meant to be as simple as possible – just outgoing clicks. The issue is that clicks on the Popular Posts get counted too, making them self-referential.
However, I think this makes sense. The Popular Posts thing measures clicks total, not just clicks on the first day. A post usually gets clicked on the front page and then it stops. If it’s popular there, it’ll make the Popular Posts page. If we don’t count the clicks there, the only measure is the clicks it receives on the front page. That is, the post is still popular, still being read, only we’re not measuring it. People are still reading it.
To repeat, the point isn’t to measure the popularity on the first day, it’s meant to measure popularity period. People don’t read in a vacuum, the universe now includes the Popular Posts links, and that factors into popularity (which the Popular Posts thing measures). It goes round and round. To put it in simpler terms, the Popular Posts thing measures outgoing clicks. Period.
The list is also intended to be alive and competitive in itself. Part of the fun is watching stuff move on the Popular Posts link, which wouldn’t happen if those clicks weren’t counted. The good stuff gets there, and they they fight it out amongst themselves. You get 5 days and then you’re retired.
As per the future of Kottu, I dunno. It has a community of repeat visitors and it helps new bloggers get traffic immediately. I don’t think the future is in vertical (size) growth, because then it loses the community. Kottu is not a Feed-Reader. It’s not the best tool for user customization or large amounts of feeds. It’s good at managing 100-200 feeds into a loose community and I actually spend more time removing stagnant links than adding new ones.
As per the broader social impacts, Kottu is opt-in, there’s a Join link right there. Whether you think its members are ‘real Sri Lankans’ or not, they are actually real Sri Lankans. I’ve met some. They’re not ghosts. Again, Kottu opts for simplicity. It’s not trying to be a socialist utopia of average Sri Lankans, it’s just whoever signs up and posts. It is opt-in for simplicity’s sake, and because many people (surprising to me) don’t necessarily want to be syndicated. A couple people sign up every week, and there are even a few people writing in Sinhala now. I don’t know how the demographics of Sri Lankan bloggers will change, but I assume they’ll know how to click a ‘Join’ button. There’s no broader social planning to remove or keep any particular class that anyone likes or dislikes.
Generally, I think the future holds more in terms of horizontal growth – across other media (mobile, print) than vertical (bigger Kottu), but I dunno. Some stuff I would like to add to Kottu itself is tags. Besides that, I think that building links to mainstream media is vital, and that’s slowly happening. The Nation is running something on Kottu sometime, and I notice that people mention blogging more, or at least don’t look as blank when the word comes up. At the same time, I also think Kottu is kinda OK as it is and I enjoy reading it. I don’t really promote it and I never did and the goal has never been to syndicate a thousand people. It’s just to have something interesting to read.
I also do think that there is a ‘Kottu Effect’ not in a blunt traffic sense but in the sense that new bloggers have a community to participate in, which makes the act of blogging much more rewarding. The hope isn’t that Kottu in itself blows up, in fact it aims to force as much traffic out as possible. Rather, the hope is that Kottu will help enable a new generation of bloggers, writers and photographers that will go on to greater things.