I really am. I’ve always known this about myself but it’s surprising how you can learn things about yourself that show how much more you need to work on your foibles.

Background: These past two days, I’ve been limping between two broken laptops hooked up to a monitor while my roommate uses the good PC and I decide whether I want a Mac PowerBook or maybe a Vaio. One notebook has excellent sound and video (the Compaq) and the other has more memory, more disk space and is lightning fast (Toshiba). So, depending on whether I’m watching a DVD while I work or listening to music, or doing some memory-intensive tasks, I switch back anf forth between the two. (Point of ramble ahead, merge left.)

Long story less long: one browser has Alexa and Google Page Rank installed, the other doesn’t. I wasn’t aware of how much the Alexa ranking of a site and whether it had any page rank affected me. I subconsciously check it first, as if somewhere inside I need to know that my peers are reading it for it to be suitable for my attention.

And that’s just nuts in many cases.

The flip side of that is transferred institutional trust vs social trust. If a page has a good Alexa ranking, there are assumptions tied to it.

  • A good cross section of webmasters read it
  • Some old school webheads and die-hard Amazonites who aren’t webmasters it too, so there is probably a good enough sampling of mainstream readers
  • It’s not an absolute ranking system and mostly inaccurate until a site cracks the top 100K, so any listing lower than that can safely be ignored
  • A large part of its rhythm is based on page view, which adds some meaning to the ranking – it’s a measurement not just of one-time, one-page visits (which can be faked with any auto-surf membership), but of people exploring more than one page of the site.
  • It has limited perception of feeds – any non-browser feed won’t get picked up.

With Google PR, I make other assumptions – again, these are assumptions and may not be true. Recall the title of this post.

  • Up to a page rank of four, PR is completely useless because it doesn’t tell me anything about link quality. Any fool can buy a bunch of links or do a reciprocal link campaign.
  • For a PR 4 and above, more high quality sites or enough raw links are pointing to this page that it has some influence on the web. The links aren’t only pointers any more, they’re starting to become votes.
  • If a site has a medium PR of 4 to 7, I tend to trust their words more than I do when it’s zero to three. Not that I won’t trust, I just seem to automatically get more of a bulls cautionary filter as I read their words. I’m not saying this is good. See again, the title.
  • If a site has a PR of 8 or higher, interestingly enough my caution filter clicks back on until or unless that site is a favorite of mine. In the scary landscape called my mind, if a site has that much PR, it has a mass following. As an independent thinker, I don’t trust crowd-think. I trust my instincts and/or what I can prove with science/logic. If too many people are following something, it raises my suspicion.

To overcome my failing, I’ve decided to dedicate about half of my discovery time to surfing without either Alexa or Google PR/toolbar installed. When I start to realize subconsciously that PR and Alexa don’t inherently mean anything (or on the low end, affect anyone’s wallet), I’ll begin to surf with the option to check, but with the default indicators turned completley off.


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